10 Myths About Youth Lacrosse and Athlete Development


Station-based practices can be both fun and productive, while providing opportunities to develop physical literacy that is relevant to lacrosse.

This article appears as part of the “Myth Busters” package in the September/October edition of US Lacrosse Magazine. Don’t get the mag? Join US Lacrosse today to start your subscription.

According to a poll from the National Alliance for Youth Sports, around 70 percent of kids in the United States stop playing organized sports by age 13. Early-sport specialization encourages us to treat these children as commodities and cater to the few who peak early, rather than the masses of those who won’t realize their full athletic potential until they are well into their teens.

US Lacrosse is trying to disrupt that trend with the Lacrosse Athlete Development Model, which provides a framework to introduce new players to the sport. Erin Smith, managing director of education and athlete development, offers these 10 myths disproven by science and experience in the field.

1. If your kid isn’t an amazing athlete by 10, you should look into chess or piano lessons.

Spatial awareness continues to develop through age 13. The vestibular system, including inner-ear functions that control things like balance and coordination, is not fully developed until age 16. Even visual development continues as kids mature well into their teens. Don’t shortchange the late bloomer.

2. If your kid is an all-star at age 11, he or she will continue on the same trajectory for the rest of his or her athletic career.

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Those who mature early get selected from the group, receive better coaching and enjoy more playing opportunities. They look like the better athletes. But research has shown that individuals who reach puberty later become stronger and more superior athletes. A late growth spurt can do wonders for their athletic potential. Tewaaraton finalist Pat Spencer is a prime example.

3. Fun is synonymous with goofing off and having snacks at practice. Having fun will diminish a child’s opportunity to get better.

The Firefly Group, which specializes in interactive learning strategies to help businesses and other organizations achieve their goals. Creative director Brian Remer writes, “More than just a way to have fun, play enables us to have a better understanding of what we are doing, a deeper engagement with other people and a more meaningful way of living.”

4. Drills are the only way your kid is going to get better at lacrosse.

It’s equally as important that he or she develops physical literacy and learns movement patterns, especially at a younger age.

5. Diagramming plays will work with your kids.

The so-called “joystick coach” limits his or her players’ potential think for themselves, solve problems on their own and find creative expression in their sport. Additionally, kids’ brains are not wired to see a bunch of Xs and Os on a whiteboard and translate that to movements on the field.

6. Training isn’t useful if you have a ton of real world experience.

Take it from Rob Bray, a veteran college coach and recently a top assistant at the University of Oregon who found it beneficial to go through the US Lacrosse Coach Development Program when transitioning to coaching relatively inexperienced high school and youth players.

7. Ten-thousand hours are absolutely necessary to become an elite lacrosse player.

Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule contends that 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” are required to become world-class in any field. But a 2014 Princeton study found that in sports — especially those that are less structured, like lacrosse — that level of practice accounted for just an 18-percent difference. Multi-sport participation, on the other hand, will position lacrosse players well for success.

8. Late-maturing athletes are going to be small even when they are fully grown.

See No. 2. To classify an individual as big or small, athletic or unathletic, at a certain age is to ignore the science of child development.

9. You can train your kids under 10 in cardiovascular endurance.

Because their lung capacity is still developing and breathing rates will vary, it’s much more useful to train them in anaerobic functions with activities that emphasize balance, movement and strength.

10. Practicing skills is boring.

Not if you design practices to be fun and kid-centered. Station-based practices are a great way to hone in on specific skills that are disguised in the form of a game, competition or race.

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