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For the Love of the Game: Paul Rabil

April 9, 2016
Lacrosse is a quickly growing sport as far as both participation and popularity go. The New York Lizards have one of the most storied players in Major League Lacrosse’s history in Paul Rabil. Our last feature in our For the Love of the Game series focuses on the star Lizard as we learn more about the seven-time all-star, two-time MLL MVP, two-time Steinfeld Cup winner and the Championship MVP of last season.

People are very familiar with Paul Rabil, the lacrosse player, but in this feature we go beyond the field to find out more about number 99. He talks about growing up playing multiple sports and his passion for the sport he is helping make so famous.

Paul has created his own brand that is influential and has a meaning that extends beyond the game of lacrosse. As a child who grew up with learning differences himself, Paul created The Paul Rabil Foundationto help those who did not have the opportunities he had while growing up. Another venture, The Paul Rabil Experience, is purposed to give young lacrosse players inside access and opportunities to play and succeed in the sport while growing the game for the future.

Read on for the full conversation with Paul:

Q: Did you play any other organized sports growing up? Why did you ultimately choose to pursue lacrosse?

PR: Growing up, I played basketball, soccer and swimming. I was always active with different sports and rec leagues, and when I wasn't in practice, I was more likely playing pickup in my backyard with friends. I went long in lacrosse because the fun and passion I had for the game consumed and overlapped everything I did. I always had a stick in my hand.

Q: At John's Hopkins, why did you choose to major in Political Science?

PR: I wanted to better understand our nation through political history, to former and current government regimes, and the international landscape. In other words, I didn't elect to major in Political Science because I wanted to be a politician, rather, I wanted to be equipped with a strong educational background on how our world functions.

Q: After graduating from Hopkins, was your plan to make lacrosse a full-time career?

PR: I was unsure. Pro lacrosse is only 15 years new, and few guys had been able to carve out a full-time opportunity in our sport. For the first 9 months out of college, I actually worked for a RE Investment Sales team in DC before dropping everything I was doing to pursue a full-time life in lacrosse.

Q: MLL is a league in which players play mostly for the love of the game, how does this speak to the passion players have for lacrosse?

PR: More than the love for the game, I think the guys in this league are professional competitors. That's what pro sports is all about -- competing and winning. Frankly, I think there's too much talk in our sport about player wages relative to other leagues, and not enough talk about the caliber of athletes and skill we showcase on an annual basis.

Q: What was the driving factor in creating your own brand, and what was the hardest part about doing this?

PR: The easiest part was the advent of social media. Prior to graduating in 2008, the only time fans could connect with pro lacrosse was on the rare occurrence of ESPN or mainstream media coverage. With social media, we were now able to connect with lacrosse fans, wherever and whenever we wanted. We were able to tell a story, and my brand evolved from that story.

Q: You have turned your lacrosse knowledge and career into a full-scale business. What was your inspiration and goal when starting Rabil Companies, Inc.? Are there any projects or campaigns that didn’t work out the way you wanted them to?

PR: I wouldn't say we've been able to grow at scale yet, but I'll take it! For me, the purpose of building business in lacrosse is to create widespread promotion around the game, increase access to talent, and lower the barriers to entry (like equipment costs and playing resources). I'm chipping away at this, and our first venture, The Paul Rabil Experience, has been an incredible ride, understanding how to access the young lacrosse player through instruction, fitness and nutrition. We just launched version 2, and I'm really proud of the work we've put into it.

Q: The Paul Rabil Foundation was founded with mission of helping children with learning differences through sports. What is your personal connection to this mission and how has it affected your drive to make the Foundation successful?

PR: I grew up with learning differences, had great parents, mentors, teachers and access to resources to supplement my learning curve in the classroom. Sports became an outlet of self expression and competition, and when I started the Paul Rabil Foundation, I wanted to provide those with learning differences, the same opportunities I had at their age. Please consider making a donation to our cause!

Q: With all the different business commitments you have, how difficult is it to train as a professional athlete each week?

PR: It's not. Performance is my single and top priority. Every day starts with my nutrition, training, skill work and physical therapy. When I'm through this, then I take on the other activities I have energy around.         

Q: You won a championship with your former team, the Boston Cannons, in 2011, but were not able to repeat in 2012.  Did you learn anything from that 2012 season that will help you and the Lizards keep the Steinfeld Trophy in New York?

PR: One of my favorite quotes in sports is, "it's more difficult to maintain success, than it is to achieve it." I think there's loads we can learn from personal experience, but also from watching other successful and unsuccessful teams, across all sports, as they strive to repeat.

Q: What is the best part about playing in this league?

PR: There's nothing better than being a professional athlete. From the relationships to the competition, to the wins, the losses and injuries, sports can transcend any industry and any personal life experience. I'm blessed.

Prior to all home games, Rabil will be holding a special session called Rabil’s Chalk Talk. This is a chance for fans to learn tips from the MVP himself about his health habits, training techniques and even ask a few questions. All participants in the Chalk Talk will additionally receive an autograph and photo with Rabil. Rabil will also be hosting clinics on April 30 th at the Long Island Sports Hub and on May 1 st at the Yorktown Sports Complex. Clinics are designated for children grades K-8. Space is limited for both events so be sure to sign up soon.

Watch the Championship  MVP and the defending champion New York Lizards kick off the 2016 season at home in a Championship rematch against the Rochester Rattlers on Saturday, April 23 rd at 5 p.m. Single game, group and season tickets are available by calling 1-855-NYLizards or visiting our website. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, TwitterInstagram, and Snapchat for team news, trades and 2016 game information.