The NLL season is now underway and lacrosse fans could not be happier. Waiting over 600 days for the return of the league, we now get to see the return of our favourite athletes. Everyone loves to see the players grind it out on the floor, but the NLL’s athletes are also doing some big things outside the box.
The Riptide have an all new team for the 2021-22 season, but some familiar faces are joining this franchise. 2019-20 leading scorer and points holder, Callum Crawford, is now a member of the Riptide and we could not be more excited to have such a determined athlete on the squad. Crawford grew up in Ottawa, Ontario and was actually not too interested in organized sports at a young age.
“I actually started playing lacrosse when I was 10 years old,” Crawford said. “The kids in the neighbourhood were playing and I wanted to fit in. It was a long and painful trip to where I’m at. I was terrible until I was in about the tenth grade.”
Despite his rocky road in his early years of lacrosse, Crawford quickly developed the skills and his lacrosse path began. He played Junior B lacrosse in Nepean and Gloucester before being drafted 18th overall in the 2005 NLL draft by the Calgary Roughnecks. Since entering the league it seems as though Crawford’s skills have only gotten better, and with a long off-season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he knew he needed to stay in shape and prepare for this year.
“We kind of got hints of having a season or a bubble of some sort,” Crawford said. “My training approach is always the same in the sense I hit the reset button and grind, but it got hard to keep hitting the reset button when things got postponed. It honestly made this reset difficult because you get pretty burnt out of training and training with no competition, so it’s really exciting to finally get back into it.”
Fans of Crawford know that his training methods are intense and that he will give 110% of his effort 100% of the time. His mentality is to go into training with a, “win every day”, mindset. After having kids, his training has had to adapt based on their school schedules, but that does not stop him from getting the work in.
He will show up to the gym at about 9:00am and get a 2:30 hour strength workout in. Crawford focuses a lot on jump training as there have been numerous studies showing the direct relationship between vertical jump training and speed. At his age, training is everything and that is exactly why he takes it so seriously.
“At my age what I need is polar opposite to some of our younger players,” Crawford said. “Sometimes I just have to rip the bandaid off and get through it because I know it’s what will be the best for our team as a unit.”
The Riptide took a rebuild approach in their off-season to create the best possible roster and front office staff for this upcoming season. Building a new culture within the Riptide organization has brought a ton of talent and the top-down approach was what drew Crawford into this team.
“From Jim Veltman to Rich Lisk to Dan Ladoucer the message was the same,” Crawford said. “Their commitment to building a top team was something that really intrigued me and that is why I wanted to be part of this team. Having the opportunity to help build this team into a winning team is really special and exciting to be a part of.”
Crawford noted that this group is special because of the selflessness of the team. After walking out of training camp he was excited and enjoyed being part of this new group of athletes. It’s so hard to find selfless players in professional sports, but Crawford knows this team puts the success of others ahead of their own.
On the topic of putting others before themselves, Crawford believes that giving back to the sport is the key to growing this game we love. Crawford packed up his things and moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma where he has now established his own club program, Impulse Lacrosse, in hopes to grow the sport in Oklahoma and show the rest of the country what these athletes can do.
“I’ve wanted to coach in the states for a long time,” Crawford said. “I got connected to a group by a mutual friend that gave me this idea of a company I could run alongside Ryan Fournier and we ran with it.”
Crawford noted that he wouldn’t be able to do this job without fellow Riptide teammate Fournier, and he is thrilled they made that jump. He knows that this company is a successful business, but also how they’ve been able to see kids from Oklahoma now getting their chance to play in the NCAA.
Most people would think of football when it comes to sports in Oklahoma. Hotbeds for lacrosse are Baltimore, Victoria, New West, Orangeville and other cities. Crawford saw a similarity between his hometown of Ottawa and Oklahoma in the sense that people didn’t really know what lacrosse was, and you really had to start from the ground up.
“We have taken the approach to do more than any other program in the country to help push our program further,” Crawford said. “It has been rewarding to hear people say how impressed they are with the level of play from these kids. It’s really all credit to the kids because they want to learn and get better at this sport.”
Crawford has been teaching these kids both the field and box game, which is growing rapidly across the US. They have age groups from 1st grade up to seniors in high school. They have grown to be able to have competitive box teams that can travel across the US. He knows that teaching the box game to field players can be challenging and he really emphasises the basics.
“Imagine telling someone to play Monopoly and they have never played before, you can’t expect them to know the rules without teaching them first,” Crawford said. “It’s the same thing with box lacrosse. When we can teach these kids the rules, they actually enjoy it more because they understand it.”
Crawford is a standout player on the floor as we have seen in his career, but he is also giving back to communities in order to support the next generation of lacrosse players. We are all excited to see Crawford’s success with the Riptide this season, and will be keeping our eyes out for the next stud to come out of Oklahoma lacrosse.