Tag Archives: Atlanta

How Can They Get Better?

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How does a player get better to make a select/elite/travel team if they don’t make the team? This is a problem. The kids who make the team get concentrated lacrosse knowledge and the vision of a capable lacrosse coach. The kids that don’t are left to their own devices. Generally, the kids that make the team get better than the kids that don’t make the team. Then the next year rolls around – guess who makes the team? The same kid that made it last season. It’s a cycle that is a problem with select teams at the youth level. The question is how does a driven kid who was on the bubble at last year’s tryout break the cycle?

Notice that I said driven kid, not just a kid. If a player has drive and determination, at any level, I am paying attention to him. However, determination is not enough. That quality trait must be backed up with skill and as my good friend Andy says, “everyone can stand to have a better stick.” I believe that both drive/determination and skill can be improved upon by any kid, but it takes practice. Not just any practice, but focused practice.

What do I mean by focused practice? It is practice with a purpose. Anybody can go out and throw a ball against a wall, but not anybody can make a select lacrosse team. Those that make select teams improve their skill by:

  • Hitting the wall with his off hand for fifteen minutes, five days per week. Focusing on hitting the same brick every time.
  • When the player watches TV, he does it with a stick in his hand and a tennis ball in the stick.
  • During Fall Ball, playing almost exclusively with his off hand.
  • Asking coaches questions during practice, or for clarification on a technique after practice.
  • Taking group or private instruction lessons (you can email requests for those to rules@ayllax.com).
  • Watching games on ESPN or film clips on YouTube.
  • Buying a rulebook and reading the rules.

That covers just a few things that players who make select teams do before tryouts. Now lets switch gears on improving drive or determination with a little story:

When I was seventeen I earned my blue belt in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. This was a big moment in my life. I spent three years training to earn that blue belt and it felt great when I finally got to tie it around my waist. A belt, though, only covers two inches of your rear. Your skill covers the rest of it. A short time after receiving my blue belt I went to wrestle with one of the older white belts in the class. I was overly confident that I could beat him.

We shook hands and he immediately leapt forward and sunk a quick choke around my neck. I tapped out in about three seconds, completely devastated. Here was this sixty-five, I’m not kidding, year old man who was a white belt, and he just tapped me. I didn’t know what was wrong so I sat on the side of the gym and watched for the two hours as this old man kept rolling. After the live roll was over and everyone was sweating and exhausted I had a lightbulb moment. He had tapped me because he had the determination to keep wrestling win, lose or draw.

I learned an important lesson that night, and I vowed that I would be the last person off the mat for as long as I trained. I spent the next two years sticking to that vow and I saw my skill and conditioning reach higher levels than I ever thought possible, but it never would have happened if I hadn’t gotten tapped out in three seconds by an aging white belt.

My experience is that determination can be learned and improved upon if one thing happens. You have to lose. You have to fall short. You have to fail. I believe that failure is only permanent if you allow it to be so. I am reminded of a quote by Michael Proust – “Happiness is good for the body, but it is grief that develops the strengths of the mind.” I’ve grieved over my failures when they occurred. I was crushed when I got tapped by that old man, but it was good for me. It helped me develop a deeper reserve of grit and desire. Going through failure, though, is not enough to improve your determination. You must also do something about it should you want to succeed.

I am a personal fan of writing down goals and objectives for life, work, and my hobbies. I find that if I don’t write them down and stick them in a prominent place, that I forget about them. For example, I have a lifetime goal of running an ultramarathon. On the wall in front of my bed I have dozens of pictures of ultrarunners in some of the most beautiful and harsh environments on Earth. Every morning I am reminded of that goal. Those pictures fuel my desire to reach that goal when I feel like it is a million miles away.

So to all the players out there who didn’t make the travel team last year, and to all the players who may not make the team this year I have these steps for you to follow, should you wish to:

  1. Write down why you want to make your particular travel team. The why is important, you don’t want to forget why you are driven to do something.
  2. Write down how you are going to make that goal a reality. This can include practicing, watching film, sleeping with your stick, or anything that you can think of to make you a better player.
  3. Print out pictures of your favorite lacrosse player and post them in a wall in your room. Use that for fuel on days when you don’t feel like practicing.
  4. Finally, stick your written down goals on the wall right next to your bed. Every morning, right when you get out of bed, go read your goals. This will remind you every day what you are striving for and why you are sacrificing your time and energy.

I wrote this post because Atlanta Coyotes tryouts are coming up in November for all age groups. Not everyone will make the teams. If you do not make the team I want you to look back on this post and, if making the team is your goal, to follow the steps outlined above. I sincerely believe they will make you a better lacrosse player, but also a far more determined individual than you thought you could be.

Cheers,
Gordon

 

Coach Versus Coach

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Sometimes we can lose sight of our true purpose as coaches. We get wrapped up in the goal of winning so much that we forget our job is to serve the players on our team. Why does this happen? Well I have a few theories:

  • Theory #1 – The allure of winning is intoxicating. It means your team is better than the other team. By extension, it means you are the better coach.
  • Theory #2 – Losing is painful. It hurts. Our society puts a lot more stock in winning than it does in losing. So the fear of losing is a powerful motivator for a coach.
  • Theory #3 – Reputation. Winning coaches get more respect than losing coaches. Case in point, how many perpetually losing coaches do you see in professional sports keeping their jobs for more than three years?
  • Theory #4 – This is how it has always been done. Coaches before you and coaches after you coached to win. Nobody coaches to lose because nobody was coached to do that.

All of these theories can be boiled down to winning is better than losing. Therefore, we all coach to win. But at was cost?

Some of you may recognize the featured image today of Spy vs. Spy, which I think aptly shows the conflict that all coaches have with one another. In a game one coach is going to win and one coach is going to lose. In another game the roles may be reversed. In yet another game they switch back. Win, lose, win, lose. All coaches lost in the goal of winning and avoiding washing up on the shores of defeat. Does any of this serve the players, or is it all just a zero sum game?

ZeroSum

This cannot be what coaching youth lacrosse is about. Unfortunately, it is how many coaches approach the youth game. If your purpose to coaching a youth lacrosse team is to win and win only, then you need to seriously rethink if you have the proper mindset for coaching youth lacrosse. If two opposing coaches approach a game with the purpose of just winning, then they have done a disservice to the game and their players by turning the contest into a zero sum game.

nonzerosum

The solution to the zero sum game in coaching youth lacrosse is to make it a non-zero sum game. Where both coaches acknowledge their different interestes, but also find common ground. What is that common ground? Here’s a short list:

  • Sportsmanship
  • Fair play
  • Honoring the game
  • Playing to the best of your team’s ability
  • Respect for your opponent

This is by no means an extensive list, but it illustrates what all youth coaches should be focused on instead of just winning and losing. In a non-zero sum game you create a win/win situation. Sure one coach may win and the other may lose, but if both approached the game with the above list in mind then they have served their players and done well by the game.

I keep referencing serving your players and doing well by the game, but what do I mean by that? A short story will illuminate my point:

I had the distinct privilege of coaching the U11 Atlanta Coyotes Travel Team this past summer. They were, and still are, a tremendous group of young men. I made it my job to give them my best in every practice and every game. To do any less would be a disservice to them and to the game. I had the pleasure of coaching against some coaches who shared a very similar coaching philosophy to mine, and those game were always fun to be involved in win or lose. Then I had the unpleasant task of coaching against some individuals who, in my opinion, just didn’t get it.

These were the coaches that were yelling bloody murder at their kids. Grabbing them by the face mask, lifting them up on their tiptoes, and screaming in their face, “Why did you do that?!” Or calling a timeout to berate their players about their lack of effort, hustle, or intelligence. Mainly these coaches complained to their players constantly about everything they were doing wrong. These were the games where I was praying the clock would run out so I could get as far away from the opposing coaches as physically possible.

My assistant coaches and I always shared an incredulous look at one another after watching the opposing coaches lose their minds over the performance of a kid who wasn’t even eleven yet. I am happy to report that these coaches were the exception to the rule. Just about all of our opponents were coached by individuals who had a good coaching credo that they clearly stood by. Those coaches knew that their coaching philosophy would be reflected in their player’s actions. They knew that one of their jobs as coaches was to honor the game.

I have always thought that one of my jobs as a coach was “to do no harm.” Yes, I took that from the rephrased Hippocratic Oath. Then I thought, maybe I can expand on that mantra. Maybe I can modify the Hippocratic Oath into one for youth lacrosse coaches. Well, here it is:

I swear by the game of lacrosse, and those that coached before me, and I take to witness all my fellow coaches and all of my players, to keep according to my ability and my judgment, the following Oath and agreement:

To consider dear to me, as my parents, my fellow coaches; to live in common with them and, if necessary, to share my goods with them; To look upon his players as my own players, to teach them this game; and that by my teaching, I will impart a knowledge of this game to my own players, and to my fellow coaches.

I will create practice plans for the good of my players according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to any of them.

I will give no bad advice to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and similarly I will tell my players only truths about this game.

But I will preserve the purity of my coaching.

I will not berate or dress down a player, even if that player makes a mistake; I will instead always strive to build up my players and impart my love of the game to them.

In every game that I coach I will enter it only for the good of the players, keeping myself far from all intentional ill-doing and the seduction of winning at all costs.

All players and parents that may come to my knowledge in the exercise of my profession or in daily commerce, which ought not to be spread abroad, I will keep secret and never reveal.

If I keep this oath faithfully, may I enjoy my life and practice my art of coaching, respected by all humanity and in all times; but if I swerve from it or violate it, may the reverse be my life.

I believe all coaches need to have a positive coaching philosophy that emphasizes their players instead of just winning. If we could get every youth coach to do that just imagine how great every game would be.

As always, post ideas can be sent to gordoncorsetti@gmail.com.

Featured Image Credit – www.zarious.deviantart.com

Cheers,
Gordon

Planned Obsolescence

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Planned obsolescence is a business strategy in which the obsolescence (the process of becoming obsolete—that is, unfashionable or no longer usable) of a product is planned and built into it from its conception. This is done so that in future the consumer feels a need to purchase new products and services that the manufacturer brings out as replacements for the old ones” (http://www.economist.com/node/13354332).”

Have you planned obsolescence into your lacrosse game? Are you practicing with the correct technique every time or are you taking shortcuts during practices, games, and on your own time? If you have dreams of playing at the next level. Whether that be a travel team, your school’s JV or Varsity program, or college lacrosse you cannot plan obsolescence into your game. If you do, you will never make it to that next level.

I do not mean to sound harsh, but the truth is simple: players that practice as consistently and as perfectly as they can are the ones who will reach their goals in lacrosse. You play how you practice and you’re game will eventually rust out if you do the following regularly in practice:

  • Scoop the ball one handed instead of getting low with two hands
  • Let your stick hang to the side after a dodge
  • Shoot sidearm (I know it looks cool, but until you can shoot it overhand you don’t need to worry about sidearm)
  • Checking without moving your feet on defense
  • Twirling your stick when running down the field
  • Not stepping to the ball as a goalie

I could continue, but you get the point. Poor habits in practice lead to lacrosse skills that are obsolete. However, the basics are always on the cutting edge. If you master the basics, the foundation of your game, you can then experiment as you gain mastery of lacrosse. Believe it or not, there is a time and place for scooping the ball one handed, for raking the ball, for shooting sidearm. I don’t encourage my youth players to do any of these things because they have not yet mastered the basics of their game.

We as coaches have a responsibility to ensure that all of players coming out to play lacrosse do everything as well as they possibly can. They don’t have to be perfect straight out of the gate, but they need to have the fundamentals down. In all levels of lacrosse, but youth especially, the coach must be eagle-eyed to players taking shortcuts because they are tired, feeling a little lazy, or too cool for school. If you let your players take these shortcuts, you are allowing them to cement poor habits into their game before they’ve even stepped on the field in competition. Don’t allow your player’s game to break down and rust. Be vigilant as a coach and always insist that players do everything they can to enhance their game.

Here’s something I tell my players at nearly every practice: “I don’t care if you miss the ball, just hustle to get it and get right back into the drill.” Don’t allow your players to focus on their mistakes, reward the hustle if they miss the ball and you ingrain something in them much more important than any lacrosse skill you teach. You ingrain the desire to forget about the mistake and get back into the drill, which will serve your players well as they grow in this game.

FYI – If you’re in the Atlanta area, I offer private and group instruction. Feel free to email me at rules@ayllax.com if your player is interested in lessons. I specialize in the fundamentals, defensive technique, and speed and agility training.

Featured Image Credit – www.flickrhivemind.net

Cheers,
Gordon