For lacrosse coaches looking to go back to school, they might be in for a surprise.

The US Lacrosse Coach Development Program formally relaunched the Level 2 version of its instructional clinics, now known as “Developing the Team Player,” during LaxCon in Philadelphia earlier this month.

The clinic format, shortened to a jam-packed four-hour timeframe, features hands-on, active learning and is fully aligned with the Lacrosse Athlete Development Model. Attendees participate in mini-games to help drive home the curriculum.

“Now the trend of all education is the concept of discover, explore,” said Feffie Barnhill, the former longtime William & Mary coach who helped write the original curriculum for the CDP more than a decade ago and is still involved with the program as a clinician. “They learn more, they’re more successful later in life when you don’t feed them the information, you let them experience it.”

Count Calder Alfano among the believers. Alfano is a South Florida native who walked on and played at Duke for two years before joining the MCLA program at Florida State. He’s now a high school coach in Tampa, involved with two youth programs and works full-time for Signature Lacrosse. He attended a US Lacrosse Level 1 clinic in Sarasota in December and was back for Level 2 at the convention.

“It’s so great to be up on your feet learning,” Alfano said. “How much more quickly am I going to understand something we worked on today – defensive rotations – if I’m in it and doing it? I’m doing it half speed, but I’m able to see it versus making an X and O in a circle on a whiteboard. This, you get to watch the aha moment for coaches live, which is really cool.”

Rather than trying to teach specific plays, formations and the like, the Level 2 curriculum is focused on fundamental concepts that can be applied to multiple situations.

“We’re really focusing the Level 2 on constraints-based learning,” said Kevin Greene, senior manager of the Coach Development Program. “Where we have it right now, we really feel good about the fact that the games we have in place to teach the concepts are the right games and the constraints we’ve built in are the right constraints.

“Your responsibilities are based on your relationship to the ball, whether you’re on offense or defense and that’s how we frame things for the coaches throughout the day.”

One of the key aspects that makes things runs smoother is that the concepts are taught without a lacrosse stick or ball. A mini-soccer ball is thrown to limit the time the ball is on the ground so that everything moves at a faster pace.

“That was a big change,” Barnhill said. “We would have always had a stick and a ball in the coaches ed program, but in learning concept, you don’t need it. I believe that.”

“I think where this can be really effective, especially in an area coaching in Florida now where the biggest lag is skills and the stick skills specifically,” Alfano said. “Being able to create lacrosse players who know where to be on the field, know where to move in space without the drill stopping and everyone doing that big depressed exhale every time the ball hits the ground. You totally take that out of it.”

Beyond the concepts of space and movement, a key component of all levels of the CDP is teaching coaches how to teach.

“It’s what I was looking for,” Alfano said. “When it comes to the technical aspects of teaching the game, I’m a little more well versed in that from my playing experience. Learning how to coach, how to deliver information to kids, what’s the best environment to put a kid in to learn on their own — that’s what I think has been unbelievable about both clinics, putting coaches in positions where they’re learning for themselves.”

US Lacrosse offers clinics around the country for coaches of all levels. Click here for a complete schedule of upcoming clinics.

US Lacrosse Coach Development Program

The US Lacrosse Coach Development Program provides comprehensive guidance to both beginning and experienced coaches through online courses, in-person instructional clinics and additional resources.

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