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Manley Making The Most Of His NLL Opportunity

March 18, 2016
2012 Rattlers Rookie of the Year sits down with Inside Lacrosse to discuss his first year in the NLL. Manley pays tribute to his summers in the "chicken coop" in his upstate New York hometown of Penn Yan.

See the full article from Inside Lacrosse below:

It comes as no surprise that the National Lacrosse League is dominated by Canadians, but every year there are a few American players selected in the draft. This year, CJ Costabile and Mike Manley were drafted by the Philadelphia Wings. The Wings used their first two picks to draft the former Duke Blue Devil teammates. Manley and Costabile were just two of the handful of Americans drafted this season. Both Manley and Costabile are accomplished field players and had outstanding rookie seasons in Major League Lacrosse: Manley for the Rochester Rattlers and Costabile for the Long Island Lizards. However, like most American players, they had little to zero box experience, but were excited for the opportunity. “It was a dream of mine to play (in the NLL) and I am just happy to be playing,” Manley told IL Indoor.

Only a handful of Americans were drafted this season, but the two rookies didn’t feel any added pressure, even though the odds were stacked against them.

“I think more of the pressure came on within,” Costabile said. “I wanted to take the opportunity for myself to try to make a roster.”

Manley had similar feelings. “As an athlete and competitor, you want to prove to yourself that you’re capable of playing in this league.”

It is not an easy jump from having little indoor experience to playing in the most competitive box lacrosse league in the world — but every little bit helps. Costabile grew up in New Fairfield, Conn., with no exposure to box lacrosse. To prepare himself for the NLL, Costabile watched YouTube clips to help familiarize himself with the game. Manley, while having no “traditional” box experience, did have a rather unique background with the game. In Manley’s home town of Penn Yan, N.Y., the community built an outdoor makeshift box field.

“Growing up, we called it ‘the chicken coop’ because it just was really rinky-dink boards and a square box with chicken wire around it,” said Manley. As unofficial “the chicken coop” might be, it is where Manley spent his summers learning the basics of box lacrosse.

The Philadelphia Wings training camp was trial by fire for pair — they had to learn the game in its entirety in a few short weeks. However, Manley and Costabile weren’t the only Americans in this excursion. Most teams in the NLL have a roster dominated by Canadians with a few Americans sprinkled in. The Philadelphia Wings mixed up an idealistic concoction dubbed “The American Experiment.”

By the combination of drafting and trading, the Wings compiled an American-heavy roster, with more than 80% of the players hailing from the U.S. The idea was to use the athleticism and speed of American field players and mold them to the box game.

Costabile and Manley were perfect pieces for the puzzle; Manley being a big, strong, solid 1-on-1 defender and Costabile being a quick and speedy LSM with excellent loose ball skills.

“Traditional American defenders have very good feet,” said Manley. “That is what we pride ourselves in for the Wings.”

The Wings coaching staff and the veteran players on the team helped Manley and Costabile adjust to the indoor game. Costabile mentioned that all the veterans took the time to help the greenhorn players out — veterans such as Brett Manney, Steve Holmes, Brandon Miller, and Brodie Merrill.

“He (Manney) after a drill or so, would pull me aside and teach me a little bit,” said Manley.

Both players also spoke of the dedication, commitment, and energy that Brodie Merrill brought to the table as captain of the Wings.

Costabile and Manley have adjusted to the indoor game well and have helped the Wings to a winning record. The Wings are tied for second place in the Eastern Division, and are looking to make a run in the second half of the season.

Costabile isn’t ready to call the experiment a success just yet. “We are all a very competitive group,” Costabile told IL Indoor. “To say that we’re successful because we’re above .500% after 9-odd games, I don’t look at it as success. We need to keep playing with a chip on our shoulder.”

It is difficult to predict how the rest of the season will unfold for the Philadelphia Wings. As for Manley and Costabile. both players are halfway through their rookie campaigns and are excited and happy to be playing.

“I truly enjoy playing,” said Manley.

Both players have a bright future between the boards of the NLL.

“It’s a new challenge and I love every minute of it,” said Costabile.