Tag Archives: Parents

Please Remember

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I like to read up on articles about youth sports, and while searching for new posts there is a good chance I’ll come across a “Please Remember” sign like this one:

please-remember

There are all sorts of variations. Yankees for baseball leagues, Blackhawks for hockey leagues, Patriots for football leagues. Pretty much all of these signs are meant to be humorous reminders of a serious issue – that we are watching little kids playing a game. These signs are helpful because they cut to the core of a major problem in youth sports across the United States. The problem, as I see it, is not watching a youth game in context.

I love competition, but I don’t always want competition. Sometimes cooperation works just as well or better for a given task. The benefit of any youth team sport is that players learn how to cooperate on a team while competing against other players. Ideally in an environment that does not discount the importance of one in favor of the other. The playful signs I’ve run into work because we all get the joke. We’ve all lost our cool at a youth game. It happens from time to time, and that is okay. What is not okay is always losing your cool game after game, weekend after weekend, and season after season. The sign helps because we all get the joke, but I think the sign would hold a lot more power if another sign was posted next to it detailing the opposite behavior that gets all the press.

Here is a sign similar to the first one above:

please-remember #2

And here is the sign I created with the opposite message:

Please Remember-Awful Sign

 

The sign I created sounds ridiculous. The “Please Remember” rules are clearly untrue and not grounded in any kind of reality, but we can all lose our minds a little bit in a one goal U13 game after three earlier games in the summer heat. Humor tends to diffuse situations, and I encourage everyone out in youth programs around the country gearing up for summer ball to kindly approach the folks who might be suffering from the early symptoms of heat exhaustion. Offer them an ice pop, and remind them to follow the good sign and not the bad one.

Cheers,
Gordon

First Day Of Games At AYL This Weekend!

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first-day-of-games-at-AYL-this-weekend

Our players, coaches, and parents survived Snowpocalypse #1 and Snowpocalypse #2! We waited inside for two weeks chomping at the bit to get out and practice, and the last week and a half our young players have been going strong at Hammond Park and Dunwoody Springs. As teams prepare for their first day of games this Sunday I wanted to send a brief message to each group in the AYL family to help keep this 2014 spring season in perspective.

Players:

To our brand new players: welcome to AYL and the sport of lacrosse! We love introducing our favorite sport to new players, but we also know it can be a little scary suiting up to play an opponent. It’s okay to be a little scared or nervous before your first game or first couple of games. I played for over 10 years and every game I got butterflies. Those are a good feelings – they let you know you’re alive! As my one of my favorite characters, Ms. Frizzle, from The Magic School Bus said: “Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!”

To our returning players: welcome back! We’re glad to have you on the field for another season and we’re excited to see you improve from last fall or spring. Do you best to make new friends with our new players both on your team and on other teams. I still talk with my old buddies from my playing days, but you don’t get to have old friends without making new friends! Relish your mistakes in this game as much as your successes, and no matter what happens remember to honor the game.

Parents:

I truly hope you all enjoy this spring season. Please make our new parents feel welcome and remember that we rely on all of you to maintain a positive game atmosphere for all of our players. Remember to please observe our 24 Hour Rule if you have an issue you feel needs reporting. This allows parties on both sides of any issue to discuss it with cool heads away from the heat of an intense game. Also, we love dogs but the facilities that we lease do not permit dogs at the field. Please be respectful of our host facilities rules regarding animals.

There is a greater than average chance that your player will either get knocked down, take a shot off his body, or sustain a good bruise over the course of an entire season. There is a reason we require the players to wear all that protective gear. The adult and youth officials we’ve requested from the GLOA will officiate the games with player safety first and foremost, but even with the very best officiating and under control play, the players can still get banged up. Pleased don’t be scared by this, but understand the reality that placing twenty ten-year-olds in a 110×60 yard area with body armor and metal sticks might result in a good bruise. The best thing my parents ever did for me besides having me practice a firm handshake was give me the chance to get hurt while being supervised. I beat up my body a good bit in youth ball and a good bit more in high school games, but my parents never tried to shield me from a little pain. I learned at a young age the difference between a little hurt and a big hurt, and I always told someone when I got a big hurt.

Don’t forget that your U9, U11, or U13 player isn’t getting recruited by a college program just yet. A mistake at this level is not marked down by a graduate assistant coach on your player’s permanent lacrosse player record. Let them know it’s okay to make mistakes so long as they work hard to not make the same one in the future.

Coaches:

I tend to have the same message for coaches every season: Simplify, simplify, simplify. Basic is better at the youth level, advanced technique and plays should be saved until every player has demonstrated mastery of the basic foundation of playing lacrosse. High school coaches don’t want to teach the fundamental way to pick up a ground ball in the open field. They want the players coming into their JV or HS program to have these skills from their youth ball experience.

There is a reason I don’t play Madden Football. I hate not scoring on every play and I broke a few controllers while getting sacked by the computer on the lowest setting. Don’t treat these games as anything more than an opportunity for your players and you to improve. Identify what needs work on after your first game, prioritize the top three and practice those the next week. Then repeat the process after each game. If a pass isn’t perfect or a defender doesn’t slide correctly don’t pull them off the field immediately. Give them a chance to self correct and if they’re still making the same mistake sub them off an explain a better way of doing it: “Johnny, I love how hard you’re going for those ground balls. Try getting your bottom hand closer to the ground before you pick it up and you’ll get the next one.” Save shouting instructions to your team on the field. Slow down and reduce your voice’s volume when speaking one-on-one or to your team at halftime.

Know your team’s priorities. If your goals are to score seven points a game, never let your opponent score, or “Championship or Bust!” then you will never have a successful season, and even if you do win the ‘Ship’ your kids, parents and you will be nervous wrecks every game. Focus on the process of continual improvement and you’d be surprised how much production you get out of your team.

Officials:

As I mentioned earlier we are using adult and youth officials assigned by the Georgia Lacrosse Officials Association. Andy and I’s schedules between work and officiating are too hectic for us to regularly offer shadowing opportunities to our STARs this season. Both Andy and I have trained every adult or youth official that is going to ref games this spring. They know what they are doing and when the game ends the game ends. There will be no reversing of judgment calls after the final horn sounds and AYL will back up the on field decisions of each adult and youth official that comes to ref. We provide a hospitable environment for our players and I expect that to be extended for the referees. These gentlemen are Andy and I’s professional colleagues and they have told us how much they respect the environment and message of AYL.

Whenever Andy or I do not have game assignments we will work to be at the fields. I’m always available to answer rules questions at rules@ayllax.com. Also check out the rules document that breaks down rules per age level and includes the new 2014 rules here: 2014 Youth Rules And Differences Summary.

STARs:

Our STAR volunteer program has been a bastion of community service since Mary Jo created it back during our YMCA LAX days. Remember to contact Mrs. Corsetti at info@ayllax.com if you are interested in becoming a STAR. Mary Jo only communicates directly to STARs and interested STARs. It is the responsibility of the young players to email Mary Jo themselves or through their parent’s email. We do this to encourage individual responsibility and to help teach our young volunteers to budget their time and let us know when they are available.

Our STARs are fantastic mentors to younger players and they provide an invaluable service in maintaining the cleanliness of our facilities, running the table, filling in as last-minute goalies, and eating all of our snacks. Just kidding, we always make sure to have plenty of snacks!

I think that covers everyone so I’ll wrap up with this:

I believe the goal of every youth sport is twofold. One, light a passion for physical activity and hard work in the youth player. Two, help teach that player to be responsible for their own actions and reactions through their on-field experiences. I want our players, parents, coaches, officials, and STARs to share in my family’s passion for lacrosse but to also remember that, at the end of the day, it’s about the kids.

Cheers,
Gordon

The Crippling Effect Of High Self-Esteem

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self-esteem

When I started elementary school two major things were developing in the world. Coming home from school one day I discovered that the family computer now had an internet connection. That was the more obvious change. The change that took me many years to see was that high self-esteem for children was slowly gaining greater importance than teaching children to deal with disappointment and strive to be better. The idea is that increased self esteem leads to greater achievement because the individual should feel better about themselves. Having worked with young kids for the past 10 years, I consider putting high self-esteem before achievement one of the worst wide-ranging social experiments for developing children.

The dictionary definition of self-esteem is “a feeling of having respect for yourself and your abilities.” I believe we should teach young kids to have respect for themselves as a unique individual, but the second part of the definition is where I’ve seen problems. The idea that I should feel good about my abilities in anything despite solid evidence to the contrary confuses me. This idea filtered into sports with the “everyone gets a trophy” idea. Even if a player was terrible they got a trophy! Most of the average and below average players kept getting trophies until realizing at an older age that they were not very skilled.

I scored a goal against my own team in my soccer league when I was 5. It was the last game of the season and I got turned around on the field. I tore through my teammates as they stood wondering what I was doing and kicked the ball into the net. My parents told me that I was so excited to score my first goal that none of the coaches or parents had the heart to tell me that I sealed my team’s loss. I got a trophy, but I was 5. I barely knew what sport I was playing, and I definitely didn’t know which direction to run to. This had little to no effect on me. I kept playing soccer, tried baseball and swim team, but eventually landed on lacrosse as my go to sport.

I have no problem giving trophies to kids U9 and below for participating for a whole season. I think committing to a full season of their chosen sport is a good lesson for little kids to learn, and a trophy for showing up is good positive reinforcement. Above U9 is an entirely different story.

U11, U13, and U15 kids know who is good, who is okay, and who is bad. Giving trophies to every kid at the end of the season cheapens their knowledge that one team is definitely the best, and some players are better than others. This is not to say that little Johnny is a better person than little Timmy, but that little Jimmy is a better lacrosse player than little Timmy.

Trevor Tierney recently posted “The ‘Best Team’ May Not Be What Is Best For Our Kids” on his blog. He asserts that adults should not rush to create the “best” or most dominate team in an area simply so their players can have the best winning percentage. This is best illustrated by the fracturing of select travel teams at every age level in Georgia. In 2005-2006 there was exactly one travel team in Georgia, but that was a function of the times. As the sport grew it made more sense for there to be travel teams based off geographic location so players didn’t have to travel 2 1/2 hours just to practice. Unfortunately, the drive to give kids better self-esteem through cheap wins has diluted Georgia travel teams (also travel teams across the nation. This is not a one-state phenomena).

Some parents got frustrated when their player’s travel team didn’t post enough wins or hoist a plastic tournament trophy. So splinter groups formed and kids who had years of playing experience were loaded onto teams and scheduled in “B” division tournaments while their worst player could start on any “A” division team in the state. Predicable scored followed: 22-0, 15-3, 25-5 game scores started cropping up more and more in the various youth games I officiated over the course of a year. The parents did this for two reasons: One, the parents wanted to be a part of a winning culture as soon as possible and without putting in the years of effort it takes to get to that point. Two, parents wanted their kids to feel good, which means winning games, and what better way is there than stacking a bunch of U13 players together to play against kids who just learned how to hold a the lacrosse stick? I’ve reffed these games, and it is more than a little demoralizing to watch.

These parents miss the point of athletics. There are times when when one team is going to dominate another. My old high school Pace used to crush some teams. We considered those games “taking care of business,” not “business as usual,” and our coach regularly worked the less experienced players into those games. I rarely enjoyed those blowout victories. Sure they were fun, but the pride in the win didn’t stick around for long. Oddly enough, I have more positive memories from our loses to Westminster in my three years at Pace. My senior year I remember losing to Westminster 4-3, or 5-4. More importantly to me was that both teams came to play and it was one of my best performances as a player I ever had. We lost, but it didn’t destroy my self-esteem. I was more proud of how my teammates and I played in that loss than how I played in every blowout victory my team had that year.

Trevor’s final sentences from his post state: “Instead of finding a better team to play on, find a way to make your team better. This is how you can truly learn to win something of lasting value through the sports.” I have learned far more from losing games than winning them. Most players will have blowout victories at some point in their careers, but the win matters far less than the road to get there. Consider that Peyton Manning currently has an 11-11 playoff record. He is mathematically average in the playoffs, but I would challenge anyone out there to say he is not one of the greatest QB’s of all time (and don’t tell me that he left to another team. Archie didn’t trade him to the Broncos so that argument is moot!). The way he plays the game is more important than his ultimate win/loss record. That is a lesson all adults in youth sports should take to heart.

If you want your child to play a youth sport so they can win lots of games you will always be disappointed because there is always another team out there with more wins. Find a program near you that you like and don’t leave just because the team doesn’t win enough games. Is your kid improving? Is your kid having fun? Those are the questions you should ask yourself when thinking about moving to another team.

As a coach, I want a player who has experienced losing. I don’t like spending time teaching a U15 player who lost a close game that the world hasn’t ended. We all want to win, but losing is a part of life so it is definitely going to be a part of your kids playing experience. If you want to build their self-esteem by seeking out the dominate team two hours away so they can never lose then I say you are crippling your child because they will lose in the future and they won’t have losing experiences from childhood sports where they learned how to deal with it.

Cheers,
Gordon