Photo courtesy of M40 Images
This week on “Ask The Pros” we speak with one of the pure goal scorers in the game today; the San Jose Stealth’s Jeff Zywicki. The pride of Nepean, Ontario currently leads the Stealth in scoring, and is 8th overall (having played less games than all but one scorer ahead of him).
Jeff has proven just as he states, that when you want something bad enough, you can attain it. Coming out of a small town, his desire to play the game, has afforded him the opportunity to get a great education / career, and take his game to continual new heights.
Jeff has always performed at an extremely high level wherever he has played. In Canada’s Field Championship game win in 2006 (it’s first in the 28 years prior), he was instrumental scoring 5 goals and 1 assist in the 15-10 win against the United States. Furthermore, he was named to the “All World Team” as an Attack man, and was voted the “Best Positional Attack Player”.
GM: Describe for us your Minor Lacrosse years and where you played.
JZ: I played all my minor lacrosse for the Nepean Knights. In my 2nd year at age 10 we won the Provincial C Championship beating Orillia in the finals. As I got older we started getting more and more hockey players on our team and eventually jumped to A in my 2nd year of Bantam. I think we won one game and tied one in the qualifiers, which for a team from the Ottawa area was pretty impressive. I finished my minor career with a Provincial B Championship by beating Owen Sound in the finals in a thriller.
GM: What lacrosse players did you look up to when you were younger?
JZ: Growing up in Ottawa there wasn’t a lot of lacrosse to watch but I definitely looked up to John Tavares. I went to a camp that he and some other MILL/NLL/OLA players ran and was in awe every time I saw him.
GM: You also excel in Field Lacrosse. Have you played the two games for the same amount of time and do you prefer one game over the other?
JZ: I had only played Field Lacrosse a handful of times before I went to UMass but had been playing box since I was 9. I love both games but my heart is definitely with box lacrosse.
GM: You had a very good field career at UMass. Describe your time attending school and playing lacrosse there.
JZ: The best decision I made was to attend UMass and play lacrosse there. I was able to graduate with a degree in Electrical Engineering and had a great time over the course of my four and a half years. I had great coaches and teammates and we were pretty successful. We made the NCAA tournament quarter-finals 3 times and won our Conference (ECAC) twice. I still keep in close touch with many of my friends/teammates from UMass and couldn’t have asked for a better experience.
GM: What advice would you pass on to kids looking to attend a U.S. College?
JZ: Go to recruiting camps in the U.S. Coaches have started to look a lot harder at Canadians now but if you really want them to notice you, go down there and prove you can play with the best American Field Players.
GM: You were selected 8th overall in 2005 by San Jose. Do you recall your first game for the Stealth?
JZ: Yeah, I remember my first or second shift in Edmonton I was running onto the floor through the middle and someone jacked me up pretty good knocking my helmet off. Right then I knew I was playing with the big boys. I ended up playing well and even scored the winning goal in Overtime which was pretty special.
GM: Describe playing offense with guys like Colin Doyle, Luke Wiles, and Gary Rosyski.
JZ: I love playing with these guys as well as with the rest of my team. They’re all so good and they make me a better player, I’ve learned a lot from playing with them
GM: This season, San Jose is doing quite well, yet the fans do not seem to be coming out as much as in past seasons. Do you find this has affected the team at all?
JZ: I don’t think it affects us in a negative way but if we had more fans I think it would help. At the end of a tight game it would be nice to have a packed house cheering us on and giving us that adrenaline boost to help us on to a win.
Photo courtesy of M40Images
GM: You were also a member of Canada’s National Field Team that won in London in 2006. Give us your thoughts on that team and the accomplishment.
JZ: We had so many great players on that team that at first it was hard to not get caught up in it all. Everybody wanted to
win so badly that we all made a lot of sacrifices and took on roles that would lead us to victory. I think the win did a lot for Canadian Field Lacrosse. It opened a lot of NCAA coach’s eyes to start looking at Canadian players and it also showed that we are right there with the Americans now.
GM: So explain to anyone out there that might suggest that small town kids don’t have a chance to make it in the Pro’s.
JZ: There are a lot of opportunities out there for anyone that is willing to make the sacrifices. Whether it’s moving away from home and your friends for a summer to play Jr. A ball or going to College in a different country, if you really want to make it happen, you can.
GM: Are you able to get back to Nepean often, and do the people there react at all to you being there?
JZ: Yeah, I’m back there quite often and it’s pretty cool when I’m around lacrosse people and some of them know who I am and are proud that a good old Nepean boy made it and is successful.
GM: You can score goals, and lots of them. What’s your secret? What do you do to be able to score so much?
JZ: I think the biggest thing is that I’ve really worked hard at continually adding new things to my game. I try to do different stuff all the time so I’m not predictable. I am always looking to learn new stuff from teammates, opponents and coaches. I also take as many shots in practice as I can to get better. Instead of taking water breaks or chatting in between drills I shoot on the goalies.
Fun Questions (you cannot mention any Stealth team mates).
GM: The goalie that gives you the most trouble is……
JZ: Rob Blasdell. He’s got a different style than most goalies that I’m still working on figuring out…
GM: The best / toughest defender you’ve played against is….
JZ: Billy Dee Smith. For some reason every time I go against him he ends up with the ball and I’m on my rear end
GM: If you were not at the arena playing lacrosse, where would we find you?
JZ: Hopefully on the golf course
GM: In your opinion, the best player you’ve ever played with and against.
JZ: John Grant Jr. No one can take over a game the way he can
GM: If you could sit and interview anyone (alive or deceased), who would it be, and what would you want to know?
JZ: Alive: Barry Sanders. I’d want to know why he retired and broke my heart.
Deceased: My grandfather. He died before I was born and I’d want to know everything
GM: Jeff, thanks for doing this for us.
JZ: Thank You