Game Ready: Advice that Sticks
This article appears in the September/October edition of USA Lacrosse Magazine. Join our momentum.
Chris Bocklet was one of the game’s most feared finishers during his playing days, which included an All-American career at Virginia, a Major League Lacrosse title with the Denver Outlaws and a Premier Lacrosse League stint with the Chrome.
These days, Bocklet, who has recovered from the traumatic brain injury he sustained in a longboarding accident two years ago, is the director of youth training for Riptide Youth Lacrosse. He also runs X10 Lacrosse with his siblings Mike, Matt and Casey.
Bocklet still draws upon lessons he learned from coaches as far back as third grade. Here’s who — and what — Bocklet listened to.
KISS THE SHOULDER
Your upper-body positioning can make or break a shot — something Bocklet had to learn before he even saw the field at Virginia.
“Pull your hands back behind you with your chin on your shoulder,” Bocklet said, adding this technique is what Cavaliers All-American midfielder Brian Carroll called “kiss your shoulder.”
It’s similar to a baseball pitcher’s upper-body mechanic and helps you rotate your torso, hips and shoulder to generate power.
“It also naturally hides your stick from the goalie during your release,” Bocklet said. “Goalies are trained to follow the head of your stick, but it becomes challenging for them when they can’t see it.”
One more tip: “Make sure your stick is held high above your head when shooting,” Bocklet said. “If you turn your head and can’t see your stick, it means it’s positioned too far behind you.”
PAINT THE SIDE PIPE
Too often, Bocklet sees young players aiming for corners — there’s a style to it. “If you aim high, it’s really easy to miss by an inch and miss the cage,” he said.
When players hit the post at Virginia, Hall of Fame coach Dom Starsia used to say, “Might as well be a mile wide.” Use the side pipes as guidelines for where your stick should follow when aiming.
“Bring your stick over the top and imagine it as a paintbrush,” Bocklet said. “The most challenging spot for a goalie to make a save is off their off-side hip, so aim there.”
Vary the planes of the shot to keep the goalie on his toes.
“If you catch the ball high, shoot low, and vice versa,” Bocklet said. “When you catch it low, that’s the time to bring it high, which every player wants to do.”
FINISH YOUR SHOT
Longtime Virginia assistant and current Loyola offensive coordinator Marc Van Arsdale said the best shooters brought their outside leg through when shooting. “When you bring your outside leg through during your rotation, it propels your momentum towards the goal,” Bocklet said.
Your leg, hips and stick all should come through at once and rotate the full 180 degrees.
“Avoid fading away on your shot and always take the extra step toward glory,” Bocklet said.
PLAY THE MENTAL GAME
Before games, Bocklet would take a shot and score — in his head. Then, he’d practice what he’d say next.
“Whenever you score one goal, you usually score another because you have confidence, are feeling good and it’s your day,” Bocklet said.
But he’d also prepare for the opposite by pretending to miss and telling himself that “shooters keep shooting.”
These tips came from his third-grade basketball coach, former Syracuse player Bill Drew.
“Everyone is going to make mistakes,” Bocklet said. “How are you going to react? You want to give yourself a positive affirmation.”
Bocklet also cited his John Jay (N.Y.) High School football coach, Jimmy Clark, who would have the team lie down in the gym and dim the lights to unwind.
Said Bocklet: “I was really calm, cool and collected after that.”