Editor’s Note: Fresh off the jet from the East Coast, Drew Bicker offers his notes from the 2012 US Lacrosse National Convention
Thursday – I might be part of the minority that actually enjoys going to the airport. Right behind the mall during Christmas, this is the best place for people watching. About 5:15pm I jumped on a direct flight from Salt Lake City with many Utah lacrosse figures like Cole Sloan, Niki and Celeste Harding, Mason Goodhand, what seemed like the entire Pleasant Grove staff, and Patrick Lambert. If anyone else was on the flight and I forgot, I’m sorry. The rest of Thursday I spent watching Money Ball and hitting the sack to get ready for a big day.
Friday – After breakfast a small group of us decided to explore Philadelphia. Dan Dugan, Dave Brattin, Jim Brandon, Cole Sloan and I took off, braving the frigid wind, and headed towards the Liberty Bell. The history in that town is incredible and I could go on with it but this is a lacrosse site so look it up or visit the area yourself sometime. After walking around we headed back to set up the booth for the Park City Shootout in the expo. It took four college graduates to put the display up, but we finally had it all set up and ready for business. Jim Brandon manned the booth and sold the Shootout tournament to everyone who came by. Everyone loves talking with Jim because of his enthusiasm for the event, the ULA and Park City. That night was the keynote speaker, Herm Edwards. He spoke about how the game begins with the youth; how as coaches or officials we need to be aware of the example we set for our youth and high school athletes. We need to make sure we are teaching them not only the game of lacrosse, but how to be a good person. Herm Edwards said, “The little ones learn from officials and from coaches. What will you do as a coach or official to make the game better?” He also spoke about focusing on fundamentals and on making the game better. He coached his players that sports are like life, that you don’t always get your way and those who can overcome inconvenience will be successful. He talked about having an offensive meeting at midnight, or waking the defense up at 6am for a meeting, and other instances when he created an inconvenience just to see how his team would react.
Saturday – Saturday was a long day full of clinics and session. It was a learning overload and a rollercoaster of a day. I attended a clinic by the Powell brothers and Easton team in which they basically just tore up a poor 12 year old in cage. Next, Tim Flynn and some of the U-19 USA team players demonstrated some transition drills and talked about the transition part of lacrosse. After lunch I went to a class about teaching kids about PLAYING lacrosse instead of teaching them plays by Liam Bank, LB3 Lacrosse. I think this is an important part of the game that is being lost. More kids I see aren’t being taught how to throw the ball correctly and we have to spend time, at the high school level, teaching the proper technique. Fundamentals need to be the focus at the youth level, period. Liam said you don’t have to be the biggest or fastest, but you have to want it the most and you have to be able to pass on a rope and catch everything that is thrown towards you to be successful. He also said you have to know the game and how to make yourself open on the field. Next came a presentation that was supposed to be about Duke warm-ups by Coach John Danowski. However, he decided a couple nights before he wanted to change the topic. Coach Danowski is an inspirational speaker who breaks the game and coaching interactions down to the basics. For example, one of Duke’s goals for this year is “Have a Blast.” He wants his players to not lose sight that playing lacrosse should be fun. He talked a lot about creating team building opportunities as well. Coach Danowski wants to create an Army type camaraderie where his players feel like they are playing for each other. For example, his seniors carry the goals and bring the balls out during practices because he feels that this will make the underclassmen play harder for the seniors. After that I went with a group of about twenty to the Philadelphia Wings indoor box lacrosse game. It was quite an experience. The game is basically hockey on astro turf with a lacrosse stick. The guys have unbelievable stick skills but the game has way too much off ball nonsense which makes it hard to watch. I found myself watching the guys pushing and shoving off ball more than the ball itself. Something needs to change. One cool thing that happened though was being able to sit over the shoulder of Coach John Danowski. His son plays for the Wings and yet, even when his son was on the field, coach Danowski was on his phone replying to emails and watching, what I’m assuming were, highlight videos. Even when his son scored he showed no real emotion. I guess he’s seen it done so many times at a high level it doesn’t phase him.
Sunday – I attended one session about offensive zone busters and defensive pressure schemes. John Pirie was the instructor and he may know more about lacrosse schemes than anyone I have talked to. Lots of good information was shared but with the overload of the previous day and some news from the family back home, I didn’t learn much or retain a whole lot. I’ll have to go over the notes that were passed out, but I’m sure for those who paid attention it was extremely informational. He had some ways of thinking which I have never heard or thought of but I could see being very useful for the team I coach.
After that session I was able to relax and watch Baltimore take care of the Texans before jumping on my plane back home. It was quite a weekend which I will never forget.