Apr 23, 2019

DSC_1358.JPGBy Mitchell Courtney -- Single sport specialization as a child is something that professional athletes and others warn parents about, as it restricts a child’s right to choose, and limits the amount of versatility that can be developed by playing multiple sports.

A prime example of a non-specialized athlete succeeding in the professional ranks is Knighthawks forward Dawson Theede. After finishing his first year of athletic eligibility at St. Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, playing hockey, Theede signed a professional contract to play with the Knighthawks.

Theede played his junior lacrosse for the Junior “B” Clarington Green Gaels and the Junior “A” Whitby Warriors, compiling impressive statistics along the way. In Clarington, Theede posted 69 points in just 19 games, earning him Eastern Conference Rookie of the Year honors. After moving up to Whitby, Theede played in 47 games and notched 47 goals and collected 99 assists for 146 points over the course of his four seasons with the Warriors.

“When I first started playing junior lacrosse, I stepped into a big role,” he said. “It really helped me to develop as a player.”

DSC_1370.JPGTheede noted that his move to Whitby was one that required some adjustments to be made, but you would not be able to tell by looking at his numbers.

“When I moved up to Junior ‘A,’ it was a faster-paced game,” said Theede. “I ended up having a successful career there, so I am just trying to keep that going here in Rochester.”

Current Knighthawk Austin Shanks was a teammate of Theede’s with the Warriors, and Theede mentioned that Shanks helped him in the transition to Junior “A” lacrosse.

“I was playing offense with him [Austin Shanks] in Whitby; he is a really good player,” he said. “It is definitely easier when you play with a guy like him.”

Although many might think that it would be difficult for a young person to juggle playing two sports at a high level, that is precisely what Theede has done for most of his lifetime. He stated that playing both hockey and lacrosse was something that was born from friendships he built when he was young.

“Whitby is a pretty big hot spot for hockey and lacrosse,” he said. “My friends were always involved in both sports, so I was as well. It was hockey in the winter and lacrosse in the summertime.”

DSC_1241.JPGAfter enrolling at St. Mary’s University and playing his first season of hockey there, Theede had been away from lacrosse for a considerable amount of time, making his transition to the NLL one that required patience and persistence.

“It was certainly difficult for me at first because I was coming off two and a half years of not playing lacrosse,” he said. “I have kind of gotten back into the groove now and I am going to continue to play hard.”

Although he was away from lacrosse for a while, Theede says that he has always wanted to play the game at the highest level and that being in the NLL is something he thoroughly enjoys.

“It was always a goal of mine to get to the highest level of lacrosse,” said the 22-year-old forward. “I took the hockey path for a bit, but it is great to be back in lacrosse and playing in the NLL.”

The transition to the professional game is undeniably a difficult one, but the support of a strong-minded coaching staff and an ownership group that understands your situation can make all the difference. For Theede, that is the case in Rochester.

“They have been great. They welcomed me here with open arms and they have given me an amazing opportunity to prove myself,” he said. “I cannot thank them enough.”

Theede also noted that his family has supported him through his winding journey of hockey and lacrosse, and they continue to be his biggest support system.

“My family has been my biggest influence since day one,” he said. “They are huge supporters of me, and I thank them a lot for that.”

With both of his professional dreams still alive, Theede plans on playing out his eligibility in hockey whilst continuing his NLL career. In his first season playing collegiate hockey for the Huskies, he posted eight goals and 10 assists in 25 games.

“I have three more years of eligibility at St. Mary’s, so I plan on playing there and as soon as the hockey season is done, I will jump right back into lacrosse.”

Theede says that his ultimate goal is to join the likes of Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson as athletes who have played two sports at the professional level. However, he acknowledges that it is a difficult task to accomplish, even for top tier athletes.

“It would be tough to play professionally in both sports, but that is definitely the goal for me,” said Theede. “It will be challenging, but if I get the chance to do it, I am going to take full advantage.”

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