Tag Archives: training

Concussions in Youth Sports

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According to the CDC “Heads Up” Activity Report, published in 2008:

  • Concussions are the most commonly reported injury in children and teenagers participating in youth sports.
  • There are more than 38 million boys and girls, ages 5-18, playing in organized sports nationwide.
  • 65% of reported sport-related concussions came from the 5-18 age group.*
    • Note – many of “these injuries may be considered mild, they can result in health consequences such as impaired thinking, memory problems, and emotional or behavioral changes.”

In the Introducing Concussions post, we learned that children may be at a higher risk of concussions than adults because their brains are still developing. How then do we address this issue safely in our youth leagues? We create more awareness about the seriousness of concussions, and increased knowledge about their prevalance.

Engaging in any youth sport requires a knowledge of the risks. The American Journal of Sports Medicine conducted an eleven-year study on the rates of concussions in high school sports. They found that per 100,000 player games or practices, the number of concussions per sport are as follows:

You probably noticed that boys and girls’ lacrosse are the third and fourth sports with the highest incidence of concussed players at the high school level. In my opinion, there are two reasons for this. One, boys’ lacrosse helmets while designed for impact, are more focused on front hits to the head than sideways or rear hits. You can check this with the padding in any generic lacrosse helmet. The sides are considerably thinner than the rest of the helmet. Second, girls’ wear eye-protection, not helmets. Plus, there are possibilities of collisions and falls to the ground in girl’s lacrosse.

Now if you are a parent your first thought after reading this post may be to pull your child off the playing field and encase them in a room filled with bubble wrap. Please, avoid that temptation and remember that the above list is per 100,000 players. That means while thirty boys may get a concussion, there are 99,970 boys that do not get one. While focusing on that makes me breathe easier, we still have to check on the thirty that are concussed.

So how can we be responsible league administrators, coaches, and parents when a player sustains a concussion? Gear up folks, it is reading and quiz time.

The CDC provides the following educational materials to coaches, players, and parents. I highly recommend reading each of these downloads before stepping onto the field this Fall Season.

Lastly, I want as many coaches as possible to take the CDC Concussions in Youth Sports Online Training for Coaches. This is a short, free online training tool for youth coaches. You will learn about:

  1. Concussion Basics
  2. Recognizing Concussions
  3. Responding to Concussions
  4. Getting Back in the Game
  5. Concussion Prevention

While we cannot completely prevent concussions in youth sports, we can understand the seriousness of them and respond appropriately. Remember, when in doubt – sit them out.

Featured Image credit – www.post-gazette.com




Agility Ladder Drills

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My first experience with the agility ladder was in ninth grade. I trained at a gym in Buford, GA five times a week, and every day we started with the agility ladder. Initially, I knocked around the ladder repeatedly, but I eventually got the hang of how to place my feet into each square as quickly as I could.

For any athlete interested in improving their foot speed and overall quickness, the agility ladder is a must have. Most sporting outlets sell them for around thirty dollars, but you do not need to buy one if you want. Just use chalk or duck tape on a flat surface and make 12-15 squares, about 20 inches wide.

Before we get into the agility ladder drills, there are a few rules:

  1. Don’t touch the ladder rungs with your feet! That is a penalty. You must do one pushup for every run you touch.
  2. Pump your arms! The more you move your arms the faster you can go.
  3. Start at a slow walking pace. These drills get complex quickly, and your body is not used to moving this way. Starting off at a comfortable pace lets your body familiarize itself with the motions.
  4. If you can, do these drills with a friend. A little competitiveness in this drill never hurts.

The drills in the video below follow a progression and should be done in order. Watch the video closely to see where your feet go in the ladder.

Ladder Drills:

  • Two Feet Per Square (just like it sounds)
  • One Foot High Knees (gets your knees above your hips)
  • Two Foot High Knees (gets your knees up and feet moving, this one is a little tougher than the above one)
  • One Foot In From Side (lead foot goes into square)
  • Double Feet From Side (lead foot goes into square followed by rear foot)
  • Quick Hops (both feet land in square at same time)
  • Slolam (side to side)
  • Hop Scotch (outside to inside)
  • Switch Hips (place your rear foot where your lead foot is, repeat down the ladder)
  • Two Foot Slides (like the first exercise, but your facing out and sliding)
  • Carioca (over, under, over)
  • Icky Shuffle (in, in, out, in, in, out)
  • Backwards Icky Shuffle (if you can do this one I salute you!)

I find it helpful to sound out where my feet go if I am having trouble with a drill. For instance, during the Icky Shuffle I say out loud “In, In, Out” over and over again. This technique focuses my mind on the task at hand, and I tend to do better in the drill.

If you have any questions about the agility ladder feel free to comment below. Stay tuned for Friday’s video of every cone drill you could think of.

Cheers, Gordon

Goalie Guidelines

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EDIT – The following Goalie Guidelines were incorrectly attributed to the wrong author. Ken Brubaker from Western Michigan details the following guides for goalkeepers.

The day in a life for most goalies is as follows:

1. Show up with the team, suit up, maybe do some stretches or conditioning with the team. If the goalie is lucky, a coach or shooter normally may attempt some type of routine or ball placement warm. 95% of the shots come from topside, with no obstructions of feeds from behind. (We’ll get to that later.)

2. The rest of the day will be spent at the wrong end of shooting drills, 3 v 2’s with numerous shots, 4 v 3’s with numerous shots, or 6v6’s with a time and room to the body. A chorus of “are you OK keep?” or “my bad” will soon follow after. If you have two or three goalies they wait their turns for the same abuse.

3. Next we may have some ride and clears where you may learn how to run for your life and toss a “Gilman” clear. “get his elbows” is routinely the battle cry or “send it”. Of course I’m exaggerating a bit, but you get the message.

The good news is that there is a better way.

Here’s the point I’ve been leading up to, and the guidelines I use to create great Goaltenders. I have studied a massive amount of info on this subject over a decade.

I have come up with a solution to create a complete goaltender.

First I divide the position in to five specific segments, each to be focused on daily, and weekly, and throughout the season. The order and frequency is based on how many practices you have, and how much time you can allocate.

I frequently use the terms “to be a great goalie” or “the best goalies” before I explain a technique or suggest a drill or routine. The mindset of a player will change when he hears this prefix to a statement. I also frequently drop names i.e., “Greg Catrano mentioned at his clinic” or “Bill Pilat stresses that on his DVD”. Mention names, know the best teachers, and turn the kids on to them. Today’s kids with Wikipedia and you tube can learn who the great ones are, see demos, and quickly learn more about the position in a day then “geezers” like my self could have learned in a life time back in the day.

Coach B


Goalies must be the first ones on the field every day. Preparing to play the position must be done every day. I teach kids to prepare mentally and physically before they see one shot. Teach your goalies to prep for practice, prep for games, prep for going in to a half when behind, prep for going in to a half with a lead. They also can prep for field surfaces. They will see field turf, astro turf, natural grass, mud, clay, dust, rain, snow and wind. When you don’t prepare you get blindsided.

I ask my goalies to have a pre-game routine. It may involve laying out your gear, going in to seclusion in the corner of the field. A pre-game mix on an ipod is good.

I won’t get into a ton of specifics in this article, but pre-game can include some goalie specific dynamic stretches, walking the line style drills (I have about 5 variations of this classic drill I use). I like yoga, Pilates, tennis ball tosses, and many other non-shooting exercises to happen before a game or practice.

The key is we disconnect from the “real world,” and connect to “goalie world”. It sounds goofy, but it’s a good thing to have time to get school, work, stress, the girlfriend, the last game, and any other clutter out of the mind before we step between those pipes. Focus is as critical as the goalie stick itself.

Preparation leads to great focus.


Great goalies are agile. They called Greg Cattrano “the cat” not only because of his name, but also because of his mind-blowing agility. If a goalie doesn’t work hard on agility training, he will not be agile. Agility must be part of a goalie’s work ethic and workout routine. As the season wears on, most goalies feel that the reps in practice are enough. They could not be more wrong. There are so many great agility courses and instructors that you don’t even need me to get in details. The key is that we find a boatload of agility drills and work on them every day. Here are some I recommend. Jumping rope is high on the list, ski jumpers, and ladder work to name a few. But that is just legs. I use agility drills for hand eye coordination, hand speed, and footwork.

Agility leads to great quickness.


The best on the planet are referred to as “stoppers”. In a typical lacrosse coach conversation you will hear, “how’s your keeper this year” the answer is, on occasion, “I’ve got a stopper this season”. In contrast you will hear “my kid couldn’t stop a beach ball”.

Kids are not born lacrosse goalies. It is human instinct to duck when a projectile is fired towards your head. The notion of attacking the ball is not for everyone. The point is, stoppers are not born, they are created. Standing in front of the cage and shooting 9 yards shots with the stick in plain view is not helping a goalie no matter how many thousand you put on him. To make goalies great we must give them shots from game scenarios. Some of my best improvements come form what I call “blind saves”.

In games they see a ton of feeds from X, from the wings, and from “top side.” Great shooters hide the rock and shoot it through traffic. A ton of garbage gets thrown at you from the crease. Your own guys constantly screen you, not to mention the opponents crease guys. Goalies will see one on crease, two on crease and some times three on crease with stacks, etc.

Everyone is “Canadian” nowadays, so shots such as backhand, one handed, behind the back, and around the world are not only seen at Tom Marachek clinics anymore.

A lot of today’s players practice and execute them.

All that being said, if only shoot at your keepers topside with the head of the stick in full view, that’s all they can save. Drills must include a ton of drills that force the goalie to “find the ball” and then save it. My e-book will over 20 drills specific to teaching these saves.

Drills must include some chaos such as attack reaching around from GLE; making saves across crease on back door feeds, turn and saves, etc.

Drilling Game simulated shots creates stoppers.


Ryan Deane (Middlebury) (NCAA DIII) was on my 2007 U19 summer team (GP Select). He is a field general, and one of the best communicators I ‘d ever had the chance to coach.

During a game I overheard one on my D Poles say “ its so much easier to play defense when he’s in the cage”. That became my mantra for teaching communication from the that day forward. If we can train goalies to run the field, and do it correctly, it makes the defense work. So many kids either do not talk at all, speak way too low or simply scream too loud. Some make repetitive, inaudible moaning sounds that no one can decipher.

The goal of a goalie coach should be to teach the proper voice projection, to practice it, and to communicate it to the defense. I teach calling right in a different tone or voice inflection than the left. The “check” or “check stick” or as recommended by Coach Mike “Lift,” call if used correctly will reduce shots on net significantly. If they don’t get the shot off, they cant put it past a goalie. Defense reacting to a commanding “CHECK” call is extremely useful. Many goalies don’t use it, especially at the youth and HS level.

Goalies must practice communication constantly and perfect a style that in commanding.

Great communication = great defense.


One reason a lot of goalies get cut at the collegiate level is because they cannot clear. Conversely, many get selected because of their clearing and stick skills. In HS many of them play against poor rides, and subsequently learn to throw lazy 10-yard passes to guys who are always open. The next level brings vicious rides, midfielders who run 4.6 40’s, and guys calling for the ball 40 yards away.

Throwing the ball with precision is paramount. We must use drill that incorporate throwing the ball from multiple scenarios. I like to split time doing Up-and-Overs, frozen ropes, touch passes, and re-directs. I also drill a lot of stuff around the crease, again from game situations. Clamps vs. attack, rolling out behind and clearing, and fighting for GB’s are all good situations to drill.

I also teach and drill the face dodge, walk the dog, and roll backs against pressure. If you don’t drill it they can’t execute it. One other important point, a goalie pockets must be stung to hold the ball in a channel, not strung to be a “tennis racquet” or “fish bowl”.

In closing I hope this information has been helpful and helps coaches at every level at least begin to think about the 5 g’s. I am currently working on my e-book that will contain a comprehensive guidebook with over 50 goalie specific drills. It will also include a laminated spreadsheet detailing a daily, weekly and season long work out plan that can be learned and used by goalies themselves who do not have a goalie coach. I can be reached at gpselect@gmail.com.

Thanks for the great guidelines Mr. Brubaker. Hopefully a lot of coaches will pick them up when developing goalies.