How Professional Lacrosse Player Kyle Hartzell Optimizes His Mind & Body For Peak Performance

Do something every day to get better. Having a drive and work ethic, and being disciplined is not easy. If you want it you have to work for it. Nothing in life worth getting comes easy or everyone would do it. My road to success was not easy and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.


As a part of our series about “How Athletes Optimize Their Mind & Body For Peak Performance”, I had the pleasure of interviewingKyle Hartzell.

Kyle Hartzell is a professional lacrosse player for the Atlas Lacrosse Club of the Premier Lacrosse League and is well known as one of the best long-stick midfielders (LSM) in the professional lacrosse scene. He graduated from Salisbury University in 2007. Hartzell was a member of the 2007 NCAA National Championship team at Salisbury University and was named a Division III All-American. The defenseman was also a part of the 2018 Team USA Gold Medal team and was named a PLL All-Star in 2019. Kyle Hartzell has also played professional Major League Lacrosse for Washington, Chesapeake, Ohio, and New York.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is a great honor. Our readers would love to learn more about your personal background. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up in Dundalk, MD. It is a blue-collar small town outside Baltimore City. I grew up playing soccer and being coached by my father. I have an older brother and we often competed against / fought each other in the backyard. I think my competitive edge comes from that.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career as a high level professional athlete? We’d love to hear the story.

I didn’t think I would have ever been in the place I am now. Growing up I wanted to be a soccer player, but when I first picked up a lacrosse stick my freshman year of High School I knew I wanted to pursue this in college and put down the soccer ball after High school. I went to Archbishop Curley High School which is a private school in the competitive MIAA Conference. After this, I walked on to the Salisbury University team and it was there that I got the itch to be a pro lacrosse player.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

My dad and mom always supported and pushed me in sports so they were the first people to ignite that edge and fire in me. When I got to Salisbury University my Head Coach Jim Berkman instilled a drive and passion in me to be the best and from there I have always attacked life and sports that way and he was the main piece of me getting to where I am today. Meeting Jay Dyer, my Strength and conditioning coach after college was also paramount.

Kyle Hartzell by MrActivated

What advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your career?

Do something every day to get better. Having a drive and work ethic, and being disciplined is not easy. If you want it you have to work for it. Nothing in life worth getting comes easy or everyone would do it. My road to success was not easy and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I am currently working and helping build out the Premier Lacrosse League Academy which is our youth business for the Premier Lacrosse League. We travel the country teaching kids the game and inspiring the next generation of lacrosse players to get better and make it to the next level and ultimately inspire them to be pro lacrosse players. This effort is growing the game and getting sticks in hands to kids that might not have had the opportunity to learn the game if we don’t come to their area.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As an athlete, you often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high stress situations?

  1. I think having a good work ethic and outworking everyone around you is my main reason for getting through pressure situations on the field. If you train your body and mind and put it through stress in the gym and field it will react and adapt on the field… so have an insane work ethic and drive to be the best.
  2. Playing with a chip on my shoulder is another. I played division 3 lacrosse in college and I am one of only two-division three players to make Team USA and I am the only D3 player to make a USA team twice. Not many D3 players play pro and there are less than 5 in our league currently. Every time I step on the field I play like I need to earn the respect of everyone. No one ever thought I’d get this far in my career except my family and they are who I play this game for because I am representing them.

Do you use any special or particular breathing techniques to help optimize yourself?

I usually take 5 slow, deep breaths before a game starts. Through my nose and out my mouth, focusing on my breath is really calming for me. This really gets me dialed in and focused before that first whistle and also calms me down.

Do you have a special technique to develop a strong focus, and clear away distractions?

Again I think working as hard as you possibly can off the field builds my focus and dedication to my team on the field. Bleeding and sweating off the field gives me all the confidence and motivation I need to clear away distractions.

How about your body? Can you share a few strategies that you use to optimize your body for peak performance?

Jay Dyer and Doug Gizzi are my current strength coaches, and having them on my team has been pivotal in my success on the field. As I have become older and a veteran of the game I have put a strong emphasis on rest, recovery and mobility, and my nutrition and supplement routine has become focused on supporting my body’s ability to recover from what I put it through. I am a huge advocate for post-workout smoothies, and I have experienced many benefits from adding Sun Chlorella’s performance-improving powder to my routine. Sun Chlorella powders include nucleic acids, iron, antioxidants like beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, active B12, chlorophyll, and Chlorella Growth Factor, it’s my secret sauce for recovering quickly. The nucleic acids in Chlorella Growth Factor can help reduce the amount of recovery time between your workouts by aiding in tissue repair, and Sun Chlorella’s products have supported me in increasing my stamina and aerobic endurance, while regenerating muscle tissue from my workouts. Basically helping my body gain from the work I put in, faster. Mike Giunta and Chelsea Ortega at Evolution fit in LA have been an amazing addition to my offseason training and between my training and my nutrition routine, I believe I will continue to prolong my career into my late thirties, on the older side for a lacrosse player.

These ideas are excellent, but for most of us in order for them to become integrated into our lives and really put them to use, we have to turn them into habits and make them become ‘second nature’. Has this been true in your life? How have habits played a role in your success?

Building healthy and consistent habits and being dedicated to the “suck” has been why I am one of the best at my position. The suck is the weight room and the stuff that is hard to do off the field that makes you the best version of yourself…I am married to that shit! It is in my DNA and no one outworks me in this sport and I honestly believe that. The tough road I have had to get to where I am is the reason for my mindset. Embrace the SUCK!

Can you share some of the strategies you have used to turn the ideas above into habits? What is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance? How can one stop bad habits?

I tell myself every morning when I wake up “it’s time to go to work” “someone wants what you have’’ and saying things like this inside my head motivates me to be the best and outwork every single person next to me. Coach Berkman, my college coach, always said “outwork the guy next to you” I live by that every day. Simply put…It is easy to get into bad habits because that is the easy road…take the high road, the one that is less traveled. Instead of the laid out obvious path take the less traveled one that is how you become the best.

As a high performance athlete, you likely experience times when things are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a mind state of Flow more often in our lives?

I think getting into a flow state starts with your preparation off the field. Getting into a healthy diet, a great workout program gets me into my flow state. Positive thinking is another thing I use to get into a flow statue on the field. Things don’t always go your way, but if you remain positive and keep pushing things will start to flow for you. This is true in sports and life.

Do you have any meditation practices that you use to help you in your life? We’d love to hear about it.

I use the Calm app before bed and when I wake up. Before games I usually close my eyes and block out all the noise and distractions and get into the zone and that prepares me for competition and the hardships that I will face.

Many of us are limited by our self talk, or by negative mind chatter, such as regrets, and feelings of inferiority. Do you have any suggestions about how to “change the channel” of our thoughts? What is the best way to change our thoughts?

When I was younger I would often let the negative thoughts get to me and start to leak self doubt in my mind. Constant positive thinking when things are going wrong are key. If you believe in yourself and your abilities that is all you need. Think positively and the rest will take care of itself. Forget about mistakes and focus on the next play.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are by all accounts a very successful person. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I think spreading and telling people my story motivates people. I have had the untraditional road to get to where I am today. I wasn’t recruited to play college, I played Division III, I wasn’t good enough for D1, I was the very last pick in the Pro draft, Writers and critics were always against me for making Team USA, and all that pushed me to become the best. I think my story relates to more people because everyone isn’t the top 1% and the best. I think a lot of people given my path would and did give up. Sharing my story says otherwise and I hope it helps anyone who hears it.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“Respect isn’t given, it’s earned” — Brian Dawkins

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