10 Mistakes High School Lacrosse Players Make
1. Not Doing Enough Wall Ball
The best way to improve your game, at any level of lacrosse, is to do your wall ball! The great thing about lacrosse is you only need a stick, a ball, and a wall to train. Some kids think they can get away with doing wall ball 2-3 times a week; however, to be an elite player, you need to be doing it everyday! Have a set time you do your wall ball. If you’re worried about burning out, take one day off per week. For example, make Friday your day off so you can relax after a long week of classes. Save Friday nights for going out with friends or on a date. But just remember, everyday you don’t do wall ball, there is someone out there that is going out and putting the extra work in.
2. Doing Wall Ball, But Not Working Off Hand
A common mistake young players make while doing wall ball is to just work their dominant hand. Here’s the deal: you must work your off hand! Imagine that since you’re right handed you only do bicep curls with your right arm, but ignore doing them with your left. Now do that for 6 months, and you’ll look pretty silly. You are doing the same thing by not working your off hand! The problem with being reliant on a single hand is you will eventually run into a defenseman who forces you to your off hand. If you work your off hand, you will be fine, but if you’ve neglected it, it’s all over but the crying. The best players at all levels can use both hands. I’m not saying you have to be a god with your offhand, but you must be competent (throw an accurate 20 yard pass) at a minimum.
3. Not Moving and Shooting
I’ve noticed that when youth players practice shooting, they stand in one spot and stay there the whole time. Ask yourself this: Are you ever going to get in a situation where you can stand 6 yards from the net and calmly shoot it top left corner? The answer is no. This is most important for you midfielders! If you have a good shot on the run, especially when on a fast break, college coaches will notice you. This is the best way to become an unstoppable offensive threat. Nothing is worse for a defenseman than a guy who can sprint down the alley and shoot it opposite side of the goalie. It is extremely hard to stop those guys; therefore, being one of those guys makes you stand out for coaches. Make sure you practice shooting on the run.
4. Shooting Underhand Every Time
There’s always one kid on a high school team that thinks shooting underhand is the only way to go. Let me tell you: it’s not. Yes, there is a time for the underhand shot, but it is not as good as a simple overhand or ¾ shot. The overhand shot is more accurate and has more power. If you watch college tape, you’ll notice Duke players shoot overhand most of the time. If Coach Danowski thinks it’s the best shot to use, chances are it is. It’s better to score 10 overhand goals than have 1 super cool low-to-high underhand shot. Coaches don’t care if you can score super sick goals if you can’t do it consistently. Therefore, overhand gives you the best bang for your buck.
5. Not Changing Shot Direction
Admittedly, I had this problem in high school. It was a huge factor in my decision to switch to defense—which worked out. But to be an elite shooter, you must be able to change shot direction. If you fake high, you must shoot low. If you fake low, you must fake high. The worst is when someone fakes left, and then shoots left. When you fake somewhere and shoot there as well, you are shooting exactly where you just made the goalie move. Not changing shot direction is the biggest culprit for why guys don’t score on the crease. So remember, when you fake somewhere, shoot anywhere else on net.
6. Not Moving Back to Goalies on Clears
This one comes down to sheer laziness or being too scared to make a play. If you are a part of the clear and look back to see your goalie still holding onto the ball, you must be the guy to run back to be an outlet. You get 20 seconds to clear the ball in college and wasting 10 seconds by making your goaltender stand there with the ball adds up. Imagine if you wasted 10 seconds on a clear by not helping your goaltender. Then, with 5 seconds in the game you have the ball and need to score one goal to tie the game. If you had gone back to your goaltender earlier on that clear, you would have 15 seconds instead of 5. I understand you get tired after a long defensive stand, but you must be the guy to get open for your goalie so the ball gets down the field. Don’t make your goaltender do all the work.
7. Attempting to Dodge Through Doubles/Triples
If there’s one player that makes me want to rip my hair out, it’s this guy. Please know that if you constantly attempt to dodge through doubles/triples, you are costing your team games. There is a difference between being aggressive with the ball and acting a fool. I had a guy on my high school team senior year that always did this. One game he turned the ball over 14 times in the first half. He was averaging 28 turnovers for the whole game. Do not be that guy.
If you are dodging and get doubled, know that a teammate should be open. It’s simple mathematics. If they have 6 and you have 6, and 2 of them cover you, it is now a 5 v 4 for the rest of the field. This is why you want to draw the slide. Yet, when you constantly attempt to charge through the double, you hurt your team by not passing to the open man. If you have this habit, you need to break it quick. You may get away with it in high school because you are paying to play, but guys that do this at the college level won’t be at the college level for long.
8. Holding onto Ball too Long
In lacrosse, using your time efficiently is everything. Therefore, you must get the ball out of your stick quickly. Consider which offense you would rather play against: one offense passes it to the open player and he holds it for six seconds looking around before jogging down the alley, eventually passing it back. The other offense gets the ball out of their stick every 2-3 seconds, constantly cutting through the crease and setting picks. Any defenseman would rather play the first offense. An offense that moves the ball out of their stick fast is tough to play, and you get tired fast. A great offense to watch is Denver’s. You’ll notice they get the ball out of their sticks every 2-3 seconds and are constantly moving. That is what you need to strive for.
9. Trail Checks
A lot of d poles make the mistake of depending on the trail check. I cannot stand this check. Next time, instead of doing a trail check when beat, you need to sprint to at least get even with your man, then disrupt his play anyway possible (get your stick in front of him, lean into him with your hip). It is better to race him back to a good spot than to attempt a trail check that probably won’t work. A trail check is you admitting your guy beat you and the game is over. It’s a last-ditch effort. Sort of like Pickett’s Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg.
The worst trail check is when your guy hasn’t beat you but is hanging his stick. Then the defender goes for the takeaway with the trail check, only for his man to pull his stick back in and race around the d pole for any easy goal. You simply cannot do this. You must be patient. If you attempt this move, you are surrendering whatever positioning you have left. Yes, you’ll feel cool if it actually works, but the odds of you being successful with this move against a top tier player is slim to none. Much better to never make this risky move and force your guy to pass the ball, than to try and be a reckless hero.
10. Not Working the 2 Slide or 3 Slide
This one is for all my defensemen. If you are newer to the game, here is a quick run down on how these slides work. The standard slide is the man who slides to the man with the ball once he beats his defender. The second man then covers the man who the slider was covering. The third man then covers the man who the second slider was covering. That is how a 2 and 3 slide work. I’ve noticed that many young defensemen do not go through with their 2 or 3 slide and assume the game is up once the initial slide happens. It is not. In fact, the best defensemen are not the ones who can occasionally force a good turnover. The best defensemen are the ones who are always in the right place and never give up their position, making it tough for the offense to score. Being able to go through with the 2/3 slides is critical to becoming an elite defenseman that top schools will look to recruit.