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We're On Board With The LADM...Here Are 5 Reasons You Should Be Too

Historically, the sport of lacrosse has been one of diminishing opportunity.

Young athletes showing immediate promise on the field are favored, while kids who have potential but take longer to physically or cognitively develop fall through the cracks.

U.S. Lacrosse, the national governing body for the sport, has rolled out a new set of rules and guidelines for youth lacrosse to address some of these shortcomings by standardizing coaching and in-game scenarios that are appropriate for each stage of development. The goal is to cultivate players with sound fundamentals, and create more opportunities to stay involved in lacrosse.

First, a little background:

The new rules align with the Lacrosse Athlete Development Model (LADM), which is designed to encourage interest and skills development of young athletes, emphasize teamwork, and foster greater player retention.

Specifics of the new rules are outlined here (boys) and here (girls), but here’s a quick overview:

- Starting with 3v3 scenarios, with progression up as kids develop

- The goalie position introduced at 10U

- More guidelines for checking – limited physical contact between players

- Coaching tools with age-specific skill progression guides, drills, and practice plans.

Now, a few reasons why we are 100% on board…and you should be too:

1. Consistency in athlete experience. If we want to take lacrosse global, not to mention make it a mainstay in regions across America, there must be consistency in the way the game is taught and played. Youth lacrosse programs have often varied in approach to fundamentals, stick checking, and even team and field size. More established games like football and soccer have this consistency. For lacrosse, it was just a matter of time. We’ve arrived.  

“Establishing a level of consistency across the sport is imperative if we’re going to take lacrosse to the next level,” says Joe Breschi, head coach of the reigning national champion University of North Carolina Men’s Lacrosse. “It helps set the standard for coaches, and elevates the sport as one that values the development of its athletes – when we grow the game, we grow our pool of talent, and the number of people who can enjoy the game of lacrosse.”  

2. Less players on the field, more action. Fielding a smaller team (starting with 3v3 at Stage 1) means athletes get more contact with the ball and a faster pace of play, factors that are critical to player development and retention. As Jenny Levy, head coach to defending national champions University of North Carolina Women’s Lacrosse puts it:

"For the growth of the sport, it's important to have a buildup. Start small, teach fundamentals, use an appropriately sized field and number of players so kids have the opportunity to touch the ball every time they step onto the field." 

3. Development of solid foundation. The new rules get back to basics and emphasize fundamentals. Right now, college programs are seeing players come in lacking core skills. "The kids [that come through UNC's lacrosse program] are highly recruited and we feel there are gaps in their stick work, and basic understanding of concepts of the game," says Levy.

With a renewed emphasis on skill and precision, we will be developing players with a greater appreciation and understanding of lacrosse. Major League Lacrosse All-Star and Ohio Machine midfielder Kyle Harrison is excited to see the impact the new rules will have specifically on the next generation of defensive players:

“The best defensemen in the world have great footwork, body position and understand how to play their angles,” says Harrison. “That's what younger players should be focusing on, not swinging their sticks and body checking. The new rules shift the focus from checking to body position, which I think is a very positive thing for development."

4. More people playing the game of lacrosse. While lacrosse is massively popular in certain regions of the U.S., there are areas that have had limited exposure to the sport. The LADM creates a roadmap to allow for successful introduction of lacrosse in new areas, making the game easy to understand, and growing the base of players and families interested in the game. Even in areas where lacrosse is popular, it has historically seen low retention rates. To grow the sport, we need to elevate those numbers:

"The base of the pyramid of participation defines the health and welfare of the sport," says Steve Stenersen, CEO, U.S. Lacrosse. "The universal adoption of these rules and principles around LADM and age segmentation are critical for us to maximize sport growth and player retention - we will engage more kids longer, and create more great athletes down the pipeline."

5. Kids having an absolute blast! We don’t want to see young athletes burning out at age 10. Lacrosse is about pure enjoyment - creating lasting memories, and an environment of fun and community. "We want the lacrosse experience to be transformational - for kids to be exposed to the sport, have fun, and play for as long as they can and want to,” says Stenersen.

“These changes wisely and responsibly address historically troublesome aspects of youth sports," says STX president Jason Goger. "Having a focus on safety and fun, while encouraging participation in a variety of activities, the result is a more engaged player who has sound fundamentals. The LADM does exactly that so athletes can continue playing year after year.”

And here’s a thought – if the game sees enough growth, maybe we’ll see it in the future Olympic games. Here are 7 Reasons Why Lacrosse Should be an Olympic Sport.