Answering Your Questions: Summer Tournaments

Spring season has drawn to a close. For collegians, this means cross training and some kind of internship (woof), but for high school and middle school athletes, summer is all about tournaments. College coaches recruit from tournaments: they’re too busy in season to worry about building a team, but as soon as the last whistle blows and their athletes are out for the summer, coaches focus on the future. The problem is that there is a tournament almost every weekend–many conflict, and some attract more coaches than others. Here is a good guideline for which tournaments you want to be at.


– 8-9: Lax Inception
– 28: Lax for the Cure
– 30- July 7: Vail Shootout On the 40th anniversary of the Vail Shootout, I have to plug for this tournament. Everyone who plays is crazy about it. Age brackets start at U8 and go to infinity (so it seems). This is a great atmosphere, and worth the trip.

– 12-14: Club National Championships. You bet a lot of coaches will be at this one.
– 19-21: All-Star Express. This tournament is fun–it’s always a favorite for younger players.
– 21-23: Capitol Cup This tournament has a great reputation, and attracts teams from across the country.

Feel free to comment if you want to plug for a tournament. Good luck in club season.

How The West Won

grizzly bear sightings: still 0 grizzly calls: too many to count  grizzly humor: infinite.
grizzly bear sightings: still 0
grizzly calls: too many to count
grizzly humor: infinite.

My team just came back from four days at the WCLA National Tournament in Colorado Springs. This is Virginia’s second year at Nationals and we went 2-2. In the normal season under our usual conditions, this would be unacceptable. But at this level, in the conditions we experienced (hail, slip and slide field conditions, altitude, tough mudders in the eight meter) I’m tempted to cut our losses and slip into the summer hiatus…. Or I’ll think about it, incessantly… for a long time. To become better, we have to learn from our mistakes.
Usually I’m a no-excuses player. I remember my first varsity lacrosse tryout was in the snow. At the time I had horrendous stick skills and a pretty questionable perception of what the rules were. The weather, for me, was perfect. I was athletic, determined, and technically deficient. It was simple. So today, looking back on my fourteen year-old self–I wonder what changed. Our team is fast. Our team is skilled. We won the regional championship by ten goals, beating out Virginia Tech and University of Maryland. We’re very good at east coast lacrosse—and maybe that’s the problem.

The rules have changed. In the WCLA (club women’s college) we play by USL rules—different from NCAA. The sphere around the head is larger, limiting checking even further (yes, unbelievably so, women’s lacrosse can get more lame). This is strictly enforced in the western conferences and Texas; on the east coast, most refs are accustomed to NCAA rules: the sphere is small, checking is mostly always legal, physical contact is allowed. The west is a different game. A low check from a hanging stick is usually always a foul or “across body” regardless of the fact the attackers cradle resembles the earth’s orbit around the sun. This is frustrating from a technical standpoint—good stick skills are no longer an essential, but an added bonus. Defense is harder; the games are higher scoring; the game is disjointed, punctuated by whistle after whistle.

“Guys, let’s just play our game” we’d say from the huddle—but we couldn’t, not like we were used to. The weather and rules affect all.

At first glance I hate the new rules. They diminish the value of creative stick work—of dodges, of quick reactions for a low, satisfying check on the double team. This new game is about footwork, It’s about patience. As the scores of the tournament reflected, all teams are adjusting to the new rules. Our defense is suffering under the incessant cross checking/shooting space/checking into sphere/weird dolphin hand motion calls/poetic license calls. At final glance on this piece, I still hate the rules– But I’ll give a nod to the west coast teams who have mastered the rules and adjusted their game accordingly.

Champs--they play beautiful lacrosse
Champs–they play beautiful lacrosse

– Shout out to CSU for an incredible season–

In Defense of Music

It’s 10:30 PM and the lights are on but the park is empty. All teams at the Pomerstone Classic have gone home for the night. Except mine. From far away you can see us clustered around in a circle—probably reviewing the three games we played that day, possibly talking strategy for our two games tomorrow.

But walk closer and you’ll see–we’re dancing.

Can't hold us

My team never goes without music. Whether it’s practice, warm-ups, or celebration post-game our speaker is always blaring. Many coaches and players find music distracting and unprofessional. It’s hard to yell orders or directions when you’re fighting Avici or Diplo for the airwaves. How, they ask, can you keep your players calm and collected before a game if their mind isn’t clear? They cite studies claiming multi-tasking (e.g. trying to warm up and prep and listen) detracts from the caliber of production.

But lacrosse isn’t about production. There’s no right mathematical formula or combination for winning a game. The game is rhythmic; more art than science. Focus and concentration are essential, but if you play for the love of the game, those take care of themselves. I play best when I’m loose and relaxed.

To all those teams and coaches that hate on music before a game, I offer only our record and my sincerest apologies. Because your team isn’t having as much fun as ours 😉

Good luck on your season. Keep posted for an epic warm up play list.

The Post-Game: You vs. DOMS

We played three games back to back on Saturday down in Roanoke in the Virginia Tech Tournament. In spite of generally crushing it on the field (#winning) like a champ, I woke up on Sunday feeling more slightly less than an ATH.

The morning after a big day is a delicate period where many crucial decisions must be made. Do you get out of bed? Can you? And why don’t you remember getting hit by train? While it’s tempting to linger in bed clutching ice packs to your quads, casually tweeting about how your body hates you, don’t. This is detrimental to your followership and your body. While yesterday was about you wracking up GB stats, today is about you and DOMS. DOMS is a classically painful third wheel: arrives uninvited, wedges itself obnoxiously between you and your sweet win, and overstays it’s welcome. DOMS, delayed onset muscle soreness, is the well-known ache you feel starting 12-24 hours after intense exercise. It tends to worsen, peaking anywhere from 24-72 hours later. That’s right, the train wreck feeling is here to stay for up to three days. If you let it.

To combat DOMS and properly take care of your body, you need a regeneration workout the day after. Regen combines low intensity cardio and flexibility training to aid muscular recovery.

Regeneration Workout
1) Dynamic stretching. (10 min) This entails movement. You want to loosen up your major muscle groups without placing unnecessary strain on your body.

2) Cardio (Low intensity, 20 min) You need to get blood flowing; Cardiovascular exercises is any type of exercise that uses major muscles groups to perform repetitive movements. This can be running, any kind of cross training like cycling or elliptical or swimming. It’s going to hurt for the first couple minutes, but plays a fundamental role in breaking up the lactic acid build up in your muscles and distributing it throughout your body.

3) Myofascial Release aka Foam Rolling (10 min)
Every athlete should own a foam roller. They’ve been used for decades with pros and are becoming increasingly common in the fitness world, but most high school and youth athletes don’t know about foam rolling. The concept is that intense periods of pressure and release work out knots in the tissue to relieve tension and prevent injury. Target your quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, IT band, and lats. Lat rolling feels strange, but you’re using this muscle ground every time you throw, shoot, etc.

Foam Rolling Exercises for Lacrosse Players
Foam Rolling Exercises for Lacrosse Players

4) Some passive stretching. What you would typically consider stretching. Do this last to prevent injury and strain.

I did Regen Sunday morning, and felt infinitely better on Monday. It’s easy to love the pre-game and natural to love the game itself. Learn to love the post-game, and your body will thank you.

Building a Pocket: Find the Sweet Spot

Today: Tempest Pro 2.0 AKA my stick.

Crafting the perfect pocket is an art. There’s a fine line between a creating a masterpiece and breaking the rules. Thankfully, women’s sticks have come a long way since the wooden, pancake flat tennis rackets of yore. Composite materials lighten the shaft, angled necks facilitate stronger shooting, and tapered, textured shafts aid grip.  Actual shooting strings emerged, improving accuracy and adding whip.  There is a lot of new technology available for women now–My stick has the gripper pro stringing, which prevents the ball from slipping and helps direct passes and improve accuracy.

Even with all of this, I’ve always been jealous of the Men’s pocket.  In middle school all my guy friends  lax-bros-in-training were on an eternal quest to build a bigger, better pocket. They softened their heads in the microwave, meticulously pinching them shut to minimize the surface area for checking. They watched YouTube videos of DIY pocket pounders, and sat in the back of every class -pounding the netting until the teacher told them to stop.  Repeatedly.  A one-inch adjustment of my strings before a game resulted in the inevitable scramble to retighten at the end of the warm up. Sometimes, you just wanna cheat the system.

While it might be easy to slyly tug on the bottom strings of your stick right before the ref plops the ball in for final judgment, this could have disastrous consequences later (sorry Florida). Some refs are oblivious to life*; the only lacrosse exposure they’ve had was that brief scene in the end of Mean Girls when a behaviorally reformed Regina George barrels down the field, stick in hand, wearing something that resembles a basketball uniform. In 2004. Then they saw a “referees wanted” ad on craigslist in 2012. And now they’re your ref. Said refs will not be concerned about checking your pocket after a goal. They’ll just be trying to figure out what a goal is. However, there are other refs who will care. These refs sleep with the USL rulebook under their pillow, and check USL website daily for new rule interpretations. They will care so much about the state of your pocket that they will check after EVERY goal (I’ve experienced this in high school and college). They will also measure the length of your stick, and the angle of the pocket against a table (this happened to me while playing in Santa Barbara in February).

For the sake of these refs, and your development as a player (too big of a pocket is a stick skills crutch) build your pocket right. The trick to building a pocket is that you want to minimize the slack in the narrow portion of the head near the neck. That’s where the ref is going to check to ensure that  the ball is visible above the sidewall. This is fine.  You don’t want a pocket there anyways; at no time during play should the ball live near the neck. It doesn’t matter if you’re a middie or a defender; you should be cradling and releasing from the sweet spot right below the bridge of your first shooting string. This is the only place you want a pocket. So…. (1) get your stick wet (2) tighten all the string all the way (3) Get a ball and nestle it in the sweet spot right below the 1st shooting string (4) Wrap rubber bands, hair things, whatever you need to keep the ball in place (5) Let your stick dry, hanging off a level surface over night (to ensure the ball doesn’t slip).  Do this a couple times a month, or after you play in wet weather to maintain your pocket, and you’ll be golden.