Jon Reese: Playing Angry and Giving Back
Former Yale standout Jon Reese will be inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame on Saturday.
© John Mecionis
Jon Reese, a 2011 National Lacrosse Hall of Fame inductee set to be enshrined Saturday with six other greats in Hunt Valley, Md., was a two-sport star at Yale who left a 12-year Wall Street job after 9/11 and created his own non-profit foundation. Excerpts of this "Give & Go" interview with Reese appear in the October issue of Lacrosse Magazine.
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Who is your favorite athlete?
I don’t know if this question really applies to me. The neat thing about me, growing up, I didn’t really want to be anybody else. I just kind of wanted to do my own thing.
Who in lacrosse is destined to be a reality TV star?
I don’t know if that’s conceited, but I’d say me. My life’s journey has been very interesting, unorthodox, and it’s taken a lot of turns. I went from the classic high-level athlete, played football and lacrosse at an Ivy League institution, did the Wall Street thing. Come to 9/11, I changed my life completely. I figured life is literally too short. I wanted to go out and try to help folks. I’ve done it in a lot of informal ways. I coach high school lacrosse [offense and midfielders] at West Islip (N.Y.). I do speaking engagements, and ultimately, I formed the Make It Count Foundation. Our mission is to provide resources for optimal health, housing and education, with a focus on folks who served or are currently serving our country.
Where did you go on your last vacation?
Cape Cod. Being from Long Island and a New York fan, the toughest part is trying to get through all that Boston stuff. But the place is beautiful. My brother, Jason, lives in Los Angeles and goes to Cape Cod for the summer. To spend time with him, I had to suck it up and go. He was a goalie at Yale. That was probably the biggest reason I went to Yale. He was a senior when I was a freshman.
Do you have any pregame rituals?
We used to call it “flipping the switch.” As we walked onto the field at Yale, I would literally pretend to flip a high voltage lever on a side of a building. You flipped that on, and you went to a different place physiologically and mentally. That was unique about the way I played. I played angry. Playing angry was about flipping the switch. You got to a different place when you stepped on the field.
What’s one thing you can’t live
My family. My wife, Barbara, and three children, Jonathan (17), Christopher (15) and Katelyn (12). All my children play lacrosse.
It’s 2021 — Where are you and what are you
I’ve never really looked forward or planned that much. That could be a good or bad thing. I’m really a live in the moment type of guy. I take on what challenge is in front of me, kick its ass and move forward. That’s been what I teach kids.
What’s been the proudest moment of your lacrosse
It’s easy now to say being inducted into the National Hall of Fame. Because I’m able to represent my teammates, the coaches I played for, and Yale University.
What’s your favorite moment of a lacrosse
From playing, knocking a defenseman down after you scored a goal. If you think that, it changes your physiological state and you’re either able to shoot harder, faster, more accurate and also protect yourself. I always say after you shoot look for somebody to knock down. Sort of like one more step. You shoot the ball, you see it hit the net. Some defenseman sliding, instead of him hitting you, you knock him down.
What’s one thing lacrosse really
I’m a high school coach so I see a lot of it and I’ve been a youth coach for the last 10 years. What’s really a turn off is how the players behave and, more important, how the parents are behaving. The sport has gained so much momentum, I think we need a reality check on how we’re supposed to be behaving as players and fans. Accountability as players and parents in the way we behave and act.
From John Fernandez, Wounded Warrior Project: How have you helped your country?
I’m proud to be able to support the men and women who serve our country formally through my foundation. When you’re talking about health, housing and education, that kind of fits everybody’s M.O. When you talk about veterans and military personnel, I’m getting a lot of support. We provide resources in health, housing and education with a focus on those who serve or are currently serving. I’ve given a scholarship to a wounded warrior, to try to start to help them go back to college. For housing, we did an extreme makeover for a wounded warrior. We did a $25,000 renovation of a VFW hall on Long Island, accessibility so the wounded guys can get into the building as they’re getting older. There’s a homeless shelter in Yaphank. I just put another $15,000 into that building, giving them new front doors, cleaning up the façade of the building so they can be a little bit more proud of the situation. I don’t only work with veterans. However, when there are so many folks to help with, when possible we like to focus on that population of veterans or those currently serving. What I’m hoping to do is start to do extreme makeovers, based off the television show. I’m thinking of guys who are overseas now. They feel like they’re not able to serve their families well enough. We can go in and put in a new kitchen for them, or re-do the bathroom, or re-side the house. That’s what my next goal is for the foundation, starting this last quarter of the year.
I’ve got a few wealthy folks who are on board. When you talk about veterans and military personnel, I’m getting a lot of support. What I’ve tried to do is go out and accomplish a lot of things. Then I’m going to go out and start a major fundraising campaign. Who knows, maybe the lacrosse community is somewhere we could start.
From Mary Roeding, Cincinnati, Ohio: If
you had to play any other sport, what sport would it be and
I played football all through college as well. I was captain of the football team and a middle linebacker. You got to play with reckless abandon and play angry as well. Then I was able to go out on lacrosse and be the goal-scorer. Another reason for going to Yale, other than because my brother was there, was because I could play two Division I sports.
Pose a question for the next subject.
Do you believe in giving back?