No ordinary Joe sparks the Swarm

  • Article by: BOB TIMMONSROBERT.TIMMONS@STARTRIBUNE.COM
  • Updated: January 4, 2011 - 11:38 AM

The Swarm's Joe Cinosky tirelessly coaches and promotes lacrosse, and oh yeah, is one of the best players in the world. He has a gold medal to prove it.

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Joe Cinosky

When Minnesota Swarm star Joe Cinosky runs onto the Xcel Energy Center turf Saturday for the professional lacrosse team's season opener, understand if he is a little winded.

The third-year defenseman had an eventful 2010 during which he won an outdoor league title with the Chesapeake (Va.) Bayhawks of Major League Lacrosse; was hired to head up the University of Minnesota men's lacrosse team; and coached the Mounds View boys' varsity squad.

Cinosky also carved out time as an entrepreneur: He and his colleagues, several of whom work or play for the Swarm, run Lakeshore Lacrosse, which holds camps and clinics year-round in the metro area.

The pace is "fun and hectic," Cinosky said. "It's definitely difficult at times, but at the end of the day when you see the kids growing and grasping what you're teaching it's worth it."

Maybe eclipsing all of the above was how Cinosky spent his summer. He and 22 other of the United States' best players won the gold medal at the lacrosse world championships, held in mid-July in Manchester, England.

Cinosky initially was reluctant to attempt to make the U.S. national lacrosse team, which was winnowed over several tryouts and exhibitions from 84 players to 41, then to the final 23.

"To be honest, I didn't want to do it, seeing the list of some of the others," he said. "I didn't want to be disappointed."

Cinosky credited his former defensive coach at the University of Maryland with getting his head right, reminding him that his All-America skills could stand up to the elite competition and that he'd get a "fair shake."

He did get a fair shake -- and a phone call from Team USA coach Mike Pressler. Cinosky made the squad, which had last won gold at the world championships in 2002.

"How do you pick 23 guys?" said Cinosky. "Just because of the talent, they could have picked any of the guys and they would have been dominant."

Much like hockey's epic rivalry, Team USA lacrosse has its Team Canada with which to contend. In fact, Cinosky said, every workout "was geared toward the gold- medal game."

In Manchester, the U.S. lost a preliminary matchup to Canada 10-9. The defeat only served to fine-tune the U.S. focus, fueling its play as it rolled over the competition toward its fated final. This time, Team USA left England wearing gold, winning 12-10.

"We knew we would be able to take advantage of the loss. Coming back as the underdog in the tourney definitely was a motivator," Cinosky said. "They called us the 'Redeem Team,'" given Canada's eight-year grasp on the gold medal. The 2006 U.S. team was upset by the Canadians in the final.

The popularity of Cinosky's sport in the area is growing fast. One example: A winter indoor league run by the Swarm has more than 800 kids and 45 teams participating this season, which is 33 percent more than last season.

Like hockey to Minnesotans, lacrosse is something written into the life stories of children growing up in the East ("When you're born, you're handed a lacrosse stick," Cinosky quipped). It's that sensibility that Cinosky brings as a coach and successful player to a region that is green with opportunity to put down lacrosse roots. Kids are the catalyst.

"The athleticism and the passion in Minnesota -- it's all here," Cinosky said. "The kids are in tune with what's going on here and in the lacrosse world."

Swarm co-owner Andy Arlotta values Cinosky for, well, all of the above. He said the team has intentionally pursued high-caliber players who are recognizable and have the skills to cultivate the sport off the field. This offseason, the team drafted forward Ryan Hurley, who grew up in Eagan and starred for Holy Angels before he did the same for college powerhouse Cornell.

Maybe Hurley will follow in the ambitious path of Cinosky.

"Joe is an example of what we're trying to do here," Arlotta said. "Getting in the community, coaching at all levels. ... He is a class act, and is one of the best players in the world, not just at his position but in general."

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