Tag Archives: Fun

First Day Of Games At AYL This Weekend!

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Our players, coaches, and parents survived Snowpocalypse #1 and Snowpocalypse #2! We waited inside for two weeks chomping at the bit to get out and practice, and the last week and a half our young players have been going strong at Hammond Park and Dunwoody Springs. As teams prepare for their first day of games this Sunday I wanted to send a brief message to each group in the AYL family to help keep this 2014 spring season in perspective.

Players:

To our brand new players: welcome to AYL and the sport of lacrosse! We love introducing our favorite sport to new players, but we also know it can be a little scary suiting up to play an opponent. It’s okay to be a little scared or nervous before your first game or first couple of games. I played for over 10 years and every game I got butterflies. Those are a good feelings – they let you know you’re alive! As my one of my favorite characters, Ms. Frizzle, from The Magic School Bus said: “Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!”

To our returning players: welcome back! We’re glad to have you on the field for another season and we’re excited to see you improve from last fall or spring. Do you best to make new friends with our new players both on your team and on other teams. I still talk with my old buddies from my playing days, but you don’t get to have old friends without making new friends! Relish your mistakes in this game as much as your successes, and no matter what happens remember to honor the game.

Parents:

I truly hope you all enjoy this spring season. Please make our new parents feel welcome and remember that we rely on all of you to maintain a positive game atmosphere for all of our players. Remember to please observe our 24 Hour Rule if you have an issue you feel needs reporting. This allows parties on both sides of any issue to discuss it with cool heads away from the heat of an intense game. Also, we love dogs but the facilities that we lease do not permit dogs at the field. Please be respectful of our host facilities rules regarding animals.

There is a greater than average chance that your player will either get knocked down, take a shot off his body, or sustain a good bruise over the course of an entire season. There is a reason we require the players to wear all that protective gear. The adult and youth officials we’ve requested from the GLOA will officiate the games with player safety first and foremost, but even with the very best officiating and under control play, the players can still get banged up. Pleased don’t be scared by this, but understand the reality that placing twenty ten-year-olds in a 110×60 yard area with body armor and metal sticks might result in a good bruise. The best thing my parents ever did for me besides having me practice a firm handshake was give me the chance to get hurt while being supervised. I beat up my body a good bit in youth ball and a good bit more in high school games, but my parents never tried to shield me from a little pain. I learned at a young age the difference between a little hurt and a big hurt, and I always told someone when I got a big hurt.

Don’t forget that your U9, U11, or U13 player isn’t getting recruited by a college program just yet. A mistake at this level is not marked down by a graduate assistant coach on your player’s permanent lacrosse player record. Let them know it’s okay to make mistakes so long as they work hard to not make the same one in the future.

Coaches:

I tend to have the same message for coaches every season: Simplify, simplify, simplify. Basic is better at the youth level, advanced technique and plays should be saved until every player has demonstrated mastery of the basic foundation of playing lacrosse. High school coaches don’t want to teach the fundamental way to pick up a ground ball in the open field. They want the players coming into their JV or HS program to have these skills from their youth ball experience.

There is a reason I don’t play Madden Football. I hate not scoring on every play and I broke a few controllers while getting sacked by the computer on the lowest setting. Don’t treat these games as anything more than an opportunity for your players and you to improve. Identify what needs work on after your first game, prioritize the top three and practice those the next week. Then repeat the process after each game. If a pass isn’t perfect or a defender doesn’t slide correctly don’t pull them off the field immediately. Give them a chance to self correct and if they’re still making the same mistake sub them off an explain a better way of doing it: “Johnny, I love how hard you’re going for those ground balls. Try getting your bottom hand closer to the ground before you pick it up and you’ll get the next one.” Save shouting instructions to your team on the field. Slow down and reduce your voice’s volume when speaking one-on-one or to your team at halftime.

Know your team’s priorities. If your goals are to score seven points a game, never let your opponent score, or “Championship or Bust!” then you will never have a successful season, and even if you do win the ‘Ship’ your kids, parents and you will be nervous wrecks every game. Focus on the process of continual improvement and you’d be surprised how much production you get out of your team.

Officials:

As I mentioned earlier we are using adult and youth officials assigned by the Georgia Lacrosse Officials Association. Andy and I’s schedules between work and officiating are too hectic for us to regularly offer shadowing opportunities to our STARs this season. Both Andy and I have trained every adult or youth official that is going to ref games this spring. They know what they are doing and when the game ends the game ends. There will be no reversing of judgment calls after the final horn sounds and AYL will back up the on field decisions of each adult and youth official that comes to ref. We provide a hospitable environment for our players and I expect that to be extended for the referees. These gentlemen are Andy and I’s professional colleagues and they have told us how much they respect the environment and message of AYL.

Whenever Andy or I do not have game assignments we will work to be at the fields. I’m always available to answer rules questions at rules@ayllax.com. Also check out the rules document that breaks down rules per age level and includes the new 2014 rules here: 2014 Youth Rules And Differences Summary.

STARs:

Our STAR volunteer program has been a bastion of community service since Mary Jo created it back during our YMCA LAX days. Remember to contact Mrs. Corsetti at info@ayllax.com if you are interested in becoming a STAR. Mary Jo only communicates directly to STARs and interested STARs. It is the responsibility of the young players to email Mary Jo themselves or through their parent’s email. We do this to encourage individual responsibility and to help teach our young volunteers to budget their time and let us know when they are available.

Our STARs are fantastic mentors to younger players and they provide an invaluable service in maintaining the cleanliness of our facilities, running the table, filling in as last-minute goalies, and eating all of our snacks. Just kidding, we always make sure to have plenty of snacks!

I think that covers everyone so I’ll wrap up with this:

I believe the goal of every youth sport is twofold. One, light a passion for physical activity and hard work in the youth player. Two, help teach that player to be responsible for their own actions and reactions through their on-field experiences. I want our players, parents, coaches, officials, and STARs to share in my family’s passion for lacrosse but to also remember that, at the end of the day, it’s about the kids.

Cheers,
Gordon

New Year, Same Mission!

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New Year, Same Mission

It is a brand new year and AYL is looking forward to another fun and exciting spring season! I want to take a moment and explain the AYL Mission, and the most recent addition to our 4 (now 5) goals each year. As always, if you want more information about Atlanta Youth Lacrosse you can email us at questions@ayllax.com for a timely response.

Fun

  • We believe that kids don’t want to come back for another practice, another game, or another season if they aren’t having fun. While we work to maintain a good level of competitiveness between teams at all age-levels, we always come back to – “Is this fun for the kids?” This is why we do watermelon rolls with the young Incredibles, give our STARS plenty of tasty food, and maintain a high level of positive energy with the players, coaches, and parents we interact with.
  • Players typically quit a sport by the time they turn 13 because they aren’t having fun. We don’t want to add to that statistic.

Fundamentals

  • We list this second because it has FUN in the name! Fundamentals, the basic skills all players need to be successful as they grow older are a cornerstone of AYL. Our coaches emphasize proper passing and catching, getting low on ground balls, breaking down on defense, and aiming before shooting. We push fundamentals through the whole year because if a player can master a basic skill they’ll have fun in practice and in games. They’ll see their hard work pay off, and will remember how to pick up a ground ball properly for the rest of their lives.
  • We teach our players as young as U9 to try and use their off hand in practice. The sooner they can get comfortable using both hands in a game, the better the overall play.

Sportsmanship

  • Years ago we ended the traditional All-Star game at the end of the spring season. While we can appreciate young players playing at a high level, we did not think that All-Star teams represented the best of youth lacrosse. So we created the Sportsmanship Game. In this game each team nominates a few players that they believe exhibited the best sportsmanship over the entire season. It could be the most experienced player on the team, or the player in his first year, and that is why we hold the game. Any player can show good sportsmanship, and we want our players to practice both their lacrosse skills and demonstrate good sportsmanship.
  • Lacrosse skills will serve the player on the field, but practicing good sportsmanship at a young age prepares the player for many challenging life events off of it.

Honoring The Game

  • Lacrosse has a history that goes back so far that when a Native American man was asked by a Canadian settler where lacrosse originated he pointed to the rising sun. It was used to settle tribal disputes, celebrate momentous occasions, and (in more recent history) proved to be an exceptional way for young Canadian men to stay in shape and build moral fiber. Now, lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in the United States and has been for the last couple of years. It is our obligation as a program to hold ourselves and our players, coaches, and parents to the high standard that the history of this game demands.
  • We want our young players to grow into good young men and since they spend a great deal of their time at our fields and interacting with our staff we owe it to them to demonstrate the right way to go about things.

Educating Everyone

  • This is the new mission for AYL! I’ve spent almost three years writing blog posts and I’ve written almost 300 of them. I’ve been fortunate to have them picked up by both LaxAllStars and US Lacrosse. With this large amount of useful lacrosse knowledge on our site we decided to add “Educating Everyone” to our mission because we feel that the more players, parents, and coaches know about the game, the more fun everyone can have. We added the “Education” tab to our main menu, which organizes the posts into Player, Coach, Parent, and Zebra categories so anyone who wants to learn something can find it quickly.
  • It is a lot of fun to watch a young player have that light-bulb moment when they learn a new skill or understand a challenging idea. Youth players may be where we do the bulk of our education, but we want the adults in our program to have “Ah-Ha!” moments too.

We look forward to seeing many familiar faces and many new ones for the 2014 spring AYL season!

Featured Image Credit – http://1.bp.blogspot.com

Cheers,
Gordon

200th Post! The Golden Rule In Youth Lacrosse

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I thought hard about what topic I wanted to write about for my 200th post. After many different ideas and drafts I settled on addressing how poor behavior by parents negatively impacts the children playing lacrosse. I addressed part of this in my post “Getting The Most Out Of Fall Ball.” Where I detailed the responsibilities of parents in off-season games, but I wanted to dig deeper into this area. So settle in because I’m going all out for the 200th post on the AYL Blog!

I am starting off with a video by Duke University Sport Psychologist Richard Keefe. Watch this three-minute video as the topics covered will be referenced and reinforced in the rest of this post:

One part of this video hit me especially hard. “The parents make it no fun.” That is the number one reason young players cite for not wanting to play a particular sport anymore. Let’s dig into that a little further with a snippet from the “Recommendations For Communities” article by the National Alliance For Youth Sports:

What Children Are Saying

The Kids Speak Out: Violence in Youth Sports article that appeared in the August, 2001 issue of Sports Illustrated for Kids featured more than 3,000 reader responses to a youth sports violence survey. It found that:

  • 57% of the respondents said there was too much violence in youth sports
  • 74% said they have seen out-of-control adults at their games (emphasis mine)
  • 36% cited embarrassment as the main emotion they felt while witnessing bad adult behavior
  • 37% said they have witnessed parents yelling at kids
  • 27% said they have seen parents yelling at coaches or officials
  • 25% said they have seen coaches yelling at officials or kids
  • 4% said they have seen violent behavior by adults

The results indicate that nearly three out of four youth players have seen “out-of-control adults at their games.” Which, as Richard Keefe pointed out, could lead to the youth players to  not want to play their sport anymore because of the actions of adult spectators.

Why is it that some parents work themselves up into an agitated rage while their kid is playing? Perhaps, as young Calvin puts it:

calvin-hobbes

To be fair here, I do not have kids. I have no idea what it feels like for a parent to see their child get a cheap shot and the referee not call anything. I don’t have a clue how about how a parent feels when their kid gets benched. I most certainly do not know how it feels for a parent to see their child lose a game. That being said, I know exactly how it feels to be embarrassed for friends of mine whose parents decided it was important to share their opinion with the rest of the fans about how terrible the official, coach, or other team is. I can only imagine how embarrassing it was for my friends if I was feeling embarrassed for them.

Perhaps these angry fans feel that because they paid money to sign their child up that they somehow get to behave in a manner that makes everyone around them cringe. Perhaps they are just reacting poorly to not being able to control everything that happens to their child. After all, the lacrosse field can be a chaotic place.

Why is it that these individuals lose their brain-mouth connection? My theory is simple. They do not get the point of youth sports. What is the point of youth sports? Four things: Fun, Fundamentals, Sportsmanship, and Honoring the Game. If you noticed those four things are a part of Atlanta Youth Lacrosse’s mission in our community. If even one of these pillars is absent I do not believe a league can reach it’s true potential. So let’s break down these four pillars and how parents can be involved in each one:

  • Fun – If playing is not fun and enjoyable what is the point of playing? Parents can increase the amount of fun their child is having by remaining positive and upbeat before, during, and after games.
  • Fundamentals – Without a solid foundation to build on a player cannot be successful in the long term. Parents can improve their young player’s fundamentals by making sure they are at practices and games on time, having a catch with them in the backyard, or just talking with their player about what he/she may be struggling with on the field. Here’s the kicker, if you don’t know the answer or the correct fundamental skill then don’t teach it to your player! Ask your coach or contact the AYL staff. We are more than happy to assist you in putting the fun in fundamentals.
  • Sportsmanship – This pillar is always emphasized for the players, but rarely for the parents. Be a good steward of the game by making sure that your actions reflect positively upon it.
  • Honoring the Game – This is a big one for me, but I only realized how important it was until I became a coach and official. When you play all you care about is having a good time, but when you coach or officiate everything you do impacts the players. Parents, you must realize that everything you do impacts the atmosphere of the sporting event that you participate in. If every parent and family member watching the game buys into honoring the game through their actions, then the event will always be positive.

We are very grateful at Atlanta Youth Lacrosse that our parents, and their extended families, abide by the golden rule. We have what I consider seasoned parents who know how we operate at AYL, and they take it upon themselves to make sure that our new parents are introduced to how to be positive cheerers. Our parents are wonderful for two reasons:

  1. They know we at Atlanta Youth Lacrosse are strict about what we expect regarding conduct during games.
  2. They also know that we have enforced our expectations by removing the individuals who don’t get it from our facilities.

That is what it takes to keep everyone on the same page. Expectations and enforcement. We don’t do this to be boogie men. We do this to safeguard the game of lacrosse that we care so deeply about. So this season come share in our love of lacrosse by treating the game and everyone involved with dignity and respect.

How Does It Feel?

To wrap up I wanted to showcase some videos that came up during my research for this post. I will warn you, the behavior in these videos is both shocking and disturbing. Shocking because everyone in this video is an adult, and disturbing to see how low some people are willing to go because of a perceived injustice or their team’s loss in a game.