Tag Archives: youth

Toeing The Line Between Nurturing A Young Lacrosse Player And Burning Him/Her Out On The Sport

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Recognizing Lacrosse Burnout In A Young Athlete

I witnessed a great turn of events for an 8th grade boy this past weekend.  This young man has a older brother who lives and breathes lacrosse, currently a starter on his varsity high school team as a sophomore.  The parents are wonderfully supportive of lacrosse and have done everything they possibly can to nurture their boys’ love and participation in the sport.

This past fall, their 8th grader played on my middle school tournament team.  He is a good player, not quite as obsessed with lacrosse as older brother, but a nice, coachable young man who always came to practice and worked hard.

As the season wore on, I could see in this player’s body language that he was not enjoying the game as much as he had in the past.  I had a conversation with him and he confided with me that he was not feeling the same love of the game that he had in past seasons, that there were other things like fishing that he would often prefer to be doing.

I shared with him that as much as I wanted to him to stay on the team, I would not judge him if he decided lacrosse was not for him.  He ultimately had a heart to heart discussion with his Dad and they decided together that he would finish out the season (there was only one tournament left to go at this point) to see his commitment through and take a break from the game, possibly permanently.

This past Friday, the day before game 2 of our rec season, the 8th grader’s Dad contacted me and asked if it would be too late to have his son rejoin the league, as he really missed playing.  We did not hesitate to get him signed up, get him a uniform, and he plucked right in and not only had a great time, but pumped in 3 goals.  He was smiling from ear to ear.

This young man just needed a break, needed some time to miss the game; needed to just be a boy who did not have constant after school commitments.  He was the inspiration for this article.

Below are some tips for parents and coaches to help young people just like the young man I wrote this article about to help nurture the love of lacrosse while avoiding burn out.

1.) The multi-sport or multi-activity experience is crucial.  Letting your child participate in as many athletic pursuits as possible prepares him/her mentally and physically for staying excited about lacrosse.  Not necessarily a sporto?  No problem!  How about boys scouts, art, musical instruments, dance, skateboarding or surfing?  Case in point, this morning, I took my son out to the park to run some shooting and dodging drills.  Shortly after that, we loaded the surf boards on the car to enjoy an hour of one of his (and my) other great passions, surfing!

2.) When players are showing less than exciting or engaged body language, do not ride them, but engage them in a calm, open and honest manner.  They may be experiencing trouble in the home, at school, or are just feeling the effects of burn out.  Talk to them and ask them if everything is okay because you observe that they are not themselves.  Give them the opportunity to open up without judgement.

In the aforementioned player’s case, he was facing the pressure of an older brother in his family who is not only an exceptional player but has an extraordinary lacrosse ambition; while having some misgivings about whether lacrosse was for him.  All he needed was a break.

3.) When they do not play up to expectations (whether they are yours or the players), let them know it is okay to have an off day.  Let them know that effort always trumps performance.

My own son had 5 goals in last week’s season opener.  Yesterday in week two, he had 2 goals and had a strong game; yet, he walked off the field disappointed.  I asked him what was wrong and he told me that he was disappointed that he only had 2 goals.  I let him know that I was just as proud of him this week than I was last week and that it actually is not normal to score 5 goals a game; that the number of goals should not be the measure of a successful season.  I told him that fun and effort are the more important aspects of enjoyment of lacrosse, that he should never play with that kind of pressure placed on himself (he is only 8).

Let us never lose sight as parents and coaches that for these young men and women, there is so much more to life than any sport.  There are social functions, school, time with friends, and other pursuits that are integral to their growth and enjoyment of their youth.  While lacrosse and other sports provide many positive aspects of growth, we always need to allow them enough room to just be kids.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of tpics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.


How Does A Child Become A Lacrosse Player?

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Lacrosse Athletic Development Model

US Lacrosse through vigorous research has developed the Lacrosse Athlete Development Model (LADM) by identifying which factors are most responsible for the development of a young athlete.  Through this research, US Lacrosse has enabled coaches to set appropriate expectations based on age and best practices to maximize their development and enjoyment of the game.  In US Lacrosse Magazine’s February edition, LADM is explained as follows.


50% of an athlete’s ability originates from genetics inherited from his/her parents.  There is a reason that two out of three of Archie Manning’s sons are Superbowl Champions and MVP’s.


30% of an athlete’s potential is derived from environmental influence.  This includes nutrition, proper sleep, stress in the home (or lack thereof), and health.

The Intangibles

15% of an athlete’s potential is controlled by the athlete him/her-self.  These factors include determination, work ethic, attitude, processing of adversity, etc.


A child’s proprioception, or ability to orient oneself in space or respond to shifts in positioning continues to to develop through age 13.  While this may come faster to some than others, coaches should not get read into his/her U11 team having difficultly throwing and catching on the run.

Visual Acuity

Vision and peripheral perception continue to develop until the age of 12, yet many lacrosse players have had to look through helmet bars or protective goggles well before 12.  While the debate rages on at what age it is appropriate to have our athletes playing a type of lacrosse that necessitates these protective items (as opposed to soft lacrosse with no protective gear at all), perhaps coaches and parents understanding this can be a bit more patient when junior may not see a wide open player on the crease as he is running down the sideline and having his stick checked.


The vestibular system of the body that spans the inner ear apparatus and and brain stem continues to develop until the age of 16.

Breathing and Lung Capacity

In children under the age of 13, each breath takes in 1/3 of the oxygen  of an adult breath, resulting in a 50% faster breathing rate.  Does it make sense to have kids this age under these limiting circumstances running the same length and width field as high school and college athletes?

Leg Strength

Leg strength and squat jump height typically corrects (weakens) between age 11- 12 due to the amount of energy expenditure necessary to simply grow during this typically rapidly growing period.  This causes an inevitable dip in athletic performance that peaks again later in the athlete’s teenage years.

What Is The Point Of All This Information?

The National Alliance for Youth Sports reports that 70% of kids are dropping out of organized sports by age 13.  Through LADM, US Lacrosse is determined to stem this tide in our sport by offering players the right kind of lacrosse at the right time so that they love it more and play longer.  This is leading to sweeping change in age appropriate lacrosse formats and training and I applaud US Lacrosse for being proactive in ensuring that lacrosse properly develops and retains its athletes.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of tpics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.


Vipers Lacrosse!

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vslc_vipers_logo…Continuation of “Rediscovering The Love Of The Game.”

Seeing something of a divine serendipity in the events described in my previous post above, I attended the meeting that would profoundly affect my life.  The meeting was for the small but committed Brevard Lacrosse Association (BLA), that at the time was a small league based in the beach side community of Satellite Beach, FL just over the causeway from my newly home town of Viera.  It was January, 2008 and my wife was pregnant with our first child.

The league was looking to expand beyond the beach and the dad that I had met in my neighborhood that was responsible for bringing me to the meeting, was charged with the expansion into mainland communities of Rockledge, Viera, and Melbourne.  We were to be called the Vipers.

So there we were, 3 divisions of lacrosse teams, U11, U13, and U15 boys only, with one other team to play, the Satellite Beach Riptide.  We played one another week in and week out, but the parents and players were so excited by the fresh, fast paced, new sport of lacrosse, that they did not care.  Without a child in the league, I was originally tasked with coaching the U11 division that was most lacking in coaching personnel, but with only one other coach in the league with playing experience, I floated around all of the divisions to aid in instruction.  It was a blast!

With a buzz in the air about lacrosse and kids and parents already seeking more varied and competitive play, the decision was made (despite my dissent) to disband BLA and start independent clubs that would play each other in an established Orlando based league.  At this point, a community called Merritt Island was also about to start their own lacrosse program, so the thought was that by disbanding and going independent, that other communities would follow suit and lacrosse would organically grow from there.  That is not how things played out, but for the purposes of this story, all you need to know is that the powers that be suggested that with the most extensive lacrosse background in the Viera community among active coaches, that I would the best candidate to serve as the first president of the Viera-Suntree Lacrosse Club, home of Vipers Lacrosse.

8 years later, I remain the first and only president of the club, now with an 8 year old son and a 6 year old daughter playing lacrosse.  To my point about how much that meeting would change my life, that original club has grown from 6 boys to 300 boys and girls playing lacrosse from K-8th grade projected to be playing Vipers Lacrosse this spring.  We now have both developmental rec teams and elite travel teams.

Within Vipers I personally coach U7 girls, U9 boys, U15 elite travel.  I also host regular camps and clinics for area high school programs and coach and elite high school fall and summer tournament team called the Space Coast Stingrays.

Oh yes, much has happened since that first BLA meeting and it seems I am still only just getting started!

Dr. Roger Welton was a 4 year starter for Montclair State University and was selected as a First Team All Knickerbocker Conference Midfielder in 1995, 1996. He is the founder of the Viera-Suntree Lacrosse Club and Space Coast Elite Lacrosse Club in Brevard County, Florida.