A new mini-feature produced by Major League Lacrosse takes a look at Mark Ellis’ upbringing and journey as a lacrosse player. The feature captures his training on the field, lifting in the weight room, a tour of his home and his neighborhood and a candid conversation about Mark’s lacrosse career.
Ellis began his journey in Hempstead, NY. His single mother and his grandmother had profound impacts on his life. Ellis’ first story was about his mother tirelessly providing for her family as a dedicated nurse.
“Looking back you’re like, she was working 12-hour shifts. What am I doing? She would work hard because of us. And now I know that is what I am going to do. I have to work hard for the next generation.”
Ellis, with the encouragement and support of his mom and grandmother, took advantage of an opportunity to attend Garden City High School; a difficult decision, as it meant leaving his friends and community in Hempstead.
“It’s hard for a 15-year-old, 13, even an 18-year-old, to be like, ‘I’m gonna walk away from my best friends I grew up with my whole life, and change.’ So for me, being a product of my environment, I was on that line.”
The move would make Ellis one of the only black faces on the field and in the classroom. The advice his mother gave when asked how he should adapt to his new reality? Compete.
Ellis said competing on the field always came easy to him. But, he faced greater hurdles in the classroom, affecting his collegiate journey. A journey, he acknowledges, that may have never been a reality had he stayed in Hempstead’s school system.
In Hempstead, Ellis had family members facing incarceration, he had family members and friends who did not have beds to sleep on. The expectation for his Hempstead peers was to show up to school and then maybe graduate, maybe not, and then go get a job. By attending Garden City, Ellis was on a new path. The baseline expectation for him now was to attend college.
After struggling in the classroom and then attending a postgraduate year at Westminster School, Ellis earned a scholarship to play lacrosse for Stony Brook’s Seawolves. After graduating from Stony Brook and still having a year of eligibility left, Ellis went on to pursue a master’s degree in sports science at Hofstra University, while playing for the Pride.
He now finds himself an MLL player for the New York Lizards, a master’s degree scholar and in charge of molding the next generation of Seawolves, as the assistant athletic performance coach for Stony Brook. Ellis has also become a leader in the fight for greater equality, opportunity, and social justice in our sport, and is consistently choosing to positively impact our environment.
“I’m just a product of my environment. I come from a place where two towns meet. Rich meets poor. White meets Black. Republicans meet Democrat…. You are a product of your environment, but you can make constant choices to be a part of that environment in a positive way or a negative way.”