Player Insight: Charlie Bertrand Is Making A Name For Himself Inside The Box

Confidence can transform an ordinary athlete into an extraordinary one. It can all change in a flash.

Growing up in Baldwinsville, New York, a suburb outside of Syracuse, Charlie Bertrand had known about box lacrosse, but had never played more than a hybrid pick-up version of the game.

Through his youth, Bertrand excelled in the field game. In high school, Bertrand was named a Central New York Counties League (CNYCL) First Team All-League player, was captain of his team during his junior and senior seasons and was even named Baldwinsville Male Athlete of the Year. He also was an excellent hockey player.

In his collegiate years, Bertrand continued to perform at an elite level. During his four years at Merrimack College, he was a scoring machine, netting 210 goals in 58 games.  He was named an USILA All-American three time and won two NCAA Division II Championships with the Warriors before transferring to the University of Virginia where he would win an NCAA Division I lacrosse title.

While at Merrimack, Bertrand’s Offensive Coordinator, Kyle Smith, had his players watch box lacrosse games in the hope that they would pick up skills and techniques to use in the field game. You see it more and more that field coaches are finding ways to implement box lacrosse strategies in the field game.

These were the first real seeds sown to nurture Bertrand’s box abilities. Without them, who knows what would’ve come of his box lacrosse career, if anything. At this point of his field career, Bertrand had already built an impressive resume; his confidence was growing. But, he wasn’t done yet.

During his rookie season in the Premier Lacrosse League in 2021 with Redwoods LC, Bertrand scored 6 goals in 6 games – this was the first time he was playing against the best field lacrosse players in the world. Not bad for a rookie.

Nine days following his final PLL game that year, Bertrand was signed to the new Rochester Knighthawks. Let’s take a step back for a moment, however, because Bertrand’s NLL dreams began many months before the signing.

As a developing, skilled lefty shooter with above-average strength and size, Bertrand was interested in seeing what he could make of himself in the box game. The 2021 NLL Entry Draft was nearing and there was a chance that Bertrand might get drafted based on what he showcased in the field game. However, it wasn’t to be, and that was ok. Bertrand knew that his lack of box experience could significantly affect his ability to play in the NLL.

“On draft day, I was hoping to hear my name called, but I knew the possibilities were probably slim because I had a lack of box experience. I had talked with a couple of teams, and they showed interest, so it was a little bit of a let down not hearing my name called.”

When Bertrand was eventually picked up by the Knighthawks, there was a moment of satisfaction and a sigh of relief, but that was short lived. Now that he was in uncharted waters, Bertrand was hungry to prove what he could do in the box game. He felt like there was a position he could fill on someone’s roster, he just needed the chance to show that taking a chance on him wouldn’t be a mistake.

“Coming into the league, it wasn’t just about proving to other people that I could play, but also proving to myself that I could play,” Bertrand said. “Earning my teammates trust and showing them that I could play was what was most important to me, though.”

“I’m very comfortable handling the ball. I think about the hockey assist and being able to draw attention to myself while I’m dodging and being able to open up my teammates is something that I’m definitely able to bring to the Indoor game. I’m also comfortable with that outside shot, so, coming over top-side, getting my hands free and pick my spot around the goalie is something I pride myself in.”

Bertrand was quick to make a very good impression on his teammates, the coaching staff and the management who had all had his back since the day they signed him. The Baldwinsville native scored 7 goals in his 1st 4 games and had a total of 12 points.

Bertrand stated that everyone in management was motivating and inspiring him to try and be his best box-self. Unfortunately the team finished 4-14 that year, but the foundations that he was starting to build in the box game were invaluable.

“It wasn’t the season that we wanted, but I feel in love with the game,” Bertrand said. I had a ton of fun with the indoor game last season. I know I wanted to keep playing, so I kind of translated that to the outdoor game and it brought more confidence to my game. It made me more comfortable handling the ball, but also playing that inside roll in the PLL with the Redwoods.”

Bertrand finished the 2021-22 NLL season with 13 points and 28 assists. At season’s end, with the NLL’s newest expansion franchise, the Las Vegas Desert Dogs, joining the league, Bertrand was protected from being selected in the Expansion Draft. During the mid-summer draft day in 2022, Bertrand was given a bit of shock when he saw that he was being traded to the Desert Dogs as part of a package that included Connor Fields, Riley Hutchcraft and the Desert Dogs 1st overall selection in the 2022 Entry Draft being sent to the Knighthawks.

While it was definitely a surprise to hear that he’d be switching teams, believe it or not, it actually boosted Bertrand’s confidence.

“Seeing the trade was a little crazy at first, I didn’t know how to take it in,” Bertrand said. “When you start to think about [being traded], there’s a team that wants you there and that makes you want to be there. It said a lot about the coaching staff and it definitely gave me some confidence.”

Bertrand was excited to have another chance to prove to people that he deserved to be in the NLL. He was so grateful that one organization had allowed him to showcase his skills in the box. Now he was being given another shot. He would have to face another hurdle, however, just as this year’s training camp was starting up. In that first weekend of training camp, following a hectic travel itinerary from the East Coast, Bertrand injured his knee.

“It was frustrating, because in that first weekend of camp, you want to prove yourself, but I went down and had to miss the rest of training camp,” Bertrand said. “It’s tough when you’re not on the floor to also be a part of of the team on the floor and be vocal, so I struggled with trying to find out how I fit in without being on the floor.”

After healing up for over a month, Bertrand did make his Desert Dogs debut at the franchise’s home opener. He scored one goal in front of his new home crowd, and what a relief it was. To be back on the floor, feeling close to 100%, it was a good way to start the next phase of his young career. It takes some of the pressure off knowing that he’s been able to help contribute to his team’s battle for victory.

Head Coach Shawn Williams has already earned the respect of the 24-year-old sophomore. So much of Bertrand’s budding confidence has come from the leadership he’s played under and by the front office’s that have made him part of their teams. It has helped boost Bertrand’s confidence even more knowing that he has been selected to be a member of the U.S. national team at the 2023 World Games in San Diego.

He knew this journey into the box game was going to be filled with bumps and bruises as he follows the path to greatness through the valleys and peaks. Bertrand is ready to continue his quest to reach new heights with a healthy body and mind for the remainder of the NLL season. Now, he is more confident than ever that he has made the right decision to make this foray into the box game.

“It’s been quite the journey,” Bertrand said. “I’m certainly grateful for all of the experiences that I’ve had in the last 12 months.”

By Adam Levi