When Life Gives You Lemons: Adam Charalambides' Sense of Clarity

Adam Charalambides did not have the typical college lacrosse career. And because of that, he’s not a typical National Lacrosse League rookie, either.

Three knee injuries extended his time at Rutgers to an abnormal seven years, being the beneficiary of a trio of medical redshirt seasons. He even had the opportunity to stay for an eighth season this spring amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but the 25-year-old decided it was time to move on to the next stage of his life.

His first year in Piscataway, N.J., was unfortunately a sign of things to come. He sat on the sideline for the entirety of the 2015 season while dealing with his first major setback. Then, he tore his ACL prior to both the 2017 and 2018 campaigns.

Charalambides, now in his first year with the Vancouver Warriors, admits he experienced some dark days. But he made it through, in the process gaining a great deal of experience, clarity and a blossoming new passion: personal training.

“Life gives you lemons, you make lemonade,” Charalambides said.

By the time he went through a third rehab process, Charalambides knew what to expect. He tried to learn from each go-around, sticking with the things that worked and ditching what didn’t. Even so, his body didn’t feel quite right coming off the most recent torn ACL.

“The 2019 season, I had a successful season,” he said. “But I was in full load management. My knees were swelling. Just like not moving very ergonomically, not very healthy. A lot of pain in the body just day-to-day walking. Then 2020, I had a good year of summer training, got stronger, but again wasn’t moving very well. I developed a bad pattern of being dipped into my one hip, my right side, which was my more recent knee surgery.”

“Life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.” 

— Adam Charlambides

He played six games in that COVID-shortened 2020 season and felt even more limited than he had the year prior. He attempted to overcompensate with strength training, but that just made his body tighter.

It was a wakeup call, and the pandemic break gave him ample time to act.

“That COVID downtime, I took the chance to fully dive in to figuring out my body and learning how to work smarter and not be dependent on a trainer every time I want to make postural gains or make alignment improvements,” Charalambides said.

He moved away from traditional strength training, worrying less about how much weight he could put on the bar and instead focused on how fast he could hill sprint and how many kilometers he could each week.

“It was a big adjustment,” Warriors coach Chris Gill said. “He had to change pretty much his whole way of life, eating and drinking, sleeping, all his habits that he thought were normal, and it’s worked out for the best for him. It’s quite something that someone at that age, being away from home, is able to do something like that.”

In time, the results came.

“I’m starting to be in better and better alignment here,” Charalambides said. “That’s always going to be a focus of mine. Humans, we sit a lot and we also tend to slouch and have poor posture because your body is always going to lean to comfort versus doing what’s hard. So that’s always going to be a continuous battle, but I’ve educated myself so much in that space that it’s kind of struck a passion.”

Now, he’s working on gaining his personal trainer certification. Even before that process is complete, he’s already passing on the lessons he’s learned.

“I healed myself, and now I’m actually currently helping my dad a little bit,” Charalambides said. “He broke his hip a few months ago, so I’m kind of helping him restore some better posture through his spine and hips.”

Another side effect of Charalambides’ health struggles was a lengthy hiatus from box lacrosse. Prior to Warriors training camp, his experience indoors was limited to a few pickup games in New Jersey playing for the Orangeville Northmen in the Minto Cup in 2016.

He’s had to shake off some cobwebs while adjusting to the next level of the sport.

“Playing the field game for so many years at Rutgers, practicing so much, I think I got myself to an elite level of little nuances,” Charalambides said. “Whether it was slipping to the crease or making sure to get right behind a guy’s helmet when he slides, there’s always little nuances you do to get yourself open or give yourself a half-step more time. I’m embracing that process of getting my habits back to an elite level in box.”

Gill, in his fourth year with the Warriors, was aware there would be an adjustment period. But as Charalambides got more comfortable through training camp, the staff started to see how special he could be. After all, he notched 74 points in 17 games the last time he played indoors consistently.

“When he has the ball in his stick, he’s so dynamic,” Gill said. “He makes people miss. He’s got really quick feet. The future’s really bright for him, I think. Not many guys have the first step that he has, and when he shoots it and gets his full windup, it’s tough for goalies to see where the ball is coming from. It’s so fast.”


Few expected Charalambides to drop to the Warriors at No. 4 in this year’s draft, including both parties involved. The Georgetown, Ontario, native had minimal conversations with Vancouver, mostly spending time with the teams that owned the top three selections — Panther City, Georgia and Buffalo.

When he fell into Vancouver’s lap, Charalambides’ talent was too great for the Warriors to pass up, even with the possibility of having to fly him in from the East Coast. Thankfully for the franchise, that issue was resolved quickly, too. He’s moved out to Vancouver to take a job in the Warriors’ front office.

“He said, ‘I want to be the best player that I can be. I need to be in-market. Can you guys get me a place?’” Gill said. “We’re like, ‘Yep. Done. You want to move here, we’ve got you.’”

On the floor, he’s a part of a reinvigorated Warriors franchise. After dealing with a severe dearth of high draft picks, Vancouver has added two elite talents in the past two years in Reid Bowering and Charalambides. Entering Week 6, the squad is 2-1 and tied for the top spot in the West.

“It’s really cool to just be a rookie again and have older guys around you,” Charalambides said. “It’s great to look up to older guys and want to just kind of pick their brains on certain things, even life things. Guys are fathers, guys are in serious relationships and all that stuff, or have made great career moves outside the game as well.”

The numbers haven’t been eye-popping thus far — a goal and two assists in three games — but Gill has been pleased with what he’s seen. The winning plays are already there, and the numbers will follow.

When the rust has been shaken off, watch out.

“I’m the most athletic I’ve ever been in my life,” Charalambides said. “I ran a 5K yesterday, and it’s the fastest time I’ve put out in a year.”