Player Spotlight

Player Spotlight highlights the finer details and elements while supplying insight to the fans on what a player's thought process may be pertaining to a certain play, game or situation. It brings the intensity, passion, and inner most thoughts of the individual player that otherwise may not be felt or heard.

Bob Chavez has Mike McNamara of the New England Black Wolves is in the PLPA Player Spotlight

Photo by: Micheline Veluvolu
Photo by: Micheline Veluvolu
If anyone knows what it's like to face a challenge in the world of lacrosse, it's Mike McNamara.

But with that knowledge comes a great deal of satisfaction, and while McNamara has taken on challenges and met them, he's not quite finished. Entering the National Lacrosse League in 2011 with the Toronto Rock, the left-handed defender never made an appearance for the Rock that season before shifting gears to the Buffalo Bandits in 2012.

He was in and out of the lineup for 2 seasons before finding himself in Colorado, where he played 9 games with the Mammoth in 2014. And then, New England came calling.

And while the 2015 season came with regular minutes, it also came with regular lumps as the Black Wolves struggled in a 4-14 season.

And then? The feared ACL injury. McNamara missed the first 14 games of the 2016 season before returning in April. He joined in time to help the Black Wolves make their surprising playoff push and now that he's healthy, and New England is no longer an NLL doormat, McNamara is eager for another shot at NLL glory, and the Champion's Cup.

Let's catch up with the defender and get his thoughts on everything from rising with New England, recovering from a serious injury, the Toronto Maple Leafs winning the Stanley Cup and who runs the best smack in the NLL.

Question You started organized lacrosse on the suggestion of a hockey coach. How familiar were you with the game before that?

I had a few friends from elementary school and hockey that played lacrosse during the summer so I had some knowledge of the game. My hockey coach, Joe Acari, suggested that playing lacrosse would help with conditioning and hand-eye, which goes hand-in-hand with hockey. I'm forever in debt to him for introducing me to the game.

Question You were 11 when you started, so who did you play for and how did that go for you?

Being from Hamilton, I played for the Hamilton Lacrosse Association. Playing at the highest level of rep hockey, I opted to play house league lacrosse for 3 seasons before making the jump to rep. Believe it or not, I was a top goal scorer in my early years of playing. I'll chalk that up to being one of the bigger guys who just trucked his way to the net.

Question How did you end up coming out of the back door?

When I was in Midget, playing for the Bengals, we had a very competitive team. We had a mix of players from Six Nations, Brantford and Hamilton. The coaches that year realized my strength as a defender. When it came to qualifiers and provincials, the coaches had 3 guys that would go out the back door, I was one of them. After that, defence became natural to me. I really embraced the role of stopping scoring opportunities.

Question You've played for 4 NLL teams in your career, but you seem to have found a groove with the Black Wolves. How exciting is it to be part of a team the process that's turned this team into a playoff contender?

It always feels good to be part of a winning organization. When I first came into NE, we were in a rebuild year. The team was made up of a bunch of guys hungry to make a name for themselves in the league. It was a tough season but we made strides on and off the floor. Rich Lisk has done a fantastic job of keeping the core group together while adding pieces to complete the puzzle. We still have the taste of defeat in our mouth from losing to Buffalo in the semifinals last year. We will look to build onto the successes we had from last year.

Question You tore your ACL in 2015. What lessons did you take away from that during the rehab process to get back on the floor?
Answer Patience, Preparation and Belief. Anytime you have to watch your team go to battle and you're not on the floor fighting with them, it kills you inside. I used that as motivation to make a speedy and safe return to play. I had a strong support staff to pull me back, push me forward and pick me up when I needed it.

Question It has to be frustrating to be away from a game you love for so long. Talk about the mental aspect of rehab and learning to trust that knee again.

It is very frustrating, but I put a positive spin on the whole situation. I was fortunate to have guys around me that have experienced the same injury. You listen, take away points from each guy and use what works for you. Mentally, it's draining. The injury doesn't get better unless you put the work in. No one else is doing it for you. With lacrosse not being a full-time job, I had to schedule my rehab and conditioning around a 7-4 work schedule. The process of recovering from an ACL injury has strengthened my current game. I came to realize the vast amount of pre-game preparation that had to be done to get my body ready for 60 minutes of lacrosse. As far as trusting the knee again, it's all about making progress each time you are on the floor. I would use our Tuesday night practices as my gauge. Each time out, I would try something new. Before you knew it, I was practicing in full gear with the guys.

Question When you talk with young lacrosse players, what do you tell them are the important things to work on if they want to be a professional player??
Answer My key points to a young lacrosse player would be to understand the game better than anyone on the floor. If you can think the game, everything else will fall into place and you will always be one move ahead of the next guy. Never turn down an opportunity. You never know what might come out of it.

Question Who will win the Stanley Cup:
Answer Toronto Maple Leafs (will never lose hope)

Question Who will win the Super Bowl:
Answer Pittsburgh Steelers

Question Name a "Surf Stopper," a movie that you stop to watch every time on TV even though you've seen it dozens of times:
Answer Gone in 60 Seconds.

Question Game-day meal:
Answer Varies, depending on what city we are playing in. But I always go with chicken, rice and a vegetable if it's on the menu.

Question Game-day ritual/superstition:
Answer I could write a short story off of this question. But I'll keep it brief with just a few: Coffee on my way to the arena before the game; My left side always get dressed first; I put my jock and shoulder pads on after second warm-up; I put my jersey on just as coach Clark is starting his pre-game speech; I stretch in the same spot before each game at Mohegan and find a spot in visiting arena that is isolated.

Question Toughest forward to mark:
Answer Being a bigger body, I find that the quick/shifty guys tough to guard. Guys like Greer and Kyle Buchanan.

Question Toughest forward to mark:
Answer Being a bigger body, I find that the quick/shifty guys tough to guard. Guys like Greer and Kyle Buchanan.

Question Toughest forward to mark:
Answer Being a bigger body, I find that the quick/shifty guys tough to guard. Guys like Greer and Kyle Buchanan.

Question Name an NLL player from before your time you're glad you don't have to defend:
Answer Darris Kilgour. While playing under him in Buffalo for two years, you could see how intense and passionate he was about the game. I could only imagine how he was as a player. I would hate to be in a one-on-one battle with him.

Question Best trash-talker in lacrosse today?
Answer Recently inactive, but hoping he makes a comeback. Jim Purves. The guy has a motor that doesn't stop. He knows how to get under your skin, even if he's on your team.

Question Words of wisdom to live by:
Answer "Success is where preparation and opportunity meet"

PLPA Correspondent

Bob Chavez has been covering the NLL since 1995 and has been a writer/editor for since its inception in 2008. He lives in the Finger Lakes region of New York with his wife and 2 children.

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