“LETTING THE GAME COME TO YOU”
With college coaches looking on, junior prospects often play out of their element and force situations they usually would not- all in an effort to impress college coaches. Sometimes it works in their favor, often times it does not. College Hopefuls certainly need to do the right things in order to get noticed, but forcing the situation can sometimes turn coaches off. It can also lead to a lot of mistakes- mistakes a player can make when not sticking to his game. One thing I always stress to recruits (even to my players at the Division I level), “Let the game come to you.” Choosing the right moment and making that good decision will create better opportunities—better opportunities with less forced errors. Although making things happen to be seen by these coaches is a must, understanding “when” and “when not” is critical. Shooting the ball from fifteen yards out when your team has just played defense for three minutes is probably not the best option. Shooting the ball from fifteen yards out with two seconds left in the quarter, however, may be the right option. It comes down to knowing the situations, good field sense, playing smart, and most importantly having FUN with the game.
One of my old coaches always used to say, “Everybody contributes and does something well.” Know what you do well, but more importantly, understand what you need to work on. In other words, keep playing to your strengths but work on your weaknesses.
Offensively, if you’re a strong dodger who knows how and when to set up his defenseman but have trouble feeding, you need to continue to dodge, but also find ways to get better at finding the open man and making accurate feeds. If you are not a good off ball player, you need to work on moving without the ball in order to put yourself in a position to be a threat.
On the defensive side of things, if you are a good take-away defender, work on covering players without the ball and becoming a good team defenseman. Work on position as well as off-ball defense. The more qualities a recruit possesses, the better their chances are of getting noticed and going to the college of their choice. Through coaching, self-motivation, and hard work, all of these qualities, which are essential in making you a better lacrosse player, can be developed.
BEING FUNDAMENTALLY SOUND
I attend several recruiting and All Star camps across the country where I watch athletes of all ages, positions, and skill levels. It always comes down to fundamentals. Lacrosse players who are fundamentally sound seem to progress at a faster rate than those who are not as fine tuned.
With a game as fast as lacrosse where things happen in split seconds, handling the ball becomes very important. While watching different drills, coaches can tell the players who have the best stickwork. At all of our camps, we constantly stress the importance of stickwork: getting on a wall, playing catch with a friend, having a stick in your hands… all these contribute to better stickwork.
Year after year I am able to see players who participate at the collegiate, high school and middle school level. Each year, a lot of players simply amaze me with how much they have developed over a span of one year as a result of their hard work. By the same token, it also amazes me that a lot of players remain at the same level throughout their career. Some players are great because of their athletic abilities but most become great through working hard and never being satisfied.
GAINING EXPOSURE WITHOUT BEING SEEN IN PERSON
With the rising number of lacrosse players across the country, it is becoming more and more difficult for coaches to see ALL of the many lacrosse prospects in person on the playing field. Beside camps and tournaments, there are a number of ways to capture a coach’s attention. As a lacrosse coach, we receive numerous game tapes, letters, and e-mails from prospective student-athletes conveying their interest in our lacrosse program. These various types of correspondence allow us to get a better feel for each individual.
The DVD or youtube video should be a highlight reel followed by a half game if possible. Along with a video, be sure to include a profile of yourself and make sure you let the coaches know the jersey number you are wearing in the game film. I have received tapes throughout my coaching career in which I recruited another teammate because I wasn’t sure who to focus on. Making the phone call or sending an e-mail asking if he was number 21 on the game film and the player responds No, I was number 10, can be uncomfortable for both parties.
WANT TO GET BETTER AND DOING THE LITTLE THINGS
Every coach in the country wants their kids to become better lacrosse players. Listen to your coaches at all levels. At each camp, we stress this is the best time to work on all your skills, including the ones you feel less comfortable with. Most kids at camp are afraid to work on their weaknesses. If you are a right hander, camp is a great opportunity to work on your left. No one at camp is going to yell at you for dropping the ball with your weak hand. Teaching fundamentals and increasing your overall lacrosse knowledge should be key components at any lacrosse camp.
Doing the little things correctly and consistently goes a long way. Throwing the ball overhand, shooting the ball high to low, playing defense with your stick in front of you, getting low with two hands on the stick for ground balls, stepping to the ball if you are a goalie, anticipating the whistle if you are facing off, encouraging teammates and playing by the rules…these are a few of the little things that go a long way.
Lacrosse is played at all ages and skill levels cross the country. I’ve been fortunate to witness this through recruiting, as well as the camps I run nationally. Good athletes and good lacrosse players are everywhere, but remember, coaches are always impressed with the player who possesses heart, hustle, discipline, and a solid understanding and execution of the fundamentals.