Tag Archives: parent

The Stopwatch Parent

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One of our longtime youth coaches sent Coach Lou, Mary Jo, and I this article: http://blog.nj.com/njv_guest_blog/2013/10/the_scholarship_chase_is_killi.html. I feel the author, John McCarthy, hits the major points about investing time, energy, and money into a chase for a full-ride athletic scholarship to a major college or university starting when the kid is playing the pee-wee sport of their choice. All of this has been slowly pushing down into younger and younger age levels shortly after I began playing lacrosse in the mid 1990’s.

My planned post for today, The Stopwatch Parent, ties in perfectly to Mr. McCarthy’s article. I’ve coached a lot of youth teams over the last decade, and there is usually one parent each season holding onto a stopwatch during games. The stopwatch has one purpose: it lets the parent track how long their player is on the field compared to all the other players. My favorite quote from McCarthy’s article is, “[A new parent] also learned that while all of the parents were vocal in their support for a travel team, none was willing to serve as a coach.” I see this on every team I’ve ever coached and every youth game I’ve ever officiated. There are a lot of parents who love the idea of their kid being on an elite travel team, but very few are qualified to make coaching decisions that benefit the team over any individual player.

There are at least one or two parents per team who do not understand that their child is playing a team sport, and their stopwatch or iPhone timer are the giveaways that these parents don’t care about the team. They are blinded by their adoration for their young player, and until I become a parent I doubt I will understand this mentality, but these parents need to learn the mindset that comes with playing a team sport. That mindset is TEAM FIRST not ME FIRST.

I coached a U11 team years ago, and I answered a dozen phone calls from concerned parents wondering what their child could do to get more time on the field in each of our tournament games. Bear in mind that the kids of these concerned parents were the better players on my team, and my assistant coaches and I adjusted the lines to make sure at least one of our better players was on each line to lead the other less-experienced players while on the field. Apparently, this was a poor coaching strategy. Reading between the lines on each of these parent conversations, I came to the conclusion that these parents wanted one line filled with the best players (their kids) to take the lions-share of playing time at the expense of every other kid on the roster. After all, we were an Elite U11 Travel Team and their kids were the best of the best on the team.

I despise the terms Elite Youth Player and Elite Youth Team. I do not believe there is any such U9, U11, U13, or U15 player or team in lacrosse or any other sport. I officiate every age level of lacrosse all over Georgia and the Southeast. I have not yet seen a so-called Elite U11 player who has the stick skills to compete with a third-string high school player. I’ve seen really good U11 players when compared to other U11 players, but even the very best U11 player I’ve seen is still raw in terms of stick skills, lacrosse IQ, defensive footwork, and communication. Which is completely understandable as they are 8, 9, or 10 years old! They haven’t had the time to polish their skills to an elite level, and calling these players elite at such a young age makes the term meaningless and gives the player very little incentive to work on getting to a higher skill level.

This is my message to all stopwatch parents:

The youth coach has a harder job than you can possibly imagine, and if you are spending your time in the stands criticizing your team’s coach for not playing your kid enough then you need to step onto to the sideline and volunteer to help substitute players. If you don’t want to do that then you need to sit down and use your iPhone to find an individual sport that your kid might want to try because you can’t handle that your “elite” player has to share playing time with his teammates.

Even the best players sub off the field.

Featured Image Credit – https://news.slac.stanford.edu/announcement/expedited-shipping-available-slac-eshop

Cheers,
Gordon

Busting The Myth Of Equal Playing Time

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I love Mythbusters for three reasons. One, Adam Savage, Jamie Hyneman, Grant Imahara, Kari Byron, and Tory Belleci make science fun. Two, the show confirms or busts commonly held myths. And three, most episodes end with something blowing up.

In the spirit of Mythbusters I am busting the myth of equal playing time in this post. I’ve written about The Coaches Lie, Sweating and Smiling, and Equal Playing Time over the last two years, but I don’t believe I’ve fully explained my position on why I believe equal playing time is a myth. This post delves into my position, and explains to parents the best way to approach the concept of equal playing time.

Equal playing time sounds great and that is the point. Who could argue that equal playing time is a bad idea? It sounds so nice and good, and if you come out against equal playing time you sound negative no matter how you articulate your point. I am not stating that equal playing time is bad, but I do state that most coaches and league administrators say they believe in equal playing time without putting in any structures to promote it. This happens because equal playing time sounds so darn good, and that phrase draws parents into the league.

The problem as I see it is that someone came up with the concept of equal playing time; then everyone bought into what a great idea it is, but nobody actually thought about how to make it happen. So every youth sports league promises equal playing time without saying how. If you as a parent are looking into a youth league for your child the first question you should ask if the league offers equal playing time is: “How do you ensure equal playing time?” If they do not have a reasonable answer then move on to another program.

Atlanta Youth Lacrosse does not guarantee equal playing time in our recreational lacrosse programs because we would be lying. Instead, we use two key strategies to help increase playing time for all players:

  1. Small team sizes capped at twenty-two players per team encourages more substitutions as players will get tired. We’ve found that adding players beyond twenty-two significantly decreases playing time for most of a team’s players.
  2. The 24-Hour Rule gives players and parents an opportunity to think through their concern about playing time (or any other concern) and then contact Atlanta Youth Lacrosse. During the next game, our experienced staff watches the team the player is on and prompts the coach to substitute their lines more frequently. We often do this with new coaches who are learning how to substitute players and manage game strategy.

That is how AYL builds more playing time into our games and manages concerns over playing time. The goal is to aim for more playing time, but I believe we need to remove the word equal out of phrase.

I would prefer saying Fair Playing Time because that is a more attainable goal, and it is more applicable to the real world that we want to prepare young kids to enter. The definition of equal is, “the same in number, amount, degree, rank, or quality”. Equality is the bedrock concept upon which a free society rests, but as many adults know, we don’t always get treated equally in the real world. We may be as skilled as another person at work, but we get passed over for a promotion. We may be more passionate than another person during an interview, but we don’t get a call back due to a possible bias from the interviewer. That is a depressing fact of life but if introduced slowly at a young age, a child can grow into an adult knowing how the real world operates, and, more importantly, how to handle unequal setbacks.

Equal is the same thing as perfection. We may never get there as human beings, but there is no reason not to try. However, I believe that prefacing “playing time” with the word equal prevents us from coming up with ways to actually get there. Which is why I like Fair Playing Time. the definition of fair is, “treating people in a way that does not favor some over others”. Treating players fairly is a much better word. Children are not identical and they should not be treated as identical people because what works for one child may not work for another, but every child should be treated fairly.

Is it fair that when one child misses a full week of practice that he gets the same amount of playing time as the child who attended every practice? I do not believe so. Giving the absentee child the same amount of time on the field as everyone else who showed up is not fair to the team because that player did not practice what the team worked on that week. The fair treatment would be keeping that player on the bench for one half. This teaches that absenteeism has consequences, and in team sports, the team comes first.

Equal is a strong word. Our country’s founding fathers stated, “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”. Nations have risen and fallen on the basis of equality. Leaders have emerged in the just fight of equality for every human being born on this Earth. I believe equal is too strong of a word when we talk about playing time. Fair is much more manageable.

Cheers,
Gordon

The Inverse Relationship Between Age and Anger

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I remember being a pretty angry kid. I had a short fuse and if something did not go my way I would often erupt. Martial arts and lacrosse lengthened my anger fuse because I realized that I did not perform well when I was angry. I couldn’t focus on my next move because my mind was fixated on some slight from twenty seconds earlier. This didn’t mean that I lost my anger, but I did learn to channel it into a productive, rather than destructive, force.

As an official I am required to be emotionless. This is a complete impossibility but most people will forgive an official for showing some emotion during a game so long as that emotion is not anger. Coaches, players and parents are allowed to get angry but officials cannot show how pissed off they may be during a game. Once we show anger on the field we are screwed because in that moment we’ve been brought down to the same fighting level as the coach, player or parent we are addressing. At that point the battle is lost for the official. To combat this personally I’ve spent several years working on keeping a calm face in the storm of vitriol that can fly out of the mouths of angry people.

In my years involved with lacrosse as an arbiter of the rules who does not have any stake in any game that I officiate, I’ve found an interesting inverse relationship. An inverse relationship is when something decreases when something else increases or visa versa. In officiating lacrosse I’ve come to believe that parent anger is inversely proportional to player age. The younger a particular team the greater likelihood that angry parents will follow, while older players bring out the parental wrath less often.

Inverse Relationship

This is relationship is not causal. It is merely a correlation that I’ve found is correct more often than not. It has been my experience, shared across many officials that I work with, that youth games can be difficult to work because of the adult coaches and parent spectators. Take them out of the equation and most of the players have a grand time, but younger teams generally have a greater chance of some adult losing their mind during a game.

As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I do not have children. I cannot imagine how stressful and frustrating it is for a parent to watch their child take a big hit in a game and the officials not catch it. I can understand the anger a parent can have on the sideline when something big is missed because I get angry when I see officials miss a big illegal hit. What I do not understand is why a parent would yell vulgarities at a fifteen year old official during a 10-1 game for a missed offsides violation when that parent’s team happens to be winning.

I’ve met a lot of parents in my travels around the Southeast and the vast majority are great people who just want to enjoy the nice day. These are the parents that applaud when my crew and I kick out an angry instigator. I’m writing about the 1% of parents/coaches that get 100% of the news coverage because they act horribly.

If you are going to get angry about something get angry about missed safety violations. Then count to ten or do whatever you need to do to get a clear head and find a more rational way to get your point across. Talk to the coach after the game, write to the league administrator or official’s assignor, but don’t waste your energy on fruitless angry pursuits that will land you with a suspension, a possible court date, and a prime spot on your local news show.

For a very in-depth look at the physiological responses to getting angry check out this post: Mad = Angry + Crazy + Dumb – by Leon F. Seltzer Ph.D.

Cheers,
Gordon