Category Archives: Educational

Read More – It Helps Your Game

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I always feel like a little kid every time I walk into a book store. I’m nearly giddy with anticipation and wondering what book I’ll get that day. What gets me the most though is the smell. That awesome new book smell that permeates the store. Once I smell that I’m back to being ten years old.

When I was a young boy I was obsessed with a book series by K.A. Applegate called “Animorphs.” In this series a bunch of teenage kids defend the world against an alien invasion by morphing into any animal they touch. That is tailor-made plot for a young kid, plus they can morph into animals! In the regular series there were fifty-four books and a new one was released every month or two. I spent about five years reading and rereading all of these books as they came out. I was fully immersed in the Animorphs world and I loved every story.

Then a few years ago while working lacrosse camps at the Ron Clark Academy I noticed they were building a new library for their students and were accepting book donations. I gathered all of my Animorph books out of storage, organized them on my bedroom floor and spent a weekend rereading every book. It was my goodbye to a book series that created a hunger in me to read as much as I could whenever I could. Once I was done I packed all the books up and dropped them off at the Ron Clark Academy where I hope they will bring a passion for reading to more kids.

Since my Animorph days I spend a good bit of my money on books. I’ve mentioned my Ender’s Game and Dune obsession, but I’m not always on a science-fiction kick. Some weeks I’m reading biographies. Others I’m reading histories on war. Sometimes I read books that I would never typically read like Tina Fey’s Bossypants. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t read part of some book.

I’ve outlined my reading history because my interactions with young players the past few years has indicated to me that most kids don’t read much at all, and that makes me sad. I’ve met a few players that are bigger readers than me, but the vast majority view reading as a tedious chore. This doesn’t surprise me much. After all young kids these days can access pretty much any snippet of information at once just by using their phone. Actually sitting down and reading a three-hundred page book is a daunting task when most of what you read anyway is in small bite-sized pieces. The thing is I can’t blame technology for this reading dilemma. I use the same tech but I still find time to read a few chapters of a new book. My reading history allows me to see big picture ideas and see the theory that the book is working from. Many young players only see the trees at the expense of the forest while they read and while they play.

I never earned playing time by being the biggest, fastest or most skilled player. I earned my time by being one of the few players on the field that could see the entire game. My dad calls it field sense or lacrosse IQ, but whatever you call it I had it because I was such a voracious reader. I spent years reading and rereading stories with complicated plot lines and characters. Eventually I became skilled at figuring out where a book was going (although I could never predict the endings in any Agatha Christie book). This ability translated to the lacrosse field where I was able to know where the ball was going to be before it actually got there. It made me appear much faster than I was as I usually showed up at the right time, but I could predict the flow of the game because my mind got trained at conceptual thinking every time I read a book.

I can give pretty much any youth player one or two tasks and he will perform them well, but I rarely find a player who understands the importance of slowing down an offensive possession after playing three minutes of defense. You cannot understand a book or the game by reading the cliff notes. You have to study it intensely.

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– If you have a favorite book or books let me know what they are in the comments section!

Lightning Strikes

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lightning strikes

During the first day of games at the Vail LAREDO 3 I was working with another trainee and our crew chief, Tim Markham. Tim gave me one of the best pieces of officiating advice I had ever received when we were off the field during a lightning delay. As soon as we suspended the game Tim made a beeline for the nearest covered building. My partner and I waited under the tent for a few minutes to get our gear situated and then went over to where Tim was standing. Tim told us that if we, as the game officials, did not seek cover in a lighting delay we were not being good examples to the players, coaches or parents. He impressed upon me that it was my job to always put safety first and lead by example.

I was at a recent tournament that was suspended due to lightning. Everyone cleared the fields and sought whatever cover was available. As I made my way to where most of the officials were congregating I saw a bunch of youth players shooting on a goal. I walked over to them and told them that we were under a lightning delay and to get off the field. As I continued to make my way across the complex I saw more players and even some coaches running shooting drills or just passing the ball to each other in the middle of the fields. I once again marshaled everyone off the fields. I saw more players away from cover with their sticks in hand and I was tired of yelling so I went up to their coaches to have them get their players under safe cover. Here are the excuses I received:

  • “They’re just being kids” (which is why you need to be an adult)
  • “Their sticks are plastic” (the head of the stick is, but not the shaft)
  • “Their sticks are made of wood” (stop splitting hairs, it still makes them the tallest object on an open field)
  • “I didn’t see any lightning for a while” (because not seeing it means it isn’t in the area)
  • “They’re all thirteen, I can’t control them” (I’m sorry, but aren’t you their coach? You can control them during practices and games but not during a lightning storm?)

After all of these excuses I put on my most commanding voice and ordered every player and coach holding a stick off the fields. Since the people in charge of these teams were not going to put the safety of children first I decided to do it for them. I am more sad than anything else that coaches who repeatedly yell at me to keep the game safe would turn a blind eye to players holding metal sticks in an open space during a lightning storm.

Flash Facts About Lightning from NATGEO

US Lacrosse Policy Statement on Lightning

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Keep Moving

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Keep Moving

I learned an important lesson about movement off the lacrosse field. I was sixteen and taking Muay Thai kickboxing lessons at a local martial arts academy. My instructor set up the class in a mob drill. The mob drill teaches students how to get away from more than one attacker.

When I first got into the mob drill I got pummeled. I thought defensively and stayed in one place. This allowed all of the attackers to mass around me, and while they were not punching with full power I realized that if they were I would be in a world of hurt. A few months later it was mob drill time, but before the drill my instructor pulled me aside and told me with very little explanation to go crazy. He wanted me to attack the attackers, find open space and then reengage.

So I was set in the middle of six of my fellow students and when my instructor said go I went a little overboard.

I yelled at the top of my lungs and rushed the person closest to me. I threw a few punches and ran to a corner of the gym. All of my attackers were a little stunned at my brash attack. They tentatively approached me so I yelled out again and ran to the perimeter of the group, punched my way around them and ran to the other side of the gym. This went on for about three minutes and while I took a few punches it was much fewer than when I just stood still.

I learned that when facing multiple attackers it pays to be on the move. Standing still is a death sentence.

I see way too many youth and high school players who stop moving when they shouldn’t. Players who pick up a ground ball and then stop. Players who run into a double team and try to split dodge back where they came only to run into the other defender. Players who can’t catch the ball cleanly because they will not move their feet away from their defender.

The lacrosse field is 110 yards long and 60 yards wide. There is open space available, but many players would rather run through the gauntlet of defenders than pass the ball around them.

I blame isolation dodges for this problem. Coaches, especially at the youth level, love giving their biggest or fastest kid the ball and having him run at the cage for a high-percentage shot. The problem is that many of these coaches do not coach isolation dodges correctly. They start them off of a dead-ball restart or have the iso player run way up to the midfield line. Both of those methods allow defenses to settle in.

The correct way to run an isolation dodge is to do it off of ball movement. When a ball is passed the defenders have to move to follow the ball. Isolation dodges are much more effective off a couple of passes especially when the iso player catches the ball on the run. Add in having the rest of the players clear out of the way, which drastically reduces the gauntlet of defenders that the iso player might run into.

Too many coaches at the youth level are content to let their best player handle the ball. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Get the ball to Timmy! To Timmy! Get it to Timmy!” It appears to be the coach’s only game plan. There are five other players on offense that need to be included if any team is going to be successful. If everyone is running around and cutting, even the least-skilled player is having a positive impact on your offense.

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