I AM… 5 & Five
AND I AM…
… Never satisfied. Despite my achievements in lacrosse – a scoring record in college, a scoring title in the pros, and most importantly, team success – I’m always working to improve my game. I tell the young players at my clinics,
“Never be satisfied with the player you are. There are always areas where you can improve.”
My commitment and drive have enabled me to take step forwards in my game every year, never a step back. It’s rarely easy. It can sometimes be exhausting. But the satisfaction that comes from being the best athlete, worker and person you can be is extremely gratifying.
Growing up in Smithtown, Long Island, the dream of playing competitive lacrosse grew out of watching the NCAA Final Four on ESPN. Back then, about 15 years ago, all the lacrosse they showed on TV was the Final Four. I would be in my house, lacrosse stick in hand, pacing up and down my family’s den and intently watching every second of those games. I dreamed of being one of those NCAA players, representing their schools on lacrosse’s biggest stage. By the time I turned nine, was no longer playing baseball and was focused almost year-round on being the best lacrosse player I could be.
I may have been leading scorer in the NCAA and later become the leading scorer during the 2015 season in Major League Lacrosse, but it did not come easily. During my senior year of high school, colleges were not knocking down my door to give me a scholarship. I’m a December kid and was a late-bloomer. By the time I peaked in my senior year of high school, when I had 130 points, most of the scholarship offers had gone out to other players. But while at Deerfield Academy for a post-grad year, Cornell University saw some tape of me playing, and made me an offer. I’m eternally grateful to Cornell for giving me the opportunity to play college lacrosse and receive an incredible education.
Not being highly-recruited didn’t get me down; if anything, it served as a tremendous motivator. Fast forward just a year later and there I was, running out on the field as a freshman with my Big Red teammates as we played in the National Championship game on ESPN. A few days before, we stunned highly-favored Virginia, 15-6, and I had three goals and three assists. Think about that: just a year or two earlier, most of the schools paid little attention to me. In 2011, I was nominated for an ESPY Award for Male College Athlete of the Year. The other nominees were future NFL star Cam Newton, future NBA players Jimmer Fredette (who won) and Kembo Walker and the great college hockey player Andy Miele.
We lost the Championship Game in heartbreaking fashion, but I was living my dream. There would be more tough losses to come – especially in international play – but winning the Major League Lacrosse championship in 2015 with my hometown New York Lizards finally eliminated any bitter taste, any lingering questions I had about myself and my ability to lead my team to a championship. With my teammates, I reached the pinnacle.
MY OTHER PASSION — FASHION
There was no way I was going to miss attending the ESPYs. Besides having the honor of being in the amazing company of my fellow nominees, I was looking forward to getting decked out for the occasion. I wore a crisp new suit, white shirt and a fairly-loud, bright-green tie. One of the highlights of the night was when superstar Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson walked by me before the ceremony and said, “Good look, man.”
Fashion has always been a passion of mine. For as long as I can remember, I always cared a lot about how I looked and what I wore. To be able to get involved with Athlete Originals and help create the kind of designs that I would wear and that lacrosse fans would look good in has been a big thrill for me. For someone who loves fashion as I do, to be able to work with the AO designers on my own line of apparel has been an incredible opportunity.
It’s possible that I started getting intrigued by fashion because I went to Catholic school as a young kid on Long Island, and there wasn’t any option but to wear the uniform and adhere to the strict dress code. So when I wasn’t in school and could wear something different, I wanted to wear something cool, show a little style. My mom also influenced my fashion sense. She dressed me nicely when I was little and always suggested that I make an effort to dress impressively and not be a slob, roll out of bed and put just anything on.
In college at Cornell University, when everyone was wearing sweatpants to class, I could count on one hand the number of times I did. I tried to wear nice jeans or khakis along with a good shirt to present an image that school was important. Besides, you never know who you’re going to run into! I wanted to be prepared.
Lacrosse has become one of our most stylish sports, especially over the last decade. If you see young kids around the neighborhood who play lacrosse, you’ll see that many dress very colorfully – sometimes even loudly. My lacrosse look is a bit more clean and conservative. My work with Athlete Originals right now is more of an everyday, lifestyle line, but over time I hope to branch out to other levels of clothing – especially a 5 & Five performance line with Athlete Originals. And when my playing career is over (I’m just 25 years old), I’d love to pursue more work in fashion.
WHY 5 & FIVE?
5 & Five is the ideal spot for me to on the field, a section that’s part of my attack position near the goal. The area is 5 yards high and 5 yards wide (hence 5 & Five). If you can get to that position, you can be the ultimate scoring threat – whether scoring a goal yourself or setting up a goal for a teammate. For the 5 & Five logo, I tried to go for a Michael Jordanesque silhouette look. It’s me doing my standard move called “The Question Mark” at the 5 and Five and getting ready to shoot. My thought was this logo could be the cornerstone symbol of a lifestyle apparel line for lacrosse.
The reaction from the lacrosse world has been really strong. I see a lot of fans wearing the apparel and players have been asking me about it. I consider the apparel line a work in progress, but I feel like we’ve made some great strides when I hear people saying, “I love that shirt. Where can I get one”? My hope is that at some point we can make the apparel available at Long Island Lizards games and at Major Lacrosse League events.
A LIFE IN LACROSSE
When people ask me what I do, I tell them “I’m a professional lacrosse player.” Everything I do revolves around lacrosse – whether it’s playing for the Lizards, running my lacrosse clinic business, running my travel team called Lacrosse Club New York, producing instructional videos, or working on my line with Athlete Originals.
Let me be clear, I’m not complaining. I just wanted to show you what a typical lacrosse month is for me. Understand this: when the Major League Lacrosse season is in high gear in the summer, that’s also the most popular time for my lacrosse clinic business and for me to make appearances at other camp. So here is what June, 2015 was for me. In most instances, you’re reading this correctly – I joined my teammates on the New York Lizards on the day of games.
June 1-3: Lacrosse camp in Georgia
June 5: Lizards home game on Long Island
June 8 -12: Camp in Nebraska
June 13: MLL All-Star Game in Houston
June 15-18: Lacrosse camp in Houston
June 20: Lizards home game
June 21-25: Lacrosse camp in Minnesota
June 26: Lizards road game in Florida
On the side, I’m studying to get my insurance license. I’m not quite ready to enter “the real world,” so to speak, but I’m preparing for business when it comes time for life after lacrosse. My current schedule can be a challenging grind, but I approach everything with a positive attitude. Every day I get to do something I love.
COMMITMENT TO THE CRAFT
As for keeping my lacrosse skills sharp during the offseason, there may not be a lot of fields available where I live in New York City, but there are plenty of walls. If you’re ever walking by a public school playground and see a guy in his mid-20s furiously whipping a lacrosse ball against a handball court wall, catching it and practicing his stickhandling and shooting, there’s a good possibility it’s me. I get to those walls as often as possible. I may be playing lacrosse at the highest level possible, but I’m still playing wall-ball. I need my stick dialed in as much as possible.
My approach to workouts has changed in recent years. I was very into working out in college. To a certain extent, I think I over-did it. Since graduating college a few years ago and playing in the pros, I’ve cut down my workouts with weights to just two days a week. Cardio workouts remain four or five days a week. The elliptical and the Stairmaster are two of my favorites. I also have a routine on the treadmill where I do thirty ten-second sprints on an incline over a brief period time. I also play basketball in a men’s league in New York City, which makes for a great workout with all of the running and physical activity. It has helped my agility and quickness. As a result, I feel both stronger and faster – and I believe I am playing lacrosse better – than I ever have.
The Lizards winning the Major League Lacrosse Championship this year makes me extremely, extremely proud. I had come so close yet so far to titles in college, international competition and the pros, so to finally be part of a champion – in my third year in MLL – was the highlight of my career so far. I’m still just 25, so I have plenty of lacrosse left in me. For now, I’m not looking any further than 2018. I want to play in the MLL until then, compete for a spot on the U.S. roster for the World Games and win a gold medal. Then I’ll evaluate where my career is then. I’m excited about these next three years.
Short-term, I want to continue to be an ambassador for lacrosse while I’m still in the prime of my playing career in MLL and while enjoying business ventures like my clinics, New York City team and partnership with Athlete Originals. I want to grow the sport that has been, and hopefully always will be, such a big part of my life. This game gives me such much joy. I want to give back to it as much as I can.
Editor’s Note: To view Rob’s most popular 5&FIVE clothing designs please visit his shop at Athlete Originals or follow this link: Shop 5&FIVE by Rob Pannell