Here’s what you need to know:
- Why do we ask a 4th, 5th, 6th, or 7th grader to use the same size stick as Paul Rabil or Taylor Cummings to master the proper technique of the fundamental skills we want them to develop
- Teaching proper technique to our youth players and constantly reinforcing that technique is the key to maximizing their potential as Lacrosse players. Using a 20 inch stick is the best way to do that.
I recently came to a huge discovery when trying to improve youth players stick skills. It is what I believe to be the best way to improve technique and teach proper form, especially for 2nd – 8th graders. Cutting the shaft of their sticks down to 20 inches.
The average length of a lacrosse stick for youth lacrosse players is 40 – 42 inches for boys (non-position specific) and 35.5 – 43.25 for girls (non position specific).
Think about that. Why would an 11 or 12 yr old be using the same size shaft as me?
I am 6’4 or 76 inches tall. The average 11-year-old boy is 4’7 or 55 inches tall. Why would I use a stick that is 55% of my total height but have a youth player use a stick that is 76% of their total height?
Again, they are using a stick that is 76% of their total height. It makes no sense. The more and more I thought about it the more I knew cutting their stick down to 20 inches would work.
Lets take a look at other youth sports. Little League Baseball and Softball has been around for over 75 years. They use modified equipment and modified fields according to age. Louisville slugger has a sizing chart for bat sizes for youth players from under 60 pounds to over 180 pounds.
In ice hockey, sticks typically come in four sizes (senior, intermediate, junior and youth) and are then cut to appropriate length to further customize a perfect fit.
Football uses different sized footballs; Pee Wee size footballs, Junior size footballs and Official sized footballs.
In Lacrosse, our ignorance as a sport for not adjusting equipment size and modifying playing fields is stunting the growth of our youth players.
I am obsessed with results. I continually think about what I can do as a coach to get my athletes the results needed by fixing any flaws they may have. It’s the reason I came to the 20inch shaft conclusion.
I coach and teach boys and girls from 2nd grade through college. My goal is to teach them the proper way to pass, catch, and shoot. I found one of the main flaws I struggled to fix was that 95% of kids, especially 5th -8th grades, were not snapping their wrists on their top hand when they shot or passed.
US Lacrosse has recently come out with an Athlete Development Model.
In this they define overhand passing and shooting as snapping the wrist of your top hand over so that the head of the stick is pointing at the target.
No matter what method I used to teach these kids I couldn’t fix this technique on the majority of my athletes. They would always go back to pulling with their bottom hand way too much and wouldn’t snap the wrist of their top hand at all. They would never turn their stick over.
I began to think that maybe it wasn’t an age appropriate skill; maybe their bodies were just not able to do it. I later learned that was not true.
How did I arrive at trying the 20in shaft? Good question. I would like to tell you it was a super technical, research-based process. It really wasn’t.
One of my coaching philosophies I use teaching lacrosse is to relate certain movements, etc. to other sports that kids play. When I teach appropriate catching technique, I start by having them hold a lacrosse head without the shaft, the same way they would hold a baseball glove. This helped them understand the movements and master the catching technique. When we gave them back a full lacrosse stick they were able to do it correctly because they now understand the concept. It worked!!!
So I thought why don’t I try this with throwing. Remember one of the main problems I was seeing with these kids is that they didn’t snap their wrist on their top hands when passing the ball. HOWEVER, when throwing a ball without a stick (with just their hand) they did snap their wrist.
I then tried it with just the head of the stick and it worked. So I concluded it is an age appropriate movement and I was explaining it correctly. They were able to do it. Now that they were doing the movement correctly I went back to their regular size stick and head.
Once again, it didn’t work. They went right back to pulling with their bottom hand way too much and not snapping the wrist of their top hand.
That’s when the light bulb in my head went off, this is a STRENGTH ISSUE, they are not strong enough to snap the wrist of their top hand BECAUSE they are playing with a 40in adult stick!
WHY are they using the same stick that I use?
Remember I’m 6’4, 230 pounds. It doesn’t make any sense.
In little league if we gave a 5th, 6th or 7th grader the same size bat that Derek Jeter uses and asked them to play with that bat, they would think we were crazy.
Then why in Lacrosse, do we ask a 5th, 6th, or 7th grader to use the same size stick as Paul Rabil or Taylor Cummings and expect them to master the proper technique of the fundamental skills we want them to develop?
It doesn’t make any sense. Our ignorance is stunting our youth player’s growth.
In Part 2 of my blog I will explain how the 20 inch stick has been working for my athletes and the significant improvement in technique we have seen.