The FIRST-EVER Grow The Game Tour event kicked off in Denver last weekend, and while we had a blast at the USA – Canada game, the RecycleLax Tournament and the US Lacrosse Clinic, the highlight of the weekend was, without a doubt, the free #GTG Clinic with Denver City Lax and Easton Lacrosse.
The clinic was scheduled for 2pm and we showed up about an hour early to the Martin Luther King Recreation Center to make sure everything was lined up as needed. Rod and Ben Allison of Denver City Lax were already there, and so were a couple of players. After touching base with the amazing Allisons, they unlocked a goal and we started shooting around with some of the kids.
The MLK Rec Center location was a great location for a couple of reasons: first off, it was a nice grass field in a neighborhood that had been teaming with youth football only hours before, and second, it was the same location where the FIRST Denver City Lax event had ever taken place. Community and history, all in one. We couldn’t have asked for a more ideal spot!
The balls were from Player’s Bench Lacrosse in Colorado (We are SUPER thankful to PB for that!), and the store had also been the site of construction for the 50 sticks Easton brought along to give away to the program.
Eventually, when the free sticks were distributed, Denver City Lax did a really neat thing. They asked that the players who got a NEW stick give their OLD stick back to Denver City Lax, so that it could be re-gifted, and so that the Game could Grow even more. Each of their kids took part, and it was absolutely inspiring to see how willing the kids were to consider the needs of the next Denver City Lax players.
Once 2pm rolled around, and most of the kids were there, we did some introductions, kept the talking to a minimum and got to having some fun right away!
Brett Queener and Matt Gibson started things off, and then Mike Powell gave a great little speech that centered on having fun, and loving the game, and how that can truly propel players to the next level.
Since so many of the Denver City Lax kids are playing football and soccer and participating in other activities (which is awesome!), we didn’t want to suit them up in full pads and put them through a typical lacrosse clinic. A number of kids had just come from football games, some were still in their padded pants, and a few had never picked up a stick before in their lives.
So instead of trying to make it something it wasn’t, we focused on stick tricks as a means of building stick skills, gaining confidence, and falling in love with the sport.
Mike Powell, Brett Queener and Matt Gibson all have a couple of things in common: they are all smaller guys, and they can all admit to that fact. But while they admit they are shorter, they also recognize that they are some of the best lacrosse players on the planet, and it’s all because of their stick skills. Each and every one of them hit on the fact that stick tricks helped them be the players they are now. They all said it improved their game, and they all said it helped them fall in love with the sport of lacrosse.
The other thing they focused on is the enjoyment of the game. This point may have been spoken to a little bit less, but it was on display all afternoon. All of the Easton guys clearly loved having a stick in their hands, and each one of them interacted with the kids in a really fun and natural way. When kids got frustrated, the Easton pros related how they had been there, but just kept working at it, and having fun, and a couple of times, I definitely saw a light go off in the kids’ heads.
At first the stick work was pretty basic, but the players were picking it up so quickly that a lot of times we had to pick up the difficulty level right away. Kids who had never picked up a stick before were throwing around the world passes to themselves right off the bat, so after about 15-20 minutes, we decided we had to step it up. Each time we did, the Denver City Lax players rose to the challenge! By the end, some of the kids were coming up with their own tricks, and showing us how to do them. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen more smiles on a lacrosse field.
To finish up, we had two goalies step in net and Brett Queener and Matt Gibson put on a trick shot display for the ages. Some of the fakes and passes are really pretty indescribable… you’ll just have to see them to believe them. That video will be up on the site soon, so keep your eyes peeled!
Of course after 2 hours of lacrosse, the kids still wanted more. We stepped back and the Denver City Lax players organized their own 5 on 5 lacrosse game with no goalies, no ref, no coaches, no lines and 3′x3′ goals.
Evidently, this is something they do pretty regularly to train, and when this kind of informal lacrosse is combined with skill development and team practices in the Spring? Well, watch out, world!