One of the reasons I love lacrosse so much, why Im so incredibly loyal to this sport, is because it truly is for everyone. In a society that labels everything, lacrosse has no boundaries to who can pick it up and excel at it.
I remember as a kid being told I was too short to play basketball, too tall to be a gymnast, too muscular to be a dancer, had the wrong muscle fibers to be a distance runner, arms too short to be a swimmer, and the labels went on and on. But I had no problem picking up lacrosse, it came easily to me as I stood in front of that brick wall everyday practicing catching a hard rubber ball in a wooden shovel shaped stick. It was challenging, and mastering it was a confidence boost I desperately needed as a young kid.
I have countless stories of kids whose parents dropped them off the first day of lacrosse telling me that they had tried all the other sports, their kid isn’t athletic, they hate sports, but they wanted to give lacrosse a try since it was the one sport not saturated yet and still had room for sign-ups. Many of those very kids routinely ended up being the best lacrosse players to come out of those programs, going on to play collegiate ball and racking up awards. Not only did they pick up the sport and succeed, they gained confidence that they could learn and master something very difficult.
Lacrosse doesn’t have a type, yes it may have a reputation or a stigma attached to it, but too be good at it- it doesn’t have a type. My brother and my dad played collegiate lacrosse and both of them stand at about 5’7 (with boots on)( *ducking and running right now)… You can be 6’8 or 5’2 and be an amazing impact player on your team. You can be wirey, stocky, come from money or from a scholarship, this sport is for everyone. I coach for a private high school and we play against some public schools in the city that don’t have a field safe enough to host games or a budget to hire an experienced coaching staff. They have their First Stick program equipment on and they are eager to learn. Those games are the best games, the ones that bridge together communities that otherwise wouldn’t be there, and reminds us that this sport is being mastered, played, and loved by everyone it touches. At the end of one of our games this year we ran over and hugged the other team instead of shaking hands because it was their programs very first game and they played amazing, we were so honored to be their first opponent. If you can, collect lacrosse gear, sticks, barely worn cleats, goggles, whatever anyone says they aren’t using anymore. I keep them in a box in my garage for any players that can’t afford gear to play. If someone wants to play lacrosse, our answer should always be yes, let’s make it happen!
One of my greatest joys as a coach is having a kid who was convinced they are not athletic, suddenly realize that they can do this sport, that they can compete, that their body will move and cut and scoop and throw and that they can find success on a field among their friends. It’s a confidence boost that – a video game they might be playing if they had given up on sports will never give them. It’s the “yes I CAN do it!” realization that hopefully propels them to try more and more as they grow and develop into an adult. If you’ve coached before, you know that look I’m talking about, the one when they get it, when they conquer a task, and it’s priceless – it’s why we do what we do.
So the next time a kid shows up to practice who looks a little awkward, or maybe has low confidence and is struggling in an athletic atmosphere, give them repeated high fives, yes you can do this encouragements, keep correcting their fundamentals and putting them in the game to try no matter how much they mess up. Don’t ever give up on them, or give them a label. You never know… they just might be the next big lacrosse star 🙂