Teaching Lacrosse in Physical Education Using the New USA Lacrosse Curriculum

The “fastest game on two feet” … baggataway … the creator’s game. No matter how you refer to it, lacrosse is a great game to teach your students in physical education class!

SHAPE America and USA Lacrosse recently collaborated on an updated, comprehensive physical education lacrosse curriculum. This “Lacrosse in Schools” curriculum will serve as a great resource for K-12 health and physical education teachers, whether you are:

  • Brand new to the game and looking to add a new activity to your PE class;
  • Someone who already teaches lacrosse but is looking for fresh ideas; or
  • A teacher looking for a great way to bring the cultural significance of sport to the forefront.

Using the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework while teaching lacrosse in PE will allow you to provide multiple options within the learning environment, thus creating equity and accessibility for ALL students.

Read on for an overview of what you can expect to see in the updated USA Lacrosse curriculum, as well as tips for modifying the rules, equipment, environment, and learning strategies as needed in your PE classes.

What’s New in the USA Lacrosse PE Curriculum

There are three main differences between the updated curriculum and the previous one:

  1. The lacrosse curriculum has been expanded to provide resources for teachers at a greater number of grade levels. The previous curriculum spanned grades 4 through 12, while the new curriculum starts with kindergarten and is broken up into four grade bands: K-2, 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12. This expansion helps introduce the sport at younger ages (which mirrors the growth of the sport across the country) and helps reinforce many of the transferable skills that students are learning at those grade levels — but in a new way, with a new activity.
  2. The updated curriculum aligns with SHAPE America’s National Standards and Grade-Level Outcomes for K-12 Physical Education, while the previous curriculum was aligned with the outdated NASPE standards. As you navigate the new curriculum you will find specific grade-level outcomes (GLOs) that can serve as the focus of your instruction. In addition, you will see various assessments that align with those outcomes.
  3. This curriculum places a strong focus on two very important aspects to teaching physical education: culture and social and emotional learning. Lacrosse is the cultural game to the Indigenous peoples of America. To Native Americans, lacrosse is more than a game and is held in high regard. The unique history of lacrosse provides tremendous opportunities to discuss culture and promote social and emotional learning.

Addressing SEL in a Culturally Responsive Classroom

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines social and emotional learning (SEL) as “the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.” 

Too often, one of the things that places barriers in front of authentic experiences while addressing the five CASEL competencies (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making) or SEL more generally is through the omission of culture.

Creating a culturally responsive classroom helps to bring students to the forefront by prioritizing what makes them who they are: their experiences, their customs, and their identity. Although this approach is intentionally written into lesson plans, the organic nature of watching it play out over time — after it becomes a part of your class culture — is a true joy to watch.

In the “Lacrosse in Schools” curriculum, you will find the sport of lacrosse being utilized as a vehicle to help create a more culturally responsive and inclusive class.

Using the Lacrosse Lesson Plans

First, look at the lesson plans as organized, outlined opportunities. I know that when I consume something that connects with, or has the potential to connect with my teaching, I approach it as an opportunity to make what I do better. Maybe that means I use a particular resource exactly as it is, maybe I modify it to fit my needs or my goals, or maybe I take one piece of it and implement it into what I am already doing. Whatever it ends up being, I approach it as an opportunity.

With the Lacrosse in Schools document, you can do the same. You can use it exactly as it is and find success that way, or you can use it as a resource to blend with what you are already doing and find success that way. Whichever you choose, keep the spirit of the document in mind. Aside from the game, the essence of the sport of lacrosse is not only unique, but an amazing way to generate conversations with your students that can touch every one of SHAPE America’s National Standards.

As you look at the lesson plans you will see a variety of boxes at the top ranging from lesson name to equipment needed. However, there are two very important boxes to pay attention to. First is the box titled, “National Standards.” That is where you will find the specific grade-level outcomes that you can teach with the lesson. That box is split into two categories: “priority standards” and “other standards.” The priority standards are simply the grade-level outcomes that are being addressed in the lesson. The other standards are outcomes you could address using similar activities.

Next to the standards box is the “Lesson Objective” box. This box has anywhere from one to three objectives for the lesson. You may use one or all of the objectives written or write your own. The most important part is making sure what you write is assessed during the lesson.

As you progress through the rest of the lesson you will see columns for Time, Organization, and Activity Progression, as well as a column titled, “Options.” This is where you will find ideas to check in on your students, not only making sure they understand what is intended, but also helping you to provide feedback and support. In addition, you will find suggestions for modifications that can be made to the activity based on your student population and individual needs.

Lacrosse Curriculum for Each Grade Band

Use the table below for a quick overview of the four grade bands.

Skill FocusStick introduction Cradling Scooping Throwing  Throwing/
shooting on the run Catching on the run Basic offensive
and defensive strategies
Dodging On ball defense Stick protection Give and go and backdoorThe draw Team preparation Game analysis    
Cultural FocusStudents will learn about the origins of the game and will learn certain customs of Indigenous groups.Students will talk about the spirituality of lacrosse and share what games are significant to their culture during closures to various lessons.Students will learn how lacrosse is referred to as the medicine game and learn about how physical activity and sport can support the mental and emotional health of all people.Historians of each team will research and share with the class the growth of lacrosse, starting with Indigenous groups.
SEL FocusStudents will learn how physical activity can play its part in making us “feel good.”Students will learn how to work cooperatively with others, but more importantly encourage their peers as they learn skills that are very unique as compared to other sports and skills.Students will learn how to limit and resolve conflict while playing the game.Students will learn about the man with the red bandana and engage in conversations rooted in compassion, empathy, respect, and leadership.

Using UDL While Teaching Lacrosse

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an educational framework-based approach to learning that focuses on eliminating instructional and environmental barriers for ALL students. UDL and SEL complement and overlap one another in physical education. The combination of these two educational frameworks help to engage learners with a focus on the development of the whole child.

Both SEL and UDL promote self-reflection and self-awareness to help students focus on developing coping skills, self-regulation, and relational competence. This empowers ALL students in physical education to make decisions that best meet their social, emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and physical needs. Evidence-based research shows that when learners become self-aware, they are more capable of identifying and regulating their emotions. This creates an ability to work well independently, as well as with peers.

UDL creates equity of access and increases the learning potential for ALL students. Teachers should always remember that “equity” does not mean “equality.” Equity is all about creating fairness among all who are involved.

The chart below can be used to create equity while teaching lacrosse in PE. It includes UDL options to address the rules, equipment, environment, and learning/instructional strategies.

An easy way for teachers to remember these UDL options is to focus on the acronym R.E.E.L. (Rules, Equipment, Environment, and Learning Strategies). When used in a proactive approach to creating equity, these UDL options can help teachers enhance the learning experience of ALL students.

Incorporate Lacrosse in Your PE Classes

If you have been considering trying lacrosse, or even if you haven’t, now is the perfect time to “give it a shot.” The game is growing all over the country at the youth, high school, collegiate, and professional levels — and now is a great time to make it part of the physical education curriculum in your school district.

Additional Resources

Charlie Rizzuto

Charlie Rizzuto is the 2022 SHAPE America National High School Physical Education Teacher of the Year. For 13 years, Charlie was a health and physical education teacher at Oyster Bay High School in New York. Currently, he serves as an assistant principal at Islip High School and an adjunct professor at both Adelphi University and Cambridge College. Charlie has been playing and/or coaching lacrosse for 35 years.

Tracy Sharlow

Tracy Sharlow is the 2016 SHAPE America National Adapted Physical Education Teacher of the Year. She played a lead role in the development of the Potsdam Girls Club as well as the varsity girls lacrosse program. Tracy intentionally focuses on UDL options to increase the equity of access to learning for ALL students.