The timeless benefits of lacrosse

Lizzie Wright, director of lacrosse at Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Girls, says the sport provides students with important life lessons and prepares them for the future

Lacrosse (originally known as stickball) has a long history dating back to the 1600s. Founded by the Native American Indians, the game was initially played in the St Lawrence Valley region (by the Algonquian tribe) and was renamed as it is known today in 1636 by the Huron Indians.

In schools across the country, lacrosse continues to evolve as a popular, all‐inclusive team sport where anyone can take centre stage, and everyone has a role on the team. It is a fast‐paced game of sprinting and endurance, in which players can cover any area of the pitch throughout the game. This creates an ‘even playing field’ for all, meaning all players have the opportunity to attack and defend, giving them a chance to be in the spotlight during a game. This atmosphere allows players to be their best together, building self‐esteem and confidence.

Sports like lacrosse are really all about feeling valued and having belief in your ability to succeed. Not everyone will score during the game, but everyone plays a vital role in helping the team achieve success. Everyone’s contribution is celebrated, making the game energetic and exciting. Lacrosse is a sport where a team can come together to score lots of goals and it therefore becomes an open playing field for all. The competitive spirit embraced by the players also gives them a sense of pride in being part of that team.

Building resilience

During these high‐energy matches, children will find they are constantly running around on a pitch that is 110 yards long and 60 yards wide. There can be a lot of ground to cover in a game that is an hour long, mixed with players picking up ground balls, shooting and cradling. The game requires a high level of physical activity that is great for building quad and hamstring strength from an early age, not to mention upper body and core strength.

The element of competition is also important for children to develop because it fosters determination and resilience. Lacrosse teaches children to set personal goals and to build character on and off the pitch. In the game of lacrosse, mistakes will happen, but students learn to react and overcome these. Building mental strength challenges students to improve every day. The true impact of lacrosse teaches students to learn and grow while enjoying a sport.

Lacrosse isn’t just about the physicality of the game though, there is a wellbeing aspect too. Laughter is the best medicine and though students train hard, maintain focus and remain competitive, it doesn’t mean they don’t capture the enjoyable moments when playing; students embrace these moments which keeps the game fun. The sport is very much a mind and body game. Playing any sport gives students an opportunity to build on important life skills and playing lacrosse enables just that.

An uplifting game of communication

Effective communication and listening between team players is required in a match of lacrosse. During a match, players are constantly speaking to each other and there is a real sense of team spirit and camaraderie between players in a game. This confidence when communicating lets everyone feel valued, and as important as the next. This builds the foundation of trust between players and as a result, students become fearless on a team. Players are assured their voice and opinion matters.

The sport has become even more popular during this last year with the pandemic, because since it enhances and boosts mood, players want to continue to play. The fact that every student becomes the star of the match is uplifting and an exciting feeling.

Lacrosse has changed immensely over the last decade alone. Rules are constantly being re‐evaluated and adapted, to continue to grow the sport all over the world. Players used to use a wooden stick, but this is now plastic. Years ago, players were taught to use one hand while playing, which could be tricky to master. The sport has grown tremendously and today you are encouraged to use both hands. In fact, in the last three years in England, there have been four major rule changes to keep the game exciting, upbeat and fast-paced. Players can self-start, move freely, run through the crease and specialise at the draw which starts the game.

Some of these rule changes have made the game exciting for spectators to watch, connecting players and parents. Other rules have advanced the game, challenging players to develop their skills to a higher level. For instance, lacrosse used to be played with no boundaries, but now there are fixed boundaries to consider. Players have developed stronger stick work because of this rule change and are able to be more creative and enjoy a different side to the sport.

Lacrosse
Lacrosse at Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Girls

 

An outlet for fun

Allowing free movement has also required players to develop higher stamina and speed. Prior to this, you used to have to stop moving when the whistle is blown, but current rules keep the game fluid and students are able to think outside of the box.

In some ways the game is more robust or forceful than it once was, similar to rugby, you are highly encouraged to throw your entire body into the game. With all of these changes, lacrosse is exhilarating to play and now requires the use of tactical plays, like in basketball to be successful when playing, such as using hidden flips, backwards picks and x‐cuts.

Schools are particularly keen to grow the sport and to ensure younger students use the game as an outlet to have fun, as well as to enhance their overall mental and physical performance; this has been especially important during the last year.

Many people don’t realise that lacrosse uses body contact like football and that this has been allowed, to some degree, to continue during the pandemic, which has helped students to feel closer and to create a real sense of togetherness during a time when many are apart. This is hugely important for boosting wellbeing and social interaction.

The skills developed through lacrosse will also translate academically for children too. It’s true that the most successful academic outcomes are always backed up by happy, passionate environments where children feel encouraged and supported to work hard and to be their best selves. The spirit of achieving in sports and in other lessons really helps to increase motivation and general performance in school.

Nurturing leadership styles

In a world where teamwork and a sense of community is ever more important, lacrosse helps people to come together to achieve success, which in later life helps to develop players as motivational leaders and effective communicators.

Lacrosse helps to identify different types of leaders on the pitch from a young age; from social leaders to those who are more competitive, those who are more culture‐driven, those who lead by example and also those on the side‐lines who are supporting the team players. No matter what the leadership style, the goal during lacrosse is really all about having a positive and productive impact on your team as a whole; something that certainly resonates with adults in later life.

Over the last few years, it is amazing to witness the growth of the sport. Members of schools and clubs are excited to play and learn to love an ever-growing game. Lacrosse shapes and prepares students for the future while providing them with important life lessons. Students play to enjoy life and to laugh with teammates along the way. Lacrosse empowers students with confidence, team spirit and self-esteem; skills we strive for our future generations to have and love.

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