We saw a dad playing basketball with his two sons at the local elementary school the other day. It occurred to us that this doesn't happen with lacrosse players and parents as often, and that's a real shame. Here are a few great ways you can play lacrosse with your kids, even if you are new to the game.
Many of the best lacrosse players of all time got their start playing in the back yard with just their parents, siblings or friends. This is where the real love of the game is developed that will sustain a long-term, successful youth sports playing career- quality time with sticks in hands, no rules and no refs.
Lacrosse All Stars said back yard lacrosse can be a "total game changer." You will even hear top commentators like Quint Kessenich talking about it during games on TV. Dodging and making moves against older brothers and sisters is how you develop the kind of creativity that is making players so successful at the college and pro level right now. (Combined with a healthy dose of Box Lacrosse.) This is what kids are getting with neighborhood baseball and basketball that they don't always get with lacrosse- new games, new moves, making their own rules, no coaches telling them how it should be.
Think about the Powell brothers- Casey and Ryan Powell are two of the best ever. Casey Powell is still playing professionally almost in his 40's. Mikey Powell is the youngest of the three brothers, and he routinely attributes his success to playing with/against his brothers growing up. You could also look at the Gaits, Thompsons, Bockletts, Stanwicks, Pannells, Bitters, Nobles and find the same thing. All of them undoubtedly spent countless hours on stick skills, dodging, and shooting outside in the back yard.
"I encourage kids to play in their backyards, against the wall, in their driveways, and in unstructured pickup games until 6th grade." -Quint Kessenich, 4x All-American Goal Tender, 2x National Champion
What if lacrosse is new to both you and your children?
Playing lacrosse with your own children can be foreign and intimidating if you didn't grow up playing yourself. There are lots of ways you can help your child learn and develop their skills on and off the field, without you being a former college star.
A major topic in coaching lacrosse right now is, "Are we teaching the players plays, or are we teaching them how to play?"
Use Back yard lacrosse to teach your players some very valuable skills that will carry them as far as they want to go, in whatever sport they choose to play.
1.) Play catch or Wall Ball with your kids.
"Children spell love T-I-M-E." Playing catch with your kids is the easiest thing you can do to help them develop their basic hand-eye coordination. Use a baseball glove if you have to. If they need to be on the wall for 15-30 minutes a day, it probably wouldn't hurt for you to be out there with them, mom or dad.
- Check out our full list of Wall Ball exercises to see all the different kinds of stick skills you can work on with your son or daughter.
2.) Good Old-Fashioned 1-on-1
1-on-1 is great for burning off some extra energy, keeping the feet moving, and getting tons of time learning how the ball feels in your stick.
- Offense: Try some new "moves". Back yard 1-on-1 allows your children to try dodges that they don't get to try in practice.
- Defense: Without full pads on, there's only one way to stop you or your kids- Body D. No poke checks. Stay in between the ball and the goal/trash can/garage door. Then you can throw the stick check if they're hanging it out there.
- If you have the ball, your son or daughter has to play good body defense to stop you. This teaches them to move their feet on defense. It will seem a whole lot easier for them to do the same thing against kids their own size.
3.) Focus on the 2-on-1! Ball movement, feet movement, spacing, etc.
The 2 against 1 is the Holy Grail of team sports- Basketball, Hockey, Soccer, Lacrosse, you name it. Even the top College and Pro coaches are trying to teach the best players in the world how to create and respond to this simple situation in every game. Your own children will be years ahead of their peers if you play around with this key concept at an early age.
The dad we saw playing basketball with his sons was playing against both of them, having a great time teaching his boys how to play.
Maybe it's your son and his two friends playing. Maybe it's your son and daughter that both just started playing against you, who has never played before. Playing 2 against 1 allows your kids to work on:
- Teamwork and cooperation- Your kids have to work together against you, somebody who is bigger, faster and stronger (for now). Things will seem much easier against kids their own size.
- Communication- Put your kids in situations where they have to actually talk to each other in a fun, cooperative, positive manner. Use this time to practice good word choice and tone of voice.
- Spacing- If they stand right next to each other, you can cover them both! Encourage them to spread out and move their feet to get open.
- Ball movement- Every time you move to cover the ball, they move it again to the open player. Plenty of opportunity for extra passes, catches, ground balls and shots!
Teaching your kids the 2-on-1 from the very beginning will pay off HUGE when they get to their competitive elite travel team or high school varsity tryouts. Every coach wants a player that understands the 2-on-1, for any sport!
4.) 2-on-1 Cross-Over Drill:
Try this cool 2-on-1 Cross-Over Drill we saw some of the NLL teams using for their pregame warm-ups. You can use it to teach your kids advanced techniques like the Pick & Roll and Ball Reversals, etc.
5.) Play 3X ("Three-By") 3-on-3:
If your kids have enough friends in the neighborhood, teach them to play 3X or "Three-By". This 3-on-3 game is the best practice game we've ever seen, no joke. It works on everything- stick skills, ball movement, defensive help, everything!
We play tons of 3X at summer camp with our kids. Even Pro players and coaches love 3X!
Tell us in the comments if you have any other favorite back yard games you play with your kids!