5-and-5: Mark Glicini's Five All-Time Teammates

Welcome to “5-and-5,” a new series from US Lacrosse Magazine that features prominent athletes, coaches and personalities combining on-field perspective with off-field persona.

What makes a great teammate? Chaos midfielder Mark Glicini has three criteria.

“Every guy on this list knows how to flip the switch, win at all costs on the field and show kindness and sense of humor off of it,” he says.

It takes one to know one. Glicini stole the show at the PLL Awards last summer, winning Teammate of the Year. Playing a position that seldom makes the highlight reel, he went viral on multiple occasions for his willingness to absorb 100 mph-plus shots to spare goalie Blaze Riorden.

Few people in the lacrosse world can match Glicini in the teammate category. Here are five guys he’d pick to be in his foxhole.

These are his words as written and excerpted from an hour-long interview with US Lacrosse Magazine’s Matt DaSilva.

Matt Abbott

One of the best two-way midfielders to ever play the game, Abbott embodies servant leadership. He’s authentic, kind, genuine, extremely diligent and hardworking.

When I first joined Major League Lacrosse and was playing with the Chesapeake Bayhawks, the three guys that really stood out as teammates were Matt Abbott, Mike Evans and Matt Danowski. They know how to flip the switch. They’re kind guys. They have a sense of humor. They’re funny. They show respect for everyone they meet. But these guys are warriors. They really know how to win at all costs and how to communicate effectively on and off the field.

When I got to the pros, I was obsessed with being a great follower. I took the first locker when you walk into the locker room, always to remind myself how close I am to the exit. I did that intentionally. I’ve got to earn my way to the back of this locker room. And I could do it by listening to and emulating guys like Mike Evans, Matt Abbott and Matt Danowski. In my Teammate of the Year speech, you’ll hear me talk about Matt Danowski, when he threw a Jimmy Regan shirt at me. That was symbolic for what I was chasing.

My locker was next to Brian Phipps. Right when I dropped my bag down, I was just asking questions. You can call it a soft touch or constant reach-out, but it’s never having a conversation and looking for an answer. It’s always making sure you’re communicating, being empathetic and showing people you have interest. Indirectly, you learn so much. I took a seat right next to Brian Phipps. That’s where the learning happened. Then a few lockers away was Matt Abbott. And catty-cornered to me was Matt Danowski. And then Danny Burns is somewhere in between us. I’m just navigating, making sure I get touches from everybody all the time.

In 2008, Kevin Garnett, an MVP when the Boston Celtics won it all, put out an article saying he was the most touched player. That’s something I’ve always brought to every locker room, an appropriate touch, just to let people know you’re there. It’s a mental cue too. By reaching out and touching somebody, it keeps them external, which is something you want to do in performance rather than climbing into your head so much. You can just focus on your teammates. It allows you to be external for selfish reasons, but it keeps others external because they have to give you a pat on the helmet or a high-five.

Being a great teammate, I was never pursuing that; I was pursuing learning, growth and full effort. I knew that I could follow people that have not just become but stayed pros. Whether it’s the meticulous candy-cane tape job that Matt Abbott does before every game or the constant and gregarious, funny-yet-serious Mike Evans talking all throughout practice on a Friday night after a long travel on Amtrak or a flight, or if it’s Matt Danowski leading a passionate huddle — I’m just being a hunter and gatherer of all these different ways to act. Once I was able to be a collection of all these great people, it allowed me to take on more of a leadership role.

When I got to the pros, I was obsessed with being a great follower. I took the first locker when you walk into the locker room, always to remind myself how close I am to the exit.

Even though I was a young gun, I was given an opportunity to meet this young girl who had Ewing’s sarcoma. We were routinely hanging out with her and giving her spirit. It was not looking good for a long time, and she survived. Now she’s giving back to her friends that are cancer patients and she’s leading a movement in regards to fundraising. I ran the New York City Marathon for Ella because she so impacted me.

What does that story have to do with anything? The two people I was going over to see this little girl and play card games and board games and puzzles with were Mike Evans and Matt Abbott. That just shows you the type of human beings they are. These guys are tough people, man. They’d play through pain. They’d play through anything just to win again. But then they step off the field and they’re kind and respectful, and that’s always something I’ve looked to emulate.

A short story comes to mind with Matt Abbott. His roommate was going to be late to show up for the bus. It was very unlike Matt Abbott being 10 minutes late, but he was willing to soak it just because his roommate was the one that was going to be late. You know it’s not Matt Abbott’s fault. But he’s not going to run and scurry out of the hotel room and let his roommate be late on his own. That’s the type of guy he is. He’s always thinking about others, whether he’s next to you on the sideline or in the hotel room. That’s a short story. It’s the first one that comes to mind. But it embodies a small drop in the pond that ripples his whole personality. He’s not going to let somebody show up late on his own.

I was speaking to him last week. He just had his first kid. I’m so happy for him. He’s going to be an exceptional father, the same way he was a teammate.

Brodie Merrill

One of the best long-stick midfielders and defensemen to ever play the game, Merrill is a dear mentor and friend who leads by example and pays attention to the details necessary to win every day. Check out my episode with him on my podcast, “Grateful and Full of Greatness with Mark Glicini.”

You can tell about the evolution of a friendship by the depth of what you’re able to talk about. As I’ve been underneath the leadership of Brodie and have observed him and now became his friend, we talk about everything. We talk about strength and conditioning. We talk about family and relationships. We’re not afraid to get vulnerable. We’ve been moved to tears talking about some stories with each other.

When you hear about Brodie Merrill in the lacrosse world, a lot of massive imagery comes to mind. He’s got an award named after him. But the coolest thing about him is the little victories. He finds little wins in his pre-hab. He finds little wins in his warm-up. He finds little victories in making sure he touches base with every single player on his team regardless of his age. When we’re going out to dinner before a game, he’s going to make sure he sits down next to somebody he doesn’t know very well with that soft touch or reach-out. Those little victories come to my mind with Brodie Merrill, because that’s how he has won the war and become such a captain and leader in our sport. He always is paying attention to the finite details. There’s no cracks in his stone.

The first halftime speech I heard from Brodie was all about how the game was connected —from the faceoff X to the goalie and attack and all the way back to the defense — and how if somebody makes a play somewhere, we’re going to feed off that energy. That’s something I’ve taken off the field too. If somebody makes a play somewhere, a positive, that can lead to more positive things happening. I like that metaphor for lacrosse and life. He said that at halftime when we were down at Gillette Stadium in our first game. “Wow,” I thought. “I can learn a lot from this man.”

A more personal story: As a d-middie, I’m constantly on the clear. Everybody has a role and their strength. What’s important in my position is to have no off switch and to always go further in my conditioning. In the fourth quarter of a close game, he came up to me and whispered in my ear, “Go to that place where nobody else can.” We barely knew each other, but he had that kind of instinct about our relationship.

Matt Danowski

He’s one of the first guys I looked up to when I became a pro and someone I still call a close friend to this day. An excellent all-around lacrosse player,  he’s smart, humble, empathetic and passionate beyond measure.

Matt cares on such a deep level. I feel like he’s got an ocean of enthusiasm inside of him, whether he commands a huddle or we’re just having a simple dinner conversation. He has this energy and enthusiasm. The Sanskrit word for it is shaktipat. It’s this exchange of energy. Your energy is either worth catching or avoiding. His is definitely worth catching all the time.

I had a conversation with him when he decided he wasn’t going to be playing in the PLL Championship Series because he knew his head was going to be back home with his two young ones and his wife. Here’s an individual who is full of passion, one of the greatest competitors the lacrosse world has ever seen, but he knows where to channel his passion and when.

During tough conversations after a loss, Matt is so passionate about why we lost and what he can do. Now I’m a mental performance coach and certified fitness trainer. He’s asking me how he can help his offensive guys at Duke get their culture right. He doesn’t see me as inferior to him. He’s only out for betterment. Whether it’s his family at home, whether it’s Team USA, whether it’s coaching at Duke, wherever he goes, he’s a shining light. As Brodie Merrill says, you’re either a drain or a faucet. He’s definitely a faucet. He’s giving his energy to other people.


Jake Froccaro

An opponent college who became a close friend and teammate for the past four seasons, Jake is a hard-working, tough, complete player with relentless competitive fire. He’s a funny and great guy off the field as well.

Our relationship starts even before we met. When I was at Yale he was at Princeton, he put up 10 goals against us, but I had the game-winning goal. I still joke with him to this day that we won 16-15.

Jake can be so humorous, kind and caring, but if you’re on the field with him, he’s an absolute workhorse. He wants to get the ground ball off the wings. He wants to play d-middie like me but also go down and be one of the best players on offense. He was up for Midfielder of the Year last year.

Everybody in lacrosse knows the kind of player that he is. But he’s definitely one of the closest guys in the lacrosse world for me because we constantly stay in touch with our strength and conditioning. He’s always telling me how his progress is going and how his girlfriend and family are doing. I had to put him on this list because I’m very close to him. He’s not only a teammate on the weekends, but he’s somebody I talk to throughout the week about life.

Blaze Riorden

All of my goalies at the pro level — Niko Amato, Brian Phipps, Blaze Riorden, Charlie Cipriano — belong on this list. We have one job: Prevent goals. And we do it together. You develop chemistry off the field and build on it in practices and games. All are tough as nails.

Blaze, we’re evolving together. I know how people revere him inside the NLL as well. We’re co-captains on the Chaos. Before the PLL Championship Series, we were having long conversation about how to win this thing. Talk about flipping the switch. There are very few human beings I’ve seen flip it like him. He knows how to have a good time, but man, when it’s time, boom, he’s locked in. He said something along the lines of, “I’m going to leave every single piece of me in Utah.”

You could see it on social media that the Premier Lacrosse League put out, his willingness and eagerness to let guys know that this sport is about so much more than winning. It’s about the relationships that come with it. It’s about putting your whole heart on table. We don’t go close as far as we do in the Championship Series without him. Step away from outcome of wins and losses, what was really apparent during the series is his leadership and understanding how lacrosse is just a metaphor for things larger than the sport, how you should care about yourself and care about each other.

Mark Glicini's Reading List
5 must-read books about leadership and sports