By Tiffany Merlo Phelps
After trying many different sports, Matt Greco fell in love with playing lacrosse when he was eight years old. He first started playing in the Ponte Vedra Athletic Association (PVAA) Riptide Lacrosse Club, a recreation league, because of all the excitement surrounding the sport. In 2012, Greco’s dad, Chris Greco, became president of PVAA Riptide Lacrosse, working to grow the program in Ponte Vedra Beach. Chris, who also coaches at PVAA Riptide Lacrosse, played club lacrosse at Boston College. Matt played for Riptide through the eighth grade (it ends at this grade), and then joined the Ponte Vedra High lacrosse team, the PVAA Jaws boys’ travel lacrosse, and he was selected to play for the Florida Crabs (the state team). Now 18 years old and a Ponte Vedra High senior, Greco continues to play for all three teams in the “attack” position, while managing his school schedule, working out, volunteering, giving private lacrosse lessons to young players and working a part-time job.
While playing lacrosse over the years, Matt noticed some discrepancies between teams when it came to equipment. Some economically disadvantaged schools had players sharing equipment, and some had ill fitting gear. With helmets costing $350, gloves $150, elbow pads $100, chest protectors $150 and the mesh and stick $300, Matt said that he knew he had to do something to help. So, he started “Play it Forward” during his sophomore year, collecting gently used gear from his teammates. The gear is then given away to those in need both locally in Jacksonville and internationally in Kenya. He has collected $4,000 worth of gear to date which has been donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Kids Lacrosse the World and River City Lacrosse. These organizations make sure the gear is given to those who most need it. Matt plans to pass “Play it Forward” to little brother Luke Greco (currently a sophomore and a lacrosse player) next year.
Q: Why was it important to you to start Play it Forward?
A: Since every year we get new gear, I noticed how much is going to waste. I began to feel that the old gear that was still in good shape needed to be given to other people. Lacrosse has given me a lot of opportunities. I have made so many friends through the sport, and I have developed a lot as a person by playing lacrosse. So, I wanted to give that back to other people. Lacrosse has connected me to the lives of others across the globe and brought social justice to kids who deserve to play this amazing sport.
Q: What other activities are you involved in at Ponte Vedra High?
A: I am in the Honors Society, the LINK Crew, the Ultimate Frisbee Club, BEAM, and I am president of the Young Investors Club. For the Young Investors Club, I want to focus this year on investors and entrepreneurs, have guest speakers and make it more into a life skills class.
Q: What field do you want to pursue in college, and will you play lacrosse?
A: I am interested in going into sports law. It ties in well with my interests, and I have always wanted to work in sports management or as a lawyer, and that field is the best of both worlds. I would also like to play club lacrosse in college.
Q: What advice do you have for younger players?
A: Try all positions at a young age until you find the one that is perfect for you. Also, don’t get discouraged if something doesn’t go your way. Just use that as motivation to improve your game.
Q: What principle guides you in life?
A: Everything happens for a reason. Even if something negative happens, I think about it as motivation for the positive outcome of that.
Author’s note: To donate gently used gear to Matt Greco, email him at email@example.com or go to playitforwardLAX.com.
Photo courtesy Kristina Greco