Pro Athlete 360 sits down with accomplished Lacrosse player James Gurick. Gurick’s incredible success as a Lacrosse player has now carried over to being a teacher of the game, as he coaches, trains, and mentors lacrosse players in the northern Virginia area. While Gurick’s accomplishments are amazing, his honest and humble approach to the game, and to life, has to do with huge obstacles that he had to overcome early in life. Gurick opens up about his battle with cancer for the first time publicly. He explains his battle, both mentally and physically, and discusses his comeback as a person and as a lacrosse player.
Gurick’s incredible story has a lot to do with his uncanny ability to correlate the game of lacrosse to the game of life. As a serious student of the game his entire life, his approach to the game itself allows Gurick to coach and teach lacrosse at an exceptional level. After his fight with cancer, Gurick played for Salisbury College where he went on to win not one, but two NCAA National Championships. Gurick also traveled and played lacrosse all over Europe. After college Gurick went on to training camp with the Boston Cannons. His love for the game has brought him back to training and coaching lacrosse to others.
Lacrosse Video Transcription: I grew up in a slightly poorer home and so we didn't have much really, and so I sort of got lost in sports. You know, nothing really mattered at the time. As I am teaching and coaching my younger students, nothing really matters but you at this point, right now. Use lacrosse to help better your life, it has, the sport has given me a lot, whether you play for a year or your entire life, take what you can from it. And Lacrosse has really helped give me a life.
I have played with people in London, and Amsterdam, and Italy, and some of the best players in the world, I've been lucky enough to be on the same field as them at one point and it is something that when you grow up, like I did, just like any other sport star, you deal with adversity and sort of use something as an outlet. And for me, that was sports.
Coming up through High School everything, you know, I made the transition over to lacrosse and everything was going great. The summer before my Junior year in high school, I had the biggest wake-up call when I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. I Had to undergo two operations, sacrifice one of my soldiers. I didn't know anything about cancer at the time. I lost about 40 pounds and in a week stretch. It's something that can blindside you if you ask anybody who has also had cancer. When you are diagnosed it is life-changing to say the least.
For me, being 16 years old and not knowing anything about cancer, or what it was exactly I was sort of ashamed because I looked at it as I should be ashamed and embarrassed for them taking away something that I really needed, you know 16 years old, going to high school, status is a big thing in high school. I didn’t want it to be the way people would look at me and what they thought of me. If I got an argument with somebody I didn't want them taking a cheap shot at me due to the type of cancer it was. So, it was me doing a lot of thinking at times. I was going to get through this but I felt extremely skinny and weak, it took a whole lot out of me. My physical appearance was definitely a lot different. I had noticeable scars along my abdomen, it was a lot going on. Plus, the fact that everything around me was going on, I mean I was going through puberty, I had all of these colleges looking at me for lacrosse. There were a lot of changes that were going to happen. When this happens, as you can find out if you talk to anybody who has had it, especially this type of cancer, or cancer treatment, it really throws a curveball into your entire life.
Being now that I was 16 years old I didn't know how to handle it, so I sort of shut it out. I don't want to say that I pretend that it didn’t happen, because it's something I think about every day to this day. But it's something I put deep, deep inside me and really fell into lacrosse because of something I was there, and lacrosse was my outlet. Anyway, I kept it a secret and kept it in, which in retrospect I don't think it was a good or bad thing but I think that really helped my drive. My drive, my drive, my drive, again the incredible drive to succeed in anything that I did. I would succeed.
IT drove me to succeed where nothing would be taken away from me again, if you want to label it a sentence. When I got out of the hospital my bench press max was 55 pounds. Up until then I was a three sport athlete, my entire fall was already shot. I got so down, but then I would hit the punching bag for a little bit and chances are that I would take a lacrosse stick and go for a run or I would go to the shooting cage, or even just go for a long drive to ease my mind. Thinking back and trying to feel the emotion that I was feeling at the time, I don't ever want to forget it, but I don't ever want to feel it again. It is something I think about every day and is something that I do not talk about a lot because I don't want people to look at that part of my life and to define me with it. I look at like yes, I had cancer, yes, I came back from it, yes, there are a lot of people that are facing much worse problems nowadays battling the disease, and yes it makes you want to find a cure for it. But, my point is that it really instilled in me the drive that nothing is going to stop me from doing the things I want. If it took me four years to make it to major-league lacrosse training camp five and half weeks, then it took me four years to reach my dream. Some people do it overnight for whatever reason, I needed time. An accomplishment that I don’t think would've happened if I didn't go through the struggle that I went through in high school, and didn’t have the things happen, the adversity that happened that I had to deal with really shaped who I am today, as a manager, to my staff, as a mentor and coach, to these kids. My outlook on life is I'm optimistic about everything, you could tell me that we were going to get hit by a meteor shower and are going to die, and I’d just be like, yea? Ok, prove it! It will have to actually happen until I believe it. I am optimistic about everything. Especially if you can control the outcome. If you want to make the lacrosse high school team, work hard. Anything that you can control the outcome of or at least have a say in, you know, input equals output work as hard as you can, work as smart as you can, and good things tend to happen to you.
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