A Look Back: John Greeley

I never thought the time would come;

It was May 3rd, a Friday night up at the historic Michie Stadium in West Point New York. The last regular season game against Army. I barely remember the game itself, I just remember taking off my jersey and untying my cleats for the last time of my college career. Sure, there will always be pro leagues; summer leagues, alumni games and drop-ins, but it will never hold the same meaning or emotion. 

Throughout the last 20+ years of my life, I have dedicated my life to lacrosse. Some of my first memories growing up are running around my front yard at my old house in La Fayette, New York, making up situations in my head. We all did it. It’s the championship game in overtime, and the ball is in my stick!

I remember all to well during the 90s sitting with my Dad every Saturday either at home watching or listening to the Syracuse Lacrosse games, or making our way up to the Carrier Dome to watch there. I knew then that lacrosse was something I wanted to play, and be very good at.

At a young age, I met some of my first and lifelong best friends through lacrosse, many of whom I still keep in contact with to this day. There’s just something about the game that creates untouchable bonds between a group of people. Bonds that distance doesn’t break, which is something so rare in todays day in age.

Looking back, I was pretty lucky with all the things I got to experience and accomplish. I got to be a two time captain in high school; play in two state championships winning one; 3x first-team all league; New York State Player of the Year; #1 Ranked Player in the nation both Junior and Senior year; Was able to represent team Central for 3 consecutive years in the Empire State Games; I broke scoring records; I was first-team all-state twice; and I got to play competitively until I was 22 years old for the best coaching staff in the game and for the best and most respected college program in the country; Johns Hopkins University

However, there is no accomplishment that begins with the letter “I” that will ever come close to what I will miss most about playing lacrosse with my “TEAM”. One thing you learn early in the sport is how much more important “we” is than “I.” The things I will miss most aren’t scoring goals, the big hits, or the awesome no look backside feeds. I’m going to miss the locker room, the road trips on the bus and the time spent in the hotel, the humorous stories, and the chirps on and off the field. The overall atmosphere that was created when we were clicking on all cylinders is one thing that will forever be engrained in my mind, one thing that I would do anything to go back to and feel again.

There is something to be said about lacrosse players. We’re a breed unlike any other, and it may be cliché, but the only way to understand it is if you have been a part of it. It’s never just a team; it’s a FAMILY. You will fight with your family day in and day out, on and off the field, but when it comes down to it there isn’t a thing in the world you wouldn’t do to look after or be there for them.

Lacrosse has taught me more about life than anything else on this planet. You learn about discipline, courage, respect for others, the development of becoming a sound leader, both physical and mental toughness, teamwork and communication. But more importantly it was the first aspect of life that will really make you look at yourself in the mirror and ask, “how far am I willing to go? How far am I willing to push myself for what I want?”

On the field, as in life, the person who is rewarded is the person who scratches and claws the furthest, fights through the sweat, blood and tears, and walks away knowing they gave everything they possibly could. I think that is one of many important life lessons I learned from playing, my coaching staff Dave Pietramala, Bob Benson, Bill Dwan and each of my professors taught the importance in that every one of your struggles and successes throughout your time, because trust me, both will happen regardless of the fact you’ve worked your hardest, are only shaping you to become the best possible person you can be so when you head into the real world, your ready and in a position to hit the ground running. Everything learned from the ups and downs only teaches and refines the skills to fight through, bounce back, and get back on top where each and every one of us dream to be.

While the amount of turmoil I went through growing up pales in comparison to many others, the field was always my therapy. You can’t ever run away from your problems, but you can at least avoid them for the two hours your on the field for either practice or game-days, in the weight room getting bigger and faster, or joking around with the guys in the locker-room. When you step on the field, it is almost as if life is perfect and all your problems have been resolved for the time being. When school and life gave adversity, lacrosse was the best counseling! There was always a reason why it was much easier to go to practice at 5 a.m. than to class and listen to a professor talk about things that made no sense.

Lacrosse will never cheat on you; Lacrosse never gets divorced; Lacrosse never dies. There is always a fresh smell of newly cut grass or carefully raked turf somewhere. There is always a goal to be shot on, and that first deep breath of cool air when stepping onto the field under the lights in front of 10-15 and even 20,000 fans is a feeling that can’t, and will never be topped.

Without lacrosse, my life would mean little. Without the people I’ve met through lacrosse, my life would mean nothing!

I would not be who I am without my unbelievable experiences as a lacrosse player, and I will forever live my life through the quote that I looked at everyday as a senior at Hopkins walking into my locker room. 

"We must find a way, or make one"

So to those taking the time to read this, keep chasing your dreams, take the adversity as it comes and just know that’s only making you a better human being in the long run. Keep bettering yourself. But most importantly, enjoy the ride and don’t miss a moment.

J. Greeley