“It’s been my greatest honour to play the Native American game, Dehoñtjihgwáés,” writes the 35-year-old on Instagram. “Every day I worked, I learned. The game became my teacher,” he continues as the Lacrosse world wells up, saddened by the news they’ll never see Paul Rabil competing on a Lacrosse pitch again. And though that is now a reality, there is a semblance of palpable excitement that Rabil can now focus entirely on the work he's been doing off the Lacrosse field to grow the sport.
On the eve of his impending announcement, we catch up with Rabil to see how he’s feeling and to hear more about his plans to make the Premier Lacrosse League one of the top sporting leagues around the world, not just in the US.
Congratulations on your retirement – how do you feel about it?
I try to think about it in two ways: one, personally, then two professionally. Personally, it's going to be bittersweet. It'll also hopefully feel gratifying, sentimental and nostalgic. I've been playing the game for 24 years and it's really led to everything that I currently have in my life, from friends to teammates, coaches, accomplishments, access to network, my business, places I've travelled in the world. So it's going to be really difficult stepping away from that part of the game. Professionally, it's the right thing for the league and for the business that I step off the field and focus on continuing to grow the league commercially.
Your season has already finished so are you sad you won’t have a proper send off after your last game?
Growing up, I idolised Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter and Kobe Bryant, and seeing their final years and the send-offs that they got in each of the markets that they played in, and the conversations they got to have with their opponents – I would have loved to have done that, but the tricky balance of running the league and playing in it, I may be oversensitive to it, but I didn’t want to dominate the storyline. that’s the primary reason why we didn't announce it to start the season. We didn't want to overtake the storyline for the league. The league is more important to me. And so the decision was made, and I think balancing the art of what an athlete would like on his or her send-out versus what is intended for, from my perspective, for the integrity of the business was really what we made our decision on. I would love to be on the field and have a moment with the crowd in my gear. But my gear is now my business attire so that moment will still be there, just slightly different.
As a legend of the sport, how do you hope to be remembered?
I suppose it's like writing your own obituary, which is really difficult so my preference is for others to do that for me. I would love to think that I've had a really important impact on the game commercially, on the game and my peers professionally, and then most importantly, on the next generation of players. That's how I was impacted in sports. I mentioned some of the athletes that I look up to in the major leagues, and one of my hopes was that lacrosse players would be in that general realm of influence for any athlete growing up who wants to be the next MJ or LeBron or Tom Brady, and you mention lacrosse players in that conversation. That's the impact I want to have. Then I would say through the different things that I do in my life, what I'm grateful for and what I also try to sharpen every day, is my curiosity. I would consider myself more of a generalist in life – I'm really interested in a lot of things. I take those interests really seriously and I drill down and try to become somewhat of an expert, and that's what has helped me in my career and as an athlete on the field...
Rabil wears CDLP on the cover of Man About Town's AW21 issue, available here.