Snagging the ball after it rebounded of a Rush player’s helmet who was defending the goal and instantly tying the game up with seconds left on the clock to force overtime in Game 2 of the NLL Finals.
Emerging from a loose ball scrum of five or six players with the ball in his possession numerous times in every game.
Running coast-to-coast through the entire Black Wolves defense to score shorthanded.
It’s plays like that which have earned transition player Joel White the special title of “difference maker.” And after a year away from the team, the Swarm are energized at the thought of White’s return and what his championship pedigree means for the squad.
Practically a wizard when he has the ball in his stick, White has a penchant for gaining possession of the lacrosse ball in heavily congested areas and smart defensive plays. He’s played three of his seven NLL seasons in blue and yellow and has 26 points (9G, 17A), 272 loose balls, and 46 caused turnovers in 34 games with the Swarm.
White’s coming off a busy summer. He played for the Premier Lacrosse League’s Chrome Lacrosse Club and helped Team USA secure bronze at the World Indoor Lacrosse Championship in Vancouver from Sept. 19-28.
Despite the busy trip, White took time to chat after returning home about representing the United States on the international lacrosse stage, his return to the Swarm, and what he looks forward to the most about a full season in blue and yellow.
First thing’s first, welcome back to the Swarm. How was your return received by the Swarm locker room?
Yeah, I’m super excited. The locker room is just an unbelievable place and I think definitely a strong point for the Swarm. I’ve stayed in touch with them over the past year or so, and they obviously were great when I decided to come back and was able to come back.
Thankful for those guys, and obviously super thankful for the coaching staff and the Arlotta family, as well.
The biggest and most recent lacrosse event in your life was the WILC in Vancouver. How was that whole experience?
It was a pretty unbelievable experience. Obviously, any time I’m able to put on the red, white, and blue is an unbelievable honor and something I feel very fortunate to be able to do.
I think the games were great. We had a really great team, great coaching staff, and excited about what US Lacrosse has put into the box game, as well, obviously taking over just a few years ago. I think it’s a testament to where lacrosse is coming along and excited about where we’re headed in the box game for the US.
The US defense was really impressive this year. With this being your second trip to that tournament (White represented Team USA in 2015), what improvements have you seen between then and now?
I think one of the biggest qualities that we have as a team is the amount of players as a whole that were playing in the NLL in some way, shape, or form. Just the experience and being able to play in the NLL at such a high level definitely helps the team out, and I think that’s somewhere where it’s come a long way with some Americans getting an opportunity to play and just be around the game.
That for us, I thought, especially on the defensive end, we were able to have a ton of experience and a ton of leadership. We had some older guys, as well, guys that had been there before. I just thought it was a great unit overall, both offensively and defensively.
You got to play twice against Kason Tarbell, the Swarm’s first pick in the 2019 NLL Entry Draft. What do you recall about playing against him and Team Iroquois, which featured six other Swarm players?
Obviously, they’re unbelievable as a unit, testament to his game. I’m excited for him to become a Swarm member just because of his skill and what he’s learned from those guys, especially playing in the summer and being able to go over there with those guys. Knowing a lot of the players on that team, I can assume he learned a ton and was able to take a lot away from that experience.
So I think the biggest thing for me was just gaining that experience and watching him play – obviously he’s a great player – but continuing to gain that experience and play with those guys is definitely something I think will help him moving forward.
Do you recall what was going through your head after the Swarm fell to the Knighthawks in the 2018 East Division Finals?
Yeah. Obviously it was definitely super disappointing, and I just take some of that stuff pretty hard, especially the expectations I have for myself as a player and what I can provide to a team. After thinking about it and speaking with them (the coaches), coming back in the back half of a season was definitely tough for many different reasons. Like I said, super grateful for the coaching staff and the Arlottas and the locker room for allowing me to come back with open arms. It’s a testament to the organization as a whole.
For me, it was just a tough thing for me to come back and have my expectations be where they are. I wanted to make that sure I was doing the right thing by the team, by myself. So, that was kind of the conversation I had with the coaching staff, just kind of let them know I don’t think I’m at a point where I can come back and play half a season and be where I want to be and do the things that I wanted to do.
I’m excited to get back and excited to play, but it wouldn’t be the same without the type of locker room and the type of environment that the Swarm have built. – Joel White
Coming back into a league that’s halfway through the season (and the team) is hitting its stride and playing my first game was really, really tough. I had a lot of things going on in my personal life and with work, and I just wanted to make sure that I was devoting the time necessary to do the things we do on the weekend. Sometimes, that’s overlooked, how tough this league really is with other jobs and other things going on.
So, I wanted to make sure I did my due diligence for the organization first and foremost and also for myself as a player and a competitor. That’s kind of what my thought process was, and I was able to kind of step back for a little bit … I watched every single Swarm game and also watched a bunch of other NLL games, as well.
It was kind of funny when I was talking to my wife (Kelsey) about the possibility of coming back – she’s been a saint through this entire thing, being super supportive of me and playing, so she kind of knew it was coming just from she noticed how much I missed it.
Me being able to devote the time that I feel is necessary during the week to make sure I’m ready to play on the weekends and playing the entire season was really important to me.
When you were watching last season’s Swarm games, what really stuck out to you?
The biggest thing was you could tell the guys were having a ton of fun playing the games. I think that’s something for the Swarm that has always been number one is the locker room.
I think that’s really important with a league like the NLL. Obviously, you’re not together during the week, and to fly in, have a little practice, and play a game, there has to be some serious camaraderie in the locker room. Just watching them, you could tell they were still having fun playing, and obviously the skill level is really high.
They’re right there. They’re a team that’s always going to be in the running, and again, I’m super pumped to get back with them and be back in that locker room and go to battle with the team.
Me being able to devote the time that I feel is necessary during the week to make sure I’m ready to play on the weekends and playing the entire season was really important to me. – Joel White
Would you say that’s what you’re looking forward to the most, being back with those guys, that camaraderie?
Yeah, for sure. I’m the type of person when I step on the floor, I love to have a ton of fun. The first time I step on the floor and it’s not fun for me is the time I’m going to be ready to hang up the cleats.
I’m excited to get back and excited to play, but it wouldn’t be the same without the type of locker room and the type of environment that the Swarm have built. I’m really excited to see those guys and be around and, like I said, just go to battle with them and have some fun doing it.
How often do you think about the final play in regulation of Game 2 of the 2017 NLL Finals?
*Laughing* You know, I think it’s something – it obviously was just one of those fortunate plays, to be in the right spot at the right time. For me, I think it’s something that I’ll look back on in my overall career, and it’ll be really, really special.
But for me right now, it’s to continue to look forward and make another memory. But when I look back on it when I’m done playing, I’m sure it’ll be a significant piece to my playing career. Like I said, just excited to look into the future and look ahead and try and go win another one with this group.
Every time I ask a Swarm player what their goal is for the upcoming season, they always say to win an NLL Cup, and you’ve already alluded to that. Secondary to that, what would you say is your personal goal for your eighth NLL season?
One big goal for me is just to make sure I continue to do the things I’ve been able to do over my career well and not take a step back from where I want to be. The last time I played, I walked off the floor feeling that I wasn’t as much of an asset as I had been.
Just kind of work really hard off the floor, in the weight room, in the gym to make sure I’m ready to go. If I can provide some more loose balls and more possessions for the team, that’s what I’m there to do. I want to obviously do that, keep that at a high level.
I think for me, just growing as a player and continuing to get better on the defensive end of the floor. I think that’s something that I struggled with and continue to, so I just want to continue to learn. Having Eddie (Swarm head coach Ed Comeau) as a coach and Chi (Swarm defensive assistant coach Sean Ferris), just to be able to continue to learn from them and grow as a player is something that I’ve always enjoyed.
I’ve always enjoyed learning. Even as I get older and – feel like I’ve been playing forever now, but at the end of the day, there’s still so much to learn. Always excited to continue to learn and continue to grow as a player.
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