Brodie Merrill: Sport the magnet that draws my family together

Philadelphia Wings captain Brodie Merrill (Philadelphia Wings photo)

I have been down in Maryland, DC and Virginia for the last week and a half coaching with my Hill Academy team.

Every year our team travels to this area to play against some of the top high school programs in the U.S. It is a great opportunity for our players; it really exposes them to another level of field lacrosse. My parents, who founded The Hill Academy, always come along for the trip, cheering on The Hill players as if they were their own. My brother Patrick also coaches the team and my sister is along with us, coaching our girls team. It is our version of a family vacation.

When I reflect on my career in sport, the majority of my memories revolve around family. I've been fortunate to have parents that always supported and encouraged, challenged -- but were never overbearing: That hand on your back, not controlling, but there to nudge or brace. The long car rides, the countless hours in cold arenas in the winter and hot arenas in the summer. Not at all objective (especially my mom), but still held my siblings and I accountable, more for things that didn't show up on the scoresheet (hustle, team play, respect).

Sport gave my parents a tool to convey some life lessons (albeit at times in unconventional ways)!

For my brother and I, the amount of time we have spent in the backyard, or in our basement, playing, competing -- we didn't know it, but we were bonding and have become very close, mainly because of sport.

My sister and I are bonded through sport as well. She is a lacrosse player and national-level track athlete and we love talking sport -- about nutrition, training, and the "process" of sport.

For my family, sport has always been our common ground. When we get together, our conversations eventually turn to sport -- The Wings, The Hill, The Montreal Canadiens. A lot of late night discussion on strategy and "theories." The games and the players are irrelevant. Sport is the magnet that draws us together.

I have an 8-month-old daughter and I'm already thinking about what age to sign up for girls lacrosse! My two-and-a-half-year-old nephew Finn is already playing lacrosse and hockey and my brother and I have honestly talked about coaching roles on his future teams (presumptuous for us to think that we will even be asked to coach his teams). We know the effect sport has had on our lives and want the same for our children.

The relationship between family and sport shifts when I leave on the weekends to play with the Wings. Sport creates a new family. In sport, you treat your teammates like family. Great teams are like great families, unconditionally loyal with players that place their teammates ahead of themselves.

The bye week couldn't come at a better time as we have some players still recovering from injuries and hopefully it will give us a chance to really get prepared for a playoff push.