Manley makes U.S. training team; gets another uniform

Phil Shore, US Lacrosse
Defenseman Mike Manley, one of 49 players named to the U.S. training team last week, said he looks forward to wearing another uniform that represents excellence.

Reprinted from US Lacrosse

From Monday through Wednesday last week, 71 of the nation’s best lacrosse players competed in a tryout for a chance to play on the U.S. national team in the 2018 Federation of International Lacrosse World Championship.

Included in the 71 were all of the major award winners from the 2016 Major League Lacrosse season: MVP Tom Schreiber, Offensive Player of the Year Rob Pannell, co-Defensive Players of the Year Joel White and Mike Manley, Rookie of the Year Jack Kelly, Faceoff Athlete of the Year Greg Gurenlian, and Most Improved Player Mike Chanenchuk.

All of those players have continued to have a significant impact on the 2017 Major League Lacrosse season, with the exception of Manley. The Rochester Rattlers defenseman, whose job is to protect his goalie from quality shots, has needed to focus on the start of another job protecting and serving as a newly minted N.Y. State Trooper.

“There’s a long tradition,” Manley said of law enforcement in N.Y. “The N.Y. State Police has been in existence since 1917. My class was the centennial class, which was even more special. It’s prestigious. It’s a very good law enforcement agency, but you don’t really know until you go through it.”

Manley’s professional ambition should not come as a surprise. His oldest brother, Jonathan, also is a state trooper. His other brother, Christopher, is in the military. Like Manley, a two-time All-American defenseman at Duke, they played lacrosse in college — Jonathan at RIT and Christopher at Fairfield — before embarking on their careers.

Manley said he has a deep admiration and appreciation for those who serve. Being invited to train to be a trooper, however, is no easy task.

According to the N.Y. State Police website, approximately 24,242 applicants passed the 2013 entrance examination. Manley’s class at the academy finished with just 192 graduates.

Manley did not hear back from the department until about eight months after he took the exam. When he was accepted into the training program, however, he had suffered a knee injury and was not able to participate. He finally entered the academy in October 2016.

“Training was different. The physical part of it was nonstop. They really break you down and build you back up,” he said. “The studying, you’d go to class every day. … I haven’t been in college for a while, so hitting the books hard again, having to go back and put your nose in a book and make the flashcards, I was like, ‘Oh man.’ That first test, I hadn’t taken a test in five years or so.”

Rattlers coach Tim Soudan said Manley was the team’s top on-ball defender and credited his physical and intimidating nature. Manley is 6-foot-1 and weighs more than 200 pounds. He also has held his own in the rough-and-tumble National Lacrosse League, playing for the Philadelphia Wings and New England Black Wolves.

Despite being recognized this way in the lacrosse world, Manley had to adjust to going where no one knew of his lacrosse success. Nor did anyone care.

“It’s extremely humbling, but I like it that way,” he said. “It’s a fresh start. You start from zero. You build up. Guys get impressions of your work ethic (and) your academy training officers notice that stuff. It doesn’t mean they won’t get on you. It’s just extremely humbling. It was a new experience. I try to compare it a little to your freshman year of college. You don’t know guys on the team. You have a new coaching staff. You just try to go under the radar, and you just try to do your best.”

In addition to the rigorous physical and mental training Manley underwent, he also felt a burden of not being able to play for the Rattlers this season. According to Manley, as a first-year State Trooper, he is in a probationary period that prevents him from having another job.

While this was an incredible opportunity for Manley, it bothered him not to be a part of the team, leading to a conversation with Soudan.

“For me, it was a no brainer,” Soudan said. “He’s getting older. He’s got to take steps for a career that will sustain him.”

Manley, 28, also received support from his Rochester teammates.

“It’s like a family,” Soudan said. “There’s a lot of banter with him and the guys. He’s as much a part of the team he can be without playing. It’s neat how they respond to that. They find gifs and videos of ‘Super Troopers’ and they bust his chops. It’s neat. They’ve responded very well. No one is bitter at him for not being around.”

Manley graduated from the police academy in May and has been on patrol since. He enjoys that no two days are the same.

While he is proud of his accomplishment, he also is very aware of the dangers that come with the job.

“We just lost a Trooper a few days ago, and I’m gong to his funeral this weekend,” Manley said. “It was probably a week or two into the academy, we had another Trooper killed. He was hit by a car. Right away, you get that family feel. You get that feel how important it is and how important the uniform is. You realize the hard work and sacrifice for that uniform. Some lose their lives in the line of duty. You don’t get a full sense of that until you’re in the academy.”

Manley also is aware of the negative perception law enforcement sometimes gets, especially in the digital age. In this regard, Manley feels he can make a difference.

“Sometimes the only interaction with a police officer is getting a ticket,” he said. “It’s extremely important to build a rapport with the community and talk. Find something in common with somebody. Some of these kids, even in uniform, they look at you differently. Some are intimidated. Some have high respect. Some don’t.”

Manley referenced a time he received a tweet from a follower thanking him for making his cousin’s son’s day by visiting his school and talking lacrosse with him.

“It was Touch-a-Truck. They bring in police trucks and military vehicles,” Manley said. “I saw a kid with a lacrosse shirt on, and I was like, ‘Hey man, you play lacrosse? What position do you play?’ He starts lighting up, and I’m asking who is favorite player is. He asked if I play, and I was like, ‘I used to back in the day.’ When I told him I play for the Rattlers, his eyes lit up, and he ran and grabbed his buddies to come talk to me. Something simple like that. Joking around with kids with Syracuse shirts on or a Duke shirt on, building a relationship through lacrosse goes a long way. You never know who you’ll run into down the road. Having that rapport with the community, they harp that on us. It’s simple, and it’s my nature.”

Having seen Manley in action on the field, with his peers and interacting with kids after games, Soudan is confident in Manley’s ability in his new job.

“He’s a really hard-working guy,” he said. “The Troopers are lucky to have him. He’s going to represent the Troopers in the state of N.Y. really well. Not only is he fair, but he can be firm when he needs to be.”

“I’m a better person for knowing Mike Manley,” Soudan added. “The amount of response he gets from defenders when he talks in a clinic is unbelievable. He has a way to talk to youngsters that’s unbelievable. I hope we get more out of that from him soon.”

Manley said he expects to return to the Rattlers after his probationary period ends. As for Team USA, he was one of 49 players selected to the training roster Wednesday, continuing on the path to 2018. The U.S. training team will reconvene over Labor Day weekend.

Manley said he looks forward to wearing another uniform that represents excellence.

“I went (to tryouts) Monday, played on Monday, drove home from Baltimore, worked on Tuesday, and after work, drove back to Baltimore and played (Wednesday),” he said. “It was an incredible showing. Those are the best players in the world. To be on the field is an incredible experience and a humbling one as well. It’s an honor to go from one uniform to the next. To put the red, white and blue on, even if I don’t make the actual roster, it was a great experience.”