State of Lacrosse: The Summer Game
Let’s begin with this basic truth: At some point, you are going to spend money on lacrosse this summer.
For the record, I think it’s well worth the investment of money (if you can afford it) and time to make it out to the FIL World Championships in Denver, CO in July. More than anything, the experience will be worth it. Outside of lacrosse becoming an Olympic sport, there will arguably be no better lacrosse event to experience in your lifetime.
The collegiate Final Four is awesome. But this is a celebration of our nation’s oldest sport, and Denver will play host to the best players that every lacrosse playing nation has to offer. While I’m not sure that everyone would agree, I would suggest that if you could choose one single lacrosse opportunity to take advantage of this summer, the FIL World Championships should be it.
Should I choose this over playing a tournament? Yes. Should I do this instead of a camp? Yes. DO THIS. Even if it’s only for a couple of days, or even just one game. And then if you want to argue after the fact that it was not worth your investment or that there was a better investment, I will happily engage in the discussion.
Since the topic of camps and tournaments came up… I’ve got some thoughts on those situations as well. And I appreciate you asking my opinion on it! To be honest, not that many people ask me about this topic, so I’ll be as direct in my thoughts as I can. I know your time is valuable… almost as valuable as your money.
Therefore, invest in becoming a better player, rather than just playing more. This opinion mine, but it is backed by 20 plus years of lacrosse experience, including 4 years of Division 1 lacrosse, and just short of 10 years as a clinician, high school coach, and professional player.
Times have changed. The game has grown. There’s more money that exchanges hands. The opportunities have expanded. There are more club/travel/select and ”elite” teams. There are more camps, more tournaments, more tournaments that are called camps and more camps that have morphed into tournaments. More colleges are fielding teams and more kids have aspirations of collegiate and/or professional lacrosse careers than ever before.
Keeping all that in mind, certain truths will always remain when it comes to athletics. One such truth is that you must improve in order to continue to compete.
So, Chazz, what are you getting at? You said you understood the value of my time!
True, I did. Thanks for reeling me back in. And I apologize in advance, but I do have to provide a little context for the explanation. There seems to be a nationwide push for every young player to participate on a club team.
On the surface and at face value, there’s nothing wrong with it. Much the same as youth basketball, football, soccer, and baseball, there’s a lot to be gained. The general life lessons you learn about sportsmanship, about teamwork, about accountability and responsibility. The camaraderie and the relationships that you build among the people in your city, county, state, or region. Those are all very good things. They are great for the participant, for the particular area, and for the game.
Where team play tends to fail us, is in the level of individual skill development. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of quality coaches and program directors that do a tremendous job. It’s my opinion, however, that club/travel/select and “elite” team participation is inherently based on the team and not the individual. It’s rooted in the idea that competing with (presumably) (other) good players, against (presumably) good players will automatically make you better. So kids get together a limited number of times to practice and prepare for tournaments that may or may not necessarily provide them with any substantive, qualitative, or quantitative development.
If you participated last summer and are questioning whether or not to do so this summer, ask yourself some questions and answer them as honestly as you can.
As a result of having participated on X team,
Do I understand the game better at the end of the experience?
Has my on field production significantly increased?
Has my playing time significantly increased?
Has my point total significantly increased?
Have my turnovers significantly decreased?
Do I understand the difference between taking a chance and forcing a play?
Am I a better on ball defender?
Are my checks more accurate and/or better timed?
Do I know the difference between a good check and a bad check?
Do I knock down more passes on defense?
Do I more fully understand the basics of team defense?
Am I a better communicator?
Am I a better leader on my middle school/high school team?
These are all important questions because you should be able to answer yes to the applicable ones if the summer or fall team that you play with is providing you a quality service and experience. More importantly, these are things that you will make you a valuable candidate for collegiate coaches – which generally tends to be the underlying reason that everyone wants to participate in club teams and at tournaments in the first place.
It’s that tricky word, exposure, which can do as much harm as it can good.
If you are looking for a good time, tournaments and games are awesome. They really are. But if you are looking to elevate your game, it’s a focus on, and dedication to, skill work that is really going to help you reach your goals. So rather than spending thousands of dollars on club teams whose focus is tournament play and putting you in front of college coaches, FIND A QUALITY INSTRUCTIONAL CAMP!
I know, they are sort of a dying breed, unfortunately, but those camps are where real development often happens. Even Michael Jordan, the best basketball player to ever walk the planet noted, “You can practice shooting eight hours a day, but if your technique is wrong then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way. Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.”
Similarly, in lacrosse, if we are only playing games, and reiterating the poor habits that we already have, or developing new bad habits without anyone taking the time to correct them, we get no better. And a coach yelling at you to “stop doing” x, y, z is not going fix it. That’s what quality instructional camps do for you. They provide a critical eye, instruction, technique, and most importantly repetition. Whatever our habits – good or bad – we have repeated them over and over and over. We need to know what it feels like to do things the right way. The repetition provided in a camp setting gives us that. As a result, we leave the camp, knowing what it feels like to do the same skill correctly and incorrectly, meaning that we are now equipped to fix it on our own.
There’s nothing wrong with club teams. There’s nothing wrong with summer and fall leagues. In fact, I think those are great, and depending on your area, they may be more valuable than club teams. But that’s for a different post. The best bang for your buck this summer is in the instructional camp (or going to the FILs). Many of them are cheaper than shelling out boatloads of money for club teams, and they can truly help you to develop. You may not get as cool a reversible or pair of shorts, but you can probably trade for some pretty cool ones while you’re there.
Spend time IMPROVING your game this summer, not just playing games. You’ll be happier for it later. Some may disagree, and even make strong points, but this is my opinion on the matter as I see it now.
Bonus food for thought, if you’ve made it this far and are still reading…
As I’ve alluded to a couple of times, we also have to address the misconception that playing in a bunch of tournaments is going to get college coaches to see you and eventually land you a scholarship. I’ll try to make this brief.
Point 1: Scholarships – There are 12.5 scholarships per TEAM at the division 1 level and many schools don’t even offer that. That means virtually nobody is on a full scholarship. It’s not division 1 basketball or football where you sign and are automatically going to school for free. Sure they can work some things out, but you will be paying, and most of you will be paying a decent amount… or paying loans… or both. So club teams are not your ticket to a free college education.
Point 2: Admission – Lacrosse can help me to get into a school that I might not normally get into. Yes. IF you are good enough that the coach decides to use his influence on you. That means that you (a) have to be talented enough and (b) have the grades. College coaches are not risking their influence on a student that they do not believe can handle themselves academically. But you must also realize that you the game has changed, and college coaches (especially at the division 1 level) are looking at sophomores and freshmen. Their senior and junior classes for the most part are already wrapped up. If you are not being recruited right now, it’s NOT in your best interest to go to a bunch of exposure camps. It is in your best interest to develop yourself as a player and look at other schools while maintaining the idea that spots at that level may open up later on for you. Recruits change their minds, fall off academically, and get hurt all the time. This brings me to the next point….
Point 3: Choosing a Camp – If you are an older player, you know what schools you are interested in, and you know that the school fits you academically, reach out to that coach and then get to their instructional camp. If you shine there, and you are better than somebody he’s already bringing in, he’ll find a way to fit you in; if not as a recruit, then maybe as a preferred walk-on.
I will be back from time to time with more on the State of Lacrosse. Thanks for reading.