MLL Behind The Scenes: Blaze Training Camp

Chris Bocklet’s weekend consisted of new faces in all new places, but he never once felt like an outsider. You could call a handful of places in this country “home” to Bocklet by now: South Salem, Charlottesville, Denver, or Austin. But Georgia never seemed to be in the plans. Truth is, he never expected to feel at place so quickly when made his way to training camp with the Atlanta Blaze for the first time. Walking onto campus at Kennesaw State, Bocklet was greeted by an all new group of coaches and teammates, ready to get to work. After spending five season with the Denver Outlaws, it was refreshing to be a part of something completely different.

From the start, Bocklet was energized by the pace of play. He clicked with the coaching staff and appreciated that things were kept fresh and high tempo. Even after all of his year immersed in lacrosse culture, the staff were putting the guys through drills even Bocklet has never done before, focused on pushing a fast-pace like they’ll see on the field. What really made it all work for Bocklet from the first rep was the immediate team chemistry. He found himself fitting in right away with the new style. For him, being surrounded by guys making an effort to get along so well makes the whole experience much more fun. It’s exciting and motivating to go to push each other when you’re all friends.

Since the Blaze are a new organization, the majority of the clubhouse has spent time with other teams. Because of that, Bocklet was immediately surrounded with a handful of guys he’s found success with. He was reunited with teammates from the Outlaws 2014 undefeated season; Anthony Kelly, Justin Pennington, and Terry Kimener. Chris is also getting the chance to work with James Pannell and Greg Colohan, a pair of freshman at UVA when he was a senior. Just a season together means that much more familiarity on the field. Although he’s the new guy in Georgia, Bocklet came into camp as one of the the older guys of the club. On average, the Blaze are fairly young. Some guys are only two or three seasons in, while Chris is heading toward his sixth. As a veteran, Bocklet feels Coach Huntley immediately valued his opinion when talking about offensive strategy.

“I really enjoy it and I enjoy trying to take a real leadership role on this team. [The weekend] was all positive. My main goal was to have fun with it. Just enjoy being out there and being with my teammates to make it a fun process. If I’m doing it, it’s not worth doing if it isn’t fun.”

He also looks forward to getting to know the other stars of the team, like Scott Ratliff and Kevin Rice, off of the field. Playing head to head, Bocklet has got to know these guys as players, but not people. Some of the best experiences of pro lacrosse are in the connections made with teammates in the short time spent with them. While a few NLL stars, like Mark Matthews and Randy Staats, key pieces of their offense, were missing, and goalie Adam Ghitelman was away coaching, the core of the Atlanta squad was intact for the weekend.

Unlike what Bocklet was used to in Denver, the weekend’s events in Atlanta was more intimate and immediately focused. There were no hired guns. It was primarily guys already in Blaze helmets, already dialing back into the goals and systems.

In Denver, there was a lot of live play right away and deep numbers in order to run full field scrimmages. Things at the Blaze camp were kept tight, limited to the group of athletes that are going to be the core of the team throughout the season. The idea was to work together from Day 1. Instead of fighting for spots with a mentality of competing constantly against each other, they were competing for each other. The men kept the energy for five session across two days, including a public scrimmage against the Kennesaw State club team. The rest of the time was in game-like simulations. One on one battles, stick-work, and routine drills were never a part of the weekend plan. Since it’s nearly impossible for athletes to see real game scenarios outside of the season, it’s straight to business when they hit training camp.

All of the prep work was left to the individual from August to April. Then they have essentially two weekends to prime the engine and get comfortable with what they’re working with. Bocklet is going to do what he does best, keep it fun. As long as he loves what he’s doing, he feels he can bring the best version of himself to the field each week. The respect between the coaches and players, along with the chemistry in the locker room has Bocklet feeling vibes of success surrounding his new lacrosse family and he couldn’t be more excited.

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