By Kyle Harrison

What's going on everybody! For those that don't know, my name is Kyle Harrison, and I graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in May of 2005. Before I begin I just wanted to take a second to say a few quick things. First of all, I'd like to thank everybody in advance for reading my columns on E-Lacrosse. Secondly, I'd like to encourage people to send in specific questions or topics which you would like me to discuss. I'm really here to simply talk about lacrosse, to start a personal dialog with readers and generate discussion within our community about different issues concerning our game. I'm really excited about this and I'm looking forward to really getting it going so start e-mailing me right away!

For a quick little Bio on me, I was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland (Gods country), and I haven't left yet. I went to high school at Friends, stayed in B'more to attend Johns Hopkins University and stayed again, making the decision recently to start my professional career at STX. My first love was basketball, but over the years, my focus has shifted drastically to lacrosse. I don't want to bore you all with numerous facts about myself, so I'll wait and see what you all want to hear about before I start talking your heads off about my upbringing in the game.

In this first column, I'd like to talk about an observation I've made and the problem I see slowly growing in our game - the amount of time that the younger generations spend playing lacrosse. That's right they are playing too much!

In Baltimore I'm watching kids aged 6 to 17 focusing solely on lacrosse and playing on countless teams all year round. Kids play for their school, their recreational league, a club team, some random select team, their church and so on. I almost feel as if kids are skipping a vital time in their athletic careers. As a child, my friends and I played a number of sports. I know that I played lacrosse during lacrosse season and indoor sometimes. I even went to camp every now and then during the summer. But, I would spend the entire fall playing soccer and taking tennis lessons. During the winters I'd play basketball and wrestle, though I would occasionally sneak some indoor lacrosse in there if I had nothing else to do. Finally, in the spring, I'd play lacrosse.

I didn't realize it then, but I now see that this was an invaluable strategy toward advancing my athletic career. I was honing all of my athletic skills, not just focusing on one sport or position. I learned to have the endurance of a soccer player, the toughness of a wrestler, the footwork of a tennis player, and the calmness and intelligence with the ball of a basketball point guard, before even beginning to learn the game of lacrosse. Finally, about three years ago, I was able to combine all of those skills and focus on one sport - lacrosse. I'm a firm believer in playing early and learning late. It's what got me to where I am today in the sport.

So, Just Play! Don't worry about learning every aspect of the game at a young age. Hone your skills and hang out with your friends. You've got 'til the end of high school and all of college to learn the college level game and your college coach will define that and change your perception of that anyway. I really was just, "playing," lacrosse up until I got to college. I don't think any kids truly understand that when you do get to that division one school that you've worked so hard to get to, lacrosse becomes a full time job, and a hard one. You play all fall, lift all winter and play all spring long. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying it's a bad thing. I enjoyed my career at Hopkins thoroughly. It was the best four years of my life. I loved working hard with my teammates. We all were able to really grow and learn about life through our sport. Overcoming adversity and embracing team ethics we all matured into Champions by truly relying on and trusting each other. But we lived lacrosse! If I'd been playing all day, every day as a kid, and taking it that seriously my entire life, I would have burned out before the 2005 season. I'm not making it up guys. I've seen it happen time and time again.

This may surprise many of you, but it wasn't until my freshmen year of college that I actually learned the game of lacrosse. And what an education I got from the Hopkins coaching staff! They broke down every little thing I had learned up until that point and re-focused me on the sport. All college coaches will. That's why sweating the small stuff as a kid is fruitless.

If you look at some of the best players in the sport today, they were all talented athletes in other sports as well; they didn't spend their entire childhood focused on one sport working toward a scholarship to college. Instead of just giving you all a long list of the players that played other sports, I have a challenge for you. This spring, after any college game, take a second after the game to talk to a favorite player. Ask them what other sports they played growing up. Ask them if they focused solely on lacrosse. Will some of them say they played lacrosse and only lacrosse while growing up? Sure. But the great ones will tell you they played a number of different sports, and honed all their athletic gifts before focusing solely on lacrosse.

Lax memories with my Dad and our dog

So kids, if you're reading this, take my advice and just be kids. Play lacrosse with your buddies. Play in the youth leagues and for your school, but don't get too serious too quickly. I know for a fact that college coaches aren't necessarily looking for the best lacrosse players anymore, but they're looking for the best athletes with the best attitudes who are willing to learn and be coached. So don't allow yourselves to get burned out at a young age from playing too much. Our sport is the best sport on the planet and you are our future. So play as many other sports as you can and begin developing all of your athletic gifts, and your intellectual gifts as well. You are more talented than you may think! You might just be a star athlete and a talented musician or a world leader for all we know, so keep your options open.


January 18, 2006


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