Released only days ago, the 2011 US Lacrosse Participation Survey reported that more than 680,000 athletes participated on an organized lacrosse team in 2011, which is an increase of approximately 60,000 players since 2010. This represents the largest one-year increase since US Lacrosse began tracking national data in 2001.
There is no doubt about it – lacrosse awareness is spreading and interest in the game is exploding. While participation numbers are growing each year at every level of the game, more than half of the total players compete at the youth level (15 years of age and under). And with all these new young athletes stepping up to the stick, the sport will, more than ever before, need experienced and knowledgeable coaches to train them.
At the younger lacrosse levels, many town teams are being coached by well meaning parents of players who want to help out and spend time with their children . . .but know very little about the game itself. While this motivation is great, it would be even better if it were paired with training and lacrosse education. New lacrosse players need to learn the fundamentals of the game early on and without an experienced coach their chances of doing so are slim.
Youth lacrosse coaches need to have specific skills that would not have been acquired along the way while coaching another sport or watching lacrosse on TV. They need to be well-informed about lacrosse-specific skills, on everything from how variations in how a player holds his/her stick will change the way a player throws to why different offensive tactics will work for some teams but not others. Good training programs will not only assist less experienced coaches to be positive role models and great motivators but will also educate them on how to effectively, safely, and age-appropriately coach young players.
Town programs work very well for instilling the love of the game in children but would be better prepared to develop more well-trained players by investing more resources in the training of coaches. There are also certification courses available (such as the Coaching Education Program offered by US Lacrosse) for coaches to obtain necessary knowledge about the sport and about coaching, specifically. Beyond that there are private clubs that may be able to provide additional training resources.
For a lacrosse player to advance and become a better athlete, he or she requires proper coaching, which might need to be found beyond the town program. For a more advanced education, there are training academies and elite leagues that youngsters can participate in. Similar to ice hockey, these training academies provide specific skill development that is not available at the town or school level. These league teams consist of separate, individual teams made up of the best players and trained by skilled, certified coaches.
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