Tag Archives: games

More Games! More Games! More Games!

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With the end of the regular season almost upon us everyone’s attention is turning towards summer travel ball. I have several trips in the works to officiate different summer tournaments because it is a great way for me to stay in touch with many of my officiating friends in different states. I was also fortunate to be selected to officiate the festival games in Denver that are going on alongside the 2014 World Lacrosse Championships, which I’ll be heading out to in July and I’ve been geeking out about that since I got the assignments. In my officiating travels I’ve noticed a strange mindset creeping into youth lacrosse: it seems that games have taken on a greater importance than practice.

I want to be clear on what I think the relationship between practice and games should be:

Practice > Games

Games < Practice

I hear over and over again the need for more and more game experience for youth players. It’s as if playing more games accelerates skill development. It doesn’t, and a personal lesson from my high school algebra class demonstrates this.

A math test and a lacrosse game are surprisingly similar. Math tests require a student to demonstrate proficiency in a particular area of math after learning it in class and solving problems while studying. Lacrosse games require a player to demonstrate skill in their particular position after learning it at practice and working repetitions in their free time. Math tests are rarely passed without consistent study, and lacrosse games are rarely won without regular practice.

I imagine I would get many ludicrous looks if I suggested the best way to get better at math would be to take more and more tests at the expense of more and more study. Tests and studying are not the same. Tests are designed to prove that you know the material you practiced on your own time. They are not designed to teach you new information. When I was in high school I performed very poorly in algebra. I did not study much and the tests reflected my lack of preparation. After getting suitably chastised by my teacher and parents I found a way to pass by spending hours working as many problems as I could so that solving for “x”  was burned into my brain. If I just took the tests without studying I would have had a lot of “test experience,” and a failing grade in the class. But I learned to study and the test just became confirmation of information I already knew.

Games have become more important than they should be at the youth level. Youth lacrosse is meant to light a fire so a player has fun playing the game and so they understand the importance of carving out time to practice. High school and college coaches do not care if a player was in 200 games over the course of their youth playing days. They want to know if a player logs 200 hours of wall ball each off season because anyone can get up to play a game. Getting up to practice is much harder.

Cheers,
Gordon

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

Rules Breakdown and Game Expectations

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Tomorrow is the big day because its GAME DAY! That’s right, Atlanta Youth Lacrosse’s Fall Ball season gets underway Saturday with U9, U11, and U13 games. With games comes responsibility. Everyone, including players, coaches, parents, fans and staff must take responsibility for following the rules for games and conduct at our fields. So let’s breakdown the rules for each division with this handy chart:

rules-chart

If anyone has any questions about the rules of the game, feel free to email me at rules@ayllax.com or find me or Andy Halperin at the fields. We are always willing to answer questions.

Also, if you are new to the game please check out Tadpole Lacrosse. This is a document that I put together that is an introduction to lacrosse for new players and parents.

Now onto rules for everyone while down at our fields:

  • Unless you are a Pre K (Incredibles) parent, we ask that you stay behind the fence surrounding the fields. Our STAR volunteers will be on hand to assist players with gearing up.
  • No dogs, unless you have a service/assistance dog.
  • No score. We will not be keeping score during any of the games. We want Fall Ball to be centered around player improvement. Having a score gets in the way of what players should be focusing on during games.
  • We are guests of Riverwood High School. Please do not leave any trash at these facilities. We expect everyone involved with our program to be respectful and courteous to all Riverwood staff.
  • Please park only in the upper parking lot.
  • Please review the Positive cheering and How To Yell When Watching From The Sidelines posts. We expect all fans to be good sports before, during and after each game. We do not want to stop or terminate a game because of poor behavior from one individual or group of people, but we will do so if necessary.

I believe that covers everything. If I missed anything, we will notify everyone via our weekly newsletter. I hope everyone is as excited for the first day of Fall Ball as I am. Let’s make tomorrow a great day for everyone involved!

Cheers,
Gordon