#4 Jeff Gilbert
At just 29 years of age, Swarm defenseman Jeff Gilbert is the oldest player on the team. The Robert Morris University alumnus is also the only member of the Swarm to win a Champion’s Cup – and it shows. Gilbert has been named the team’s permanent assistant captain and always tries to lead his teammates by example.
“Jeff’s one of our leaders on defense,” said head coach Joe Sullivan. “He has great experience and is the only guy on our club who has won a Champions Cup, so a lot of guys on our team look to him for leadership.”
It’s more than just Gilbert’s leadership skills that make him one of the NLL’s best defenders, however. The Barrie, Ontario native finished second in the league for forced turnovers last season, causing 26.
In the following question and answer segment Gilbert breaks down how he is using his leadership skills to influence teammates, what it’s like to face his old team, how the Swarm can learn to build off of their early season experiences, the upcoming statement game against Toronto and what a hero means to him.
Satzinger: Being a part of the youngest team in the NLL, you’re the oldest player on the Swarm. What is it like to mentor so many young players?
Gilbert: I really don’t even think about it, I just do what I do and younger players take notice. That’s what I did earlier in my career and it’s kind of nice to switch roles, so to speak.
Satzinger: Rookie defenseman Alex Crepinsek came into the 2013 season with a lot of promise after being drafted by the Swarm at the end of the first round and has been producing early in his career. Have you been mentoring him specifically so that he can reach his potential?
Gilbert: I’ve definitely been focusing on him because he came in as a young guy, impressed me, and really gained the respect of everybody on the team. He’s a very hardworking player who has gotten a hold of what we’re trying to do, but I wouldn’t give him any extra treatment; I try to treat everyone the same in that regard.
Satzinger: At 29 you’re not exactly a spring chicken in the NLL, but you’re also by no means old as an athlete. Do you think that your game is still improving at this point and what did you do this summer to get better?
Gilbert: (Laughing) I think you can always improve, whether a professional athlete or not. There are always ways to get better. I can still continue to try to work on my ball skills, which is something lacking with me. In the transition game you have to be able to finish and put the ball in the net. This summer I worked hard on my hands and conditioning.
Satzinger: You won a Champions Cup when you were on the Rock. Knowing what it takes to win it all, how are you trying to influence your teammate’s mindsets in order to take home the cup this May?
Gilbert: I think the biggest thing right now is that while you can’t win or lose a Champions Cup in February, we can take everything we’re doing right now and learn from it to get better. So when it comes down to playing in a big game or Champions Cup we can build on what we have learned earlier in the year. Overall, right now we’re trying to keep it simple, not look at the big picture, and grow from these early experiences as a team.
Satzinger: Looking ahead to the upcoming game, what’s something opposing teams need to look out for when facing the Rock?
Gilbert: The Rock have added an element of transition to their game. They are definitely not afraid to be shooting on the run or take shots in transition. They always have a well-disciplined defense that fits into their system and plays very well. Also, if you look at their offense it’s one of the great veteran offenses on either side. So, they’re a complete team and we will have our hands full. But, it’s almost like a statement game for us to show the league what we’re made of.
Satzinger: You played in Toronto for three seasons. Could you describe what it’s like to go up against some of your old teammates?
Gilbert: It’s fun and while I’m very happy here in Minnesota, I always want to prove a team wrong for trading me. I wasn’t happy with my last game in Toronto and let some of those personal things get to me. I’m not going to try and focus on that too much this time, but it’s going to be very sweet if we collect the win against those guys.
Satzinger: Friday night is going to be hero night. What or who describes a hero in your eyes?
Gilbert: Anybody that is willing to stand up for what they believe in, including the greatest leaders of our time. Being Canadian, I appreciate the Canadian forces but also the American soldiers as well. Just anyone who is willing to stand up for a cause and be a leader in that regard should be called a hero.
Satzinger: What is your favorite hobby other than lacrosse?
Gilbert: Without question, 100-percent golf. (Laughing) I absolutely love golf. I started playing when I was younger and watching golf tournaments is part of my game day routine as well while sitting in the hotel waiting to play lacrosse. It’s unique for me in the sense that it is a game that is individual, playing against yourself, and it’s such a mental grind to keep things together. You can hit one great shot and think you’re there, then you hit another that’s way off and you just yell “ah!” in frustration (laughing). It’s just a great game and I love it.