The Lacrosse Athlete Development Model

The Lacrosse Athlete Development Model

 “It is our hope that parents and coaches can use this information as a guide and standard when making decisions about how best to encourage a young athlete’s participation and development in lacrosse.  In changing times, we want to ensure that future generations will enjoy the game as much as we all have in our lifetime.” 

-Dom Starsia, 4x NCAA championship coach, National Hall of Fame member


The current youth lacrosse development model rushes to identify the best players at early ages, and leaves potential players behind with limited opportunity to play. The LADM aim is to keep more players engaged with the sport longer, allowing the best players to emerge as they reach physical maturity. The Athletic Development Model  was developed by US Lacrosse so that the Right Lacrosse at the Right Time.


Pyramid Model

Stages of Development in LADM

Stage 1

Discovery (Birth to 6 years old): Gives the youngest players the opportunity to develop basic movement skills like running, jumping, landing, kicking, scooping, throwing and catching in a fun setting, built around informal play and positive reinforcement. Kids play and explore movement through many physical activities.

Stage 2

Fundamentals (6 to 9 years old): Allows children to develop their movement ABCs — agility, balance, coordination, and speed — and learn the basics of the game while emphasizing fun, cooperation, and maximum touches with the ball. Kids sample lots of different physical activities and sports.

Stage 3

Foundations (8 to 12 years old): This is the “golden age” of learning and sport skill development. Children become less self-centered and are able to reflect on their actions and learn from their mistakes. This is the optimal time to learn and build a large repertoire of lacrosse-specific skills and learn the basic principles of play in a fun, challenging environment. Players sample many physical activities and sports in addition to lacrosse.

Stage 4

Emerging Competition (11 to 14 years old): This is the stage in which we make or break the athlete; when children choose to continue participation in the sport. This is the time for developing strong technical skills and is the dawning of tactical awareness. Players are also introduced to concepts like mental preparation, goal setting, and coping with winning and losing. Players learn advanced technical skills and position-specific techniques. The major focus is on applying skills, strategies and tactics from practice to competitive situations. Athletes participate in several sports throughout the year or in a variety of physical activities.

Stage 5

Competitive (15 to 18 years hold): Players are now fine tuning their lacrosse skills under a variety of competitive conditions in a game format that mirrors adult play. Along with continued refinement of advanced techniques, players work to develop their tactical awareness, discipline and mental toughness. They are honing their performance in competition during this stage. Athletes may start to focus on one or two key sports or continue with a variety of physical activities.

Stage 6

High Performance (19+): In this stage athletes are ready to maximize fitness preparation and sport/position-specific skills for performance on demand. The focus of practice and training is fully on optimal performance. Training programs are intense but periodized to prevent injury and burn out. Athletes are mainly focused on one sport for high performance.
Participate and Succeed (19+): Athletes who pursue a less intense path than high performance but have the ability, confidence and desire are able to compete at a level appealing to them. Athletes can focus on performance excellence, fitness preparation, and can maximize sport and position specific skill performance for the level of competition. Athletes may choose lacrosse as the primary sport or may still engage in other competitive endeavors.

All Stages

Lifetime Engagement (15 – 99+): Making the transition from physically literate and confident lacrosse athlete to lifelong participant in sport whether it be competitive for life, fit for life, or also engaging as a coach, official, program leader or supporter of the sport. This occurs from the athlete having a positive lacrosse experience in the other stages of development.