When he's not busy leading his team to championships or fueling his entrepreneurial spirit, lacrosse pro Paul Rabil finds time to connect with his fans – and with himself. Rabil just wrapped up hosting his fourth youth lacrosse ProCamp in New Jersey where he gathered a massive turnout of more than 150 future lacrosse stars excited to learn drills, skills, and join in on his passion for the sport.
With teammates, accomplishing a singular goal with the support of others is such a fulfilling feeling.
We were lucky to snag a few minutes out of the midfielder's jam-packed schedule to learn what it takes to be a leader on and off the field, what keeps him motivated when the going gets tough, and what he believes the future holds for the exponentially-growing sport.
Christine: You're a role model to a lot of youth Lacrosse players, what makes a good role model in your eyes?
Paul: First off, thanks for the acknowledgement. I think some of our best work is reserved for the impact we have on others. In this case, having the opportunity to teach the younger generation of lacrosse players how to improve their skills – as well as talk about discipline, motivation, and grit – is something I really enjoy and feel like will be a major part of my legacy.
Lacrosse is a sport where teamwork is intrinsic to success. What qualities would you say are essential to being part of a successful team?
You're absolutely right. In sports, the best team always wins. However, I think "best" is undefined, and more often than not, associated with those who have the best stats. Rather than portraying high-level successful team attributes, I think it's important for us to focus on the individual. Qualities like grit, resilience, humility, thoughtfulness, kindness, are all encompassing in our sport's best leaders.
Do you ever have tough days that make you question what you're doing? What keeps you going on those days?
Absolutely. Those days, weeks or months are usually directly linked to injury or season-ending losses. In order to grow, we need to be comfortable with discomfort. Training everyday is hard. Recovering from injury is painful. Losing games threaten our confidence. However, our ability to lean in and face these instances is where real growth occurs. And after growth happens, you'll be more motivated than ever.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
Tough question! I keep an ongoing list of quotes and inspiration. I think as it relates to this particular message, I'd borrow a quote, saying "If you want to learn something, bring the target closer, master it, then move it further away."
How do you deal with disappointment when you have a bad day on the field?
Talk about it! For a long time I suppressed feelings of disappointment because sports society paints the image of an athlete as someone who's "tough, outworks everyone, practices perfection, and shows no emotion." Recently, I've found one of the best ways to learn about yourself and move on from disappointment is to talk about it with your family and friends – those who you trust.
What's keeps you motivated?
Being a part of a bigger purpose. I feel fortunate having the opportunity to play a team sport. It comes down to building relationships and winning. It's what keeps us training in the offseason, battling together during practice, and coming back after difficult losses. With teammates, accomplishing a singular goal with the support of others is such a fulfilling feeling. It motivates me.
What's the most important drill to you?
Depending on our position, there are a number of drills that coaches would tell you are categorized as best for improvement. For me, I think taking what you're great at (in my case, shooting), and exponentially investing in it, is how you can further separate yourself from the pack. That doesn't mean ignore your weaknesses, rather just make sure you're improving on areas that best define your abilities.
If you weren't a professional lacrosse player, what profession would you be?
I'm lucky because I've simultaneously been able to build a career as an entrepreneur off the back of what I've been able to do in lacrosse. With that said, I think without sports I'd be off somewhere with a startup, building a company, and creating a culture not dissimilar from a successful team in sports.
Do you have a pre-game ritual or superstition?
I have pre-game patterns. I try to stay away from rituals and superstitions – they scare me! I believe in the overall preparation we've put ahead of our games, dating back to the weeks or months in advance. That said, I'm fairly regimented with the meals I eat leading up to a game, the snacks I bring into the locker room for halftime, and more recently, the books on sports psychology I'll skim through during pre-game.
What's your craziest fan moment?
I love the passionate fan moments. I've taken pictures with kids dressed up as me, signed foreheads, phone cases, and socks. I've met dogs named "Rabil" and more recently, met a couple who named their first born after me – pretty much an out-of-body experience.
At one point in your career, you held the record for the fastest lacrosse shot. How did you perfect this skill?
It was pretty unique. Prior to setting the record, recording the speed of your shot wasn't a "thing." With that said, I was constantly working at shooting the ball harder with more accuracy. Then at the MLL All Star Game, I was asked to participate in the fastest shot competition. I was just as surprised with the speed of my shot as everyone else in the stands.
What do you want ProCamp attendees to gain from attending your camps?
I hope anyone who attends a camp of mine has fun, learns new skills, and walks away with an understanding of how passionate I am about our game and their growth.
What makes hosting ProCamps so special to you?
In an environment where there's no shortage of opportunities to attend a camp, clinic or tournament, ProCamps has a really impressive group of operators. From their overall presentation, to camper deliverables, attentiveness to staffing ratios, field setups, and even music, both parents and players walk away knowing the experience exceeded their expectations. This type of product is one that I align with and why we've been in business together for three years.
What advice do you have for youth lacrosse players who want to become professional?
Among many valuable lessons, I think youth lacrosse players wanting to become successful have to be one of two things, or both: amazing self-learners, or have an unquenchable thirst to learn from others. The former can be achieved through reading, watching highlights, and attending camps. The latter has more to do with finding mentors, coaches, teachers, and friends that you can glean skill and thoughtfulness from.
Lacrosse is a rapidly growing sport in the United States and you've definitely played a role in its growth. Where do you see the future of the sport going?
We're in a really exciting position in the overall landscape of individual and team sports. With the proliferation of technology, social media, and in particular, live streaming, I think getting our game and game's personalities in front of our audience has never been easier and more cost-effective. With that said, attentively building our foundation of youth lacrosse players picking up a stick for the first time is critical. We need to invest in coaching, continue to improve with safer manufacturing, and aggregate lacrosse media to turn up the volume on what makes lacrosse the best game on the planet.
If you missed Paul Rabil's ProCamp but are still interested in his training tips, check out The Paul Rabil Experience to learn more about his lacrosse instruction, fitness, and nutrition programs. Subscription fee applies.
For more information on upcoming sports events in your area, and to get behind-the-scenes access and discounted tickets to ProCamps, visit https://www.citiprivatepass.com/sports.html.