Why I Don’t Play Anymore

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Whenever I ref a men’s club game or tournament, like I did this weekend, I invariably run into a former teammate or opponent from my playing days. After the usual pleasantries are exchanged I get asked the same question: “Why aren’t you playing today Corsetti?”

The short and funny answer is: “I’m not getting paid $50 bucks to play the game, but I do get paid that to ref it.”

The more complicated answer is: “I don’t want to play anymore.”

I rarely give out that second answer because I get a lot of perplexed looks from youth, high school, college, and men’s club players. None of them understand why I wouldn’t want to get out and mix it up with some buddies on a lacrosse field. I don’t think they believe me when I explain that if I never picked up a lacrosse stick again for the rest of my life that I would still die happy.

You see, I love lacrosse, but I never really liked playing. And that is a huge distinction to make.

Since I started playing in fifth grade at Atlanta Youth Lacrosse at Murphy Candler Park until I stopped in my final club game around 2011, I had trouble enjoying lacrosse while I played it. I had a blast with my teammates, and I rejoiced when we won games, but there was a darker side that I never liked.

Since I began playing as a child I never fully enjoyed a game because I was so self-critical. Every mistake I made was magnified in my mind as being the worst mistake ever made on a lacrosse field. I had fun, sure, but I was also plagued by self-doubt and a ridiculously critical inner-voice. As I grew older and played in more competitive games that self-doubt turned into anger. Eventually the game wasn’t any fun no matter what the final score was.

I spent ten years playing lacrosse turning much of my anger towards myself, and at twenty-two years old I played a men’s club game out in north Georgia with some friends. The team played well, I played well, we won with a comfortable lead, and I was miserable driving home. I was miserable because I got stripped of the ball on a clear. I was pissed off at myself in a game that had zero meaning. So I made the decision then and there that I no longer wanted to play lacrosse.

I never liked playing lacrosse, but I loved the game then and I love it now. The only difference is I get to officiate, which allows me to cultivate a mental attitude that I am much happier with. For me, the best part about officiating is that I only have one metric that I judge myself on, which is:

  1. Did I give everything I had to the two teams playing?
    • As one high-level official I met said, “If the players are going to give 100%, I am going to give 100%.”

The second best part about officiating is that you never win and you never lose. You either did a good job or you didn’t. For some reason that tiny difference turns my competitively hot anger against myself into a cool anger. When I make a mistake that cool anger keeps me hyper focused on the game in front of me, and it drives me to make sure that I don’t commit any more mistakes for the rest of the game.

Officiating lets me be my self-critical self without being destructive. I tell people who ask me why I officiate the following:

When I ref a game I get to be the calm center of the swirling tornado around me. I step on and off the field with a calm and relaxed mindset. That makes me happy.

I’m still competing to be the best lacrosse official I can possibly be, but it took me over fifteen years to realize that while lacrosse is a competitive game, it is still just a game, and I’m not going to crucify myself mentally for not hitting my generally too-high standards.

I love lacrosse, and I like officiating. So that’s what I’m going to stick with until I can transfer my officiating mentality into my playing mentality.

Featured Image Credit – http://melaniexyz.deviantart.com/art/Hanging-up-the-Cleats-184435915

Cheers,
Gordon

Why Kids Should Take Care Of Fish

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I know what you’re thinking. How am I going to link caring for fish to lacrosse? Well, here I go:

I was in fifth grade when I started taking care of a few freshwater fish in a tiny ten gallon aquarium. My first fish was a little catfish that zoomed to the side of the tank and swam erratically against the glass when it saw it’s reflection. I named it Frisky.

As I got older I went to a twenty gallon, and finally a forty gallon aquarium through most of high school. I kept Frisky, the algae eater, Spot, and most all of my fish alive for a good six or seven years. I did this by reading up on how to keep a freshwater aquarium ecosystem running well. I changed the water regularly, kept the light on a timer, and did not overfeed the fish. At a young age I learned how to care for an entire group of small creatures that relied on me. I also learned that small mistakes repeated over time can drastically harm the tiny ecosystem.

The smaller the ecosystem the greater the impact of every change so it is important to make very small changes. This same principle applies to a youth lacrosse team of 18-22 players. If a coach wants to change many things at the same time the team’s players will not respond well. Say you want your players to throw better checks, break down better, have better footwork, and slide better. If you try to teach all of that at the same time you will fail. The team ecosystem will break down with the flood of too much new or different information. Instead, institute your changes gradually. One week just work on better footwork. The next, better checking. Over time your team will improve defensively because you broke down a big change – Better Defense – into a bunch of smaller, easily digestible, changes.

Another lesson I learned from fish is that you cannot introduce new fish into your tank by just pouring them in. When you get a fish from the store, the employee puts the fish into a small bag in the water it is used to swimming in. That water is different from your aquarium water in chemical levels and temperature. Imagine how you would react if a stranger picked you up from school, drove you a distance you couldn’t measure, and then left you at a new school in a different state. You might be a little shocked.

The correct way to bring in new fish is to float the bag in your water so the temperature equalizes. After fifteen minutes, pour a little bit of your water into the new fish bag so the shock is lessened. Then use a fish net to scoop up the little fish and gently deposit him in your aquarium. The fish will be less shocked, and you don’t have to worry about introducing a bag worth of store aquarium water into your aquarium.

Players must understand that they will not get better after one practice or one game. You can’t shock your system into learning anything. Just as coaches must be gradual in teaching new concepts, players must take a consistent approach to learning new skills. If you want to get better at winning face offs, you don’t try to master every face off move at the same time. Remember what Bruce Lee famously said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” Get really good at the basics, and then add to your skill set slowly and consistently. If you do that, the only person getting shocked by your skills will be your opponent.

The last reason I have for young players taking care of fish ties in with the main AYL message: Player Responsibility. We put a huge emphasis on players at every age level to be responsible for their gear and their practice off the field. Our staff does not like seeing players handing their gear to their mom or dad for the short walk to their car. It is your gear, you wear it, you carry it.

The trouble with responsibility is that kids have to be given something to be responsible for, and adults can never be sure how the kid will handle it until given the chance. That is why caring for one or more fish in a tiny aquarium is an awesome way to teach kids responsibility. You can get small aquariums for very cheap, and freshwater neons cost less than $2 per fish! If a fish dies the parent isn’t out a bunch of money, and neons are not tough to keep alive because they are hardy little guys.

The young player taking care of fish learns how to take care of creatures that are completely dependent on the young player for their survival. That is a huge lesson in responsibility for a kid, and if the kid fails early on you get a few more cheap fish and try again. Very little is at stake, but the kid learns how to be more responsible, and if they demonstrate the responsibility to take care of a few fish then they prove to the adults that they can take on more important tasks.

Alright! Fish to lacrosse link accomplished! I wonder what other obscure non-lacrosse related things I can link to lacrosse…

Cheers,
Gordon Corsetti

Busting Rule Myths

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My November post for LaxAllStars went up today! I decided to set the record straight on what I consider the Top 10 Rule Myths in NFHS and NCAA Boys Lacrosse. I will likely do some youth rules myth busting before the start of the spring season, but until then check out this excerpt from my LAS article:

You hear really strange rule interpretations when working as a traveling lacrosse official. I listen to the most incorrect explanations of what the current lacrosse rules are at every level I officiate and every region I do games in. In this post I cover what I consider the Top 10 Rule Myths in NFHS and NCAA Boys Lacrosse and I bust those myths using the 2013 rulebooks for each respective level.

Myth #10

Whichever player is closest to the end line or sideline when a shot goes out of bounds gets the ball.

NFHS Rule 4.6.3.c – “When a loose ball goes out of bounds as a result of a shot or deflected shot at the goal, it shall be awarded to the team that had an inbounds player’s body nearest to the ball when it became an out-of-bounds ball, at the point where it was declared out of bounds. […] In determining which player is nearest, the ball is considered out of bounds when it crosses the plane of the end line or sideline.”

NCAA Rule 4.6.b.3 – “When a loose ball goes out of bounds as a result of a shot or deflected shot at the goal, it shall be awarded to the team that had an inbounds player’s body nearest to the ball when it became an out-of-bounds ball, at the point where it was declared out of bounds.”

Busted! – For the purposes of the above rules, the stick is not considered part of the body. A team is awarded possession of the ball on a shot out of bounds when their inbounds player’s body is closest to the ball WHERE it went out WHEN it went out. If the ball goes out at X, and you are at one of the corner pylons, you do not get the ball just because you are closest to the end line.

Want to read the whole article? Head over to: http://laxallstars.com/busting-rule-myths-in-nfhs-and-ncaa-boys-lacrosse/

Featured Image Credit: http://laxallstars.com/busting-rule-myths-in-nfhs-and-ncaa-boys-lacrosse/

Cheers,
Gordon