Balancing medical school and a professional lacrosse career is a challenge Curtis Manning is up for.
For Calgary Roughnecks transition player Curtis Manning, the concept of teamwork transcends the turf.
The second-year University of British Columbia medical student says he is surprised that the lessons he learned playing lacrosse have translated to the classroom.
“On both sides, you’re working as a team and it is a lot of social interaction. You get to see how you work as a team in lacrosse versus working as a team in a medical setting so they kind of parallel each other,” said Manning in a phone interview from Vancouver. “It is important to get along with other people as well as be productive. It’s a nice skill to have and more similar than I would have expected.”
With a Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology, Manning adds that an understanding of body mechanics, nutrition and a focused work ethic helps to assist in both fields.
“You get out what you put into things,” summed up Manning.
While studying for his undergrad, Manning found a true passion for the medical sciences and made the decision to expand his knowledge.
“I’ve always enjoyed human biology and the idea of medicine,” explaining that his chosen career path developed naturally. “It’s the nature behind the work and getting to work with people while applying a science basis. It seemed like a good way to spend your career.”
The act of balancing a demanding school schedule and a professional lacrosse career has been a challenge but Manning would not have it any other way.
“It’s nice to have the break from school because during the week you work pretty hard and it’s nice to be able to take the weekend off and do something completely different. You kind of refresh yourself in that way.”
Roughnecks General Manager Mike Board has also taken note and appreciates the commitment of Manning despite his other obligations.
“He’s pretty dedicated to his schooling and is a driven guy,” describes Board. “I remember the first or second weekend of training camp he had some exams coming up and all the guys were back in the dressing room and he was in the media lounge brushing up on the books and doing some last minute studying.”
The Roughnecks drafted the 6’4 powerhouse in the 2008 Entry Draft, however Manning did not make his NLL debut until the 2010 season.
“I was in my senior year at SFU (Simon Fraser University) so I would have had to stop playing because it would have been amateur sport versus professional sport,” explains Manning, who was a member of the University’s field lacrosse team.
As a result, Manning tallied eight points and scooped up 72 loose balls over 16 games played in his 2010 NLL rookie season. His freshman year of medical school in 2010-11 put a wrench in his 2011 NLL campaign as he was only able to partake in a pair of regular season and playoff games.
“Last year, I guess, it was just not knowing what school was going to entail and how much time I could take away from it,” said Manning, who was initially concerned about maintaining good grades while playing the sport he loves.
“Given that it was manageable and I was able to play at the end of the year (2011), I think this year has been a lot easier to put the two together and make it work.”
One individual who is grateful for Manning’s newfound balance between sport and education is none other than Mike Board.
“He’s headstrong, knows the game and can play in a lot of different situations,” quipped Board. “We always felt he was one of the best defenders in the league but he can also play some transition so it’s been a bonus.”
For Manning, his role on the team is simplistic.
“The only thing I really focus on when I get the ball is to try and get it out of our end quickly and things build upon themselves.”
While Manning is multifaceted in his lacrosse approach, his focus remains on defence.
“(Defence) is a good example of teamwork, working with the guys it’s like a unit. There is something satisfying about shutting the other team down,”
Lacrosse runs in the blood of Manning, who was registered in the sport when he was five years old by his Dad, a former member of the New Westminster Salmonbellies of the Western Lacrosse Association.
As fate would have it, Manning ended up throwing on a Salmonbellies jersey himself in both the junior and senior lacrosse ranks. Manning played his first full season in the WLA in 2009 and posted 39 points over three seasons.
According to Manning, both the WLA and the NLL pose their own unique challenges.
“The way the rules are structured, the WLA is a little bit slower and a little more physical,” he said. “The NLL is a more wide open kind of game, the floor is a little bigger and it’s more tightly called on defence for penalties. It gives you that extra time to make plays on offence.”
Nevertheless, Manning gets a thrill out of stepping up to defend against some of the best offensive players in the game.
“I guess a good example is a guy like John Grant Jr. because even if you play the best game you’ve ever played against him, he is still going to get six or seven points,” said Manning with a bit of a chuckle.
On the flip side, Board acknowledges that opposing offence also have their hands full when Manning is on the turf. “If there is a loose ball, it’s going to end up in his stick. He very rarely loses those types of battles. He’s a good runner, good athlete and still, a very good defender.”
Whether he is bashing bodies on the lacrosse floor, or healing them in med school, Curtis Manning is motivated to succeed and an excellent role model for young lacrosse players trying to live out a variety of dreams.