Kicking back at his kitchen table with his elbows resting on the wood, Maxim Fantl, more commonly known as Max, thoughtfully chewed his gum contemplating why he loves the game of lacrosse.
“I love the history behind it and how the Native Americans embraced it and used it to solve conflicts,” said Fantl. “I feel like it’s our original game.”
The 24-year-old graduate of Eastern Connecticut State University is the new Spartans men’s lacrosse graduate assistant. He is taking over for recently graduated, Dan Groot. Although Groot came from a Division 1 school and plays professional lacrosse in the summer, the men’s lacrosse team is embracing the change to Fantl – even if his credentials might not measure up.
“It’s nice having someone say something nice to me in practice instead of making us run laps,” said sophomore lacrosse player Cody Katzenberger.
Groot, who was known for his intensity, is the polar opposite of Fantl, who always has a smile on his face. And he’s got a lot more experience than just playing lacrosse at Eastern Connecticut. Fantl was chosen to coach lacrosse in Manchester, England.
“They’re trying to grow lacrosse and they take an American who played college lacrosse and they put that American in the different clubs they have,” said Fantl. “I was the only American in this little English town.”
Besides helping to implement lacrosse into physical education programs, he was able to play, travel and teach.
“During the day I’d teach in two or three schools…during the afternoon I would coach my junior club teams. And during the weekends I would play for the club,” said Fantl, his eyes shining with excitement.
Fantl has a deep affinity for teaching. Before traveling across the pond, he worked for about seven years assisting special needs classrooms as a paraprofessional. Fantl is also certified to teach health and physical education classes. His goal is to either continue coaching at the
collegiate level or become a health and
physical education teacher while coaching
high school teams.
“If I’m going to be a phys. ed teacher, I actually want to have a good program and not be your standard clichÃ© of a gym teacher,” said Fantl gesturing with his hands.
But while being very optimistic and passionate about everything he does, Fantl has certainly had his fair share of struggle and hardships. His close friend, Jon DeCasanova has been diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia and is in need of a bone marrow transplant.
Unfortunately as of right now, DeCasanova has no match. He went though a similar situation with his best friend Colin Leroy. He was diagnosed with colon cancer on his birthday in September and passed away July 4, 2011.
“We were best friends since 6th grade,” said Fantl rubbing his hands over his face while looking off in to the distance channeling memories. “He was my neighbor, grew up playing soccer together and in
high school we were captains of the soccer team. He meant a lot to me.”
As if that wasn’t enough to deal with, Fantl’s uncle, his dad’s twin brother, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. With all this stuff going on, life has been a little tough, he said.
“He had to be strong. Max was a pillar of strength,” said Fantl’s mom, Bonnie Fantl, her voice filled with sadness. “He gave him [Colin] a sword and said ‘here’s a Kill Bill sword, fight this disease,'” she
Looking at Fantl, he’s a typical man in his mid 20s. He has piercing blue eyes, an infectious smile, a charming personality and his hair color is a very distinct strawberry blonde with copper undertones. According to Connor McHugh, a freshman lacrosse player, “he’s got no soul” because lore has it redheads or gingers as
some may call it are soulless.
But there are actually two kinds of redheads. A ginger; really red hair, pale, freckles and no soul — and a day walker; not as red hair, no freckles and they have a soul. Fantl claims he’s actually a day walker.
“It’s unique, we’re a dying breed,” said Fantl laughing. “And I don’t know many red heads that can tan, if I get sun, I get some nice color.”
Co-Captain of the men’s lacrosse team, Alex Brands isn’t 100 percent sure how the self-proclaimed former Lord of the Rings nerd will hold up during season.
“It’s like black and white between Groot and Fantl. He’s got some big shoes to fill,” said Brands.
But despite that, he’s got support from his team.
“It’s a nice change going from basically a hard-ass really intense coach to a more laid back ,but just a passionate coach,” said sophomore lacrosse player Alex Denny.
And his mom isn’t too worried about him because she knows he has a secret weapon on his side. “He’s got the luck of the Irish,” she said laughing.