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When lacrosse players get together, regardless of home much time spent, lifelong bonds have a way of forming. Friendships and connections so tight that most can only describe it as a family. No matter how long family members go astray, they’re always welcomed back with open arms. That’s how it feels every weekend of the summer when John Lade is reunited with his Rochester Rattlers teammates. Or during the spring when he’s leading his alma mater’s varsity lacrosse team. It’s the same way when the Syracuse Class of 2011 lacrosse players get together. He’s at home with family, and it’s because of lacrosse.

There’s something about the game that makes people feel welcome. Those feelings for Lade came in the fourth grade, waiting for football season. Growing up in North Jersey, he was familiar with the game, but once he was handed a long stick he was hooked. It was the speed of the game, blended with the skill and contact that had his attention. That makes senses for a kid whose path as a tri-sport athlete would help him develop into a standout in football and winter track as well. There was no club lacrosse. When one sport was done it was onto the next.

But lacrosse had its grip on Lade and he stayed immersed in the lifestyle year-round. Fueled by his obsession with the latest gear and trends, he attended camps and clinic to stay connected to niche culture. Acceptance was never an issue. He friends circle were just as passionate. Once middle school hit, his gear-filled thoughts faded and the focus shifted to want went on between the lines. Sporting an original Cascade helmet, when the rest of the Team USA tryout field was wearing the much newer CPX-R, didn’t buy him any immediate respect. John doubts the hand-me-down arm pads and gloves didn’t either. But that didn’t matter. His play spoke for itself and earning a spot on that roster joined him to a pack of brothers that would go much beyond the 2008 U-19 World Championships.

It’s strange that a two-time high school All-American and 2007 New Jersey Defenseman of the Year would only have two or three NCAA D1 schools even interested. Emphasis was on size for defensive guys, there weren’t many speed-dodgers. Lade was a lean five foot ten. With a chip on his shoulder, he took off to a fledgling Villanova program. After a successful first season, he spent the summer with Team USA, where his connections through Joel White were able to help set course for his dream school.

If there’s any town that can call themselves a lacrosse family, it’s Syracuse, and they gained another son. Through his next three years of collegiate lacrosse, he continued to surround himself with those just as tightly bound to the game as he was. Guys like White, Galloway, Amidon, Keogh, and Lade were inseparable. They continue stay in touch as their pro careers take different paths.

Over the years, many Cuse grads have cycled through Rochester. Don’t think that it’s a coincidence the Rattlers have four members of the 2011 graduating class. For Lade, it’s special to play with them every weekend. “It’s just great to just see friends. It’s not about the money, everyone wants to be there.” Even new guys are quick to crack jokes and swap stories. College rivals have to become close quickly. It’s because the coaches make it clear, no matter how good you are, if you don’t fit the locker room then you won’t stay with the team. Although, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to fit tan exact mold. While the team pumps up to the latest hits, John brings his energy up with older sounds. Bands like Def Leppard and Metallica help him zone out and focus on the game plan.

In Rochester, it’s a “fight as brothers, fight for your brothers” mentality. Lade thrives on the blue collar attitude surrounding the Rattlers. Everyone in the locker room buys into it. Everything is left between the lines. That’s what he’s trying to instill in his high school team. It’s the little things that make you better. It’s not how many fish you catch, it’s making sure the entire family can feed each other.

Although their time together is limited to the weekends, they continue to bond all year. The team uses a group text to stay connected, with the lacrosse stuff is usually left out. It’s typically kept to announcing life events and having fun. Like how you talk to family. Once their back at training camp, the chemistry is already there. It’s like they’ve never missed a beat.

That’s the same feeling John got when spending just a short amount of time around the Powell Lacrosse team. Although they were practically strangers, there’s a way the Powells can make you feel like another brother. Watching the trio as a kid, Lade followed the Powells closely. The group of blue collar, Upstate New Yorkers welcomed him into their close knit family, and for Lade that’s special to be a part of. He believes that although the entire Powell network has accomplished a great deal on the field, they all strive to make a bigger impact off of it. Nothing is more important than adding future generations.

Lade’s hope is to follow Ryan and the crew out West to focus his efforts where there aren’t usual pockets of lacrosse. As a special education teacher at the school he grew up in, he has flexible summers to stray from Jersey. He stresses that kids from states like Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Arkansas need just as good of an experience, or better, than kids getting it all of the time on the East Coast. His passion is teaching and coaching, for him they go hand in hand.

“One is done indoors and one is done outdoors,” Lade explains. It’s about helping people grow in a classroom and on a field. The lacrosse community get a little bigger everyday because of John’s commitments. Who can say where his lead by example mentality and drive to go where the game needs to grow will take him? For now, he’s going with the flow and not letting any roadblocks stand in the way of expanding his lacrosse family.

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