Making the varsity lacrosse team is an alluring endeavor for the majority of up and coming players. However, actually accomplishing this task is a lot easier said than done. You need to prepare months in advance to even have a chance at making the cut.
For many novice lacrosse players, it’s a tough task to even know where to begin. I distinctly remember being in your shoes, wondering how in the world I was going to outcompete players that already had years of experience under their belt. I was fortunate enough to make the lacrosse team as an underclassmen, even though I wasn’t the biggest or fastest kid out there.
Today, I will share with you my top ten tips to help you considerably increase your chances of making the varsity lacrosse team.
1.) Go After Positions Where Your Varsity Team Needs Help
First off, you should take a good hard look at the roster of your varsity team and analyze the competition for the position you’re going for.
Before I had seriously considered playing on the varsity team, I had the privilege of playing both attack and midfield for my club team. Of the two positions, I favored the midfield position more. Luckily, our varsity team was lacking in the midfield position at the time that I was trying out, so it was an easy decision for me to drop attack and pursue being a midfielder.
For some of you, this decision may be a lot tougher. If the position that you’re going for is already stacked with three returning seniors, the chances of you making that position, let alone earning any significant play time, is slim. You may want to reconsider a position switch in this situation because it can drastically increase your chances of making the team.
For example, one of my close teammates made the difficult decision to switch from attack to midfield during my first varsity season. Had he remained as an attackman, he wouldn’t have received nearly as much playing time as he did because our attack line was already set in stone.
So if you’re typically a close defenseman, see if there’s an opening as a long stick midfielder. If you’re a midfielder, experiment with taking face-offs to earn yourself some extra playing time. Coaches are looking for players that will shape out their roster. Being adaptable to how your varsity team is structured and sacrificing for the betterment of the team will ultimately help you make the cut.
If you have trouble deciding on which position to choose, click over to my article The 4 Major Lacrosse Positions: A Beginner’s Guide where I address all the responsibilities and prerequisite skills for each position.
2.) Dedicate Specific Training Days to Exclusively Work on Your Offhand
Next, you have to set aside a couple days in your training regiment to address your offhand. To become a member of the varsity squad, you need to be proficient with both hands in every respect. This includes cradling, passing, catching, shooting, and even ground balls.
Coaches will know you’re a one dimensional player within five minutes of watching you play. You’re far less likely to get a shot on the varsity team if you only ever rely on your strong hand. Players that cannot play with both hands are simply too much of an offensive liability.
At the varsity level, teams deliberately pressure players that are unwilling to go to their offhand. Back during my high school playing days, this was one of our foundational defensive principles. As soon as we identified a one dimensional opponent, our defense would do everything in their power to force this opponent away from their strong hand.
After experimenting with several training methods, I found that the most effective method for me was to force myself to solely use my offhand for entire practice sessions. In my case, my offhand was my weak hand.
I would spill a bucket of balls in my backyard and warm up with a couple of close range practice shots with my left. From there, I would move into dodging and shooting on the run, all done with my left. I was so committed to this rule that I wouldn’t even allow myself to pick balls up off the ground with my right hand. In my mind, the more reps I got with my left, the better off I’d be when the season rolled around.
Obviously, this isn’t the only way of strengthening your offhand. You could slowly integrate your offhand into training sessions and try to keep the workload as symmetrical as possible. Ultimately, only you will truly know what works best for your unique situation.
3.) Fight Tooth and Nail for Every Ground Ball
Another helpful tip is to scrap for every ground ball that comes your way. It’s one thing to say that you’re going to do this, but it’s another thing entirely to go out there and execute.
For you true newcomers out there, a ground ball is a loose ball that is not yet possessed by either team. Players can come in and scoop up these loose balls off to earn their team an extra possession.
The best part about ground balls is that anybody can be great at them, it’s just that not many people are willing to put their body on the line for the sole purpose of picking up a loose ball.
If you’ve been around the sport of lacrosse for a long time, you’re well aware that players are attracted to ground balls like vultures to dead animal carcasses. As soon as that ball gets loose, players scramble toward it in a mad dash until you can hardly see the ball amongst the confusion.
The peculiar thing is that although players rush toward these ground balls, they slow down as soon as they get close for fear of missing the scoop. Although this seems like the rational thing to do, it isn’t the ideal technique.
The best ground ball scrappers run headlong into the fray and pick up the ground ball without breaking stride. They don’t stop for fear of injury or mistiming the scoop. They scrap hard, outmaneuver their opponents, get low, and sprint through the ground ball to come away with possession.
If you make a habit of doing this, you’ll stand out from everybody else at the varsity tryout because of how few people are actually willing to go to these tedious lengths.
4.) Be the Loudest Player on the Team
Furthermore, you need to be vocal on the lacrosse field, regardless of what position you are.
Proper team communication is a key component of any successful lacrosse team. Remaining quiet in the midst of gameplay is not an option. Although you may not believe it, coaches do actively look for players who step up and relentlessly talk with their teammates on the field. Solid communication is one of the best ways to separate yourself from the pack and establish yourself as a leader.
If you’re on offense, call for the ball when you’re open. When you see a mismatch on the field, vocally identify it and let the rest of the offense know where their point of attack should be. In the event that the play has gotten slightly out of control, tell the offense to pull out and reset the play.
On the defensive side, you should always keep in constant communication to establish who the hot slide is and the 2 slide is. In addition, you should be calling out any backdoor cutters to keep the defense on their toes. If you’re trying out as a goalkeeper, feeding the defense with a steady stream of information is the easiest way to show the head coach that you’re capable of commanding a varsity level defense.
In short, lacrosse coaches notice these little tidbits of communication whether you know it or not, so don’t be shy on the field. Be loud and encourage your teammates to keep up the comms.
5.) Participate in Other High School Sports During the Offseason
Another helpful tip is to consider participating in high school sports outside of lacrosse. Being a multi-sport athlete will force you to stay in shape while reinforcing particular skills that translate directly to lacrosse.
For example, I knew that to be a varsity level midfielder, I would have to be in prime cardiovascular condition in order to handle the intense running demands that would be asked of me. I had trouble maintaining the discipline to run on my own, so I decided to take up cross country to shore up this weakness. I can say with certainty that my cardiovascular fitness skyrocketed as a direct consequence of this decision.
Of course, you don’t have to do cross country like I did. There are plenty of other high school sports that complement lacrosse really well. A lot of my teammates played sports like football, hockey, wrestling, and a host of other sports in addition to lacrosse. More often than not, I found that these teammates were more mentally and physically equipped to take on the everyday rigors of lacrosse.
A subtle fact that most lacrosse players overlook is that many lacrosse coaches also coach other high school sports as well. For example, one of my head lacrosse coaches also dabbled with football. If this is the case for you, you’ll have an advantage over other players in that you can build a relationship with the coach before people are even thinking about tryouts.
Just make sure to leave a particularly good impression with these coaches, otherwise this stunt may end up backfiring on you.
6.) Implement a HIIT Running Routine to Build Speed and Endurance
As aforementioned, cardiovascular endurance is a huge part of reaching success in lacrosse. If you’re too exhausted to move around on the field, you’re going to have a hard time being productive during games, no matter how talented you are.
To build up your cardiovascular endurance, you don’t need to join cross country like I did. You can accomplish the same thing by strictly following your own individual training regiment. Whatever course of action you take, make sure to plan it out. It’s much easier to stray off the path and get lazy if you don’t have a set plan holding you accountable.
The best way to prepare for the running demands of lacrosse is to practice high intensity interval training (HIIT). The whole premise of this type of training regiment is to challenge yourself with short bursts of dead sprints followed by a longer recovery jog to build your energy back up.
With this type of training, you’re always on the move. Seeing that this is exactly what happens when you’re playing in a lacrosse game, HIIT is the best way to simulate these intense running demands.
An example of a simple, yet effective, HIIT training regiment is described in the table below.
|30 Seconds||Full Sprint|
|2 Minutes||Brisk Jog|
The HIIT training model should be your primary source of cardiovascular training. From there, you can mix in alternative forms of cardio, such as long distance biking or jump roping, to keep things fresh and exciting.
It will be a rocky road at the start, but if you’re able to push past this point, you will show up to tryouts as one of the top conditioned athletes there.
7.) Be the First in Line for Every Drill at Tryouts
This tip mainly applies to tryouts, but if there are other team oriented activities leading up to tryouts, make sure you do this there as well. Putting yourself out there as the first person in line for every drill will show the varsity staff that you’re capable of handling yourself in uncomfortable situations, even in the face of heavy pressure.
Coaches are looking for players who take initiative, both on and off the field. Rather than being a sheep like everyone else, do your absolute best to set the precedent for other players to follow. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Every great lacrosse player has failed miserably time and time again to get to the pinnacle. The thing that separated them from the rest of the competition was that they kept at it, heedless of what other people thought of them.
Changing your mindset to fit this warrior mentality takes a considerable amount of time. The first step to get there is to thrust yourself at the forefront of every drill and trust in your abilities as a lacrosse player.
8.) Enforce a Wall Ball Daily Minimum of 200 Reps
If you take away nothing else from this article, remember this — play wall ball every single day. Wall ball is the single most important activity that will allow you to reach your varsity lacrosse aspirations. Activities like lifting, shooting, and running definitely help, but they’re not nearly as effective as wall ball.
I know it’s cliché because anyone who is anybody in the lacrosse world recommends playing wall ball. Nonetheless, I think it’s far too crucial to leave off this list.
Also, it’s important to note that the intensity of your wall ball session plays a major factor in your chances at making varsity. Going to play wall ball is only half the battle. Working yourself like a dog during these wall ball sessions is the other half of the equation.
To keep myself accountable, I forced myself to meet a daily minimum of 200 reps per day the months leading up to tryouts. If you do it right, this shouldn’t take any more than 15 to 20 minutes. After a while, it’ll feel natural to you. All you have to do is pop some earbuds in and grind through it.
To get the most out of your wall ball sessions, you need to change up your throwing and catching styles to better simulate game situations. For inspiration on how to go about doing this, watch the clip below of professional lacrosse player Joey Sankey’s wall ball routine.
Putting in this small little effort every single day will put you in a much better position to make varsity. Keeping your stick skills sharp for tryouts is the best thing you can do to catch the coach’s eye.
9.) Learn Under the Tutelage of Seasoned Varsity Starters
Another useful thing you can do to increase your varsity chances is to reach out to the returning varsity starters. They’re a fantastic resource to use because they’ve been through the trenches before and know their way around varsity level competition.
One of the ways I achieved this was by making an extra effort to get to know the varsity members at intramural scrimmages, particularly the same players at my position. By being around them at these scrimmages, I got to know them a lot better and eventually built up the trust to ask them for advice on how to make the varsity squad.
You’d be surprised at how willing these varsity players want to help. At the end of the day, every varsity squad wants to bring home a state championship. Competitive varsity players cannot help but get excited when they stumble upon a player who’s ready to put in the work to reach this common goal. At the end of the day, the better that you get, the better the team gets.
Plus, the varsity members that you befriend may put in a good word for you to the head coach. For our varsity squad, the head coach would always consult with the team captains to see what they thought of certain players.
10.) Join Your Local Club Lacrosse Team
Lastly, I would advise you to look into the prospect of joining your local club lacrosse team if you haven’t already.
High caliber game experience is ultimately what separates the men from the boys when it comes to lacrosse. Don’t get me wrong, training hard on your own can definitely be enough to make the varsity squad. However, there’s something to be said of real competitive gameplay.
By joining a club lacrosse team, you’ll be able to accelerate your player development tremendously because your offseason won’t really be an offseason at all. While everyone else around you is getting worse, you’ll be the only one getting better.
Club lacrosse organization are the far better choice relative to general recreational league because you’re exposed to much higher level competition with club teams. With recreational leagues, it’ll be difficult to find anything that resembles varsity level competition. Nonetheless, any sort of live gameplay is better than nothing at all!
Speaking from experience, I will go as far to say that I probably wouldn’t have made varsity had I not participated in club lacrosse. It had that big of an impact on my game. This may not be the case for some of you, but for me, it made a massive difference.
The Bottom Line
Playing varsity level lacrosse may seem like a tall task at first, but once you start to attack this goal little by little, you’ll find that this aspiration may not be so overwhelming after all.
Just know that the road to reaching varsity isn’t easy. It will demand a considerable amount of time and dedication to get there. But if you’re truly committed and you work yourself like a dog using the tips above, I see no reason why you shouldn’t be able to make the varsity team.