The Ultimate Guide – How to Play Lacrosse for Beginners
Lacrosse is an incredible sport. People call it “the fastest sport on two feet,” because of how quick the game goes. The combination of speed, strength, and skill makes lacrosse one of the best sports to watch and play. Although there are a few tutorials showing beginners how to play lacrosse, there is not one “ultimate” resource that beginners have. Here’s a complete guide showing you how to play lacrosse:
Table of Contents:
How to Play Lacrosse – Equipment
The first thing you will need to play lacrosse is a lacrosse stick. The stick consists of a shaft (the long handle that you hold onto) and a head (the “basket” that goes on top of the shaft). On the head, there is mesh that allows you to catch a ball and control it in the head. If that sounds confusing, don’t worry! You will get the hang of everything very quickly.
If you don’t have a lacrosse stick, you can find one easily at your local sporting goods store. Here is a beginner lacrosse stick that I recommend: Beginner Lacrosse Stick
The other piece of equipment you will need is a lacrosse ball. Lacrosse balls are small, solid rubber balls that bounce easily. You just need one ball to start, but you might want to have a few just in case you lose one.
If you don’t have any lacrosse balls, you can also buy them at a sporting goods store. Here’s a link to a pack of 12 lacrosse balls that you can buy on Amazon: Lacrosse Balls
How to Play Lacrosse – Getting a Feel for Your Lacrosse Stick
The first thing you should do when you get your lacrosse stick is to get comfortable holding the stick in your hands. Don’t worry too much about placing your hands properly; the goal of this is to just be more comfortable with your equipment. At first, holding a lacrosse stick can be mildly uncomfortable, but over time, you will find yourself more and more comfortable handling the stick.
Many of the best lacrosse players have said that when they were younger, they used to carry their stick around with them everywhere they went (including to bed!). Although you don’t have to go to this extreme, having your lacrosse stick in your hands as much as possible will greatly benefit your play.
How to Play Lacrosse – Cradling
The first thing to learn is how to cradle the ball. Cradling is a term used to describe the back and forth motion of the lacrosse stick that allows the ball to stay inside the stick. It’s quite difficult to put into words, so here’s a quick video instead:
How to Play Lacrosse – Passing and Catching
One of the most important parts of lacrosse is being able to pass the ball effectively. Even the best lacrosse players in the world continue to practice their passing skills, because passing is essential to becoming a great lacrosse player.
In order to practice passing, you need one of two things: a partner with a lacrosse stick, or a wall that you can throw to. You will often hear one of the ways to get better at lacrosse is with wall ball, which is when one throws a lacrosse ball against a wall repeatedly. Here is a great video showing you the basics of wall ball:
You can do these same drills with a partner. Make sure you stand far enough away from your partner so they can catch the ball easily.
Finding a wall to do wall ball with can be difficult, so several lacrosse companies have made bounce back walls that act almost like a trampoline. This is how I started practicing lacrosse, and many players use these to practice their passing as well. You can find one these walls here. You can sometimes find used ones on sites like Craigslist, or you can find them in large sporting goods stores. Although these walls can be a little bit pricey, they are definitely worth your investment.
Becoming a good passer is the easiest thing you can do to become a good lacrosse player. One of the greatest minds in lacrosse, Dom Starsia, wrote an article describing how much passing means to the game of lacrosse. Starsia: The Art of Passing
How to Play Lacrosse – Shooting
The other fundamental element of lacrosse is shooting. In order to score goals, one must be able to shoot with great power and accuracy. There is no secret to becoming a shooter; usually the best shooters in lacrosse are the ones who spend the most time practicing. Here’s a wonderful video showing you the basics of shooting:
In order to practice shooting, it is preferable that you have a lacrosse goal that you can use. You can usually find lacrosse goals at local fields. If you have a big enough yard, you can purchase a lacrosse goal for yourself . It is helpful if you have several lacrosse balls when you practice, because if you miss the lacrosse goal, you will have to chase down each ball. You might want to invest in a backstop for this very problem. A backstop is a net that goes behind a lacrosse goal that stops lacrosse balls from going everywhere when you miss the goal.
How to Play Lacrosse – Watch Lacrosse Games
One of the best ways you can improve at lacrosse is by watching games. YouTube is a great place to start for lacrosse. There are tons of full-games, highlights, and analysis that can be found for free on YouTube. Here is a list of Youtube Channels that have plenty of lacrosse footage:
You can also follow the college lacrosse season, which usually starts in February and ends in May. There’s also the MLL (Major League Lacrosse) which is the outdoor professional league for lacrosse. In addition, the NLL (National Lacrosse League) is the indoor professional league, usually played in a hockey rink with turf.
Get your hands on any lacrosse film you can. Try to watch an individual player that you like and watch how he/she moves with and without the ball.
How to Play Lacrosse – Play Other Sports
A great way to get good at lacrosse is by playing other sports. Lacrosse is a combination of many sports, and getting experience athletically is key to becoming a great lacrosse player. In my opinion, the sport most similar to lacrosse is basketball. Many of the same basketball concepts can be applied to lacrosse, such as the pick-and-roll or the crossover.
How to Play Lacrosse – Be in Good Shape
Lacrosse is a physically challenging sport, and to perform at a high level, one must be in great physical condition.
Running is great exercise for lacrosse. Although any kind of running is effective, interval running is probably the best way to get in “lacrosse shape.” In lacrosse, players are usually either sprinting or standing, so practicing short sprints is a great way to condition for lacrosse.
The game of lacrosse is physical, and strength is absolutely part of the sport. When you are an appropriate age, incorporating some form of resistance training into your routine will be helpful. You can start with bodyweight exercises: push-ups, pull-ups, crunches, etc. or you can lift weights. There are many lacrosse-specific lifting routines that you can find on the internet or on this website.
How to Play Lacrosse – Go to a Lacrosse Camp
Camps are a great way to get started with lacrosse. There are thousands of different camps spread throughout the US and Canada. As lacrosse is becoming more popular, there are many local camps popping up around every city as well.
Lacrosse camps are valuable for many reasons: you can become better at lacrosse, you can make lifelong friendships, and you can make relationships with coaches that you might cross paths with in the future. Camps are a fun way to learn lacrosse, and I highly recommend attending some kind of camp if that is possible. I learned how to play lacrosse going to a lacrosse camp at Duke University, one of the premier college lacrosse programs. I will never forget the memories I made at those camps. Lacrosse camps are a great way to jumpstart you career.
How to Play Lacrosse – Join a Lacrosse League
You can practice lacrosse forever, but the only true way to showcase your skills is by playing in actual games. Search around and try to find a lacrosse league in your area. Many non-traditional lacrosse states like Texas, Florida, and California have become lacrosse hotbeds.
Joining a recreational league is a perfect way for lacrosse players to practice their skills against real opponents. I recommend trying to join a league as soon as possible. Games are the most fun part about lacrosse, and recreational leagues can help beginner lacrosse players improve immensely.
During the summer, there are thousands of lacrosse tournaments in nearly every part of the United States. Players from all over the nation play on club teams that travel from state to state, playing against the best competition that lacrosse has to offer. These teams and tournaments are similar to AAU teams in basketball.
Sometimes club teams can be pricey, but if you can find the right coach, playing for a club team in the summer can be one of the most enjoyable experiences for a lacrosse player.
How to Play Lacrosse – Get a Private Lesson
When you are beginning to play more lacrosse, an effective way to jumpstart your growth is with private lessons. These are usually lessons that involve a 1:1 coach to player ratio. A good coach can provide huge value to a lacrosse player just starting out. Investing in a few private lessons can go a long way for a lacrosse player’s career.
How to Play Lacrosse – Practice, Practice, Practice
One of the beautiful parts about lacrosse is how much skill it involves. This allows almost anyone to excel on the lacrosse field if they practice enough. The best lacrosse players on earth aren’t always the biggest, fastest or the strongest. Many times, the best lacrosse players are those who have practiced the most. In order to improve at lacrosse, you must be willing to put in the time and effort that goes into getting better.
Learn to enjoy practicing lacrosse. Some of my favorite memories have been by myself, just throwing the ball against a wall or shooting on an empty lacrosse goal. Practice allows anyone, no matter the athletic ability, to be able to play lacrosse at the highest level.
Lacrosse is the greatest sport on earth (ok, I might be a bit biased here). Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in how well you perform, if you get recruited to play in college, or many goals you scored in a game. The most important part of lacrosse is to have fun.
The sport of lacrosse was once used as a “medicine game” to help Native Americans have fun. Lacrosse has a rich history, and being a part of that history is such a privilege.
If you follow the directions in this article, you will certainly improve at lacrosse and become a better player. As you progress in your lacrosse career, you will learn more nuances about the game. For now, these basic lessons will give you the tools you need to succeed as a player.