American box/indoor player development in Washington started with the introduction of the Stealth Academy in the fall of 2010. The Stealth Academy still operates today, under the direction of Lewis Ratcliff and staff. The academy focuses on the basics of offense and defense in box lacrosse. Those that show significant skill and character are then selected to the Junior Stealth travel team. The Stealth Academy paved the way for the development of Washington American box players. A number of players that have participated in the Academy and Junior Stealth team have gone on to NCAA Division 1, 2, & 3 programs, as well as the MCLA.
Having a son that participated in the Stealth program, Andy Farrington of Woodinville Lacrosse praised the program for its development of players. Being swayed by the fact that some of the best NCAA D1 players are also box players helped sell the program as well. Said Farrington, “The biggest improvement in a short time was my son’s ability in time and space, as well as off ball movement.”
Adding a little fuel to the fire to start a program of their own was the participation of many of the players in the 3D box/field elite camp in Boulder, CO. Andy came away impressed not just with the format, but with the style and urgency of the coaching. Taking his observations and passion for lacrosse and coaching to Woodinville Lacrosse President Gary Bamesberger was the first step in the start of something special.
Gary and Andy would both discuss on many occasions on how to get a low cost option for the Woodinville program started. Having a place to practice the box game to not only learn the game, but to keep building team chemistry in the fall and winter months. This could be the start of what gives the program and players the edge on their competition in the years to come. I asked Gary what was the contributing factor in finally getting this idea of Woodinville indoor sessions of the ground? Said Bamesberger, “Being blessed with an indoor soccer facility in downtown Woodinville, in which the owner had already been involved with the program presented a synergy that was hard to ignore.”
In the fall of 2012 Woodinville Lacrosse indoor sessions were born. Incorporating players from the Woodinville program in grades 7/8-high school in addition to some select players from other programs looking to increase their skills/knowledge for the game. When the sessions were done Gary and Andy assessed the progress of the program. Noticing that the players stick skills and IQ progressed through the space and speed of the box game; they were ready to take the next step.
After auditing a couple practices at the 3D elite camp and networking, Andy kept in contact with the Director of Methodology and Training, Logan Bobzien. Through this contact the Woodinville program was able to run the first players camp and coaches clinic in Woodinville Lacrosse history at their Woodinville Indoor facility. The structure of the camp/clinic not only helps the players with their skills and IQ, but also helps a program and its coaches be the best they can be. By providing the training to the coaching staff, a vernacular that can be passed down from H.S. to youth, and the speed and structure of the drills used. These fundamentals that coaches learn can catapult a program from mediocre to the best in any state by increasing skill, but most importantly the Lacrosse IQ.
Speaking with Logan, about 3D’s structure and mission he was very passionate about what they do. “It is our mission to develop the best lacrosse players in the world,” said Bobzien. “We want players to be highly skilled with IQ. We define players in two ways: How proficient are they at a certain skill, and how many skills are in their repertoire.” I asked Logan about the structure and benefit of the box/field hybrid player. “Box is an ultimate environment as it forces players to play in tighter space with a smaller goal,” he replied. “Players need to be more precise with passing, shooting, and catching.” Take these skills to a more open space in field lacrosse and it definitely opens up your squad’s game.
With all the training and the facility in place this past year I wanted to touch base on the future of this program. Gary said:
“I’d have to say it was a lot of work, but we are going right back to it. There are too many kids here hungry for more and we see the passion for lacrosse building at a tremendous rate in our area. Our indoor program can give us a leg up in many ways. Certainly in the short term, their ability level is going to climb more rapidly. In the longer term, if we turn out kids with solid lacrosse skills it will help them get access to more colleges. Very few end up being D1 players that’s not the point. The goal is to give our kids college opportunities they would not otherwise have. Lacrosse opens doors.”
As far as the future of Woodinville Lacrosse with 3D Logan had this to say:
“We want to create a relationship and open dialogue with the coaching staff, as well as the tools to reference the 3D terminology and drills. As 3D always strives to be on the cutting edge with techniques and teaching, we want to keep the lines of communication open to additionally provide continuing education to the programs we work with.”
The point of this article is not to focus on just one program in the state, but to outline a system of success for all American players at the youth level. Without the participation of U.S. Lacrosse in the box/indoor game it makes it very tough for we as coaches and players to develop the skills necessary to be the very best in the sport we all love. I still urge and know of some players in Washington who play in the Vancouver area year round. This unfortunately is still the best way to become a true box player. My hope is that this article can shed some light on how we/your program can take steps to make a better, well-rounded player using the resources we have here at home.