Tag Archives: respect


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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:


Positive Cheering

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There are a lot of things that make me proud of Atlanta Youth Lacrosse. By far, the part of AYL I am most proud of, is our relentlessly positive fans. Since the program’s inception, the AYL staff strived to create an atmosphere of true sportsmanship on the sidelines, and we have succeeded in doing so because of like-minded and supportive parents.

Angry Fans

Angry Fans

There are a lot of youth lacrosse programs in the United States that encourage positive sideline behavior, but there are also a lot that turn a blind eye to anything said from the stands. I find that disheartening because, at the end of the day, all of those negative comments are heard and internalized by the young players. Now, there are some people who say that mean words from the sideline toughen up kids. When a fan tells me that I immediately conclude that anything else that comes out of their mouth is not worth the energy to listen.

Imagine how productive would you be at your job if every five minutes, someone, who has no idea how to do your job, called you a stupid insert curse word here? That is what all negative comments at youth sporting events boils down to. There are one or two individuals who never played the game yelling at their kid or someone else’s kid, when they have no idea what they are talking about.

Case in point, I was officiating an in-state tournament this past summer. The horn blew for halftime and a dad vaulted over the barricade by the fans sideline, ran onto the field, and started berating his son, the goalie. He gave a verbal dress-down about how terribly he was playing, and how he was letting his whole team down. Before it escalated any further, I walked over and informed him that he was not allowed on the field. I spent the remainder of the day angry because this individual, who I am certain never played goalie in his life, believed his knowledge of the game was so vast that he needed to impart it in the most heinous and memorable way possible. As I said in the Language post, all he did was reveal his own ignorance.

So the big question here is: how do youth programs promote responsible and positive sideline behavior. There are two methods out there, one of which I prefer to use. The first is the US Lacrosse Sportsmanship Card. Which states, in very polite language, that the offender is acting against the honorable traditions of the game. Many organizations use this card by handing them out during games to fans who forget that the game is about encouraging sportsmanship, respect, and honor. While I like the concept, I believe it lacks teeth. Which is why we use a different method to enforce good behavior at Atlanta Youth Lacrosse.

Whenever I am officiating a game at our league and one or more fans becomes belligerent or very negative, I stop the game and walk to the sideline. I calmly look up and down the row of parents and fans, then state the following:

“There are some individuals who are not contributing to a good, sporting atmosphere. I do not know who you are, but you, and the people around you, know who you are. The next time I hear a comment that negatively impacts this game I will stop the game, come back to this spot, and turn on my stopwatch. I will burn two minutes off the game time, and every player will sit at the bench because of your actions. If I come back again it goes up to three minutes, then four, and so on. Thank you for your support in honoring the tradition of this game.”

I'm gonna make you an offer you can't refuse

I'm gonna make you an offer you can't refuse

I have used this threat three times in five years, and I have not had to follow through on it yet. When you threaten to eliminate the playing time of everyone, each fan on the sideline looks at the offender(s) and quietly tells them to zip their lips. In those twenty-seconds, I enlisted everyone on the sideline to help promote a good atmosphere for the players.

Whenever our league participates in, or hosts tournaments I always get the same compliments from other coaches and parents. They consistently say our fans are the nicest fans they ever encountered. One coach remarked that AYL is “intense about being laid-back.” I like that phrase so much because it drives right at the heart of our mission at AYL. At the end of the day, it is all about the kids. We want every one of our players to enjoy their time on the field, free of any mean-spirited comments by a fan that gets a little too worked up for a youth game.

So to all of our parents and fans on the sidelines. Bravo. Please keep up the great cheering and help new fans who are unfamiliar with our sideline style.

*Note – There will be future posts on the application of Positive Cheering.

Featured Image Credit – www.beaconcareermgmt.com



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Today, in a time span of less than six hours, I heard more curse words strung together than I ever heard before. I listened to young children say words they did not understand, and senior players belting out words that they certainly understood. While writing this I am shaking my head in frustration. There is a time and a place for bad language, but until you reach twenty-one there is not a single situation so bad that requires vehement cursing.

George Washington - "Stop Cursing!"
George Washington – “Stop Cursing!”

George Washington once stated: “the foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and low that every person of sense and character detests and despises it.” Speaking to young players for a moment; when you curse you cast your immaturity into sharp relief. When you drop an F-bomb you only show your inability to speak intelligently without resorting to base insults. Yet, in these situations I do not blame the child. I blame the parents.

A few years back, when Atlanta Youth Lacrosse was still at Murphy Candler Park. I was playing against two opponents who cursed all game. The officials put them in the penalty box over and over again, but neither player seemed to understand that they should firmly shut their mouths. When the game ended, I packed my gear into my bag and walked over to my dad. I passed my two opponents and their father. He was dropping curse words left and right about how terrible the referees were. Put simply, the apples did not fall very far from the tree.

Now I only blame the parents if the child is under sixteen. If a sixteen-year-old player is cursing at or around me while at AYL. He is going to get a serious talking to. Players, there comes a time when you must step out on your own as a responsible individual. Cursing shows that your are still a child, and not worthy of additional responsibilities.

Looking back on my formative years, I cannot say there was a good reason for me to curse at another person. However, I was impulsive. I lacked the what I now call the “brain-mouth connection.” I cursed because I was frustrated at some perceived slight or the lack of fairness directed my way by a person or situation. I became proficient at stringing together imaginative combinations that left my friends’ mouths on the floor. The problem was, I did not understand the full impact of my words. I said them without a care in the world. Never realizing how foolish they made me appear.

As an adult, and role model for our youth players, I cannot afford to lose control of my mouth. So I replace my curse words with “G” rated words. Which I now give to all of our players, parents, adult fans, and coaches:

  • Fishsticks!
  • Jimmeny Christmas!
  • Darn (or Darnit)!
  • Crud!
  • Shucks!
  • Awwwwwww!
  • Shoot!
  • Weak!

Feel free to add to this list, but it should provide everyone with a basic filter for curse words.

We Don't Encourage This ^

We Don't Encourage This ^

Finally, when players, coaches, and fans curse during a lacrosse game you disgrace yourselves. Worse, you disgrace the game. There is a reason why the rulebook requires a minimum 1-minute Unsportsmanlike Conduct Penalty for cursing starting at “damn.” At Atlanta Youth Lacrosse we do not tolerate sullying the game that we love and respect. I do not care if cursing is a family thing like the two opponents I once played against. Or if you just learned a new and shocking curse word. You do not curse on the lacrosse field. Treat it like a church and keep your mouth to yourself. If that concept does not click for you then remember what my mom used to tell me: “Gordon, if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all.”

Featured Image Credit – www.questions.thoughts.com