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When to Hand Your Kid the Long Stick

by John Gagliardi. “This is a debate that has caused youth programs across the country to enforce a rule that prohibits a player’s shaft size to be no longer than 40 inches until he plays in seventh grade. Although many people do not agree with this rule I think this rule will benefit young defenseman in the long run in many different ways that you will see years later.”

Many parents of young defenseman ask me the same question time after time, “My kid is in fifth grade and plays defense and he really wants a longer stick to play with. What is a good age to give him a longer shaft??” This is a debate that has caused youth programs across the country to enforce a rule that prohibits a player’s shaft size to be no longer than 40 inches until he plays in seventh grade. Although many people do not agree with this rule I think this rule will benefit young defenseman in the long run in many different ways that you will see years later.

The first day I was handed a stick with a long shaft on it was in ninth grade. Before that I had two great coaches in junior high school at Manhasset on Long Island that understood the big picture. Those two coaches’,Rob Reddington and Tom Wendoff still coach young players today.

They have helped groom many players that have gone on to become high school and college All-Americans. They preached to me that I have to master the 40-inch stick before I play with a longer shaft in my hands. So naturally I was a little upset when I played defense against opponents with my shorter shaft in junior high.

I did not have the advantage of reaching for opponents and chasing them with a longer shaft. But in the long run it taught me not to rely on my stick and it helped me to be in proper position with my feet. Using the short stick also gave me more time to work on one of my weaknesses, which was handling a stick and using my weak hand.

During these years I excelled in many areas including my catching, throwing, cradling and even shooting with my strong and weak hands. I became more confident in my stick handling and my the time I first touched a lonstick in practice in the summer going into my freshman year it was clear that I had much better stick skills, positioning, and confidence with a longstick than the kids who starting using a longer shaft years earlier. I felt like a Gladiator with my 6-foot stick in my hands, I felt like I owned the world!

I started playing with a 6-foot stick in ninth grade and it worked wonderfully for me. If you want to give your kid a longer shaft before ninth grade (seventh grade would be the earliest I recommend) there is one general rule to go by. The rule is that the stick should be no taller that the kid. Let your kid gradually work his way up with longer shafts until he gets to the High School level. And then give him the 6-foot stick and let him be the Gladiator!

It was now time to start working on my checks… Part 2 (Coming Soon)
John was a member of the 2001 MLL Champion Long Island Lizards, and an MLL All-Star. John is a two-time first team All-American defenseman from Johns Hopkins. He is also a member of the Philadelphia Wings (NLL), where he won a National Lacrosse League Championship in 2001 and was named an All-Star in 1999.

Gags typically covers the opposition’s best attackman. In the 2001 MLL playoffs, Gagliardi covered John Grant Jr. of Rochester in the semifinal game, and Mark Millon of Baltimore in the MLL Championship Game. The two were held to a combined one goal and two assists. John is considered one of the games best takeaway defenseman. He comes from a family of athletes, and enjoys traveling, coaching, and playing basketball and golf.

John on the MLL: “I love traveling to new places around the US and seeing lacrosse cages on fields and in backyards. The MLL is helping the growth of the sport by giving players a post college arena to showcase their abilities and something to reach for when your college playing days are over. I hope everyone in the lacrosse world starts embracing the MLL for future players and the future of the sport.”

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