He’s won titles at every level he’s played. He’s the undisputed face of lacrosse. His name is synonymous with the sport; so much so that you probably just thought it: Rabil. Paul Rabil.
But given the opportunity to speak with Paul Rabil you quickly come to understand one thing: he’s just getting started. In spite of all his accomplishments, accolades, awards and honors, he’s a man on a mission on and off the field to grow the game he loves and carry it to lofty new heights as a player, ambassador, and business leader.
Paul Rabil recently sat down with DICK’S Sporting Goods to discuss the huge role sports have played in his life and how youth athletics play an ever increasing role in the ongoing growth of lacrosse at every level.
DSG: Lacrosse specifically and sports in general have had a huge impact on you at each stage of your life. What is it about athletics that made it matter so much to you?
Paul Rabil: I love sports for three reasons. The first is having the weekly opportunity to compete against an opponent and find out who’s better prepared, willing, and able. The second is learning to work as a team. Understanding how to nourish individual improvement, as well as build onto the greater sum, is something that transcends sport into many walks of life. And third, the opportunity to become a leader in sports is what I strive to do each and every year. Great leaders in sports have many qualities; some of which are their ability inspire, prepare, and listen to their teammates.
DSG: Where do you think you’d be without athletics in general and lacrosse specifically?
PR: If I wasn’t playing professionally, I’d be involved in sports in another way. Similar to the reasons listed above, I inherently believe in the power of sports, and naturally gravitate toward competition and improvement. I could see myself owning a team, being the commissioner of a league or founding a startup that crosses over into sports and tech.
DSG: Explain the challenges you face playing lacrosse? What’s the biggest obstacle you had to overcome? Do you think this experience can be applied off the field?
PR: We experience obstacles every day. It takes dedication to relentlessly train and compete for every inch of improvement. During games, defenders and goalies are in place to stop you from scoring, and winning. Finally, maintaining good health in sports can be prepared for, and often times unpredictable. How you respond to the challenges in sports are what determines your greatness.
DSG: Throughout your life how have sports brought you closer to your friends, family, and community?
PR: My family and friends are made up of the sports I play. They’re everything to me. The lacrosse community is full of such passionate people. I feel very fortunate.
DSG: Is there one person or coach who helped you the most? Maybe recognizing the raw talent you had and helped you work toward the world class player you became?
PR: My high school coach at DeMatha High School, Dick Long, helped me build the character and approach to preparation I have as an athlete today. He’s been one of my strongest supporters ever since. You can even spot him every year at my Foundation’s Holiday Gala.
DSG: How has playing lacrosse helped you off-the-field? Can you share a story about the benefits of sports away from the field? Outside of lacrosse, what do you enjoy doing?
PR: When I was a young middle-schooler, lacrosse gave me the confidence I lacked in the classroom. I grew up with auditory processing disorder, and struggled early to stay sharp in school. Being a top talent on the athletic field fueled me to be a top student as well. I graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a 3.53 GPA and have started the Paul Rabil Foundation to help others similar to me.
DSG: You clearly believe it’s important to “grow the game.” Why is this important? What can players at the youth, high school, collegiate and professional levels do (or continue to do) to carry on this effort?
PR: I’m a competitor. If you combine that with my passion for the game, you’ll find I don’t only want to be the best player on the field, but also lead the sport to all new heights. I do this by building a strong message, introducing new kids to the game, and creating great services for those wanting to improve.
DSG: What’s the future hold for Paul Rabil after his playing days? Do you intend to coach, continue to be an ambassador of the game or something else altogether?
PR: I plan to play a large role in lacrosse for the rest of my life. I’m working on several projects both at the youth and consumer-products level. Beyond that, I hope to be a positive spokesperson and role model for the sport.
DSG: You have your own line of lacrosse gear with Warrior. Describe the type of player and style of play that it caters to.
PR: I have both a premium and entry-level line of gear. For those new to the game, the Rabil NEXT starter kit is an all-encompassing kit that I’m certain will get young players off on the right foot. My Rabil Collection has some of the best intellectual property in the game – lightweight, offset design, and overall product quality makes this the best equipment for the elite player.
DSG: What was the experience like conceptualizing, designing, testing and eventually using the Paul Rabil gear in-game?
PR: I like to participate in every step of the process, from R&D, design, testing, marketing, and product delivery. Anything I put my name on means the world to me. I put the same kind of effort into my work behind the scenes with my equipment as I do on the field as a player.
DSG: The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation’s Sports Matter program and your Paul Rabil Foundation have a similar focus on the importance of sports and strive to keep kids connected to the sports they love through funding and equipment. What makes youth sports so important to you?
PR: Youth sports are the future of our respective games. These are the kids that will breakdown new barriers and tell bigger, even better messages. Having the opportunity to mold their approach to lacrosse is not something I take lightly.
DSG: Pretend there’s a kid out there, let’s say eighth grade, athletically average but capable, looking to get involved in something. Convince him or her to give lacrosse a shot. Convince his or her parents that it’s safe.
PR: Lacrosse is the best combination of team play and individual creativity. You’ve got the endurance required of a soccer player, the strength required of a football player, and skill required of a basketball player. Regarding safety, all helmet-to-helmet contact is outlawed, and there’s no tackling.
DSG: You’ve talked a lot in the past about your initial struggles playing lacrosse, even picking up the basics of throwing and shooting. What made it important enough to stick with it? What tips can you share with beginners, intermediate and advanced players about perseverance and overcoming obstacles in the game?
PR: Frankly, my folks wouldn’t let me quit in the middle of the season. The morals and disciplines they instilled in me have lasted a lifetime, and the first was to never give up. I built long-lasting friendships and championship memories because I never quit lacrosse.
DSG: Are you familiar with DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation SportsMatter program and grant recipient Harlem Lacrosse? If so, tell me what makes this organization so attractive to you as a player and ambassador of the sport?
PR: The DICK’S SportsMatter campaign has been a supporter of the Paul Rabil Foundation for two years and counting. In lacrosse, our missions align in building lacrosse programs for those who cannot. Harlem Lacrosse is a great example of a thriving market that DICK’S has played a role of encouragement in, as well as a major supplier for equipment to fulfill a young player’s dreams.
DSG: How do you want to be remembered or how do you want to see your legacy remembered in lacrosse?
PR: I’ve been asked this before and I’m not ready to give you an answer. I think there’s just so much upside in lacrosse and I want to be a part of the leadership group that continues to push our growth. Of course on the field, I want to be remembered as the best to have ever played. Off the field, I have just as big of ambitions.
DSG: Last question: What’s the last thing that made you laugh really hard?
PR: I laugh really hard every day. Today, I was coaching a lacrosse camp and a kid whipped and nay-nay’d after a goal.
DSG: And a comment: Please share with us anything you think we should have asked but didn’t. We’d love to hear anything you’d like to share about your accomplishments on-field and off.