The following article orginally appeared in the March print edition of US Lacrosse Magazine. Join US Lacrosse today to help support the sport and have the magazine delivered right to your mailbox.

Mike Carucci spent 20 years on active duty in the U.S. Navy, learning a thing or two about how to emulate a model.

These days, as commissioner and director of coaching with the Fort Hunt Youth Lacrosse Association in Northern Virginia, he’s doing it again — this time with the Lacrosse Athlete Development Model in mind.

“As coaches, when we focus on the kids having fun more than the scoreboard, we win more than we do when we focus on the scoreboard first,” Carucci said.

In that vain, Fort Hunt boys’ lacrosse teams have piloted division-wide pod practices this season, in which all players in an age group will rotate through a series of drill stations. As part of the Northern Virginia Youth Lacrosse League, Fort Hunt segments its 600 boys and girls into 10U, 12U and 14U divisions — though Carucci has recommended that the league switch to single-year segments.

Stations consist of competitive, skill-based drills — like one-on-one defense and ground ball chases — under the instruction of coaches who have multiple opportunities to evaluate all players for placement.

Pod practices allow players to practice with friends that may have been dispersed to other teams and to challenge themselves against others of different skill levels.

“We want a healthy, competitive environment for each kid,” Carucci said. “This will help expose them to all the coaches in our program, not just their team’s coach. And the coaches will be able to learn from each other.”

The Fort Hunt boys rotate through five stations, each lasting 10-12 minutes. Traditional scrimmage-type play concludes each practice.

Carucci played lacrosse in high school but remained outside of the sport as an adult until his daughter began playing as a goalie in fourth grade.

“She would get bombed, 18-2, and it was heartbreaking,” he said. “It’s tough being a goalie dad.”

So Carucci started going to practices and ultimately took over coaching the defense, helping to turn the team’s fortunes. It set him on a path to become an influential youth coach in the area. Carucci credited TJ Buchanan, technical director for athlete development at US Lacrosse, for the stations concept.

“I realized I had something to offer,” said Carucci, now a Level 1 trainer for the US Lacrosse Coach Development Program, “and I’ve been coaching passionately ever since.” USL

Lacrosse Athlete Development Model

Providing every athlete the opportunity to enter, enjoy and excel by learning and playing lacrosse in a way that’s best for each stage of growth and development.

Learn More