Ordinarily it might be inappropriate to describe someone as “playing for both teams.” But for Jordan Ellis ’07, it is literally the case.
After his career on the men’s lacrosse team ended prematurely, the former varsity standout found his way back into a Division I program this year — only this time on the women’s side. Ellis now doubles as co-president of the men’s club lacrosse team and honorary member of the women’s varsity squad, ever since he stepped in to help the Bulldogs scrimmage when one of their goalies was injured in February.
“It was the night before practice began and one of the goalies, Casey Littlefield, was going to be out with an injury for two weeks,” he said. “There are only two goalies on the team and they needed a second goalie in order to scrimmage. [Women’s lacrosse captain] Lindsay Levin called me and asked if I would be interested in practicing with the girls for those two weeks. I showed up at practice at 4 p.m. the next day and haven’t left since.”
Although it may seem a bit unorthodox for Ellis — who, at nearly six feet tall, towers over starting goalkeeper Ellen Cameron ’08 — to take the net for the women’s team, the fact that he needs his own locker room at Johnson Field never factored into the decision to ask him to help out, Levin said.
“I had known that Jordan loved lacrosse, and we needed a goalie,” she said. “He is a really friendly guy and a dedicated athlete. He knew that by playing with us it would help the team so much.”
Ellis said that although there are certain differences between the way men and women try to score, he found the transition to the women’s game relatively easy. What may have been more difficult, in fact, was adjusting to the role he took on after Littlefield returned. He continued to attend practices and games, helping out occasionally in goal, but primarily giving advice and support to the team he says he now feels a part of, even though he can never officially be on the roster.
“He still helps with the goalies and works with them in practice,” Levin said. “But he is also one of our emotional assistants, keeping the positive attitude up. He is a motivator and people really respect his opinion.”
Helping from the sidelines was certainly not where Ellis, who began his collegiate career in front of the goal, expected to be for his senior year. As a freshman on the men’s squad, he started 13 of 14 games for the Bulldogs, stopped 158 shots and was considered one of the best young goalies in the Ivy League.
But after he herniated a disc in his back prior to the start of his sophomore season, Ellis fell out of the starting position and said he felt he was not welcome on the team by the coaching staff. He appeared in four games in relief and did not return the following year. He described finding a place on the women’s squad this year as a “second chance” to make up for his disappointment at the abrupt end to his athletic career.
“Lacrosse has always been my biggest hobby, my biggest passion,” he said. “It consumes all of my time if I let it. My experience on the men’s team ended very badly. It’s nice to be involved with the whole atmosphere of the women’s team, which I think is much more positive. This is the second chance that I never should have had and I am trying to make the most of it.”
And to anyone who has watched Ellis on the sidelines at Johnson Field, it is clear that he is enjoying himself. He can be seen – sporting Yale women’s lacrosse gear, no less – cheering, laughing and encouraging his teammates throughout the game.
“I always had an eerie feeling before the start of my junior year that it wasn’t over for me,” he said. “Did I expect to wind up with the women’s team? Certainly not, but I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I think I’m actually playing for the right team now. I go out to practice with these girls and I have a cliché experience because practice is the best part of my day. Granted, I’m not the one running around, but it’s a ton of fun and I think that’s what the whole experience is all about.”
His teammates say his sense of humor and positive attitude have also made an impact on their season, which has been one of the best in women’s lacrosse history at Yale. After falling to 4-3 at the beginning of the season, the squad rattled off nine straight wins to finish second in the Ivy League and is now hoping to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
“Jordan understands both the coaches’ and the players’ point of view,” defender Natalie Reid ’10 said. “It’s really good to have his advice. He is never negative and even though he feels very passionately about the sport and gets frustrated sometimes, he always encourages us and helps us focus on what we can do better.”
So while the Bulldogs continue to practice for the next two weeks, waiting to hear their fate, Ellis will be there trying to keep his teammates focused — and hopefully not proving to be too much of a distraction.
“A lot of the girls on the team have crushes on him,” Reid said.