Tag Archives: adults

Stop Turning Youth Athletics Into More Than It Actually Is

Published by:

stop-turning-youth-athletics-into-more-than-it-actually-is

Heads up parents, this post is going to sting.

Your child:

  • Is not going to play professional lacrosse
  • Is not getting recruited to play at Maryland, LeMoyne, or Lynchburg
  • Is not scoring the winning goal in the high school state championship
  • Is not getting All-American honors as a freshman on the Varsity roster
  • Is not getting “Most Improved Player” on his youth team

Your child is not getting any of this. At least not right now. Or even tomorrow, or next week, or a year from now. All your child is doing tomorrow, next week, or next year is playing and practicing lacrosse along with homework assignments, other sports, sleep overs, pool parties, movie nights, and family vacations.

AYL has posts up about recruiting and parental responsibility regarding a child’s athletic development. We maintain a strict policy on how every fan should behave at all of our games, practices and league events. We put a great deal of responsibility on the young players to bring their own gear and take ownership of the game they are coming to love. As I’ve said in numerous posts I do not have children so I am not about to make this post about how to raise your player because I don’t know the first thing about child rearing. What I have is an outsider’s perspective, separate from winning and losing, that I want to share with every parent who has one or more children in any youth extracurricular activity. That perspective is one of a sports official who has seen many kids start playing the game in middle school, grow through high school, and head off to college. I’ve seen the successful players and the not-so successful players go on with their lives, but I noticed that the successful players tend to have one thing in common: their parents got out of the way unless asked.

I’ve seen middle schoolers stunned speechless by their parents critiquing their ground ball technique after a game, and other kids reduced to tears because their mom or dad thought the kid should’ve scored that goal in the third quarter. Parents who do this adulterize their child’s sport. They swoop in like some out of town interloper and steal the game away from their kids. These parents are sport-adulterers and they’ve gotten rid of the “youth” in “youth athletics.” Now it’s just “athletic development pursuant a full collegiate scholarship, professional contract, or some high accolade.” See the problem? The sport-adulterers become their child’s agent. I’ve spent season after season deprogramming young players from their overly excited and demanding parents to just relax when they are on the field. It’s like every game is a tryout to these kids because of the pressure imposed by the parents.

I had one player that I constantly reminded to not pay attention to his parental unit on the sideline. I got him to understand that I as the coach was the only adult voice that he cared about when he played. The best part is how great the young kid played when he wasn’t beholden to some arbitrary performance level. His parents wanted him to score three goals a game and they let him know it – he never scored. When I rebuilt his operating system I wanted him to relax, have fun and smile – he scored five goals in our next game. Suddenly I’m a great coach who understood the value inherent in the young kid that his parent’s thought never shined in the old coach’s system. Not the case. I simply allowed the young player to play like a young player. Oh, the kid was eight and a half by the way.

The worst part is how innocent-sounding these parent’s justifications are:

  • “I just want little Johnny to have more confidence on the field.”
    • Translation: My kid needs to go to the goal more often.
  • “I just want little Timmy to get tougher”
    • Translation: My kid never gets ground balls. Maybe we should invest in an athletic trainer so he gets more explosive.
  • “I’m just not seeing any improvement.”
    • Translation: What if a scout sees my player now and isn’t impressed? His whole chance to get a scholarship will be ruined!
  • “He/she doesn’t seem to be having fun anymore.”
    • Translation: I don’t get it, I’ve invested thousands of dollars over the last three years in his athletic development, he plays all year for two different travel teams, and I’m sending him to a recruiting camp for four days. He just seems to be going through the motions and I’m worried all of this money I’ve spent is going to waste because he is spending more time playing flag football with his friends in the park.

If you want to be your child’s agent then go all the way and actually hire an agent. I’m sure the big names agencies are stoked about signing your twelve year old who shows great potential (sarcasm). I’m being sarcastic because it is the only way I can discuss this issue without breaking down into tears. I’ve seen too many young players quit before they turned thirteen because the adults around them were more interested in the final outcome than the process. It is the adults that care which team wins or loses the U13 championship game at a summer tournament because they think it means more than it actually does. What does it actually mean? I say it means less than the plastic the trophy was made out of.

I won championship games in the spring and summer during my youth lacrosse days. I know I won because I have warm, happy feelings thinking back to those games. What I don’t remember is more significant:

  • I don’t remember what my team name was for any of the championship/playoff teams I was on
  • I don’t remember what the final score in any of those games were
  • I don’t remember what the championship t-shirt looked like
  • I don’t even remember if I had a good game or not

I do remember that I had fun, and because I had fun I stuck with it past thirteen and got to be a pretty decent player. These days I officiate, which has completely changed my understanding of what achievement and accolades are all about. I was the Chief Bench Official for the Georgia 1A-4A State Championship Lacrosse game in 2013 between Westminster and Northview. It took five years of hard work to become the best official I could be before I was made the fourth man on a championship game crew. In my mind it was a huge accomplishment and a just award for the work I put in.

Here’s my point for this backstory – After the game no one cheered my name, no one asked for an autograph, no one gave me a trophy or a medal, and no one told me if I had a good game or not. All I knew for certain was that I did an exceptional job for my role in the crew. Officiating crews don’t get many accolades outside of the officiating world, but my internal knowledge that I did a good job was worth far more than any plastic championship trophy. Let’s teach our young players accurate self-evaluation, it will pay off better in the long run than pawning that plastic trophy.

What I love most about AYL is that we do everything with one core concept in mind – “it is all about the kids.” Everything we do is put up against that belief and that is why we are successful. I want kids to win, improve their game and grow as individuals. However, I will not stand for any adult that puts professional-level pressures on an eight and a half year old. Matt Ryan is paid to be under pressure and scrutiny, while your eight and a half year old probably doesn’t realize that you are paying for him to play. Keep that in mind next time you are on the sideline.

Cheers,
Gordon

Sweating and Smiling

Published by:

How does the staff at Atlanta Youth Lacrosse judge a successful day of games? Simple – if the kids leave our fields sweating and smiling we’ve had a great day.

I was speaking to my dad, Lou Corsetti, this past evening about how the 2012 Fall Ball season was wrapping up at AYL. We agreed that, from our perspective, each kid we see after a game is sweating, smiling and seems to be loving life because they are playing a sport they enjoy. That is our measuring stick when determining if a particular day or season is successful. We are a child-centric, as opposed to an adult-centric league. Here are the differences:

Adult-Centric

  • Focused on score
  • Finding a championship team
  • Keeping detailed statistics and reporting them to the masses
  • Interested solely in determining “the best” player(s) or team

Child-Centric

  • As much equal play time as possible
  • Interested in the concepts of teamwork and perseverance
  • Working with new and inexperienced players to improve their skill

It seems like I am bashing all adults with this comparison. That is not the case. I am highlighting the stark differences between the wants of adults and the wants of children. Adults want a winner, kids want close competition. Adults want to separate the “best” from the “rest,” while kids want a mix of all abilities. Adults need detailed statistics to determine “the best,” but kids can tell just by watching who is better than others. Simply put, the wants of adults are considerably different from the wants of children when it comes to sports.

Here is an interesting observation that I have noticed over years in youth lacrosse: Even if they lose, as long as they got in the game the youth players have a great time. On the flip side, some (not all) parents do not seem pleased if their child’s team loses a game. Despite their child’s happy, smiling face over a hard game well played, the adults have difficulty sharing in their child’s exuberance. Why is this? It could be that adults are inundated with the benefits of winning and not the benefits of competing.

I think that kids naturally want to compete. They play tag to see who is going to be “it.” They start a pickup hockey game in the street and keep score. They play kickball and know who is the “best” kicker out of all their friends. Kids like competition, but once winning and losing become more important than the competition itself they start losing a little bit of their childhood idealism. Is winning great for professional athletes? Absolutely. Winning often comes with bonuses, trips to the playoffs, awards, and star recognition. Is winning great for youth players? I do not believe it is the end-all-be-all. What do the kids get after a win? They feel really good and proud for a few hours and then they’re worried about who is going to host the next sleep over.

Youth players care about winning. They often know the score more accurately than the adults. But they are not consumed by winning the same way adults can be. As long as they sweat on the field they will come off it smiling. Which is why we at AYL judge our days and our seasons by those two metrics.

Cheers,
Gordon

Language

Published by:

Today, in a time span of less than six hours, I heard more curse words strung together than I ever heard before. I listened to young children say words they did not understand, and senior players belting out words that they certainly understood. While writing this I am shaking my head in frustration. There is a time and a place for bad language, but until you reach twenty-one there is not a single situation so bad that requires vehement cursing.

George Washington - "Stop Cursing!"
George Washington – “Stop Cursing!”

George Washington once stated: “the foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and low that every person of sense and character detests and despises it.” Speaking to young players for a moment; when you curse you cast your immaturity into sharp relief. When you drop an F-bomb you only show your inability to speak intelligently without resorting to base insults. Yet, in these situations I do not blame the child. I blame the parents.

A few years back, when Atlanta Youth Lacrosse was still at Murphy Candler Park. I was playing against two opponents who cursed all game. The officials put them in the penalty box over and over again, but neither player seemed to understand that they should firmly shut their mouths. When the game ended, I packed my gear into my bag and walked over to my dad. I passed my two opponents and their father. He was dropping curse words left and right about how terrible the referees were. Put simply, the apples did not fall very far from the tree.

Now I only blame the parents if the child is under sixteen. If a sixteen-year-old player is cursing at or around me while at AYL. He is going to get a serious talking to. Players, there comes a time when you must step out on your own as a responsible individual. Cursing shows that your are still a child, and not worthy of additional responsibilities.

Looking back on my formative years, I cannot say there was a good reason for me to curse at another person. However, I was impulsive. I lacked the what I now call the “brain-mouth connection.” I cursed because I was frustrated at some perceived slight or the lack of fairness directed my way by a person or situation. I became proficient at stringing together imaginative combinations that left my friends’ mouths on the floor. The problem was, I did not understand the full impact of my words. I said them without a care in the world. Never realizing how foolish they made me appear.

As an adult, and role model for our youth players, I cannot afford to lose control of my mouth. So I replace my curse words with “G” rated words. Which I now give to all of our players, parents, adult fans, and coaches:

  • Fishsticks!
  • Jimmeny Christmas!
  • Darn (or Darnit)!
  • Crud!
  • Shucks!
  • Awwwwwww!
  • Shoot!
  • Weak!

Feel free to add to this list, but it should provide everyone with a basic filter for curse words.

We Don't Encourage This ^

We Don't Encourage This ^

Finally, when players, coaches, and fans curse during a lacrosse game you disgrace yourselves. Worse, you disgrace the game. There is a reason why the rulebook requires a minimum 1-minute Unsportsmanlike Conduct Penalty for cursing starting at “damn.” At Atlanta Youth Lacrosse we do not tolerate sullying the game that we love and respect. I do not care if cursing is a family thing like the two opponents I once played against. Or if you just learned a new and shocking curse word. You do not curse on the lacrosse field. Treat it like a church and keep your mouth to yourself. If that concept does not click for you then remember what my mom used to tell me: “Gordon, if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all.”

Featured Image Credit – www.questions.thoughts.com

Cheers,
Gordon