I was out at lacrosse practice today from noon until 2pm with a team of freshman high school boys I coach in Brooklyn, NY. A topic we often cover is how to get to the next level in lacrosse and gain the opportunity to play in college.
When we talk about making it at the collegiate level, we try to stress points about both on-field requirements and off the field life, and the kids who have the most potential to play college lax are the ones who take it all in.
Today, I’d like to go through what I believe are the top Ten Ways To Become A College-Ready Lacrosse Player.
10 Ways To Become A College-Reader Lacrosse Player
1) Have a GREAT Stick!
I’m not talking about owning an expensive stick, or making sure it’s taped up correctly. Oh no. I’m talking about having world class stick skills, of course! Ask ANY pro or college player today, and they will tell you how important stick skills are. Even the D-middies will tell you to have great stick skills. Otherwise you’ll be a d-middie too. All joking aside, even d-mids at the D1 level have really solid stick skills. After all, if you can’t clear the ball, you’re a liability.
2) Be An Athlete
We don’t ask kids who are little heavy set to run a 4.4 40. But we do ask that they try to improve their athleticism. Kids need to run, come to practice in shape, and develop their skills primarily, because that is part of athleticism. The focus isn’t on getting huge in the gym, or becoming the fastest player on the field. The focus is on being athletic on the field. So make sure a lot of the running you do includes having a stick in your hands. And we do run the kids. It’s a part of the game, and if you want to play in college, it really helps to be able to run all day.
3) Pay Attention
Your coaches are here to help you become better players. Do they know everything? No. Does that matter? Not at all. Listen to them, and take away positive things you can learn from. This is a skill college coaches need you to possess, so there is no better time than to work on it in high school.
4) Work On Your Game On Your Own
Showing up to practice is simply not enough. If the coaches are going to be able to teach the finer points of the game, the players need to show up in shape and with sharp stick skills. A low lacrosse IQ can be improved, but only if a player can catch and pass and run at a high level. If you want to truly learn the game, you need pre-existing skills. And this MUST be done on a player’s own time. Players owe, at the very least, a week of wall ball for one hour a day before practice starts. Funny how so much of this comes back to stick skills!
5) Be A Good Teammate
Lacrosse is a team game. And if a player wants to improve, and play in college, they need good teammates. Part of having good teammates is being a good member of the team. This means leading by example, playing on your own time, and dragging reluctant friends to hit the wall with you. It’s keeping in mind that you are all fighting on the same side, but knowing that going hard in practice helps everyone improve. Star individuals who aren’t great teammates (not saying the two are always, or even often, linked) tend to struggle in college a lot more, and coaches look for kids who will make their team stronger, not divided.
6) Be A Good Student
If you want to go to college, you need to have good grades in school. But it’s more than that. Going to college is an opportunity, and a great one at that. Don’t take it for granted. Be stimulated by SOMETHING in school, and pursue it with vigor in college. Otherwise, you’re just wasting everyone’s time. I could have worked harder in the classroom when I was in college, and not doing so is actually one of my biggest regrets in life. Don’t take the college experience for granted. Soak it in.
7) Be A Good Person
Most coaches out there aren’t looking for “ok guys”. They want good people on their team who are awesome at lacrosse. Will teams take some not-so-awesome guys? Yes. But it’s certainly not helping ANYONE in the long run. Lacrosse will always be the Creator’s Game, and this separates it from other sports in a way. It gives us the chance to live by a hard-fought code but still walk the path of harmony. If you feel better when you’re playing lacrosse than when you’re not, then you know what I’m talking about.
8) Help Win As A Team
This is a broad topic, and it ranges from playing hard and honest in practice, to playing team lacrosse in games. It covers attitude, respect, and camaraderie. It means picking your teammates up when the fall, and not blaming each other when things go wrong. It’s knowing that you are only as strong as your weakest link, so instead of trying to break the link, you make it stronger. It’s about helping your teammates improve their play, and knowing they will do the same for you.
9) Understand The Game
It’s taken me a while to get back to the stick skills thing, but here we are! Get the stick skills down and then learn the game of lacrosse! This mean watching games on TV, using youtube, asking other players questions, reading books and magazines and then going out and trying it. It means listening to Quint during ESPNU games and then asking your coach what the heck he was talking about. It’s about listening to your coach explain things like subbing through x, or the concept of high and away. It’s about knowing when to throw a face dodge, and when to just shoot the ball. It’s the finer things, and the points that will make a good player great. And once a player has stick skills, they are ready to step up to this realm.
10) Have Fun!
The points aren’t put in any order, but Having Fun is probably number 1. It does NOT mean that you can do whatever you want, goof around, not listen to the coaches, etc. It means doing things the right way, and ENJOYING IT. When I was in high school, I didn’t get it. I really didn’t. I was elected captain, but I was not a good leader. I didn’t enjoy practice. I saw it as competition, and remember getting angry quite often. I wasn’t helping anyone out there. And no matter how much I complained or swore or got angry, practice didn’t change.
Once I got to college, and I was extremely lucky to be able to play in college at all after my showing in high school, I started to enjoy practice for what it was. It was a chance to go out and get better at something I realized I absolutely LOVED doing. I got to do it with 40 other guys who wanted the same thing. I had 4 dedicated coaches who only wanted us to be better players. It was heaven! And I only wish I had possessed the same attitude in high school. That’s another big regret of mine.
To sum up…
You’re going to get bruised up and battered. Sometimes you’ll win, and sometimes you’ll lose. You’ll get tired and beat up, possibly even yelled at a little, and maybe hit so hard you land on your back. But that’s being a lacrosse player, and it’s being alive! Enjoy it ALL while you still can. I took a hit on the back in New Orleans and I’m pretty sure I’ve now slipped a disk. It doesn’t last forever. Savor your youth, play hard in practice and enjoy yourself. It’s literally the only shot you get at this, so make it count and make it memorable!
These Ten Points might seem pretty obvious to most players out there. They would have seemed obvious to me when I was in high school too. But I wouldn’t have read them anymore seriously, or truly questioned my own attitude and behavior. And all I can do now looking back, is hope that you won’t repeat the same mistakes I did.
Man, I feel like a real old timer! Maybe I should move to Baltimore and join 24SevenLax. Old person joke!
What are some other ways high school athletes can prepare themselves for college? Let us know in the comments section below!
For more on how to become a better player, and more ready for high level college lacrosse, check out our High School section or our Training section. You’re guaranteed to find something that will help you fulfill your potential!