Be A Smart Spectator: What To Look For When Watching A Game

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(PC: Anna Scipione)

One of the quickest and most effective ways to improve as a player is by simply watching the game at a high level.  In the last couple of year this has been made easier with all the televised games on ESPN, CBS Sports, and games being stream on college networks.  Organizations have also done a great job bringing the best teams right to our front door with the Pacific Lacrosse Shootout and the Seatown Classic.  Young players watching these games need not just be a spectator but a student and use this as a tool to improve.  Below are some tips for players when watching these games.

For offensive players, it shouldn’t be just watching the player with the ball but the 5 guys around the ball.  Recognize their spacing, their movement (never standing and waiting for the ball), and their field awareness.  When you’re watching these games watch how the player adjacent to the ball cuts through or fade to create space or miscommunication by the defense.  Watch how the crease player moves inside to find lanes, seal the slide, and positions his body/stick for well-timed cuts.  Keep an eye on how the fill player moves his feet to shorten the pass and keeps his stick to the outside of their body “mirroring” the passer and protecting their stick with their body.  Watch how the players opposite of the ball move right or left of the ball carrier to find the open lane and not cut in to crowd the crease.  Being able to dodge is based on athleticism which some have and some don’t.  Anyone can be a better off ball player which may not show up in the stat book but is certainly noticed by coaches.  At the NCAA level everyone is an amazing athlete that can shoot the ball.  But being able to do the other stuff is what separates the good college players from the great college players.

On the defensive side of the ball watch how the sliding defensive player positions himself in between his man and the ball.  Watch how he fights to get top side and not be sealed, how he will hedge or show sometimes, and the angle of pursuit when he slides.  Watch how the defensemen adjacent to the ball steps in to help with their sticks in the passing lanes.  Watch how the backside defensemen have their sticks up in the lanes and they are constantly checking in on the backside to support the slide.  Most importantly, watch how quickly they recover/replace from the slide.  Again, most top high school defensemen are incredible athletes who can pressure the ball and handle their individual match up.  But if you take that same player and move him off the ball they are lost.  As players get to the next level there is no more “take away” defenseman and the focus becomes fitting into that team’s defensive package.  Solid understanding about off ball play is often the difference of playing or sitting the bench in first couple of seasons.

No matter what position you play everyone can learn and improve their game by watching the college games.  So the next time you sit down to watch a game, grab a paper and pen and take some notes. When the game is played at its best, it’s the little things that make the biggest difference.  It’s the difference between winning and losing; or starting or sitting.  Learning the little things might be just the thing to take your game up a notch.  Become a student of the game and watch your own game improve.

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