Football athletes are always on the prowl for ways to up their game during the off-season to come back bigger, faster, and stronger the next year. Many football athletes transition over to lacrosse in the hope of accomplishing just that. For football players that are unfamiliar with the sport of lacrosse, it’s relatively common to ask whether or not lacrosse actually helps with football.
Lacrosse is a constructive means for football players to develop their skills during the off-season. It allows players to improve upon their team communication, agility, physicality, hand-eye coordination, and stamina. All of the preceding skills are essential for any talented football player.
It’s one thing to say that lacrosse assists with all of these football attributes, but you’re probably not so easily persuaded. Below, we’ll discuss the exact details as to how lacrosse enhances these particular football skills and why you should strongly consider playing lacrosse while you’re away from football.
Ways That Lacrosse Helps with Football
There’s a great deal of positives that can come out of becoming a dual sport athlete, particularly with lacrosse. The foremost of these positives are outlined in the subsequent sections.
1) Forces You to Develop Team Communication Skills
One prominent, yet overlooked, benefit of playing lacrosse during the spring season is that you vastly increase your ability to communicate on the field.
Not many athletes realize just how much of a factor communication plays in basic lacrosse strategy until they step into their first game. Once you’re immersed into the atmosphere of a lacrosse game, players are shouting seemingly every which way.
Mind you, these players are not yelling at each other just for kicks. They’re keeping in constant contact to prepare for any eventuality that may transpire during the game. For example, offensive players holler at the top of their lungs every time they’re open. This way, they let the ball carrier know to pass them the ball. Defensive players do much of the same. They yell at one another to pinpoint player matchups and locate which teammate is in the ideal position to provide support.
These communication tactics will urge you to get into the habit of informing your teammates of every little tidbit of valuable information that’s stored in your head. No matter how tiny the detail, this information will offer your team an advantage on the football field in the long run. Although these outbursts may seem trivial at first, they make a tremendous difference.
Not to mention that football coaches are frequently on the hunt for vocal leaders that they can trust on the field. By building a habit of communication, you will separate yourself from the pack and may even earn some extra playing time.
2) Improves Agility Needed for Effective Tackling and Juking
Another aspect where lacrosse can come in handy is your agility and footwork. It goes without saying that footwork is a crucial determinant of how successful a football player will be. Regardless of whether you’re primarily an offensive player or defensive player, agility will be needed. Tackling and juking are fairly difficult to execute in the absence of solid footwork.
How does lacrosse improve agility you may ask?
Not only does lacrosse place a heavy emphasis on agility, it can be argued that it’s what the entire sport is based around. If you’ve ever watched a lacrosse game, this should come as no surprise. Lacrosse players rely on their agility to dodge past the opposition, sneak through tight spaces within the defense, and stay locked in front of ball carriers.
If you’re clumsy with your footwork, lacrosse will undoubtedly help to resolve this problem. After all, the only way to address an issue with footwork is through a high volume of repetition. What better way to force these repetitions than through a totally new sport!
By the end of just one single lacrosse season, you’ll see a marked difference in your ability to change direction and match feet with opposing athletes. This advantage alone should be enough to tip the balance in favor of joining the lacrosse team. Fortunately, there are still a host of other benefits to take into account, such as the element of physicality, a topic we’ll discuss in greater detail next.
3) Promotes Physicality, Helping You to Better Initiate and Absorb Contact
It’s no secret that football is a contact sport. Every play, bodies collide with a considerable amount of force all across the field. There are few other opportunities for athletes to simulate this type of live contact and gain a superior sense of body control. Lacrosse offers football players the rare opportunity to develop this area of their game.
To be clear, lacrosse does not mandate tackling. The physical contact in lacrosse is slightly different, reinforcing technical body checks and calculated stick checks as opposed to brutally throwing opponents to the ground.
You can find more detailed information on what type of contact is allowed in lacrosse by clicking over to Can You Tackle in Lacrosse?
Despite these subtle variations in physical contact regulations, there’s still substantial value in playing lacrosse as a football player. For one, these regulations compel football players to reassess their body positioning and basic approach to contacting an opponent. This forces football athletes to be more technically sound in terms of their physical capabilities. Rather than relying on brute force alone, they are forced to use their wits to gain maximum leverage on an opponent without inflicting any more damage than necessary.
In lacrosse, the margin for error when contacting another player is fairly slim. A reckless or overzealous hit to the head, neck, or backside of an opponent is an automatic penalty. Over time, these rules teach football athletes how to better read opponent movement patterns and react accordingly in a safe manner.
4) Further Refines Hand-Eye Coordination by Unorthodox Means
Yet another advantage offered by lacrosse is a vast improvement in hand-eye coordination.
Of course, certain football positions stress hand-eye coordination more than others, like the quarterback, wide receiver, and defensive back positions for example. Nonetheless, all football positional players benefit somewhat from an increase in hand-eye coordination because it ultimately makes them more capable athletes.
Lacrosse does a tremendous job at cultivating hand-eye coordination since it’s an altogether different kind of exercise that most athletes are not accustomed to. The majority of athletes are used to catching and throwing balls with their hands directly. They’re not used to working through an intermediary tool—such as a lacrosse stick—to perform athletic hand-eye movements.
This diversifies the hand-eye repertoire of football athletes, which ultimately makes them feel more comfortable handling unprecedented situations on the football field, like snatching up an interception or ripping away a catch from a defender.
If you don’t want to take my word for it, listen to Super Bowl wide receiver Chris Hogan. Hogan has attested that much of his success as a wideout in. the NFL could be attributed to his unique exposure to the sport of lacrosse (source).
At the end of the day, every little edge counts come game time, so this unique hand-eye practice may come in handy when you least expect it.
5) Keeps You in Shape During the Off-Season
The last notable advantage that lacrosse provides for football players is it forces them to stay off the couch and do something active day in and day out.
Once the football season is over, it’s rather tempting to lounge around and bask in the glory of doing absolutely nothing. Young players fail to realize that talented football athletes are molded through hard work in the off-season, not in-season. While the majority of off-season football players take an extended break from any athletic pursuits, the top tier football players continue to grind and steadily improve.
The fact of the matter is that if you’re complacent during the off-season, there will be some other athlete out there taking advantage and passing you up. If anything, you should view the football season as the time where you reap the rewards from all the hard work you put in during the off-season.
Obviously, this is easier said than done. Relying on your own self-discipline to venture out and do something athletic each and every day is difficult. For most athletes, joining another sport to stay in shape helps to ease this burden since they have teammates and coaches to keep them accountable.
There’s no doubt in my mind that lacrosse is the perfect complement to football in terms of keeping in shape. If you haven’t noticed already, lacrosse is an exceptional paragon of individual strength, speed, and endurance.
Lacrosse players need strength to stand up to contact and avoid crumbling under defensive checks. Speed is needed to explode past opponents and beat them to a desired spot on the field. Endurance is essential as well, since lacrosse players are perpetually on the move to keep pace with the ball.
There aren’t many fitness programs out there better tailored toward football than lacrosse. Lifting programs solely focus on strength. Running programs exclusively concentrate on endurance. Lacrosse is special in that it attacks multiple fitness fronts simultaneously.
Jim Brown: A Prime Example of How Lacrosse Helps with Football
Every football fan knows that Jim Brown was a legendary running back for the Cleveland Browns, but few people know that he is one of the all-time greats in lacrosse as well (source). In fact, Brown is arguably the greatest lacrosse player of all time!
Brown was raised on Long Island, which was one of the few places in the country where lacrosse was popular. Brown earned the right to play on Syracuse’s collegiate lacrosse team and quickly made a name for himself in the sport, in addition to his renown on the football field.
Brown’s unorthodox background in lacrosse certainly had an influence on his success as a running back. His uncanny ability to dance away from defenders and power right through the competitions was undoubtedly fostered through lacrosse.
According to an interview with The New York Times in 1984, Jim Brown actually stated, “Lacrosse is probably the best sport I ever played” (source).
So if you need any further evidence that lacrosse helps with football, check out his story!
Ways That Lacrosse Draws Away from Football
There’s no denying that lacrosse can definitely have a positive impact on an athlete’s performance on the football field. However, I would be remiss if I only mentioned the potential advantages of playing lacrosse during the football off-season. Sadly, there are certain areas where lacrosse may actually do more harm than good.
6) Any Injuries Sustained During Lacrosse May Carry Over to Football
The most glaring issue with participating in lacrosse during the football off-season is the potential risk for injury. Lacrosse is undoubtedly a physically demanding sport. With the rigorous running routine, forceful body blows, and bone-jarring stick checks that players are subjected to on a daily basis, it’s no wonder that injury is a real concern for many football players.
However, it should be noted that lacrosse injury rates have shown a noticeable downward trend in recent decades. In a study conducted from 1988 to 2004, player injuries were monitored all throughout college lacrosse in order to gather tangible data on how often players were injured, along with what sorts of injuries were most common.
At the conclusion of this study, it was found that there were 12.58 injuries per 1000 athlete-exposures (source). As a quick reference, the study defined an athlete-exposure as a player that was an active participant in a lacrosse practice or game.
A similar study was then performed from the years of 2009 to 2015, utilizing the same athlete-exposure experimental model as before. Only this time around, the results were vastly different. The numerical data showed that there were 5.29 injuries per 1000 athlete-exposures, a drastic decrease from the previous study (source).
With that being said, there’s no guarantee of safety when playing lacrosse. But then again, there’s no guarantee of safety when embarking on any new athletic endeavor. If the prospect of injury is a real concern, you may want to conduct some research on your own before committing to a final decision.
7) Overwork May Depreciate Your Passion for Football
Another serious drawback of participating in lacrosse is overworking yourself and losing interest in sports completely.
Playing lacrosse in the spring is certainly a time commitment, particularly for high school athletes that are playing in practices or games six days a week minimum. If you’re already pushing the limit of your academic and athletic workload, lacrosse may not be the best idea for you.
I’ve had my fair share of experiences with lacrosse teammates that faced this very problem. A couple of my teammates would take part in football during the fall season, wrestling during the winter season, and lacrosse during the spring season. All of this was done on top of their studies. Needless to say, they had trouble finding much free time throughout the week.
Certain athletes are more than willing to tackle this rigid schedule. Somehow, their enthusiasm for sports never wavers despite having to sacrifice much of their own personal leisure.
Other athletes are not as well equipped to handle such an exorbitant amount of physical activity year after year. At some point, sports simply become too much to handle and their original fervor for athletics begins to diminish.
If you find that you’re in dire need of a break after the football season, lacrosse may hurt your football skills more than it will help. To succeed in football, your mind and body need to be sharp heading into the season. In some cases, lacrosse only results in early burnout, which is obviously something you want to avoid.
The Bottom Line: Should You Play Lacrosse During the Football Off-Season?
Now that we’ve discussed the benefits and drawbacks that lacrosse offers football athletes, everything boils down to one question: “Is lacrosse the right fit for you?”
All things considered, the answer is that it depends. Having read through the various ways that lacrosse may help or hurt you, I would advise you to make a pros and cons list and weigh out your options. Committing to a lacrosse program is no cakewalk, so it’s in your best interest to think long and hard about your decision beforehand.
Being a former lacrosse myself, I must say that my only regret is not venturing outside my comfort zone and starting the sport earlier. I actually remember being in your shoes, considering whether or not lacrosse would be a viable complement to football. The thing that really pushed me over the edge was reading through the story of Jim Brown.
Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up loving lacrosse more than football within a span of a few weeks. On the contrary, you may end up disliking your experience and discovering that lacrosse isn’t for you.
Ultimately, you won’t know until you try. If you have even the slightest curiosity about lacrosse, my advice is to go out there and give it a shot. The sport may seem intimidating at first, but it’s nothing that you football players can’t overcome.