Tag Archives: Life

Try An Individual Sport

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I’ve written a great deal on the benefits playing team sports has on young players with posts like:

I’ve also written about the positive impact I got from the individual sports of kickboxing and jiu-jitsu:

I can confidently say that without both individual and team sports in my life I would be crippled in my personal and work life today. The different types of sports compliment one another. Team sports teach broad lessons where players learn how to depend on fellow teammates and become a dependable teammate themselves. Individual sports teach harsher lessons that are felt much deeper because success and failure are set on one person’s shoulders. In our increasingly interconnected world it is becoming more and more necessary for young kids to learn how to interact well in a group setting, but that does not mean children should only play team sports growing up. An individual sport can have a wonderfully positive impact on a child. I know because I was fortunate to grow up with parents that encouraged my athletics ambitions in lacrosse, but also promoted my love for jiu-jitsu and kickboxing.

Few things teach you how to keep your hands up like getting punched in the face. As I trained more kickboxing and jiu-jitsu I found how to push past physical exhaustion in each class, but I also learned how to absorb the mental blows of getting repeatedly beat on and tapped without getting down on myself. This is much harder to do in individual sports because you’re responsible for your own mistakes. When a teammate misses a pass it’s easy to go, “aww, he should have caught that. I threw that perfect!” even if you didn’t throw it perfectly. That is the biggest benefit for individual sports. Kids learn to own their failures and then learn how to get past them on their own.

Every time I hear one of our young players say they’re going out for tennis, or trying wrestling, or joining the swim team I want to hug them. They’re going to be more well-rounded individuals by the end of their first season playing an individual sport, and if they choose to stick with lacrosse they will be better players too. I did not earn playing time in high school by being a physically imposing defender. I knew lacrosse by studying the game and I was usually in the right spot at the right time, but I also knew exactly where to best put my body to defend an opponent. If I hadn’t spent hours and hours on the mat I wouldn’t have know my body, and my body’s limits, as well (3+ hours of constant movement wearing a thick cotton gi in a dojo with the heat cranked will get you into shape!).

Kickboxing and jiu-jitsu made me a better lacrosse player, and if I ever got a little tired of one I could focus on the other. That provided a great balance for me growing up, and the different lessons learned on the field and in the dojo continue to serve me well at twenty-six. So to any AYL or other youth players reading this I want to strongly encourage you to try any individual sport that peaks your interest. I ran, golfed, and swam at a young age before zeroing in on kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, and lacrosse. You’ll never know what might spark a passion in you without trying, and I assure you that lacrosse will still be here if you choose to spend the majority of your time practicing and playing lacrosse.

Featured Image Credit – www.teamedgeonline.com


Shoulder Angel vs. Shoulder Devil

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Good versus Evil. Right versus Wrong. Morality versus Immorality. Shoulder Angel versus Shoulder Devil.

All of these capture the inner struggle we all have to do the right thing. This struggle is characterized as our conscience, and we all have one. Yet, for young players their conscience, like themselves, is immature. This is not to say that young players do not have a conscience. Just that is is currently undergoing construction.

Parents and immediate family members lay the deep foundation of conscience. My father and mother constantly told me that being a good person meant doing the right thing when no one was paying any attention. Those messages permeate deep into the minds of young players, as it went deeply into mine. The next level of conscience-building comes from forces outside the immediate family. Friends are the first that come to mind. Players, have your parents ever told you to choose your friends wisely? My parents told that to me constantly, and I chose friends who liked me for me and always had my back. I avoided the kids that wanted to party all night, drink, and try drugs. Instead, I was lucky to have friends that cared about me and I continue many of those friendships to this day. It is my hope that your teammates become close friends to you today and remain that way for years to come. Because I believe that good friends will keep you on a good path.

The last force that helps to develop a good conscience are teachers. I use that term broadly to encompass actual teachers, coaches, church-leaders, role-models, etc. For the purposes of this post, I will be focusing mainly on coaches and our responsibility to ensure that kids listen to their Shoulder Angel.

I have said before that sports are a microcosm of life. It allows kids to experience victory and defeat, and all the emotions and feelings that come with each. However, every sport has a dark side which if left unchecked, will ruin any kid’s experience on the field. That dark side is evident when players don’t listen to their conscience, and allow anger, rage, and frustration to rule their minds. When that happens cheap hits and fouls are committed, often with an intent to get back at another player for a perceived slight, or, even worse, to injure another player. These moments have happened, do happen, and will continue to happen. Sorry to say, but players lose control over themselves sometimes and will occasionally do something that is just plain wrong. So how can coaches use these dark side situations to their advantage? How can we teach young players to control themselves when everything around them seems so chaotic?

Option 1, Fight Fire With Fire:

Fire With FireSometimes, a player will do something so blatantly unsportsmanlike that the only thing to do is call the player out on it. Put simply, there is a lot of power behind a coach using his own dark side and scaring the heebie jeebies out of the player. For example, I did something downright ugly in a game many years ago. My coach (also my dad) got right into my grill and demanded that I explain myself. I was so taken aback by how angry he was that I chose to be the most sporting player I could be after that. Do I remember what I did that set my father off? Not at all. I just know that I’ll never do it again and I’m incredibly sorry that I did it. The point here is there is a place for anger as a coach, so long as it is used effectively.

Option 2, Create A Safe Place

Safe PlaceEvery player should feel comfortable coming to their coach with a problem. Especially if that problem is occurs during a game. If communication lines between players and the coach remain healthy, then players can talk through their issues with their coach. Coaches, especially at the youth level, should strive to become a safe place where players can voice their opinions and concerns. If you do this, players will think to tell their coach about unsportsmanlike behavior on the opposing team, so that he can handle it properly, and without the player having to get revenge against their opponent. Work on ensuring that players can come to you with any issue, and they will come to you if they have a problem in a game. Tell your players, “if someone is playing dirty against you I want to know about it, and don’t take it into your own hands.”

Whichever option you choose, remember they are not mutually exclusive. You are more than welcome, and encouraged, to use both.

To all of the players reading this blog, I want to request something from all of you – Do Not Sully This Game. That means, when you are fouled in a game, you don’t go looking for retaliation. That means, when one player calls you a bad name, you don’t reply in kind. That means when you step onto the field you leave the game better than you found it by your actions on the field.

Finally, I will leave you with a great and humorous video that showcases the contrast between the Shoulder Devil and the Shoulder Angel. Here’s a hint, the best part of this video is when Kronk tells his Angel and Devil to leave him alone and he goes with his heart. That is what conscience is really about.


Jimmy V Week

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While I do not usually post on Wednesdays, I felt compelled to do a short post after watching Jim Valvano’s 1993 ESPY speech last night for the first time in my life. As with many great speeches, I was drawn in not by the quality of the words, but by the passion that was behind them. I put aside the project I was working on and listened to a man with tumors rotting his body rail against cancer, and speak beautifully about the simple wonders of life.

As Jimmy V said; if you can laugh, think, and cry – you’ve had a full day. With that, here’s Jimmy V’s speech:

If you would like to donate to the Jimmy V Foundation, you may do so here: http://www.jimmyv.org/index.php. 100% of your donation will go towards cancer research.

“Don’t give up … Don’t ever give up,”
Jim Valvano