YOUTH BOX LACROSSE DEVELOPMENT
The other program that we started this weekend was our box (indoor) lacrosse program in Westminster at the Carroll Butts Arena. We have it every Sunday from 6AM to 12PM (What?! Whose idea was that anyway?! I’m gonna blame it on Coach Brown...). Even though it is an early start due to the lack of time slots in indoor facilities (thanks soccer!), the program is completely sold out and our players and families absolutely love it! We have different sessions for 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th graders and they all have a blast with the game. From this program, we pick DENVER ELITE box teams that we take to indoor tournaments in California in December and Calgary in July. The Calgary tournament is the biggest indoor youth lacrosse tournament in the world and everyone has a great time up there and the level of lacrosse is unreal!
The reason that we love this program so much is that we see our players develop more quickly and noticeably than in anything else that we do. The indoor setting is the absolute best way for youth lacrosse players to get better. There is no question about it. The boards keep the ball in play, in a tighter space with only five players on the field, so all the young players, regardless of skill, get way more touches and repetitions than in field lacrosse. The drills that you can run and just the overall style of the game allow players to develop their stick skills in a way that is impossible to achieve through just playing field lacrosse.
I LOVE PLAYING BOX LACROSSE
For these reasons and more, I wish that I had the opportunity to play box lacrosse when I was a younger. My personal experience with the game was that after I graduated from college, I made the NLL’s Colorado Mammoth as a forward because I did not feel like my field goalie skills would transfer over well to box goalie. I was relegated to the practice squad and I only played in one game and I am quite proud to say that my stats on the NLL website read like this : 1 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 5 PIM. So, despite the fact that I spent more time in the penalty box than I did on the field, playing for the Mammoth up in Toronto in front of 16,000 screaming fans, was one of the coolest athletic experiences of my life!
I also absolutely loved practices with the Mammoth. The training camps and the Friday night practices were the most fun that I had ever had playing the game in my life. The more confined space, the boards keeping the ball in play, the physical nature, and the overall speed of the game, make it an absolute blast to play. Despite playing the game since I could barely even walk, I was seeing my stick skills improve dramatically and it was helping my game in the summers as a goalie in the MLL. I was in awe of the game and completely fell in love with it. It made me wish that I had been born in the Great White North!
HOW DO WE KEEP UP WITH THE CANADIANS IN THE STATES?
This brings me to my next point of why you are seeing so many great Canadian players in the NCAA and MLL, in the field lacrosse setting. Jason Donville sends out an awesome email blast to all the NCAA coaches, which lists the leading Canadian players on all NCAA teams and the statistics which show how the Canadians are basically dominating the game. The simple explanation to this is due to the fact that these players grew up playing indoor lacrosse as youth. The other factor, that is different from when I was in high school, is that Canadians are also learning the strategy and technique of playing field lacrosse as they get older. So, they start from a very young age playing youth box lacrosse and then as they grow, they continue to play box, but also play and learn the field game at a fairly high level. The combination of the two experiences develop the best lacrosse players in the world.
So, if we want to keep up in the States, we better start providing more opportunities to our youth lacrosse players in indoor lacrosse. The “traditional” lacrosse hot beds will actually fight this idea with all their might. For some reason, many east coast lacrosse traditionalists feel like box lacrosse is some bastardized version of the game. To me though, it’s a different version of the game that I really enjoy watching at the professional level. More importantly though, it is the best way for youth lacrosse players to get better at the game.
If you simply study the two games at the youth level, there is really no comparison. Many youth lacrosse games last about an hour, tops. There are usually running-time halfs, and for a majority of the time, the ball is on the ground. Many times, there will be a couple players out there who are better than the rest, and the ball will end up in their sticks for a lot of the time as well. That means that most of the kids on the field are touching the ball maybe one to three times a game if they are lucky! Sadly, youth lacrosse is starting to turn into baseball with a lot of our young athletes standing around watching from the midline, just as many young baseball players get stuck standing in deep, deep roving right-field.
In the U.S. lacrosse world, we all need to start investing more time, energy and money into the box lacrosse game for our youth lacrosse players. Not only is it the best way for them to improve as lacrosse players, it is also way more fun for them to play! If parents want to hear one of the best kept secrets as to how their son can become a great enough lacrosse player to get recruited or receive a scholarship, then playing some box lacrosse is a great way to try and accomplish those goals. If we keep naysaying the indoor version of the game, the Canadian players will be more than happy to keep taking over the field game, getting those spots in college, taking those scholarships and dominating the leader boards in scoring!
Time for us to get on board and learn from our friendly neighbors of the North. (Next step is health care... just kidding…but not really.)