Lyle Thompson had a wooden lacrosse stick put in his hands the day he was born. Growing up, he would train with it, study it and even sleep with it. His stick became his best friend.
Lacrosse is his life.
Now as a professional, Thompson, 27, plays and travels 11 months out of the year—that is, until the coronavirus pandemic hit.
“A part that’s gone unnoticed is a sense of feeling wanted and feeling needed from the lacrosse world and the people watching the game, and to have a sense of purpose,” Thompson said. “I feel like lacrosse has given me that and I’ve never realized it. Being in quarantine without lacrosse, I felt like I wasn’t accomplishing anything with my days. I came to realize that after a few weeks, so I started to grab my stick, get outside and train more, getting in reps with a ball and a net.
“After doing that I felt really good. We say the game’s a medicine game and not to be cliche about it, but that’s what it was for me.”
The National Lacrosse League (NLL), a winter-to-spring indoor lacrosse league, suspended play March 12 then cancelled the remainder of the season on April 8. Major League Lacrosse (MLL), a spring-through-summer outdoor league, postponed the start of its 20th season originally scheduled for May 30.
The NLL, the longest-running lacrosse league, made it through Week 15 of its 2019-20 season before halting play as a result of the pandemic. Thompson had 27 goals and 33 assists (60 points) in 12 games for the Georgia Swarm (7-5), who were second in the East Division.
With the NLL typically wrapping up its playoffs before Memorial Day Weekend, Thompson quickly transitions to the MLL, where he plays for the Chesapeake Bayhawks. The attackman tallied 73 points (46 goals, 27 assists) in 15 games to be named the 2019 MLL Most Valuable Player while guiding the Bayhawks to the 2019 MLL Championship.
Despite not being on the field currently, Thompson is trying to make the most out of this enforced break, not only by remaining physically and mentally in shape for whenever lacrosse may begin again, but also focusing on business ventures off the field.
Lyle and older brothers Jeremy, Hiana and Miles own and operate Thompson Brothers Lacrosse. Their company had to postpone its summer camps across the United States and Canada to 2021. Lyle Thompson is also working with NikeNKE as part of the design team on the company’s spring 2021 lacrosse cleats line; in the past five years Nike has released six limited edition Thompson Brothers Lacrosse cleats.
“Being home a lot more you think you’d have a lot more time on your hands—I know that’s how I envisioned it—but I’m staying busy,” Thompson said. “I feel like I’m busier than I’ve ever been. Between my kids, training, lacrosse, working out, TBL, Nike and all the stuff that’s in the works it’s really keeping me busy.”
While the MLL continues to search for potential opportunities to restart and play safely, other lacrosse leagues have come up with solutions to conduct live events. The Premier Lacrosse League (PLL), founded in 2019, is holding a two-week quarantined fan-less tournament called the PLL Championship Series from July 25 to August 9 at a site to be announced.
Whatever the MLL—and NLL do for that matter—is still to be determined. Thompson said he will do what is best for the health and safety of himself, his wife, and his five children.
“I’m obviously ready to play—I’m keeping my body and mind ready—but then there’s that aspect of am I ready to travel through airports, and am I ready to battle against someone for 60 minutes who just did the exact same thing?” Thompson said. “There’s a lot of questions in the air that have to be answered. I’m curious to see how everything plays out, even outside of sports, when things start to open up.
“I’m staying cautious, staying safe, and I’m going to make the best choice I can make for myself and my family.”