High School Training

So You Want To Play Lacrosse In College…

10 Ways To Become A College Ready Lacrosse Player

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.

Johns Hopkins vs Towson men's lacrosse 30

So you want to be like this guy, do you?

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!

About the author

Profile photo of Connor Wilson

Connor Wilson

Connor is the Publisher of LacrosseAllStars.com. He lives in Brooklyn with his better half, continues to play and coach both box and field lacrosse in NYC as much as possible, and covers the great game that is lacrosse full-time. He spends his spare time stringing sticks and watching Futurama.

12 Comments

  • I think there is a big thing missing from the post.  Having fun is certainly important, but if you are going to play in college you have to understand it’s a job.  For every hour you spend playing, you’ll spend 15 in practice/films/weight room/conditioning/wall ball/individuals AT LEAST.  It’s an unbelievable experience, but you have to understand what it really is.  I also think that 

  • That’s a great point, Damian.

    I left it out because playing D1 athletics is almost always a “job”, and I assumed everyone else assumed that as well, which was clearly silly of me.

    Would you be interested in writing a post about that ever?  Would love to get a new former D1 player’s perspective on that issue!

    Thanks for the comment!

  • I think I learned that college overall means you have to grow up a ton from high school, which means even doing the little things correctly like EATING WELL and taking care of your health is critical. Eating cafeteria food 21 meals every week takes its toll on your body, which may effect many if not all of the points mentioned above. Giving it your all on the field and in the weight room will only go so far- keep your body running properly all year round to be able to sustain the grind of a college lax season

  • Solid post Connor!  I’m going to make sure all my players read it.  They are still young and college is still 5 years away for most of them but its never too early to understand what’s required to take their game to the next level. 

  • Fairly basic and incomplete.  NOT trying to be negative but I think there is a TON more to consider.

    Not everyone is a D1 laxer because of ability, commitment or prioritization.  In the long run, playing DI, DII/DIII, JuCo or playing MCLA and excelling on the field and in the classroom takes a ton of work on AND off the field and not only during the season.  I didn’t play DI, I put education and degree program first.  I had the school selected based on academic program of study, NOT, how good the lax team was or whether it was DI or not.  I started as an incoming freshman, started all four years and played in every game except one because of injury.  I had a GREAT college lax experience and got a top notch education.  Im in my 50s and still play in various leagues and tournaments throughout the year.

    I have 7 sons, my eldest was an All State Player his senior year, made First Team All Conference two years in a row went to play DI. My next son will likely play at a top tier MCLA program.  Good lax player, made All Conference his freshman year, will be at a college recruiting tournament this summer. Maybe will be better than his older brother.  But, his academic/career interests are leading him in his own direction.  I do not view them differently because of where they go/are going. My other five are younger and are just beginning their lax “career” and they will be guided about lax/college education reality like my other two.

    Frankly, later in life it REALLY does not matter what level you play in college, what matters is what you are as a human being.  There is nothing special about DI, just because you played at that level does not necessarily make you a better human being. The goal is to continue playing for as long as you physically can.

    I constantly tell my high school players to think about their college decisions very hard.  Dont let your ego (“Im a DI recruit and I’m better than you” or “I got a letter from a coach but its only a DIII school”) get in the way of making a sound decision.  “Do you want to play or wear the team jacket?” is what I ask my players when they are trying to make a decision.  “What are you wanting to do with your life after your college playing days are over?”  You have to be MORE mature in this decision, you have to think this through!

    Also, what schools have the better academic programs you are interested in?  What is that academic departments placement rates of graduates?  What about financial aid?  Some schools have great and very liberal aid packages, some schools are NOT”need blind” in their acceptance policies. So what, you played four years of college lax and all you have to show for it is huge debt!?!?  Not a good plan.

    I think there needs to be a lot more real discussion about the realities of playing at these different levels and educational and financial considerations. 

  • thanks for the comment, Rick!

      Here’s how I see things.  Everything you said was true.  But the title of the post was “So you want to play lacrosse in college…” so I think it’s fair to say that it was directed to kids who definitely think they want to play lacrosse in college.  Meaning that much of the process you thought I missed, was assumed to be covered. Sorry if that was unclear! Also, I don’t say that playing D1 is the only option.  MCLA lacrosse is great, but should a kid who wants to play there NOT do anything I listed out above?  I’d love to hear why you think that…

    You talk about a focus on academics.  And I’m right there with you.  In fact I go so far as to say “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.”

    That convinced me! haha.  Also, please note that this list was not in order of importance.  I said that at the bottom, but it could easily have been missed.

    Your point in financial requirements is rock solid.  And definitely something that needs to be addressed.  But this is a list of things that EVERY kid can control and change.  The financial situation isn’t always the same, and kids rarely have control over their family’s finances.  But you’re right, it’s a big topic!  Choosing which college one attends with finances in mind should probably be its very own post…

    We need someone experienced in the situation to write it though… have any interest, Rick?!?!?!?  Seriously!

    Thanks again!  Super insightful and helpful comment!

  •  I think this would be a great discussion. Hard to get all the points out there.  My point is/was that there is sooooo much to think about, it is way beyond does someone want to play college lax.  a college education is most likely the second largest purchase a person makes in life.  The first being a home.  If your greatest motivation to go to college is to play lax, then hope you have a “plan B”.

    I put together a Recruiting 101 section on my high school team’s web site for my players AND their parents.  From my own experience there is not enough insightful information, guidance, counsel. etc  for the kids AND their parents.  The are just winging it.  Not a good plan for such a huge expenditure of money!

    I certainly would be willing to put something together for you from my own experiences, talking with college coaches and other high school coaches. 

  • Great post Connor. I will take all of the points put forth in this article whenever I play lacrosse. Whether it be a the wall, at a Doc’s practice and hopefully high school. 

  • Definitely, first practice on Sunday. It is going to be a great year. Jess, Manny, Alex and myself got put on the same team.

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