5 Lessons Young Athletes Learn From Lacrosse
Lacrosse, the fastest sport on two feet, is growing even faster across the USA than the pace of play. As a former player and current coach, it’s easy for me to see why. Scores are usually in the 8-15 range, making it exciting and action-packed, there’s very little stopping time during games, you can play in almost any weather, and best of all, it’s incredibly fun.
Lacrosse is an awesome combination of soccer-style continuous play, basketball strategy and stick skills like hockey. In addition to all of those reasons to play, here are some life skills that young boys and girls can learn from the sport, too.
A lacrosse player is only as good as his or her stick skills. You’ll have a hard time being successful if passing, catching and cradling aren’t as natural as chewing gum and walking. Lacrosse rewards dedicated athletes who love stickwork and put in the time to hone their skills. I used to bring my stick to school and practice cradling as I walked across campus. Any spare time I had was spent playing wall ball to practice passing and catching.
As a coach, it’s immediately obvious on Monday which players put in the time over the weekend and which ones are just now bringing their stick out of their bag.
Lacrosse isn’t a sport you can play as a one-person army. Why? Because it’s too easy for the defense to defend a single threat. You must rely on your teammates to create off-ball offense, pass the ball, communicate to clear the ball, scrap hard for ground balls and support each other on defense. The best players make other players around them better.
Lacrosse teams have three units: attack (offense), defense and midfield (both offense and defense). Because lacrosse is a fluid and dynamic sport with few in-game stoppages, players must be trusted to make good on-field decisions and communicate between units. This requires leaders on each unit to carry out the mission of the team as the ball moves from defense to offense and back again.
Lacrosse is one of the only sports that has a faceoff after every goal. This means that teams have a 50/50 shot at possession and can go on runs of consecutive goals. This can put the other team in a very pressured situation to win the next faceoff and stop the run. Players need to stay cool and keep persevering through difficult situations.
Lacrosse requires intense communication both within and between units. Famed Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietremala says, “a quiet defense is a dead defense.” Players should be constantly chattering about who is guarding the ball, who is that player’s backup and how they’re countering the offense. It is the offense’s responsibility to control the tempo of the game by recognizing when the defense needs to rest and when to push for a quick-strike goal. All ten players must be on the same page for the team strategy to be accomplished.
Lacrosse practice rarely ever felt like real practice to me, because it was always so much fun to get out and play. Even most drills involve some element of playing. Lacrosse’s main season is spring, and you can find opportunities to play with club and clinic organizations every fall and summer. Check out US-Lacrosse for some great starting resources and look for a program near you to start playing!
Will Ruth coaches high school lacrosse and men’s collegiate rowing. He holds certifications in strength and conditioning, a BS in kinesiology with an emphasis in sport psychology, and is pursuing an MA in Sport Coaching degree from the University of Denver. Will is a former rower and lacrosse player and currently competes in the sport of strongman. More of Will’s written work, podcasts, and strength and conditioning resources can be found on his website, www.strengthcoachwill.com.