I’m coaching at an instructional lacrosse camp in New York City this week and next, and it’s serving as a great reminder as to why instructional camps are so important, and why I like them so much. It’s a lot of fun to help Max Seibald teach the next generation of players, but it’s even more fun to see kids grow, mature, and improve, right before your eyes.
Many of the kids at our camp are young, and many more than half of the campers are in 5th grade or below. There are a handful of middle school players and very few high school players. In fact, there might only be one or two kids who will be freshman in HS next year… and while I don’t mind a young group at all (if the kids want to learn I’m happy!), I am a bit confused as to why there aren’t more older kids at this camp.
This camp is convenient, runs from 830AM to 1pm, and has been around for a number of years. Max Seibald runs a great show, and every single kid I’ve seen at the camp in my years has improved. So why aren’t more high school players participating? Why don’t we have every private school middle schooler at camp this week? They are off school, and probably still around the City. Why are most of our kids younger beginners?
I’m going to be honest here… I actually have no idea.
A good instructional camp is a great experience for any aged player. When I was in college, I wanted to go to a collegiate instructional camp, but they didn’t exist. That was ten years ago. I figured by now, they’d be all over the place, because hey, college kids want to get better too, and there money is green just like the rest. But nope, that hasn’t happened. In fact, the opposite has happened, and older high school players almost never go to instructional camps… How did this happen?
Again, I have no idea. But I do know that instructional lacrosse camps are excellent, and now I’ll tell you why.
Beginner Lacrosse Heaven
Any beginning player will benefit greatly from a week of camp. Many camps have 10-1 camper-counselor ratios or better, and they usually run for at least 3 hours. That is a lot of lacrosse in 5 days. Few camps focus on scrimmaging, and if you’re like Max, you’re focusing on fundamentals… heavily. Young players who literally could not pass and catch at the beginning of camp often see giant improvements in only hours. Kids who had no off hand develop confidence, and are encouraged to try new things the right way. This is all obvious. If Max Seibald spends a day teaching an 8 year old kid how to shoot, that kid will be a better shooter at the end of the day.
Intermediate Improvement Zone
Beginning players will really benefit from anything. Just being around the sport is good for them. Intermediate players are a little different though, and many of them have developed some good traits, like a strong shot or good dodge. When they play games, they rely on these moves, but camp forces them to do different and new things, and it exposes holes in their game. THEN, it teaches them how to patch those holes right up. Defenseman are forced to shoot and handle the ball more. Righties are encouraged to use their left more. Goalies get to try playing defense or dodging. Attackmen play 1 on 1 defense. Everyone gets better, and it happens in a lot of ways.
Intermediate players also often have a lot of questions about the game. Why do players do this? Could you pick up a ball like this in a game? When is a behind the back pass ok? How much should I practice that? The questions go on and on, and it’s because these kids are trying to figure out what they really think about lacrosse. Want good answers? Find a good instructional lacrosse camp.
Higher Level/Elite Players
So what about more accomplished players? Can a top level middle school or high school player actually get better at a camp where they are the best player? In most cases, the answer is actually yes. The Summer before my senior year in high school, I went to my first and only lacrosse camp. It was an instructional camp, held at Springfield College in Massachusetts, and along with one other soon-to-be senior, I was the oldest kid at the camp, and able to dominate.
But that didn’t happen, because the counselors didn’t let it, and because they encouraged me not do it. I was all left in high school (still am, really) but they told me to go right all week. It made my game much better. The counselors took extra time to help me work on my shot outside of drills. They talked about playing in college and what that was really like. I learned a lot, improved a lot, and had an extremely positive experience. So what’s wrong with that?
We have one or two kids at camp this year who are clearly “the best”, but they are all getting something out of it, especially when they listen, and actually try the things we are teaching them. One of the best players was simply not hitting a true overhand shot today, but he worked on it, and worked on it, and during lunch he worked on it, and we talked about it, and he worked on it some more. And then he started to really get it. He was hitting the same corner again and again. Tomorrow we’ll work on it some more. And next year, it will show in his game
Why I LOVE Instructional Lacrosse Camps
In summation, instructional lacrosse camps present an amazing opportunity to teach the game, learn the game, make friends, and play this wonderful game. Find a good camp, with a dedicated and knowledgeable staff, that focuses on skills, and not frills. Look for lots of coaches per player, and look for people who love lacrosse more than they love money. Listen to your coaches, try new things, and get better. Do this, and 5 days of instructional lacrosse camp could actually be the best decision you ever make.