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Introduction to Box: My WILC Experience Part 1

By Bryan Hopper, Blue Star Lacrosse, 02/08/17, 1:15PM CST



I would like to take this time to introduce myself to the Blue Star community. It pained me not to be at last weekend’s tryouts but I heard they were an incredible success and the atmosphere was thriving – what a way to kick off Blue Star! I look forward to meeting every single player that was there and I look forward to coaching you in the coming year. It will truly be a pleasure.

Anyways, the reason I was not at try-outs was due to the fact that I was playing for Team Israel at the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships (WILC) in Syracuse. On Sunday we played in the bronze medal game against USA. We lost and came in fourth place, but making it to the game was a victory in and of itself for the Israel Lacrosse Association. We shocked the world by being there, and it was certainly a storyline for the tournament. The entire experience was, on the whole, the best lacrosse experience of my life, and it only makes sense that I share it with the Blue Star community. I hope you will find the recap interesting, inspirational, and educational about the box lacrosse world. At Blue Star we will be exposing our players to box lacrosse in order to give them the invaluable lessons it teaches young players!

How I Got There in the First Place

My journey with Team Israel began in March at the Ales Hrebesky tournament in Prague, Czech Republic. This box tournament draws some of the best talent from around the world for 10 days of fiercely competitive games. I had never played box lacrosse before – the whole sport was very foreign to me. I had only seen it on TV and watched highlights of John Grant Jr. on youtube. When my coach emailed us the packing list I had no idea what half the items were. Bicep pads? Box Rib pads? I had never worn either of those in my entire career, but I was told by everyone that I absolutely needed them. I also went out and bought some bigger shoulder pads (if you could even call my shoulder pads “pads” at this point) because I had a feeling I was going to need them.

My very first box game was intimidating, exciting and exhausting. It’s an amazing experience that you will never forget. The first shift of a box lacrosse game is like the first shift of a hockey game – setting the tone physically is the most important part of those first two minutes. I had no idea what to expect, but given the amount of pads I was wearing I had a feeling it was going to be very different from field. As I took my first face-off against a team from Ireland, the adrenaline was pumping hard. The whistle blew and there was a flurry of activity – hitting, passing, shooting – it was organized chaos!

A Typical Box Lacrosse Shift…

Hop the boards for your shift and you play defense,  watch out for the picks and cross checks from the offensive players! Don’t let your man get to the crease! Shot clock winds down to 10 seconds and they have to get a shot off – they hit the goalie in the pads! Get up the floor and be an outlet! (or get off so we can get the right guys on!) From the moment your team gets possession of the ball you have 30 seconds to get a shot on cage. Bring the ball down to the offensive side – no time to rest or get a change of middies! 20 seconds left! go set a pick and run through the crease! But there are three defenders waiting there to chop you up! Chop em back! You set the pick, your teammate rolls of it and dumps it to you and you get a shot from within 3 yards but theres nowhere to shoot! The goal is only 4 feet by 4 feet and the goalies pads are huge! You hit his foot and it goes into the corner and the other team picks it up – sprint back to the bench! You are winded and need to get some fresh legs on the field and they are pushing the ball! You get the to bench, take a breather and then repeat over the course of the next 60 minutes.

^^^This is the speed at which box lacrosse is played at. After playing in Prague, it all made sense to me why Canadiens are such amazing lacrosse players and why they continue to produce the best players in the game. Only 40,000 kids play lacrosse in Canada – compare that to the half a million playing the game in America and you can’t help but scratch your head when you see Canadien players scoring 8 goals in a college game or Canada beating the US in the field championships. The reason they are still so good is because since they grow up playing box since they can run! College coaches around America are now preaching the importance of box lacrosse in the development of youth players around the country. There are several things that make box invaluable in the development of a lacrosse player…

  1. Stick skills – you need to have great hands in tight spaces to play box and be extremely accurate with your passes. Finishing is a must!
  2. Lacrosse IQ – box develops an incredible lacrosse IQ in players due to the speed of the game and the amount of reps a player gets every match.
  3. Offensive & Defensive Fundamentals – sheer athleticism cannot make up for lacking mastery of lacrosse fundamentals. No matter how big or how strong you are, if you cant set a good pick or keep track of your man on defense the game is absolutely unforgiving

Playing in Prague was like trying to learn an entire new sport in ten days. Team Israel is fortunate enough to have one of the best coaches in the game, ex-NLL legend Brad MacArthur, and I learned an unbelievable amount from him in ten days. The learning curve was steep, but we ended up having a great run and came in 6 out of 20 teams. The next thing I knew, I was asked to play for Team Israel in the World Championships in Syracuse.

Stay tuned for the next installment where I will take you through the first few days of the WILC2015…