A few years ago I was paired up with two excellent youth coaches for a series of lacrosse clinics at an Atlanta middle school. The job was simple, but I had one problem. The kids were not responding to me very much. My coaching friend laid it out to me during the second clinic. “Gordon – with kids it’s best to explain things as simply as possible. That means take all the explaining you are doing and shorten it into three steps.”
He was right. As soon as I shortened my explanation of a new skill, the kids zeroed in on what I was talking about and executed the technique well. They were paying attention better too. Earlier in the clinics, when I was explaining a drill they would zone out and get that “dude, get on with it” look on their faces. Kids want action, and lets face it, they have shorter attention spans than an adult. So we as coaches must tailor our explanation of skills, drills, and game strategy to a few easy-to-repeat steps.
Here is my extremely detailed method of picking up a ground ball:
- See the ball on the ground
- Yell “I got ball” or ball
- Run towards the ball
- Place your front foot as close to the ball as possible
- Bend down as low as possible
- Keeping your stick close to the ground, run through the ball until it is in your stick
- Give the stick a slight cradle as soon as the ball is in your stick
- Bring the head of your stick close to, but not touching, your helmet
- As you continue to run yell “Release!”
- Run in a wide arc to separate yourself from pursuers
- Once you are safely away from other players, look for the open pass or shot
Did anyone else get bored and wonder when the heck is this list over with? If you did you know exactly how a youth player feels when a coach talks, and talks and talks. The player is thinking, “when is coach going to get this over with and let us do a drill?” As I said earlier, kids crave action. So spend some time and review your talking points with a willing adult. If they get bored listening to you explain a drill, chances are your players will do the same.
Now lets take a look at my truncated, but still perfectly valid ground ball explanation:
- Bend down as low as possible
- Run through the ball until it is in your stick
- Keep running
Simple. Direct. Repeatable. When I explain how to pick up a ground ball to new players I start with #1, then restate #1 and state #2. Then I wrap up by stating #1, 2, and 3 together. That gets the technique drilled into the player’s mind effectively through repetition. By the time I am finished, all of the players are thinking “bend down, run through, and run.” That accomplishes the core skills required to pick up a ground ball.
Everything else that I listed above can be added to future ground ball drills. For instance, I don’t require players to shout out “I got ball” during the first ground ball drill they ever do. What does it accomplish to the actual task of picking up a GB? Nothing! Let the kids worry about steps 1-3, and then after a few repetitions, add in the ball shout.
So avoid bogging down your young player’s minds with extraneous detail. Save that for small group or one on one work. Instead, focus on shortening your explanations so you and your players can get to the action.
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