A Lacrosse Primer for Soccer Moms
We are a soccer family. Number 4 just started instructional soccer 2 weeks ago, so that makes 4 of them that play soccer.
We’ve tried other sports. Baseball was big with Number 1 for a while. Especially when we lived in Alabama. A couple have also tried basketball, and they were pretty good, despite their height disadvantage (I have short kids).
But soccer is the only sport that has stuck. We play it fall and spring.
My van is a true soccer van. The back is loaded with snap-open chairs ready to be popped up on the sidelines at a moment’s notice. There is also a rolling cooler for water and snacks, equipped with mag wheels for bumping across the muddy fields. A couple of blankets are tucked there for when it gets suddenly cold and random shin guards and soccer balls roll around the back as we careen through strange towns looking for their soccer fields.
Then Number 3 asked to play lacrosse this spring and I found myself thrown into an unfamiliar world. There was new gear I didn’t know how to use, new terminology, new fields to find and a whole new set of parents to try and get to know.
Here’s what I have learned so far:
Be ready to gear it up. Lacrosse players need a lot of gear. It becomes obvious why they need it when you watch the game. A helmet, mouth guard, shoulder pads, arm guards, gloves, a cup, cleats and stick. Whew! It’s a lot more than the cleats, shin guards and ball required for soccer – and a lot more expensive! Luckily for us, the rec department lets the kids borrow the shoulder pads and helmet. So what if Number 3’s helmet is a little too big and he sometimes can’t see the ball because the helmet is still spinning after he has stopped turning his head.
Note: Girls lacrosse must be very different. I see them practicing and they only have to wear a mouth guard, goggles and cleats. What’s up with that?
The cradle is ok for these big boys. Ah – cradling. I can say it like a pro after only 4 short initiation weeks. The cradle is the finessed art of lacrosse players; the technique they use to rock the stick back and forth and keep the ball in the pocket as they charge down the field. Number 3 had a hard time learning how to cradle, but now whenever he picks up some random stick I see him cradling it back and forth.
They switch goals every 15 minutes. I am used to the goal switching at half time in soccer. So sometimes I can’t keep up with the changing in lacrosse – they switch sides every quarter (a quarter is 15 minutes long). I am not the only one who has trouble. I have been at more than one game in which coaches and parents were frantically yelling, “wrong way, wrong goal, turn around!!!!!”
Lacrosse is not for the weak of heart. I had never even seen a lacrosse game when I told Number 3 he could play. The only thing I had heard about it was that if your kid liked soccer, they would probably also like lacrosse. It is a similar fast-moving game and they have to run a lot.
Yeah, run away from the guy that is hacking at you with his stick.
They whack each other with sticks!
Ok, technically they are supposed to be hitting each others’ sticks to knock the ball loose, but at Number 3’s level, there is little difference.
They also check each other like in hockey, and at higher levels, tackle like in football.
For the first few games I had to stop myself from shouting foul every time I saw what I considered an unfair play – it’s all fair in lacrosse and war.
And no wonder – lacrosse is derived from a Native American game called baggataway that was used to train warriors and settle disputes between tribes.
The season is short and intense. Lacrosse games are intense, and so is the season. In our town, the season is shorter than the spring soccer season, but it is jam-packed. Number 3 has practices Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Sometimes he has a game instead of the weekday practice. Then there is usually at least one game on the weekend. At the beginning of the season they went to a day-long tournament, and they are going to a second one at the end of the season. They also had something called Midnight Madness – it was a Friday night in which lacrosse games ran all night up until midnight. At Number 3’s level they played at 8 and 9. (But Number 3 usually goes to bed at 8!)
You’ll find yourself yelling different things, and it’s ok. At soccer games we yell things like, “Cover Number 7, cross the ball, center it, watch it – he’s right behind you.” I was mortified the first time I heard myself yelling, “Get him, get him!” at a lacrosse game. I mean, I was essentially telling the kids to go and whack someone else’s beloved son with a stick. What was I doing?
I don’t know yet if Number 3 will continue to play lacrosse. I will have to see how he feels after the season is over. But Number 2 has said he might like to play it next year.
Maybe I am going to be a lacrossover.