Tag Archives: learn

We Forgot

Published by:

we-forgot

This post was inspired by The New York Times Article “Sports Should Be Child’s Play

We forgot how hard the game was starting off. We got to a point after a few years of playing where the game clicked and now we have trouble relating to those who don’t get it yet. We lost the perspective we had as children putting on unfamiliar equipment and stepping onto a large playing surface. We did not fully understand the game we were playing, and we weren’t supposed to. We were children, and then we grew up and forgot.

Every so often when coaching young players the thought “how the heck have you not gotten this yet?” passes through my head after a player continues to struggle in some aspect of the game. It’s a thought born out of frustration and a lack of control. At least once a season every coach will put their hands on their hips, look at the ground, and slowly shake their heads. This happens at the highest levels of lacrosse, but is most frequent in the U9 and U11 age levels. The frustration comes from a lack of perspective when dealing with players that young. I can relate to players in college and high school because I have distinct memories from those times in my life. I get where those players are coming from, but I have a hard time understanding what is going through the mind of a nine year old because I’m too far removed from that age.

Despite coaching young players for the last several years I still don’t know how to think like a little kid. I can coach them and recognize when they need a breather from instruction, but I definitely get frustrated when a player keeps passing into the double team despite three weeks of explaining why that pass is a bad idea. I have to bite back from yelling at a kid “this isn’t that hard!” But it is hard, and that’s why the game is both fun and challenging. It is difficult to learn how to catch and throw on the run while being pursued by opponents wearing hard plastic equipment, and be expected to make the correct decision with the ball under pressure. I constantly remind myself to be patient with youth players because I don’t remember how I used to process new information at that age. I can either assist the player at their individual level or I can try to force the player to learn like a few coaches I observe.

During summer tournaments I see a wide range of coaching styles in a single day. By far the most effective youth lacrosse teams I see have a coach or coaching staff that gives specific instructions to their players for the game situation, and does not accuse players of screwing up. I do not write effective to mean these teams win every game and beat the spread. I consider effective teams as ones where the players play the best lacrosse they can between the first and final whistles, and the coaches don’t abandon instruction at the first sign of trouble. Along the same lines I do not believe in accusing players of screwing up. That does not mean I do not hold players accountable for their mistakes at any level, but I do scale down the level of vehemence in my voice to the age of the players. I expect a high school player to be able to take a verbal tongue-lashing, understand why his screw up hurt the team, resolve to not make the same mistake again, compartmentalize my comments as being in the heat of the moment, and then go onto the field and make a good play. I have yet to see a nine year old respond in a similar manner to a coach pulling him up by his facemask (yes I have seen this), and wondering out loud how this particular player could even consider making such an egregious mistake. It’s not that these coaches are bad people. Most of them just forgot what it was like to play a competitive game as a child, and attempt to apply motivation in the same manner they received it when playing a sport in high school or college.

In an effort to remind adults how big the game used to feel, “USA Hockey […] recently invited adults to play on a 310-by-130-foot ice rink to show them what it’s like for an 8-year-old to play on a regulation rink. The grown-ups’ assessments: “too much time between the action”; “it’s hard to communicate because everyone is spread out so far”; “you end up spending a lot of time in open space.”

A regulation hockey rink is 200ft x 85ft. For the rink in the video above they multiplied the length and width by 1.5. Doing the same to a regulation lacrosse field at 110yds x 60 yds, we get a scaled up field of 165yds x 90yds! That would make the distance from goal to goal, normally 80 yards, a whopping 135 yards. A clearing midfielder would have to run over the length of a regulation lacrosse field just to play defense on the other side of the field using these scaled up measurements. That is a long, long way to run for any adult on a midfield line, but run that a few times and you’ll see just how tough it is for a young player to get settled on a field that feels much larger to them than it does to us. Then you’ll be reminded to take a breather the next time your player passes into double coverage.

He’ll learn eventually but you’ve got to be patient, and try to see if a different way of explaining or demonstrating will work better. It sounds strange, but we as adults must remember to not forget. These are just little kids playing a game, and we best serve our players and the game by keeping that perspective.

Featured Image Credit – http://www.usahockey.com

Cheers,
Gordon

No Biting

Published by:

no-biting

I never thought I’d have a reason to write a post titled “No Biting” but I was wrong. Luis Suarez of Uruguay was recently suspended for nine matches and four months for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini in their World Cup match. That is quite the hefty suspension, but considering Suarez was suspended twice before for biting an opponent I’m not surprised at the length of this suspension. You know, that bears repeating. This individual has bitten opposing players more than once before! Wow.

What I find worse than the bite is the foolish defense his coach gave after the game. “Óscar Tabárez, the Uruguayan coach, also said he had not seen the incident (nor any video or photographs of it afterward), but he leapt to Suárez’s defense anyway, vehemently attacking journalists for, in his opinion, unfairly targeting Suárez. Tabárez added: ‘This is a football World Cup, not about morality, cheap morality‘ (www.nytimes.com).” That last line is telling. This coach, in defending his star player, wants us all to believe that the ends justify the means at the World Cup. This blithe comments does a lot of damage because it implies that winning a game or being a remarkably good player is more important than the manner in which the game is won.

Lacrosse has a long history of honoring the game, but those of us in lacrosse do not have a monopoly on honor in sports. Every team and individual sport I’ve participated in reinforced the ideals of:

  • Modesty
  • Courtesy
  • Integrity
  • Compassion
  • Gratitude
  • Perseverance
  • Self Control
  • Indomitable Spirit

Those are the words I recited before and after every youth kickboxing class at Tiger Academy, and every other sport I played growing up helped instill those words to my core. Biting his opponent means Suarez had zero self-control, no courtesy, very little compassion, and a complete lack of integrity.

As someone who coaches and interacts with youth players on a regular basis I cannot tell you how much damage the win at all costs mentality does to young players. If we as the adults do not strongly condemn the public actions of players like Suarez and then sit the kids down to explain that poor behavior and actions leads to severe consequences, we will see more players acting poorly on the grandest stages.

I remember a practice from my high school days where a few of my teammates got detention for not tucking their shirts into their pants during the school day as per the dress code. After detention these players came to the field, got dressed, and joined us late. Our coach put us through our paces as usual, and then the last fifteen minutes of practice were spent running Sprints with Wisdom.

My teammates and I sprinted the full length of the field down and back. We were provided a short rest after each sprint during which our coach espoused the hidden meaning behind the dress code:

“You are men! You are not supposed to care what you look like! If you are supposed to wear a belt you wear a belt! If you are supposed to tuck in your shirt then you tuck in your shirt!”

whistle

“You do not give a teacher attitude when you get called out for ignoring the rule!”

whistle

“You don’t get detention for dressing like a fool when you have a job. You get fired!”

whistle

“You are wasting practice time because you cannot tuck in your shirts! You are men, you do not care what you look like. Tuck in your shirt, wear a belt, and un-pop the collar!”

Those are Sprints with Wisdom. The violation was small. Not tucking in your shirt is not on the same level as biting someone, but tucking in your shirt demonstrates Modesty and Self-Control. When young players are given the opportunity to screw up on little things the adults around them are responsible for correcting them until the lesson sticks. That way players learn to demonstrate attitudes and attributes that are valued in society before they start biting people because they got bumped into on the lacrosse field.

Featured Image Credit – http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/28023882

Cheers,
Gordon

Why Kids Should Take Care Of Fish

Published by:

why-kids-should-take-care-of-a-fish

I know what you’re thinking. How am I going to link caring for fish to lacrosse? Well, here I go:

I was in fifth grade when I started taking care of a few freshwater fish in a tiny ten gallon aquarium. My first fish was a little catfish that zoomed to the side of the tank and swam erratically against the glass when it saw it’s reflection. I named it Frisky.

As I got older I went to a twenty gallon, and finally a forty gallon aquarium through most of high school. I kept Frisky, the algae eater, Spot, and most all of my fish alive for a good six or seven years. I did this by reading up on how to keep a freshwater aquarium ecosystem running well. I changed the water regularly, kept the light on a timer, and did not overfeed the fish. At a young age I learned how to care for an entire group of small creatures that relied on me. I also learned that small mistakes repeated over time can drastically harm the tiny ecosystem.

The smaller the ecosystem the greater the impact of every change so it is important to make very small changes. This same principle applies to a youth lacrosse team of 18-22 players. If a coach wants to change many things at the same time the team’s players will not respond well. Say you want your players to throw better checks, break down better, have better footwork, and slide better. If you try to teach all of that at the same time you will fail. The team ecosystem will break down with the flood of too much new or different information. Instead, institute your changes gradually. One week just work on better footwork. The next, better checking. Over time your team will improve defensively because you broke down a big change – Better Defense – into a bunch of smaller, easily digestible, changes.

Another lesson I learned from fish is that you cannot introduce new fish into your tank by just pouring them in. When you get a fish from the store, the employee puts the fish into a small bag in the water it is used to swimming in. That water is different from your aquarium water in chemical levels and temperature. Imagine how you would react if a stranger picked you up from school, drove you a distance you couldn’t measure, and then left you at a new school in a different state. You might be a little shocked.

The correct way to bring in new fish is to float the bag in your water so the temperature equalizes. After fifteen minutes, pour a little bit of your water into the new fish bag so the shock is lessened. Then use a fish net to scoop up the little fish and gently deposit him in your aquarium. The fish will be less shocked, and you don’t have to worry about introducing a bag worth of store aquarium water into your aquarium.

Players must understand that they will not get better after one practice or one game. You can’t shock your system into learning anything. Just as coaches must be gradual in teaching new concepts, players must take a consistent approach to learning new skills. If you want to get better at winning face offs, you don’t try to master every face off move at the same time. Remember what Bruce Lee famously said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” Get really good at the basics, and then add to your skill set slowly and consistently. If you do that, the only person getting shocked by your skills will be your opponent.

The last reason I have for young players taking care of fish ties in with the main AYL message: Player Responsibility. We put a huge emphasis on players at every age level to be responsible for their gear and their practice off the field. Our staff does not like seeing players handing their gear to their mom or dad for the short walk to their car. It is your gear, you wear it, you carry it.

The trouble with responsibility is that kids have to be given something to be responsible for, and adults can never be sure how the kid will handle it until given the chance. That is why caring for one or more fish in a tiny aquarium is an awesome way to teach kids responsibility. You can get small aquariums for very cheap, and freshwater neons cost less than $2 per fish! If a fish dies the parent isn’t out a bunch of money, and neons are not tough to keep alive because they are hardy little guys.

The young player taking care of fish learns how to take care of creatures that are completely dependent on the young player for their survival. That is a huge lesson in responsibility for a kid, and if the kid fails early on you get a few more cheap fish and try again. Very little is at stake, but the kid learns how to be more responsible, and if they demonstrate the responsibility to take care of a few fish then they prove to the adults that they can take on more important tasks.

Alright! Fish to lacrosse link accomplished! I wonder what other obscure non-lacrosse related things I can link to lacrosse…

Cheers,
Gordon Corsetti