Playing lacrosse develops a child's sense of accomplishment, discipline and teamwork, but the optimal age for beginning these lessons varies by child. Certain physiological developments indicate a child's readiness for learning lacrosse-related skills such as stick work and passing. However, the right age for playing lacrosse requires additional maturity-related traits such as a willingness to follow instructions and work as a member of a team. The optimal age for starting lacrosse differs by child and waiting for indications of readiness helps ensure a positive lacrosse experience.
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Starting lacrosse at the right age means meeting basic physical characteristics necessary for playing. Unlike soccer or swimming, playing lacrosse requires sufficient coordination and gross motor skills to run while simultaneously maneuvering the stick. This level of coordination doesn't occur for most children until third or fourth grade, says Chuck Jaffee, editor of the New England Lacrosse Journal. Additionally, boys who begin playing lacrosse must also have enough strength and coordination to also continue running while being hit with their opponents' lacrosse sticks.
Until a child is old enough to understand and appreciate the value of team work, starting lacrosse, or any team sport, is pointless. A child must have enough maturity and self-awareness to understand her role as a team member such that she's willing to pass the ball and use her teammates' skills. By age 7 or 8, most children begin understanding these subtleties. However, cognitive understanding is only part of starting lacrosse.
Ready to Work Hard
Before starting lacrosse, a child must be old enough to commit herself during practices and drills, not just games. Many young children enjoy a sport or activity because it's fun and their friends do it with them. When starting lacrosse, a child must recognize that playing the sport requires hard work, which isn't always fun. The conditioning and strategy preparation of playing lacrosse differs from the skills-based youth lacrosse programs, where practice time involves "fun" technique games and ball handling drills. Some precocious children develop this motivation at age 7, but most are closer to 10 or 11 years of age. Pushing a child to work hard before she wants to encourages loss of interest and burnout.
Listening to Rules
For young children, the rules of lacrosse can seem inconvenient and arbitrary. Yet, a child must have the maturity to accept and respect the rules of lacrosse before playing. For example, the boy who is old enough to understand when hitting opposing team members with his stick is acceptable has an advantage over the younger boy who sees this play as an opportunity to pummel other kids without consequence. Some children respect and accept game rules when they're 8, others are 9 or 10 years of age.