You’ve heard the term “Lax IQ” a lot and you probably have a general feel for what that means. Yet very few players—even at the college level— really do understand.
When I’m coaching at Merrimack, I see kids who are just unbelievable lacrosse players. But when we start talking about the why’s and when’s of what they should be doing and how they should be doing it— they have no idea. A lot of them are just beating someone by being more athletic or more skilled. They’re not necessarily using an intelligence of the game—or Lax IQ—to beat their opponent.
Let’s break out exactly what Lax IQ means. In a nutshell, there are 3 components:
- The understanding of strategy
- The ability to observe and assess a situation
- The experience to know what action to take when
These three components will determine the difference between a good lacrosse player and a great lacrosse player. While a good lacrosse player is athletic and has good stick skills, a great lacrosse player is athletic, has good stick skills and knows when and how to use them. The “when and how” is the Lax IQ.
For example, offensively a good player can split-dodge down the alley, run faster than their opponent, take a nice outside shot from 12 yards and score. Someone with a great IQ might have a great split-dodge down the alley, run faster than their opponent, and notice that the one slide slid, the two slide slid, and the three slide is out of position. The pass goes to the player who’s being covered poorly by the three slide who’s two yards from the cage. Now, the goalie has to change pipes from his left pipe to his right pipe. So, now he’s moving and he’s got to take the two yard shot vs staying planted on that left pipe, being able to read the stick the whole way down the alley and save a 12 yard shot.
To develop Lacrosse IQ on your own, start by watching films of games to look for what you missed when you were playing. It’s a great way to learn about the sport, because a lot becomes glaringly obvious on playback. Then there are things you’ll need a coach to point out, but watching film is a good place to start.
Also watch college lacrosse in person or on TV. Compare what they’re doing to what your team is doing, and compare what your favorite player is doing to what you’re doing. That’s a pretty easy way to develop Lacrosse IQ.
The biggest thing is to start looking at the sport from more of a bird’s-eye view, and not just from when the ball is in your stick or when your guy is dodging on you. Look at lacrosse as the ultimate team sport. Offensively, defensively. Even a goalie, when he’s not stopping the ball, his biggest job is to control his defense so that he sees the shots he wants to see. He could be the best goalie in the world but if he’s not controlling his defense to play proper team defense, he’s going to be getting a lot of shots from the crease, which are harder to see than from 12-15 yards out. A good goalie who has Lax IQ will captain his defense to control the shots that he sees. And that’s just one example.
So, again, once you’re able to start looking at the sport from that bird’s-eye view, you’ll start to see more options, which means you’ll develop more weapons, which will make you a better lacrosse player.
Lax IQ is super important, so put in the time to start developing it.