Welcome to A Lacrosse Weekend, my weekly compilation of thoughts, ideas, stories, myths truths about the great game of lacrosse. I hope you enjoy it!
The National Lacrosse League
The NLL kicks off the 2018-2019 season today! I love box lacrosse. I love NLL Lacrosse. I am mesmerized by the skill, creativity, toughness, and teamwork in this league. I literally never get sick of watching NLL Lacrosse. In honor of NLL "Opening Day" I'm dedicating today's blog to box lacrosse!
I get so many emails from folks with questions about box lacrosse. The topic comes up in my Phi-Lacrosse-ophy Podcast regularly, like it did this past week with John's Hopkins Head Coach, Dave Pietramala, where Petro details what he loves about recruiting Canadian box lacrosse players. Listen here!
In a 2011 study of DI Lacrosse scoring by Mike Mauboussin, Mike found that Canadians shooting percentage was 35% over a six year period while their US counterparts was 28%. (listen to the Podcast I did with Mike where he details his study). This is a massive statistical difference that we should all think long and hard about! Another fact: five of the top 10 scorers of all time grew up playing Canadian Box Lacrosse The Canadians have won two of the past 4 World Championships with about 15% of the population of players that we have. Is box lacrosse a better development model?
The Box Environment
I believe that If you take the same coach and have him coach a box program or a field program, he will always be a better coach in box lacrosse. Why? The rules of box lacrosse create a better learning environment than that of field.
If you are a coach and you want to learn how to integrate box lacrosse teachings into your field game, go to www.JM3Coaches.com
The Gait Brothers
In 1988, my junior year at Brown, the Gait Brothers changed the lacrosse landscape forever. Twins from Victoria BC with a never before seen combination of skill and athleticism dominated DI lacrosse and the imagination. The level of creativity that Gary and Paul brought to the college game in the late 80’s has truly never been surpassed. I remember running into John Zulberti in the spring of '88. Brown was on a road trip to play Cornell and Dom decided to bring us up a day early and we spent a Thursday night in Syracuse. I remember being in 44's and Z pointing to his fingers and saying something along the lines of, "I'm getting 2 rings. The Gaits are so good it's ridiculous. I'm getting 2 rings" Z was correct. And it almost wasn't fair!
Major Indoor Lacrosse
In 1993 I played for the Boston Blazers of the MILL now the NLL. At the time I was the assistant at Yale and I was in a personal / massive learning curve in the sport of lacrosse. There has never been a bigger impact on me as a player and coach than my one season of playing indoor. Box lacrosse opened my eyes to shooting, faking, 2man game, cutting, slipping....It's like putting your game on steroids!
Our goalie on the '93 Blazers was Marty O’Neil, future Hall of Famer who grew up in Victoria, BC. Marty was ridiculously hard to score on. One day he asked me if I played offense in college. “Yes!” I replied exasperated.“I was an All-American attackman.” I remember vividly Marty telling me that, "The best shooters could lift their bottom hand and it would lift me up or freeze me." That season when I was 26 Marty taught me how to be a deceptive shooter.
In the summer of 2000 as the 2nd year head coach at the University of Denver, I made my first trip to watch Canadian Jr A lacrosse. It was the Ontario Jr A Semi-Final between Orangeville and St Catherines. I was astounded by the level of play; the skill, the intensity, the physicality was unreal. What I couldn’t know at the time was there were more than15 future pros and a several future HOF’ers in this game: Patrick Merrill, Chad Culp, John Harasym, Peter Veltman, Ian Lord, Sean Greenhalgh, Craig Conn, Bill Dee Smith, Mark Steinhuis, Matt Vinc, to name a few! Playing top center of the Orangeville power play was a 6’4’’ lefty named Brody Merrill. When I found out he was a defenseman committed to Georgetown I thought, “He could score 50 goals in DI lacrosse and he’s a Dman!?”
A few months later I received an email from a BC kid named Matt Brown, “I led the league in hat-tricks,” the 17 year old wrote. My first Canadian recruit joined the Denver Pioneers in the 2002 season, led the team in goals every season and paved the way for Canadian/First Nation box players such as Geoff Snider, Mark Matthews, Wesley Berg, Jeremy Noble, Cam Flint, Zack Miller, and Tyler Pace, leading Denver from start up to DI dominance and the 2015 National Championship…. And that kid from BC has become arguably the best offensive coach in college lacrosse melding the best practices of two games into one.
Summers up North
In 2010 my son Colin began playing minor lacrosse in St Catherines, ON as a 12 year old peewee. This past summer he finished his 9th season of box in Canada winning his 2nd Minto Cup with the Coquitlam Adanacs and the first American player to win a Minto Cup. I remember sitting next to my wife at Provincials in Colin’s first season and saying, “Sara, did that Six Nations kid just punch Colin in the face?” She was a like, "Yeah, I think he did." The box lacrosse environment teaches more than just finishing and two-man play.Maybe most importantly it teaches compete level, toughness, and standing up for your teammates.
Incidentally, my son's minor lacrosse coach from his St Catharines days, Sean Allen, will be making his NLL Debut on the bench under Philly Wings Head Coach Paul Day. Good luck Seanny, Paul, and the Wings!
This past summer my two daughters spent the summer in Niagara On the Lake, ON playing box lacrosse for St Catharines. A few of their friends made the trek up north to spend the summer in the ultimate box lacrosse immersion! When they weren't playing lacrosse, the town of NOTL was beautiful and the girls loved their hang out time. In the afternoon we would rent floor time and pay a box goalie $20 for an hour of shooting! There is nothing more fun than shooting on a box goalie! We also played pick up games a few times per week and would regularly drive over to Darris Kilgour's house and play on the reservation with his family and friends. It was epic!
How Can You Learn Box?
The JM3 Lacrosse Academy will teach you how to play like a box player. All the kids I've ever coached play similarly to box players. Obviously, we want to leverage the best teachings of box AND field lacrosse, but most folks miss out on the box piece. You don't have to hope that you can find a coach to teach you! I have developed teaching model that I've used on hundreds of players and it works. Go to: www.JM3Academy.Thinkific.com
One my best experiences related to box lacrosse was the summer of 2017 when I was the Defensive Coordinator for the MLL Atlanta Blaze under Head Coach and Canadian legend Dave Huntley. Hunts is in the US and Canada Hall of Fame and was the Midfielder of the Year at Johns Hopkins as a field player. Hunts won an MLL Championship as a head coach, FIL Championship as a head coach, assistant coach and player, and was an NLL head coach. Listening to Hunts tell stories of old, hearing his philosophy on the game, watching how he ran a locker room was one of the greatest gifts of a lifetime of coaching, learning, and loving lacrosse.
It was one year ago this Tuesday that we lost Hunts. Hunts had just been doing what he loved to do: coaching and playing in a box rink. Miss you buddy!