By DAVID HOY/Montana State News
As an impressionable second grader, Paul Mariani recalls, “One day my older brother came home and told us there was this awesome game we had to play.”
Ever since then the MSU Lacrosse team president and captain has been hooked on the fastest game on two feet.
He is less than a week away from his concluding final exam at MSU, soon to receive a degree in cell biology and neuroscience. With such an intense school load, it’s hard to imagine having the time to juggle his team responsibilities with his studies.
Not only has Mariani survived, he’s thrived, graduating with honors. As a freshman he trained to take over the team president duties and has been president the past three years, a significant chunk of his college life.
However, things weren’t always so busy.
Growing up in Stonington, Conn., Paul played soccer and lacrosse at an early age. After a few years of playing both youth sports he decided he liked lacrosse more.
“When the sports started getting competitive I made a choice to play lacrosse because I kept striking out in tee ball,” he said.
On the East Coast of the United States, youth lacrosse’s popularity is up there with baseball, basketball or football. Youth leagues are prevalent up and down the eastern seaboard, with parents suiting up young children in lacrosse gear as soon as the kids reach the same height as the sticks. The official lacrosse season is in the spring, however off season consists of summer and winter leagues continuing play for all ages throughout the year.
By starting lacrosse at a young age combined with continuous year-round games, Mariani had developed quite an explosive set of skills by the time high school was over. Upon looking for colleges to attend, he decided to visit a friend in Bozeman to see Montana State University. With no prior knowledge of a lacrosse team at the university, Mariani claims, “I came out here to visit a friend and never took the flight home.”
As team president, there are many loose ends he must tie up to make the team operate on an efficient level. As a team, MSU Lacrosse pays $8,000 annually in national dues to the governing league, the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA). Also they must fly out sanctioned referees for all home games. Any fine the team incurs is dealt with by Mariani. The team could get fined for not putting the game’s stats online within 24 hours, not entering referee reviews online within 24 hours or breaking several other intricate bylaws.
Another responsibility of Mariani’s includes acting as liaison for the athletics department and the lacrosse team. This partnership results in access to the football stadium for home games, weather conditions permitting. Also, he works with student activities, ASMSU and the College of Business.
The business school helps the team set up their 501C3 non-profit tax forms. The list of Mariani’s presidential duties goes on and on: hire the coaches and trainers, reserve fields for games and practices, and line the field for game days. He admits, “It takes a lot of work, a lot.”
As student athletes, the players on the team have to follow strict academic policies. It’s Paul’s duty to make sure roster checks occur three times a year. An important task for him is to make sure all of his players are registered for a minimum of 12 credits. A single player failing to meet these requirements results in an automatic loss for any game the player played in.
Although the tasks that need to get done to make the lacrosse team run smoothly are numerous, there has been a system put in place by the forefathers of MSU Lacrosse. When asked which past MSU Lacrosse players he’s drawn inspiration from, Mariani responded, “Definitely team founder Chris Kelley.”
As the original team president, player, coach and team founder this MSU alumni is respected figure among the MSU Lacrosse culture. Kelley now lives and works in Seattle, Wash.. He used his experiences with MSU lacrosse to land a job with a professional indoor lacrosse team, the Washington Stealth. When asked about Kelley, Mariani said “I’ll call him and get some info, just like I’ll do for the next team president.”
Kelley also helped with local Bozeman lacrosse in helping with the Gallatin Valley Lacrosse League. For two years Mariani coached in the summer league. One of them he was the high school team’s head coach. With help from alumni like Kelley, he has managed to do quite well in keeping the team afloat.
Mariani wishes to leave the team in a place that reflects what Kelley was able to leave today’s MSU lacrosse players. He even went so far as to join the Student Senate two years ago to fight for more club team rights, a fight he won. His goal is to have future players sustain the image of a competitive band of brothers that have positive ties to the campus and community.
If Mariani had his dream lacrosse scenario come true, “It would be to lead the team to a national championship game. To get there would qualify all the hard work and all the after-hours stuff involved with lacrosse and involved the logistics of the team.” Hopefully they will not only get there and win it all, but according to Paul, “Just to be there will be overwhelming!”
Edited by Haley Anderson.