You can feel it when he talks. The angst. The heartache. It’s almost envy.
It kills Colorado Mammoth captain, Dan Coates that his teammates have taken the floor this season without him. Don’t get it twisted, it’s not that he wishes he could take their place, but he wants to be out there with them battling on the field, chasing a title and being involved at every turn.
Since October, Coates has been unable to play the game he loves thanks to a torn ACL and meniscus he suffered during a Team Canada tryout in the fall. He was vying for a roster spot to represent the red and white in Israel during the 2018 World Championships.
Was the injury as bad as it sounds?
“Yeah! Because my knee cap was on the side of my leg!” explained, Coates.
It happened fast and just like that all of the hard work he’d logged to prep for the National Team audition, a training regimen that would have left him in peak physical condition for the upcoming NLL season as well, was irrelevant. He’d have to start from scratch.
Rehab for Coates, although still in the relatively early stages, has been progressing nicely. A variety of workouts have kept things from getting monotonous, but the thing that his rehab in Denver has allowed him to do, which seems to be most important to the Mammoth’s leader, is that is keeps him around his teammates. Attending practices and games is “huge” for him.
The headway Coates is making physically and the strong start to the season his Mammoth teammates have enjoyed, all helps alleviate stress during this difficult time, but the only thing Coates wants is the one thing that nothing but time can accommodate. To get back on the field and into the mix.
ON timeout with injury, Coates is left without his refuge. His oasis. As he told me on a recent trip to Colorado, lacrosse is where he turns to getaway.
“I think that’s the toughest part, you fight some mental battles because, you know, for myself this is the first time I haven’t been able to compete,” Coates reflected, “whether I was playing summer ball or in the NLL…lacrosse is my escape. It sucks. I have to watch from the sidelines, but at the same time I’m learning a lot watching, from my guys.”
Along with going through film with teammates and being a resource for coaches and players alike, the new perspective (literally, Coates watches games from the press box) has been somewhat enlightening.
“Now I’m looking through a coaches eye…and that what I’m learning is the finer details of the game. When you’re on the floor, a lot of times you’re competing and you might miss something and I think having that birds eye view makes a big difference.”
In the interim, Robert Hope has stepped in to fill the void that was left by the injured captain. Hope himself is very clear that the ‘C’ may as well stand fo Coates. It’s a loaner. Like rolling around in your parents SUV as a newly licensed driver. No matter how well you think the ride suits you, you damn well know it’s headed back to its rightful owner sooner rather than later.
For his part Coates praises his teammate’s leadership capabilities, his talent and accolades. It’s not Hope’s first stint as a lacrosse captain, but loving the guy who stepped in for you doesn’t make it any easier to reign it in your vocal tendencies after you’ve been the definitive voice in the room since 2015. It’s a challenge, especially for someone as passionate about the game as Coates.
“In a way I do have to take a step back because I can’t be barking at guys on the floor… That’s tough, because I love being the leader of this team but at the same time Rob Hope’s the perfect leader to lead this team in 2017-18.”
But the biggest and most valuable lesson Coates has learned and come to appreciate is that this lax life isn’t promised to anyone.
“I guess, nothing is given to you in this game and at any time it can be taken away from you, and I think that’s what I’m realizing. How grateful I was to play for six years and you know I think I missed a total of three games in my six year career so far. Obviously this (injury) definitely opened my eyes a bit,” but without skipping a beat Coates immediately had his eye back on the prize, “(The) focus now is to get back and rejoin my teammates.”
With that type of fire you better believe 2018-19 captain Coates will be a force to be reckoned with because as he put it “playing is the biggest thing in my life” and that’s not something a little knee injury is going to take away from Dan Coates.