Grieving the loss of a loved one is one of the most difficult circumstances we as humans have to cope with. Often times, during the mourning process we find clarity and comfort in the importance of our families.
This fall, Brendan Hynes lost his grandfather rather unexpectedly.
Hynes was very close with his grandfather, and he wanted to do something to pay a tribute to him so he dedicated his senior season with the University of Richmond men’s lacrosse program to him.
Family has always been a big part of Hynes’ life. Growing up with four siblings instills competition with everything. Brendan knows this to be true all too well. He is the second of five children to Kerril and Mary Ann Hynes.
The competition between the Hynes children started in simple backyard games, and fueled a fire in all of them, especially Brendan.
“Someone would always get hurt – an elbow in the face, a bloody nose, there was always something,” Hynes laughed.
The competitive drive in all of them didn’t stop at the backyard games; it carried over into the classroom too. Growing up in Mahopac, N.Y., Hynes and his siblings all had the same teachers in school.
“We would always compare to see who did better in the class,” he said. “We would just make fun of the other ones to make us feel like we were better, but it’s all in fun, never anything serious.”
Growing up in a big family draws similar attributes to being a part of a team. The Hynes’ obviously learned to be competitive and the fight to win from driveway basketball games to family card games.
“I think I hate losing more than I like winning, so I have the mentality to do anything possible to win,” he said.
Another key trait Hynes learned was the importance of preparation. He would play basketball with his dad, who at the time was a lot bigger and stronger than he was.
“I struggled with that, but I tried to find ways that I could beat him at his weaknesses, and that comes with preparing,” he said. “You aren’t going to be great right away. If you’re not focused on preparing, you aren’t going to be successful.”
Hynes, along with his siblings, took the competitiveness they learned growing up to play sports at the collegiate level. His older sister, Caitlin, played lacrosse at Manhattan, and is now in her second year of graduate school for physical therapy. His sister, Mairead, is a junior on the women’s basketball team at Connecticut College. Hynes’ brother, Aidan, is a freshman on the lacrosse team at Yale, and his youngest sister is a junior at Mahopac High School and plays volleyball, basketball and lacrosse.
Like many of the Spider Lacrosse student-athletes Head Coach Dan Chemotti has recruited, Hynes played multiple sports when he was younger.
Much like his father, who played collegiate soccer, Hynes started playing up until the fall of his junior year of high school when he switched to football. He also played basketball, and of course lacrosse. At Mahopac High School, Hynes was a two-time All-League and All-Second honoree in lacrosse while also earning Second Team All-Star honors in basketball.
“Every sport I’ve done has definitely helped me in some way,” he said. “Being a part of a team you learn how to communicate with your teammates. I know how important a team is – in order to be successful it has to be a team effort. On the field, footwork is a huge part of it. Every sport I played required good footwork, especially basketball because it required a lot more cutting and is more fast-paced.”
Having the opportunity to play multiple sports allowed Hynes to develop instincts that he may not have gotten as a single-sport athlete. Those instincts really helped the 2015 Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year and the two-time SoCon First Team honoree hone in on his skills on the lacrosse field.
“It started in high school, one of my coaches would always joke around and say ‘I’m not smart in the classroom but I’m AP in LAX,’ Hynes laughed. “You have to read the offense and anticipate what they are going to do, and I realized how important that was. So that has really stuck with me since high school. It really all just comes from preparation, knowing the sets of the offense and what they like to do, along with key personnel. What moves certain guys like to do – if they like dodging more or are more of a passer, and who they like to pass to – that’s what I look for and it’s definitely helped me. I rely on that a lot more now than I used to.”
Today, Hynes has an outside chance to break the NCAA caused turnover record, which stands at 158. He currently leads the country with 3.1 caused turnovers per game, and is just one of two players to ever reach 140 caused turnovers in NCAA history.
On Saturday mornings when he wakes up, the switch flips and he is locked in with his mind set on one mission –win.
“I’ve been able to joke around and not take things too seriously. That’s just the person I am, I can’t be serious all the time,” Hynes said. “I need to joke around and have fun with the guys, and you can definitely see that during the week more – it’s just me staying loose and joking around and keeping everyone on the team loose and excited for the game. As soon as Saturday hits I know there’s no time for that, I have to put all my thoughts and energy into the game.”
Prior to the opening face-off, Hynes can typically be seen listening to music and keeping to himself, but when it comes time to pump-up the Spiders, he is the first guy in the huddle.
Hynes, is one of the pioneering members of the first Spider Lacrosse class, so when he came to Richmond the leadership opportunities were in abundance.
“When I was in high school, especially as a freshman and sophomore, there were always older guys that kind of gave a speech to get everyone going before the game. Coming to Richmond, there were no upperclassmen to do that. So I saw an opportunity for me to step into that role,” he said. “I probably wasn’t as vocal and loud my freshmen year. I was more likely to talk to individuals and smaller groups about what we really needed to focus on during the game. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve built up a lot more confidence and trust in the guys.”
As Hynes’ final season with the Spiders is nearing, he is looking to all the possibilities that lie ahead. One possible option is to coach, as over the last few summers, he has spent time coaching a couple youth teams.
“When I was younger a bunch of older guys would come back and help with my team, and I always looked up to them,” he said. “I knew I wanted to be that guy when I grew, so I definitely plan on continuing that.”
Among the other possibilities for Hynes are to join the business world or continue playing lacrosse.
His grandfather, who he dedicated his final season to, was born and raised in Ireland, and Hynes, is in the process of obtaining dual citizenship. If granted citizenship in Ireland, Hynes plans to try out for the national team that will compete in the World Games.
“I’d definitely love to continue playing lacrosse,” he said. “Lacrosse isn’t as popular over in Ireland, but I’d love to spread the game and emerge myself in the culture.”
That would be the ultimate tribute to Hynes’ grandfather, to play for his home country.