So much of the focus on player development (from middle school to college) seems to be done through both select and travel teams. High school lacrosse in areas like Long Island and Baltimore is as strong as ever, but in other areas, kids seem to focus much more on their summer team than their high school team. And while these summer teams can offer a lot of exposure, they are often deficient in actually teaching the game.
A LOT of summer teams probably spend more time playing shortened games than they do practicing for those games. I think this is a big missed opportunity for a lot of players. They are not being developed as overall players (and sometimes only as role players!), and this is a real shame. For a select or summer team, there should be no such thing as a D or O middie. Teach the kids to play both ways. If they want to specialize in college or become a FoGo, let them, but to do so before turning 18 is kind of ridiculous and reeks of coaches who want to “win” summer games, put their kids in “top flight D1 programs”, and not actually coach.
Now, I understand that kids need to understand roles and how to play the game, but to be successful at the next level, they also need to be creative players. Lacrosse is a game that thrives on creativity and unfortunately, one thing competitive summer ball doesn’t really breed is a ton of creativity. It should, because of all the potential freedom from worry and over-coaching, but basically, more top club teams play like Hopkins than Syracuse and it results in a lot of very athletic, but often one-dimensional players.
I have coached at camps where some of the middies literally didn’t know how to play defense. At all. They even said their coaches were okay with it. These same middies had a great alley dodge but when you asked them to dodge from the wing, they had no idea what to do. And don’t get me started on attackmen and riding. I’ve even seen athletic defensemen with dreams of playing in college, who couldn’t really handle the ball, and who thought they had no need to improve their stick skills. These guys could play the role that they did for their club teams, and that was as far as it went. Shocking.
The crux of my point is that coaches need to make practice engaging, make the kids compete and make them be creative. You want to run some drills? Great! I’m all for it. Have the kids do a couple with good form (like the overhand alley shooting seen in the video below) and then get into some competition. (watch the video below for background on my next sentence) Now, I don’t get the idea behind trying to score on a very small goal two thirds of the way down the turf while playing 5 on 5 with a mix of poles and shorties. I don’t have to. Because the kids are competing AND this weird set up (with the “goal” in the middle) is forcing the players to be creative and that is what kids need to become balanced players.
The practice you’re seeing below (video from Next Level Lacrosse) probably helped these kids become better players, much more so than one game of summer ball. They got repetitions, a good amount of realistic running/conditioning and a chance to try new things and perfect their skills.
To me, this sounds a lot better than paying a ton of money to drive 3 hours to a tournament, get 6 runs a game where some college coach might see the kid, and remember him, and call him. Sure, it happens. Of course, it happens. Coaches see kids at tournaments and then recruit them. I’m not saying kids shouldn’t go to recruiting camps or tournaments. But if players put in more practice (the right way), when they do go to these summer camps and tourneys, they will be ready to play at the next level and won’t need 10 tournaments to get noticed. They’ll do it in just one.