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

Keep Moving

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Keep Moving

I learned an important lesson about movement off the lacrosse field. I was sixteen and taking Muay Thai kickboxing lessons at a local martial arts academy. My instructor set up the class in a mob drill. The mob drill teaches students how to get away from more than one attacker.

When I first got into the mob drill I got pummeled. I thought defensively and stayed in one place. This allowed all of the attackers to mass around me, and while they were not punching with full power I realized that if they were I would be in a world of hurt. A few months later it was mob drill time, but before the drill my instructor pulled me aside and told me with very little explanation to go crazy. He wanted me to attack the attackers, find open space and then reengage.

So I was set in the middle of six of my fellow students and when my instructor said go I went a little overboard.

I yelled at the top of my lungs and rushed the person closest to me. I threw a few punches and ran to a corner of the gym. All of my attackers were a little stunned at my brash attack. They tentatively approached me so I yelled out again and ran to the perimeter of the group, punched my way around them and ran to the other side of the gym. This went on for about three minutes and while I took a few punches it was much fewer than when I just stood still.

I learned that when facing multiple attackers it pays to be on the move. Standing still is a death sentence.

I see way too many youth and high school players who stop moving when they shouldn’t. Players who pick up a ground ball and then stop. Players who run into a double team and try to split dodge back where they came only to run into the other defender. Players who can’t catch the ball cleanly because they will not move their feet away from their defender.

The lacrosse field is 110 yards long and 60 yards wide. There is open space available, but many players would rather run through the gauntlet of defenders than pass the ball around them.

I blame isolation dodges for this problem. Coaches, especially at the youth level, love giving their biggest or fastest kid the ball and having him run at the cage for a high-percentage shot. The problem is that many of these coaches do not coach isolation dodges correctly. They start them off of a dead-ball restart or have the iso player run way up to the midfield line. Both of those methods allow defenses to settle in.

The correct way to run an isolation dodge is to do it off of ball movement. When a ball is passed the defenders have to move to follow the ball. Isolation dodges are much more effective off a couple of passes especially when the iso player catches the ball on the run. Add in having the rest of the players clear out of the way, which drastically reduces the gauntlet of defenders that the iso player might run into.

Too many coaches at the youth level are content to let their best player handle the ball. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Get the ball to Timmy! To Timmy! Get it to Timmy!” It appears to be the coach’s only game plan. There are five other players on offense that need to be included if any team is going to be successful. If everyone is running around and cutting, even the least-skilled player is having a positive impact on your offense.

Featured Image Credit – www.onebigphoto.com

Cheers,
Gordon

Keep Calm

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Keep Calm

Chris Dymski at MindTheCrease.com wrote a good article entitled “3 Tips to Help Deal With Bad Refs.” I read the article from a referee’s perspective and I agree with almost all of his conclusions. His overall thesis is to stay calm throughout the game and deal with whatever gets thrown at you without losing your cool. Also he posted one of the most hilarious graphics I’ve ever come across about officiating in general:

refs-bad-calls

Now, I said I agreed with almost all of his conclusions. I disagree with his reasoning for his third tip: Bees With Honey. Chris writes that goalies should be nice to the game officials because at some point there will be a close play at the crease with a score. Chris believes that the official may think, “‘that goalie is a punk, I’m not helping him out. Goal stands.’” Conversely, if the official likes the goalie he will make the crease call and wave off the goal. When I played the game I thought that refs played favorites. When I became an official I realized that it is darn near impossible to do so.

Are there some refs out there that make decisions based on whether or not they like a particular player or team? I am sure there are, but the vast majority of officials in all sports just want the call to be right. For example I had an early-round playoff assignment this past season. I knew the coaches on both teams very well, which tends to happen in a sport that is a tight-knit as lacrosse. The game went into overtime and I threw a flag on a player who I had coached and reffed since he started playing in middle school. Fact is, I didn’t have a choice in the matter. He pushed his opponent into the penalty box from behind. The player was launched onto the ground, out of bounds, and lost the ball. I had three really good reasons to throw the flag so I threw it. It never occurred to me to not throw the flag because I liked this player. He fouled, end of story.

All that being said, there is a grain of truth in Chris’ third tip. I am always looking for allies on the field. Usually I am looking at the goalies or the captains to be those allies. The ones who are polite, respectful, and sportsmanlike will always get my ear if they need to tell me or ask me something. These are the players I use to communicate things to their amped up coach or a hotheaded teammate. I find it more than a little amusing that some eighteen year old can have more composure during a game than a forty-five year old.

So what have we learned? All of Chris’ tips have value, and while I may disagree with a part of his reasoning it never hurts to be nice to an official, but just because you may be a pain to deal with we are not going to intentionally make a call against your team.

Cheers,
Gordon