Inside LaxCon Keynote Jon Gordon's Unlikely Lacrosse Path

Jon Gordon, a former Cornell lacrosse player, has written five best-selling books and has inspired Fortune 500 companies and professional sports teams.

Jon Gordon almost quit lacrosse in the ninth grade. As a football and basketball player at Smithtown East (N.Y.), Gordon was encouraged to try lacrosse from coach Tony Caiazza, who had watched him compete at his other sports and thought he’d make a quality lacrosse player.

Gordon gave it a try. However, he didn’t fall in love with lacrosse as quickly as Caiazza had hoped, and he almost ended his career before it began.

“‘I’m not letting you quit,’” Gordon recalled Caiazza telling him. “‘One day, you’re going to play lacrosse in college. One day, you’re going to play in the Ivy League.’”

Those were bold claims for an inexperienced ninth grader, but Caiazza, who later coached at Dowling, saw something in Gordon that he didn’t see in himself. 

“I didn’t even have a thought about playing in college, or that I would play lacrosse in the Ivy League,” Gordon said. “I honestly didn’t even know what the Ivy League was at that time.”

Gordon was convinced to continue playing lacrosse, and he wouldn’t regret it. That decision started a chain reaction that brought him to Cornell in 1989, where he played under National Lacrosse Hall of Fame coach Richie Moran, and through handful of career paths after he graduated — eventually settling into a role as a speaker and author.

Now, Gordon has written five best-selling books and had his tips appear on “The Today Show,” CNN, CNBC, The Golf Channel and “Fox and Friends.” He has spoken to and shared his philosophies with Fortune 500 companies and professional and college sports teams across the country.

He’s continuing his success tour by serving as the keynote speaker at the US Lacrosse Convention (LaxCon) at 8 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 20. Gordon, who almost gave the sport up, will share his wisdom with the community that gave him so much.

“It’s a huge honor,” Gordon said. “It’s so special to come back. It’s like full circle, after a sport that changed my life, helped me become who I am, to now being able to come back, after all that you’ve learned. To be able to give back to the leaders and the people of the sport, to hopefully make their lives better and improve them, there’s nothing more special.”

Lacrosse shaped Jon Gordon, and his passion for the sport began late in his high school career. He began to think about playing in college, and hit the wall on the advice of his fellow teammates. He played football in the fall, thought ultimately quit basketball in the winter to prepare for lacrosse.

Gordon wasn't the most skilled player, but he caught the attention of Moran because of his athleticism. It was his football abilities combined with developing lacrosse skills that allowed him to sign on with Cornell.

“There was no way I really should have been recruited to Cornell based on my past experience and success,” Gordon said. “I blossomed my senior year and got better as I went to Cornell.”

At Cornell, he made the travel team as a freshman and played as a defensive midfielder throughout his career. It wasn’t the most illustrious four-year in Cornell history — the Big Red combined for a 26-23 record — but Gordon said his college career prepared him for success in the future.

“It helped me become who I am and grow as a leader,” Gordon said. “The experience there was very foundational in helping me become a better person, having a different perspective on life and seeing what’s possible. If I work hard, I can create success in my life.”

After graduating from Cornell, Gordon, the government and economics major, got his master’s degree at Emory University in Atlanta. In the next few years, he opened a bar, started a non-profit, ran for local office, briefly went to law school and worked at a website.

But years of working and a move to Jacksonville later left Gordon feeling unfulfilled. He needed to find another path.

“My life wasn’t really going as I planned or as I wanted to,” he said. “I asked ‘What am I born to do? Why am I here?’ Writing and speaking came to me. What was I going to write and speak about? I don’t know.”

He began by sending newsletters out to his former Cornell teammates “whether they liked it or not.” That eventually turned into a full-length book, and Gordon’s passion for inspiring other was born.

Over the past 12 years, Gordon has written 17 books. He’s also spoken to a number of sports teams, including the 2017 NCAA Division I football champion Clemson Tigers.

“Jon Gordon is a great author,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “I started reading his books in 2011. The first one I read was ‘Training Camp.’ I used it throughout that season, and we ended up winning the ACC that year for the first time [since Swinney became coach]. I had the opportunity to meet him in 2012 and told him about using his book the previous year, and I invited him to speak to the team during the preseason. He has each year since then. He has a terrific message.”

His passion for lacrosse returned when he wrote “The Hard Hat,” the story of the late Cornell lacrosse player George Boiardi, who died after being struck in the chest by a ball in 2004. He said he was filled with pride to tell the story of Boiardi and reconnect with the lacrosse community.

He’ll get the chance to do so again when he takes the stage at LaxCon on Jan. 20 to speak about positive leadership. It’s a day he’s eagerly awaiting.

For more information on LaxCon, including confirmed speakers to date and early-bird discounts on registration and hotel accommodations, visit

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