What’s more important: Work ON or OFF The Field?
We’ve all had that mental wall blocking us, whether to put work on the field, or to go get bigger and stronger in the weight room. Well, the truth is they both certainly play a huge role in our daily tasks for lacrosse, but is one truly superior to the other?
To decide this, we’ll take a look at both sides, and see what positive aspects each has to offer. By the end, we’ll see if one method of training reigns supreme, or if they both are equally important to the game of lacrosse.
Putting work in on the field can come in a variety of ways. For starters, having practice will attribute to this. Even just simply passing and catching with a friend can fall into this category. Out of the two, certainly on-field work offers much more creativity for drills and such, as there is many, many aspects of the game to improve on.
Hitting the wall is one of the biggest aspects to our sports. Simply just putting in hours on the wall will not only increase your stick skills, but it will aid in your footwork, hand speed, vision, and more.
I’ve found the wall to be the biggest asset to improving my game, as it simply is just a lacrosse players best friend, no matter what the position. Also, the wall can be used to improve footwork, which many people often overlook. Simply moving your feet and running up and down a wall will significantly help you move on the field.
Any player for any position needs the wall, even if you’re a specialist like a FOGO or goalie, its crucial to the game and developing skills. It also builds confidence in a player as well. It’s just you and a wall, that’s it. There’s no one to criticize you, talk back, or try to make corrections, where is where I find a solitude to build confidence in.
Ladder & Cone Drills
Going back to the basics here, we’re taking a look at ladder and cone drills, which improve footwork. What I personally love about doing these is the variety in which you can do on these. There are countless ladder drills, in which you can go forward, backwards, and laterally on.
The same concept falls in line with cone drills, offering endless possibilities you can do with these. In terms of positions, these two tools for drills are universal. Attackmen, middies, d-poles, and goalies can all get benefits from doing these drills.
They’re a staple in practically any sport, simply due to just how well the footwork transfer over onto the field or court. Also, a ladder runs around $20, while cones are usually $5-$10 a pack. Also, many coaches will have these tools, so often times, you may not even have to pay for them.
What is truly great about these drills though is the fact that you can mimic really any in-game scenario with cones and/or ladders and build confidence for those situations. For me, clearing was tough to visualize, and a tough thing to gather up enough people for to practice. Cones quickly became my best friend as I could set up different clears and see them visually, just with cones. The same can go for any other position that needs help in certain areas, like running a specific offense play.
Alright, now down to the good stuff. Technical work is essentially shooting drills, passing drills, ground ball drills, and more. This is also easily some of the most important stuff players can work on, due to the game-like situations they can create.
These types of drills are the fundamentals of how a team plays. Increasing in certain areas such as shooting, you’ll find yourself finishing more often. Doing passing drills will have you throwing crisper, doing GB drills will enhance your scooping ability. It all runs on a cause-effect pattern. IF you put in the work, you’ll reap the rewards.
In my opinion before even diving into the off-field work, technical work beats everything, do to the shear factor of it being, well…lacrosse. If you want to be better at a sport, play that sport and you will, so that’s why I find technical work easily the most important.
This also just doesn’t go for just one position. Even as a specialist, the technical side is easily the most important, perhaps even more. Arguably the most technical position, the FOGO, hands down relies HEAVILY on technique.
Also, the goalie position is the same. Repeating a save technique over and over again will only increase your ability to make that exact save, same as with passing and clearing.
Alright, well this is a given, but yes, your team practices are on-field work. Usually, a good lacrosse practice starts with a solid warm-up followed by stretches, then into getting the sticks hot. Then usually during or after this, specialists will get warmed up while the offense and defense run through drills. Then from there, it's free game of what to do.
However, there is one key factor about team practice that is often overlooked…You practice how you play. That honestly can’t be more of a true statement. If you’re team practices by just going through the motions, then that is exactly what will translate on the field. Sure, you’ll have practices here and there where you just aren’t feeling it (everybody does), but practice is honestly what you make of it.
Having a positive attitude towards practice and going as hard as you possibly can will not only make it more enjoyable, but also have that same pace transfer over into games. The same can be said really about any type of hard work you do, if you have a positive mindset towards it and go as hard as you can, then the process will be much more enjoyable.
When I look at on-field work, I treat it the same as any other methods of training. Make sure that you as an athlete target all areas such as shooting, passing, footwork, etc…and do not get hung up on specific area, such as just shooting.
Of course, we all have that one area we favor over the other. For me being a goalie, I’d personally love to get shots than work on clearing, but obviously both are equally as important. The same goes with any position. Sure, it's great to have a hard shot, but what good does it do if you can’t properly pass and catch?
The same even goes for favoring one hand over the other. Whether that be on the wall, passing, shooting, etc…Make sure you engage both hands as well. So, with all of this said, just exactly how important is on-field work? Well, obviously it has some extreme benefits that are crucial to becoming an overall better lacrosse player. However, before jumping into conclusions, lets take a look at off-field work and compare the two.
Alright, let's dive right into this. Contrary to popular belief, off-field work just doesn’t consist of hitting the weights, in fact, it is much more than that. However, let's start off with the “weight” aspect, because it is indeed important to developing yourself.
To break this down, I’ll do it by certain lifts and just how they can help you. For starters, lets take a look at compound lifts and barbell exercises.
Deadlifts- Deadlifts are the base of all lifts from pulling, as without mastering the deadlift, you probably won’t have all too much success in other lifts that involve pulling. It is one of the most essential lifts, as it works on not only your legs, but also engages your back and core as well.
Squats- Squats are also in that category of what I call “essential” lifts. Although there is a variety like the deadlift, the basic back squat is a great place to start. Not only will it engage your legs heavily, but again, activates your core as well. The variety of squats also are great lifts as well. Some of those include front squats, overhead squats, box squats, and more.
Power Cleans- One of the more “difficult” lifts to perform, the clean is an upgraded movement from the deadlift that really activates the hips and helps on explosion as an athlete. Not only does the power clean work on strength, but also helps your fast-twitch muscles, as the movement is a quick sweep, and in order to be done effectively, will need to be fast.
With these three effective lifts, comes a dumbbell alternative that oftentimes, is just as beneficial and should be done to break up from barbell work. These dumbbell versions are also much safer if you aren’t all too familiar with barbell exercises as well.
Just as the barbell versions, many of the same muscle groups are targeted in these movements, however paying attention to controlling the dumbbell is key to getting the max amount of the workouts. These are also great if you are injured.
However, barbell exercises do not have to be just for mimicking Olympic weight lifts. Barbells are typically best optimized for isolating muscles. This is where exercises such presses, curls, and other movements come into play. Isolating can be used to gain mass, and also can be beneficial for athletes, depending on what muscle groups you isolate.
Obviously isolating parts such as your core is common. However, other good muscle groups such as your shoulders, back, and wrists are important for lacrosse. If you choose isolation though primarily over compound lifts, then you should try to hit every muscle group…NEVER skip leg day!
Cardio is king, just remember that. Cardio obviously will be done quite a bit at a good practice, (except maybe for goalies, depending on your types of practices). However, don’t let that fool you into thinking that’s all the cardio you need. If you’re exhausted after practice or a game, then you can improve your cardiovascular health.
No one really enjoys it, but the good thing about cardio is the variety in which one can train it. For us lax players, cardio should primarily be done with on-field work, as mentioned earlier. That doesn’t mean there isn’t other forms of training.
For starters, machines such as the VO2 rower, erg ski, and assault bike all will push you to your limits. These machines can be used really effectively but can be hard to find sometimes in gyms. Other forms of good cardio trainings are just simply going on runs, sprinting intervals, and treadmill work. If you decide to hit the treadmill, hitting that workout at an incline will increase the difficulty, if you are looking for more of a challenge.
One of the most important things to me personally, is having the ability to cross-train. I love this for so, so, so many reasons. Just in case you aren’t familiar, cross-training is simply playing other sports or doing different activities. For example, swimming, playing basketball, soccer, and more are all examples of cross-training.
One aspect of cross-training is having your body do certain movements you aren’t used to. If you haven’t been doing the sport often, you’ll find yourself getting a lot more tired than if you were doing something familiar, such as lacrosse or whatever type of cardio training you’re accustomed to.
Another reason for cross-training is the hand-eye work you’ll get. In sports like basketball, baseball, football, soccer, and more, you’ll get a benefit from seeing other angles and judging distance that isn’t on a lacrosse field with a stick in your hand. This will also help improve your vision on the field for passing and where you’ll find open lanes.
Perhaps the largest reason I love cross-training so much though, is the mental rest you get with doing it. No matter how much you love lacrosse or are infatuated with the sport, at some point, we all need that mental break from it. It helps “refresh” things, if you will and overall, will help regain confidence and passion for the sport.
Finally, for off-field we’ll take a look what was just talked about, working on your mind. A lot of lacrosse is mental, and I think that can really go for any sport. Sure, there are quite a bit of physical aspects in lacrosse, however if you aren’t mentally tough, that all goes out the window.
I can’t name how many times I’ve seen an athletic, strong player with a ton of ability to be great, never reach their true potential due to not being mentally strong. It stops many, many players in a variety of sports, and sadly it really can be the easiest to train.
The reason athletes fall into this category is because they overlook it. You can tell others that you’re really a good player, but do you truly believe it? I had that same issue, but over both mental and physical work, I actually came to that belief, and became a much better player because of it. Of course, though, it’s very, very important to stay humble.
So, how exactly do you work on your mental strength? Well, that’s a tough question to answer as it really depends on the player. Do you lack confidence? Do you have too much? Are you too stubborn most of the time to absorb knowledge? All of these questions are things you must ask yourself and be 100% truthful about. Depending on your answers, there are plenty of things you can do to help.
For example, if you lack confidence, just practicing and telling yourself everyday you’ll be something truly great will help. Have others around you know about your weaknesses, such as coaches, so they can know how to help you develop not only as a player, but as a person.
Moving from specifics though, there great forms of mental training out there I think every athlete should do. One of those is meditation. It can be great for not only focusing on the tasks at hand, whether that be scoring, being a feeder, or stopping that 12-yard step down shot in overtime. Also, meditation can be good to clear your mind from all the stresses lacrosse offers, and sort of reset everything.
I personally also enjoy activities such as hiking and yoga, and although they have physical aspects to them, I find the mental benefits to be much larger. To me, they serve that same purpose of mental clarity, but offer physical distractions that meditation does not.
No matter what form of mental training you undergo, just make sure as a lacrosse athlete, you do so, as it is essential to your game, especially if you want to keep playing at that next level, whether that be JV to varsity, varsity to college, college to pro, etc…
As listed here, there are quite a bit of different things you can do off the field to stay sharp. The sheer amount of options alone is why I really do enjoy off-field work. Also, not only is a place where you build strength, but is also a place where you can strengthen yourself mentally as well. The slogan “The game is 80% mental” is absolutely true. The beautiful thing is about all of that however, is that that can be built both on and off the field. Overall though, off-field training has a sense of no stress, that I really enjoy. However, I have often seen players focus much more on the weight room and other off-field activities than actual lacrosse, which can be costly to developing yourself as a player, so just be cautious of that.
Alright, after absorbing all of that information, it's time to figure out; What’s more important, on-field work, or off? Before comparing these two, let it be known that in order to be a successful lacrosse player, both aspects of the game need to be done, and quite a bit. If you don’t practice your stick skills, hit the wall, shoot a bucket or two after practice or take extra shots you won’t hit your potential. The same goes in the weight room, as if you aren’t fast or strong, chances of playing at a higher level becomes extremely difficult, as stick skills simply won't be enough in most cases.
With all of that said though, which side of training has the edge? I’ll say this first. Heading into writing this, I thought hands down that on-field work is more important. But after really breaking it down and looking at the variety of training you can do, I have a different opinion.
At the core, I see field work as being more important, as it offers the necessities to be a great lacrosse player. There isn’t too much to say rather than if you want to be better at lacrosse…play lacrosse. However, off-field work, I have to say offers much more benefits, has a wider variety, and offers overall more ways to train.
So, despite my belief that at the core, on-field work is the best for developing a great lacrosse player, the off-field work really seems to be able to keep fresh and just offer an athlete so many different options for training, it's hard not to say it has the edge here.
Does that really make off-field training the “winner” here? Well, I believe it depends on what approach you, as the lacrosse player, makes. For myself, I believe off-field training overall, offers me more benefits. Being able to have such a wide variety of options to train with keeps me always striving to do more, as I’m never burnt out. I find that important to me because then I personally don’t need too many breaks.
Of course, though, depending on the athlete, some may find the field to be much more beneficial than something such as the weight room. No matter what player you are, make sure you put in as much work as you can in both areas.
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