It’s that time of year again. School is back in session, the summer is coming to a close, and Fall Ball is right around the corner. For a lot of people, new and experienced to lacrosse, there are a good amount of questions about what to expect from a Fall Ball season, and how to get the most out of it. This season will mark my twelfth fall lacrosse season. I have seen the best and worst aspects of the fall season. It is my goal that the 2012 AYL Fall Ball season exceed the best that can happen in a season and minimize or eliminate the worst that can happen. To reach that goal, it is imperative that all parents, players, coaches, and officials share the same expectations for Fall Ball, and understand what Fall Ball is, but also, what Fall Ball is not.
What Fall Ball Is:
The fall lacrosse season should accomplish two things. One, foster a love of the game through fair play and sportsmanship. Two, learn new skills and improve existing ones. Every player, parent, coach, and official should sear those two things into their brain until they are unforgettable. Fall Ball is primarily a time to have fun, learn something, and, dare I say it, goof off. Win or lose, everyone participating in a game should enjoy the game. Too often we get wrapped up in the competitive nature of lacrosse. We focus on the importance of winning a game that has little to no bearing on anything, and lose sight of the bigger picture. That big picture is simple. Just ask yourself, “Have I, through my actions, improved this game?”
What Fall Ball is not:
The fall lacrosse season cannot be about who is king of the mountain. If your sole goal in Fall Ball is to win the end-of-season championship game, I have a little secret for you. It does not matter. Fall lacrosse is not designed to crown a champion. It is meant to grow the game and the skills of those involved. Fall Ball is not the time for players to do what they have always done to earn success, and it is definitely not a time to degrade the spirit of the game because it’s just the off-season. Remember that fall lacrosse is not the regular lacrosse season. There are no stakes that anyone is playing for.
The boiled-down point of fall lacrosse is to something new that will translate to success in the regular season. That’s it. A player can spend all fall practicing his roll dodge in every game. That player gets better at the roll dodge and can then apply his newly learned dodge during a game that has an impact during the regular season. The players that approach fall ball with the goal of improving will earn playing time in the spring. Those that want to dominate with their right hand all season long, and neglect their left hand, will find themselves riding the bench during the regular season in favor of the kid who decided he was going to play the entire fall season with his off hand.
So what are the expectations that every player, parent, coach, and official should have about Fall Ball? There is only one. The expectation is that the players, parents, coaches, and officials get better. How then do each of these groups get better? Let’s dig into that.
Getting Better As A Player:
- Work your off hand. Work your off hand. Work your off hand. I would continue typing that phrase to infinity because the point cannot be emphasized enough. Work your off hand.
- Work on skills that you are uncomfortable or unconfident with. The more comfortable you get at executing a properly timed roll dodge, the more confident you will get as you practice and apply it.
- Work on being louder. Lacrosse does not reward the timid. Be loud on the field until it becomes a habit.
- Work. This is the critical time for you to develop into a better lacrosse player. By the regular season you are too late. Use your time during the off season to work to get better.
Getting Better As A Parent:
- Hold up there. What could I get better at? All I’m doing is watching. These thoughts may be running through your mind if you are a parent of a lacrosse player. There is so much you can do as a parent to be a better fan and good steward of the game.
- Be a positive cheerer. Refer to this post: http://ayllax.com/language. Fans exist outside of the game, but they impact the flow and atmosphere of the game nonetheless. I hate having to stop a game to chastise a fan, but I will do it to preserve the integrity of the game. Work during the offseason on being a positive, upbeat cheerer. That way it will be habit during the regular season.
- Wait to critique or give advice. Win or lose, your child is dealing with complex emotions and thoughts after a game. The drive home is not the time to dig into your child’s game because the game is over. Wait until dinner. When the emotions from the game have dissipated, and you and your player can approach how the game went as rationally as possible.
Getting Better As A Coach:
- Chill out. You are not coaching in an NCAA final. You aren’t even coaching in a state playoff game. Win, lose or draw no Fall Ball game has any impact on regular season standings. So try to keep the game in perspective.
- Develop and refine your coaching philosophy, then stick to it. Coach Shaun Lux has a simple coaching philosophy, “Honor the Game.” If his actions honor the game, then he knows he is doing a good job. If his actions run contrary to that philosophy, he knows it is time to change something. Fall Ball is the time to change so that you are primed for the regular season.
- Make improvement in your players, not winning the game, your sole mission in life. If your team loses a Fall Ball game because you made every player play with his off hand. Congratulations, your chances at winning a game during the regular season just went up.
Getting Better As An Official:
- An official cannot practice to get better the way a player does. The only way officials get better is game experience, and Fall Ball provides a multitude of games to work. Back-to-back-to-back games provide a way for an official to practice one thing throughout the day to get better at. Whether that thing is signaling penalties, being in proper position, or throwing the flag higher.
- Cultivate a calm demeanor. I believe that officials get calmer with more game experience simply because they see more situations. Therefore, when they come across a situation in a regular season that they saw during Fall Ball, they can respond to the situation calmly and confidently.
- Do not goof off. The responsibilities of a lacrosse official are: safety, safety, safety, fairness. In that order. While Fall Ball may not be the regular season, the players are still equipped and playing hard. You do not get to take a play off to wonder about what you’re going to eat for dinner. Take the fall season as an opportunity to increase your level of focus on the field. You will find that your focus during a regulation game in the spring improves considerably.
So what have we learned? Fall Ball is a time for improvement for everyone involved in the game. It is a place where everyone should feel comfortable trying something new to make them a better player, parent, coach, or official. Don’t lose sight of the big picture in favor of focusing on a win in Fall Ball.
FYI, I have settled into my class schedule and will be doing one post a week on Mondays. Any suggestions for post topics can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.