Tag Archives: kids

Meet New People

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I want young players to play with their friends, but I don’t want them to do this all of the time. As AYL prepares for the 2014 spring season with our U9, U11, and U13 age groups we go over all the team requests we get through our registration and contact forms. While we cannot guarantee placement on a particular team, we work diligently to get players on teams primarily for carpooling reasons. Looking back on my non-driving years, my mother was clearly a saint as she spent most of the day driving through Atlanta traffic while shuttling my sister and I to school and other activities.

Kids and adults don’t like change. The difference between adults and kids is that adults understand that change is inevitable. Which is why I don’t understand the need to keep a group of 10, 15, or 20 young players on the same team for their entire youth playing days. By the time they get to high school or college they can perform the skills of lacrosse, but they lack the ability to quickly relate to a new teammate.

One of my biggest regrets was when I changed schools in tenth grade and I decided that I didn’t really like any of my peers at my new school. I chose to withdraw and interact as minimally as possible. When I got to college I was a social hermit, not by choice, but by habit. Early in life I chose to stop meeting new people and then I began to fear new people. Fortunately, a few folks got to know me a little bit sophomore year and painfully pulled me out of my shell. Now I can interact like a regular human being, but I regret how many potential friends I lost because I was fearful of not being liked.

Familiarity destroys creativity. While it is perfectly natural for a player to want to play just with his buddies, we adults must encourage them to play on teams with kids they don’t know very well. Fortunately for us, we have lacrosse as a common bond to encourage greater interaction between young players. It’s never hard to go out for a catch, but it is tough for kids to go up to another kid they don’t know and ask to have a catch. The more times a player asks new players to have a catch or go shoot, the better they get at asking, and the lower the fear of rejection. Plus, they get practice throwing with someone they are unfamiliar passing with. If they choose to pursue playing lacrosse in college, they will be confident enough to approach their new teammates and they’ll be able to quickly adjust to different passing styles.

To the parents – if your child is not placed on the team you requested even if you need it for carpooling, I suggest reaching out to the other parents on your team. There will likely be one or two families needing to rejigger their carpooling arraignments, and you might make some new friends in the process!

To the players – anxiety over meeting new people is natural. Humans are social creatures, and any kind of rejection hurts at an emotional and sometimes physical level. If you’ve got more unfamiliar faces on your team this year than familiar ones then introduce yourself and ask who want to have a catch. And don’t forget that a big smile usually helps!

Featured Image Credit – www.natgeotv.com


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.


Don’t Get Your Mogwai Wet!

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Youth athletics, including high school sports, serve one major purpose: Getting young men and women to understand that all decisions have consequences. Through the game they learn that hard work, paying attention and following the rules pays off pretty well in terms of individual and team success. While laziness and breaking the rules lends to more unfavorable outcomes.

When you boil down education it really comes down to equipping kids with the necessary skills to navigate a world full of rules, both fair and unfair. Ignorance of the law is no excuse when breaking it, yet we spend very little time educating players about the rules of their chosen sports. Then they are surprised when they are penalized during a game for behavior that was permitted in practice. The player assumes that the rule is unfair and the official is judgmental and quickly assumes the victim mentality of “I didn’t mean it.” Eventually every penalty is never the player’s fault but someone else’s and the victim mentality becomes firmly entrenched. All because the adults in charge never taught the player how the game is played under the constrains of the rules. They just said, “Go shoot, go hit, go pick up that ground ball.”

This observations stands out off the field as well. We teach kids geometry, algebra, trigonometry and calculus. All of which are valuable fields of study, but I haven’t met a high school graduate yet who knows how to balance a checkbook. High school students are expected to write a logical five-paragraph essay but I still get kids emailing me, “Bro, can i Ref this weekend and how much $$$ do I get?!” We teach skills absent of context and real world application.

If you are going to learn anything you must learn the rules governing it, and there are always rules (both official and unofficial). To those of you who do not know what a Mogwai is check out the 1984 movie “Gremlins“. A Mogwai is a very unique creature, but there are three rules that must be followed if you are to care for a Mogwai. They are:

  1. Don’t put it near light, especially sunlight, it can kill them
  2. Don’t let it get wet with water nor give it any water to drink nor bathe it
  3. No matter how much it cries or begs, NEVER feed it after midnight

Simple rules to follow right? Watch the movie and discover the consequences of breaking those rules.

A Mogwai care sheet has three rules, and the NFHS boys lacrosse rulebook has seven. After watching Gremlins no one forgets about how to take care of a Mogwai, but I know players who have played for eight years who still don’t know what Rule 6 in the rulebook is (technical fouls by the way). All because we, the adults, place a greater premium on how to score goals and hit big than how to play the game legally. Then cry foul at the officials when a player commits an illegal act that no one told him/ her how to avoid in the first place.

If we keep up with this backwards way of educating young players by teaching them skills without context all we are doing is raising a bunch of confused soon-to-be adults. There are a lot of pioneering educators who work to buck the system. My old high school physics teacher is one of them. When he taught us about energy he also taught us how electricity powers an air conditioning unit. He explained the basic workings of an air conditioner solely so we wouldn’t be scammed by an unscrupulous A/C maintenance person. I learned about electricity and picked up valuable knowledge for when I eventually purchase a home with central air.

There is a recently graduated defenseman who had a successful career at his local high school because he actually studied the rules and knew how to operate within them. He was a pleasure to officiate because if he didn’t understand why I made a ruling he came up and asked me. Because he knew the rules he also knew when he violated them. Never the victim, he would walk past me as I reported the foul and say, “Good call, my bad there.” I think he will find success in whatever he does because he learns the context along with the skill he is developing.

I can count on one hand the number of players who approached the game like that defenseman. The rest think I’m a judgmental official who doesn’t like them. Guess what? Judging is part of my job description! My partner and I decide what is legal and illegal during the game. The kids that complain are the same ones who go to court on a traffic violation and think the judge is unfair during sentencing. The first group of kids will be just fine, it’s the second group that will have problems.

Rules on the field can absolutely be applied unfairly, but so can rules off the field. It is not enough to think something is unfair, you have to know something is unfair so you can try to do something about it should you be so inclined. The only way you know something is unfair is if you understand the rules.

To that end, here are resources that I hope every player, coach, and parent takes advantage of:

Last bit of advice. When you ask an official something don’t go, “What the heck did I do wrong?” Instead ask, “Mr. Official, could you explain that penalty so I can try to avoid doing it again?” Learning how to ask a question will serve these young kids well when they start asking their college professors questions.