Day to day we face all kinds of pressure to adapt, conform, and through it all, succeed. Directly or indirectly, those expectations are some way ingrained in the fabric of society.
So, while the Rochester Knighthawks search for ways to return to the postseason and re-establish themselves as the powerhouse that made them one of the most storied franchises in NLL history, they’re doing so under the watchful eye of their captain, the stoic, Sid Smith. A player who’s always gone about things his own way no matter what.
Drafted first overall by the Knighthawks in 2009, Smith was entering just his fourth season when Mike Hansen and co. pasted the ‘C’ on the left side of his chest. No pressure, right?
Oh, also, the Knighthawks had just won the first of what would become three consecutive Champions Cup titles. No Pressure at all.
Young and still finding his way at the NLL level, Smith says he wasn’t worried about the moment because success and failure doesn’t rest solely on the shoulders of the captain.
“One guy isn’t going to make or break the team, even if you have the best captain in the world,” Smith mused when talking about putting his mark on the team after he took over from Pat McCreedy.
“You know, I didn’t really have a big plan of anything I wanted to do (upon being named captain). Coaches even reassured me, ‘Just do what you do and keep playing the way you are.’”
Smith exudes a calm confidence that comes with being a winner. From two NCAA National Championships with Syracuse University to the pros, where he helped the Knighthawks follow up their 2012 title with successful 2013 and 2014 campaigns to pull off the three-peat.
To continuously reach that level of success you have to be cognizant of facets off the floor, and as far as his leadership style goes, Smith focuses on what he calls “the little things”.
“You know ,being positive on the bench as much as you can, being able to talk to guys and guys respecting when you tell ‘em something. (Them understanding) that you’re coming from the right place with it. Sometimes it’s constructive criticism, saying things to guys that are kind of tough to say, but it’s for the betterment of the team.”
There’s that team theme again and long time Knighthawks assistant and newly minted Philadelphia Wings head coach, Paul Day says that sentiment has alway been a part of who Smith is. “Sid was (selfless) at 17. Very intense, talented and always thinking about the team first.”
Cleary that’s his M.O.. Whatever is best for the team trumps all and Smith’s not concerned with trying to be something, or someone he’s not.
As the sole Indigenous captain in the league, Smith jokes that if that’s a “thing” it’s an honor, but in the same breath it’s irrelevant.
“When I put the jersey on were all the same. Everybody is after the same thing, after the same goals.”
The role model expectation is often a tag that comes with being a professional athlete. For Smith, and others in the league, representing a cultural group whose history is deeply rooted in lacrosse is an added point of pride.
“As far as being a role model, it’s something I take seriously, but I just worry about what I’m doing, (just try to) make myself happy.
“I’m not going to be able to be everyone’s role model, but if there’s a few things (about him) that somebody can point to that I’m doing (well and it’s something that) they can look up to, then that’s good!”
It’s a classic down play on the part of Smith, but we all know that at times it’s difficult to see ourselves in the same light as others see us. Usually outsiders will explain how bright we shine a little bit more accurately and as Day put it, “(He’s) a class act that young lacrosse players, and native youth can follow. He will be a great coach in lacrosse when he retires.”
But until then, Smith is still just focusing on what drives him. Being a good team player. A guy that got his teammates backs at all times and someone who always did what was best for the team.