From The Editor:
In our previous issue of The Scoop, I talked about how we approach tournament play versus our focus on practices and academy training; if you haven’t yet you can read more here. A big part of our approach to training are our Academy programs. In this edition, I’ll lay out how we structure the Academy programs and our approach to them. While I am certainly biased, I don’t think there is anything like what we do with our Academy programs. They are a big part of what has allowed us to take athletes that have never picked up a stick before and develop them into college lacrosse players. You can find the list of guys from Team 91 Charlotte that have gone on to play college lacrosse here. I think we’re on the right path!
Our Academy programs are broken up in to four different levels:
- Our Intro Academies and Free Clinics
- Our Advanced Academies
- Our Impact Training, Jr. Elite and Elite Academies
- Specialty Trainings
We also have ancillary Academy programs like the Charlotte Boys and Girls Day Camp, Spring Training, Speed and Agility Training, Shooting Academies and more. These programs are generally held Monday-Friday and offer players additional training and development opportunities throughout the year.
Here is how we approach the development of a lacrosse player through our Academy program:
Step 1: The Team 91 Intro Academy and Free Clinic Series
The first step in a player’s development is picking up a stick for the first time. Our Team 91 Intro Academy and Free Clinics were created for the player who has never played lacrosse before. The only thing a participant needs is a pair of sneakers and a stick (which we usually make available to them at a very low price, if needed).
The 6-week Intro Academy program is open to players Kindergarten through 5th grade who have never played before. We start by teaching players how to pick a ground ball. It’s inevitable they will drop the ball when they are first starting so we want to start by teaching them how to pick it up and build good habits from Day 1. After teaching ground balls, we will introduce them to what we call “triple-threat” positioning to progress through catching, throwing, dodging, shooting and more.
When a player completes the Intro Academy, he or she should have a decent foundation to begin playing the sport.
Throughout the year we’ll also host several Free Clinics. We have hosted close to 10 different free clinics already in 2022 with more scheduled! No one else is doing anything close to that. Our free clinics are a great way for young athletes and families to pick up a stick for the first time with minimal financial or time commitments to start.
Step 2: The Team 91 Advanced Academy
Once a player completes the Intro Academy program, they’re usually ready to put pads on for the first time, though we encourage players to wait until about 2nd grade before starting to play full contact. Once the pads are on, it’s time to start the Team 91 Advanced Academy.
Our Team 91 Advanced Academy is open to players in 2nd-5th grade that have played the sport before or 6th-8th graders that are looking for a crash course in the sport before their Spring Rec or Middle School season begins.
We begin the Advanced Academy program by reviewing a lot of the principles learned at the Intro Academy program but at a faster rate. The expectation is that players know how to pick up a ground ball and what our “triple-threat” position is, but we always want to make sure of that before progressing to more advanced play. We set the foundation with everyone before building the house. Over the remainder of the program, we will progress from 1v1 and 2v1 scenarios all the up to 6v6 and 6v5 scenarios. We progress past the fundamentals of throwing and catching in to how to play an even or odd-man situation from an offensive and defensive perspective.
Step 3: Team 91 Impact Training, Junior Elite and Elite Academy Programs
Once a player feels like they have progressed beyond the Advanced Academy program, they are welcome to apply for our Impact Training, Junior Elite and Elite Academy programs. Yes, you read this correctly; these are application-based programs.
Our Impact Training, Junior Elite and Elite Academy programs are structured for the top Middle School or High school player. It is for the guys who are expected to be some of the best in their class in in the area. The “Application and Invitation” process that players go through allows us to keep the level of skill and competition at an extremely high level. To take it further, we limit the number of players in each program so that we can be sure the guys there are getting a significant balance of quality repetitions and instruction. As an example, this Fall we capped our Impact Training at 8 players for certain positions. Players get more quality reps and instruction directly from a coach in that environment.
On the field, the instruction will focus on the next level of what players learn at the Advanced Academy. Fundamental drills like tight line drills turn in to our figure 8 passing drill and spoke passing. We are starting to talk about how you communicate when you are the No. 2 or 3 slide on defense, how to cover a dodge from each part of the field, dodge angles on each part of the field and how we can use our change of speed and change of direction, picks/slips and more.
One of the special things about some of our Impact Training and Elite Academy program is that we will invite our Seniors that are committed to play college lacrosse back to train. It helps them prepare for their upcoming senior seasons and eventual college careers while raising the pace of play and level of competition for our younger players. It gives the young guys a chance to see how a committed player approaches training.
In my opinion, there is nothing in the country quite like our Impact Training, Junior Elite and Elite Academy programs for high school and middle school athletes that want to get better at lacrosse.
Team 91 Specialty Training
In addition to our Academy programs, you’ll see us offer specialty training throughout the year. The programs allow our players to work directly with coaches at specific positions or on specific skills.
In the Summer, we run our position specific training program on Monday nights. A lot of lacrosse players are practicing Tuesday-Thursday with a travel team, traveling (or resting!) on Friday, then playing a tournament on Saturday and Sunday. Our Summer positional program allows players to work directly with a position-specific coach on anything they may want to work on following the tournament the week before. If you’re an attackman that is struggling to dodge, you can work on that with a coach on Monday. If you’re a goalie that is struggling with low shots at your tournament, you get to focus on that on Monday night in the Summer with your position coach. Hosting the program on Monday nights coming right off the tournament weekend has been a great way to help our players get quick feedback and improve throughout the summer season.
In the Fall and Winter, we run our Faceoff and Goalie training program on Friday nights. While we build in dedicated time at all our team practices and skill sessions for goalies and faceoff specialists, our FNF, FNG series are built specifically around those guys! Every rep, every drill and every piece of instruction is specific to their position and what can help them improve. It’s also affordable. Our Friday Night Faceoff and Goalie training program cost roughly half the price of the comparable position specific training available to players in Charlotte!
Throughout all the steps of development, our staff has three main points of focus: Reps and instruction, attention to detail and having FUN! We want our guys getting a ton of reps while under the watch of our coaches. We also want getting better to be fun. If our guys enjoy each training session, they are more likely to pick up a stick when they get home and continue working on those skills. We would encourage you to get out to a program and see what it is all about!
Our Academy programs are just one part of the development process we have with Team 91 Lacrosse. Another part is the Charlotte Lacrosse League programs we run throughout the offseason. We’ll hit on those next.