The Benefit Of Adding “Free Play” Into Lacrosse Practices

As lacrosse coaches we want a high level of structure and consistency to our offensive and defensive schemes.  On the offensive side, we want each player knowing where to be in space as a teammate initiates a dodge, set the appropriate picks at the right spots on the field at the right time, make the appropriate cuts, etc.  On defense, we want good one on one technique with correct help defense ready for 2, 3, and (if we are very fortunate!) 4 slides; as well sticking with cutters.

On the other hand, as we drill down with repetition and verbal reinforcement of these concepts, we run the risk of creating quasi-robots that may end up lacking lacrosse IQ on their own without the structure of a scheme.  This may inhibit players to think for themselves and go off script to take advantage of mismatches and other opportunities; or fail to have success as structured schemes break down as the often inevitably do.

I coached one particular young player named Jared on my high school tournament team for the past 2 years, for example, that by in large stuck to the script of our offense that we call 34 motion.  The 34 motion’s basic structure has us constantly going in and out of 1-4-1 and 1-3-2 sets with dodges and off ball movement.  Jared has an uncanny ability to note when his defender is ball watching or otherwise disengaged with him and at the right time in the game and would back door cut with an open look to the goal.  He generally only does this when the ball is in possession with players he has extensive playing experience and chemistry with that know to watch for him to do this.  Jared also sets picks in situations that the offense generally does not call for under regular circumstances simply because he notices that a defender on one of his teammates it not even remotely looking for it.

I teach my players at all levels that although we have a fundamental structure, it is important to understand that they are not robots and are encouraged within reason to get creative and use their lacrosse IQ.  The concept of incorporating what some coaches refer to as free play facilitates this.  In addition to helping to build lacrosse IQ and encourage free thinking, free play also is a great deal of fun for young players who get bored with structured drills and set offenses and defensive schemes.

A basic free play model of half field has teams of 5 split evenly with an even number of D-poles on each team and the goalie playing for both teams.  D-poles play both offense and defense and the format is basically like half court basketball.  If the defensive team gets the ball back, they have to “check” the ball by clearing it to a point 5 yards north of the restraining box to then be able to go on offense.

While middies are accustomed to playing both offense and defense, most D-poles and attack are not, so free play enhances their game by letting them experience life on the other side to to speak.  Playing an opposing position in this manner enables players better understand and exploit its weaknesses.

During free play, coaches should not intervene and coach up the players at all other than call penalties, fouls, and out of bounds change of possession.  The rest should be up to the players to dodge, move, set picks, and cut all on their own.  The result almost instantly is that the players immediately start communicating with one another offensively and defensively, especially when their teammates are out of their depth playing an unfamiliar position.

Starting each practice with 5-10 minutes of free play invigorates the players with pick up style play, enhances their lacrosse IQ, and lets them cut loose and have some fun before getting down to business.  Beyond enhancing lacrosse IQ, free play also builds bonding as the players perform free of the constraints of coaches critique or judgement, relying solely on one another.

To be sure, coaches providing consistency and structure in a team’s game on both sides of the ball is very important.  Adding the element of free play in a practice offers them an added opportunity to improvise and create on their own while having a great time in the process.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Lacrosse Players Are The Jedi Knights Of Athletics

In the fictitious world of Star Wars, the order of the Jedi has ancient origins as warriors that devote their lives to service, pay it forward by taking on Padawan apprentices and focus on the core tenants of academics, philosophy, charity, and volunteerism.   By the relative technologies available in the Star Wars universe, their weapon of choice is a relatively primitive one, using their exceptional superhuman ability and knowledge of The Force to wield it.  In the words of Obi-Won Kenobi, the light saber is “An elegant weapon…from a more civilized age.”

Like the Jedi, lacrosse has its root in ancient North American history, invented by the Native Americans and played on this continent for nearly 1000 years, long before a European ever set foot on these shores.  Like the Jedi and per my last article, most lacrosse players are not satisfied to simply excel physically, but also yearn to enhance their lives with academic and career achievement, acts of service, and are compelled to pay it forward to share their knowledge of the discipline to future generations.

The weapon of choice of the lacrosse player the lacrosse stick.  Although it has undergone many modern innovations, its basic structure of a shaft, head, and basket to carry and throw the ball remains.  Like the light saber of Star Wars, it is an elegant weapon designed by an ancient and spiritual people uniquely connected to the earth’s energy that played lacrosse to honor the Creator, for their enjoyment, and even to foster peace as an alternative to war to settle disputes.  Like the light saber of the Jedi, it is not the lacrosse stick that matters but instead, the skill and discipline of the warrior who wields it.

Unique in a country that clings to its love of traditional sports, lacrosse players feel a special sisterhood and brotherhood among one another.  I can not even count how many times I have been addressed by a random stranger who is likewise connected to the game to talk lacrosse merely because I was wearing a lacrosse themed t-shirt.

This article may seem silly or corny to some, but I don’t care.  Like most lacrosse players, I have no qualms about daring to be different and celebrating my weirdness.  Most importantly, the idea for this article came from a conversation I recently had with my 9 year old son, who like his Dad is a Star Wars nerd who loves the game of lacrosse.  Also like me, fascinated and inspired by Native American culture, beyond enjoyment of the game itself, the Native American roots of lacrosse are for him a source of attraction to the sport.

In participating in the game, my son and I both embrace the fact that we are carrying on a truly ancient New World tradition and in coaching him, he is my Padawan learner.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Spring Lacrosse Preseason – HIIT & Other Ways To Get Ready To Rock 2018

Spring preseason is one of the most exciting times for the lacrosse athlete.  The upcoming season is an open slate, there for the taking for the lacrosse player to write his or her future narrative; a fresh beginning where past disappointments and failures are now irrelevant other than to serve as motivation to make one’s mark this year.

Preparation is everything.  In addition to countless shots on the back yard goal, endless time on the wall and the rebounder, and practicing dodges and cuts; one must also prepare one’s body for the grind of the upcoming season.  Endurance, speed, and power are all essential to a successful lacrosse game, as well as possessing the ability to stay healthy and free of injury.  We cannot accomplish our goals while sitting on the sideline injured.

This is where training and nutrition come in.  As I discussed with my childhood lacrosse bud and now Trainer To The Stars Jordan on a recent episode of our Lacrosse and Sport Podcast, training is so much more than running and lifting weights.  We discussed the arcane ways that we trained as high school lacrosse athletes in the 1990’s and how all to often in this day and age, these arcane methods are still employed by coaches and Dads imparting their past training experiences on their kids.

Steve highlighted, for example, High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT for short.  HIIT consists of intervals of high intensity movement immediately followed by intervals of low to moderate intensity movement.  According to Steve, this offers the benefit of providing both a strength/power benefit to training in combination with a cardiovascular benefit to training.  Steve also noted that this also offers a more dynamic structure to training that better simulates and prepares the body for the physical taxing of the actual game: think of  a player huffing it down down on a fast break then transitioning to ripping a shot…a combination of speed, endurance, and power.  IN this spirit, Steve created a LAXFIT 6 week training program that incorporates HIIT and other training techniques invaluable for lacrosse season preparation.

From a nutritional standpoint, Steve declined to offer specific or overly detailed dietary regimens, but instead offered these basic guidelines:

  • If you look at the label of any food and there is an ingredient that you cannot pronounce, don’t eat it.
  • If the food did not exist 1000 years ago or was not around when your grandparents were kids, don’t eat it.
  • Don’t drink soda.
  • Don’t eat fast food.

Recovery is also key in preparing for the season.  As we push our bodies to the limit to maximize our potential in gaining speed, strength, and resilience against injury, our bodies need ample sleep and rest to recover and provide us net gains.  Nutrition plays a huge role in recovery, but in addition to ample sleep, it is also important that the training regimen is varied in a manner to prevent over training.  Thus, if is not cost prohibitive, a personal trainer or group training with a certified trainer is ideal to.

Now is the time to start your 2018 spring lacrosse journey.  Remember, how you do one thing is how your do everything!

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Things To Look Forward To In 2018 For Lacrosse

Every year changes are made in the game of lacrosse in an attempt to continually improve the experience and growth of our beloved sport.  Changes come primarily from US Lacrosse and occasionally from other governing bodies like the NCAA.  Most of the time, changes end up being for the better.

For 2018, one of the exciting developments carrying over into youth lacrosse groups from last year is youth leagues across the country taking the plunge to implement small ball for optimal development of young lacrosse athletes.  The small ball approach maintains smaller field sizes and team sizes.  The result is that players get more touches of the ball and remain more consistently engaged in play.  See the link below for the current US Lacrosse youth small ball guidelines:

https://www.uslacrosse.org/blog/us-lacrosse-announces-new-boys-youth-rules

What spurred this initiative was reporting by the Sport and Fitness Industry Association that 2007 – 2014, the number of children aged 6-12 participating in traditional sports (baseball, basketball, football, soccer, softball, track and field) dropped precipitously from 35% to 27%.  During the same time, the same study concluded that hockey participation grew by a stellar 43% (lacrosse during this time lacrosse grew by a more modest 29%).

Looking to emulate the success of USA Hockey in shortening the size of the hockey rinks and goals for young lacrosse players led to the new small ball standard for maximizing development and enjoyment in the the sport of lacrosse.

From the college recruiting side of lacrosse, we can look forward to a new era where young lacrosse players can enjoy the sport without the pressure of the college recruiting process.  In a vote that went down last year, college coaches are now prohibited from making contact with players before September of their junior year of high school.  In a college recruiting process that had players signing commitment letters as ridiculously early as 7th grade, this is a huge development.

As already mentioned, this restriction facilitates unbridled enjoyment of the sport without the pressure of the college recruiting process that can be overwhelming to young athletes. It also evens the playing field for young athletes that are late bloomers that may have otherwise gotten passed over in the recruiting process simply because they needed more time to hit puberty.

In girls and women’s lacrosse news for 2018, they will now be allowed to use lacrosse sticks with pockets strung with mesh.  This will offer girls and women more variation in their preference for different pocket types that the boys and men’s game has enjoyed since the 1980’s.  Lax.com has already begin selling girls and women’s lacrosse heads strung with custom mesh pockets for 2018.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

US Lacrosse New Age Guidelines Present Challenges For Emerging Lacrosse Markets

Having been associated with US Lacrosse for many years and having been appreciative of their guidance as they advocate for the growth of the sport of lacrosse, I understand how much time and research they put into their decisions.  Thus, from the outset of this article, I want to be clear that I admire and respect US Lacrosse and appreciate their efforts and guidance.  Many decisions are made for the greater good and will inevitably render some unwanted consequences.  The US Lacrosse age segmentation policy effective 9/1/2017 is a clear example.

US Lacrosse this year transitioned away this year for the under age categorization to an age and under categorization.  For example, the old U15 age bracket which would have represented players that were under the age of 15 as of the US Lacrosse cut off date of 8/31/2017 is now 14U with the new cut off date of 9/1/2017.  Under the U15 categorization, 15 year old athletes could play youth ball provided that they turned 15 after the cut off date.  In the 14U classification, 15 year old players are now eliminated from youth lacrosse eligibility.

I understand the intent here, which is to establish age categories that correspond more closely with the grade most kids fall into in a given age bracket, and in the case of the 14U division, this generally prohibits any high school freshmen from participating in youth lacrosse, making 8th grade the final year that a player may participate in youth lacrosse.

For long established lacrosse markets like my childhood state of New Jersey and other areas like New York, Maryland, etc., this does not generally present any challenges since most of these areas have thriving middle school, JV, and Varsity programs.  However, in my adopted home state of Florida and particularly the Florida Space Coast where the sport is still very much in emerging market phase, we are facing difficulties at the 14U division and its enforcement.

One of the most pressing concerns is that we have several counties that do not have middle school athletic teams and high school programs that do not have enough players to field JV teams.  This translates to still prepubescent and/or still developmental freshmen either being promoted to varsity or not playing at all.  Such a move puts such a player in physical danger often pitting a young player who is essentially a boy or girl against young men or women.  It also stifles lacrosse skill development for players who struggle just to physically keep up with far more developed athletes that they should have no business going up against.

Another issue is players that have been held back a year for academic reasons.  Although a player may be in 8th grade, he/she will likely be ineligible to play youth lacrosse, yet he/she cannot play JV because he/she is not a member of the high school.  On the flip side, there are academically gifted players that have skipped a grade which would make such a player a high school freshmen, still youth age eligible, but deemed ineligible for youth lacrosse due to school year.

These are all of the issues we are facing in our lacrosse county rec league here in the Florida Space Coast, the Brevard Lacrosse Alliance.  I know that we are not alone in the state of Florida, hearing the issue raised among colleagues all over the state.  I am certain that other states that are still emerging lacrosse markets are in similar predicaments.

Thankfully, US Lacrosse at this time provides these guidelines as exactly that: guidelines.  At this time, I have been assured by US Lacrosse, that tweaking the guidelines for the unique needs of the individual programs will not at this time affect our liability concerns as it pertains to program insurance obtained via US Lacrosse.  Also, this really is only an issue at the 14U level and seems to work just fine for all younger divisions.

Our ultimate policy in being a club that feels strongly about following US Lacrosse guidelines as closely as we possibly can, is that we intend to follow US Lacrosse guidelines for every division with the exception of our oldest youth division.  Our policy is to enforce the 14U age bracket with exceptions for the allowance of 15U age eligible freshmen that are not concurrently on a JV or varsity roster.

Enforcement may prove challenging as our league grows, but by the time that becomes an issue, we are hopeful that with the growth of our numbers and more high school programs having thriving JV programs, the 14U age classification will no longer be as much of an issue.

We remain grateful for US Lacrosse and their national leadership in the sport of lacrosse.  We are also grateful for the flexibility in transitioning to strive to meet their guidelines.  A lot of smart people with countless years of experience in the sport of lacrosse and sports science that work for US Lacrosse constantly debate these issues which gives us tremendous respect for their adopted policies.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Beware – Female Athletes Significantly More Prone To ACL Tears Of The Knee!

The anterior cruciate ligament is the major stabilizing ligament of the knee joint.  It is one of the most common sports related injuries that leads to athletes losing significant time on the field and can be career altering.  One in 3000 athletes will experience an ACL tear in general according to the Orthopedic Specialists of North Carolina.

There are two types of ACL tears that occur in athletes, contact and non-contact injuries.  Contact injuries lead to tear as the result of collision or impact, while non-contact ACL tears are the result of simple plant and pivot.  It is the latter, the non-contact ACL tear, that female athletes experience at a rate 5 times greater than males.

I am fortunate to have a great resource on this topic, friend, childhood lacrosse buddy, lacrosse podcast co-host, and trainer to the stars Steve Jordan (SteveJordanFitness.com).  According to Steve, there are key reasons why females are structurally at greater risk for ACL injury:

  1. Females’ knees are more  “turned in” (toward the midline of the body).
  2. Females’ knees are less bent when jumping and landing.
  3. Females jump and run with the soles of the feet in a more rigid position and directed away from the body’s center of gravity.

Much of these differences, according to Steve, is the result of unique anatomical difference in the pelvic cradle of females that is designed to facilitate child bearing.

In light of these findings, we not only have a better understanding of the answer to the question of why female athletes are so much more predisposed to ACL tears, but also have the ability to prescribe a solution. Even more exciting, the solution is not some new, outlandish, complicated, surgical procedure requiring months of recovery, but a comprehensive preventative rehabilitation program that can be performed by any athlete.

In the lacrosse club that I preside over in my community, we are fortunate to have a girls coach that is a physical therapist by trade, whose main role is to warm our girls up and coordinate conditioning sessions designed to prevent ACL tears and other injuries.  I believe it is in the best interests of any female athletic organization to have similar expertise in the management of injury prevention programs.  Whether it be a physical therapist or a highly educated and experienced athletic trainer like Steve Jordan to integrate into an organization for this purpose, it is a worthy and justified investment that will prove priceless in keeping the girls safe.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Managing Pain In Athletes Without Medications And Their Side Effects

My Lacrosse and Sport Podcast co-host and life long friend Steve Jordan and I recently had an informative interview with our mutual long life long friend, Dr. Brian Paris (episode in player above).  Brian is a chiropractor that has expanded his knowledge and technical expertise throughout his impressive career, recruited the very best talent representing a vast diversity of medicine, and combined them in his integrative Pain and Arthritis Relief Center in Rockville, Maryland.

I would encourage my readers to give the episode a listen, especially those who either themselves suffer from chronic pain or have child athletes that may have chronic injuries or conditions that cause pain and interfere with their quality of life and enjoyment of sports.  Even the healthiest of young athletes will experience at least minor injuries on occasion.  Even the mere act of simply growing can cause pain in young athletes that leads to down time, as seen in cases of Sever’s Disease and Osgood-Schlatter Disease.

A victim of a gastrointestinal ulcer from taking anti-inflammatory medication as a child athlete, Brian and practitioners like him seek treatment modalities that relieve pain and heal without negative side effects as some medications can cause.  In my conversations with Brian and upon review of his center’s website, two key approaches in particular stuck out to me with regard to the scope and readership of this blog.

The first was pioneered by Brian’s colleague Andrew Bloch, a physical therapist and acupuncturist who developed a trade marked therapeutic combination of Eastern and Western disciplines called Reflexive Pattern Therapy.  Straight from the Pain and Arthritis Relief Center’s website:

RPT™ focuses on particular patterns within the autonomous nervous system that, when located and corrected, relieve chronic pain. The technique uses reflexes as a tool to fix these patterns, but instead of using a reflex hammer, Andrew uses his hands to deliver fast, pressurized contact movements to patients’ problem areas. These movements evoke a reflex from the patient, causing the body to react with equal momentum, resulting in immediate pain relief.  Once the pain is alleviated with RPT™, Andrew turns his focus to the somatic nervous system and equips his patients with stretches to strengthen their core for long-term relief. No pills or surgery are involved. The biggest benefit of RPT™? Patients feel better instantaneously. In Andrew’s own words, “You will feel better immediately. Not a day or two days later, but right away.”

The second therapeutic approach is for specific sports injuries like tendonitis, bursitis, muscle and ligament strains/sprains, etc. Brian’s practice applies an approach they call RICE (Rest Ice Compression Elevation) while also correcting postural deficiencies in the athlete that may be predisposing the body to these injuries.

Brian and his team’s approach to pain and arthritis relief reminds me a great deal of a similar branch of my field of veterinary medicine called “veterinary rehabilitation.”  As an integrative veterinarian, while I always seek minimally invasive and side effect free courses of therapy, we also understand that there are some cases that require surgery.  A CCL tear (the veterinary equivalent of an ACL tear) will not never heal without surgical intervention.  Thus, one of the most important tenants of veterinary rehabilitation is “if it is unstable, send it to the table.”  As a result, in the same day, I may surgically reduce a fracture, repair a CCL tear, use my Class IV therapy laser, and perform acupuncture.

With the exception of ACL tears, compound or displaced fractures and other injuries that necessarily require surgery at least in the first phase of treatment, I would encourage anyone who lives with chronic pain of musculo-skeletal or neurological origin to seek out facilities like the Pain and Arthritis Relief Center in Rockville, Maryland.  While it benefits people of all ages to minimize dependence on medications, it is especially important for children try avoiding drugs with internal organs are still developing.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

 

LaxFIT – Lacrosse Specific Strength, Conditioning, and Agility Training

In my article immediately preceding this one, I wrote of the dynamite summer Pro Camp that a team of professional lacrosse players, college assistants, and my long time friend, celebrity trainer (and former NJ All-State Midfielder) Steve Jordan put on for our Space Coast lacrosse community.  The main objective Steve brings to the camp is the strength, speed, and agility portion.

This year, Steve came with two very novel concepts.  The first was a 6 weeks pre-season lacrosse specific training program he calls LaxFIT. Even more uniquely, it is attainable (for an incredibly reasonable price) via online video training modules that the user logs into and completes the program on their own schedule on their own time.

Steve and I recently had an indepth discussion about this in our latest “Lacrosse and Sport” podcast (player is above) and I would encourage to anyone reading to take a listen to it to hear about the LaxFIT program straight from Steve.  While there is so much more to his LaxFIT concept, the main points that I took from our talk was that:

1.) The program is all high intensity interval training that does not require special equipment purchase.

2.) The movements and program are designed specifically for the physical needs unique to a male or female lacrosse player.

3.) It is a day by day 6 week recipe for lacrosse players of all ages to ready themselves for their upcoming lacrosse season.

You can learn more about Steve’s program by listening to our LaxFIT episode above or by visiting this link below:

https://www.stevejordanfitness.com/lax-fit

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

The Exhilaration Of The Weekend Lacrosse Tournament

Having just wrapped up the summer tournament season (my 8 year old son playing in the U11 division and me having coached a JV high school club team), I am compelled to reflect how fall and summer lacrosse tournament seasons are a great modern evolution of the great sport of lacrosse.  I so wish this existed in my youth and high school playing days, because it has grown to be one of the most exciting and fun aspects of being a lacrosse player.

Club Choice

While a player is forced to play for a particular coach for a particular middle school or high school team during his or her spring season, fall and summer tournament seasons offer players the opportunity to experience different coaches and playing with different players.  This diversity of experience and freedom to choose a particular team and coach is mentally beneficial to the innate free spirit of most lacrosse players, while enabling a player to experience different coaching philosophies that they may grow from.

Lacrosse Takes Over The Town

The full weekend tournaments draw the best club teams from all over a given state.  In my home state of Florida, that includes teams that may travel from as far as a 6-7 hour drive and given the destination aspect of Florida as a tourist state, the tournaments even commonly draw teams from out of state.

The result is a given venue whose area hotels are sold out with lacrosse families, restaurants are full of lacrosse players and lax families, and while teams may come from all over, there is a feeling of connection among the players and families created by the common bond of the sport of lacrosse.  When at these tournaments, one cannot turn one’s head without seeing lacrosse sticks, lacrosse gear, and lacrosse apparel.

Fast-Paced Exciting Lacrosse

The running clock playing two 20-22 minutes halves creates a rapid pace of play that places a sense of urgency to strike as early and often as possible.  In this style of lacrosse, getting in a hole early can be very difficult to climb out of in comparison to the regular season with 4 quarters of play and constant stoppage of the clock during dead ball situations.

If you win there is not much time to celebrate having another game to play usually within an hour.  If you lose, you need to have a short memory because you have little time to shake it off and try again in the next game.

An Abundance Of Lacrosse

Most tournaments guarantee 4-5 games in a weekend.  Thus, it is not uncommon to play 3 games day one, 2 games day two, and possibly a 6th on day two if you advance to the finals.  It is a mental and physical grind where only the most conditioned and skilled players shine.

Most clubs play a 3 tournament season over a 2 months, one month to practice and build chemistry with players from multiple programs many of whom have not played together, then the second month to knock out the tournaments.  This past season, for example, that translated to my boys having played 15 games from lat May to mid June over a 3 week period.

Bonding With Your Child

Whether playing youth or high school, the quality time spent with your child at these events is incredible.  Travelling together, staying in hotels, and going out to dinner with teammates and other team parents creates beautiful quality time among families.  Cheering your children on all weekend as they play their hearts out in the game they love reinforces in them that we support them and are behind them 100%.

The summer and fall lacrosse tournament seasons have been a very positive development for the sport.  It provides an unparalleled diverse and exhilarating experience for lacrosse players that binds them to the sport in a very special way.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

The Erosion Of Self Accomplishment In Children

In all of my years of coaching lacrosse (9 years and counting), I have experienced milder variations of what I just experienced a couple of days ago, but never anything like this.  Profound new insights or experiences that are good or bad are what drive a blogger to write, and I knew that I was compelled to write about this incident.  It just took me a couple of days to 1.) cool down and 2.) put it in the proper perspective to create awareness about a negative that will hopefully lead to a positive impact.

The elite high school team that I head coach has two tournaments under our belt this summer season, with one more to close the season this weekend at the Florida Cup.  We had a great showing in the last tournament having gone 4-1 and making it to the semi-final round, finishing third overall.  The team is feeling great heading into our last action this season and morale is high.

After the conclusion of practice this past weekend, the parent of one of my players approached me after practice and asked me if his son would see more playing time in the upcoming tournament.  My answer was that it would depend on the circumstances of each game we were in (his son is a a nice kid, but relatively less experienced and at this time is a second string player).  Without any further discussion, the player’s father erupted into a profanity laden tirade and accused me of being a fraud and conning him out of the money he paid to register his son for the travel team; that I should be ashamed of myself for accepting registration fees when his son was not going to play (mind you, I am a volunteer coach, the club is a not for profit organization, and I cover my own travel expenses in addition to donating my time without even having a son playing on this team).

Despite this father’s inappropriate and very public tirade, I calmly pointed out that his son had in fact played at least 25% of the time even in tight games, and in games where we had comfortable leads or were out of reach for us, our second lines, his son included, got the lion’s share of the playing time to get them as much experience as possible.  He called it garbage time, told me his family was done with us, informed his son that his season was over, and bounded off the field.

Let us put aside how absolutely out of line this person was for treating a volunteer coach in that manner and look at the even great picture here.  Despite that fact that I have repeatedly reiterated to parents and players that making the roster of my elite team is a remarkable accomplishment, but their commitment, attitude, and execution on the field will determine their playing time, that there are no guarantees of playing time; this father just taught his son that because he wrote a check, that he was entitled to more playing time than he was getting.  And in light of this, rather than encourage his son to continue to improve to earn more minutes, he forced him to quit.

I want to be clear that I take issue with the father’s behavior in this matter.  At no time did I ever note any frustration or sense of entitlement from my player.  In fact, he dutifully showed up to practice every day, was very coachable, and had indeed improved a great deal this season because of his experience playing this level of ball, being taught by a coaching staff of positional specialists committed to giving each player one on one instruction to grow their game.  I felt terrible for the young man who’s father embarrassed him in front of his teammates and other parents in our lacrosse community.  I feel terrible for the fact that he had to quit because I know that had it been his choice, he would not have even considered that option.

As if the behavior of the father of this story was not bad enough, I had the pleasure of receiving a colorful e-mail from the player’s mother, thankfully not laden with profanity, but with plenty of words in all capitals and runs of punctuation.  There was also a demand for a full refund of her son’s registration fee, and a threat of sicking the family attorneys on me if I did not immediately comply (this despite her son having already played in two tournaments, was issued a uniform with shooter shirt, participated in clinics put on by professional lacrosse players at the club’s expense, and made use of club equipment for 8 weeks of a 9 week summer travel season).

The millennial generation of today possess some great qualities, compassion and the embracing of social causes, choosing purpose and fulfillment in their chosen careers over monetary reward, to name a couple.  As we are all keenly aware, however, there is a disproportionate percentage of millennials in comparison to previous generations, that live with an undeserved sense of entitlement, that live the victim mentality, that when they do not succeed, it is not due to their own failures but due to their mistreatment at the hands of others….that in short, lack accountability.

Adults can complain all we want about this segment of millennials, but we must stop blaming the kids and instead hold the parents accountable for the way many out.  When parents demand participation trophies because it hurts the feelings of their child that did not earned one through accomplishment, what does that teach their child?  What does it teach the children that are exceptional in their accomplishment but are given the same award as everyone else?  When a game is on the line on a competitive team, what message do I send the 20 other players I am responsible for if I were to not have my best personnel on the field that put us int he best position to win; because back up player’s feelings may get hurt or a parent may get upset with me?

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.