Tag Archives: high

The Crippling Effect Of High Self-Esteem

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self-esteem

When I started elementary school two major things were developing in the world. Coming home from school one day I discovered that the family computer now had an internet connection. That was the more obvious change. The change that took me many years to see was that high self-esteem for children was slowly gaining greater importance than teaching children to deal with disappointment and strive to be better. The idea is that increased self esteem leads to greater achievement because the individual should feel better about themselves. Having worked with young kids for the past 10 years, I consider putting high self-esteem before achievement one of the worst wide-ranging social experiments for developing children.

The dictionary definition of self-esteem is “a feeling of having respect for yourself and your abilities.” I believe we should teach young kids to have respect for themselves as a unique individual, but the second part of the definition is where I’ve seen problems. The idea that I should feel good about my abilities in anything despite solid evidence to the contrary confuses me. This idea filtered into sports with the “everyone gets a trophy” idea. Even if a player was terrible they got a trophy! Most of the average and below average players kept getting trophies until realizing at an older age that they were not very skilled.

I scored a goal against my own team in my soccer league when I was 5. It was the last game of the season and I got turned around on the field. I tore through my teammates as they stood wondering what I was doing and kicked the ball into the net. My parents told me that I was so excited to score my first goal that none of the coaches or parents had the heart to tell me that I sealed my team’s loss. I got a trophy, but I was 5. I barely knew what sport I was playing, and I definitely didn’t know which direction to run to. This had little to no effect on me. I kept playing soccer, tried baseball and swim team, but eventually landed on lacrosse as my go to sport.

I have no problem giving trophies to kids U9 and below for participating for a whole season. I think committing to a full season of their chosen sport is a good lesson for little kids to learn, and a trophy for showing up is good positive reinforcement. Above U9 is an entirely different story.

U11, U13, and U15 kids know who is good, who is okay, and who is bad. Giving trophies to every kid at the end of the season cheapens their knowledge that one team is definitely the best, and some players are better than others. This is not to say that little Johnny is a better person than little Timmy, but that little Jimmy is a better lacrosse player than little Timmy.

Trevor Tierney recently posted “The ‘Best Team’ May Not Be What Is Best For Our Kids” on his blog. He asserts that adults should not rush to create the “best” or most dominate team in an area simply so their players can have the best winning percentage. This is best illustrated by the fracturing of select travel teams at every age level in Georgia. In 2005-2006 there was exactly one travel team in Georgia, but that was a function of the times. As the sport grew it made more sense for there to be travel teams based off geographic location so players didn’t have to travel 2 1/2 hours just to practice. Unfortunately, the drive to give kids better self-esteem through cheap wins has diluted Georgia travel teams (also travel teams across the nation. This is not a one-state phenomena).

Some parents got frustrated when their player’s travel team didn’t post enough wins or hoist a plastic tournament trophy. So splinter groups formed and kids who had years of playing experience were loaded onto teams and scheduled in “B” division tournaments while their worst player could start on any “A” division team in the state. Predicable scored followed: 22-0, 15-3, 25-5 game scores started cropping up more and more in the various youth games I officiated over the course of a year. The parents did this for two reasons: One, the parents wanted to be a part of a winning culture as soon as possible and without putting in the years of effort it takes to get to that point. Two, parents wanted their kids to feel good, which means winning games, and what better way is there than stacking a bunch of U13 players together to play against kids who just learned how to hold a the lacrosse stick? I’ve reffed these games, and it is more than a little demoralizing to watch.

These parents miss the point of athletics. There are times when when one team is going to dominate another. My old high school Pace used to crush some teams. We considered those games “taking care of business,” not “business as usual,” and our coach regularly worked the less experienced players into those games. I rarely enjoyed those blowout victories. Sure they were fun, but the pride in the win didn’t stick around for long. Oddly enough, I have more positive memories from our loses to Westminster in my three years at Pace. My senior year I remember losing to Westminster 4-3, or 5-4. More importantly to me was that both teams came to play and it was one of my best performances as a player I ever had. We lost, but it didn’t destroy my self-esteem. I was more proud of how my teammates and I played in that loss than how I played in every blowout victory my team had that year.

Trevor’s final sentences from his post state: “Instead of finding a better team to play on, find a way to make your team better. This is how you can truly learn to win something of lasting value through the sports.” I have learned far more from losing games than winning them. Most players will have blowout victories at some point in their careers, but the win matters far less than the road to get there. Consider that Peyton Manning currently has an 11-11 playoff record. He is mathematically average in the playoffs, but I would challenge anyone out there to say he is not one of the greatest QB’s of all time (and don’t tell me that he left to another team. Archie didn’t trade him to the Broncos so that argument is moot!). The way he plays the game is more important than his ultimate win/loss record. That is a lesson all adults in youth sports should take to heart.

If you want your child to play a youth sport so they can win lots of games you will always be disappointed because there is always another team out there with more wins. Find a program near you that you like and don’t leave just because the team doesn’t win enough games. Is your kid improving? Is your kid having fun? Those are the questions you should ask yourself when thinking about moving to another team.

As a coach, I want a player who has experienced losing. I don’t like spending time teaching a U15 player who lost a close game that the world hasn’t ended. We all want to win, but losing is a part of life so it is definitely going to be a part of your kids playing experience. If you want to build their self-esteem by seeking out the dominate team two hours away so they can never lose then I say you are crippling your child because they will lose in the future and they won’t have losing experiences from childhood sports where they learned how to deal with it.

Cheers,
Gordon

Why I Don’t Play Anymore

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Whenever I ref a men’s club game or tournament, like I did this weekend, I invariably run into a former teammate or opponent from my playing days. After the usual pleasantries are exchanged I get asked the same question: “Why aren’t you playing today Corsetti?”

The short and funny answer is: “I’m not getting paid $50 bucks to play the game, but I do get paid that to ref it.”

The more complicated answer is: “I don’t want to play anymore.”

I rarely give out that second answer because I get a lot of perplexed looks from youth, high school, college, and men’s club players. None of them understand why I wouldn’t want to get out and mix it up with some buddies on a lacrosse field. I don’t think they believe me when I explain that if I never picked up a lacrosse stick again for the rest of my life that I would still die happy.

You see, I love lacrosse, but I never really liked playing. And that is a huge distinction to make.

Since I started playing in fifth grade at Atlanta Youth Lacrosse at Murphy Candler Park until I stopped in my final club game around 2011, I had trouble enjoying lacrosse while I played it. I had a blast with my teammates, and I rejoiced when we won games, but there was a darker side that I never liked.

Since I began playing as a child I never fully enjoyed a game because I was so self-critical. Every mistake I made was magnified in my mind as being the worst mistake ever made on a lacrosse field. I had fun, sure, but I was also plagued by self-doubt and a ridiculously critical inner-voice. As I grew older and played in more competitive games that self-doubt turned into anger. Eventually the game wasn’t any fun no matter what the final score was.

I spent ten years playing lacrosse turning much of my anger towards myself, and at twenty-two years old I played a men’s club game out in north Georgia with some friends. The team played well, I played well, we won with a comfortable lead, and I was miserable driving home. I was miserable because I got stripped of the ball on a clear. I was pissed off at myself in a game that had zero meaning. So I made the decision then and there that I no longer wanted to play lacrosse.

I never liked playing lacrosse, but I loved the game then and I love it now. The only difference is I get to officiate, which allows me to cultivate a mental attitude that I am much happier with. For me, the best part about officiating is that I only have one metric that I judge myself on, which is:

  1. Did I give everything I had to the two teams playing?
    • As one high-level official I met said, “If the players are going to give 100%, I am going to give 100%.”

The second best part about officiating is that you never win and you never lose. You either did a good job or you didn’t. For some reason that tiny difference turns my competitively hot anger against myself into a cool anger. When I make a mistake that cool anger keeps me hyper focused on the game in front of me, and it drives me to make sure that I don’t commit any more mistakes for the rest of the game.

Officiating lets me be my self-critical self without being destructive. I tell people who ask me why I officiate the following:

When I ref a game I get to be the calm center of the swirling tornado around me. I step on and off the field with a calm and relaxed mindset. That makes me happy.

I’m still competing to be the best lacrosse official I can possibly be, but it took me over fifteen years to realize that while lacrosse is a competitive game, it is still just a game, and I’m not going to crucify myself mentally for not hitting my generally too-high standards.

I love lacrosse, and I like officiating. So that’s what I’m going to stick with until I can transfer my officiating mentality into my playing mentality.

Featured Image Credit – http://melaniexyz.deviantart.com/art/Hanging-up-the-Cleats-184435915

Cheers,
Gordon

Off The Book Rules

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If you run lacrosse league you need to cover all of the rules that will apply to every division. Atlanta Youth Lacrosse uses the USL Boys Lacrosse Rules, which are slightly modified from NFHS rules, as our foundation governing play at all levels. The general AYL rules may be found on the “Complete League Rules” page.

Next, you need to specify the rules in each division. We find it convenient to split the first and second grade rules apart from everyone else since the differences are significant. The third through twelfth grade rules govern play for each of these age groups, because the rule changes are slight for each age level. So it is simpler to keep these rules together and highlight the differences.

We covered the general rules, and the division-specific rules. Now, we can cover what I call “off the book” rules. These are the rules that pertain specifically to Atlanta Youth Lacrosse.

We borrowed some from other leagues, and created a few of our own. These rules help AYL staff and coaches improve player development, and they help create a relaxed atmosphere that promotes good sportsmanship. If you run your own lacrosse league, or are a parent involved in one, I highly suggest finding a way to use these rules in your program. We have used them for years and they always benefit our league. Just remember to apply them consistently if you want them to work.

  • Rule 1 – This is Youth Lacrosse
    • You would be surprised at the amount of people who think a fifth and sixth grade lacrosse game is equivalent to the NFC championship. I officiated a game at a different league years ago, where people were hanging off the stadium guard rails to yell at the coaches, officials, and players.
    • This rule is critical to follow if you want to establish an atmosphere that is about the kids and not the people yelling in row C. All of the following rules are really ways to remind players, coaches, and parents that we are playing a game at the youth level.
You Do Not Talk About Fight Club

You Do Not Talk About Fight Club

  • Rule 2 – This is Still Youth Lacrosse
    • I can’t give up a Fight Club reference, but I want to stress the point that we are playing a game. Coaches, parents, and staff always need to remember that this is about the kids having fun. Keep repeating this mantra, and everyone will join the youth lacrosse train.
  • Rule 3 – No One-Handed Stick Checks
    • This is generally reserved for the first through fourth grade leagues, but it can be applied to any age division if checking gets sloppy. Any and all one-handed stick checks are considered a “slash” if this rule is enforced.
  • Rule 4 – The Uncontrollable Stick
    • Any stick check that the official feels is uncontrollable is a “slash.” Even if the stick does not make contact with the other player. This is a great rule if you are trying to cut down on stick swinging. Inform the players that two hands on the stick, and raised to the shoulder is more than strong enough to dislodge a ball. Baseball bat swings, golf-ball swings, and behind the back checks, can and should be considered uncontrollable if this rule is applied to a game.
  • Rule 5 – No Horns. Mandatory Substitutions
    • This is a new rule for AYL that we are moving to for our first through sixth grade divisions. Every five or six minutes the clock is stopped for mandatory substitutions. Whoever is on the bench goes onto the field, and the players on the field go to the bench. This helps to enforce equal playing time and gets coaches used to the usual substitution flow for lacrosse, which is usually five or six minutes. This rule only applies when the ball is settled or dead. We will not stop the action of a potential shot on goal to get a mandatory substitution. Wait for the shot to be taken, then stop the clock.
    • Teams can still sub on-the-fly at any point during the game. Just no horns.
  • Rule 5 – Goalie Clears the Ball after a Goal
    • We usually apply this rule during Winter Ball because it gives kids less down time after a goal. Generally, a faceoff is set and ready to go after fifteen seconds. If each team scores five goals thats 150 seconds of dead time. By clearing the ball after every goal, the players get roughly two to three minutes of extra playing time.
  • Rule 6 – The No Rake Rule
    • Raking the ball results in a turnover. This is my personal favorite because after two weeks of consistent enforcement, nearly every player, at every level is running through the ball instead of stopping to rake it into their sticks. Players get the hint that they are supposed to run through the ball instead of stopping to pick it up. This speeds up the game and drastically decreases the amount of scrums that can occur at the younger age levels.
    • Atlanta Youth Lacrosse will apply this rule in the fall for all grades under seventh.
  • Rule 7 – Positive Cheering
    • I went into lots of detail with the Positive Cheering Post a while back. The short version of this rule is that whenever spectators get overly excited in a negative way. By which I mean: any type of cursing or “knock him dead” comments. If this happens, the game stops but the clock runs for one minute. If the person/people act up again, the game stops but the clock runs for two minutes. After the third stoppage, we ask the individuals to leave. Nothing calms a sideline down more quickly than messing with every kids’ game time.
  • Rule 8 – No One-Handed Ground Balls
    • I believe this is a coach’s best friend during a team practice, but it should not be implemented during a game. After all, sometimes it is appropriate to pick the ball up with one hand, so long as the player is running through the ball. Enforcing this rule during practice by having everyone do pushups or run a lap when they do a one-handed scoop will condition players to get low and run through the ball with two hands. Which is the method that gets the highest likelihood of success.
  • Rule 9 – The 24 Hour Rule
    • AYL implemented the 24 Hour rule a few years ago when handling concerns, complaints, or issues after a game/practice. Anytime anyone has something they want to say about how a game or practice was handled, they must wait 24 hours before emailing our office. This provides everyone on both sides of the issue time to cool off and gain perspective on the problem. Additionally, we do not allow anyone to accost a coach, official, or staff member in person while at an AYL event. We want anyone who has an issue to contact AYL through appropriate channels, and the 24 Hour rule helps accomplish this.

That covers the off-the-book rules that Atlanta Youth Lacrosse has enforced in the past. Don’t try to use all of these at once at your own league. Pick one or two, but make one of them the no-rake rule (seriously, it does wonders). Then have your officials and staff enforce them consistently. These rules do no good if they are applied every so often. They must be applied with conviction if you want them to work.

If you have any questions about these rules, or have an off-the-book rule to suggest, please comment below.

Featured Image Credit – www.tbloa.org

Cheers,
Gordon