Chris Rotelli is co-founder of Golden State Lacrosse Academy in San Francisco, CA ( Golden State Lacrosse offers clinics, camps, workshops, and private lessons as well as community outreach programs to bring lacrosse to new people. SportsForce caught up with Chris to find out what it’s like to play professional lacrosse, share his story and much more. Chris is a three time MLL All Star, winner of the Tewaaraton Award, and was named ACC Male Athlete of the Year (2003) among other honors.

When did you start playing lax? How and why did you get started?

I started playing in 3rd grade. My dad gave me a stick and taught me how to throw, and I feel in love with it instantly.

What caused you to make lacrosse your sport? What do you love about it?

I love the speed of the game, and the teamwork. It is extremely fast, and a total adrenaline rush the whole time you are on the field. Unlike other sports where only a couple people are involved with each play; in lacrosse every person on the field is involved in the game at all times, and that keeps it mentally engaging. Since everyone is always involved, it makes teamwork and communication huge parts of the game, and I love it.

How has lacrosse impacted your life?

Lacrosse has completely shaped my life. It gave me focus growing up, and taught me how to pursue my goals. It helped me get into a great college and gave me a career working with a sport that I love. Through lacrosse I’ve met so many amazing people, and now I have friends all over the world that I have either played with or against at some time in my life. I’ve been able to travel the country, and now I get to teach young kids that same way my role models taught me how to play the game growing up. I feel pretty lucky, and lacrosse has definitely given me a lot.

What advice would you give to young lax players hoping to play in college or beyond?

Shoot on a goal, and pass on a wall as much as possible.

You were a highly decorated player in great programs in both high school and college. What advice would you have for athletes who are trying to make themselves stand out at schools without such great programs, or those just playing club?

I came from Rhode Island where lacrosse at the time was only played in five schools, so I understand what it is like coming from a ‘small pond.’ My advice is to use that as motivation and work harder than everyone. If you are coming from an area where lacrosse is young, but you want to play with the best, you have to keep raising the bar for yourself, and out-work not only your teammates, but also every kid playing in Baltimore, Long Island, etc.

You were drafted first overall in the MLL college draft, tell us what that experience was like.

That was very exciting. We had just won the National Championship four days earlier, so it was truly an amazing week for me, and actually very humbling.

What is the life of a professional lacrosse player like?

It is very fun. We’re fortunate to get paid to play a game we love, and do it with our friends. I love it.

When did you start to think about “going pro?” What was that decision process like?

I honestly didn’t think about it much until after the National Championship. I was in my senior season in 2003 at UVA, and was only focused on winning a championship. Fortunately we did, and then I could think about the MLL. But the draft was three days after that game, so I really didn’t have much time to think about the MLL until I was in it. I played my first game six days later.

Explain a little bit about the mission of Golden State Lax Academy. Could you highlight some of the programs you offer?

Our mission is to create better players, and increase their enjoyment of the game. We teach them the right way to play, but also keep it as fun as possible. For us, practice was always fun because we loved lacrosse. So we really try to show kids that hard work not only can be fun, but should be fun. We do day camps, overnight camps, and clinics throughout the year.

What is your favorite part about working with young and up and coming lacrosse players?

Seeing their excitement, and making a positive difference in their lives.

What do you think about lacrosse being the fastest growing sport in the country? Why do you think it is growing so fast?

I love that the sport is taking off. Lacrosse is addictive, and the most fun team sport you will ever play. In my humble opinion, it will not stop growing.

How did you land in California?

My favorite activities have always been lacrosse, surfing, and skiing. I moved to CA so that I could have easier access to surf and snow. In the northeast, you have to drop everything you’re doing to get the small windows of good surf or good snow, and I wanted to live somewhere it would be easier to work those into my daily routine.  When I got here, I fell in love with all of it. San Francisco is the friendliest city you’ll ever see. People here are so fun and cool; it’s hard not to love living here.

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