Lane Errington | @lane_errington
The following guidelines highlight the major points of emphasis for a youth lacrosse practice at the U9 and U11 levels. For information on U13 and U15 practices, check out these age-appropriate objectives.
At all times, safety should be our number one concern. The players must understand the importance of every piece of equipment, as well as always wear the required equipment. No players should be involved in a lacrosse activity without proper equipment.
- Boys – helmet, mouth guard, shoulder pads, arm pads, gloves and protective cup
- Girls – mouth guard and protective goggles
A board-designated and US Lacrosse certified coach that has a criminal background check and a child abuse check on file with the board should supervise all activities. Having volunteer coaches on hand to support the head coach is also recommended.
This age group should be focusing on helping kids develop a love for the game. It should never seem like work to them. There are multitudes of games that can be played that will aid in both player development and personal satisfaction.
Keep things new and fresh for the players. Doing the same stick drills every practice will result in boredom. Also, keep a quick pace on the drills — 10-15 minutes at most for any one drill. Provide a 2-3 minute drink break between drills to give kids some time to rest and bond.
Ask your parents to volunteer to host preseason, midseason and postseason parties for the kids. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or expensive, just a place where the kids can get together, have a good time and not worry about the pressures of lacrosse. Here are some additional ways that parents can support coaches.
LaxAllStars.com also recently published a great article on keeping practice fun.
3. Positive Environment
Players should constantly be praised for any and every success they achieve. For example, congratulate every goal with a handshake and “nice shot!” Even if it was not the ideal shot you want the player to take, there should never be any negativity, unless it is in direct response to a measure requiring player discipline.
Any displays of sportsmanship should be positively reinforced. Bottom line — let the kids know everything they are doing right and you will, more often than not, see them doing everything right. If you focus on the negative, this only leads to more failures. Enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm.
At no point should winning or losing ruin the traditions of the game. Lacrosse was built on traditions and beliefs of the Native American people.
US Lacrosse and the Positive Coaching Alliance use the acronym R.O.O.T.S. to carry a similar message to all of its members, demonstrating the importance of respect for the…
- Rules – “We refuse to bend the rules to win.”
- Opponents – “A worthy opponent is a gift that brings out our best.”
- Officials – “We act with respect, even when we disagree.”
- Team – “Our conduct does not embarrass our teammates or ourselves.”
- Self – “We live up to our own standards, even when others don’t.”
At this age group, the players should be participating at every practice and every game. Again, you should focus on getting kids to truly love the game. If they do not play, how could they ever know what it is all about?
Playing time should be divided as equally as possible among all players. Kids should be encouraged to try all positions in practice and, if they are comfortable, in games as well.
This is not a win-at-all-costs age. The kids will not feel good about winning if they sat for the majority of the game and watched the “better” players play. A team of kids that all contributed equally but lost will be a much happier group than a team of kids that won, but only 10 kids played. You will find that your team will also be more successful as more players gain valuable field experience.
In order for your high school program to ultimately be successful, you need to start developing good fundamental skills right from the very start. Some drills will work on more than one skill. This is a big plus when planning your practices for the most effective use of time. Communication between the players is imperative throughout the drills. All players should use the first name of their teammate when calling for the ball, helping on defense, etc.
Over to you. How else have you found success in planning youth practices? Do you have any practice rituals? Or, do you struggle with any of these six objectives more than others? Share your suggestions in the comments section below.
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