I'm well aware that the landscape of youth and high school lacrosse has changed since I came through. Today's youth and high school lacrosse players have thousands of opportunities throughout the course of a year to play in tournaments, jamborees, prospect days, club team events, camps, clinics and more. Every weekend of the year, there's an opportunity to play. I think a large part of my success and longevity in this sport is due to the fact that at age 34, I'm still not burned out. 

Before I get started, I want to make it clear that I don't believe in any way, shape, or form that my opinion, or approach to playing is the only way to do it (or right way to do it). Every lacrosse player who is fortunate enough to play college lacrosse (at any level), has different paths to get there, so, I’m certainly under no impression that’s there’s one path to the top.

When I watch high school and youth lacrosse throughout the country, the players are more skilled than I ever was at that age, but athletically at times I think something is missing. From ages 4-14, I played everything. Soccer, basketball, swimming, tennis, wrestling, gymnastics and more! Obviously, lacrosse was a big part of my life as well. My father, Dr. Miles Harrison Jr., played for the historic Morgan State teams, and put a stick in my hands early on, but it certainly wasn’t the focus. Once I hit 14 (freshman year of high school), it was just basketball, lacrosse and soccer. If I would have had time to play more, I would have. But juggling a high school course load, and high school athletics, three was the limit.

We all understand how much our bodies are changing and growing during the transition to high school, and for me, playing other sports was the way I began to figure out my potential on the lacrosse field. My favorite thing to do the between 8th & 9th grade was go into the city to play basketball and learn all kinds of new movements, then head out to my lacrosse practice at Lutherville and figure out how to incorporate those moves into my lacrosse game. I actually think a lot of my success early in high school and college had a lot to with the fact I dodged in a way that most lacrosse players didn’t. It had nothing to do with me being some innovative great dodger, I just dodged like a basketball player goes to the hoop because that’s what I felt comfortable doing. Playing multiple sports allowed me to develop all of the different skills athletically to be a successful lacrosse player. Learning to move laterally while playing defense in basketball translates directly to playing defense in lacrosse. The two-man game in basketball is congruent with the two-man game in lacrosse. The endurance I developed as a center midfielder on the soccer field prepared me to be a two-way midfielder on the lacrosse field. By playing multiple sports right up until I got to college, I truly believe I developed all the athletic skills I would need to be a successful lacrosse player at the next level.

So, what am I saying? I’m not telling you to stop going to camps, or clinics, or tournaments, or play on club teams, or anything along those lines. I’d encourage you to do as many as you’d like. Some of my favorite camp memories from growing up were going to Bob Scott’s lacrosse camp at Gilman and meeting the Gait brothers, or going to the “Middies Only” camp at Hopkins and getting to meet the best college midfielders in the country.

What I’d encourage to you do is continue playing other sports while you’re doing it. Just because you know that you’d like to play lacrosse in college, doesn’t’ mean you need to stop playing basketball, field hockey, soccer, volleyball, or any of the other fall and winter sports your school offers. As I mentioned in the beginning, there are a number of different paths to college athletics, but for me, if it wasn’t for my time on the basketball court and soccer field, I’m not sure I would have developed into the lacrosse player that I am.

Kyle Harrison is a professional lacrosse player with the Ohio Machine of Major League Lacrosse. A two-time member of Team USA (2006, 2014), Harrison was awarded the Tewaaraton Award in 2005 after leading Johns Hopkins to the NCAA championship that season. A three-time All-American, he was inducted into the Johns Hopkins Athletics Hall of Fame last year.

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