At the close of a lacrosse season parents inquire about off-season opportunities, such as girls lacrosse clinics, camps, and summer teams and / or leagues. Sometimes they just want to know what’s available. Other times maybe a specific recommendation.
One good recommendation is “keep your stick in your hand, hit the wall, and play with friends”, but that’s not very exciting. So this is my mostly objective take on off season lacrosse opportunities for players.
“Camp” essentially means multi-day extended training. Camps can be overnight and far away or the local two to three day “day” camp option. The upside of sports camps is they are very well organized and provide players with top level instruction. The downside is some are expensive (for all the organizational resources, facilities, and top talent) and the opportunity to apply the advanced knowledge is months away. However, camps typically do a great job of offering the fun / knowledge balance. I think the best part of camps is the experience rather than the skills takeaway; making new friends and having fun. There’s huge value in that. While that’s obvious, I mention it specifically because often parents balance cost with results. If you are a parent that thinks sending your daughter to a $600 lacrosse camp for four days will make her the best player on the team when she gets home, camp is not a good idea. It’s about the experience and doing something the player enjoys in a neat environment. It’s definitely a good thing to do with a friend or two.
Clinics come in all varieties. Commonly two hours with one or more top level coaches, a clinic is not that different than a typical skills practice, in that there is often a lot of stick work drills and group activity. But clinics also balance fun and player development with games and contests. Typically, players get exposure to, and instruction from, coaches that might not normally be accessible. Clinics, like camps, are another good way to have some fun, play with other great players, and learn from great coaches. Clinics are considerably less expensive than camps, but will sometimes have a lower player to coach ratio. With clinics, it’s really a case by case situation.
I’ve already shared my perspective on travel teams here – also known as select or elite. Travel teams can be a great experience. Playing with top players and for great coaches will only improve a player’s game. And playing away from home is always fun. However, travel teams can be expensive and many do it for the wrong reasons. Your “darling daughter” will not be “discovered” and offered a “full ride” to college playing at the Summer Slam in Cool Destination, USA in the 6th grade. She will however, most likely become a better player by playing more games with and against better players, and likely have a great time. Due to the cost and the higher level of competition, each player / family needs to decide whether this is the right option. The last thing a family wants to do is invest a lot of time and money in a bad experience.
Private lessons and small group sessions are an excellent, yet underutilized, approach to player improvement, whether during or off-season. Often parents just don’t know where to turn or who to contact so they don’t consider it as an option. For a younger player or a beginner, a local high school player could be a great resource in exchange for some gas and cell phone money. For an advanced player, a pro or former college All-American may be the way to go. One interesting thing about lacrosse is, while pro level talent is few and far between, those players are very accessible. The MLL (men’s pro league) and UWLX (women’s pro league) pay very little and all those players have day jobs and are happy to make money on the side sharing their knowledge and expertise.
In a private setting a player can work on just a few techniques with extended repetition and correction, which cannot be adequately provided during team practice. Consider this. If your daughter plays trumpet in the school band, she doesn’t learn to play the trumpet at band practice. She has trumpet lessons. To improve at a skill requires “deep practice” of learning a technique, practice, correction, and repetition. Private lessons or small group sessions offer individual attention that cannot be provided at team practice.
To conclude, each player’s potential, interest, and resources are different. Thus, while not for everyone, these are some available options to consider.