If you live in a hot bed area like Long Island, Upstate New York, Maryland, or Philly, then you are likely blessed with great local competition, and you can see where you stack up with some of the best on any given day. If you’re not dominating already, you know you need to work harder to reach your goal. The barometer for success is pretty clear, and the opportunities to find new challenges and ways to improve are always present.
If you live in an emerging area, much of the above is often true, but not always. If you live in an area where lacrosse is still relatively new, much of the above is missing altogether. So how can players ensure that they are improving and keeping up with top national level talent, even if their local barometer is a little cloudy?
It’s all about challenging yourself!
We can start off with the basics… If kids in your neck of the woods have good, but not great, stick skills (as is the case in most places today), then your goal should be, at the very least, to have the best stick skills in your area and age group. Do you want to play high level college lacrosse? Good sticks skills are a must. If there is someone who has a similar level of skill as you do, make it a goal of yours to improve your skills to the point where you are notably better. Work your way up the ladder of local skill until you are the best in your age group. Set small goals, and knock them off one by one. 20 minutes of wall ball every other day is a good place to start. If that doesn’t get you going, double your efforts.
You’ve now put in some work, and are near the top of your local age group. Can you score at will with your strong hand? Then it’s time to start focusing on your weak hand! Do every drill in practice with your weak hand. Go out and shoot for an hour every weekend, and spend 75% of the time shooting with your weak hand. Invite a defender you are friends with to come out and throw checks on you. Pad up, and put the stick in your weak hand ALL THE TIME. Early on, you’ll lose the ball a lot… but this is practice, and you’re doing it to get better. A couple weeks in and you will notice a difference.
Find a partner in crime, and push each other. Do you have a friend who loves working out, or running? Maybe they don’t even play lacrosse… Who cares!? Find someone who trains hard, and ask to join up with them. Maybe you know a guy who wants to play D1 football. Hit the gym with him, and crush sprint work outs together. Maybe you know a guy who plays a lot of soccer. Go for long runs with him. When he is dribbling a ball around a field for skill and conditioning training, you should be there too, working on cradling and ground balls.
Maybe you’re lucky and have more than one friend or training partner! If you can get between 4-8 kids (more is great but not needed) to come together to play pick up a couple times a week, you’re golden! There is nothing like small side play to engender creativity and skill development. Players must control themselves (no refs!), set their own rules, and find ways to make it work against players who know their tendencies well. If a group of 6 players gets together 3 times a week for an hour and just plays the game, that group WILL improve faster than the rest of the players on the team. Maybe you don’t have a sibling for back yard lacrosse? Well, you have 20 brothers on your team, so invite a couple over to play!
And you can ALWAYS do it on your own. Find some rotten apples, or a bunch of plastic bottle. Line them up on top of a wall or fence or table. Stand 20 feet away and try to shoot the objects of the platform, kind of like Mike Stone can be seen doing below:
You don’t need an elite travel team or one on one coaching to get better. If you put in the work, and continue to challenge yourself, you’ll see an increase in your game. If it’s easy, find a way to make it hard, and keep improving!