I’m torn on this particular topic. Oddly, some of my fondest memories are the endless sprints that I ran with my teammates while our coach yelled at us. It created a great “us” versus “him” mentality, bringing the team together. That being said, I am personally against punishment running at the youth level.
For me the youth level ends at the Junior Varisty or U15 travel teams. I think the players at these levels can respond to punishment running for two reasons. One, they are old enough to understand that their mistakes impact their team negatively. Two, these players are beginning to understand that they play for something bigger than themselves – their team. Without a sense of togetherness and personal responsibility, punishment running will never work.
But Gordon, what am I supposed to do when my youth team or youth player screws up? If a youth player screws up, mouths offs, or otherwise misbehaves there are a few options available. One of the most effective is having the young player sit on the bench for five minutes while the other kids practice. If the infraction is particularly severe, have the entire team sit on the bench for however long you feel is necessary. This reinforces to the young players that lacrosse is a privilege that can be taken away. Second option – pushups! The great thing about pushups is they are scalable and quick. If a player cannot do full pushups then they can do them on their knees (scalable). Plus, it takes very little time for a kid to bang out five or ten pushups before they are right back into the practice (quick). Third option – squats! Just like pushups they are scalable and quick to do.
The reason I like calisthenics for youth players as opposed to punishment running is the player is not out of sight and out of mind. Back in the day, I sent a kid to go run a lap around the entire field. It took him five minutes to accomplish this task because he was going as slowly as possible. By introducing simple calisthenics you give the kid a goal that he can accomplish right in front of you and the entire team.
Back to my running a lap example. When I said, “Go run a lap!” The kid went “awwwghrhhh” and trotted along the outside of the field. Far away from his teammates who forgot that he was running since they were having fun playing lacrosse. Things go a bit differently when trying out pushups. “Bang out ten pushups!” The kid goes “awwwghrhhh,” drops down where he is and does the pushups. It takes maybe thirteen seconds while his teammates look at him and go “I’m never going to do what he did.” The pushups have now accomplished two things: One, the kid is suitably punished for his transgression, two the entire team has to stop and watch the short punishment unfold. Again showing the entire team that lacrosse is a privilege, and not a right.