Gearing up for lacrosse in the winter can be a challenging undertaking. The harsh cold and the wet snow intimidates many lacrosse players into hanging up their stick until spring season. You, however, want to be the exception to this rule. The only obstacle standing in the way of taking your game to the next level is finding effective methods of improving your lacrosse skills in spite of the winter.
How do you get better at lacrosse in the winter? Below, I compiled a list of ten practical methods of improving your lacrosse skills in the winter that I personally used to up my game. Without further ado, let’s jump into it!
1.) Work on Your Stick Tricks
Experimenting with lacrosse stick tricks is a fantastic means for developing your hand eye coordination this cold offseason.
To most lacrosse players, stick tricks are just a means to boast in front of your teammates. However, there is actually much more to lacrosse stick tricks than meets the eye.
For one, stick tricks are a tremendous aid in promoting soft hands. When I say soft hands, I am referring to a player’s ability to provide a bit of give in their lacrosse stick.
Having soft hands is an essential component to basic throwing and catching. In fact, most lacrosse coaches teach beginners to treat the ball like an egg when they are first working on passing drills.
This emphasizes to the players that you have to lock in on the ball, concentrate, and gently accept the ball into the lacrosse pocket. Generally, lacrosse players that refuse to give with the ball as it hits the pocket have the hardest time with catching. Passing and catching is a fundamental element of lacrosse. If you cannot catch and throw competently, you will be a liability on the field.
Having delicate hands is the main prerequisite needed to properly perform a stick trick. As you practice more and more, your hand dexterity will continue to improve. This will ultimately translate to you having some of the most reliable hands on the team.
Second, stick tricks indirectly work on your quick stick capability.
A quick stick is when a player rapidly catches and releasees the ball due to a lack of time and room. Quick sticks are essential in close quarter situations, especially near the net. They allow players to get shots on goal in a swift and accurate fashion.
Stick tricks hone in on coordination in three dimensional space. Players need a baseline level of reaction speed and hand ingenuity to carry out these sorts of tricks. These qualities are imperative to the art of quick sticking. Every team could use a solid player around the crease.
If you religiously practice stick tricking, you will most likely end up knocking in a few more goals on the crease this coming season. Plus, you will get the added bonus of learning a few tricks to show off to your lacrosse buddies.
2.) Fine Tune Your Throwing Skills On a Wall or Rebounder
Another powerful method of revamping your game this winter is hitting the wall.
I know that every lacrosse guru out there recommends hitting the wall, but there really is no substitution for it. Every top lacrosse player to date still hits the wall every now and again to strengthen their fundamental foundation.
Without a firm fundamental foundation to work with, everything else crumbles. This is why even Paul Rabil, a professional lacrosse player that is arguably one of the best in the sport, integrates a strict wall ball routine into his training.
Don’t believe me? Check out the video below to get the details on his exact wall ball routine!
Now if you do not have access to a wall that is conducive to wall ball, I would heavily consider investing some cash into a lacrosse rebounder.
The great thing about rebounders is that they mimic the routine of wall ball, except they allow you to practice almost anywhere.
You can practice at the local park, your backyard, or even in your own garage. I personally remember moving my rebounder into the garage during the dead of winter just to ensure my stick skills stayed sharp.
Whatever method you choose, find a way to hone in on the throwing fundamentals. Make wall ball a habit. Develop your own strict routine. This practice, especially during the winter, is the most efficient way to separate yourself from the competition.
3.) Watch Lacrosse YouTube Videos
During the winter months, it is crucial that you become a student of the game. Absorbing lacrosse knowledge from YouTube videos is a wonderful way to boost your lacrosse IQ and not bore yourself to death.
I do not know many lacrosse players that would prefer charts and diagrams over live game play. Exploring instructional how to videos and film studies online will help you to broaden your lacrosse horizons. It will open you up to new perspectives and strategies that you can implement into your own play style.
So often players confine themselves into one little niche in lacrosse. For instance, some midfielders only ever work one kind of dodge to get past defenders. Only utilizing one type of dodge may get you through the lower rungs of competition, but what happens when that dodge fails against more skilled opponents?
It is far better for a lacrosse player to diversify their game rather than be comfortable with a one dimensional style of play. The best way to go about expanding your horizons is to model your game after the best. Imitation is the best form of flattery.
Do not hold yourself back from experimenting with your game. Explore fresh avenues on the web that will help to revitalize the way you think about lacrosse. Whether it be an instructional video on how Rob Pannell performs a split dodge or a film study of the defensive strategy of Duke, go out and test the waters. This type of knowledge will only help in the long run.
4.) Implement a High Intensity Interval Training Program
Conditioning is a necessity in lacrosse. Players are running up and down the field all over the place. If you want to keep up, you need be in prime running shape.
To morph your body into peak lacrosse shape, I recommend following a high intensity interval (HIIT) program. I highly suggest this program in particular because of the way the program simulates actual lacrosse game play.
The premise behind a HIIT program is to sprint at maximum capacity for a short burst and then immediately follow that up with an extended recovery period of jogging. This way, you are working both your fast twitch fibers and your slow twitch fibers simultaneously.
The sport of lacrosse demands both speed and stamina. There will be times where you will need a maximal speed burst to blow by a defender on a dodge. Then, there will be other times where you have to jog back to the other side of the field to position yourself on defense. To solidify your position on the playing field, you need to have both.
HIIT programs help you take out two birds with one stone. Both your top speed and overall stamina increase as a result of HIIT programs because you are sprinting and jogging.
There are plenty of HIIT programs on the Internet to choose from. Just search “HIIT running program” into Google and you will find what you are looking for. Once you choose a program, stick with it. It is far better to strictly adhere to a mediocre running program than to have no program at all to keep yourself accountable.
5.) Carry Your Lacrosse Stick Everywhere You Go
This is one of the more unorthodox tips on this list. However, it is equally as effective at progressing your game to the next tier.
Carrying your lacrosse stick around wherever you go will help you to feel comfortable with a stick in your hands. On the lacrosse field, your lacrosse stick should practically be an extension of your body. Holding a lacrosse stick should feel like second nature to you during the big game.
The only way to acquire this natural comfortability is through hours upon hours of working the craft. Lacrosse should be fit into your life wherever possible to get these hours in.
During the winter, you may not have access to formal lacrosse leagues or teams. This is the time where most players see their game take a dip. If you are serious about improving your lacrosse prowess this upcoming season, fitting lacrosse into your schedule is an absolute must.
So practice cradling on your walk to school, around your house, and in your room. Soon enough, you won’t even have to think twice about it. You will thank yourself later when you see a marked improvement in your stick protection and field awareness during the season.
6.) Read Up on the Lacrosse Rulebook
Reading up on the lacrosse rulebook has a number of valuable benefits that are regularly overlooked by many lacrosse players.
Whether you are a novice or an experienced veteran, familiarizing yourself with the rules of lacrosse is never a bad idea. It will help you to keep tabs on rules that the casual lacrosse player might miss.
For example, a common mistake that is seen in nearly every lacrosse game is an offsides violation. If a defenseman takes the ball over the midline on a clear, the backside midfielder has to stay back on the defensive side of the field.
Players often fail to realize this fact during the game. This negligence ultimately results in an unnecessary turnover. Simple little mental lapses like these may not seem like much, but a few of these mistakes can add up and make the difference between winning and losing.
Reading up on the lacrosse rulebook does not only help your team from making stupid plays. It also may come in handy during sticky game situations.
For instance, one relatively recent rule change in high school lacrosse is the “Keep It In” command. This rule states that the possessing team must remain within the goal area once the “Keep It In” command is issued. The two situations where this command applies is when the offensive team is “stalling” and “during the last two minutes of the game.”
Let’s say hypothetically that your team was ahead by a single goal with two to go against your arch rival. You take the field and pick up the ball. The whistle blows to start play and you take off fleeing defenders left and right. But then the referees raise their hands and start yelling “Keep it in! Keep it in!”
You have no idea what they are yelling about so you just keep running. The referees blow their whistle again and signal a turnover of possession. The other team races down, scores a goal, and sends the game into overtime. All of this just because you were unaware of one little subsection in the lacrosse rulebook. It would sting a bit, wouldn’t it?
So go and study the lacrosse rulebook. If that sounds too boring to do, then at least consult your lacrosse coach to talk about game specific situations. Trust me, it is better to ask seemingly stupid questions than to just hope for the best.
7.) Learn How to String a Lacrosse Head
Getting familiar with the ins and outs of your equipment may give you the slight edge you need out on the field. Taking the time to learn how to string a lacrosse head has a flurry of benefits that will help to complement your overall play style.
As aforementioned, the lacrosse stick should act as an extension of your body. A substantial portion of your game performance hinges on whether your lacrosse stick is up to par. Learning the art of stringing a lacrosse head will help you to uncover what type of lacrosse pocket maximizes your playing potential.
A poorly strung lacrosse pocket has the capacity to set back player development considerably. A pocket that is too shallow to cradle with or too inconsistent to throw with is an impediment that will hold a player back from reaching their true potential. Players who operate with these sticks are unable to provide a reliable representation of what they are capable of.
Mastering the art of stringing and equipping yourself with a more favorable pocket may unlock skill sets you never knew you had.
For instance, it is customary for players with shallow pockets to have trouble holding onto the ball when performing dodges. If you had this problem and deepened your pocket, you may find that dodging past defenders is a lot easier than you initially thought. From there, you can begin to experiment with bull dodges, split dodges, and even swim dodges if you want to get a bit flashy with it.
The bottom line is that learning how to string the perfect lacrosse pocket for you will help to accentuate your strengths as a player. This craft certainly takes time, so I would practice on some backup sticks to start. Once you have reached a certain level of expertise, however, you will definitely see a change in how much you trust your own abilities as a player when you have a consistent lacrosse stick at your disposal.
8.) Seek Out Indoor Lacrosse Leagues
The next tip is to do some research and find out if there are any nearby indoor lacrosse leagues.
Indoor lacrosse will help you to nail down your stick skills since everything is in close quarters. With defenseman so close, you will be pressured into making quick decisions and subconsciously safeguarding your stick.
If your stick skills are not up to par, you will almost certainly be on the receiving end of some nasty defensive checks. These extra bruises definitely have a way of spurring a player to make the effort to get out and play wall ball.
Moreover, indoor lacrosse leagues provide a player with actual game experience. Although all of the tips on this list will definitely improve your lacrosse skill set, there is no replacement for in game experience.
Players can shoot on a net all the live long day when no one is guarding them. But when you throw a real life defender on them, the entire dynamic changes.
Some of you may not have access to indoor lacrosse facilities, and that’s fine. Just implement some of the other tips on this list. For those of you that do have access to indoor lacrosse leagues, I would not skimp out on the opportunity. Strapping more game reps under your belt will make a palpable difference in your overall game play.
9.) Put on Some Sweatpants and Practice Outside
Throwing on some warm clothes and practicing out in the cold may not be the most compelling option on this list, but it will definitely keep your lacrosse skills on point.
Practicing outside is the most resemblant of actual lacrosse practice that you can achieve on your own. Indoor lacrosse drills are restricted with space, which inhibits your ability to practice at game speed. The last thing that you want to do as a player is develop a habit of going half speed.
By practicing outside, you have the capacity to work on whatever is holding back your game the most. For instance, you can work on the accuracy and speed of your shot, perfect the art of scooping up ground balls, and experiment with your dodging footwork. These practice methods are not really a viable option indoors.
It is easy to make excuses. Even I was guilty of it. I would say “I don’t want to mess up my stick” or “It’s too cold out to get anything out of it.” In the end, the biggest thing that will suppress your player development is yourself. Even just going outside once or twice a week will help to at least maintain your current skill level. That will put you light years ahead of the majority of lacrosse players.
10.) Strengthen Your Offhand
This final tip is the main takeaway of the list. Work on your offhand!
Virtually every lacrosse player from the high school level down to the youth level needs to work on their offhand. Most lacrosse players are intimidated at the prospect of venturing outside their comfort zone. For this reason, the majority of lacrosse players never take that leap of faith and expand their game.
It is so predictable playing against an opponent that can only use their one dominant hand. Defenders jump on the opportunity to hound an offensive player that only has confidence in their dominant hand.
Nine times out of ten, these one dimensional offensive players crumble under the pressure of being forced to use their weak hand. For most players, this leads to turnovers and eventually a seat on the bench.
You should strive to be the exception to this rule. Having the skill to go both ways in lacrosse will keep defenders on their heels. It will keep the defense honest and open up opportunities for you and your teammates. All of this equates to more time on the playing field for you.
So in all of these drills that I listed above, give your offhand just as much, if not more, attention than your dominant hand.
I made the mistake of neglecting my offhand the first couple years that I played. One summer, I decided to address this glaring weakness in my game and forced myself only to play with my non-dominant hand. This made a noticeable difference in my game, and I ended up making varsity as an underclassman.
This is not to gloat. This is merely to show you how quickly you can transform yourself as a lacrosse player within the span of a few weeks. The first couple days are tough, but it gets easier as you go along. Although it seems far off in the future, reaching that competent level of ambidexterity may be closer than you think.
Is It Worth It To Practice Lacrosse in the Winter?
It is most definitely worth it to practice in the winter.
This could not be more true. If you simply allow yourself to sit idly by this offseason, you forfeit all of the potential you could realistically unlock. The offseason is the time where players take the biggest leaps in skill. It is what you during the times when nobody else is putting in the work that separates the great players from the good ones.
So it is ultimately up to what your personal ambitions are with the sport. There is no problem with just wanting to try something new. Some of you may have just joined to make some new friends and be a part of a close-knit team.
But if you aspire to reach the college lacrosse level, it is necessary to push yourself to new heights in the offseason. The winter is a golden season that’s ripe with opportunity.