Navy men’s lacrosse senior attackman Nick Cole recently chatted with PressBox about he became interested in lacrosse, playing on the same team as his brother and more. Cole first picked up a stick when he was living in Columbia while his father, Terry, worked for the DEA. The Cole family then moved to Charlotte, N.C., to Flower Mound, Texas, and finally to Ashburn, Va. The 5-foot-8, 180-pound Cole posted 6 goals and 9 assists in 2021.
PressBox: How did you become interested in lacrosse?
Nick Cole: It all started with my dad, honestly. He grew up in Upstate New York and he always had a stick in his hand. He played college lacrosse at RIT. I can’t confirm when the first time I had a stick in my hand was, but it was probably when we were living overseas in South America. He put the first lacrosse stick in my hand. I don’t know if I had much of a choice, but I can’t complain now. I fell in love with the game and I’ve been playing ever since I’ve been in about second or third grade.
PB: When did your lacrosse career take off?
NC: I didn’t start playing in leagues or anything like that until we moved to Texas. We lived in Flower Mound. There’s a couple guys on the team now that I used to play with back in the day — Pat Skalniak, Grayson Hassell and of course my brother. They didn’t have a team when we moved to Texas, so my dad started the program in Flower Mound. Me and my dad recruited all my best friends [to] go out and play lacrosse on a brand-new team in fourth grade.
PB: What are you memories from playing lacrosse with your best friends in Texas?
NC: I can still remember moving to Texas and being in the cul-de-sac and looking down the street and there’s another kid about my age just playing outside with his dad. My dad was just like, “Let’s go say hi,” and of course being a shy, younger kid, I was like, “No way, let’s just hang out down here.” We went down the street and said, “What’s up?” He ended up being my best friend all throughout Texas. His name’s John Hart. Making friends like that, that’s how we formed our team, really. It was just making connections through school, my dad’s buddies through work. We slowly built up enough kids to put together a team and then we’d just go out and play.
PB: Who was the biggest influence on your game growing up?
NC: I’ve got to go back to my dad. It was all about stick skills, keeping the stick in your hand. If you had a good right hand, it didn’t matter. You’ve got to have right and left. If I had to choose one player watching the game, it’s definitely Rob Pannell — his ability to dodge, distribute, have both hands and just make it difficult for the defense wherever he was on the field.
PB: How did growing up with three siblings who played lacrosse drive you competitively?
NC: Well, we started kind of playing at the same time, all of us. I didn’t really have an older brother to look up to playing, but my older sister was the best player on her team and they won championships in Flower Mound. By the time I got to high school I was like, “I need to beat that. I need to be better than that.”
PB: Why did you choose to come to Navy?
NC: It’s pretty simple, honestly. Growing up in my house with my dad’s job, he was pretty driven on the leadership aspect. He pushed all of my siblings. “When you grow up, our country needs good leaders, so that’s what you need to be one day.” I always listen to my dad. I always looked up to my dad. It was the Naval Academy and West Point that stood out to me. Those were the two schools where you become a better leader and that’s where you’re going to help this country out one day. It was pretty easy for me, honestly. I visited both schools and loved what each school was about. I went to Annapolis and walking around the school, being right on the water, having downtown Annapolis be beautiful, it was pretty simple. With the area, the school itself and everything that the school stands for and then on top of that I get to play for Navy lacrosse, it was a pretty easy decision for me.
PB: Why did you service select Navy Pilot?
NC: I selected Navy Pilot for two simple reasons. The first one was the community itself with all the people that I’ve talked to, all the officers on The Yard, all the old grads that came back to talk to us — all of those guys seemed to fit my personality and are just great guys. They seemed like guys that get after it hard and they study hard. They’re really good at their job, but then they would go relax and have fun on the weekends, too. Secondly, just the mission set itself, whether it’s helicopters or fixed wing, it seemed like the coolest job in the Navy.
PB: What’s the plan after you graduate?
NC: After I graduate I’ll be helping out with the lacrosse team for a little bit with my [temporary assignment duty]. And then I’ll go down to flight school in October, go through flight school and then hopefully get assigned either helicopters or fixed-wing platform, where I’ll go to in about two and a half, three years.
PB: What’s it like playing lacrosse with your brother, Dom, at Navy?
NC: It’s amazing walking out every single day and being able to share the field with your brother. I mean, we’ve been doing it since I was in fourth grade. Dom was in second grade back in Flower Mound. We’ve always been on the same team. If I’ve bumped up into an older age bracket, he would have to come up earlier and he would play with older guys. We’ve always just been on the same team. We never talked about going to the same college, but it just seemed like that’s the way it was going to be no matter what. At this school, with how tough it is, it’s nice to have my brother who I can talk to about anything. If I know something’s wrong with him, I can tell right away, and if he knows there’s something wrong with me, we have that unspoken language where we know to talk to each other and communicate.
PB: What is your favorite thing about the Naval Academy and Annapolis?
NC: It makes you do a lot of things you don’t want to do, which is good and bad. It’s good because it pushes you to be better. With all the commitments that they make you do and all the classes like physics and chemistry — no way I’d be taking that kind of stuff at any other college — it forces you to do a lot of things that you’re uncomfortable with and you get exposed to a lot of new things. So in that sense, it prepares you for a lot of different things within your profession and in life. Downtown area, [the best thing is] definitely all the options to go grab food. There are some pretty cool places to go out if you want to stay out late night with all your friends.
PB: What is your favorite memory so far at Navy?
NC: Definitely last year beating Army at home.
PB: What’s an Army-Navy lacrosse game like?
NC: I got spoiled. My first Army-Navy lacrosse game was the 100th game ever at home in Annapolis. There was a different kind of buildup during a week. You always know it’s game week on Monday and on Sunday, but it seemed like that game week started when the season started. You always sort of had your eye on that game and when that game was going to come up, so there was all this hype leading up to it. During the week, you have all the reporters talking to everybody, you have all the camera crews coming by. Externally you know that everybody’s watching you this week. The level of preparation is just different. You forget about everything you’re doing that week. Before you put your head on the pillow that night, you’re thinking about that game and the play you can make in that game. Game day itself, everybody shows up for that game. The stadium’s full on each side. The atmosphere’s crazy. Different kind of aura when you walk into the stadium that day, and even though there’s people in the stands watching you, you can tell there’s a lot of people not in the stands that are watching the game back home.
PB: Who was a player you looked up to when you got to Navy?
NC: Freshman year there were two — Ryan Wade and Greyson Torain right away, those two guys were the captains that year. I really looked up to Greyson Torain. Me and him bonded really well just because he was the best athlete, best player on the field that year and I always looked up to how he could win a matchup one-on-one, use his right and left hand and how he was pretty much unguardable. All that stuff on the field, you can tell he prepared off the field, whether it was shots, getting in the weight room, doing that kind of thing. He’s just a great dude on top of that, so I could always talk to him outside of practice or watch what he was doing. I always really looked up to his work ethic and how he could dominate on the field.
PB: What advice would you give to younger players?
NC: It’s all about the stick skills. Keep the stick in your hand no matter what. Always hit the wall — every day if you can. Work on the off hand. That’s what I would do.
Photo Credit: Phil Hoffmann/Navy Athletics
Originally published Feb. 16, 2022