The Proverlap: How Conflicting Pro Schedules Limit Potential


Mitch Belisle is the vice president of sales and marketing for Trilogy Lacrosse. He retired from the NLL after helping Georgia win the league title in 2017 and still plays for Boston in the MLL.

Defensive Player of the Year. Rookie of the Year. MVP.

All of these award winners played for Major League Lacrosse’s Chesapeake Bayhawks in 2017.

With studs like those, they must have been a championship-caliber team, right? Wrong. They went 7-7 and missed the playoffs.

A super-team with too many stars? Not quite.

Jason Noble and Lyle Thompson were Defensive Player of the Year and MVP, respectively, during their championship run with the National Lacrosse League’s Georgia Swarm — a run that culminated in mid-June, exactly midway through the Bayhawks’ season.

Josh Byrne did earn his Rookie of the Year honors in the MLL but didn’t join Chesapeake until June 10, 2017. He was still wrapping up his college career at Hofstra. His NLL team, the Buffalo Bandits, hold the No. 1 spot in the East as of this writing, meaning he could miss a substantial portion of this MLL season too.

Despite possessing a roster full of stars, much of the Bayhawks’ talent isn’t available to them until well into the season.

Welcome to the Proverlap.

Twenty-two players are currently listed on both NLL and MLL rosters — only 10 percent of each league. But those doing double duty aren’t just role players. They are stars, like Brodie Merrill, Tom Schreiber, Curtis Dickson and Jordan MacIntosh.

For the top lacrosse players in the world, playing the sport they love at the highest level creates a frustrating dilemma: Specialize in one league or participate in both with the guarantee of missed games. It’s a no-win situation.

“Playing lacrosse is my favorite thing to do, and the NLL gave me an opportunity to do what I love all year long,” said Schreiber, whose somewhat unexpected jump into the NLL last year earned him the nickname “Captain America” in the Canadian-dominated league. “But the overlap is extremely uncomfortable for everyone involved.”

Lacrosse’s biggest name, Paul Rabil, played five years in the NLL before shifting his focus exclusively to the outdoor game.

“To be the best MLL player I could be — focusing on optimal performance and longevity — I wanted true offseason prep, preseason training and a full run of games,” Rabil said.

Each league has reiterated that it wants its players to be full-time professional athletes. Wouldn’t it be best, then, to allow them to play year-round, in both leagues, without conflict?

Fans of MLL wouldn’t have to wait until halfway through the season to learn their teams’ regular starting lineup. The NLL, which seeks expansion into more U.S. markets, could target more big-name players, including hometown heroes to showcase in expansion cities. The best players in the world could focus exclusively on training and playing, perfecting their craft like athletes do in the major professional sports.

And as a result, the game of lacrosse could be showcased at its highest level all year long — a win for everyone.

Mitch Belisle is the vice president of sales and marketing for Trilogy Lacrosse. He retired from the NLL after helping Georgia win the league title in 2017 and still plays for Boston in the MLL.

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