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Dan Lomas: Adversity Has Never Stood in His Way

On July 27th, 2021, Lomas tore his Achilles. Less than 8 months later, he made a miraculous return to the National Lacrosse League.

Professional lacrosse player Dan Lomas sits down for an exclusive interview with Joker Mag – the home of the underdog.
Credit-New York Riptide/NLL/Joker Mag

Dan Lomas has been on both sides of adversity. On July 27th, 2021, Lomas tore his Achilles, a devastating injury that required surgery less than two weeks later.

Through the support, encouragement, and care of friends, family, doctors, trainers, and teammates, Lomas made his return to the lacrosse field on March 5 – less than eight months after an injury that takes most at least a year to recover from.

But as Lomas himself was told, “standard recoveries are for standard people.”

Building Back Businesses

Dan Lomas salutes the National Lacrosse League crowd after scoring a goal in his return
Credit-New York Riptide/NLL

When the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on Lomas’ home province of Ontario, it lit a spark in him.

“It was frustration early on, not understanding why certain [places] were deemed that they couldn’t function,” said Lomas.

Together with his longtime trainer, Lomas founded Fund The Grind, a fundraiser to raise money for small businesses in Ontario hit hard by the ramifications of the pandemic.

The end result? Visiting local businesses months later to see them thriving once again. But Lomas was selflessly quick to deflect credit from himself.

“I saw [the fundraiser] as creating a platform so everyone else could so something good,” he remarked.

“While we were maybe able to help the businesses get through a couple of tough months, they were then able to grind through the rest.”

Having friends that were involved in the food business – both as restaurant owners and bartenders – seeing those close to him struggle beyond their control didn’t set well with the Ontario native.

Determined to make a change for the better, Lomas’ initiative brought hope during a time of despair.

“I needed something to focus on when life was pretty dark.”

Panther Pride

Lomas is no stranger to “the grind”. Well before he played for the NLL’s New York Riptide, he was one of three dozen freshmen starting out on High Point University’s lacrosse team, the program’s first year at the Division I level.

With a roster mostly of inexperienced student-athletes fresh out of high school, Lomas and his teammates had to grow up quick, not just on the field – but as young men and leaders – in order to really make their mark.

In addition to balancing the usual rigors of college life, Lomas soared on the field. His 36 goals led the team, while he started in all 15 games on the Panthers schedule.

Not to mention, Lomas retained a clear goal in sight: to become a professional lacrosse player.

“Pushing each other every day on the field [to be better] and not taking a day off when you’re tired, that makes you grow up pretty quickly.”

Three years later, Lomas cemented himself as one of the premier players in High Point program history.

He went on to be a three-time team captain, was named Southern Conference Offensive Player of the Year as a junior, and left school as its all-time leader in goals (159).

Off the field, Lomas was a leader for the university – someone who prided himself on being more than just a lacrosse player, while promoting positive publicity for his team as well.

Aiming to break the stereotype of what people perceived lacrosse players to be, he had a clear goal in mind:

“We wanted to show the campus that we could be a rallying point for the student body, as well as be a group that was fun to watch and fun to be around.”

“90% Mental, 10% Physical”

Wearing the Riptide's white jersey, Dan Lomas gets open for a pass.
Credit-New York Riptide/NLL

The media loves to discuss the narrative of how difficult it is for athletes in making the leap from college to the pros. Typically, the toughest part is simply thought to be the sheer improvement of talent at the next level.

Not as frequently discussed is the mental side of sports. Lomas has long been an advocate for mental health. Why? He’s experienced the struggles first hand.

“My second year in Rochester, and then in Vancouver, I was doubting my ability to play the game,” recalled Lomas, who entered the National Lacrosse League as a highly-touted player.

“And because I linked my identity to that, I thought I was nothing without sports.”

“It was a weight off my shoulders when I could speak about those [mental health] struggles, and knowing there are other guys on the team or peers that can talk you through [that time].”

A few years and a fresh start later, Lomas become a juggernaut in New York. In his first season with the Riptide, he scored 21 goals, while dishing out 20 assists.

After a canceled season due to the pandemic, Lomas was primed to shine again in Nassau County when the Riptide began their season in December 2021.

Then, July 27th rolled around.

The Achilles Chronicles

New York Riptide forward takes possession in the corner during an NLL matchup.
Credit-New York Riptide/NLL

The first thought that went through Lomas’ head is how much work he’d have to put in just to get back to the level he was at.

During a standard summer league game, a wrong step turned into an Achilles tear – an injury Lomas knew meant a long road ahead.

Based on doctors’ comments and what he knew about the injury from other teammates, the Riptide star was looking at a year off the field at least.

“I read an article of another athlete that had come back [from the same injury] after seven months,” said Lomas. “I looked at our schedule, and around seven months later we’d be playing a game on March 5th – in Hamilton.”

Lomas’ hometown of Burlington, Ontario lies less than 20 kilometers north of Hamilton.

With his mobility limited during recovery, Lomas, at 28-year- old, moved back into his parents’ house.

While the manner in which he navigated from place to place looked a bit different, his daily range of activities – including upper body workouts at the gym – continued at its normal pace.

“[Coming back from the injury] is one of those things that is impossible to do alone; you have to have a support group with you,” said Lomas. “Having that support can lift your spirits when things can seem to be pretty down.”

Through the months of rehabbing his injury, Lomas played his own role in lifting the spirits of others. The grueling months spent getting back onto the lacrosse field saw Lomas log his new journey through The Achilles Chronicles – a journal in which he put pen to paper of what his daily recovery journey was like.

“We created a mini therapy group out of it,” said Lomas, referring to both The Achilles Chronicles, as well as mentoring numerous younger lacrosse players who were dealing with similar injuries.

“While mental health is so tied to injury, it’s rarely spoken about. So I think it’s important to have those conversations.”

Even on the toughest of days of rehab, Lomas pushed himself to stay motivated. His goal was always in sight.

Despite some days not being able to get out of bed, it was never an option to not be on the field by the eight-month mark.

“I have to convince myself that this is the only option…I can’t think about taking the easy way out,” he recalled.

Paranoia = Fuel

Riptide forward Dan Lomas fires a shot on goal during a National Lacrosse League game
Credit-New York Riptide/NLL

Lomas has a unique approach to what the underdog mentality means to him.

Picture this: there’s a top junior prospect primed to enter the NLL, and he has a good chance of ending up on the Riptide as well.

The thought of being replaced in the lineup? Lomas could not fathom it.

“If [that prospect] did one set in the gym today, then I’m going to do three sets to keep my job and get better,” he said. “Maybe they skipped rehab one or two days, so I’m going to rehab [my injury] every day, maybe even twice a day.”

“It can apply to anything. Even if you’re overlooked for years, you have to embrace the sense that everyone around you is doing something you’re not, and take what you want.”

On March 5th, 2022 – 221 days after an injury that could have derailed his career – Lomas was back on the field for the Riptide.

He scored three goals. Mere minutes from the house where he spent grueling hours working to get to this very point.

“I’m gonna do everything right along the way to get there,” Lomas said of his thought process in attempting his comeback.

On March 5th, Lomas got there.

Comeback complete – but far from over.

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Written By

Muhlenberg College alum based in New York City. Bylines at Joker Mag, Elite Sports NY, and The Apple.

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