Single Point of Failure

Youth lacrosse should not include specialized players. I do not mean the specific positions of attack, midfield, defense, and goalie. I focus on the increasing trend in youth sports to pigeon hole a player into one super-specialized position.

The problem with super-specialization in lacrosse, and any other youth sport, is that it cripples a player’s game. For example, I reffed a game where one team had a FOGO, or “face-off/get-off” player. This player’s sole job was to win the face-off, toss the ball to his teammate, and run off the field. Now, that is all well and good at a competitive JV or Varsity level, but this kid was in fourth grade. His entire year consisted of sitting on the bench, facing off, and sitting back on the bench. While I am sure he developed solid face-off skills, he spent more time riding the bench than any player on his team.

That FOGO’s coach was more interested in winning a game by taking advantage of a young player’s skill in one area, than he was in exposing the kid to the entire game of lacrosse. That kid suffered because at the end of the season, all he could do was face-off. He had zero skills in passing, playing defense, or communicating to his teammates. All of the basic skills that are critical to long-term development at the higher levels were not there because his coach did not live up to the responsibility of teaching the game first.

But, Coach Gordon, my FOGO, long-stick midfielder, or lefty-feeder is critical to my game plan. How can my team possibly compete if I do not have my super-specialized player? Simple. Spread the skills around.

Single Point of Failure

Single Point of Failure

I do not care if your game plan calls for a FOGO or some other specialized player as long as that position is shared by two or three other kids. Guess what happens when a team relies on a single player to face-off and that player gets injured? The team is now incredibly weak at facing off because the coaches poured all of their face-off knowledge onto one kid. By specializing one player, you create a single point of failure. Defined as an “element or part of a system for which no backup (redundancy) exists and the failure of which will disable the entire system” (www.businessdictionary.com).

Developing redundancy allows your team to adapt. Injury, lateness, sickness, penalties, and tiredness can affect any player. Including your super-specialized kid. So if your game plan requires a long-stick midfielder. Teach three different players how to properly play that position and you create a game plan that is not bound to a single player. Then, when one of those specialized players is out on the field, the other two should be playing offense or defense. That way, they learn how to play the game beyond their specific slice of the game.

Instead of having a player who can only face-off or play long-stick midfield, this strategy creates a balanced player who has a sub-specialty in one part of the game. That is a player who will succeed at the higher levels because they have basic skills, but they also fill a niche that a coach is looking for.

Featured Image Credit – www.craighuggart.typepad.com

Cheers,
Gordon

About Lou Corsetti

Gordon is a born lacrosse official who played for ten years before realizing he'd much rather ref the game than play it. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia and officiates youth, high school, and collegiate men's lacrosse games all over the southeast. His passion is educating and training officials, coaches, players, parents and all other fans on the rules of lacrosse, it's history, and how best to develop lacrosse in new areas.

4 thoughts on “Single Point of Failure

  1. Coach lou

    Could not agree more. Any coach that does this at the youth level should not be able to coach it totally ruins the player.

  2. Brian Sheahan

    I really liked the article. What advice would you give to a parent that has a U11-C2 player riding the bench? I’m all for competition, but our kids are on the last team. This team is basically new players or not very skilled players. I am expecting this to be instructional and fun. My son has averaged about three minutes per game and only played middie. Any thoughts? Thanks.

  3. Gordon

    Brian,

    I am sorry to hear about your son riding the bench this season. Especially since his age level should be all about equal play. I’d recommend one of two options.

    First, ask the coach why your son spends more time on the bench than he does in the game. If he says it completely slipped his mind and he will correct it then hold him to it. If he gives some line about playing the players who will win the game, then take your son off his team because that coach has no idea what is important at the U11 level.

    Second, I gather your son is not the only player stuck on the sidelines. Get a few parents together who are in the same boat as you, and inform the league director that your players are not getting game experience and spend 57/60 minutes watching the game.

    I wish you the best of luck getting your son into the game, and I am sorry he is in this spot. Please let me know if I can be of anymore help.

    Cheers,
    Gordon

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