I’ve put off writing this post for the last several weeks. Since I accepted the job offer from US Lacrosse to be their new Men’s Officials Education Program Manager I experienced a wide range of emotions. From major excitement at the opportunity to work my passion of officiating lacrosse and finding new and interesting ways to train other officials to understandable anxiety about leaving my home state, close friends, and family. I’ve put off writing this post because it is hard for me to write about leaving the people and places I love and cherish. I am sad to leave Georgia and I am certain I will feel even sadder as I drive away today, but I am happy to be moving to Maryland and I am certain I will feel even happier as I get closer to my new apartment in Towson. Despite all the happy and sad feelings I’m experiencing there is no way I’m moving without a final post. So here it goes…
I started playing in the mid-90’s, began coaching around 2004, and stepped onto the field as a certified official in 2008. Looking back on more than a decade of involvement with Georgia lacrosse as a player, youth coach, referee, officials trainer, program coordinator, and blogger I keep asking myself where did the time go? I played or officiated at nearly every school that has boys lacrosse in Georgia. I streamlined the AYL website over several versions while self-teaching myself web development. I wrote my first post “Perfect Practice” back in August of 2010, and found a niche writing about positive coaching and what I consider the real goal of all youth sports: teaching life lessons with a fun activity. I officiated the 2014 6A State Championship game, fulfilling a goal I had in front of me since I started officiating. I am grateful that I had the chance to do so much in Georgia for the game that I love, but looking back at every lacrosse experience I’ve had none of it was possible without my family and my friends.
With AYL my parents, Mary Jo and Lou, had faith in me that I could learn how to manage an entire weekend of games as a teenager and could rebuild our business’s website despite no formal training in web development. It would have been much easier just to hire out the job to another person or company, but they trusted me to build something better than we had years ago and I never looked back after that. When I started writing regularly in 2011 my parents helped me comes up with ideas and my sister Caitlin, another fellow writer, helped encourage me and even edited my book! I learned so much about effective management from my father, and got my just-get-it-done attitude from watching my mother dive into work with a zeal I’ve seen few match. We’ve been through a lot as a family and come through it all closer. I’ll miss being at the field with everyone this fall, but I’m looking forward to the holidays!
I still have not wrapped my brain around not reffing the upcoming season with my fellow GLOA officials. Since freelance work meant I never set travel limits in our assigning system I was fortunate to work with nearly every official in our association. When I started making training videos a few years ago the board could have easily told me to stop, but they noticed I had a burning passion to make educational materials so they encouraged me to make more. In six years with the GLOA I’ve had roughly 800 conversations with my friend Andy Halperin going over rules, weird game situations, rough games, and congratulating each other on big game assignments. Greg Hite and I have spent countless hours revising youth and adult training PowerPoints while traveling over the state to teach classes. Those two guys are some of my closest friends and while I don’t have the space to write about every ref that has helped me – I will say that my couch is open if any GLOA refs are up in Baltimore. I’ll miss training, pre-gaming, and reffing with all of you. Thank you so much for the great times on and off the field!
Now since my posts always have some educational element to them I think it is best to wrap up my final post with a message specific to the coaches, officials, parents, and players who read this blog.
To the coaches: You’ll never go wrong if you’ve got a good game plan. Focus on fun, fundamentals, honoring the game, and sportsmanship and your youth team will do great. Remember that you’re coaching with not against the coach on the other side of the substitution box. Ensure that each practice and each game is focused on making your players and yourself as good as they can be that day.
To the officials: Ref youth games. You will learn how to manage weird stuff that rarely shows up in higher level games that happen with regularity in youth games. You will also have the opportunity to work with less experienced adult officials and youth officials who will benefit greatly from how you approach the game. While some youth games can get hot with loud coaches and parents, the majority are pretty fun because the kids are having a great time playing their favorite game.
To the parents: I’ve written a lot about how many parents are wild on the sidelines and have a less than realistic understanding of athletic scholarship opportunities, but one thing is always clear to me. You love your kids. I’ve seen the moms and dads at AYL comforting their son after a tough loss, and celebrating with him when his team wins. I’ve listened to quiet words of encouragement given as families walk to the field, and I’ve also listened to the loud words of encouragement given from the sideline. We don’t have youth lacrosse exploding across the country without parents who want their child to learn a fun game and absorb valuable lessons in the process. The one lesson I hope parents reading this blog have taken to heart is to enjoy the process. Your child won’t play in youth games forever and no matter how hard you try you will not remember the final score of any game in ten years, but you will remember sharing concession stand fries with your son after his game because he begged you to stay and watch the older boys play. I know because those are the memories my dad and I have so soak up every bit of your time at the fields and help keep the environment positive for all.
To the players: I still can’t believe how much all of you grow each season. Not only in height but in attitude. I’ve seen young kids whose only goal in life was to stuff themselves with as much BBQ sandwiches and candy as possible at the main tent grow into leaders on their team and capable youth officials who eat slightly less BBQ sandwiches and candy. Here is my advice to the young players reading: Number one is play what you love to play. If you love lacrosse keep playing lacrosse. If you love baseball play baseball. If you love swimming keep swimming. If you start any new sport stick with it to the end of the season even if you don’t enjoy it. You’ll have more seasons in front of you, but your experiences will be richer if you try different sports. Number two is listen to your parents. They’ve been around longer than you and have way more experience about navigating life than you can possibly imagine. Tell them you love them often because when it comes time for you to leave you’re going to wish you told them that every day.
Well, I think that about wraps this post up. Today I hit the road with my belongings packed up and a new city and a new job awaiting me. I will miss Georgia, but I’ll miss my friends and family even more. Thanks for the wonderful memories everyone, and I can’t wait to see you all again!
See you on the field,