Tag Archives: players

First Day Of Games At AYL This Weekend!

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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 Good. Just The Good.

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When I’m not writing about playing better or coaching techniques, I’m usually writing about overcoming negative behavior in youth athletics. Well today I want to write about one of my favorite experiences as a lacrosse official in a U11 game.

About three years ago I was officiating a tournament in north Georgia at the start of the summer. I had a mix of age levels each day, and that particular day I had three U11 games. The first two U11 games were brutal. Parents screaming, coaches screaming, players launching themselves into airborne miniature missiles aimed at the heads of their opponents or swinging their sticks so violently I was surprised that none broke. Usually in these games I can make a kid laugh or smile even when all the other adults are going crazy, but in those two games the kids on both teams were dialed in with a level of seriousness that was unexpected. My partner and I threw flags, and we might have ejected a coach. I can’t remember, it was really hot.

I can deal with crazy people and wild penalties, and I can deal with hot weather. Combine the two though and I get cranky. With my third U11 game coming up I was not happy about having to ref it. Here was another game where the players would be out of control, the coaches encouraging out of control behavior, and the parents yelling at me that I wasn’t keeping anybody under control.

Yet, that didn’t happen.

The players played with the appropriate level of body contact for their age group. They didn’t swing their sticks. In fact, they rarely tried more than a well timed lift check! The game was competitive, but the coaches stayed positive with their players and didn’t gripe to my partner or I excessively. Even better, the parents were enjoying the game and were very pleasant. I started that game with the idea that it was going to be a giant mess of craziness, but I ended it startled and genuinely happy.

I was so pleased with how everyone behaved that I asked both coaches to have their players take a knee on the far sideline where their parents were. I introduced myself and told them that their game was the best game I got to officiate all day and that everyone made me feel like coming out again the next day. I told the players that they made me a happy referee because they played with skill and finesse, and I complimented the parents and coaches for keeping the youth game in perspective and enjoying a nice, albeit hot, Georgia afternoon.

It is easy to get jaded in sports, especially when you see the same poor behavior at every game. Most games it isn’t that everyone is being a pain, but that there is one person on the sideline, one coach in the coaches box, or one player on the field making a mockery of the sport. But every once in a while there are games where the game is played and everyone enjoys it for what it is. A safe, fun time with friends.

I want to see a player helping up his opponent after a hard hit. I want to see a coach maintain a high level of intensity with his team without going overboard. I want to see a parent calming down another parent on the sideline who may be taking the youth game a little too seriously. Those are the moments I live for when I’m reffing.

Cheers,
Gordon

Everyone Needs To Pass The Rules Test

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You cannot legitimately criticize a player, coach, or official if you do not understand the game.

I have finally moved through the Kubler-Ross model after listening to blatantly incorrect statements from players, coaches, and fans as a lacrosse official. More commonly referred to “the five stages of grief”, the Kubler-Ross model is a guideline for the typical emotions most people go through when facing death or extreme grief. I’ve spent five years going through my own stages of rules grief as I see less overall lacrosse knowledge as the sport grows unbounded in Georgia.

The Five Stages of Gordon’s Rules Grief

  1. Denial – When I started officiating I dissected the rulebook and learned the exceptions to the exceptions. I’ve never thought that the average player, coach, or fan should know precisely how to administer live-ball simultaneous fouls. But I still can’t believe how many people think that a body check to a player’s chest is a push in a Varsity game.
  2. Anger – In year two of my officiating career I got angry. Mostly at coaches. I was too particular in applying the least-understood rules at the worst times, and I became angry because a lot of players, coaches, and fans had no idea what I was calling and then yelled at me for making those calls.
  3. Bargaining – At this point in my career I started to understand the basics of game management. So I approached coaches and players with more understanding. I still applied the least-understood rules of the rulebook, but I got better at explaining what I called and why I made a call. I was also learning the game-within-a-game between officials and coaches. As I understood how coaches were approaching a game I got better at conversing with them and, while not convincing them that I was right every time, that I was consistent.
  4. Depression – When you ref almost eighty games during the regular season, and over 150 games of varying age levels in the off season you can get a little burnt out from the same comments endlessly repeated. I don’t have a problem with the regular “C’mon ref call something!” comments. I got depressed over hearing “he’s offside!” when the player stepping offside was forty yards away from the ball and gained no advantage. I got even more depressed when multiple parents asked me after multiple U9 games, “You mean I shouldn’t tell my player to lower his shoulder into the attackman?” No, no you shouldn’t.
  5. Acceptance – I am pleased to report that I have reached a state of acceptance over the general lack of lacrosse rules knowledge by the public in our developing area. I hear the same blatantly incorrect statements from the sidelines, but I let them pass through me and I am unaffected.

Now, just because I’ve reached the “Acceptance” stage of the five stages of rules grief personally does not mean I’ve reached the “Acceptance” stage for the lacrosse community that I am a part of. I do not accept that anyone can fully enjoy a sport without knowing what the rules and their application are.

For instance, I enjoy watching rugby. I find that sport to be incredibly fast and exciting to watch, but I have no idea what is going on. I do not know what the rules are or how rugby plays are designed. In short, I don’t know the game. I think I would find rugby much more fun to watch if I knew what the major rules were and how basic plays were run.

I know that any person is perfectly capable of illegitimately criticizing anyone even if the person doing the criticizing has no experience or understanding about that which they are criticizing. I could strongly question my doctor for what I believe is an unnecessary prescription of antibiotics based off a cursory reading of my cold symptoms on WebMD when I am feeling ill. Just because I can access and read any information about the common cold from a Google search does not mean that I have the same level of comprehension that a qualified and certified doctor has. That doctor knows more about antibiotics and possible medication side-effects than I will ever know, and I’m not going to tell the doctor, “Whoa, doc, I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night and read up on the best course of treatment for myself.”

We live in an age with vast amounts of interconnected information that we can access on the phones in our pockets. Unfortunately, just having knowledge does not bestow comprehensive understanding of it’s application. You need to test yourself.

I propose the following model for all youth lacrosse leagues to help increase overall understanding of the rules of lacrosse.

Rule Comprehension Testing

We will never stop ignorant criticism of those who apply knowledge in a manner that we disagree with, but we can improve legitimate criticism by providing everyone the knowledge of lacrosse rules and test everyone on the application of those rules. Perhaps after a few years of doing this spectators will stop telling me that a slash is a two-minute technical foul.

Cheers,
Gordon