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Fall Ball or Fall Sports?

As we head into what many call the best time of the year, Fall, it is nice to romanticize the cooler weather, football season, tailgates and bonfires. I tend to think about another part of the fall, a lacrosse season, affectionately referred to as Fall Ball. Today, Fall is the 3rd season of lacrosse(Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter). tons of games to play and money to be made. Travel teams are gearing up for a bevy of tournaments that round out in some nationals in December. Many sell the fall as a means to the prized Summer circuit, even pressuringkids who do play fall sports to particpate. School teams are running their own fall programs with whatever kids are left over from travel teams and fall sports, for some development. In many cases it's a way to raise some extra funds for the team or their severely underpaid spring coaches. No argument there, its just a fact, school coaches are notoriously underpaid and hard to find. But I digress, they might enter into the fall tournaments as well, likely in lower brackets. But games are the most of what is being done, true development time is still limited. I'm thinking a bit about the old less is more theory.

We've gone from training or conditioning in multiple sports throughout the year, and enjoying our spring lacrosse season, to potentially playing lacrosse year round. Burnout is common for kids who haven't even gotten to high school yet. More games isn't always the answer. A recent statistic about lacrosse, indicated the average time a young athlete participates in lacrosse, is 2.2 yrs. That's not very long, and I suspect the year round expectations play some part in that. Imagine playing all 4 seasons of the year in lacrosse...thats the equivalent of 4 years of lacrosse if you just played your spring season.

Parents are trying to decide where their child's fall time(and their own money) is best spent. Is adding fall lacrosse to their travel plans necessary? The answer to that is individual for certain, I mean if your child plays basketball in the winter but is free in Fall and would rather play more lacrosse, by all means. What I think is important is keeping an open mind to playing other sports before more lacrosse.

Where did the well rounded multi-sport athletes go? I see them occasionally still, just wish we saw more. I'm a bygone - code for saying I'm old. I moved from soccer, to basketball and wrestling, to baseball, tennis and then summer camps for every sport. Do it all over again the next year. By HS we started to dial into a few sports, the measuring stick was how many sports you could be good at. I didn't even play organized lacrosse until I was in HS. I wouldn't have been invited to play on any travel team, for any sport if did all of that today. The best, most fun thing I looked forward to more than anything else, all year as a grade schooler, was summer sports camp at Moeller High School. Competition in every gym class sport you could imagine, I emphasize competition, because while it was fun we didn't realize we were training to compete. It was all out war to win floor hockey, and kick ball, and dodgeball and so on. If I listed the professional athletes that I competed against in that sports camp, it would be shocking. And not one of them played their pro sport in that camp. It was the literal best week of my life every year. And the prize? Watching your coach smash a whip cream pie in the face of the losing coaches in your division. Ahh what a world.

And it brings me back to the heart of what we're doing here with certified lacrosse parents, let the kids have fun. Is playing lacrosse 365 days a year fun? If so then by all means do it. If they want to play a fall sport but are being asked to forego playing soccer in the fall, why? If it's because the lacrosse travel team or school coach tells them they need to play in the fall to ensure they make the team in the spring, maybe that's not a team your child's best interest in mind, only his. How do we encourage kids to play a lot of sports? I don't know that answer, but I think focusing on the fun of youth sports is key to our children's enjoyment and I surely see the value and risk of the alternative. Count me in the camp who want kids playing every sport possible as long as possible. Basketball, Football, Tennis....absolutely. Cricket? Yep, lets try it out, Baseball(Gasp!) please do it. For one, there are so many transferable skills that the specialists never learn or consider. When coaching my newer players about cradling, one of the first questions I ask to try and explain the concept is "do you know how you dribble in basketball?". You wouldn't believe the number of kids today that say they've never played basketball. Hey that's fine, to each his own, but it tells me a lot abut how times have changed. And Specialization injuries are a real thing, the data is there and as specialization continues to grow, like it has, more and more data will come out to defend why its a problem. Look at the college teams, the prized D1 scholarships, a large portion go to the kids who play a few sports in HS(most common Basketball/Lacrosse, close second Football/Lacrosse and Hockey Lacrosse. Ask todays top college coaches, they want the multi-sport athletes, they can teach you to be better at lacrosse, they don't want a kid who only played lacrosse from 3rd grade on. They can't teach you to be an athlete, that comes long before they ever meet the player.


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