Editor’s note: There are several family ties throughout Major League Lacrosse’s rich history. Starting with the Gaits and Powells and all the way through to the Leveilles, Spallinas and Untersteins, brothers have continued to compete with or against each other throughout adulthood. Today we take a look at Matt and Chris Bocklet and how the ultimately drive each other to be better both on and off the field.
Flash back to Matt Bocklet’s early collegiate days, and you would be sure to find his younger brother Chris on a wall nearby working on his stick-work. Chris was the eager younger brother who watched his older brothers, Mike and Matt, play in nearly every game they had growing up, from youth games, to high school games, and eventually to collegiate games at Fairfield and Johns Hopkins.
“I think it was really cool seeing Chris grow up coming to all of my games, whether it was lacrosse or football, always watching, and then seeing him become the lacrosse player that he did,” Matt reflects on his younger brother.
Given the four-year gap between the brothers, their first time ever being on the same team in any sport was on the Denver Outlaws, who they both currently play for. After graduating from Johns Hopkins, Matt played his rookie season for the Chesapeake Bayhawks in 2008 and since then has played for the Outlaws. When Chris graduated from UVA, he joined his brother on the Outlaws for his rookie season in 2012.
Growing up, Chris remembers the fun, competitive backyard games that he and his brothers would play, “We’re creative people. There were little games that we made up like Gladiator and Raptor. We weren’t big into playing video games and watching TV; we were just very active. My brothers would always let me battle with them and compete, and I think that it kind of helped me grow and also helped me become a better competitor just constantly playing with those guys.”
For the Bocklet brothers, their father was the first person to put a stick in their hands and start the process for them. Matt recalls the original purple Excalibur head that his dad gave him to use when they first started practicing passing and catching, before he really started playing on any teams or leagues. After seeing his dad introduce the sport to his older brothers, Chris was quickly hooked himself.
“That’s just kind of how it was being the younger brother. I looked up to them so much, and anything they did, I wanted to do as well. So as soon as they brought lacrosse sticks into the house, it wasn’t a short time after that I got mine. I’d go to their practices and their games, and I’d just always have my stick.”
Being closer in age to Chris, Matt always challenged him in competitions, whether it was lacrosse, basketball, or even X-Box, which became a regular occurrence for the two when Matt was a senior in high school.
“I think both of us are extremely competitive people. Whenever we play a game against each other, we both want to win. It’s in good fun. There are definitely going to be some good laughs while we’re playing, but when it comes down to winning the game, whatever it is, we both want to do it,” Chris explains.
Matt remembers their healthy competitive relationship growing up as well. “I ended up being the sole defensive guy, so it was always Mike and Chris against me in everything we did, and I helped Chris with 1v1’s specifically for his lacrosse game.”
It is the dynamic the two brothers share that has helped them find success in becoming the talented players they are today. Despite the four-year age gap, Matt acknowledges the type of role he has played for Chris. “I think for Chris, seeing me go off and compete at the college level and then the professional level, it’s just made it that much more real for him, that he could do that; that if he worked hard, he’d be able to do that at an even higher level that we played at.”
One highlight of the brothers’ careers was their first game playing together against Ohio. The game was the first of Chris’ rookie career and Matt’s fourth year on the team. The two boys recall the game very similarly. The first half was relatively uneventful. Chris seemed to be going through the motions, a little nervous, trying to figure out the game while playing. At half time, Matt went up to him and said, “Chris, play your game, start shooting, or they’ll find someone else that will.” And, Matt continued to explain, “Chris just came out in the second half and scored 3 goals, and he definitely started being comfortable; started doing what he’s good at.”
Chris remembers how nervous and uncomfortable he was at half time, but how impactful Matt’s words were to give him the spark he needed in the second half. “Matt came up to me and said, ‘Chris be confident in yourself, you can play here. Start taking shots; you’re a shooter, start shooting.’ When he says something, I listen. He’s just been such a mentor. Having Matt in that moment, who not only was my brother, but an experienced MLL player, who wanted me to do well, was just huge.”
Needless to say, the brothers have benefitted tremendously from being on the same team. As Matt continues his consistent success, he is right there to support Chris as his successful career is only budding. “Not just on the field but off the field, Matt is huge for me as a player. He just takes his time to talk to me and give me advice constantly, and he’ll push me to become a better player and to play harder. He just kind of has that captain mentality of playing the game,” Chris remarks.
One of the greatest contributors to the Bocklet Brothers’ success is the undeniable support they have from their family. Although Matt and Chris would battle in competition growing up, their older brother Mike and younger sister Casey were right there by their sides. Mike, who played at Fairfield University, also played that mentor role for Matt when it came to working on 1v1s and competing in the backyard. Despite the age difference between all of the Bocklet siblings, just because she was the youngest, that didn’t stop Casey, who currently is a junior playing for University of Virginia, from joining right in on the outdoor activities with the boys.
Both Matt and Chris agreed on the fact that, “she’s a much better athlete than the rest of us. We’re all good lacrosse players, but she’s faster and stronger. Maybe it’s something that growing up with three brothers kind of does that, but she was tough, and has developed into such a talented player.”
Another aspect of the strong family bond with the Bocklets is their family-run lacrosse camp called X10 Mountain Lacrosse Academy. The camp started a couple years ago in Massachusetts and now has locations in New York and Colorado. It is truly a family affair, with the camp directors being the Bocklets’ parents, Barry and Terry, and all siblings being program directors.
Chris explains that it is a “lacrosse camp that meets outdoor adventure. You’re playing your different sports, your football, basketball, but you’re also having fun outdoors. We have fishing, swimming, and tons of fun competitions. I feel like a lot of kids these days are so one-dimensional with just playing lacrosse. Honestly, I’ve learned to develop my lacrosse game through playing other sports and competing in different things, so this camp is a great mix of all that.”
“It’s a well-rounded camp that lets people know that it’s more about developing kids at that age where they’re 10-15 and slowly becoming young adults,” Matt agrees with his brother.
From their brotherly connection on the field to their involvement with the community in the lacrosse world, the Bocklet duo has found success in building off of each other, and there is no denying that there is much more to come.