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Bicker's Soap Box: 2014 US Lacrosse Convention

2014 US Lacrosse ConventionI need to give a huge thank you to the Skyline parents who continue to invest in their son’s lacrosse experience by sending a few coaches to the US Lacrosse and IMCLA conventions. This was my third year at the US Lacrosse convention and the information and relationships formed are priceless. I can say without a doubt that attending these lacrosse conventions has allowed me to grow leaps and bounds as a coach. Each year the coaches come back energized and full of ideas for the upcoming season.
This year speakers included Tom Rotanz, Kevin Corrigan, Dave Pietramala, John Danowski, Lars Tiffany, Jeff Tambroni, Ryan Boyle and Matt Striebal, and that is just a few from the boys side. If you think you can’t get a new nugget or two from those guys, you’re crazy. I’m not saying this to rub it in, my hope is to raise some awareness so hopefully every coach or team in Utah can figure out how to fundraise a little extra money to invest in their coaching. The US Lacrosse convention is great for coaches at all levels. Whether you attend to get new drills, learn about practice planning, or just listen to coaching philosophies, there is something for everyone. One highlight was watching Jeff Tambroni run a few offensive drills with his Team USA players. The amazing thing is that most of the drills are simple and focus on stick protection, unsettled situations, and shooting. The first drill was simple partner passing 5 yds apart and the focus was keeping a vertical stick that stays between the shoulders. The head of the stick should go from about 1:00 to 11:00 if you think of an analog clock. The ball kind of gets flicked out quickly with no follow through. Remember, this is team USA doing the drill (Kyle Harrison, Rob Pannell, Matt Danowski) and they do it for a couple minutes at the start of practice. The focus is on flicking the ball out quickly and accurately. They go for about 30 seconds then step back and let the stick come back slightly farther. Try it, I bet your team’s stick work improves and you’ll aslo find out who has a ridiculous shelf in their pocket.
2014 US Lacrosse ConventionI think most coaches would be very surprised at the amount of individual skill work the top D1 teams do. We watched offensive drills from Team USA/ Penn State, defensive drills from Johns Hopkins, and footwork drills from Brown and all the coaches said they spend a ton of time on the fundamentals. If I could bring anything back to Utah it’s the point that lots of us are pushing forward too much and not focusing on doing the little things right. I fully believe, especially at the youth level, players don’t need to learn slide packages or, god forbid, a zone defense, they need to learn proper defensive footwork. The skill level as far as footwork, stick protection, passing and catching, all need to improve before the lacrosse IQ can improve. What is the point of players being in the right spot on the field if they can’t pass or catch?
What I enjoy most about the weekend is being around thousands of coaches, officials, and lacrosse fans who truly want to learn and love the game. Everyone there, regardless of level, is willing to take some time and talk strategy, philosophy, drills, new gear, etc. For example, on the way from the classroom to the hotel lobby Bryan Frates and I talked to Bobby Shriver, Boys Latin HC, about practice planning and learning why Boys Latin is so good (I think practicing 7 days a week may have something to do with it). Did he have to talk to us, no, but that’s the great thing about the lacrosse community; just about everyone is willing to share and grow the game.
One session that will affect every high school boys team was the new NFHS rules session. I like learning the rules and trying to stay current because you never know when knowing the rules may help you win a possession or even a game. I HIGHLY encourage all coaches and players to read the new rules this year. A few highlights: removal of the horn, larger substitution box, no longer able to put man on the wing during man down faceoff, and offsides, just to name a few.
My favorite non-lacrosse portion this year, because one of the other Skyline assistant coaches graduated from UPenn, was touring the UPenn campus before sessions on Friday. It was really cool to see where he spent his college experience. We also caught a concert, All Volunteer Army, Saturday night at the World Café which was a really cool venue. I definitely suggest if you get a chance to go to the convention next year, which will be in Baltimore, getting out of the hotel to experience the city.
Good luck to all players during this upcoming spring season. Compete hard, compete with class, and honor the game.

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