A few months ago I had a small group of young players and I asked the question “what is respect?” The reason I was prompted to ask that question was because the players were disrespecting one another by hitting each other with their sticks while waiting in line during drills. I did not find that behavior particularly becoming of young lacrosse players. So I had everyone sit down in a semi circle around me and we discussed respect. Since that day I’ve spent many days thinking about respect and what to write about it, and I think I finally have down what I want to say.
There are three types of respect that I want to discuss. First is respect for yourself. Second is respect for others. Third is respect the game.
Respect for yourself
I cannot talk about respect without first going into respecting yourself. My parents brought me up to both believe in and respect the person I am. My experiences in lacrosse and martial arts taught me how to respect myself. I don’t believe you can play a sport without respecting who you are as an individual.
Through sport I learned to be both hard and gentle on myself. I was hard on myself when I knew I could do better, and I was gentle on myself when I needed encouragement. Ultimately, I learned that if I do not respect who I am then no one will ever be able to respect me.
Respect for others
Respecting others is what I discussed with my group of young players a few months back. We give kids body armor and a metal stick. It is a recipe for disrespect if they are not watched over vigilantly. My players where whacking one another in the helmet with their sticks in between drills. This cannot be tolerated if you are a coach, and the first time it happens I highly suggest separating the players after making them shake hands and forgiving each other for their poor behavior.
Respect for others means treating other people the way you would want them to treat you. Sports is an excellent way to learn about respect because your respect for others will be tested during practices and games. For example, in one of my games many years ago I was cross-checked hard and went down to the ground like a sack of potatoes. I could have sought out the offender for a little retribution, but I refrained from doing that. I was taught by my parents and my coaches to respect my opponent no matter what happens. In other words, I was instructed to take the high road and not lower myself to the level of someone who does not respect me.
Remember players, the stick is not a weapon.
Respect for the game
Lacrosse puts a heavy emphasis on honoring/respecting the game. We cheer our opponent and shake hands after every contest. We award those who play with exceptional sportsmanship during the season. We lift up our teammates and even our opponents when they get knocked down and are slow to get up. To me, respect for the game means leaving it better than you left it. That could be not retaliating after a cheap shot during a game, or by giving back as a coach committed to being positive no matter what. Your actions will show whether or not you treat the game of lacrosse with respect.
I believe that the game of lacrosse demands respect from the players, coaches, officials, program administrators, and fans. If everyone involved in a league comes to each practice and each game determined to respect the game, that league will be successful. I know to my core that Atlanta Youth Lacrosse has been successful because our staff and our members respect the game at a very high level.
I found what each letter of R.E.S.P.E.C.T stands for:
- Rules – learn the rules and then follow them
- Enthusiasm – get excited
- Safety – protect yourself at all times
- Purpose – learn something every chance you can
- Effort – always try your best
- Challenge – set goals and reach for them
- Team – be the best teammate you can be
Finally, I will leave you with Aretha Franklin’s Respect: