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To Run or Not To Run

Updated Monday January 9, 2017 by Richard Schwartz .

TO RUN OR NOT TO RUN

As players get older, and their bodies mature, they are capable of some amazing athletic feats.  In a game based on running, speed and stamina are arguably the two most important athletic traits coveted by coaches.  And while athleticism generally increases with age, there is an unfortunate, direct, and inversely proportional reaction between most players’ ages and their stamina.  It’s not usually a physical phenomenon as much as it is environmental and sociological.  Older players have other things to do, including school work, video games, skate boarding, and as they reach middle and high school…girlfriends and work.   And don’t get me started on their diets!  These players do not spend nearly as much time in school or out of school focused on their stamina.    

Developing stamina is one of the most serious challenges facing lacrosse coaches.  All coaches know it’s important yet many coaches struggle with finding the right solution.  Traditionally, there have been two schools of thought:

  1. Run players before, or after practice, or have separate performance/physical training related practices.

  2. Build a team large enough so that you always have access to fresh legs.

Option 1 has a lot of appeal for most coaches, but player availability, facility availability and taking away from skills based practices are key draw backs.  It detracts from practice time, and can sap the energy of players for their skills training.  Who wants to run drills for two hours when they have just run two miles or performed wind sprints for 30 minutes?  Option 2 simply ignores the issue and lessens playing time for players that really want and should be on the field.

A third but less universal option is to build stamina into the drills that a coach inserts into practices.  For years I subscribed to this approach, and largely still do.  Fun drills that create a lot of motion and movement at a steady pace can truly be effective in developing player stamina, but it is not the answer.  The primary reason this third approach fails is because of the coach.  Taking the time to prepare thoughtful practice plans and maintaining intensity while drills are being performed are two of many reasons why this can be a challenge.  More often than not, there are inconsistent numbers of players at practice and prepared practice plans are out the window before opening stretches begin.

So what’s a coach to do?  Here are some recommendations. 

1.  Never make running a punishment.That’s how players will always see it.Use push-ups, ball hunting, putting away equipment, etc. as ways to correct for discipline. 

2.  At grades below 7/8, use sprints at the start, in the middle and at end of practice.Make these fun, and competitive.They don’t have to last long … no more than 4 reps per “mini-session.”Once they are used to doing them, they will look forward to them…well…at least expect them.Reward “winners” … no ball hunt, no equipment clean up or even sitting out one mini-session.Always run some drills that can develop stamina, such as West Genesee, Nazareth, Dodging 1 v 1 from various points on the field, 2 v 2 ground balls, etc.

3.  At grades 7/8 and High School, there should a concerted effort to increase stamina, including all of the options discussed thus far.Periodic distance running practices, intermittent sprints during practice, highly active drills and better diet should be the focus.Measured doses of each consistently applied will make the whole idea of stamina improvement palatable to players that would rather be at Sonic with their friends than running.

The end result will result in personal stamina improvement as well as a culture of players being able to stay on the field longer, and more effectively.

 

Richard Schwartz