By Dom Darcangelo

Being a great lacrosse player stems from mastering the face-off. This boils down to three key points: hand position, body position, and being aware of your surroundings. A-Game Sports lacrosse coach Dom Darcangelo weighs in on these points and provides practice suggestions for each.

Hand Position: One of the most important factors in getting set is keeping your hands light. A face-off pro keeps their hands light while pulling their center of gravity forward, ready to pounce as soon as the whistle is blown. While keeping it light, you also want to be powerful by driving your back hand forward as you roll your top hand through the plastic of the stick. Pushing your back hand forward will manipulate the plastic of the head to pinch and squeeze over the ball.

Practice: Over-and-Backs

Get in your stance over the ball and drive the head of your stick on the front and back side of the ball without touching the rubber. 15 seconds on, 15 seconds off. Repeat for 5 sets.

Body Position: Body positioning starts from the time you enter the face-off X. Setup is a matter of preference. I personally found that the one-knee-down position worked best for my game. I have also seen more upright stances and condensed positioning. Choose whatever stance makes you the lightest and fastest. Make sure your center of gravity is slightly forward and anticipating the whistle.

Practice: Drive your body and hands over the ball. Get down in your stance and drive you back hand over the ball. 10 Reps. Rest for 30 seconds. Repeat for 5 sets.

Awareness of Your Surroundings: Recently, picking your head up and looking around for an open target to roll the ball out towards has been marked as illegal. Face-off specialists are now working within their limits to more accurately locate their teammates while scraping on the ground. A strong key to success is determining prior positioning of your wingmen. Communicate about where you would like to place the ball when you make the win, prior to getting out on the field. Go in with a plan that can give your squad the best advantage.

Tip: Determine how long a wingman will take to enter the center of the field. Try to manipulate play until your support arrives, and attempt to get the ball to a similar location on every draw.

Above all else, always remember to work hard!

Make sure to check out our lacrosse Instagram page: @A_Game_Lax914

By Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD

Sugar is a baffling topic for many parents. You know that your young athletes need extra energy for their sport, but you may not know where sugar hides in food and how much sugar is too much. The A-Game Sports Nutritionist is here to unravel the sugar mystery so you can have healthy, happy athletes.

There are two different types of sugar: “natural sugar” and “added sugar”. Natural sugar is naturally found in foods like fruits, vegetables, dairy and grains. Added sugar refers to sugar that is added to food for taste. Unfortunately, the food label does not specify if a sugar is natural or added, so one has to be a bit of a sugar detective. To find added sugar, inspect the ingredient list. Look for sugar’s aliases, such as high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, honey, raw sugar, malt syrup, rice syrup, molasses, fruit juice concentrate, brown sugar, evaporated cane juice, agave nectar, cane sugar, crystalline fructose, beet sugar, coconut sugar and caramel. If you see these ingredients, you know that sugar has been added to the food.

As you might expect, added sugar is found in many processed foods, like cookies, candy, ice cream and sodas. It’s also in many packaged foods that kids like to eat before a practice or game. Whereas natural sugar foods provide long lasting energy during exercise, these processed foods provide short bursts of energy followed by a crash. For example, eating sugary foods before a basketball game will cause an inevitable energy crash in the 2nd or 3rd quarter. And, any A-Game Sports coach will tell you that basketball games are won by the team whose players still have their legs in the 4th quarter. That’s why it’s extremely important to recognize foods with added sugar and make healthier natural sugar swaps.

Where does sugar hide?

Cereals: Have you ever looked at the nutrition label of Raisin Bran? A 1-cup serving contains 18 grams or 4.5 teaspoons of sugar, and most kids probably eat double that before a big game! Cereal is a huge staple among kids, and, there are much less sugary but tasty brands. Barbara’s Puffins has only 5 grams of sugar (or 1 teaspoon) in ¾ cup. Kix or Cheerios are even better options with only 1 gram of sugar in ¾ cup.

Granola and granola bars: Most parents think that granola bars are healthy snacks for their kids, but they often contain tons of honey and syrup. Nature Valley Granola bars have 11 grams or 3 teaspoons of added sugar per pack. As a healthier alternative, make your own trail mix by mixing together a ¼ cup of low-salt nuts, raisins, and ¼ cup of pretzels. This will satisfy your child’s pre-game hunger without weighing them down.

Fruit snacks: Although they are called “fruit” snacks, these gummies have almost no trace of fruit in them. A tiny bag of Welch’s fruit snacks contains 11 grams or 3 teaspoons of sugar. The healthier alternative is (obviously) fresh fruit. Apples and oranges are great fruits to send with your kids to school or summer camp. They are high in nutrients and they also have a high water content, which is great for hydration!

Yogurt: Yogurt is a great source of pre-workout fuel because it contains both healthy carbs (in lactose) and protein. However, “fruited” yogurt is packed with added sugar. A 5- ounce container of fruited yogurt contains ~14 grams or 3.5 teaspoons of added sugar. A better alternative is plain Greek yogurt with chopped bananas and raisins.

Soda/Fruit juice: It’s no secret that soda is packed with sugar, but did you know that fruit juice is very similar? A small Capri Sun has 20 grams or 5 teaspoons of added sugar! Fill your child’s water bottle with water! Not only will it cut out unnecessary sugar, but it will keep them hydrated throughout the day.

You may be thinking, “Doesn’t my kid need extra calories because of all the running around?” Yes, they do, but they don’t need extra sugar. Providing extra calories from foods that contain natural sugar also provides many other beneficial nutrients to the diet, such as fiber, protein, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, calcium, Vitamin A, potassium, and iron. These nutrients are extremely important for your child’s growth and development and will only enhance their endurance and stamina in their sport. In contrast, eating a diet high in added sugar has been linked to frequent cavities, overweight and obesity and the development of serious diseases, such as Diabetes. When choosing a food with sugar, ask yourself if it came from mother nature. If the answer is yes, you can bet it’s the right choice!

Meet the A-Game Nutritionist! Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian, specializing in sports nutrition and adolescent nutrition education. She’s excited to spread the message of healthy eating and “food as fuel” at A-Game Sports. To find out more about our Nutritionist or to schedule an appointment for you or your child, visit our nutrition counseling page.