By Mack Abbott
For Kiel Matisz, lacrosse is more than just a game. He has dedicated a major portion of his life to the sport that he loves, and now he is finding the time to give back. The 6’5” Stoney Creek native is fresh off a National Lacrosse League season in which he was the 3rd overall pick in the NLL Entry Draft and was runner-up in voting for the Rookie of the Year. Combined with double duty from May to August with Major League Lacrosse’s Ohio Machine and Major Series Lacrosse’s Brooklin Redmen, Matisz’s only chance for a break from lacrosse typically occurs from September to November. However, this fall has seen Matisz patrolling the sidelines as an assistant coach for the McMaster Marauders, while simultaneously balancing work commitments and training for his own lacrosse endeavours.
Following a successful 4-year career with the Robert Morris Colonials in the NCAA, where he won numerous academic and athletic awards, Matisz has returned to his hometown. Despite the Minnesota Swarm’s training camp right around the corner, as well as having attended tryouts on October 11-13 for Team Canada’s 2014 world field lacrosse championships entry, Matisz felt it was important to make the time to join the Marauders this season. He explained that it was about giving back to the community and the individuals that helped him get to where he is today.
Growing up as a lacrosse player in the Hamilton area, Matisz was recruited by former Marauder head coach Eddie Comeau. Although Matisz chose to pursue his education south of the border, the two have stayed in touch over the years. Upon returning home following his university career, Comeau once again reached out to Matisz, this time to join the Marauders coaching staff. Although prior commitments prevented him from doing so in 2012, Matisz joined the coaching staff in September 2013 and has been instilling the invaluable lessons that he has learned through his time playing in the NLL, MLL and internationally.
While current head coach Jason Tallevi primarily focuses on X's and O's for the Marauders, Matisz says he is focused more on developing the individual aspect of the game. Having learned from lacrosse greats such as Wayne Colley, Gary Gait and Dave Huntley, he believes the best way to get a positive response from his players is to take the time to create a personal connection with each and every one. “I want my players to know I care for them outside of the lacrosse field,” Matisz said about his approach to coaching. He believes strongly in taking the time to speak to players in a one on one environment. That ultimately helps to create strong relationships, fostering a family-like atmosphere on the field. “The key to any great family,” says Matisz, “is to maintain a camaraderie where the foundation is happiness and work ethic.”
It's easy see why the Marauders wanted Matisz as a part of their program. Matisz carries with him a lacrosse pedigree that is matched by very few. In 2008, he was a member of the Canadian team that earned a silver medal at the U19 Field Lacrosse World Championships. He followed that up in 2010 by earning the OLA Jr A Top Scorer award, and was named the MVP and top graduating player. He was a two-year captain during his university career with Robert Morris, was a 2012 Tewaaraton Award nominee, and set the single-season school record for points. More recently, he has completed three successful seasons with the Redmen, two with Hamilton and Ohio of the MLL, and one with the NLL’s Swarm.
Despite spending most of his time competing against the best players in the world, Matisz has been impressed with the quality of play and league-wide competitiveness during his first CUFLA experience. That being said, he hopes the lessons he has been able to bring to the Marauders will help them climb back to the top of the CUFLA mountain for the first time since 2010. Coming off a season in which McMaster earned only 2 victories, Matisz notes that the team has a “strong desire to listen, grow, and improve as a group.” The early results have been tangible, as the Marauders have already won 4 games this season, and look to finish strong as they head into the playoffs.
As the fall season draws to a close, lacrosse is once again proving itself more than just a game for Matisz. He now hopes his time and dedication pays off in the form of a CUFLA championship ring on his finger and a Team Canada jersey on his back.