Welcome to “A Lacrosse Weekend,” my weekly compilation of thoughts, ideas, history, stories, myths/truths about the great game of lacrosse! I hope you find it enjoyable.
Last night I was home alone with only the dog as company so I decided to watch the Mann Cup, which is the Canadian Box Lacrosse National Championship for men. The rosters are full of "who's who" of NLL teams. The Peterborough Lakers representing the East are hosting the Maple Ridge Burrards representing the West in a 7 game series. Game 1 last night was a 2OT thriller with Adam Jones scoring the game winner. Watching that level of play is fascinating to me. I love trying to figure out the nuances of dodging, faking, shooting, feeding etc.
With all the stars in that game, the one I enjoyed watching the most was Shawn Evans. This guy is magical when he gets the ball. What Evans does and is common with the best box lacrosse players, is he gets into a dodging posture, which I call "Double Threat" and both keeps his guy honest with the threat of a dodge but keeps his man as close as possible with out being checked. When picks come, he doesn't take off dodging off the pick right into a switch, but rather holds his double threat position and manipulates both his man and the switch, keeping them both on a string. This allows him to set up his roll man by creating indecision on the two defenders as to who will play the ball and who will play the roll man. Evans's array of passes right out of his double threat position or out of the dodge include twisters, BTB's coming topside, BTB's on the back pedal, backhand feeds, 1 hand feeds, lever feeds. I'm going to have to put together a video on Shawn Evans!
Phi-Lacrosse-ophy Podcast with High Point Head Coach, Jon Torpey
Jon Torpey is one of the brightest minds in the game. Torp is a great friend and was my D coordinator and Associate Head Coach for five years at Denver. This podcast goes over his take on new NCAA rules, building culture, player development, and the use of video. Here's the link to the Jon Torpey Podcast
Who to follow on Twitter
I decided to put together a little list of some folks worth following on Twitter for lacrosse and coaching information.
• @CoachWheel Casey Wheel for speed, athletic development and strength and conditioning
• @BrianMcCormick a basketball guy who blogs and tweets about youth sports and player development
• @Stu_Arm and the Talent Equation an English bloke who's podcast dives into coaching and player development
• @JoeKeegan for lacrosse analytics and video breakdowns
• @Mammothlax for great box lacrosse highlights on a regular basis
• @ByrneIrish D coordinator ND Lacrosse, humorous and insightful tweets about lacrosse, recruiting and ND
• @UMBCDefense does a great job of posting cool coaching videos of their D drills
• @CoachPughLax Committed Combine consistently shows videos of the best HS boys lacrosse players doing what they does, high level skills!
• @LacrosseDraws for insightful and hilarious takes on lacrosse and just about anything else
• @TerenceFoy Editor of Inside Lacrosse with interesting and fun takes on the sport
• @Jamiemunro3 in this account I tweet and retweet interesting, amazing, and funny stuff
• @JM3_Coach this account has video clips and analysis of the great game of lacrosse
• @LaxFilmRoom I think this guy is maybe the smartest lacrosse mind I've talked to. Worth getting his insights
Pick up games
Over the past year I've tried to resurrect the "Sandlot" in my neighborhood because I believe it is the missing link for youth sports. As many of you reading this blog, I grew up playing sports this way much more so than being coached. I am a proponent of great coaching as well, but I believe that playing unstructured sports, "Free Play" is where athletes truly learn the sport. I want to share with you some versions of pick up lacrosse we play.
One thing I forgot about that happens all the time in pick up games, usually right after a sick ground ball battle, is when a player comes up with the loose ball after an epic scrap for the ball, the kid with the ball starts laughing out loud as they run away from pressure. Remember back to the days on the sandlot where the ecstatic laughter of beating your buddy came out of you! It's the best!
This is a 3v3 game with a 3x3 net. It is kind of the original lacrosse pick up game other than "Trash Can" Lacrosse. It's usually a half court game in which one player on the defensive team must play goalie, making the game an all time 3v2 for the offense. When possession changes, clear it out just like half court hoops. You play with a tennis ball and no equipment. This game is best played in a tennis court with the confined area, but is great anywhere. In Denver, every Thursday night for most of the year, there is a group of lacrosse players who show up at Wash Park to play 3x on the lit tennis courts. There are up to 4 games going on, music playing, old guys, pro players (The Bocklet brothers have been regulars) and everyone in between. It's pretty awesome!
A Bigger Net
I wanted to experiment with a bigger net than the traditional 3x3 net, so I had a 3.5 x 3.5 net constructed. The reason I wanted a bigger net was to force the defense to come out and play the ball a little farther out. In traditional 3x sometimes the D packs it in so much and the goalies get low and take up the whole net. I also added a goalie stick to the game, which has been great with the bigger net. When possession changes, the goalie puts the goalie stick down and grabs his field stick for offense while the other team gets their goalie in the net and picks up the goalie stick. The nice thing about a goalie stick is it takes away the crappy 5 hole shot that can go in with a field stick in net.
I try not to coach during these games, but I do insist on one rule for all of our games. You must initiate offense with some kind of 2 man game; picks, flips, on ball or off ball. The reason for the rule is to create a more dynamic environment of movement and learning to play with another player rather than standing around. It makes for a more fun game too.
One thing I started doing that has made a big difference in making the environment of a pick up game better for development is adding a full size crease. I simply use chalk or a rock on the pavement to mark a crease that I pace off from the center of the goal line. The reason I like it is it is much harder to score when you have to worry about a crease. With no crease, players dunk it or wrap it right around the goalie and it's not realistic to finishing.
All Even Games
It's awesome to change up what games you play. While playing the uneven games with an all time 3v2 is fun and a great environment to learn how to play good lacrosse, it's also fun to play All-Even games. A 2v2 plus a goalie or a 3v3 plus a goalie is a blast. There's obviously more dodging and defending and tons of 2 man game on and off the ball. these games are definitely better with the 3.5 x 3x5 goals.
I have a full size NLL net which is 4 feet high and 4 feet 9 inches wide. I also own a full set of box goalie gear. Sometimes we drag the net out into the street, suit up a goalie, draw a crease and play Street Box. This is SUCH a fun game because you don't have to worry about hurting the goalie. We still use a tennis ball, but with other games in which goalies aren't padded up, you have to take something off the shot so you don't detach someone's retina. Street box with a fully suited goalie is a total blast.
I've looked at the numbers. The average amount of touches in an hour long club type of lacrosse game for boys or girls for the offensive player who is one of the better players on the team is around 15 per game. The amount of touches in an hour long pick up game is around 100. Do the math. Where are you going to get better?
Create Your Competition
It's interesting to think about this concept in the context of pick up games. How much does it matter? Well, in an effort to make pick up games better for my daughter, I invited D1 boys committed players to join our game (I actually paid them $20, my wife told me I was a loser to pay people to play with me, but I didn't care, I wanted a guarantee). Usually we had me (old guy) the two D1 committed HS boys, my 9th grade daughter, and a couple other girls of varying ages. I figured by inviting the boys I could create a level of competition that would be higher than the average girls lacrosse competition that my daughter would play in for club or HS. The girls benefited from playing with the boys. You can create a higher level of play in your backyard than you can joining an elite club.
Competition Part 2
We played our pick up games religiously with that group of boys and girls from August right through December. It got too dark and cold to play much once January hit and by Mid February, lacrosse season is getting going in Colorado. One day I was chatting with the two D1 committed boys about their up coming HS season. Both boys told me that playing pick up games all fall helped their games tremendously. One boy said it helped his confidence to be able to "just play" in a no coaching environment. The other talked about how much his play making skills improved and how he began fully utilizing his repertoire. The point is, these boys were playing with an old guy and 3 girls every week, yet they felt is was pivotal to their development. I guess creating a higher level of competition isn't the end all. You can play with all levels of competition in a pick up game and get better!
Moral of the Story
Rather than looking for a great club team to play on, or the next prospect day to go to, how about find or create a great pick up game for your son / daughter! I'm telling you, unequivocally, it is the best thing you can do for them!