Tier Lacrosse: The College Vs. Pro Debate Continues!

Tier Lacrosse

Editor’s note: Please welcome Trevor Tierney back to the Lax All Stars! This week, we posed a few tough questions to Trevor about the Pro Vs. College Lacrosse debate and how practice can make a huge difference.  For more information on recruiting and lacrosse in general, make sure you check out Trevor’s blog series at 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!

Tier LacrosseConnor Wilson recently said that the college game is better than the game the pros play.  Mitch Belisle of the Boston Cannons disagreed with him, which is more than fair!  How do you feel about the style of play in college vs the pros?  Do you have a personal preference?

Both of them make really great points, and I have to say that I personally love college lacrosse and the MLL. To be honest, I think they are both quite different versions of the sport.  My background is that after I graduated in college, I went straight into the MLL and played for seven years, then I coached in the MLL for two years and now I am back coaching at the college level at the University of Denver. It’s kind of funny for me to think about this question personally, because when I was in the MLL, I would say, “Oh this is so much better than college lacrosse!”. Then, when I went back into coaching college lacrosse, I started saying, “College is so much better lacrosse than the MLL!”. Now that I am not as tied into both (now that I am a volunteer assistant coach at DU), I have less personal bias. Kind of funny how that works.

Anyway, like Mitch says, I think the individual play in the MLL is the absolute best there is. The plays those guys are able to make out on the field are simply amazing. Also, the speed of the game, the stickwork and shots are all beyond comparison. I remember when I first came into the league in 2001 straight out of Princeton and my head was spinning from how fast the ball was moving and how many shots I was seeing. Most of the individual defense in the MLL is pretty unreal too and those guys do an amazing job of slowing down some of the biggest, fastest and strongest athletes in lacrosse today.

But, I also agree a lot with what Connor has to say about teamwork and overall strategy. The amount of time and effort that goes into preparing for each weekly college game is mind boggling. Most college coaches get their teams to an extremely well-polished point for each and every game and make adjustments for every opponent. The result is a thing of beauty if you pay close enough attention to the college games and teams. People always think the college game is slower than the pros because there is no shot clock, but I believe it is actually because the team defense is much better prepared. This is also a reason why the shot clock might never work in college because great defensive coaches would find it even easier to limit offenses to high percentage shots. Also, many college offenses are well orchestrated to try and break down those stingy defenses.

It’s really tough to say which is better though because it’s like comparing apples to oranges (I thought of that metaphor myself…don’t steal it). In the MLL, you are now seeing some of the best individual skill that has ever been witnessed in the game of lacrosse. In college lacrosse, you are now seeing a high level of professionalism and preparation from coaches and players which creates some of the most polished team lacrosse in the history of the game. I think they are both great, just like I love both college football and the NFL.

So there are definitely difference between the two.  College is more about preparation, and the pros are more about individual accountability and excellence.  Overall, does lacrosse have the potential to be a more individual sport, like basketball?  Or will lacrosse always remain a team game?

Obviously, the biggest aspect that separates these two is practice time. Once the MLL is able to have more practices and higher salaries for players and coaches, then you will see the overall team play start to get a bit more dialed in.

And right now, you are actually seeing a more individualized version of the game in the MLL. That’s not to say that some of the better teams do not play well together.  Team chemistry and cohesiveness is still an important factor at any level. But, with the lack of time that offenses and defenses have to prepare and practice together in the MLL, it really comes down to individual skill-sets and making plays. In some ways, the MLL is a highly competitive lacrosse All-Star game every weekend. It’s the best of the best going out there and using their skills, talent and athleticism to try and help their team win. I personally find it very entertaining.

I also cringe whenever people knock the pro game and say it’s not “real” lacrosse. The MLL is all the best players that everyone rooted for in college, continuing to play because they love the game. Furthermore, having a legit pro league that continues to grow every year is great for the game. It gives young players another goal to reach for later in their careers and allows more new people to see the game ever summer. So, stop whining and get your butt in the seats for an MLL game!

How can players in high school prepare themselves via practice for the next level?  The practice intensity levels rise dramatically in college, so what can a kid do to be ready for this change as soon as they step onto campus?  Have you seen any guys who were able to step in right away?  What were some of the keys to their success?

If there were a way to do that, I wish someone had told me while I was playing!  I was always a slow learner at every level I stepped up to. In college, it took me two years to hit my rhythm as a goalie and really be an effective starter by my junior year. When I stepped up to the pros, I stunk for my first year or two as I caught up to the speed of the game. But, that’s just me personally and you always see a few guys at both the college and pro level be able to step up in their first year. Many of those guys just seem to have some innate, God-given talent and/or athleticism that allows them to excel in the sport, no matter what the level. They are far and few between, though.

For the rest of us, it’s just like everything I talk about though on my blogs at http://www.tierlacrosse.com. The more you put into something, the more you are going to get out of it. If you work as hard as you possibly can to be the best player and best athlete that you can be, then you will be preparing yourself for the next level that comes your way!

I appreciate all of you who have been reading my articles on Lax All Stars… I love this site!

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Kind regards,

Tier Lacrosse 

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