Category Archives: Updates

Playing Attack – The finer points

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This week we will be talking about the position of attack and some of the nuances to improve as an attack-man.  As a former college attack-man,  I have my views on how the position should be played.  As with any sport,  take in as much as you can by listening to your coaches and watching as many lacrosse games as possible.  Look at players that you admire and try and emulate what they do.  It could be an inside roll, a push-off pass to get your hands free, question mark dodge or a toe drag.

NO, I repeat NO attack-man can do these moves without mastering the fundamentals.

Attack is a position that requires a good deal of time and dedication to improve your game.  Once a player masters the fundamentals of using both their left and right hand skills (cradling, catching, passing, dodging, shooting, moving without the ball, making the exchange and riding).

Attack-men are expected to have the best stick skills on the team. The ability to play with your off-hand is very important. When a defender recognizes that you’re going to same hand every time, he will force you to go to your weak hand, where he can dictate the situation.  By having equal stick skills with both hands you will eliminate this problem.

Work hard to get the off-hand to the same level as the strong hand.  Wall Ball is the magic pill to improve your stick work.  I spent countless hours over the years to get a better stick.  I also used a mirror in my room to see if everything I did looked the same from the both sides of my body.   Lacrosse like basketball is one of the only sports where players must have the ability to play with the non-dominant hand to be an effective player.  Could you imagine Lebron James or Stephen Curry not being able to dribble with both hands.   As a young player I used to dodge trees in my back yard to emulate defensive players.

With the explosion of the Canadian influence in the field game you see more players being one-handed dominate.  As a lacrosse purist  especially attack I believe you should be able to use both hands.

Dedicate as much or more time to your off-hand as to the strong one.  I like to tell young players to use their opposite hand to do simple day to day tasks.  Brush your teeth with your opposite hand, open doors, turn on lights, eat and write.  Using your opposite hand will give you more dexterity and give you confidence.

Okham’s Razor

There is a 14th century Fransician friar William Ockham who came up with a theory (Ockham’s Razor) that holds true today.  What he said was:

when you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better.”

Many players watch Lyle Thompson or Rob Pannell make  behind-the-back shots, bounce passes, wrap checks and one-handed ground-ball pickups all look easy and they can pull them off.  The same can’t always be said when a youth or high school player attempts those maneuvers in a game and gets a different result.

When finishing around the cage, simpler is better. There’s no need to go faking three or four times. One fake and a shot to the opposite part of the cage should be enough movement to deceive the goalie.

The same should apply to dodges. When dodging from behind or on the wing, it should be one move and go! Use your dodge to create space to get your hands free and either pass or shoot. Doing more than one dodge really only gives the defender a chance to recover from the first one. Unless you’ve been taught how to use one move to immediately set up another, your best bet is to use one dodge and then make your move toward the cage.

Everybody needs a Go-To move.   Like face-off specialists they usually have one or two moves that help them dominate.  Have at least one move that you can go to in a tight spot when the situation calls on you to make a big play for your team.  Analyze your strengths as an attack-man and decide which dodge works for you.  Speed helps and quick feet but you most always go full speed, change speed and keep your head up.  You will play against different types of players. Aggressive checkers, small quick defenders, the guy that does not make mistakes and is always there on your hands.  During the game you will have to probe your defense-men and get a feel for how they will play you.

They call the position Attack for a reason…you are supposed to attack your defender.

When playing attack, there are not many opportunities for longer distance time and room shots.  Since most attack-men handle the ball around goal or behind the cage, most of the shots they take will be from in close and sometimes at odd angles. This places a premium on being able to finish with accuracy around the goal.  Practice inside rolls, question mark and rocker dodges as much as you can.

You should also have a great quick stick and have the ability to make no look passes as well as passing in traffic.

Practice as much as possible (School comes first) and it will take your game up to a higher level, your performances should get better each time out.  Don’t slack on the practice field (take it seriously) and get out and hone the skills necessary to be a go-to-guy on your team.  Remember, the best players practice obsessively, and if you want to get to that level you better be prepared to do the same.  Put in the work, and the results will come.

Over the years before You Tube I watched players like Mike French and Eamon McEneaney and some of the older players on my High School team.  I did not have the luxury of technology but I never missed a day of wall ball and that is why I was able to master the position.

Listed below are some current players,  who by watching may help you improve your game.

Rob Pannell Highlights

Lyle Thompson Highlights

Ryan Boyle Highlights

See ya on the field,

Coach Lou

The Three Most Important Questions?

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As a long time Coach and mentor I came across this article (see below) that I thought was both interesting and thought-provoking.  I pride myself on connecting with young people and I have coached every level of player and almost every type of personality.  The quiet, emotional, difficult, happy-go-lucky, I don’t care, enthusiastic, fiery, sulking, athletic, non athletic, and anxious to name a few.  You name the adjective and I have probably coached it.  And frankly most coaches display these same traits as well as parents.  It’s what makes us part of the human race.

The article asks us three questions:

1.  Who tells us who we are?

2.  Where do we want to go with our lives?

3.  How do we want to get there?

Question one outlines the amount of noise all of us face each day especially young people.  Internet, Social Media, TV, Movies, Advertising etc.  The article stresses that we don’t hear enough of how hard we work, how curious, how to make a positive difference to others.  These forces stress the importance of what we wear, what we buy, who we hang out with how many people like us on Facebook, what college are we going to go to etc.  Instead of substance and character we worry about appearance and material objects.

I relate this to lacrosse because I can catch, throw and shoot with a $35 dollar stick vs the X15 model $200 stick.  Players and parents get to revved up about swag and sticks.  It is important to have good equipment but you don’t need to get a new stick or helmet every season.

Question two is important because  it defines who we are.  I have met many people in life who just go around aimlessly and never really finding a passion for anything.  They chase instant gratification and dollars signs but in the end I believe life is about relationships.  Coaching has allowed me to impact young people’s lives in a positive way.   While I have made many mistakes over the years,  I cherish the moments that I have with all my players.  Some players I may have only coached for a year and others for many seasons.  It is a joy to get a note or a call from them and know that I was part of their life.

Question three the author proclaims is the most important question.  How do want to get there?  He speaks of cheating to get ahead.  Lacrosse like other sports has cheaters.  The player that grabs the ball on the Face-off, illegal stick stringing, thumbing the ball to name a few.  We as players, parents and coaches should praise the players that play by the rules and use hard work and determination to get ahead.  Short cuts never really get you to your destination. 

I don’t profess to know everything there is to know about millennials, baby boomers or X and Y generations.  But these questions are not just unique in today’s day and age.

Socrates once said this about youth:

“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”

Socrates died in 399 BC.  Think about that for moment.  Here is one of the worlds greatest philosophers complaining about youth during his life.  I would like  more optimistic about our young people then Socrates was.  They have brightness and enthusiasm and I am honored to be around them every day.

As another great Philosopher, Charles Schultz (Peanuts creator) once said “Be yourself, everyone else is taken”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-mulligan/the-three-most-important-questions-you-can-ask-your-teenager_b_6173822.html

 

See ya on the field

An Incredible Trip

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an-incredible-trip

I went to Denver to ref games, and I came back with an entirely new perspective on lacrosse. I knew that lacrosse was played outside of North America, but it is one thing to know that and another thing to witness. I got to see thousands of people cheering on their teams in languages I did not understand. I got to see Team Uganda win it’s first ever game in international competition in a one-goal, come-from-behind victory. I got to watch Team New Zealand perform their Haka. I got to meet the Thompson brothers. I got to watch the officials call timeout to hand the ball scored to Team China’s Coach after they scored their first international goal. I got to witness the incredible connection that lacrosse provides to people across the globe.

There is no way to recap every great moment I experienced while at the World Games, but here are the experiences that were just too cool:

Team Uganda Wins!

While walking to catch the 2:15 shuttle back to the dorms I saw a ton of people holding cameras near Field 2. I asked one of the gentlemen near the end line what was going on and he said, “Uganda’s up by one goal with 30 seconds left!” Suddenly, I didn’t have to catch the shuttle. This was easily the biggest feel-good moment of the tournament for me, and from what I could tell everyone else at that field too. Since this was the last game on the field for the day the party didn’t end. All the players ran around the field to a standing ovation by the fans and everyone had one word to say: “Awesome!”

team-uganda-wins!

 

Red Hat!

The officials coordinator asked me if I wanted to be the Red Hat for the Iroquois-Australia game. The headset I’m wearing in the picture connected me to the TV Truck, and it was my job to inform the officiating crew when the broadcast was live or to hold them if replays were going on. Picked up on all the lingo that is used to flip cameras and how they marked plays for a new replay. Definitely a unique experience!

red-hat

Haka!!!!

One of my coaches from back in the day, John Pritzlaff, was playing on Team New Zealand with his two brothers, which made watching their lacrosse Haka even more exciting. I still have no idea what the exact translation is, but the video below explains the ideas behind the Haka. I will say that it is not possible to witness this in person and not get swept up in the excitement and energy.

Run For Your Lives!

I had just gotten settled at the international ref tent after my set of festival games, when a massive storm rolled over the mountains. We got word that the fields were being evacuated and everyone had to get to the stadium for cover. There were about six officials under the tent, but about two dozen bags from the officials who were out working games. Someone shouted, “Everyone grab a bag!” and suddenly I’m double-timing it to the Stadium Press Box loaded up like a sherpa with all the other refs. All the bags were saved!

rain-incoming

Cultural Exchange!

One experience was a little surreal. I had the honor of officiating an Open/Elite festival game between Team Tokyo and Team Tokai, two teams from Japan. The game was excellent. Both teams played with speed, finesse, and grace. On the rare occasions where I threw a flag I had to get the attention of the player who fouled and then signal the violation. No argument at all. Every player nodded their head and then ran briskly to the penalty box to serve their time. I can assure you that was not the case in the rest of the men’s club games. I didn’t really know how to accept a player accepting a penalty so mildly. The other cool part about this game was after the player shook hands each player lined up shoulder to shoulder and bowed to our officiating crew. We bowed back and shook hands with all the players.

team-tokyo-team-tokai

I consider myself very lucky to have experienced this entire event, and it is unlikely that a World Games with this many teams and festival participants will happen again in the US for a while since putting this together was a massive undertaking. Still, even if I never experience a World Games on this scale again the memories from the past ten days are going to stay with me for a very long time.

Cheers,
Gordon