By: Tom Howley
Originally Published in: Complete Conditioning for Lacrosse
Provided by: Human Kinetics
The mental and psychological demands of lacrosse are extensive. Mental focus, consistency, and communication are essential components of success and are challenged daily in preparation, practice, and games. The will to succeed and improve must be cultivated alongside physical preparation. In many cases a player's physical and mental toughness are interwoven and cannot be distinguished from each other. This is where physical training can complement mental and emotional development.
In lacrosse, as in most sports, the deterioration of mental skills coincides with fatigue. Players become overwhelmed with the pace of the game, weather conditions, and other external stresses and become more likely to make mental mistakes. Through training, coaches can reduce the likelihood of skill deterioration by emphasizing the importance of conditioning. As the famous Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi said, "Fatigue makes cowards of us all." Momentary lapses in concentration or a slightly slower reaction to a situation can be costly. Coaches should use training to challenge athletes to perform at their best in all situations. Never allowing mistakes or lack of effort to go unnoticed, always setting expectations higher, and teaching athletes to focus and concentrate despite physical discomfort are all part of the progression to game day. During competition, some athletes tend to succumb to fatigue and lose their mental edge. By teaching athletes that conditioning is as much a mind-set as a physical state, coaches can encourage their athletes to perform through the barriers and potential lulls in a practice or game.
In addition, a proper mindset can be used to level the playing field when the opponent may have more talent, skill, or experience. As teams begin to wear down at an expected pace, better-conditioned teams have the opportunity to outplay opponents during the later portions of the contest. Superior skills can be neutralized by superior training. In other words, hard work can overcome genetics or talent! During the second half of a game, when most competitions are decided, the more physically fit team will have a better chance to execute the game plan than a team that has succumbed to physical and mental deterioration.