By Paul Lonardo
Cody O’Donnell grew up in Smithfield and played Lacrosse his whole life, starting around four or five years-old. He played soccer and basketball as well, but eventually focused on lacrosse. It became his main sport, and it is something that is in his blood. His father, Steven O’Donnell, played his whole life, and helped start the Northern Rhode Island Lacrosse program, which is very big in Smithfield now. The teams play at Deerfield Park. Cody played Lacrosse there, along with his older brother, before getting into more competitive lacrosse in a summer travel league when he was in middle school.
Cody attended La Salle Academy, where his father has been the lacrosse coach for many years. While playing for his dad, he had hoped they could win a state championship together as father-son, but it did not happen. Ironically, as soon as he graduated in 2011, his dad’s teams at LaSalle have won every year since. Cody still had a great four years for the Rams, helping to lead them to four-straight division titles and a 53-8 record. Cody was named a High School All-American in 2010 and 2011, and he was a two-time first team All-State and All-Division selection. In 2011, he was a national ESPN Lacrosse Showcase participant.
After high school, Cody spent a postgraduate year at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H, where he was the starting longstick midfielder in 2012, helping his team win the Lakes Region Championship.
He earned a lacrosse scholarship to Bryant University in Smithfield, where he ran into some bad luck his freshman year in 2013, breaking his collarbone during his first collegiate game, shortly after scoring his first goal.
There is a lot of contact in lacrosse, and players are permitted to throw a full body check. It’s similar to hockey, only played on a field instead of on ice.
“It can be a rough sport, but it is a very skilled sport, as well,” Cody says.
Due to the injury, he took a red-shirt year, and then played the next four years for the Bulldogs. During this time, Cody began coaching youth teams and clinics, at Next Level Lacrosse in 2013, and for R.I. Bulldogs Lacrosse in 2015.
Cody graduated from Bryant last May with a degree in Communications and a minor in Management, and is working as the Program Director for the RI Bulldogs Lacrosse, which is a working partnership between 401 Next Level LLC & Presslax INC (founded by Mike Pressler, the coach of the Bryant University men’s lacrosse team), whose mission is to grow the sport of lacrosse by helping players improve their game in every aspect, allowing them to have the opportunity to reach not only the next level but beyond.
Wanting to continue playing lacrosse and taking his own ability to the next level, Cody entered his name in the Major League Lacrosse (MLL) draft. After filling out the necessary paperwork and showing up for a tryout to have the coaches evaluate him, he was chosen by the Boston Cannons, one of the original six teams of MLL, a semi-professional field lacrosse league consisting of nine teams in the United States. The league was founded in 1999 and had its inaugural season in 2001.
Cody tried out for several teams but was happy when the Boston team offered him a contract.
“It was a great fit for me,” Cody says, “so I can stay local and still coach and help the kids, help bring some revenue in as well.”
For Cody, as someone who loves the sport, it’s the perfect summer job. Teams play 14 regular-season games from late April to early August, with a four-team playoff for the championship trophy, the Steinfeld Cup. The Cannons home field is Harvard Stadium.
“It’s a pretty good gig, and I still get to play the game that I loved my whole life.”
The MLL is the top lacrosse league in the country, and it is where the best lacrosse players come to play.
“This is an all-time high achievement for me, lacrosse-wise, to play professionally,” Cody says. “I just want to thrive, get a starting role, and play to the best of my ability.”
Cody doesn’t consider himself a flashy player, but he is very aggressive and battles the entire game, refusing to give up until the clock reaches zero.
“I more or less want to make a name for myself, where I came from, and make my parents proud,” Cody says.
No matter what happens in his playing career, Cody sees a future in the sport in some capacity, like his father. Teaching and coaching is something he can see himself doing down the road, even taking over for his dad at LaSalle one day.
“I certainly would enjoy such an opportunity to fill in his roll,” Cody says. “Keep it in the family and keep the legacy going.”
Right now, Cody is focused on helping the Boston Cannons win this season. After training camp at the end of March, their season begins in early April and he is looking forward to the opportunity to show what he can do on the professional level.
Good luck, Cody. Have a great season.