Some of the Sport’s Part-Time Pro Athletes Are Known to Moonlight as Full-Time Bankers and Lawyers
Chris Passavia, left, and Mike Ward are lawyers by day and professional lacrosse players the rest of the time.Philip Montgomery for The Wall Street Journal
Passavia is one of 200 men who moonlight in Major League Lacrosse. The players, many recently out of college, generally practice once a week during the summer months and will play 14 games in the 2012 season. (Passavia plays for the Long Island Lizards, who are currently 1-2.) They make between $10,000 and $25,000 per season. This, of course, doesn’t pay the bills for the year.
MLL players are part-time professional athletes. Many of them have day jobs in corporate America—some of which are quite prestigious. Midfielder Mike Ward works with Passavia at Wollmuth. Teammate Stephen Peyser, the league’s most improved player last season, is in cash-equity trading at a Wall Street investment bank. Attackman Tommy Davis, a member of the 2011 Lizards squad who isn’t yet on a team for 2012, spends his days trading bonds for Standard Credit Group. Players on the other seven MLL teams hold positions at companies including Lockheed Martin, Mass Mutual, and Morgan Stanley. (Boston Cannons faceoff specialist John Ortolani eschewed the corporate world; he is also a mixed martial arts fighter.)
Meet Lacrosse’s Part-Time Pros
Ward became a lawyer as a direct result of lacrosse. As a member of the 2006 Duke lacrosse program that became embroiled in a rape scandal that gained the national spotlight, he watched attorneys performing their profession. “I got a chance to see the competitive, analytical advocacy that the lawyers were doing,” he says of the case in which all charges were eventually dropped. “I got into that and wanted to do it. The question was whether I was smart enough. I figured if I could make it through law school I’d be all right.”
The midfielder, a second-team All-American in 2007, spent two years with the Denver Outlaws before being traded to the Lizards before the 2010 season. He had nine points that summer but only two in 2011, partially because he only played in four games. He took a month off to study for the bar, passed it and began at Wollmuth in the fall.
To stay in shape, Ward works out from 6:30 to 8 in the morning before heading to the office. The first-year associate works late into the night, which makes hitting the gym early in the morning difficult, especially in the winter months when the lacrosse field feels very far away. “It’s actually worse than it sounds,” Ward says. “But it’s amazing how much you can do on three or four hours of sleep.”
Davis heads to the gym after work. His job at Standard Credit follows banker hours—7 a.m. to 5 p.m.—which he says allows for time at the end of the day to stay in shape and practice.
Brian Langtry rests after practice last month in Uniondale. Philip Montgomery for The Wall Street Journal
The Princeton graduate isn’t the only MLL player with a job in the financial sector, but the numbers seem to be dwindling. Commissioner David Gross says the number of players working in corporate jobs has dropped from around 40% when the league started in 2001 to roughly 10% during the 2011 season. Some of this is due to the stresses on the financial industry in recent years, but money is also flowing into the game. (An ownership group, led by NFL legend and former Syracuse lacrosse star Jim Brown, announced they purchased the Lizards on Wednesday.)
Lacrosse benefits from being one of the country’s fastest growing sports, according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, and there are increasing opportunities for players to make a living by staying involved. A few of the stars, like Boston’s Paul Rabil, build brands around their names, but many more work in companies in the lacrosse ecosystem.
Lizards goalie Drew Adams, MLL’s goalie of the year last season, is one such player. He landed a job at Yext, a Chelsea-based local search results startup, soon after college. He spent six months there before equipment and apparel seller Maverik Lacrosse called. While Adams loves his new job, he misses some aspects of the more traditional corporate world.
“Everyone at Maverik is an ex-player, so no one thinks it’s really that cool when I take off to go play a game in Denver on the weekend,” he says. “At Yext, no one was familiar with what I did. They would catch me playing on ESPN, and they’d wonder why I was coming to work every day when I was playing on TV on the weekends. Then I’d explain the economics to them.”
MLL executives aim to pay their players full-time wages—salaries increase every year—but they will not achieve that goal for some time. “How long is it going to take? I might be retired by then,” Gross says. “We’re on the path, but one of the main things is keep your expenses in line. We’d love for the players to be full-time players, but our economic reality is that we can’t afford to do that with the revenue we bring in.”
MLL will continue to function as a part-time gig for its players. The players in banking, law and other places in the corporate world understand the long hours, the lost weekends during the summer and the sacrifices they make, as do their teammates who work in lacrosse-related fields. At some point, the strain becomes too much. Every year, the league loses players who are still good enough to compete but have too many other commitments.
“I can’t be sending work emails from the crease,” Adams says.
Corrections & Amplifications
John Ortolani plays for the Boston Cannons. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that he plays for the Boston Breakers, a women’s soccer team.
Article Provided By: Wall Street Journal