Matthew Dinsdale will walk into his first training camp with the National Lacrosse League’s Calgary Roughnecks and he’ll be put at ease by some familiar faces. Travis Cornwall was a Junior A teammate in Coquitlam. So was goalie Frankie Scigliano and runner Jackson Decker. But then he’ll recognize a voice — perhaps without even seeing the face — and he’ll know it’s time. Time to get down to the business of why he was the No. 7 overall draft pick of the Roughnecks. Because that voice, of coach Curt Malawsky, ran the show for 4 Junior A seasons in Coquitlam, where Dinsdale honed his craft, and the young man knows NLL paychecks aren’t just handed out. They’re earned. “He’s a tough coach and he expects a lot, but he knows how to get the best out of you,” says Dinsdale.
And yet for as much motivation as the coach can provide, Dinsdale’s got plenty of his own. You don’t score 320 career Junior A points in the regular season, including seasons of 95 (in 2012) and 108 (in 2011) without having some sort of natural motor.
And now, the 6-foot, 185-pound right-hander gets a chance to shift into NLL mode.
“I’m super excited,” he said. “It’s a great franchise and it’ll be tough to crack but I’m ready for the challenge. (Malawsky) expects you to live and breathe the game and it’s hard to prepare for a guy like him. But he helps you get better.”
Like most draft picks before and after him, Dinsdale has kept himself busy with a training program. “That’s the most important thing. If you’re out of shape, you’re not going to stick around.”
For sure, Dinsdale plans to stick around. And for all the familiarity he has with Malawsky and former Junior A teammates who will be on the floor with him, he’s eager to work with the seasoned veterans as well. Because while watching and talking can help, there’s nothing compared to the lessons learned from jumping in with both feet.
“I want to learn everything I can from the guys who are there,” said Dinsdale, a major player in Coquitlam’s Minto Cup-winning season of 2010. “You hear it’s all different but you don’t really know how much until you get in there. I’ve been to a few games … and you can see the difference. The game is growing with the rules and it’s more of a transition-based game … that’s good for me. It’s a role I can fill.”
Malawsky has talked about Dinsdale’s lacrosse IQ out of the back end, even for a guy who can pile up the points in a hurry. That knowledge can come in handy in transition because in Dinsdale you’re getting more than a set of wheels to move the ball, you’re getting a player who can move the ball and recognize offensive opportunities on the fly.
“I see myself fitting into a transition role. Coming out of the back end, using my skill and speed to get the ball up,” he said. “I’m comfortable playing any position and I’ve been trying to make myself more versatile.”
Camp is fast approaching and Dinsdale is training and studying. Asking questions and soaking up all the information and advice he can. But a man can only do so much of that. Dinsdale is ready to roll, especially for a team full of NLL talent he’s only been able to admire from a distance. Until now.
“It’s a great team, great group of guys who compete,” he said. “I’m real excited to get it started.”
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