Tag Archives: stick

It Is Not The Stick Or The Ball

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I’ve noticed a curious thing in my high school games of late. A player takes a shot and the ball goes out of bounds on the end line. His teammate is closest to the ball where and when it goes out and is awarded possession for the next restart. Instead of quickly grabbing an available ball on the end line for a quick restart to attack the goal, the player picks up and drops one ball. Then picks up and drops another. By the time he finds a ball he is happy with the defense has re-set themselves and the quick restart advantage is lost.

The advantage is lost because the offensive player didn’t want to play with a slick ball, or, to use the lacrosse term, a “greaser”. I’m seeing more and more players shoot the ball fifteen or twenty yards above the cage and look at the head of their stick as if blaming the string job or complain to me that the ball was too slick. Let me be perfectly clear:

NFHS Rule 1.5.1 – The ball shall be white, yellow, orange or lime green and meet the current NOCSAE lacrosse ball standard. White balls shall be used unless both coaches agree prior to or during the game to use a yellow, orange or lime green ball.

I am a lacrosse official. I care about what the rules tell me, and the rules and NOCSAE standards tell me that there is no requirement for the lacrosse ball to be “grippy”.

This is a curious evolution of the player mindset. My father and his teammates played with older lacrosse sticks that did not have a lot of research and development money put into them, but the ball was still round and about the same size. When I started playing in the mid 1990’s, the stick shafts and heads were still in the infancy of development, but the ball was still about the same. As I continued playing more and more crazy lacrosse sticks came out. One shaft was wrapped in Kevlar. One head had a patented “floating sidewall”. Money was getting poured into better materials and better structural designs of lacrosse sticks as lacrosse became more popular.

This is where the curious mindset is coming from. Many players are spending $80 on a brand new lacrosse head and $30 for someone to string it up. When you spend $110 on a stick you expect it to do what you want. I played with a hand-me down stick when I started off. If my pass went awry I might have been justified in looking at my stick with a perplexed look, but as soon as I did that the opposing team would pick off the next pass and be on a fast break towards me and I would be out of position because I was staring at my stick.

The money going into lacrosse technology has removed the stick as the primary culprit in bad passes. Now, if the pass is poor it must be a slick ball that caused it. No way the $110 stick could be at fault, and there is certainly nothing wrong with a player’s passing skills. Nope, got to be the ball’s fault.

Let me be perfectly clear again:

It is not the stick or the ball. Your passes and shots are poor because of your poor skills.

Here is the good news about having poor skills. Practicing to improve your skills is free.

There are brick and cinderblock walls all over the place for a drastically price-reduced, completely free wall ball session. There are players on your team would would likely run out their front doors to go have a catch with you for absolutely zero dollars down.

The best part about this free practice opportunity is that every time you practice you invest in your lacrosse skills bank for future games!

Remember that you are not a professional tennis player who gets to choose which ball feels the best. If you get awarded the ball on a shot, pick up the closest one and step onto the field. Because if you keep screwing around to find the perfect ball I am going to bang you for a Delay of Game and turn it over to the defense for wasting everybody’s time.

Featured Image Credit – http://www.sporting-goods-stores.info/lax_subpages/lax_sticks.htm


Planned Obsolescence

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Planned obsolescence is a business strategy in which the obsolescence (the process of becoming obsolete—that is, unfashionable or no longer usable) of a product is planned and built into it from its conception. This is done so that in future the consumer feels a need to purchase new products and services that the manufacturer brings out as replacements for the old ones” (http://www.economist.com/node/13354332).”

Have you planned obsolescence into your lacrosse game? Are you practicing with the correct technique every time or are you taking shortcuts during practices, games, and on your own time? If you have dreams of playing at the next level. Whether that be a travel team, your school’s JV or Varsity program, or college lacrosse you cannot plan obsolescence into your game. If you do, you will never make it to that next level.

I do not mean to sound harsh, but the truth is simple: players that practice as consistently and as perfectly as they can are the ones who will reach their goals in lacrosse. You play how you practice and you’re game will eventually rust out if you do the following regularly in practice:

  • Scoop the ball one handed instead of getting low with two hands
  • Let your stick hang to the side after a dodge
  • Shoot sidearm (I know it looks cool, but until you can shoot it overhand you don’t need to worry about sidearm)
  • Checking without moving your feet on defense
  • Twirling your stick when running down the field
  • Not stepping to the ball as a goalie

I could continue, but you get the point. Poor habits in practice lead to lacrosse skills that are obsolete. However, the basics are always on the cutting edge. If you master the basics, the foundation of your game, you can then experiment as you gain mastery of lacrosse. Believe it or not, there is a time and place for scooping the ball one handed, for raking the ball, for shooting sidearm. I don’t encourage my youth players to do any of these things because they have not yet mastered the basics of their game.

We as coaches have a responsibility to ensure that all of players coming out to play lacrosse do everything as well as they possibly can. They don’t have to be perfect straight out of the gate, but they need to have the fundamentals down. In all levels of lacrosse, but youth especially, the coach must be eagle-eyed to players taking shortcuts because they are tired, feeling a little lazy, or too cool for school. If you let your players take these shortcuts, you are allowing them to cement poor habits into their game before they’ve even stepped on the field in competition. Don’t allow your player’s game to break down and rust. Be vigilant as a coach and always insist that players do everything they can to enhance their game.

Here’s something I tell my players at nearly every practice: “I don’t care if you miss the ball, just hustle to get it and get right back into the drill.” Don’t allow your players to focus on their mistakes, reward the hustle if they miss the ball and you ingrain something in them much more important than any lacrosse skill you teach. You ingrain the desire to forget about the mistake and get back into the drill, which will serve your players well as they grow in this game.

FYI – If you’re in the Atlanta area, I offer private and group instruction. Feel free to email me at rules@ayllax.com if your player is interested in lessons. I specialize in the fundamentals, defensive technique, and speed and agility training.

Featured Image Credit – www.flickrhivemind.net


The Basics: Cradling

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Cradling in lacrosse is a lot like dribbling in basketball. You can’t play effectively without knowing how to cradle, but you can’t focus solely on cradling or you miss out on contributing to the rest of the game. Players must become proficient enough at cradling to the point where they no longer think about the action of keeping the ball in their crosse. It must be so second-nature that it turns into a smooth and effortless action that requires almost no conscious thought. However, in order to cradle effectively as a beginner, you have to think about it because it is not an action that a new player is familiar with. The video below is the first in the series entitled, “The Basics.” This first video details how to cradle as a beginner, what to focus on when cradling, and a few drills to help the new player become more adept at cradling the ball.