Lacrosse Unlimited Founder, Marketing Coordinator Share Charger Connection and Passion for Lax
After earning her degree, Marina Skelly ’22 began her career at Lacrosse Unlimited, a leading lacrosse retailer. Her boss, the founder and CEO, is also a University of New Haven alum and former member of the Chargers lacrosse team.
January 9, 2023
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
When Marina Skelly ’22 was growing up, she came home from school one day to find her mom had signed her up to play lacrosse. So began her passion for the sport that she went on to play as a Charger – and has now become a central focus of her career.
As a member of the Chargers lacrosse team, Skelly, who played midfield, was named to the Northeast-10 All-Conference Second Team in 2022. She says playing with her teammates at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, was her favorite memory of her time at the University, and she calls playing for the University “one of the best decisions I have made.
“I made connections with not only my teammates, but with my coaches, trainers, people who worked at the games, and so many others,” said Skelly, who earned a degree in marketing. “Being a college athlete can be rather stressful, so when you are able to surround yourself with people who understand, it takes a weight off your shoulders. Lacrosse gave me a sense of structure that I use in all aspects of my life now, and a plus is that I am 15 minutes early to every event now.”
Now a marketing coordinator for Lacrosse Unlimited, a lacrosse retailer, Skelly handles communications with store managers, vendors, and management. Based at the retailer’s Edgewood, New York headquarters, she organizes a monthly marketing calendar and helps develop social media content. She says she draws on what she learned at the University every day, including when she uses Excel and the terminology she learned in her classes, including digital marketing, business finance, and advertising and promotion.
“Being familiar with crucial elements of the profession you want to pursue helps you feel more comfortable and secure even when entering a new work environment,” she said. “Though it might not feel all that glamorous while in class, it goes a long way. A lot further than you think.”
‘We shared the same ethos’
When she’d originally emailed her resume, Skelly had been looking for a retail position. But staff noticed she had significant marketing experience, which they were looking for. Upon noticing she was a University of New Haven alum, a staff member forwarded her resume to the founder and CEO, Joe DeSimone ’90. Though he doesn’t typically handle hiring, he reached out to Skelly personally.
“We take a lot of pride in hiring people out of college and helping them get their first work experience,” he said. “We particularly love athletes because they understand teamwork and the dynamics of working with groups of people to accomplish goals. Hiring Marina was definitely special for me in that I felt like we shared the same ethos.”
‘I made friends for life’
DeSimone and Skelly had quite a bit in common as fellow alumni. Passionate about lacrosse, DeSimone also played for the University, serving as a captain for two years. It was during his time as a student-athlete that he learned how to string a lacrosse stick, soon becoming someone his teammates turned to whenever someone needed a stick.
Drawing on his retail background (he worked with his brother at a sneaker store called The Athlete’s Foot), DeSimone also became the go-to person for ordering apparel and other gear for the team. Though he hadn’t originally planned to open a lacrosse store, he opened Lacrosse Unlimited’s first location in Hauppauge, NY, in 1990. The retailer has grown to include 50 stores in more than a dozen states.
“While I was at the University, we had three coaches over four years,” he said. “John Hoh, my first coach, was a huge influence in my life. He had a relentless work ethic and created a level of expectation he ingrained in our team to ‘be the best.’ We had that printed on our gear, and it stuck with me through life.”
DeSimone has fond memories of his time at the University and as a member of the lacrosse team. As a Charger, he became part of a tight-knit community – one he is still a part of.
“The people at the University of New Haven are special,” he said. “I loved the small community and I loved athletics. While I was there, we supported all the sports teams, and they supported ours. I made friends for life, and we still communicate almost daily on a group text of about 20 people and counting.”
‘Networking is often the foundation’
For Skelly, it was those connections that have been especially valuable. One of her professors, Dr. Brian Marks, helped her land her internship with Force3 Pro Gear, an online sporting goods store based in Stratford, Conn. It was an invaluable opportunity for her to gain experience doing market research and creating a pitch deck for investors, stakeholders, and management. She encourages current students to network as much as possible.
"My advice to students would be to make connections with everyone, especially your professors,” she said. “Networking is often the foundation for job exposure, and chances are they can set you up with a job or know someone who can help get you one. There are professors I still talk to even from my sophomore year.”