After taking a two year hiatus from Major League Lacrosse, attackman Chazz Woodson came back with a vengenance playing in all 14 games during the Ohio Machine's inaugural season. Woodson set a career high in points (38), goals (24), assists (14) and shots (87). Woodson was also named to the 2012 MLL All-Star Old School team along with fellow teammates Greg Bice and Kyle Hartzell. Woodson ended his 2012 season being named the 2012 Ohio Machine Offensive Player of the Year.
1. What made you choose lacrosse over all the other sports out there?
Lacrosse chose me, actually. I was fortunate enough to have picked it up really early in my life. Beginning with my father and continuing with every coach that I had all the way through high school, I had a lot of positive influences that helped me progress my game physically and mentally. I wanted to play basketball in college, but wasn’t good enough to play at the level that I wanted to play. I could have played football in college, but was a late developer there, and also didn’t have the same passion for it in high school that I had for basketball and lacrosse.
When you were little, did you expect to be one of the best players in the world?
I’m learning now to just accept compliments as they are. So thank you! Did I expect to be one of the best in the world? I didn’t really know what that meant in the lacrosse world. I can tell you that I didn’t think there was anything that I couldn’t do on the lacrosse field. And I learned once I got to college that there were still a lot of things I needed to improve. I still believe that. There’s no doubt in my mind that I can compete with anybody in the world; that when I’m on the field, I can be the most dominant player out there. But I always have a mental list of guys who do this or that better than I do. It means my game is not complete. So, I still have to catch up to them for ME, to consider myself one of the best in the world.
What is some advice you would give to those youth players hoping to make it to MLL status one day?
As cliché as it may be, there are two things … three, really. First and foremost, you’ve got to work at it. No matter what it is in life, if you want to get to the top, you have to work – even if you are better than everyone around you. Sooner or later, that gap starts to narrow and at some point, the pack will catch you. To stay up top, you have to work. The next thing and just as important in my mind, you’ve got to have a passion for the game. Doesn’t mean that you have to live, breathe, eat, sleep lacrosse. But you’ve got to love it. Finally, you have to treat the game right. Lacrosse has always been played with a certain level of respect to everyone involved. You play the game the right way. You have fun with it. You stay humble.
4. Who has been your favorite person to work with up to this point in your career?
I’ve worked with a lot of great people. That’s the beauty of this sport. I don’t know that I can single one person out. They’ve all been great for different reasons.
Who is your lacrosse role model?
There are a few different ways to look at this question. Every time I’m asked, I feel bad for leaving people out, so I’ll give you a few answers. My father got me started. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be playing the game – ironic for (to quote him) “just a dumb old football coach.” But maybe not, since football seems to be almost a past life for him. Now he can’t get enough lacrosse! In terms of players I looked up to, it would be the Gaits and Drew McKnight. I didn’t grow up in an area where I saw college lacrosse much or saw a whole lot of “top level” talent. I knew who Paul and Gary were, and I met them when I was young. I wanted to be that good. And Drew McKnight was the best player that I ever got to watch on a regular basis. He went on to have a nice career at UVA. Finally, Tom Duquette. I’ll spare you his background and accolades, but you can look him up. But he was my high school coach for four years and was most recently one of the assistants for the 2012 U19 World Championship team. To say that I learned a lot from him is a severe understatement.
6. What is one thing that you try to improve on with your playing style?
Actually there are two things that I’ve worked on, and that I always feel I can be better with – my outside shooting and my off-ball play.
7. What was your favorite part of the Ohio Machine inaugural season?
Favorite part was twofold. Without question, I enjoyed being around the guys. Our roster was well put together, despite the light that may be cast on it from our record. Great bunch of guys on and off the field. The other thing that stands out to me from this season is the fan support! A new franchise, not actually playing in a major city and a 2-12 record. Our fans kept coming back and kept supporting. Our last game, when everyone weathered the storm, quite literally, to support us in a losing effort, it was pretty clear to see how much they loved having us there. Big shout out to all of the Ohio Machine fans!
8. What are you looking forward to the most in the 2013 season?
Winning. Simple answer, but that may be the only thing that would have made this season significantly better, in my opinion.
9. What is one thing you learned during your 2012 season with the Machine?
Developing chemistry with a core group is very important. Our game day roster changed a lot throughout the first part of the season. That’s typical with MLL teams, particularly new ones. I’ve played on a bunch of teams, but this was the first time where the core group had not actually played together for at least a year. We developed a chemistry in a lot of ways, but that on field chemistry takes a little more time to develop than I anticipated. And it makes a big difference. Any team that’s won an MLL championship has had that.
10. How do you plan to spend your offseason?
Much of my offseason is spent – to use one of the current buzz terms – growing the game. I’m working to expand the growth of lacrosse in the inner city areas of Miami, through my organization, Dade Lacrosse. I’ll also be doing some clinics. I coach JV hoops and Varsity lacrosse. I’ll probably do some, mostly lacrosse related, traveling. Some speaking engagements – FANS LET ME KNOW IF YOU HAVE SCHOOLS, TEAMS, ORGANIZATIONS THAT YOU’D LIKE TO HAVE ME SPEAK TO. I’ll be doing a lot of writing as well.
11. Do you have any game day superstitions? If yes, what are they (if you care to share)?
I wouldn’t call them superstitions, really. But there’s a lot of routine involved in my preparation on game days. It varies a bit year to year. If we are winning, I will do my very best to wear the exact same thing every time, down to the socks (I’ll wash all of my game stuff together, so that I know they are the exact same socks). If we lose, but I play well, I’ll vary something slightly. For example if there’s a shirt that I thought about wearing last time, but couldn’t because we’d won the week before, I’ll give it a shot this time. Or I’ll switch my gloves. Some years, I also will change everything socks, compression shorts, t-shirt, between warm-ups and the starting lineup, just so that I feel fresh when I walk out. If I don’t do it in the first couple of games though, I won’t do it all season. My pregame meals – night before, and lunch on game day – I like to keep the same, but sometimes that gets difficult. Once I’m at the stadium, I have a hard time keeping still, but I also like to avoid being around too many people. As soon as I step off the bus (or onto the bus if it’s a short ride), the headphones go on, and I like to get into my zone. I used to shoot hoops to get loose back in the day. Unfortunately we don’t have a gym at our facility in Ohio. That used to be a big part of my routine.
12. What is your typical pregame meal?
Like I said, pregame meals vary a lot. But when I have my choice, I like to do some kind of pasta – chicken parm or similar – the night before. Game day all depends on how much time I have between the walk through and when we leave for the stadium, and whether or not I had a big breakfast. Fruit is great! But that could also be just me thinking about fruit right now. Not sure.
13. How do you prepare for an upcoming game?
Game prep is different in the MLL since we are only together once a week and we only actually practice for a couple of hours. So most of the prep for me is a matter of recovery from the week before, making sure my stick is ready to go and that I’m ready to go mentally. So making sure that I haven’t sat on my butt all week is the most important thing. First just as an athlete, it’s good to have worked out, and/or played summer league, or just been active that week. But it’s also a matter of keeping my body intact. At 30 years old, if I go from having done nothing all week, to traveling and playing an MLL game on Saturday, the risk of injury goes way up. At the very least, my body will hate me.
14. How do you categorize a season as successful?
In all honesty, I look at it two ways. The athlete in me says anything less than an MLL Championship is a failed operation, particularly when you have a roster that is capable of getting it done. That’s the goal at the start of the season for every single team. And no matter what your record, that’s the goal until you are mathematically out of the playoffs. But the reasonable Chazz can always take a step back and realize that there are a lot of other successes to be had. We have a roster of guys that battled hard every single week. Success. We have a young and talented roster that is still hungry. Success. We had few, if any, major injuries. Success. Our front office was very open to suggestions, and willing to adjust things on our behalf. Success. We established a quality fan base in a new market. Success. And as cliché as it may be, we enjoyed it. Success. That last part was the biggest success of all for me, given that a year ago at this time, I had no intention of playing MLL again.
15. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Attitude is everything.
16. What are three words that would describe who you are?
Actually I can only hope that when all is said and done, these three words can be used to describe me: humble, selfless, positive.
Random Facts about Chazz:
Favorite sport outside of lacrosse: Basketball … and I’m leaning toward European handball in my “next” life
Favorite part about lacrosse: The creativity it allows.
Favorite type of food: Chicken. Fruit.
Favorite restaurant: Still working on that. That $3.51 rice to go at Benihana is pretty good though.
Favorite place in the world you’ve been to: Still working on that too, but I have to say, Thailand was preeeeeetty cool!
Favorite place you would like to visit but haven’t: Who knows … Haven’t been there.
Favorite lacrosse moment/experience: Playing Princeton my junior year of college at home in front of a bunch of young students that I’d taught in NYC the semester before.
Most influential person in your life: My grandmother.
Top 3 favorite movies: Wow … ehhhhhh … Coming to America. The Wood. Think Like a Man. The first two are classics and all time favorites, and the third is just one of the funniest movies I’ve seen this year. Every line that comes out of Kevin Hart’s mouth is hilarious.
Top 5 favorite bands/artists: Earth, Wind, and Fire. Jay-Z. Any 90’s Hip Hop/R&B.
One thing you want to do but never done before: Hang glide