Tag Archives: work

Try An Individual Sport

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I’ve written a great deal on the benefits playing team sports has on young players with posts like:

I’ve also written about the positive impact I got from the individual sports of kickboxing and jiu-jitsu:

I can confidently say that without both individual and team sports in my life I would be crippled in my personal and work life today. The different types of sports compliment one another. Team sports teach broad lessons where players learn how to depend on fellow teammates and become a dependable teammate themselves. Individual sports teach harsher lessons that are felt much deeper because success and failure are set on one person’s shoulders. In our increasingly interconnected world it is becoming more and more necessary for young kids to learn how to interact well in a group setting, but that does not mean children should only play team sports growing up. An individual sport can have a wonderfully positive impact on a child. I know because I was fortunate to grow up with parents that encouraged my athletics ambitions in lacrosse, but also promoted my love for jiu-jitsu and kickboxing.

Few things teach you how to keep your hands up like getting punched in the face. As I trained more kickboxing and jiu-jitsu I found how to push past physical exhaustion in each class, but I also learned how to absorb the mental blows of getting repeatedly beat on and tapped without getting down on myself. This is much harder to do in individual sports because you’re responsible for your own mistakes. When a teammate misses a pass it’s easy to go, “aww, he should have caught that. I threw that perfect!” even if you didn’t throw it perfectly. That is the biggest benefit for individual sports. Kids learn to own their failures and then learn how to get past them on their own.

Every time I hear one of our young players say they’re going out for tennis, or trying wrestling, or joining the swim team I want to hug them. They’re going to be more well-rounded individuals by the end of their first season playing an individual sport, and if they choose to stick with lacrosse they will be better players too. I did not earn playing time in high school by being a physically imposing defender. I knew lacrosse by studying the game and I was usually in the right spot at the right time, but I also knew exactly where to best put my body to defend an opponent. If I hadn’t spent hours and hours on the mat I wouldn’t have know my body, and my body’s limits, as well (3+ hours of constant movement wearing a thick cotton gi in a dojo with the heat cranked will get you into shape!).

Kickboxing and jiu-jitsu made me a better lacrosse player, and if I ever got a little tired of one I could focus on the other. That provided a great balance for me growing up, and the different lessons learned on the field and in the dojo continue to serve me well at twenty-six. So to any AYL or other youth players reading this I want to strongly encourage you to try any individual sport that peaks your interest. I ran, golfed, and swam at a young age before zeroing in on kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, and lacrosse. You’ll never know what might spark a passion in you without trying, and I assure you that lacrosse will still be here if you choose to spend the majority of your time practicing and playing lacrosse.

Featured Image Credit – www.teamedgeonline.com


Off Hand Resolution

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Happy New Year Coaches, Players, and Parents! I hope you left 2010 feeling good and are excited about the possibilities of 2011.

This is the time of year for New Year’s Resolutions and I have one for all of our players: Work on developing your off hand.

Every player hears that they must work on their off hand at least a few dozen times each season. They hear it even more during the off-season! Yet the majority of lacrosse players in Georgia just do not work on their weak hand enough to improve their game. I was one of them until before my sophomore year of high school.

Left Hand

Left Hand

I was sick and tired of being a one dimensional player once I got the ball into my stick. Sure I could dodge and juke with the best of them, but every move I made I consistently went to my right over my left. This was a serious flaw in my game so I decided to remedy it one summer. I avoided practicing with my stronger right hand like the plague. I only used my left hand during practice, during scrimmages and during wall ball for one entire month. Then something really strange happened. My left hand became better than my right hand! Ever since that summer I focused on balancing my practice time with either hand until there was no difference in how I cradled, dodged, or passed.

Throughout my playing years as a defenseman there stood one constant above all others. Attackmen who are proficient with each hand are a nightmare to defend. No one I played against personified this constant more than Neal Hicks. In the three years I played against the future NCAA Division 1 player from Notre Dame I stripped the ball from him once.

Neal Hicks #11

Neal Hicks #11

He was never especially large or fast but his skill with the lacrosse stick was just scary good. I do not believe Notre Dame recruited him for his skill alone. I think the Notre Dame coach saw that Neal worked at his game harder and more consistently than anyone I have ever played with or against. If Neal had been incredibly good with only his right hand I doubt he would have gone to N.D., but because he focused on making his off hand as good or better than his right he went on to play in the Division 1 Championship Game in 2010.

If Hick’s work ethic is not enough reason to start practicing with your weak hand maybe some information on the left-handed advantage will. The statistics are not incredibly detailed but roughly 10% of people living in the United States are left handed. According to the US Census Bureau there are 310,565,737 individuals living in the USA, which means there are roughly 31 million left handers in the US. The reason left handers have an advantage in sports is because “left-handers are less common, [which] means they have a surprise effect” (www.abcnews.go.com).

Think about it. There are probably more right handed players on your lacrosse team than lefties. That means every defender plays against right handed attackmen more regularly than left handed attackmen. When that defenseman plays a natural lefty, or a player who is really good with his left hand, he will be at a distinct disadvantage because of his lack of exposure to a lefty player.

Ambidextrous is defined as:

  1. Able to use both hands with equal facility.
  2. Unusually deceptive, adroit.

That second definition is especially interesting. If you ever played against an ambidextrous midfielder it is brutal trying to defend him because they can go wherever they want whenever they want. Listen carefully to the Varsity games this season and you will hear coaches yelling, “he’s all right” or “he’s all left” when a certain player gets the ball. The coach wants his defender to know that his midfielder is one dimensional and will most likely dodge to the hand they are most comfortable with. The defender knows he can easily shut off the midfielder’s strong hand and force him to his weak hand.

Now that you have some knowledge write down the following on a piece of paper and tape it above your bed: I will work my off hand until it is better than my strong hand. Work at it every day, every practice, every scrimmage, and every game. Who knows maybe you’ll be the next player from Georgia in an NCAA Championship game.

Read a solid article about Neal Hicks here: www.ajc.com/sports/hicks-leads-notre-dame.html.