Student-athlete. That role contains two parts. The NCAA will say its players are students before they are athletes, but the ideal student-athlete excels at both. For Plattsburgh State men’s lacrosse captain Nick Della Ratta, that has been the objective from the beginning.
The junior finance and economics double major with a minor in accounting is consistently playing well on the lacrosse field while also boasting a 3.90 overall GPA, including 4.0 each semester of his sophomore year.
“I enjoy studying and getting better not just on the field, but also off the field,” Della Ratta said. “I see the future, and I see lacrosse has an end date. You have to be prepared for what comes next.”
Della Ratta, who dreams of working for a major bank like J.P. Morgan or Deutsche Bank, will spend this summer interning with IBM’s Mergers and Acquisitions team.
“I’ll have a week or two of summer, and then I’ll be right back into again,” Della Ratta said.
Della Ratta describes himself as a “people person” and hopes to use that skill in his future career in the financial industry.
“If I can get into that, I can use my people skills to help people with their finances,” Della Ratta said.
With success on and off the field, PSUC head coach Joe May believes that Della Ratta is “the very definition” of the quintissential student-athlete.
“He’s an exceptional role model for everybody,” May said. “He shows up to class like somebody else is going to get the internship or job that he wants. He shows up to practice like somebody is going to take his spot on the field. He shows up on game day like somebody is going to outwork him. He just never lets that happen.”
Della Ratta’s decision to major in finance and economics was “shocking” to his parents, Carol and Ralph Della Ratta, because the entire family in involved in health care—Carol Della Ratta is a department chair and clinical associate professor at Stony Brook University’s School of Nursing.
Their son’s decision to play NCAA lacrosse, however, was no surprise. Della Ratta began playing the sport in kindergarten, although the first equipment he used was certainly atypical.
“It was Nick’s idea to play lacrosse when he met a pre-k classmate who had a lacrosse stick,” Carol Della Ratta said. “His first ‘lacrosse stick’ was homemade by his 8-year old sister.”
Della Ratta stressed that the decision to begin playing that year was very important in his life.
“I definitely attribute my getting to where I am today to the fact that I started so young,” Della Ratta said. “I was really able to hone my craft at such a young age.”
Prior to joining the Cardinals, Della Ratta played for St. Anthony’s High School, winners of nine Catholic High School Athletic Association championships since the year 2000.
“St. Anthony’s hold a special place in my heart,” Della Ratta said. “It’s really awesome to be a part of something that big. In the school, lacrosse is kind of the end-all-be-all. If you’re playing well, everyone will congratulate you. If you’re not, you will hear it from the teachers and everyone at the school.”
College recruitment began in sophomore year, when Della Ratta garnered interest from Division I programs Manhattan College and Lehigh University. However, he decided that Division III was a better fit.
May attempted to recruit Della Ratta at that time, although it was for his previous employer, Ohio Wesleyan University. Former PSUC head coach Ryan Cavanagh successfully brought the defensive midfielder to Plattsburgh.
Della Ratta recalls making his decision while walking by Hawkins Pond during one visit to the PSUC campus.
“We were thrilled because Nick made the decision on his own with very mature interactions with the lacrosse coaches,” Ralph Della Ratta said. “Each of us loved being on campus during his visit day.”
Della Ratta’s academic and athletic success started in his very first year. While adapting to the demands of the college classroom at the same time as adjusting to college lacrosse was difficult, it was a turning point for him.
“It was the fact that I was thrown into the mix, and I was made to develop my time-management skills,” Della Ratta said.
Della Ratta established certain habits that he credits with his performance in the classroom.
“It’s the little hours between class,” Della Ratta said. “For most students, that isn’t huge. It might be a nap or some TV, but for us student-athletes, it has to be getting some school work done and getting ready for practice later that day.”
In practice, this means that Della Ratta can be seen taking advantage of the wifi available on the team bus during road trips to catch up on homework.
“I do that so that, once we get to the hotel, I can be mentally preparing and getting ready for that game the next day.”
In lacrosse, players on successful teams have an even greater challenge academically. While winter sports have playoffs around spring break, spring sports’ postseasons tend to line up near final exams. This is true for PSUC’s men’s lacrosse, who travel tomorrow to Cortland for the SUNYAC championship game.
“With finals coming up, everyone knows that it’s a big time of year, but it’s also the most important time for our season,” Della Ratta said. “What I’ve been doing is trying to get my studying and everything laid out so I can get ahead of schedule.”
From the coach’s perspective, May believes Della Ratta has found a key element to success on the field, in the classroom and in life: the maturity it takes to perform well when people are scrutinizing every success and failure.
“It’s tough for a lot of guys to find that,” May said. “The sooner they find that maturity, the better they do on the field.”
Email Nathanael LePage at email@example.com