After Maryland men’s lacrosse midfielder Ben Chisolm donned his gear before practice on Oct. 13, 2014, he received an unexpected call concerning his father, Gwyn Chisolm.
Ben Chisolm’s older brother informed him their father was dead. While the 53-year-old had battled heart problems and been in and out of the hospital, the news surprised Chisolm, a freshman at the time.
Chisolm threw his training equipment to the ground, descended the stairs of the Varsity Team House and cried. Then, midfielder Nick Manis, who grew up near Chisolm’s hometown of Davidsonville, hugged him and told him the squad supported him.
“I’ll never forget that moment,” Chisolm said. “I was in one of the worst places I’ve ever been, and he was there to give me support.”
This season, Chisolm continues to hold the pain of losing his father, whom he called one of his greatest motivators. But with the support of his mother and three siblings, as well as his teammates, he’s carved a role as a second-line midfielder after three years on the scout team. He’ll look to continue progressing when the Terps play for their second consecutive Big Ten tournament title this weekend.
“It hasn’t happened easily for him,” coach John Tillman said. “He is a major success story. Just how hard he’s worked and the sacrifices he’s made to be where he is … to me is pretty awesome.”
Chisolm shared a close relationship with his father. They built their bond during summer family fishing trips on the Chesapeake Bay.
His father came to almost all of his lacrosse games when he was growing up. Often, he critiqued Chisolm’s on-field performances, trying to ensure his son was grateful for the opportunity to play.
After his father’s death, Chisolm and his relatives continued to be grateful, making an effort to cherish each other. Chisolm’s older brother, mother and sister have tried to attend more of his games over the past three years.
“It brought our family a lot closer together,” Chisolm said. “Our family started talking every day … just to make sure we were OK and no one was allowed to be left behind.”
While Chisolm’s heartbreak took a toll, he also struggled to obtain playing time. As one of the smallest players on the squad when he arrived at Maryland, he remembered getting “bullied on the field.”
That lack of physicality forced him to play on the scout team for his first three campaigns. He made just 16 of 56 appearances and scored three goals during that span.
But in practice, where Chisolm helped the starters prepare for their opponents, he improved at dodging and drawing defenders out of position.
While he admitted facing Maryland’s top defenders was a challenge, going up against All-Americans such as defensive midfielder Isaiah Davis-Allen and defender Tim Muller helped him grow.
“It helps you build the confidence you need for when you do get on the field,” Chisolm said. “If you beat one of those guys, it’s nothing light. They’re some of the best [defenders] in the nation.”
In his senior season, Chisolm has ridden his improved dodging skills and stronger physique to better results on the field. He’s played in all 13 games, setting career highs in goals (6) and assists (4).
Attackman Matt Rambo, who lived with Chisolm when his father died and is one of Chisolm’s best friends, views the fourth-year player as an inspirational figure.
“He’s a great guy to look at if you don’t play as a freshman or a sophomore,” Rambo said. “You can always look at him as an example and say, ‘Look at Ben Chisolm. He didn’t play his first few years. Now he’s on the second line [making an impact].'”
Though Chisolm’s father attended most of his lacrosse games growing up, he never witnessed his son play at Maryland due to various sicknesses. He didn’t get to see Chisolm experience the senior season he had always dreamed about.
But Chisolm is still playing for his dad as he’s found success.
“This year and last year, I think about how he’s able to watch us,” Chisolm said. “I think a lot about him looking down on us and just being there.”