- Second-bar Syndrome - When you buy your first lacrosse helmet, there are all kinds of defects you must correct. The helmet obviously isn’t broken in. The chinstrap isn’t fitted yet. And so, usually, young players end up awkwardly peering through the bottom two bars of the face-mask. Erroneous! There is an understanding amongst all knowledgeable lacrosse players that "tilt"—the lower your helmet tilts downward upon your head—accurately correlates with how talented you are at the game. It’s a style thing. True or not, the fact remains: players must fit their helmets to their head, and to acquire tilt (you'll thank me later) tighten the top straps of the chinstrap, and lower the bottom ones. "Second-bar syndrome," as the unfortunate appearance has been denoted, makes a player look funky, unskilled, and naiive to the stylistic standards of lacrosse.
Snatching - The most common bad habit I see among young players is snatching at passes. The aim for catching lacrosse balls, in general, is to do something productive with the ball once it enters your stick. Snatching takes time, puts a player in a compromising, easily-guardable position, and almost always leads to a missed opportunity. I teach my players to develop "soft hands," and to let the ball enter their stick—as if it was an egg. They then occupy a dangerous "triple threat" position, where they can carry, pass, shoot, and read the defense effectively. Snatching is a habit eradicated by hours and hours of wall-ball.
Shoulder Pad Attachments - Depending on how young a player is (and whether or not he plays box lacrosse in the off-season), shoulder pad attachments are absolutely unnecessary and can be removed. They make a player look the opposite of tough, and are entirely ineffective, anyway; defensemen rarely check between the shoulder pads and the arm pads, and if they do, the ball-carrier will seldom notice, and the defender will most likely be called for a cross-check.
Stopping and Scooping (otherwise known as "raking") - This is something you learn on Day 1 as a young player. Get low and run through a groundball; don’t stop and cover it with the back of your stick. The rugby scrums that often materialize in youth lacrosse games occur because kids do not get low and run through groundballs. Instead, they us the back of their sticks as covers, and by the time they are ready to scoop, another player has dug the ball out and raked the ball himself—an infuriating cycle of bad lacrosse habits. At higher levels of lacrosse, very seldom do players rake; they run through the ball, kick it out to space, or "goose it" to a nearby teammate.
Shin Guards (for goalies) - This isn’t soccer. If you sign up to play goalie, you need three things only: a chest protector, cup, and neck guard. Oh—and a willingness to stand in front of a hard rubber ball humming towards your vital organs. The point is: as a goalie, you’re going to get hit by the lacrosse ball however you spin it. Shin guards and extraneous padding will only make you appear unfit for the position.
Swinging Your Stick - This is a big one for youth, high school, and college players, too. On defense, never swing your stick in an uncontrolled fashion. And never take a hand off of your stick, either. Those big, one-handed wrap checks are unpromising risks; the ref will rip his flag out before your check even lands. A better alternative is using two hands, getting low, shuffling your feet, and pushing off when necessary. In the ride, merely "turn your defenseman back," and force him to get rid of the ball. Reckless swinging of the stick means you are hardly moving your feet, leaving yourself susceptible to getting run by, and most likely finding yourself at the end of the bench.
- Shooting High - I played with a kid in youth lacrosse named Nick Schultz. Nick was a decent athlete, but no bigger or more talented than the other kids. Yet he consistently scored 5, 6, or 7 goals a game. We could never understand how. The reason for Nick’s success was this: every time he shot the ball, he shot low. Goalies couldn’t read his shot because it was strictly overhand, and he changed levels. When he was near the crease, he shot high-to-low. When he was on the perimeter, he’d score overhand bounce shots with ease. Youth goalies have such a difficult time corralling low, overhand bouncers, and although they are not as pretty and thrilling as sidearm high shots, they will result in more goals, as well as individual and team success.
Standing Still - My youth coach (my dad) always told our teams, "If you’re standing still in the game of lacrosse, you’re wrong." As a player, you should notice when you are standing flat-footed and merely watching the ball-carrier, and make an effort to move and create space. Even if your movement only involves two or three steps in one direction, a momentary flash to open space, or a curl to the ball-carrier, your motion is not in vain; it confuses the defense and clears space for your teammates. And who knows: you might find yourself wide open in front of the net.
Spinning Your Stick - A habitual phase we’ve all been through, this inefficient habit costs precious time on the lacrosse field. Eliminate it from your game immediately. Practice catching and throwing with no cradle. Again, hours of wall-ball is recommended. Or, have somebody lob you passes in front of a goal, and catch and shoot them without cradling. Once mindless spinning of the stick is omitted, you will become more of a threat on the field—a player who can both distribute and shoot the ball with speed and fluidity.
- Stepping in the Crease - We’ll end with an obvious one. Know that giant white circle that surrounds the goal? Yeah, you can’t step in it. There’s this new thing called "the dive," which we’ll discuss later, but for youth offensive players who are still learning, you must understand the importance of staying out of the crease. Due to simple lack of awareness you will cost your team a turnover. Remember this also: even if your pinky toe touches a fraction of the crease line, the ball is going the other way. Be cautious.
Related Boathouse Lacrosse Articles:
ABOUT PROJECT SOFT HANDS LACROSSE
One day when I was throwing against the wall, the concept of Project Soft Hands suddenly emerged. I created a video of myself playing wallball--throwing creative passes and making difficult catches. I showed the video to my friends and teammates. I posted it to social media. I began making more videos, and got my friends and teammates involved. I called the movement “Project Soft Hands.”
ABOUT THE FIND YOUR WALL LACROSSE CHALLENGE
The "Find Your Wall" Lacrosse Challenge is a collaboration between Project Soft Hands Lacrosse and Boathouse that encourages young lacrosse players to find "their" wall and practice wallball. The more time you play wallball, the better the lacrosse player you’ll become – which is what makes this activity a core fundamental to improving lacrosse skills of all levels.
LACROSSE TRAINING 101
Conducted by father/son lacrosse enthusiasts, Jake and Peter Scott, the Boathouse Lacrosse Training Series is intended to educate lacrosse players of all ages in the strategic technique necessary to enhance their skills and win games. READ MORE