Blaxers Blog: Angie Benson, Mark Ellis Catch Up, Reflect on 2020

Mark Ellis and Angie Benson went live for a "Let's Talk About It" episode on Blaxers Blog.


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During last week’s edition of "Let’s Talk About It," Virginia Tech goalie Angie Benson took over as host, talking with New York Lizards star Mark Ellis and asking important questions on lacrosse and life as they both reflect on experiences from 2020 and prepare for a fruitful 2021.

What’s going on in the lives of two of the most influential athletes in the game? Let’s find out.

ANGIE BENSON: HOW HAVE YOU ENJOYED YOUR FIRST SEMESTER AS A STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING COACH AT STONY BROOK?

MARK ELLIS: My first semester at Stony Brook has been unreal. I work with women’s swimming, men’s lacrosse and women’s lacrosse which is a crazy, fun experience. They’re very good, to say the least.

I’m learning a lot like when we spoke before but there’s a lot about the women’s game that I didn’t know. Now, I’m kind of understanding it more. I took it for granted before but now seeing the athletes and the work they put in is really cool to see.

Stony Brook has been a great experience going back after playing there is a full circle.

BENSON: WHAT IS IT LIKE BEING A MEN’S COACH FOR WOMEN’S TEAMS?

ELLIS: Honestly, I thought it would be harder in the sense of me understanding and relating. Specifically working with a team at a high level like women’s lacrosse helps. Women’s head coach Joe Spallina drafted me [to the New York Lizards] when I was in college and I had a relationship with him trusting me enough to say, ‘Hey, I told these girls about you. Just be yourself.’ 

They wanted me more over there and they’re an awesome group. I’m going to be straight-up honest, they were one of the best teams that worked hard consistently throughout the week and every single day.

They have high expectations. National championship or bust is how we’re thinking. I think we owe a lot to the coaches and seniors who upholds the standard because they’ve been there for a long time.

BENSON: HOW ARE THE TEAMS RESPONDING TO YOUR COACHING AND HOW ARE YOU LEARNING HOW TO COACH THEM?

ELLIS: “I think we have a better relationship now, not like we didn’t have one before. We got mutual respect and it helped me as a sports performance coach.

I’m a competitor and it’s crazy. In lacrosse, I’ve competed at the high school, college and now the professional level. It’s hard to tell me that I don’t know what you’re going through, regardless of sport. For lacrosse, I know what Coach Spallina wants, I’ve been at the school and know the advisors. Now they understand that this guy knows.

I talk to them almost once a week to make sure that they don’t lose sight of things because of this pandemic, people are down.”







BENSON: HOW CAN WE CONTINUE TO PROGRESS IN THE SPORT OF LACROSSE?

ELLIS: I think that we need more leadership with people of color, and women. They need to bring more people who look like you and me. In general, if you can relate to somebody more, you’re more likely to hire them and put them in positions to be successful. You open doors to put people in positions, they’re more likely to see things from a different perspective which can allow the game to grow not only from the top but the bottom. Coaching is the same thing, diversity a little bit more.

The foundation is wider because the idea of having a message can be brought to the forefront by a non-person of color. But if you have someone in the locker room who is Black in leadership, it can be a personal push for others.

I have the opportunity to be a player of color and not being coached by a coach of color. I didn’t know how much it would have mattered to me until this moment in time.

I think we need to push the envelope with coaches of color and overall, I’m pushing the game at the youth level to Harlem Lacrosse and inner cities where opportunities can be great for people who don’t have the chance to find lacrosse ever. Then you get people from different cultures and backgrounds now playing lacrosse.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED IN 2020?

BENSON: Honestly, I kind of know but 2020 solidified it. You’re never going to please everybody. Just do you because if you really think what you’re doing is right, keep on doing it.

ELLIS: 2020 for me was a moment that I realized people who are around you will stay around and people who are really understanding, stays at a balanced level.

BENSON: Self-awareness.

ELLIS: Right. My idea behind this was because quarantine has caused people to sit down and think about what is going on. They begin to question what they want to do in life and makes you think.

Having the opportunity to do what you do for the cause during this pandemic period, people either like or not what you did. It comes at a point for me as a person where I don’t care. I grew up in a place where being picked on swayed, you couldn’t do that. You had to see the mission and go. My mother, family and best friend set me focused from a young age. Obviously, you take things in but you make sure you are positive and pushing towards a cause you want to do.

2020 has been a real learning moment for me. How do you stay humble? How do you push yourself to be a better person? In 2020, everybody is put in the same situation and it’s an even playing field now.

BENSON: I think both of us were pretty fine after this quarantine. I think we are better people and we came out on top of some type of adversity or obstacle we had to overcome because of this pandemic.

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS AND PLANS FOR 2021?

ELLIS: First, I’m back in school as well while pursuing my second Master’s in education administration. One day, I want to be an athletic director. So this second Master's can climb me up that ladder.

Next, I want to win a national championship somewhere. I want a ring on my finger whether that’s women’s swimming, women’s lacrosse, etc.

Then, I want to be the best player and athlete I can be on the field. Lacrosse for me is a competition and I like to compete. I wait all year and train so much that I have something to look forward toward in the Summer. I play at a high level and compete against the best in the world. I have nothing to complain about. I wish I had a billion dollars but at the end of the day, I wake up happy.

BENSON: I think it’s super cool that we can be a learning lesson for the next generation to follow. I think education is the key to everything. You’re learning while people share PowerPoints, charts, sources and citing their works. So, let’s have people share their experiences.

ELLIS: At the end of the day, having the opportunity to learn something you may not have learned before is the biggest thing. In these interactions, it could change someone’s life.

Open your ears and say, “Hey, I hear you out, or let’s have a discussion.”

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