No Mercy!

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no-mercy

I’m reffing yet another game at yet another summer tournament. One U11 team is clearly superior to their opponent and the score quickly becomes one-sided. Yet the entire coaching staff of the leading team, led on by their head coach, repeatedly yells out “No Mercy!” after every goal they score. In what would eventually be a 15-2 beating these outbursts got old really quick. From what I could tell this behavior started with the head coach. He was the first to start yelling out “No Mercy!” and was quickly followed by his assistant coaches, who were then followed by the players on the bench. Everyone on the dominating team was thoroughly enjoying their epic victory.

Maybe my years as an official help me maintain a level of cool when I’m on the sidelines coaching, but that isn’t the core reason. If I behaved like a child during a youth game my dad would pull me out of the game and park my behind on the bench. He was acting like an adult while the coaches in my summer tournament game were acting like children. Winning wasn’t enough for these thirty to forty-five year old men. They needed to humiliate their opponent while on the road to victory.

After hearing all I cared to hear during the first half I told the head coach at halftime that the next time I heard “No Mercy!” I would issue a conduct foul on his team. He seemed perplexed when I gave him my ultimatum, but I was even more perplexed. I was struggling to understand why I, a twenty-five year old, had to explain to a forty-five year old that screaming “No Mercy!” when their team is up by ten goals is distasteful in a game with eight, nine and ten year olds.

It has been my experience that kids naturally gloat over one another. Most of the time it is good-natured ribbing, but sometimes an adult needs to step in and explain to the kids involved that there is a line that should not be crossed when you are the better player or on the better team. Kids need to learn that how you win is far more important that just winning. Mariano Rivera is finishing his last season with the Yankees. He has been a dominate closer for his entire career, and he wins with class. A-Rod, on the other hand, is a very accomplished baseball player but is now forever tarnished by PED usage. Both are winners, but Mo is the one who will be remembered fondly.

I can’t stand adult coaches acting like children in youth games. I am constantly amazed that the parents of these players even stick with the program when this behavior is evident, but their team is winning so what is the harm really? The harm is that when these kids get to high school I repeatedly send them to the box for unsportsmanlike behavior. They never learned to win with class as youngsters and they bring an overinflated view of themselves into high school ball.

If you’re unfamiliar with the featured image above go watch the original Karate Kid. You can yell “No Mercy” all you want, but eventually someone is going to out work you while you were spending all your time coming up with new insults.

Bow To Your Sensei!
Gordon

Read More – It Helps Your Game

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Reading

I always feel like a little kid every time I walk into a book store. I’m nearly giddy with anticipation and wondering what book I’ll get that day. What gets me the most though is the smell. That awesome new book smell that permeates the store. Once I smell that I’m back to being ten years old.

When I was a young boy I was obsessed with a book series by K.A. Applegate called “Animorphs.” In this series a bunch of teenage kids defend the world against an alien invasion by morphing into any animal they touch. That is tailor-made plot for a young kid, plus they can morph into animals! In the regular series there were fifty-four books and a new one was released every month or two. I spent about five years reading and rereading all of these books as they came out. I was fully immersed in the Animorphs world and I loved every story.

Then a few years ago while working lacrosse camps at the Ron Clark Academy I noticed they were building a new library for their students and were accepting book donations. I gathered all of my Animorph books out of storage, organized them on my bedroom floor and spent a weekend rereading every book. It was my goodbye to a book series that created a hunger in me to read as much as I could whenever I could. Once I was done I packed all the books up and dropped them off at the Ron Clark Academy where I hope they will bring a passion for reading to more kids.

Since my Animorph days I spend a good bit of my money on books. I’ve mentioned my Ender’s Game and Dune obsession, but I’m not always on a science-fiction kick. Some weeks I’m reading biographies. Others I’m reading histories on war. Sometimes I read books that I would never typically read like Tina Fey’s Bossypants. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t read part of some book.

I’ve outlined my reading history because my interactions with young players the past few years has indicated to me that most kids don’t read much at all, and that makes me sad. I’ve met a few players that are bigger readers than me, but the vast majority view reading as a tedious chore. This doesn’t surprise me much. After all young kids these days can access pretty much any snippet of information at once just by using their phone. Actually sitting down and reading a three-hundred page book is a daunting task when most of what you read anyway is in small bite-sized pieces. The thing is I can’t blame technology for this reading dilemma. I use the same tech but I still find time to read a few chapters of a new book. My reading history allows me to see big picture ideas and see the theory that the book is working from. Many young players only see the trees at the expense of the forest while they read and while they play.

I never earned playing time by being the biggest, fastest or most skilled player. I earned my time by being one of the few players on the field that could see the entire game. My dad calls it field sense or lacrosse IQ, but whatever you call it I had it because I was such a voracious reader. I spent years reading and rereading stories with complicated plot lines and characters. Eventually I became skilled at figuring out where a book was going (although I could never predict the endings in any Agatha Christie book). This ability translated to the lacrosse field where I was able to know where the ball was going to be before it actually got there. It made me appear much faster than I was as I usually showed up at the right time, but I could predict the flow of the game because my mind got trained at conceptual thinking every time I read a book.

I can give pretty much any youth player one or two tasks and he will perform them well, but I rarely find a player who understands the importance of slowing down an offensive possession after playing three minutes of defense. You cannot understand a book or the game by reading the cliff notes. You have to study it intensely.

Featured Image Credit – www.arlkids.com

Cheers,
Gordon

– If you have a favorite book or books let me know what they are in the comments section!

Lightning Strikes

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lightning strikes

During the first day of games at the Vail LAREDO 3 I was working with another trainee and our crew chief, Tim Markham. Tim gave me one of the best pieces of officiating advice I had ever received when we were off the field during a lightning delay. As soon as we suspended the game Tim made a beeline for the nearest covered building. My partner and I waited under the tent for a few minutes to get our gear situated and then went over to where Tim was standing. Tim told us that if we, as the game officials, did not seek cover in a lighting delay we were not being good examples to the players, coaches or parents. He impressed upon me that it was my job to always put safety first and lead by example.

I was at a recent tournament that was suspended due to lightning. Everyone cleared the fields and sought whatever cover was available. As I made my way to where most of the officials were congregating I saw a bunch of youth players shooting on a goal. I walked over to them and told them that we were under a lightning delay and to get off the field. As I continued to make my way across the complex I saw more players and even some coaches running shooting drills or just passing the ball to each other in the middle of the fields. I once again marshaled everyone off the fields. I saw more players away from cover with their sticks in hand and I was tired of yelling so I went up to their coaches to have them get their players under safe cover. Here are the excuses I received:

  • “They’re just being kids” (which is why you need to be an adult)
  • “Their sticks are plastic” (the head of the stick is, but not the shaft)
  • “Their sticks are made of wood” (stop splitting hairs, it still makes them the tallest object on an open field)
  • “I didn’t see any lightning for a while” (because not seeing it means it isn’t in the area)
  • “They’re all thirteen, I can’t control them” (I’m sorry, but aren’t you their coach? You can control them during practices and games but not during a lightning storm?)

After all of these excuses I put on my most commanding voice and ordered every player and coach holding a stick off the fields. Since the people in charge of these teams were not going to put the safety of children first I decided to do it for them. I am more sad than anything else that coaches who repeatedly yell at me to keep the game safe would turn a blind eye to players holding metal sticks in an open space during a lightning storm.

Flash Facts About Lightning from NATGEO

US Lacrosse Policy Statement on Lightning

Featured Image Credit – www.fantasticviewpoint.com

Cheers,
Gordon