After competing at the highest levels of both the interscholastic (South River High School, 2010 Class 4A state champions) and collegiate (Syracuse University, 2014 NCAA Division I runner-up) versions of girls and women's lacrosse, Natalie Glanell was looking for more ways to express herself athletically after graduating in 2014 from the Central New York school's communication and rhetorical studies program.
"In women's lacrosse, once you're finished playing college, there's not many other places to play," said Glanell, noting that she is looking into the possibility of playing for a four-team, semi-professional women's lacrosse league that is projected to begin play this summer.
There's no need to feel sorry for Glanell, however, who is more than filling the void with a variety of endeavors.
Her energy now goes full throttle into her position in business development with the Lutherville-based Choice One Urgent Care, as an assistant varsity lacrosse coach at Bryn Mawr School and as a Baltimore Ravens cheerleader.
All three passions take up a much of the 24 year-old's time, hours she gives willingly to immerse herself into each one of her pursuits with characteristic dedication and drive.
The gig with the Ravens, goes well beyond the 10-game home season.
Ravens cheerleaders also make as many as 200 appearances a year in the community, according to Rob Tune, the Ravens entertainment and events coordinator.
Those events, like visiting sick kids at the Ronald McDonald House, are among her favorite duties with the Ravens.
Training in competitive athletics began early for Glanell in her native Anne Arundel County, where she said she celebrated her second birthday — and many more after that — at a gymnastics center.
Meanwhile, she also played a ton of lacrosse, and was clearly on track to become a big-time player in high school and beyond.
And that's when Glanell had to make a Sophie's Choice between the two sports, leaving gymnastics behind and moving forward as an elite lacrosse defender.
The choice was a good one, considering the state championship, All-Metro selection and experience playing in the 2010 Under Armour All-America Classic at Towson University's Johnny Unitas Stadium for the South All-Stars the summer before enrolling at Syracuse to play for legendary coach Gary Gait and highly regarded assistant Regy Thorpe.
Moreover, Glanell was named one of the top 25 incoming freshmen by Inside Lacrosse and lived up to that billing by starting 75 games in her Orange career.
"She played on a defense that really worked together as a unit," said her boyfriend, Bobby Eilers, a former Syarcuse midfielder and team co-captain who graduated from the school in 2012. "She's super fast, strong and tenacious. She plays on our (coed) kickball team (at the Merritt Downtown Athletic Club), too."
Drawing on her extensive gymnastics background, Glanell decided to tackle two-day tryouts last March in which she and 32 other women were selected for the Ravens cheerleading squad from a group of approximately 150 other hopefuls.
Her ability to mesh seamlessly with her teammates, as she did while anchoring the Syracuse backline for so long, makes he even more valuable to do "stunts," a term that refers to the more physical form of cheerleading. Stunts often include a pyramid-type of formation that features a flyer (the person on top), bases (holders at the bottom) and front and back spotters. In some cases there may be a single base under the flyer, with a spotter nearby for safety.
Practice sessions can be as long as three hours while the team works on a variety of stunts that feature the flyer, of which Glanell is one, being thrown high enough to execute a full flip before landing safely in the arms of her teammates.
"There are a handful of stunts that we perform, with lots of flipping and twisting in the air," she said. "It's fun stuff."
That's why there is such an emphasis on the team acting as a synchronized unit.
"It's the same concept for both sports," she said. "Whether that means being thrown up into the air or being a starting defender, everyone is counted on to do their role."
She added that the stereotype of cheerleaders being all style and no substance is unfair.
"I get to see both sides, and I don't see any difference," she added. "You're sweaty, bruised and tired after practice, just like lacrosse. The environment and the culture are the same. We're always trying to to advanced stunts, and there are risks with that. It's very technical and takes a lot of mental and physical toughness."
Glanell said her colleagues at Bryn Mawr, head coach Jordy Kirr, fellow assistant Allie Emala and athletics director Tina Veprek have been very supportive of her role with the Ravens.
Her enthusiasm for coaching the Mawrtians with Bryn Mawr alums Kirr and Emala, who had standout lacrosse careers at Georgetown University and Virginia Tech, respectively, is through the roof.
"We're all recently out of college, and we have a fresh perspective," Glanell said. "I just love coaching with Jordy and Allie, and coaching the girls is just so much fun. I think we're going to have a good year."