HOW TO GET RECRUITED : BE A GREAT ATHLETE

This is Part II in a four article series on How To Get Recruited. Click here for Part I "How To Get Recruited : Be Great".

The second most important characteristic that coaches look for when recruiting a lacrosse player is athleticism.  Lacrosse players are getting bigger, stronger and faster every year.  To get recruited at a top Division I school, you have to be a "stud of an athlete", as the coaches like to say. Now, some of us are born with God-given abilities that make this easier or harder depending on the cards we are dealt. (I was no exceptional athlete myself as a kid; you could have timed my 40 yard dash with a sun dial and barely stuck a pizza box under my feet when I jumped!)  However, that should not stop anyone from trying to reach their full potential as an athlete.  Just as becoming a great lacrosse player is an art of it's own, so is becoming a great athlete.  There are more qualified trainers and strength coaches in explaining how to do this than I am, but I know a few things from experience that will help.

If there is one thing that I could get the young men that I work with to do, it would be this...throw away your television and video games!  The best thing you can do as a young athlete is to just be active in the world.  It does not have to be anything supervised or organized.  Young athletes just need to get outside and play whatever they want! Play basketball, football, hockey, soccer, anything...it does not matter.  Just get off your butt and do something athletic outside and you will become a better athlete!  You will not become a better athlete by playing Fifa or Madden on XBox, so put those controllers down and go outside!  Please!  Now!  (I am sure there are parents out there rolling there eyes at me right now saying, "Good luck with this one, Trevor...")

Along those same lines, I believe playing other sports is a great way to improve your overall athleticism. Growing up, I also played hockey and football all the way through high school. Through each sport, I was able to develop different athletic strengths, which helped me to become a better lacrosse player than if I had just played lacrosse alone. Furthermore, many of the best players that I competed against had also been great at other sports, such as football, soccer, basketball and hockey. Nowadays, I see way too many young players who simply want to focus on lacrosse.  It works for some people, but I also see it lead to little athletic growth and burnout in some young players.

Another obvious path to becoming a great athlete is hitting the weight room. Having a coach as a father allowed me to meet some amazing strength trainers growing up. When I was about 13, they had me start doing simple body weight exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, dips, squats and anything else I could do without implementing weights. Some people believe it's important to not start lifting weights too young or it can stunt growth, and I would err on the side of safety with that as well. Also, at that age, it's good to keep things simple and allow young athletes to work their way up with body weight workouts. I started lifting actual weights when I was about 15 to start getting stronger for all my sports. I played football, hockey and lacrosse through high school, so my goal in training was to get bigger, stronger, and keep myself as injury free as possible.

For a busy young athlete, it is important to spend your time wisely and go hard while in the weight room. One thing that I see with youth athletes today is that they see all the “body-builders” in the gym and think that they have to spend three hours in the weight room just like them. There is no point! There are weight coaches that will  argue for the rest of their lives which way they think is the best way to lift, but that is their job! It would be like a politician not arguing over their ideologies....they wouldn’t know what to do. My main point is, if you can get in the weight room and go hard for 45 minutes to an hour, you will get stronger.

Below is my experience of how I trained growing up.  I am not saying this is the only way, the best way or that other ways are less effective.  I am only stating what worked for me...

I was trained my whole life by Martin Streight, who is now the assistant strength trainer for the Minnesota Vikings. He has trained players in the NFL for over 15 years, so I trust his opinion. The one thing that I learned from Martin is that you can get strong from going through a HIT (high intensity training) regimen without wasting your whole day in the gym (which is important for a student athlete who needs to spend his time wisely). Basically, I would train 2 to 3 times a week, doing a whole body workout in an hour. You go from one exercise to the next without any rest in between. You only do one set on each exercise, and on each one of those sets you lift “to failure” which means that you lift the weight until you cannot do another rep. Then once you reach failure, you “strip” the weight down 20% and do three or four more reps. For example, if you are bench pressing 185, you try to get 8 to 12 reps. Then once you cannot do a single rep more, you put down the weight, and strip the weight down to 145 and do 3 or 4 more reps. The most important aspect of this workout is that you are pushing yourself to your limit on every exercise.

It's also important to keep track of your progress. So, if one day you do 12 reps of bench press at 185 pounds, the next time you work out, you should be trying to see how many reps you can get at 190 pounds.  You may only get 8 reps at that weight, so you keep working until you can get 12.  This was a great way for me to keep track of my strength and see

Here is a very basic workout that I did through high school and college, which kept me in great shape and for the most part, injury free. It is important to mix things up, but this is just a basic outline of what I typically did.

WARM UP ON BIKE FOR 10 TO 15 MINUTES

LEG PRESS : 1 SET X 15-20 REPS | STRIP SET WITH 20% LESS WEIGHT THAN FIRST SET

LEG CURL : 1 SET x 15-20 REPS | STRIP SET

LEG EXTENSION : 1 SET x 15-20 REPS | STRIP SET

CALF RAISE : 1 SET x 15-20 REPS | STRIP SET

BENCH PRESS : 1 SET x 8-12 REPS | STRIP SET

PULL-UPS / CHIN-UPS : 1 SET x 8-12 REPS | STRIP SET WITH SUPER SLOW NEGATIVES

INCLINE PRESS : 1 SET x 8-12 REPS | STRIP SET

SEATED ROW : 1 SET x 8-12 REPS | STRIP SET

DECLINE PRESS / DIPS : SET x 8-12 REPS | STRIP SET

LAT PULLDOWNS : 1 SET x 8-12 REPS | STRIP SET

SHOULDER PRESS : 1 SET x 8-12 REPS | STRIP SET

LAT RAISE : 1 SET x 8-12 REPS | STRIP SET

BICEP CURL : 1 SET x 8-12 REPS | STRIP SET

TRICEP EXTENSION : 1 SET x 8-12 REPS | STRIP SET

SHRUGS : 1 SET x 8-12 REPS | STRIP SET

NECK MACHINE : 1 SET x 8-12 REPS | STRIP SET

If you do all of this without any rest in between, you can accomplish this workout in less than an hour. For a sport like lacrosse, this is a great way to workout, because it also gives you a cardiovascular workout as well.

Also, notice how I do not list any DEADLIFTS, SQUATS, or CLEANS AND JERKS! There are a lot of professional trainers out there today that insist that these are the only exercises in which you get stronger. These exercises are great for bodybuilders who want to compete in competitions which test their strength in these exercises but they can be harmful for athletes. I was always thankful that the strength coaches at Princeton did not advocate this type of lifting. A lot of my friends who played lacrosse at other schools had to lift like this and a lot of them hurt their backs and got other injuries just from lifting! The whole point of lifting for athletes is to reduce injury, not make them more susceptible to injury. And yes, a lot of the trainers out there will say, “Well, those guys just were not lifting properly," and, "You just have to learn to use good form."  The problem is that this rarely happens as young athletes are always trying to push themselves further and use more weight than they can handle.

There is a ton of great technology out there and all the machines that are in today’s gyms are very effective in helping athletes to become stronger. There is simply no reason to do these types of Olympic lifting anymore. Some people believe that these types of lifts make you stronger, than machines or other exercises, and it may be true. But, there are many studies out there that dispute the results. Even if these Olympic lifts made you significantly stronger, which is doubtful, I do not personally believe that it is worth the risk of getting hurt.

Here are a few more tips for safety reasons :

1. Lift safely by using controlled motion on the way up and way down, pause for a second at the top of your movement.

2. Lift with a partner.

3. If three days a week is too much for your body and you are feeling fatigued, then cut it down to two days.

4. Always stretch and warm-up before lifting and stretch and cool-down afterwards.

5. If you ever feel any pain in your joints, then stop lifting immediately. If your muscles are burning, then that’s a good pain! Keep going!

6. Always get your doctor’s permission and advice when starting a workout routine.

I’m not a professional trainer, nor do I claim to be. However, I spent a lot of hours in the weight room and I made the most of those hours. When I was training, it was not social hour. I worked out very hard and then I got home so I could practice lacrosse or do school work. There were some times when I trained with my friend Martin, that I went so hard that I puked afterwards or could barely walk! I was never an overly big or strong kid, so I knew that I had to work hard in the weight room to be able to compete with athletes that were more naturally gifted than I. So, I hope some of these tips help you out! You don’t have to be huge to play lacrosse. You just have to be strong, fast, and in good shape. So...be smart in the weight room!

Other than getting stronger, it is also important to work on conditioning, agility drills and stretching.  I see too many young athletes who are in terrible cardiovascular condition. When I coached our Icon teams up in Boulder, CO, our eighth graders ran the same conditioning that I did at Princeton. On Mondays, they would run the "Monday Mile" after practice, in which they were supposed to get 5 laps around the field in under 6 minutes.  The first day, they were not even close, but after a few weeks, a lot of them were making it!  We were in the best shape of any eighth grade team in Colorado that year!  Also, many young athletes struggle with their footwork so it is important to work on agility drills, jump roping and any other exercises that can give you quicker feet.

Finally, stretching is super important but rarely is it ever implemented fully in all walks of athletics.  Yoga can be awesome way for athletes to work more stretching into their overall exercise regime. Yoga helped me tremendously as an athlete during my professional career and it made me wonder how much better of an athlete I could have been by starting it at a younger age. I will discuss yoga more in another blog because I believe it can have a tremendous impact on young athletes in many ways.

Pushing yourself through all these physical means can help you realize your full potential as an athlete. The funny thing for me is that I don't really remember all the big games and wins that I had, but I do remember a lot of the times when I was working my hardest. It's like they say....it's more about the journey than the destination.  Success in athletics and anything in life, for that matter, is just a byproduct of what you put into it.