Editor’s Note: This article, originally entitled ‘Three Keys to Becoming the Best Lacrosse Midfielder’, was originally published on April 4, 2012 at 4:24 p.m. It has been repurposed to best serve the lacrosse community.
Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve talked about how to become a great lacrosse shooter. We’ve also talked about how to become a dominant lacrosse defenseman, and we’ve even given you a drill called the Takeaway Teacher. Now it’s time for us to bring it all together for you lacrosse midfielders out there.
Today, we are supplying you with three tried and true keys to being the best lacrosse midfielder you can be. We’ve even brought in the big guns to lend a hand!
First, I’ll run through what some of the best midfielders in the game are thinking. These guys are the absolute BEST, and their experience in the game is invaluable. Learn from Sean Lindsay, Peet Poillon, Max Seibald, and Jay Jalbert. Next, I’ll break down their responses and add in my own knowledge to provide you with THREE keys to being the best midfielder you can possibly be. Are you ready for this?
A Word From The Pro Midfielders
Peet Poillon is a budding household name in the lacrosse world, and one heck of a player! I just love his hard and spirited style of play. This Maverik Lacrosse athlete and MLL star had to say:
“I want midfielders on my team to be tough, fast and quick, versatile, selfless, and scrappy.”
I really like the scrappy adjective. It encompasses the whatever it takes attitude, that so many players mention, nicely.
Max Seibald, current MLL star, Nike Lacrosse athlete and owner of Maximum Lacrosse Camps laid out the following traits that any great middie should possess:
A great midfielder should have the following: 1) A great work ethic 2) Grit, toughness and resilience 3) Speed and strength 4) versatility and intelligence 5) HUSTLE!
All in all, Max summed up a great midfielder as a “two-way Stallion” that can do it all, play hard, play smart and run all day.
Jay Jalbert was one of the best middies of all time while at University of Virginia. He went on to be an All-MLL fixture, and he’s now producer of the Maverik Lacrosse videos. Jay kept it relatively succinct, but was also incredibly insightful. Not a big surprise as this guy is an absolute lax legend!
I think a middie should possess strength, speed, endurance, toughness. He needs to be relentless, and awesome.
Great qualities form a great player! Stand out by doing it all, and doing it all really well. There is nowhere for a truly great lacrosse middie to hide, so prepare to be excellent! Jalbert drops knowledge.
Sean Lindsay was always a pleasure to watch while he was winning titles and All-American awards at Syracuse, and befitting of an Orange lacrosse legend, his midfield qualities vary from the others just a bit, in that they include a little more flair for the dramatic.
My ideal midfielder is versatile and unpredictable. Toughness is key. They need to be a leader. And I want them to be clutch.
Now that you’ve heard from the best to play the game, here are three major keys to becoming the best midfielder and how you can improve on each and every one of these aspects of the game.
1) Focus On Your Legs
The Reason: Three of the four greats we spoke with mentioned some combination of speed, quickness, endurance and strength. This is no coincidence. Great midfielders have to be able to run hard, run fast, and do it all day. Knowing where to be, or what to do, means nothing if your legs can’t get you there.
The Answer: Run. When you think you’ve run enough, run some more. Distance is ok, sprints are ok, interval training is ok. Running around on a field with a stick, picking up a ground ball and sprinting down the field, and then repeating that for 20 minutes? Well that’s just ideal. You’re working your legs and doing so with a stick in your hands.
When you’re done running, do some body weight lunges and squat jumps. Beat your legs up when you train and come game time, you’ll be in great shape. Literally.
The other part of the answer is to stretch and be flexible. Lacrosse puts an incredible amount of strain on your body, so make sure you are limber and flexible. Spend 10 minutes stretching out your legs and core each morning. More flexibility means a greater range of motion, and more speed and power.
2) Be A Tough Player
The Reason: The greats ALL mention toughness as a key trait, and yet none of these guys are “fighters”, or “big hitters”. They CAN hit big, but it’s not what they are known for. Being tough isn’t about being a tough guy at all. It’s about being able to take it, and dish it out, but all in the quest of winning the game.
Getting slashed and then turning around and pushing the guy who just slashed you doesn’t make you tough. Getting slashed and going hard to the cage anyway DOES make you tough. This is where being “scrappy” really comes into play. A scrapper isn’t a thug, they just go out and give it 100% at all times. There is no quit in these types of players, and it is almost impossible to get in their head as an opponent. They play to win.
The Answer: Take pride in your bruises and keep your eyes on the prize. When an opponent hacks you in a game but you come up with the ball, don’t complain. Relish the moment and make them pay by burning them for a goal. Want to “learn” how to do this? It’s simple… make a conscious decision to act this way ALL THE TIME. In practice, in class, in life.
This one is all about personal responsibility, accountability and the ability to control yourself, and is one of the most important life skills one can learn via this sport. There is no shortcut to toughness. It’s earned through effort and attitude. Watch Jalbert take an NLL beating and laugh it off. True toughness!!!
3) Be a Versatile Midfielder
The Reason: Each and every midfield great we talked to mentioned some variation of speed, and they all talked about toughness. But they also hit on the ideal middie’s ability to do it all, be versatile, or just “be awesome” as Jalbert might say. A great midfielder can ride, play defense, clear the ball, and then play offense in the span of less than a minute, and the diversity of skills required to do this well is almost staggering. There are just so many aspects of the game to master! But to be truly great, you simply have to be able to do it all. It’s just the way the game is played by the best.
The Answer: This is a great opportunity to ask for a little help. Seek out one of your coaches, and ask them what the biggest “holes” are in your game. Do you dodge well but struggle to shoot on the run? Do you play good defense but miss ground balls? What aspects of your game need the most improvement? Ask for honesty, and be prepared to hear things you don’t want to hear. Then get to work!
How do you get to work when there is so much to do? You have to train intelligently. If your coach tells you that you need to work on shooting, ground balls and your weak hand, and then you spend 3 hours working on your time and room sidearm shot, then you are cheating yourself. Stick to fundamentals and train intelligently. Spending 1 hour on wall ball with your off hand, 1 hour of pass with a friend while you run around, and 1 hour of shooting on the run off a ground ball pick up would be better.
Want to be a diverse midfielder? Train in a diverse manner.
To Sum Up…
Being a great midfielder requires you to be in great shape, and you have to be tough. You need to be able to do it all and do it all consistently well.
Becoming a great midfielder doesn’t happen overnight. It’s something you work for constantly. But once that work gets put in, and is continued to be put in, the sky is truly the limit.
What else do you think aspiring lacrosse middies should focus on?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.