In our household, the beginning of Spring means two (2) things;
1. Hockey season is winding down for another year;
2. A new Lacrosse season is set to begin.
Down comes the dusty lacrosse equipment from the cluttered rack of various sporting equipment and in its place goes the goalie equipment until late August when hockey season starts back up again.
Our child fell in love with this sport from the very first time he stepped on the arena floor for his first practice. The hitting, slashing, running were some of the things that he enjoys about the game. At any given time he can be seen in our kitchen on the family computer watching replays of old LAX games on YouTube or Lax Hi-Lite’s on Twitter. He takes what he has observed and try's to emulate the same moves practicing outside in the backyard.
So when my wife and I are asked, what's his favorite sport?
Our answer is we're not sure? He likes both sports equally.
To make it more simple, we say, "hockey is 1-A and lacrosse is 1-B."
Most people put their kids into lacrosse to help with the development of their child’s shooting, stamina, and toughness for when the hockey season begins. We were different; we initially put our son into the game because his friends were playing and he wanted to play with them on the same team. We didn’t realize it at the time but those same skill sets that have helped his teammates have also helped him – as a hockey goalie.
So How Has Lacrosse Helped?
A few things we have noticed with his development as a goalie that came as a result of him participating in lacrosse would be the following:
Staying In Shape During The Off-Season
Both Field and Lacrosse sports require a lot of running during the game, and as a result, this has allowed our child to build up his stamina and conditioning. With both schedules, he was playing an average of 3-4 times a week including both practices and games. He was able to be in top shape going into the hockey season last year and had the advantage over other goalies who didn’t participate in an off-season activity.
Understanding the “Thought Process” like A Player
My wife and I decided that our child would play out as a player and not play as a goalie when he signed up for lacrosse. Some of our reason's being; we didn't want him to get bored of the "position" of being a goalie. We wanted him to experience a different position other than being in the net. If he played out, he could be part of the "action" with his teammates. He would learn and better understand the thought process of being a "player" and know what it's like to set up "plays" and make "passes" during a game. Something he wouldn't get if played in goal for the lacrosse season.
Improvement of his Hand / Eye Coordination
Playing both styles of games (field & box) has done wonders with his hand/eye coordination development. He has learned to “receive” and “give” passes while in full stride with his head up. On the flip side, he has learned to "track" the hockey puck so much better as a result and keep his level of concentration for longer periods of time.
Improvement of the Use of his Goalie Glove
At the Novice Rep level, the goalie glove is more like a second blocker. As the season wore on you could see he was becoming more and more comfortable making saves with his goalie glove. When the kids started shooting high for the top corners, he was able to track the puck and catch it with ease. We attribute this improvement to the passing and catching the lacrosse ball when moving up and down the floor during lacrosse practices and games.
Physical and Mental Toughness
When you play lacrosse, you’re going to get hit, that's a given! Whether it's a cross check to the back or arms, a slash to the wrists or back, it's going to hurt. But this great sport teaches you to "receive a hit" as well as to "deliver a hit” and most importantly to "anticipate" a hit when it's coming.
Not Afraid of the Puck
He didn't seem to be bothered when kids would wind up for a slap shot or wrist shot, 4-5 feet away, as they were letting one "rip" and having it buzz by his head. At this age, you see young goalies at the last second turn their heads or duck when they see the wind up for a shot. We attribute this to learning to how “hard” the passes can be in lacrosse that are coming from teammates or having to block a shot by the opposition. Getting hit several times by a lacrosse ball, hurts, and stings! But after a while, he got used to it, and this took the fear out of getting hit by the ball, likewise in hockey, with the puck.
The Traffic In and Around the Net
He learned to defend "the house" in lacrosse which he has carried this over into hockey and has taught him that there will be a lot of action around his crease. The activity around the net can get very hectic with players from both teams so close to together fighting for the puck. Many times during a game the opposition would come through crashing the net or screening him. It does bother him, but it did not intimidate him.
Making Space to See the Puck
Getting slashed and hit is part of the game. He learned how to push guys out of the crease using his blocker and glove and using his goalie stick like his lacrosse stick to slash guys on the ankles or the back of the shins to make space to see the potential shot.
Being Part of a Team
Look up and down any rep roster, and you will see a high percentage of players will have played competitive lacrosse during the offseason. Close to 50% our son’s hockey team made up the roster for his box and field lacrosse teams. The sport of Lacrosse has allowed him to develop friendships with his group of friends and memories that will last a lifetime. They learn together what it’s like to be around teammates and to go through the highs of winning and the lows of losing together as a team.
We like how our child has received some early exposure to the First Nations culture by participating in this game. This will only serve him well as he gets older in his social, education, and sports activities.
As parents, we don't know the first thing about lacrosse, and after watching our son play the past few years, I don't think we will ever will (LOL!!). We just want him to have fun playing a game that he loves participating in. One thing for sure we do know if our child weren't playing lacrosse, he would not have benefited from acquiring these skills that allowed him to use them with success in hockey.
While other great sports, such as, baseball, soccer, and rugby have their own set of skills that are useful and beneficial for hockey, in our humble opinion, the game of lacrosse provides the most skill sets of all the sports mentioned that can be transferred to the game of hockey.
In the meantime if you have any comments or questions please feel free to contact us anytime to discuss.
Until next time!