Often called “the fastest sport on two feet,” lacrosse is quickly gaining ground in the Valley. The crux of the game is easy: Using long-handled netted sticks, players run the field to shoot a small rubber ball into their opponents’ goal—while being pummeled and jabbed along the way.
Today, there are adult leagues in Las Vegas, as well as 18 club and high school teams, and 33 middle school teams that will soon feed players into the high school league. “It’s definitely gaining a lot of traction, because it’s a lot of fun,” says David Schnitzer, coach of the Grizzlies, a club team with players from various high schools.
Here are a few skills he drills into his squad every season:
Your opponents will try anything to gain possession of the ball (see “check”), so you need to be able to run fast without dropping the thing. With one hand at the base of the net and the other at the base of the stick, players switch the positioning of the net to keep the ball cozy in the net’s pocket. “It’s almost like you’re lifting a weight with your arm and you also twist with your wrist.”
Just like your dad used to take you out with the ball and glove, perfecting the technique of the lacrosse pass (and game-winning shot), is key to playing the game. But while you gain points by shooting, it’s digging for ground balls that Schnitzer says takes games. “If you pick it up, possession gives you a chance to score.”
When you’re playing defense against someone, “you can poke them, you can slap them with the stick ... That’s one of the best parts of playing lacrosse, you get to hit people with a metal stick!” says Schnitzer. Although players do get pretty bruised up even when checks are kosher, penalties are given for certain techniques and overly aggressive behavior.
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