Tag Archives: growth

Obstacles Are Not As Tough As We Think

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I think the featured image for this post is hysterical. My family’s three dogs, Thor, Nugget, and Zeus from left to right, believe they are stuck in the kitchen. You’ll notice a barely perceptible metal fence going from one wall to the edge of the kitchen counter. This fence weights half a pound and is about three feet tall, but to my three dogs it is more impenetrable than the Bellagio vault that the Ocean’s Eleven team broke into.

I remember being a young kid and wondering why everything was so hard. When I look back on how I reacted to tough times I see that the obstacles I had to overcome as a child were not nearly as bad as I made them out to be.

The most difficult obstacle I had to overcome before I turned eighteen was failing French junior year. I didn’t put in the work and by mid-terms I had a big fat “F” staring back at me along with a meeting with my class dean. I had zero reasons for failing French. My home life was good and I did not have too many extra curricular activities taking up my time. I just thought that French wasn’t worth studying, and I wasn’t very good at it to begin with. My French teacher and my class dean begged to differ. They informed me that if I didn’t pull up my grades I definitely wouldn’t be playing lacrosse and I would likely be repeating my junior year.

The older I get the more I believe in the motto “Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome“. I knew that I had zero motivation to become fluent in French, but I had a lot of reasons to pass. With the exception of HTML code, languages do not come easily to me, but I am pretty good at memorizing. So I adapted to this obstacle that I created and started studying French vocabulary. While I did horribly on the audio portions of our weekly tests, I started acing the vocabulary recall sections. Eventually those scores averaged out and by the end of my junior year I had a “B-” in French. Even though I still cannot speak a lick of French, I managed to overcome my obstacle that I thought was insurmountable, but it turned out to be completely doable.

There is no growth without adversity. There is no advancement without failure. There is no success without obstacles.

How shallow would success be if you decided you wanted to get somewhere and then you were suddenly there without any work in between?

I received my third stripe on my white belt when I was sixteen years old after a year of training jiu-jitsu. In front of the whole class my instructor asked me how I got my third stripe. I said, “You gave it to me Sifu.” He sternly replied, “I didn’t give you anything, you earned that stripe.” That one sentence changed my perspective on everything. When I received my blue belt a year later my instructor asked me how I got my blue belt. I replied, “I earned it,” and he nodded sagely. I earned it by committing my time, my energy, my sweat, and even a little bit of my blood to pursue a goal that meant something to me.

I believe that it is our job as adults in youth sports to present young kids with adversity, with failure, and with obstacles. We give them those three challenges in a controlled setting and then slowly prod them to grow, to advance, and to earn the level of success that they want to reach. If we do that our young adults will come to see that the obstacles they will face every day of their lives are not so insurmountable. If we don’t, then our young adults will spend their lives stuck in the kitchen like my three dogs, wondering why they can’t get past what is right in front of them.

Cheers,
Gordon

We’re Number One! We’re Number One!

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***This is a repost of an article I wrote entitled “Complete and Utter Domination” in May 2011.***

The trouble with youth sports is every kid grows at a different rate in both size and skill. This creates a very wide disparity between teams on the lacrosse field. I officiated a middle school team where I swear every kid must have been fed Muscle Milk since birth. Compared to the other team, these kids were giants. Not only were they big, they were also very skilled overall, and by the end of the first quarter the score was 10-0. The opposing team could not keep up in any facet of the game. They were completely dominated from the first whistle to the final horn.

There are going to be youth teams with a first-year coach and zero game experience. There will also be feeder teams under a public/private school banner that have two quality coaches and players with a wealth of experience. Kids that weighed 120 pounds soaking wet in seventh grade hit a growth spurt, then look down on me from a six foot frame. This wide variation exists in every youth program I have seen, but disparity is one thing. Poor winners is another.

Few things make me angrier than a coach letting his team shell a hapless goalie for four quarters. When one team is flat out better than the other, every kid on the better team wants to score. These are games where the goalie comes out in the fourth quarter, runs pasts a stunned defense and takes a shot. The game turns from a competition to a glorified shooting practice that demoralizes the losing team. Is is fun to put up twenty goals on a team that cannot clear the ball past midfield? Yes. Does it show good sportsmanship? No.

While the losing team falls deeper into the abyss, the winning team actually gets worse. During the shooting gallery, the superior players spend their time running past three defenders who cannot check and shooting from three yards out. I guarantee the winning team will not be able to do that against a stronger opponent. For all four quarters, the more skillful team only works on pouring goals into the back of the net. Their defense gets almost no work at all, the goalkeeper could set up a rocking chair in the crease, and the offensive players could care less about passing the ball in favor of going to the cage. In this situation, the coach of the prevailing team must take a firm hand and impose a new game strategy.

Game Strategies When Your Team is Crushing their Opponent:

  1. Sub in your second or third string. This lets your less experienced players get reps on the field.
  2. Every player switches to their off-hand, and cannot use their strong hand.
  3. Switch out your goalie with a player who would like to try the position.
  4. Make your offense pass the ball until the officials put a stalling call on. Now you are forced to keep it in the box.
  5. No one may shoot the ball until there are three complete passes. If they do that move to five, then ten.
  6. Your defenseman may only use poke checks.

Feel free to use any of these strategies if you are up by ten or more goals, and the other team has no chance of being much of a threat. I certainly do not want you to lose the game. So if the score starts to creep back up for your opponent, go back to your first string and gain a comfortable lead again.

The goal of these strategies is to level the playing field while providing the greater team with opportunities to improve. Taking multiple passes before shots creates players who look for the extra pass instead of getting tunnel vision towards the goal. Switching everyone to their off-hand develops critical muscle memory, and gets all of your players more comfortable using their non-dominate hand. Finally, requiring your defenseman to only throw poke checks forces them to play better body position, which will serve them well against stronger attackmen.

We cannot eliminate the size, speed, and skill imbalances at the youth level. Yet, as stewards of the game we can ensure those advantages do not negatively impact the game. Do not allow the lure of twenty-five goals make your team forget about sportsmanship. If your team is dominating, find ways for your players to improve and not just run up the score.

If anyone has any other strategies please use the comment section below.

Focus on Getting Better. Not Destroying the Other Team

Featured Image Credit – www.examiner.com

Cheers,
Gordon