Editor’s note: This story appears in the Summer issue of New England Lacrosse Journal.
No, it isn’t the name of the latest version in the series of the popular throwback computer game “Backyard Baseball.”
It’s how every lacrosse player is getting his or her fix this spring. To make the most of the time training at home, players should have the right equipment. CrankShooter is one place players can go to get all the essentials.
“The athlete that wants to continue training but doesn’t have access to fields or the school, we’ve made it so it’s affordable to have backyard lacrosse equipment,” said Dale Tweedy, the owner and founder of CrankShooter, “so they can set up their own lacrosse ecosystem in their backyard.”
Tweedy said he coined the “lacrosse ecosystem” term because his company sells the full complement of equipment needed to have a top-notch practice in the backyard. CrankShooter is known for its nets, which are built with durability in mind; in fact, when former MLL franchise Charlotte Hounds broke the Guinness World Record for longest lacrosse game ever played, they used CrankShooter nets that lasted the entirety of the 12-hour and eight-minute contest.
Additionally, the company sells everything from rebounders, shot trainers (a fabric that, when tied to the goal, covers the middle of the net and leaves holes in the corner, forcing the player to aim for the corners of the goal), and goals to sticks, pads and lacrosse balls.
“We can set up an entire ecosystem, so the player isn’t missing out on something,” said Tweedy. “For the player that has a stick, he can play wall ball against a house, but he’s missing the goal. We have all the items your team would practice on. We can offer all the options a player needs to fully train himself.”
CrankShooter was formed in 2010 by Tweedy and his two sons. He said they had just bought a new net for their lacrosse goal, and his older son (who played for the University of South Carolina’s MCLA Division 1 national championship team in 2019) put holes in the net during its first use; they used dental floss to tie it back up.
Tweedy said a couple days later his boys came to him asking about earning an allowance. He said he suggested doing something together that they all loved, and the conversation found its way to the ripped net. Tweedy said they acquired the supplies to make the products, the boys helped make the website and the initial logo (“Which looked something like The Incredible Hulk with a stick and helmet,” said Tweedy), and the company was off and running.
“I’m proud of everything we’ve done,” Tweedy said. “What makes me feel good is when I get the opportunity to talk to customers, and it’s a dad or mom training their kids in their own yard, and they’re coming back to buy something else. They tell me what a difference it was to have this to build their kids up. It makes me proud of the employees we have that have made it happen. I like seeing the success of the kids using our equipment.”
Among the products CrankShooter sells is netting for goals, rebounders and backstops.
Tweedy said the products are good training aids individually, but they really work in tandem to make for the most efficient training session.
“I just saw a post this morning,” he said recently. “They had the large lacrosse wall. It’s a seven-foot-tall lacrosse wall. The young man was 8-years-old. He threw the ball at the rebounder. He caught it and shot it. That simulates having a player with you. He had a shot trainer on the goal and, now, he has to shoot for accuracy. He’s all by himself playing. He has the backstop behind the goal so when he does miss, he doesn’t hit the neighbor’s house. It stops it, he gets it and he goes again.”
A backstop can be especially helpful when a player wants to head into the backyard and work on more advanced skills, like behind-the-back shots, but may not hit the mark routinely. This gives them the confidence to take part in some free play and not be afraid to fail when trying new techniques.
“You see some of the MLL players, PLL players, high school players do behind-the-back shots,” Tweedy said. “That’s something at the youth level we’re not encouraging because we’re trying to develop proper form, but in the backyard, you can try things like that all the time. It’s something they develop, and when they get to more advanced teams, if the only shot they might have is behind-the-back, they take it. I’ve seen many games won because of the types of shots the player probably tried on his own in the backyard and not in a practice environment.”
Without practices or games, coaches, like the ones with the New Hampshire Tomahawks, agree that sharing videos on social media showing drills players can do on their own, in their backyards, is important. Chris Cameron, the director of the Tomahawks, said the drills have been in high demand since spring seasons were cancelled and players and their families were forced into quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were a day late announcing programs five and six, and people were asking, ‘Where’s the program?’” he said. “People are excited. It’s tough when you lose a whole high school season. It’s a big year of development. We’re up against it as it is being in New Hampshire. We have to be at our best for our kids when we get back on the field.”
Much like Cameron said coaches have to be at their best, players should be prepared for when restrictions are lifted and practices and games can resume, making training at home a vital piece of the development puzzle.
The right equipment can make all the difference,
Whether it’s a newer player practicing the fundamentals or a more experienced player trying new tricks, training on your own is a vital part of getting better, during a quarantine or not.
And, just like the player is improving, Tweedy said CrankShooter is always working on improving as well.
“Our tagline is: ‘Tougher, better, stronger,’” he said. “We try to live by that. We try to enhance and improve our products, even when there’s nothing wrong with it. If we see a way to make a better product, we do that.”