Ah, the delightfully fun game of Marco-Polo. For those unfamiliar with this favorite game go to your local pool before it closes for the summer. If enough kids are around a game of Marco-Polo will eventually get started in the shallow end.
How Marco-Polo went from renowned explorer of Asia to namesake of a children’s pool game, I will never know. Regardless of how the game got its name, I want to focus on what Marco-Polo removes: sight.
Lacrosse is a game that requires vision. I am currently unable to catch a ball consistently with my eyes closed, and I bet many players get the same result when they try. On another note, if you do try to catch a ball with your eyes closed. Please wear a helmet.
Because vision is so important in lacrosse, the other senses get neglected. Smell, and tasting don’t really come into play. Unless one player never washes his pads. Then I can smell them coming from behind the cage. The sense of touch is one I will talk about later, but this post is focused on… You guessed it: hearing.
Many young players go into a game not realizing how often they use their sense of hearing. They call out to one another and respond when called. The players start and stop when they hear the whistle, and they know it is time to substitute when the horn sounds. Hearing is a major part of lacrosse but I want players to know that they can use their sense of hearing to improve their game by becoming active listeners.
Parents, ever tell your kids “you are hearing me but you are not listening to me?” Kids are masters at hearing everything, which is why we are so cognizant about what we say around little children. Less they endlessly repeat a naughty word. Trouble is, kids are not always the best listeners.
I know when a kid is listening to me when I’m coaching. Their eyes are locked onto my mouth, their body is still, and their lean forward just a little bit. Contrast that kid with the kid that is looking all over the place, fidgeting, and leaning backwards. The active listener will pick up lessons quicker, build skills faster, and leave the kid that just hears the coach in the dust at practice.
Livestrong.com describes a way to improve listening skills through active listening practice:
Centering your attention on your sense of hearing is a natural method to train your ears to pick up on subtler sounds. You can do this activity with a variety of different mediums, such as the radio or television. You can also do this with a piece of music or in an environment with rich ambient sounds.
Make sure that the volume or background noise isn’t too loud so that you’ll have to make your ears go to the sound. Try closing your eyes and listening deeply to the music, television or environment, making a mental note of all the different sounds you hear. Listen for the subtle sounds in the background and see if you can distinguish where they are originating. You may find that music with lots of interaction, layers and harmony, like jazz or classical, is well-suited for this activity.
Try this type of listening for 20 minutes to 1/2 hour each day. As you become more accustomed to using your hearing actively, you may notice that your passive hearing naturally improves, too.
I came up with a drill to improve the listening skills of my players. This drill helps defenders hear an offensive player come at them from behind, but it can also help offensive players listen to a defenseman trying to double them from behind as well.
Blind Man’s Alley Drill
- Two players go into the area between the restraining line and the sideline.
- One player stands near the goal line extended with their back turned to the other player.
- The player without his back turned stands about fifteen to twenty yards away from the “blind” player, up near the restraining line.
- At the “Go” signal the player on the restraining line runs to the right or the left of the “blind” player.
- Using only his sense of hearing, the “blind” player must listen for the footsteps of the player running at him.
- As soon as the “blind” player can tell which direction the running player is going, he turns in that direction and plays defense.
- Players switch positions, and repeat the drill with progressively softer footsteps.
Give this drill a shot during a couple of practices. Your kids will not be great at it at first, but eventually they will get accustomed to closing their eyes and listening for quiet footfalls. Before they know it they will be actively listening for the footsteps of their opponent.
Featured Image Credit – www.seanmisen.com