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Tier Lacrosse: Keeping Up With The Canadians

7 - Published November 8, 2011 by in College, Interviews, Training, Youth

Editor’s note: Please welcome Trevor Tierney back to the Lax All Stars! This week, we posed a few tough questions to Trevor about BOX lacrosse and how playing indoor can make all the difference in the world. For more information on recruiting and lacrosse in general, make sure you check out Trevor’s website, TierLacrosse.com!

Got a question you want Trevor to answer in next week’s post? Drop it in the comments section below and we’ll make sure he sees it!
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Tier Lacrosse

Have you played any box lacrosse? What do you think of the game in general?

My personal experience with the game was that after I graduated from college, I made the NLL’s Colorado Mammoth as a forward because I did not feel like my field goalie skills would transfer over that well to box goalie. I was relegated to the practice squad and I only played in one game and I am quite proud to say that my stats on the NLL website read like this: 1 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 5 PIM.  So, despite the fact that I spent more time in the penalty box than I did on the field, playing for the Mammoth up in Toronto in front of 16,000 screaming fans was one of the coolest athletic experiences of my life!

I also absolutely loved practices with the Mammoth. The training camps and the Friday night practices were the most fun that I had ever had playing the game in my life. The more confined space, the boards keeping the ball in play, the physical nature, and the overall speed of the game, make it an absolute blast to play. Despite playing the game since I could barely even walk, I was seeing my stick skills improve dramatically and it was helping my game in the summers as a goalie in the MLL. I was in awe of the game and completely fell in love with it. It made me wish that I had been born in the Great White North!

When one looks down the list of the Top 50 scorers in NCAA Division 1 lacrosse over the past 10 years, it’s hard not to notice that there are a lot of Canadians on the list.

These guys grew up playing box lacrosse for the most part, so is the proof in the pudding? Does playing box simply make you a better offensive player?

Jason Donville sends out an awesome email blast to all the NCAA coaches, which lists the leading Canadian players on all NCAA teams and the statistics which show how the Canadians are basically dominating the game, at least from an offensive standpoint. The simple explanation to this is due to the fact that these players grew up playing indoor lacrosse as youth players. The other factor, that is different from when I was in high school, is that Canadians are also learning the strategy and technique of playing field lacrosse as they get older.  So, they start from a very young age playing youth box lacrosse and then as they grow, they continue to play box, but also play and learn the field game at a fairly high level. The combination of the two experiences develops the best offensive lacrosse players in the world.

The reasons for this are pretty simple as the stick skill work that is learned in box lacrosse translates very well to being a great offensive player in field lacrosse. The indoor setting is the absolute best way for youth lacrosse players to get better with their sticks. The boards keep the ball in play in a tighter space with only five players on the field, so all the young players, regardless of skill, get way more touches and repetitions than in field lacrosse. The drills that you can run and just the overall style of the game allow players to develop their stick skills in a way that is impossible to achieve through just playing field lacrosse.

Are there any drawbacks to a box-only lacrosse education? We don’t see the defensive ranks in college dominated by Canadian box players like we do for offense, so is that one of them?

There are some bad habits that you can learn from box lacrosse. Although some Canadian players get away with having only one hand in college, I still think it is highly beneficial for a player to be able to use both hands in field lacrosse. There are also some skills in field lacrosse, like shooting on the run down the alley, dodging from behind the goal and wings and clearing through for space, that are not as well developed in box lacrosse. However, the positives from playing box far outweigh the negatives and playing box at the youth level clearly develops superior players.

It is a bit of enigma in that you do not see as many great Canadian defensive players as offensive players. You would think that box lacrosse would develop great defensive skills in players because it is such a physical game and there is a lot of individual defense played… And actually, some of the Canadian midfielders that I have seen over the past few years also play fantastic defense in a short-stick role.

The reason that you have not seen as many pure defensemen though, is that the Canadians have not started playing as much field lacrosse, up until the past five years or so. Now that they are stressing more field lacrosse play in the middle school and high school aged kids, you are starting to see some better defensemen come out of the woodwork as they are learning to play with a long stick.

The combination of box lacrosse skills and field lacrosse skills is a scary combination.  Just look at Brodie Merrill, who is definitely the best defenseman that I ever played with throughout my pro career.

How can a prospective college recruit better themselves by playing box lacrosse? What kinds of skills should they focus on learning? Is playing box and field comparable to being a two-sport athlete?

Frankly, I think that it is too late by then if a player is a prospective college recruit. If you simply study the two games at the youth level, there is really no comparison. Many youth lacrosse games last about an hour, tops. There are usually running-time halves, and for a majority of the time, the ball is on the ground.

Many times, there will be a couple players out there who are better than the rest, and the ball will end up in their sticks for a lot of the time as well. That means that most of the kids on the field are touching the ball maybe one to three times a game if they are lucky! Sadly, youth lacrosse is starting to turn into baseball with a lot of our young athletes standing around watching from the midline, just as many young baseball players get stuck standing in deep, deep roving right-field.

In the U.S. lacrosse world, we all need to start investing more time, energy and money into the box lacrosse game for our youth lacrosse players. Not only is it the best way for them to improve as lacrosse players, it is also way more fun for them to play! If parents want to hear one of the best kept secrets as to how their son can become a great enough lacrosse player to get recruited or receive a scholarship, then playing some box lacrosse is a great way to try and accomplish those goals. If we keep naysaying the indoor version of the game, the Canadian players will be more than happy to keep taking over the field game, getting those spots in college, taking those scholarships and dominating the leader boards in scoring!

Excerpts from these answers were taken from my new blog up on TIER Lacrosse entitled, “Keeping Up With The Canadians” and can be found over on Tier Lacrosse’s blog!

Kind regards,
Trevor

Tier Lacrosse 

Check out TierLacrosse.com for more great articles from Trevor Tierney.

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