I’m not going to lie. One of the main reasons I took to defense was because I did not have to run very much. Every time I cleared the ball across the midfield line I prayed that the offense would hold onto it so I could catch my breath. I was fairly quick and athletic for my age, and I was not a fat-body, for lack of a better term. Quite honestly, I was a perfectly average young player but I neglected working on my endurance to the detriment of my game.
One of the definitions of endurance is: “the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions.” Endurance is also known as stamina, but I think endurance sounds cooler so I’m sticking with it.
While midfielders are known for needing endurance the most on the lacrosse field, the truth is every player requires better endurance. Attackmen need to be quick and agile, but they need to be able to repeatedly make quick move after quick move. Defenseman must be able to react to fast players while moving backwards. The longer the ball stays in the defensive end, the sooner a good team will target a fatigued defender. Yes, even goalies require endurance, but they require more mental endurance than physical endurance. As the general of the defense, good goalies must beat back the mental fatigue of constantly knowing where the ball is, who is hot, and when to demand a slide.
So how do you build endurance? Simple answer – go for a run. Longer answer – integrate varying agility speed work drills with progressively longer runs. This will both improve your speed on the field, and beat back the beast of fatigue. The question becomes what should players in each age group be doing to build their endurance? Let’s break that down below.
U9 – These kids are perfectly fine doing whatever they are doing. Make sure they get to practice and games and they will do just fine. I do not believe there is much of a need to start a nine year old in any structured workout.
U11 - Awesome time to start jump roping and some short agility cone drills! These help build critical coordination skills necessary for lacrosse. Still not the time for distance running though.
U13 - Continue with jump roping and add in new, more challenging agility drills. Perhaps an agility ladder? Here is a great time to start one mile runs. A one mile run is exactly what it sounds like. Go out, run a mile, then walk back. Eventually the mile will become easier and easier and you’ll start wanting to run back.
U15 - Time to start an actual running program if you are serious about improving your overall cardiovascular strength and endurance.
U17 and beyond - You should definitely be running regularly by now, but if you haven’t started check out Runner’s World for some quality running plans and advice for new runners. I highly recommend their personal trainer running plans, they have gotten me race ready and ready for officiating each spring!
As a runner myself I find it strange that I used to hate running. The truth was, I never gave running a chance until about tenth grade, which coincided with taking my lacrosse game more seriously as well. If you are serious about being a lacrosse player you must also be serious about running. The old maxim, the legs feed the wolf is perfectly apt for just about every sport, but especially true for the fastest game on two feet.
Now, if you need a little bit of inspiration to start running, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Below is a trailer for the 1999 documentary “Running on the Sun.” I’ll let the trailer speak for itself: