Editor’s Note: Please welcome Mark Schindler, of Nexus Lacrosse, back to LAS! Mark has wowed us with training tips and drills, and some great perspective on the game. Now he’s back with a fantastic Beginner’s Guide for PARENTS of potential lacrosse players…
It’s that time of the year when parents of young athletes are having the spring sport sign-up discussion. Perhaps you’re a parent of a “veteran” youth lacrosse player and the muscle memory of filling out rec. league forms is as real as the reality of smelly gloves and muddy cleats. But maybe your son is begging you to try this new sport that you have no idea about?
All you’ve heard is that lacrosse is growing, fast, Hopkins, Cornell, and UVA have good teams, and it involves big sticks. Your son is more excited than you are nervous, but you’re not quite sure what you’d be signing up for (literally) if you fill out those forms.
Here are a few start-up tips for those of you who are new to the game and who need some conversation ammunition when talking with your enthusiastic son:
- Lacrosse doesn’t have to break the bank. No longer is cost a true barrier to entry into the sport. All the major manufacturers offer entry-level sticks that can be purchased online or in stores for $50 or less [NOTE: this was not true 15 years ago!]. Consignment sports stores, like Play-it-Again Sports, offer used equipment for reasonable prices as well. If you can afford new gear for your son, great. If not, your son can still learn to play the game on a budget.
- Speaking of equipment…”It’s never the equipment.” My Dad, a Long Island guy who was an NJCAA North/South All-Star, always preached to me that “It’s never the equipment.” I always tried to come up with examples of when it IS the equipment, but his message was simply that mechanics, technique, and practice far outweigh the effects of stringing or what kind of stick you use. I believe your son should have a decent stick to use, but the point is this: don’t let him convince you he NEEDS the latest and greatest. He’ll do much better with a basic stick, and a whole lot of practice.
- Speaking of practice… Lacrosse is a little bit like golf – it’s fun to go out and hack around every now and then, but you’ll never be as good as the guy who goes to the driving range every day in addition to playing 18 holes every second Sunday. In the case of lacrosse, this means hitting the wall (hopefully not windows!) to hone stick skills and develop muscle memory. If your son is serious about getting good, use your parent magic to convince him to practice, practice, practice. Click here for a whole lot more on wall ball.
- Encourage him to play various positions. With no experience to stand on, it’s important for your novice lacrosse-playing son to try various positions on the field. Any good coach will tell you that if they were starting a team from scratch they’d likely put the best athlete in the goal. (Hand-eye coordination, leadership skills, etc.) Similarly, it’s not just big kids who play defense or fast kids who play midfield. Sometimes players new to the sport THINK they want to play one position, but in fact have the natural talent and instincts to excel at another. Encourage him to try new positions so he can see what fits best.
- Fill the ice trays now. Regardless of what position he plays, your son will likely be black-and-blue throughout the months of March, April, and May. Don’t worry. Most of these are superficial and although they may look nasty, they are actually considered badges of pride for the players. Just keep the ice bags ready and remind him: if it hurts too much, run faster next time!
These tips have nothing to do with rules or regulations of the game, but hopefully they will give you a starting point for answering your son’s questions about whether he can try lacrosse this spring.
It’s a great sport. If your son asks you if he can play lacrosse, you should say yes. Hopefully I’ve prepared you for a lot of what is to come!
Mark Schindler is the Founder and Program Director of Nexus Lacrosse. A product of the nationally recognized St. Paul’s School (MD) lacrosse program and the current varsity head coach at Mercersburg Academy, Mark has committed to restoring the foundation of the current lacrosse market by establishing Nexus; a new enterprise designed to provide premier, developmental lacrosse opportunities for elite pre-varsity players.
Based upon a foundation of traditional lacrosse principles that includes fundamentals and discipline, Nexus Lacrosse and its programs is focused on providing college-level skill, technical, and tactical development for players who currently play at the highest level within their age group.