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!
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