I believe that if you take a few team Principles and leverage them around a program of creating responsibility, self-motivation, attitude and respect within each player, you will have a formula for individual and team growth and accomplishment.
Principle 1: Have Fun
Every moment both practices and games should be fun. Eliminate as much down time in practice as possible, keep your drills as up tempo drills (no drill should last more then 8-12 minutes) (some drills can be as little as 3-5 minutes). Don’t over coach. Demonstrate the skill then get out of the way.
Principle 2: Have a Plan
Practice plans can be the coaches best friend. Don’t have a practice if you don’t have a plan. You can always improvise i.e. your plan is modeled for 22 players and only 8 players can make practice. I cannot emphasize how important a practice plan is for your teams success.
Principle 3: Everyone should play (Youth Lacrosse)
Youth sports should be a positive fun experience. The statistics are staggering. Almost 75% of all youth sports participants stop playing at the age of 13. Most of this can be attributed to, warming the bench without equal playing time, practices that are disorganized or boring, no improvement of individual and team skills. I am a firm believer that kids learn from their peers (good and bad) and if you only play your better players the other players will never improve. Plus it is a great opportunity to have your better players become mentors
Principle 4: Teach every position
It is very important to teach every player each position on the lacrosse field. This is especially true when coaching grades K-4. Most 5-6 graders and 7-8 graders tend to gravitate to a specific position. My rallying cry as a middle school coach is to “find a way to get on the field”. Many of my players move on to the Varsity as 9th graders and because they can play multiple positions they find more playing time at the JV and Varsity level and the tend to contribute right away.
Principle 5: Emphasize the Fundamentals
All to often coaches skip over the most basic skills in the game of lacrosse. I have the philosophy that everyone knows “NOTHING”. While this seems harsh we re-introduce the fundamentals to all of our players like…how to hold a stick, Build a foundation that will never break by teaching the basics properly. Learning the fundamentals and perfecting the basics at every level are paramount for future success.
Principle 6: Skill Progression
When planning your season incorporate skills that will allow players to grasp fundamentals and concepts that build on daily accomplishments. Start small and build to more aggressive skills. Players will be able to piece together each component of the drills in practice and eventually to game situations. It is no secret that when kids experience improvement, no matter their athletic ability, they will continue to participate and return to learn more.
Principle 7: Set Goals & Rules
Define goals that you have for them right away, especially with individuals. Let each player know what things you expect of him, what roles you would like to see him fill. A leader needs to use his system of beliefs to create the kind of character on the team that expresses who you are. This is how you, the coach will be happiest. You will naturally reinforce the things that they do that display the signature you put on the team.
Give your team a few rules about their behavior or what you expect of them. Make it gospel and build your team from there. If you don’t give them a few rules, then it is just recess. Don’t give them too many rules or they will lose focus. Sit down and decide what three rules you want. This will put a stamp of your character on this group.
Principle 8: Be POSITIVE
Being positive in my opinion is the most important Principle. Kids get very frustrated when a coach is constantly brow beating them and yelling and screaming. Bud Grant “Hall of Fame Football Coach” very rarely raised his voice. His approach was to tell the player not what he was doing wrong but by asking him to try doing something a different way…as an example: “hey John that was a pretty good play the way you hustled, next try try getting your hips turned up field and you will have better success taking away the top side”. By giving a complement and then another solution the player will be more willing to try and improve.