You can’t sit with us!
It’s one of the most universally quoted lines (by millennials at least) from the movie Mean Girls. It’s a moment in the film when a member of a popular social circle is shunned by the others for not conforming (in this case, wearing sweatpants). And although we attribute this behavior to high school students and immaturity, it’s something that can be detrimental to any group, at any age, especially a sports team. And don’t kid yourself this happens, even at the professional level, this happens. Point blank. Period.
Segwaying from Mean Girls to the Toronto Rock’s 36-year old captain, Brodie Merrill may seem counterintuitive, but the self-described athlete knows a thing or two about creating an environment that’s conducive to unity. Whether that be at Hill Academy or the locker room at the ACC.
“I feel like I’ve always been able to get along with everyone. Never really in a set group.”
Merrill is of course referring to the labels that, like candy on Halloween, are handed out at an early age. Jock, nerd, emo, artsy, preppy, the list goes on and on, but when it comes to teammates having prejudices about each other or alienating members it will usually lead to disarray and underachievement.
Merrill echoed that sentiment when talking about his students at Hill Academy, “Really good teams don’t really have a lot of those (cliques),” but also added that the rules for creating a brotherhood and all-for-one culture isn’t formulaic.
“It’s a tricky thing, there’s not an exact science to it. It’s putting them in situations outside of the sport where they can make connections (with their teammates).
“One thing we like to do is try to (get) all the players to know the background of each other. Where they’re from, who their siblings are, try to get behind the curtain a little bit. I think that creates a tighter bond when you have a better sense of who your teammates are. (Those) relationships and trust gets a little bit tighter.”
That philosophy is certainly something he practices with his own teammates as well.
Succeeding legendary captain, Colin Doyle, who wore the ‘C’ for seven years had to be even more difficult for Merrill, considering the landscape of the NLL has changed. There are a lot more players cropping up now, who never mind the same year, weren’t born in the same decade as their captain.
Through laughter, Merrill explains further, “I JUST missed that millennial thing, so I’m just on the outside of that,” he jokes, “I’ve definitely (noticed) a transition after games, the younger guys are really quick to their phone which is a big difference from when I was first in the league.”
For a point of reference, this was the most popular phone by Nokia the year Merrill was drafted. It was a different time. T9 is a struggle on the best of days.
But when you practice what you preach, connecting with players significantly younger than him, who are at a totally different point in their lives, isn’t a problem for Merrill.
“Yeah, that’s the cool thing about sport, it doesn’t feel that way when you’re on a team together. There is a big age gap there (referring to Latrell Harris who turns 20-years old this March) but when you’re a teammate, you’re a teammate. It’s really just about communication, being around each other, and really getting to know each other. Those walls, or that gap, gets eliminated.”
With the pedigree that Merrill encapsulates, the respect level for the vet is through the roof. He has a lot to share and probably still has some things to learn… Things like 2018 slang from the large group of millennials he calls his teammates.