It is not always so obvious to novice lacrosse players what it takes to become a good lacrosse player. Even the more experienced players occasionally lose sight of the qualities that make a lacrosse player good.
For this reason, I compiled the defining characteristics of what makes a good lacrosse player into one comprehensive article. Read further to uncover what parts of your game need improvement. Lacrosse is just like anything else in that knowledge reigns supreme.
Respectable Lacrosse IQ
The top tier lacrosse players in the world preach that reaching success in the sport is virtually all mental. Physical intangibles definitely come in handy, but without a thorough understanding of the inner workings of the game these physical attributes are practically meaningless. The most prominent aspects of lacrosse IQ that typify a solid lacrosse player are explained in greater detail below.
Learn the Strategic Tactics of the Opposition
Good lacrosse players do not just have an extensive understanding of their own team strategy. They also have a thorough grasp of the game plan of the opposition as well.
Study Film on the Opposition: Good lacrosse players learn of the strengths, vulnerabilities, and tendencies of their opponent through game film.
Game film is the most effective way to understand how opposing teams operate. Every competitive lacrosse team has specific plays and sets that keep all of the players on the same page. Not every one of these plays or sets is bulletproof. With each lacrosse coaching methodology, there are both strengths and weaknesses.
Good lacrosse players glean information from film to uncover the flaws in the opposing game plan. They then utilize this knowledge to exploit these flaws and create opportunities for themselves and their teammates.
Constantly Adapt to Changing Stratagems: Lacrosse strategy can be akin to a chess match in terms of how players and coaches make moves in response to the actions of the opponent.
High caliber lacrosse teams rarely stick to one singular scheme throughout the entire game. The majority of lacrosse teams change up game strategies in order to continually adapt to the opposing style of play.
Good lacrosse players have the circumstantial awareness to recognize when the other team is shifting away from their initial game plan in favor of some alternative strategy. They also possess the lacrosse IQ to know how their team should adapt to better accommodate to these sweeping changes.
Know the Rules of the Game Inside and Out
The higher tier lacrosse players also know the rules of lacrosse like the back of their hand. They know what is going on in the game at all times and refrain from making foolish mistakes on the field.
Avoid Unnecessary Turnovers: This superior knowledge of the lacrosse rule book helps these lacrosse players to avoid worthless turnovers.
There are numerous times where lacrosse players end up giving up unforced turnovers during games simply because they are unaware of one particular rule. This happens more often than it should, specifically at the youth and high school level. The most unfortunate part is that these unforced turnovers can easily be eliminated if these players only took the time and effort to better understand the game!
For example, there is a large number of lacrosse players are unaware of the recently installed “Keep It In Rule” where a team must hold the ball in the restraining box inside of two minutes at the end of the game. There are so many times where ball carriers venture outside the box after the referees have already made the “Keep It In!” call on the field. This results in an automatic turnover, which carries significant repercussions if your team is in a tight situation at the end of the game.
Steer Clear of the Penalty Box: The thorough understanding that skilled lacrosse players have of the rule book also helps them to stay away from the penalty box. There is a great deal of lacrosse players that get penalized for silly violations because they were just ignorant of the rules.
For example, it is common for lacrosse players to get called for a cross checking penalty because they unknowingly extend their hands too far apart on the lacrosse shaft. Good lacrosse players easily avoid drawing a cross checking penalty because they consciously keep their hands together on the lacrosse shaft when playing on ball defense.
Make the Right Play at the Right Time
High level lacrosse players are known for their intelligence to make the right play at the right time. This uncanny ability to take what the opposition is giving them and make the most of it is an extremely difficult skill to master.
Set the Pace of Play: Higher level lacrosse players make a concerted effort to set the tempo of the game on their terms. They slow down or speed up the pace of the game as needed to maximize the likelihood that their team will come out on top.
For example, good offensive players recognize transition opportunities when they present themselves and immediately push the pace. They slow down the tempo of the game after the team has finished an especially long stint on defense. This affords the defense some rest while simultaneously exhausting the opposing defense.
Isolate Favorable Match-ups: Identifying and isolating beneficial one-on-one match-ups is another staple characteristic of solid lacrosse players.
Both offenses and defenses are always searching for ways to pit their best player against the weakest link on the other team. As soon as these opportune match-ups come about, they should be isolated as soon as possible to take advantage of the situation.
Skilled lacrosse players have the field awareness not only isolate these opportune match-ups, they make an active effort to create them. Whether it be setting picks on the offensive end or switching up assignments on the defensive end, these fortuitous 1v1 competitions help the team tremendously.
Reliable Stick Skills
Another major component that distinguishes a good lacrosse player from an average one is stick skills. Measuring the quality of a player’s technical stick skills is a potent way to separate the cream of the crop. The explicit stick skill indicators that characterize high caliber lacrosse players are explored in the subsequent paragraphs.
Rarely Drop the Ball
It is a seldom occasion that you see an adept lacrosse player drop an accurate pass. The skills involved with catching are so ingrained into the subconscious of these players that they do not even have to think about it.
Catch the Ball Under Heavy Defensive Pressure: Even in spite of defensive adversity, these players somehow come out with possession.
This is an incredible skill to have, especially when facing more competitive lacrosse teams. Coaches are well aware of this, which is why they elect to provide these players with so much playing time.
It does not matter if this player is closely contested on the crease or heavily face guarded near the mid line. These players are open virtually at all times, even if they do not look like it. This tremendous skill allows teammates to have confidence in taking risks, which opens the door for offensive opportunities long term. After all, teams that do not take any chances on offense score far less than teams that thoroughly trust in their ability to make plays.
Snag the Ball in Stride: Good lacrosse players also have the capacity to catch the lacrosse ball in stride.
This is one of the more overlooked skills in the lacrosse community. Nonetheless, it yields tremendous benefits in terms of fast break opportunities and acquiring an extra half step on the defense.
Players that stop their momentum solely for the purpose of catching the ball allow the opposition a chance to catch up to them. Players that do not break stride while catching passes obtain a slight edge over the defense. This modest advantage may not seem like much, but every little ounce of leverage counts in the game of lacrosse.
Throw Passes on a Dime
In addition to superior catching skills, accomplished lacrosse players also possess the ability to throw passes on a dime. Quick and accurate passes are crucial to lacrosse because players need to move the ball with a sense of urgency. Teams need to cause the defense to rotate in order to create scoring opportunities and pressure the defense into making a mistake.
Deliver the Ball Through Tight Windows: Delivering the ball through traffic to teammates is a solid indication of a well versed lacrosse player.
Throwing contested passes is difficult in itself. Having to thread the needle through the on ball defender as well as a secondary defender is a whole other level of difficulty. Average lacrosse players typically are not capable of making such arduous passes. Good lacrosse players, on the other hand, embrace the challenge with open arms.
This skill is extremely important because teams need play makers on the offensive side of the ball. Offenses are lucky to have just one good lacrosse player that is able to make these sorts of formidable throws.
Hurl the Long Ball with Pinpoint Accuracy: Furthermore, talented lacrosse players can heave the long ball with absolute precision.
Sometimes it is necessary to hurl a pass across a lengthy distance in order to reach the open man. This is true of half field offensive sets as well as defensive clears. For this reason, there is a distinct game situation for every lacrosse position that demands the use of the long ball.
In fact, goalkeepers especially need to hone in on the skill of throwing long passes to jump start the fast break. It is extremely difficult to provide the offense with a head start if they only receive the ball near goal line extended.
Shoot with Precision and Speed
Another technical stick skill that validates a good lacrosse player is the capability to shoot with accuracy and power. Only skilled lacrosse players are able to harness both of these aspects with their shooting technique.
Conscious of High Percentage Shooting Angles: To maximize shot precision, first-rate lacrosse players take care to increase their shooting angle wherever possible. The more net they see, the better.
There are numerous occasions where lower level lacrosse players elect to shoot at goal line extended. From this area of the field, hardly any open net can be seen. Even if these low percentage shots manage to land on goal, goalkeepers can easily stop these shots from reaching the back of the net.
Fundamental lacrosse players take the few extra steps above goal line extended and toward the center of the field to increase the amount of open net they have to work with. They do not settle for a mediocre, low angle shot. These lacrosse players fight to get to the area of the field that they want to get to, regardless of how much effort it demands.
Activate Every Muscle in the Body During the Shooting Motion: Moreover, competent shooters activate every muscle that they can to optimize their potential shot velocity.
Average lacrosse players are unable to generate the most amount of power behind their shot simply because they do not effectively use their body. Shooting is not solely a movement of the arms and it is certainly not a glorified pass.
The act of shooting with proper fundamentals involves the arms, the wrists, the hips, and the legs as well. Shot power is drawn from all of these anatomical components in unison. Good lacrosse players are aware of this fact, which is why they practice solid shooting fundamentals from the beginning.
Solid Athletic Condition
The physical intangibles of the lacrosse athlete also influences whether or not they are seen as an average player or a good player. A certain level of baseline athleticism is needed in order to thrive at advanced level lacrosse movements. The most important athletic components are analyzed in the subsequent paragraphs.
Stamina is arguably the most athletic ingredient that lacrosse players need to succeed. Lacrosse places a heavy emphasis on running for extreme distances in the span of a rather short period of time.
Able to Stay on the Field for Long Playing Shifts: The sport of lacrosse has been referred to as “The Fastest Game on Two Feet” for good reason.
Players are constantly running up and down the length of the field because of how naturally fast paced the game is. Unconditioned athletes do not have the capacity to keep up with the demands of the sport. There is simply too much running involved for players with low stamina.
Skilled lacrosse players are in pristine cardiovascular form. Rather than seeking the opportunity to substitute off the field, they exploit any chance they can to get back onto the field. For this reason, they are able to handle longer substitution shifts and impose their will on the lacrosse field.
It is hard to be considered good at the sport of lacrosse if you do not have the proper stamina to stay on the field.
Have the Energy to Perform Best When It Matters Most: Proficient lacrosse players also tap into their last energy reserve when it comes down to crunch time.
For most players, the end of the game is when players begin to succumb to the effects of exhaustion. They begin to move around more sluggishly on the field and get a bit more lazy when it comes to basic lacrosse fundamentals.
Skilled lacrosse players do the exact opposite. Rather than decreasing their level of play during the final minutes of the game, they take their game to the next level to solidify a victory. In order to accomplish this, players need to have a solid amount of muscle endurance to sprint toward the finish line. This is why many exceptional lacrosse players have such tremendous stamina.
Lightning Fast Speed
In addition to stamina, lacrosse players also need speed. In athletics, speed kills. This phenomenon applies especially to the fast pace of lacrosse where players are constantly looking to get an extra step ahead on the opposition.
Run Past the Opposition: Speed definitely comes in hand in practically every aspect in lacrosse. Lacrosse comes much more easily to athletes that are able to easily outrun the opposition at any given point in time compared to other athletes.
This capacity for speed shows up in the realm of dodging, scrapping for ground balls, clearing the ball to the offensive zone, and even running down the opposing ball carrier for a surprise check. These are just a few areas in lacrosse that I named off of the top of my head! Outrunning the opposition offers lacrosse players an almost immeasurable number of benefits.
Needless to say, these tremendous advantages certainly help to take a lacrosse player from mediocre to good.
Rapidly Speed Up Defensive Recovery Time: Furthermore, speed also accelerates recovery time on the defense.
The benefits of speed are commonly associated with offense in lacrosse. However, defensive players benefit just as much from speed as offensive players, particularly with recovery time.
Defenders get beat in one on one situations all the time. It is the primary means by which teams initiate their offense. For this reason, defensive recovery is one of the core lacrosse principles that coaches harp on.
The most skilled defenders in lacrosse possess above average speed that allows them to put themselves in the most optimal position to ward off the impending danger. Without adequate speed, it is hard for lacrosse defenders to take their game to the next level simply because they cannot reach the ball carrier in time.
Strikingly Agile Footwork
Lastly, good lacrosse players have remarkably nimble footwork. This exceptional agility comes in handy in numerous aspects of lacrosse. Below you will find some examples of how good lacrosse players utilize this agility.
Easily Dodge Past Defenders: Fundamentally sound lacrosse players use their superior agility to dice up defenders in a swift fashion.
The concept of dodging is largely based around the principles of agility and footwork. Ball carriers jab with their feet to bait the defender into moving one way while they move in other direction. Without solid footwork, it is challenging to cause the on ball defender to shift in the wrong direction.
Good lacrosse players make use of their nimbleness to manipulate defenders into moving out of their way. As you can probably imagine, it is a lot easier to create scoring opportunities for the offense when the defender is behind you rather than in front of you.
Maintain Composure When Closing Out on the Ball: A distinct mark of a reliable lacrosse defender is whether or not they close out to the ball in a controlled manner.
Lower level defenders make the mistake of shifting wildly to the ball because they feel like they have to close the distance as fast as possible.
Although it is important to attempt to contest the threat that the ball carrier poses, this importance pales in comparison to allowing the ball carrier a free path to the goal. Defenders that slide to the ball recklessly leave the door open for the ball carriers to dodge past and earn an easy trip to the goal.
Good lacrosse players always maintain their positional awareness to avoid this very situation. Phenomenal agility and footwork is what makes these rapid, controlled defensive close outs possible.