Growing the game: how we took our talents to south beach

Despite my love of all things strength & conditioning, I’m also preparing for the high school lacrosse season that starts next week.  I’m a ball of anxious/excited/crazy and I’ve got that kid-on-Christmas feeling.  I miss being out there playing, but after having a few years of coaching under my belt, I’ve really gotten into what it means to prepare, train and lead a team.  I also really enjoy the group of girls I get to work with and I’m just looking forward to finally getting started.

How I'm Feeling

Why lacrosse?  From a coaching/fitness perspective, it is my absolute favorite because it is a cross of so many sports.  It combines the agility/speed & offensive/defensive concepts from basketball, with the endurance and quickness of soccer, tossed with the fast pace of hockey.  It is the ultimate hybrid sport, and therefore, athletes of all backgrounds are usually very successful with it.

A brief background for those not really familiar: lacrosse is HUGE up north, particularly in Maryland and New York.  In upstate NY where I went to high school, there is no shortage of lacrosse teams/camps/clinics – almost every high school has a lacrosse team and most of the major colleges offer lacrosse as a D1, 2 or 3 option.  Kids are able to start playing as early as 5 years old in some places, just like soccer in most states.  Suffice it to say, the game is pretty well established up there.  Despite all that, I wanted to head south for college.  So, I left the lacrosse mecca for sunshine & beaches [and for the record, I haven’t regretted that decision for a second].

Can you blame me?

When I moved to Coral Gables in 2006 the lacrosse scene = not so much.  Fortunately, however, the University of Miami had added a women’s club team just a year or 2 earlier – one of the first in the state to do so.  Comprised of girls mainly from the Maryland/NJ/NY area, we brought our talents to South Beach and attempted to grow the game.  With some hard work, a few hot mess (but really.) road trips to play teams out of state, and some donation letters begging for funding, the UMiami team managed to get off the ground.  Around the same time, a few of the high schools (including the one I currently coach at) added club lacrosse teams to their extra-curricular options.  This was a major break – despite lacking numbers & experience, the interest was definitely there.  6 years later, I can proudly say that Miami-Dade county has its own high school DISTRICT of varsity teams and a few travel club teams.  Even a few of the major colleges (UF, Jacksonville) have added women’s lacrosse as a varsity D1 sport. I’d say its catching on.

I’m sharing all of that because I think its awesome to be part of a pioneering effort that brings a new opportunity to kids that might have never seen this sport before.  It would have been really cool to stick around New York and get some coaching options up there with teams that are already on a really high level, but being part of an effort to establish something has forced the lacrosse community down here to really take pride in what we’ve got.  But why put so much effort into something that won’t result in an endorsement deal?

Maybe one day....

The girls that decided to play at UM definitely didn’t do it because they wanted notoriety or money – they just did it because they loved the game.  They did it because at some point in their life, they had a positive experience with the sport that made them want to share it with others.  Considering that I primarily work with high school girls, I feel that the scope of my job goes beyond beyond the win/loss column. I think using lacrosse (or any sport for that matter) as a tool to teach young women about leadership, confidence, teamwork and competition is a valuable endeavor.  Don’t get me wrong: I love competition and always push for more from my athletes, but at the end of the day, there is more to this experience than winning a district title.  Some of the girls will go on to play college lacrosse (I already have one signed to play D1 next year), but we have to be realistic: for the most part, a lot of them are using this experience as a way to stay active, learn a new sport, and hopefully gain the confidence they need to pursue whatever goals they want to later on.

It sounds sappy, but none of the strong, inspirational and confident women I call my best friends would be where they are today without someone leading by example.  So to me, if I can help one more girl get motivated to go after her dreams, then I’ve done my job pretty well.  If I get just one more girl to to turn around and decide to teach and motivate others, then I’ve REALLY succeeded.

Anyway, we have our first team meeting on Friday and one of the new things I’m doing this year is really focusing on CONSTRUCTIVE comments.  I feel like its very easy to get caught up saying “good job” or “you’ll get it!” – which is positive, but not very specific.  This year I’m having the girls fill out notecards that are going to have them pinpoint their specific strengths and weaknesses, as well as their individual and team goals.  Girls are typically really quick to list 432432 weaknesses and .5 strengths, so I’m forcing them to come up with an even number of both.  I’m also having them list some of their random favorite things, (music, food, activities outside of lacrosse) just because I think its a good way to get to know them a bit better.  Then as the season goes on, I can actually look at the cards and offer more constructive feedback in an effort to help them improve their weaknesses and achieve their written goals.  What are some things you guys do with your clients/athletes or even just coworkers that help you stay on track or keep up with them? I’d love some more ideas.

In conjunction with the fitness posts I’ll keep you guys posted with what’s happening with the team, some of the cool (in my opinion haha) conditioning drills we do, and just random coaching tidbits.


About sten06

Master's in Kinesiology: Strength & Conditioning BSed in Exercise physiology -NSCA CSCS -NASM CPT, PES -Varsity Lacrosse Coach Saving the world one workout at a time ;)

Posted on January 26, 2012, in Fitness, Lacrosse, Strength & Conditioning, Training and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. What an awesome thing to be a part of, I had no idea that Lax is/was so rare down there! Its definitely a good feeling to know that you are making a positive difference in your athletes lives, and I think you’ve got some great ideas for this coming season! Can’t wait to hear more once you get under way!

  2. G. Peter Avvento

    I have no doubt that the team will do extremely well but more importantly thast, under your direction, they will come to love the sport for its own sake and become women of maturity and value – You are truly a special person – always have been and always will be – I am a bit biased – Love, Your Dad

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