As of late, lacrosse has been on the rise in terms of its overall popularity. Year after year, athletes of all ages are flocking to this up and coming sport. If you or your child want to participate in lacrosse, it’s a common question to ask what the appropriate age is for players to start.
It’s recommended that players start lacrosse at the age of 7. Around this age, children gain the necessary strength and coordination needed to hold a lacrosse stick and perform fundamental skills. Starting lacrosse early is the best way for players to fully reach their playing potential.
Below, we will go over why it is that players should start lacrosse as early as age seven, along with some of the potential drawbacks of doing so. Read until the end to see whether or not it’s worth it for athletes to participate in lacrosse before and after the age of seven.
Why Players Should Start Lacrosse as Early as Age 7
There are a number of reasons why many lacrosse players and coaches believe seven to be the best age to start this sport. The most noteworthy of these reasons will be discussed in further detail below.
Early Stick Skill Progression Can Be Very Advantageous
Arguably, the most important benefit of starting lacrosse at age seven is the ability to learn proper stick skills. As a quick reference, stick skills refers to how well a player is able to execute basic maneuvers with their lacrosse stick, such as:
You can find additional information about these stick skills by clicking over to 7 Fundamental Skills That You Need to Play Lacrosse.
The sport of lacrosse revolves around all of these movements. What makes lacrosse so different from other sports is how unorthodox these movements are.
With most other popular sports—like basketball and football for example—players directly contact the ball with their hands. They don’t rely on an intermediary to possess the ball. This is not the case with lacrosse.
Lacrosse relies heavily on the use of the lacrosse stick. It’s not far-fetched to say that you need to be intimately familiar with how to properly wield your lacrosse stick in order to succeed. Without stick skills, a player will have a difficult time accomplishing their positional responsibilities.
The only way to develop your stick skills is to pick up a lacrosse stick and get in as many practice repetitions as possible. Natural athleticism acquired from other sports can only carry a player so far. At some point, the only way to improve is to prioritize stick skills above all else. Oftentimes, a lack of stick skills is what holds players back from fully enjoying the sport.
Players that start lacrosse at age seven will be able to develop these stick skills very early. During these early stages, lacrosse camps, clinics, and leagues focus almost exclusively on teaching kids basic stick skills.
Since there’s not much of a discrepancy between stick skills yet, it’s much easier for newcomers to endure this learning process and move past this phase that typically frustrates lacrosse beginners.
Ultimately, the earlier that a player picks up a lacrosse stick, the better off they will be long term. Ask any lacrosse player and practically every single one of them will attest to the truth of this.
Sets the Foundation for a Superior Lacrosse IQ
While lacrosse has recently been bursting onto the scene, it’s still not what people consider a mainstream sport. At least not yet. Nevertheless, this raises a fairly substantial barrier of entry to the sport since the rules of lacrosse are not generally known to the casual sports fan.
Growing up, most people become familiar with the rules of popular sports—like baseball for example—in one way or another. They’re ingrained into modern culture, so much so that it’s fairly uncommon to meet a person who isn’t somewhat knowledgable with the rules of mainstream sports.
Lacrosse players don’t have this luxury. Any exposure to lacrosse is often due to a player’s own personal efforts. To fully understand how the game works, they typically have to conduct research on their own time. Lacrosse may be growing in popularity, but information on the rules of this sport has a long way to go in terms of becoming common knowledge.
If you would like to have a thorough understanding of how lacrosse works, click over to Rules of Field Lacrosse Explained: A Beginner’s Guide.
However, those that start lacrosse at an early age have the opportunity to learn how lacrosse works firsthand. It’s one thing to watch lacrosse highlights on YouTube, it’s another to play out the sport firsthand.
When a player starts lacrosse early, they become fully immersed into its playing environment. They not only learn about the rules, they also learn about other various facets of the sport, including the:
- basic strategy
- live game scenarios
- protective equipment
As a parent, if you’ve never been exposed to lacrosse before, your child will likely know more than you within a couple of weeks of play! Building up a fundamental knowledge of lacrosse this early comes in handy later down the road. Few players develop such a feel for the game. This superior lacrosse IQ is what separates the good players from the great ones.
Kids Tend to Stick with What They’re Good At
After developing a basic set of stick skills and a foundational knowledge for the game, it’s likely that a player so young will be light years ahead of the competition. Most players do not pick up lacrosse until middle school or high school, so they’re obviously lacking in these areas.
Children typically like to continue to do activities where they’ve found success. Whether it be video games, board games, or the game of lacrosse, kids enjoy this positive feedback.
Since players that start early have a head start over other players, they’re likely to fall within the upper echelon of lacrosse players a few years down the road. Their superior playing ability will encourage them to stick with the sport and progress even further. This may help a young player uncover a passion for lacrosse that they never knew they had.
Leads to a Number of Physical & Social Benefits
Lastly, participating in lacrosse positively impacts players both in terms of physical health and social health. Receiving these benefits at such a young age promotes habits for an all-around healthy lifestyle.
It’s no secret that lacrosse is a physically demanding game. It pushes players to their cardiovascular limits. To give you some perspective, players typically run anywhere from three to five miles per game (with the exception of the goalie).
Plus, it’s worth bearing in mind that players mix in short, explosive bursts of speed into these long stints of running. Lacrosse is not exclusively aerobic. It incorporates anaerobic elements as well.
You can find detailed information about the aerobic and anaerobic demands of lacrosse by clicking over to Is Lacrosse Aerobic or Anaerobic? (Here are the Facts!).
Aside from running, players also develop other fitness aspects, like strength, coordination, agility, and kinesthetic awareness among others. Consequently, young players develop a well-rounded physique and fitness skill set early on in their athletic career.
In terms of social health benefits, lacrosse is undoubtedly a team sport. During standard gameplay, there are 10 players on the field per team! Each player depends on their teammates to win. One player cannot do it all themselves.
Other major sports—like swimming or gymnastics for example—are more individualistic in nature rather than team-oriented (source). Although these sports carry other benefits, they’re not nearly as social as lacrosse. The athletic responsibilities of the players aren’t directly tied with their teammates.
This forces players to cooperate and work together by helping players to realize that a team is only as strong as its weakest link. This teamwork allows players to improve upon their communication, build up their teamwork skills, and develop long-lasting friendships. All of which carry well beyond the lacrosse field into the classroom or workplace.
Are There Any Disadvantages to Starting Lacrosse at Age 7?
Although there are a number of benefits to beginning lacrosse early, it’s important to realize that not everything is all well and good. There are certain drawbacks to take into account as well, which we will delve into below.
Development of Bad Habits that are Difficult to Break
One major point to consider is that there’s a chance for younger lacrosse players to instill bad habits into their game because they started too early.
At age seven, kids still are not even close to reaching their peak physical development. For this reason, they may lack the size and strength to execute basic lacrosse maneuvers. Even just holding the lacrosse stick can be a struggle for some.
This lack of physical development may cause players to compensate for their weakness with improper technique. For example, a young player may keep their arms in tight to their body as they shoot because they don’t have the strength to fully extend the lacrosse stick away from their body. As this player grows older, they may carry this bad habit with them, which will detract from their shot velocity.
This not only applies to physical skills, but mental skills as well. Lacrosse game strategy changes as players grow older and master the basics. In a player’s early days, they may be able to carry the ball end to end without a problem. After a few years, however, this tactic will likely only result in a loss of possession and several bruises from hard defensive checks.
It’s best to address these problems early before they take root. Otherwise, these issues may limit a player’s ability to improve their game.
Higher Chances of Sustaining Injury
Similar to any other sport, the more you play, the more opportunities there will be for injury. This is especially true for lacrosse, given the fact that it’s a contact sport. For those of you that don’t know, players are allowed to physically contact an opponent with their body or lacrosse stick in an attempt to dislodge the ball.
Since young players have bodies that are more fragile, these contact rules are scaled down accordingly. Referees make an effort to discourage any particularly aggressive or reckless contact. Contrary to popular opinion, lacrosse isn’t a violent sport. Just because contact is allowed doesn’t mean that violence is permitted.
You can learn more about how lacrosse is regulated in order to promote player safety by reading through Is Lacrosse a Violent Sport (Exposing the Real Truth!).
Nevertheless, injuries do still occur. This is to be expected with any physical activity, regardless of whether it allows contact or not. If you’re not comfortable putting yourself or your child in a contact environment at such an early age, holding off on lacrosse for a little longer may be the ideal option.
Possibility of Early Burnout
Lacrosse may help a young player to familiarize themself with the game before their peers, but too much lacrosse can also be detrimental.
If a young player is overwhelmed with too many camps, practices, or games at the onset, they may rapidly lose interest in the sport. Rather than savoring every moment the game has to offer, they may instead quit the sport altogether once they’ve reached a breaking point.
As a parent, the last thing you want to do is push your child away from a sport that they could potentially enjoy for years to come. This is why it’s important to keep the lacrosse activities to a moderate level at the start.
There’s plenty of lacrosse to be had in the coming years, so there’s no reason to burden your child with lacrosse when they’ve only just started. You don’t want to extinguish their inner spark before it’s even had a chance to take flame.
Can You Start Lacrosse Earlier than Age 7?
Now that we’ve established that age seven is the recommended age to begin lacrosse, you’re likely wondering if it’s a smart idea for a player to start at an even earlier age.
The short answer is that you can start your child with lacrosse earlier than seven, but it will probably be difficult to find any sort of formal, organized lacrosse activities for one so young.
It ultimately depends on where you live and what lacrosse resources are available to you. A person in Maryland, for example, will have a much easier time locating youth lacrosse activities than someone in Iowa.
Typically, the most you can do as a parent for one so young is put a lacrosse stick in their hands and teach them yourself. If you haven’t been exposed to lacrosse, this obviously will not be feasible.
On the other hand, if you’re familiar with the sport, you may have the expertise to navigate around the growing pains of teaching a young child to play lacrosse. Just know that it will demand a considerable amount of time and patience on your part.
Can You Start Lacrosse Later than Age 7?
If you or your child lie on the opposite end of the age spectrum, it’s reasonable to ask whether it’s still worth it to play lacrosse above age seven. The answer to this question is a resounding yes!
It doesn’t matter if you’re 10 years old or 28 years old, you can still play lacrosse if your heart is set on it. There are youth leagues and men’s leagues emerging all over the place. The only thing holding you back from playing is stepping outside your comfort zone and signing up.
In my own experience, I didn’t start playing lacrosse until I was 12 years old. Most of my friends had picked up the sport much earlier, around the age of 8 or 9, but I decided to join anyway. As you can probably guess, I’m extremely glad that I did because I immediately fell in love with the sport. Since then, I haven’t looked back.
Although starting lacrosse early may initially put you ahead of the curve, not all players that start early pan out to be extraordinary talents. Starting early merely affords players more opportunities to improve. It’s up to these players to take advantage of these opportunities that they’ve been given.
It’s similar to the argument for snowboarding. Consider a person A who has snowboarded 2x per year for 20 years and person B who has snowboarded 30x per year for only 2 years. In this case, person B is likely the better snowboarder, even though person A started snowboarding much earlier.
If you start lacrosse later than your peers, don’t be discouraged. So long as you have the passion and work ethic to practice lacrosse consistently, you’ll close this gap in no time. I’ve seen it myself. There were several teammates of mine that started lacrosse their freshman year of high school and went on to make the varsity cut their senior year.
In short, it’s never too late to start lacrosse. So if you haven’t picked up a lacrosse stick yet, go out and give it a try!