Not many people can say they play on a team with a 24 – 0 record, but a fifth and sixth grade boys lacrosse team claimed that record this spring. The Jets U12 White Team was 9 – 0 in the regular season and won all their games in four tournaments. Coach Stephen Flannery says a number of factors came together that contributed to this impressive record.
The core group has played together for four or five years with the same coach and three-fourths of them started playing at age five or six. “Teams that are able to stick together that long for sure have a significant advantage,” says Flannery. “A lot of times when you see successful teams, one of the things they have in common is that the core group of kids have played together for quite some time.”
“A focus on fundamentals first and foremost is the key to success,” says Flannery, but he also believes his philosophy of “not overcoaching” has strengthened his team. “When it comes to the games, we want them to make their own decisions on the fly in the game. That’s how they learn the best. Prepare them the best you can and put them in situations where they need to make decisions on their own, whether those are good or bad, and learn from their mistakes. I think you’d find that our sideline is pretty quiet relative to a lot of lacrosse sidelines—and it seems to have worked well for our kids. I think they respond well to that style of coaching.”
Though kids on sports teams love the thrill of the game, not all young players love the drills and repetitions during practice. Flannery says that’s not an issue with his team. “I think they understand it doesn’t matter what level of lacrosse you play at, fundamental skills are so important they need to be practiced every day. Even high-level college and professional teams are working on fundamentals every day because they’re such an important facet of the game. They see it pay off in games and tournaments.”
Flannery, 37, grew up in Long Island, New York (a hotbed of lacrosse) and started playing when he was about five. He played through college, then took an 8- to 10-year break from the sport. Now he coaches, plays in two men’s leagues and is director of operations for Jets Lacrosse. His job setting up retirement plans for companies allows him to work from home and have a flexible schedule to accommodate all the lacrosse in his life.
Most players in the Jets boys lacrosse organization live in Stapleton and Park Hill, though boys from grades one to eight at any skill level and from any neighborhood can join the club. Flannery says it’s never too late to start, adding, “Some of the best high school players I know didn’t pick up a stick until a year or two into high school.”
The Jets have a sister club called the Electras that offers teams and programs at all skill levels for kindergarten to 8th grade girls from any neighborhood. For more information about these teams visit www.electraslacrosse.com or www.jetslacrosse.com.