It’s May and summer is fast approaching. Between sports practices, games, homework, and graduations, it’s hard to find time to make plans for the summer. For those of you living with lacrosse players, you’re in luck. We spoke with the directors of a few of the country’s top lacrosse programs, and they shared these tips on selecting a summer lacrosse camp or clinic. Whether your child is looking to learn the basics or to “get a look” from college coaches, this advice will ensure you spend your money wisely and help you find the right match.
When it comes to choosing a stellar lacrosse program, the quality of coaching and coaching experience make a big difference. Both of the program directors we spoke with hire coaches with both professional playing and extensive coaching experience.
“The fact that our coaches all play for the Minnesota Swarm in the National Lacrosse League is a huge draw for parents. Parents recognize that we’re able to teach kids the importance of discipline, hard work, and what it takes to be leaders both on and off the field,” shared Aime Caines, director and founder of Play Like a Pro Lacrosse in Woodbury, Minnesota.
Caines, who serves as head coach of his program, also coaches the Minnesota Swarm, the Swarm’s Youth Box League, and a local high school team. Needless to say, he’s pretty qualified to teach athletes of all ages and levels.
Chris Mattes, director of The Faceoff Academy and middie for the Florida Launch, leads youth clinics and combines across the country. He agrees that quality coaching is necessary when choosing a lacrosse program.
“Our coaches are all active in the MLL, and are trained to provide guidance to kids of all ages,” Mattes said. “They are mentors to the players and help high school students network with college coaches and find the right fit for them, whether it’s a divisional or club team. Even after the clinic is over, our coaches are willing to keep working with players to guide them in the right direction.”
Program Demand & Affiliations
While coaching certainly adds to a program’s credibility, so does demand, according to Caines and Mattes. Are parents and players recommending it? How long has it been around? Has the program expanded or added sessions each summer because of its popularity?
Play Like a Pro is in its fifth year of coaching youth lacrosse clinics for athletes ages 8-15, and because it has seen such a demand from high school players, it will host a high school clinic for the first time this summer.
“Because I coach high school lacrosse, the older kids have become really interested in a clinic, so we’re delivering that this summer to work on fine tuning position-specific skills,” Caines said.
Though Faceoff Academy is new to the lacrosse clinic scene (this summer will be its second year), Mattes never imagined that it would be such a hit. He planned to host the program during the summer and the demand was so high that he started running clinics year-round.
Another force multiplier contributing to The Faceoff Academy’s traction is the fact that some of its clinics are co-presented by LB3 Lacrosse, a well-known organization that runs camps and clinics in nontraditional lacrosse hotbeds.
“LB3 is really highly regarded in the lacrosse community, so the fact that they partner with us is to our benefit because of its great reputation,” Mattes said.
If you’re not sure about a program, Mattes advises to see if it has established partnerships with any well-known associations. Also, ask people in your local lacrosse community about it and ask the program itself for references.
Quality of Content
Content within programs will vary based on age groups and skill levels, but the quality of what’s covered should be consistent across the board. Mattes says that the skills being taught should be well suited to a player’s experience level and that parents should ask the right questions to ensure that the program will be challenging enough, but not overwhelming, for their child.
Generally speaking, younger kids (around ages 7-10) who are new to lacrosse should be learning basic field skills and even playing fun games to keep them engaged and having a good time, says Mattes. Kids this age shouldn’t be pushed too hard.
“Older kids who are more serious about lacrosse, however, should be working on fine tuning position-specific drills, and also strengthening, conditioning, and nutrition,” added Caines. He hires a professional strength and conditioning coach and a nutritionist to help players learn to take care of themselves off the field. The program’s aim is to live up to its name and give participants a taste of what it’s like to play lacrosse like a pro.
The Faceoff Academy offers combines for high school and college students that focus on faceoff basics, as well as a host of other skills, such as wing play, shooting on the run, effective transferring through the box, and setting up and mastering the 4 on 3 break.
“It’s important that programs are very specific about what they cover with players of each skill level, so that parents and players can determine if it’s a good fit,” Mattes says.