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…