Are you a lacrosse player? Do you want to get better at this game? While it takes years of dedicated practice to be as good as Paul Rabil in lacrosse – there are ways you can steadily improve your skills in the sports. Here’s what you should know about lacrosse to get better at it.
First – Improve your Stamina
Lacrosse is a physically demanding sport – which is why one of your priorities should be to improve your stamina through cardio exercises. Won’t playing the sport itself already be an exercise in stamina? Well, yes – but an independent workout specifically to improve your cardio would be more beneficial. This can be anything from running, swimming, jump ropes, and the like. These would all help boost your heart rate and let you maintain a high level of energy for longer periods of time.
Remember – lacrosse also demands a high degree of critical thinking. You want to be able to judge how and where to shoot the ball in aid of the game. It’s much easier to make those calculations in your head if you’re not fighting for oxygen at the same time. This is a good starting point because you don’t need to be in full lacrosse gear in order to improve your cardio.
Second – Find the Gear for You
Lacrosse involves the use of protective gear and the stick with the net on the end. The stick and net are both regulated by the leagues and requires that it meets certain standards in terms of size, length, weight, and so on. Now – does this mean that all sticks are the same? Not necessarily. The requirement is done in ranges which means that you can go higher or lower as long as you don’t go off-range. This gives you the opportunity to experiment and find the best gear for your body type, height, arm reach, and so on. As you play, you’ll also become familiar with the pocket at the end of your stick, how to properly use it, and how to adjust it yourself to meet the kind of gameplay you want to achieve.
Third – Learn the Rules and the Terms
Lacrosse isn’t a very complicated game but it does have a culture of its own. There are terminologies and rules unique to lacrosse while there are rules that sound the same with other sports, but mean entirely different things. For example, a “foul” in lacrosse is not perfectly similar with a foul in basketball. In order to play well – you have to learn these rules and keep them in your mind during playtime. Now there’s no shame in asking questions from teammates or your coach if you’re not exactly sure how the game should be played.
There are also some rules not written on the rule book but are still followed in lacrosse for better gameplay. For example, when passing a ball – you should make sure you’re NOT facing the person who will be catching it. This is to prevent the opposing team from predicting, then blocking, your pass. If you’re the person receiving however, you should always face the person passing the ball to you.
Fourth – Practice Catching the Ball
One of the drills practiced by new lacrosse players is catching the ball. After all, you won’t be able to throw the ball to any direction if you don’t have it firmly in the pocket of your mesh first. There’s no simple trick to this but requires constant and repeated practice. It’s all a matter of hand and eye coordination on your part, ensuring that you place the stick perfectly where the ball should go.
Note that the ball’s circumference is around 8 inches – just slightly smaller than your average tennis ball. The pocket’s mouth is just slightly bigger than that for an exact catch to happen. A common tip given by coaches is to catch the ball as you would catch an egg. Does this mean the lacrosse ball is delicate? Not really. It simply means that like catching an egg, there must be some slack on your part to prevent the ball from moving back out again. Think of it as adjusting for the recoil of a gun. You have to move your body a little bit backward so that it doesn’t fall off your hands.
Fifth – Focus on Accuracy
Most beginners in lacrosse are given sticks with no whip because the focus is on accuracy rather than your ability to play and hold the ball. But what exactly is a “no whip” stick? Well, that’s why the previous paragraph of this article placed emphasis on the need to learn the different terminologies associated with lacrosse. The terms “whip” and “no whip” are two terms that are unique to the game. To make things easier – a no whip lacrosse net is often better for accuracy because there’s minimal discrepancy from the moment you catch the ball and the time you release the ball for a shot. As a beginner, the most important skill for you to learn is how to shoot that ball to the proper person – specifically a team mate or the goal.
Sixth – Watch Yourself (And Others) Play
Another good advice is to film yourself playing lacrosse and watching it closely. This can be done during practice or during a game – therefore allowing you to study your moves and see what you’re doing wrong. In most cases, the image we see in our head are very different from the actual actions we do in the field. A perspective from the outside can help reconcile these two images and help you play better. Of course – it would also help to pay close attention to how others play the game. What are they doing that you want to copy? What mistakes do they make that you want to avoid? Your coach can offer excellent insight – but there’s nothing wrong with having self-evaluations for yourself.
Seventh – Practice a Wall Ball Routine
A wall ball routine combines the two important skill sets for lacrosse – accuracy and catching. As you practice this drill over and over however, you can kick things up a notch by also playing with the stick. Move it around, try different holds, and perhaps even switch your hands when handling the stick. Knowing how to manipulate the stick in your hands will give you better control of the ball – plus, it turns you into a wild card during the game. Opponents will find it more difficult to predict your movement if the stick is always shifting in your hands. During this time, you can also practice the four basic shots: underhand long shot, backhand shot, overhand long shot, and the sidearm long shot.
Eight – Play for your Position
The way a defensive player moves is very different from how an offensive one plays the game. This is why it’s important to understand the role you have in the team and make sure you’re playing with this role in mind. Again – this is a team sport and everyone has a role they’re trying to play. If you’re a defensive player, invest on the skills you need first and just expand your repertoire as needed so you can be moved around depending on the game.
Ninth – Practice, Practice, Practice
There is no substitute for consistent training. Invest a few hours each day on lacrosse – perhaps engage a friend to play with you during those times. This should also be the perfect time for you to film yourself so you’ll have something to watch later and give yourself constructive criticism. Play lacrosse even during off season – even through just simple drills. This will keep you sharp when lacrosse season starts again and you’ll be in peak condition for the games.
Tenth – Talk with Your Team
Finally, don’t forget the lacrosse is a team sport. Hence, it’s important that you’re able to be open with your team mates and talk through plays without letting things get personal. Remember – you’re all here to learn and get better in the game. Talk with each other, review games after they’re done, and try to talk through problems if you think there is miscommunication during the game. Remember, a large part of lacrosse is being able to silently communicate to a teammate that you want to pass or receive the ball in the midst of all that organized chaos. If you can’t communicate in real life, communicating in-game would be so much harder.
To wrap it up – lacrosse is a sport that requires the development of multiple skills. It’s therefore not enough that you know how to catch, how to throw, or how to cradle a ball. To be an effective lacrosse player, you’d need to be proficient in all the skills associated with the game. Of course, don’t forget that you need to love the game itself – otherwise you might now have the motivation needed to continue with training. While not everyone can be the next Paul Rabil, you are definitely capable of being excellent in this game if you put your heart into it.