By Nick Walter
I was thinking of a way to help parents new to lacrosse, or considering trying out lacrosse, to become more comfortable with having their child try it out. I know when I was bitten by the lacrosse bug a few years ago, I volunteered to coach because we didn't have enough head coaches volunteer for my son's age group.
The more I spoke with lacrosse coaches and players, the more they pointed to other sports (soccer, basketball, hockey) to explain how easy lacrosse would be to not only pick up, but also to coach.
Now don't get me wrong, easy to teach and easy to coach are relative and the higher the level of competition, the more experience is essential. At the youth level, however, when fundamentals are key and emphasis on "in-game" management is less important, it's a great place to learn the sport - by being on the field, forced to learn the rules, the techniques, and the vernacular.
There are certainly great lacrosse players, with tons of experience, who can't teach the skills and there are complete lax neophytes, who can connect with players at a more fundamental level and achieve results - so don't count yourself out as a coach if you've never played before!
Basketball and soccer were two of the most commonly quoted similarities and having played both into high school, I figured I could pick it up. Between You Tubing lax drills, watching games, and attending some pretty fun clinics, I realized the similarities to basketball especially were resounding!
Hopefully, you'll see what I mean below.
Offensive and defensive sets can be compared. Basketball concepts like a "motion" offense, sharing the ball, and setting screens on defenders carry over to lacrosse. Creating offensive plays to attack the defensive sets are similarly structured. Spacing, Passing, Moving on and off the ball, and Cutting are also similar. Triple threat is a term often echoed on the lacrosse field, not unlike that of basketball.
Team defenses are comparable too, especially when it comes to zone vs. man-to-man, body positioning, playing on and off players based on where the ball is located, giving help when off ball or sliding when the other team has "numbers", even shading a player to eliminate his/her strong hand and force them to the weak hand is critical in each sport.
Many of the offensive moves are similar as well: the Spin Move mimics the Roll Dodge and the Crossover mimics the Split Dodge. Ground Balls are loose balls, turnovers are turnovers, quality shots occur in close, but can be made from nearly any distance. Even attacking a defender in a vertical vs. horizontal plane, changing speeds, or using head and ball fakes to gain an advantage are all consistent for both sports.
Learning to catch, throw, and cradle (the equivalent of dribbling) with both hands requires similar repetition and importance as dribbling and shooting with both hands in basketball. Protecting the ball with your body is essential and requires the use of both hands depending on the direction you're attacking. Understanding, spatially, how to use open space, pass to space, create space, lead your teammate with a pass, backhand, underhand, behind the back passes (and in lacrosse shots) all....you guessed it....are similar in both sports!
These incredible similarities enable basketball players/coaches to become good lacrosse players/coaches and vice versa as the strategies are similar.â€‹ The drills are similar too - as we run a lot of the same drills, with slight variations, that basketball teams use to develop different skills.
Odd and even number (1v1, 2v1, 2v2, 3v2, 4v3) drills, the weave, pick and rolls, zig zag cradling/dribbling drills with a defender shuffling in unison, passing/catching on the run, and any number of other drills. There are few drills that can't be slightly modified to apply to lacrosse from basketball.
So with all of those similarities, what's stopping you from trying out lacrosse?
- The equipment is not cheap ($180+ for a starter set of full lacrosse gear, helmet, stick), but we have equipment share and rental programs available at a fraction of the cost so you can try it out without the major equipment commitment (baseball bats and helmets cost as much, if not more!)
- Lacrosse, especially at the younger levels where checking is illegal, is less violent and physical than basketball, football, and soccer and ultimately the frequency of injuries are lower than that of other sports (see sports injury links below)
- Afraid to make the change? We've seen a significant influx of multi-sport athletes start playing lacrosse with immediate success. Teaching an athlete how to handle a stick is easy - lacrosse is a game of speed and deception, so having the ability to run with speed or endurance or the ability to deceptively make moves against a defender should absolutely try lacrosse. Even kids that don't necessarily show those signs yet, often excel when they are put on the lacrosse field - I can say that from direct experience!
- Nervous of the time commitment? Lacrosse is a spring sport with a very fun and laid back Fall Ball clinics that are optional. CBAA Lacrosse encourages multi-sport athletes and believes that lacrosse is a fantastic cross-training sport for the Fall and Winter sports. The commitment to lacrosse a most levels is often less than that of the other major sports, without the pressure of having to play all year round!
We currently have our Fall Ball sessions every Sunday from 11-1 through November 8th. If nothing more, come check it out - bring your kids, listen to some fun music, grab a burger or dog, and enjoy the fun, festive environment that lacrosse is known for. Our Fall Ball is a mini festival every week and is intended to keep a stick in experienced players' hands, teach fundamentals for the new player, or try out the sport for those who want to dip their toe in the water for the first time. Either way, we'd love to see you there!
Thanks for your interest in CBAA Lacrosse!
President, CBAA Lacrosse