Tag Archives: sport

Try An Individual Sport

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I’ve written a great deal on the benefits playing team sports has on young players with posts like:

I’ve also written about the positive impact I got from the individual sports of kickboxing and jiu-jitsu:

I can confidently say that without both individual and team sports in my life I would be crippled in my personal and work life today. The different types of sports compliment one another. Team sports teach broad lessons where players learn how to depend on fellow teammates and become a dependable teammate themselves. Individual sports teach harsher lessons that are felt much deeper because success and failure are set on one person’s shoulders. In our increasingly interconnected world it is becoming more and more necessary for young kids to learn how to interact well in a group setting, but that does not mean children should only play team sports growing up. An individual sport can have a wonderfully positive impact on a child. I know because I was fortunate to grow up with parents that encouraged my athletics ambitions in lacrosse, but also promoted my love for jiu-jitsu and kickboxing.

Few things teach you how to keep your hands up like getting punched in the face. As I trained more kickboxing and jiu-jitsu I found how to push past physical exhaustion in each class, but I also learned how to absorb the mental blows of getting repeatedly beat on and tapped without getting down on myself. This is much harder to do in individual sports because you’re responsible for your own mistakes. When a teammate misses a pass it’s easy to go, “aww, he should have caught that. I threw that perfect!” even if you didn’t throw it perfectly. That is the biggest benefit for individual sports. Kids learn to own their failures and then learn how to get past them on their own.

Every time I hear one of our young players say they’re going out for tennis, or trying wrestling, or joining the swim team I want to hug them. They’re going to be more well-rounded individuals by the end of their first season playing an individual sport, and if they choose to stick with lacrosse they will be better players too. I did not earn playing time in high school by being a physically imposing defender. I knew lacrosse by studying the game and I was usually in the right spot at the right time, but I also knew exactly where to best put my body to defend an opponent. If I hadn’t spent hours and hours on the mat I wouldn’t have know my body, and my body’s limits, as well (3+ hours of constant movement wearing a thick cotton gi in a dojo with the heat cranked will get you into shape!).

Kickboxing and jiu-jitsu made me a better lacrosse player, and if I ever got a little tired of one I could focus on the other. That provided a great balance for me growing up, and the different lessons learned on the field and in the dojo continue to serve me well at twenty-six. So to any AYL or other youth players reading this I want to strongly encourage you to try any individual sport that peaks your interest. I ran, golfed, and swam at a young age before zeroing in on kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, and lacrosse. You’ll never know what might spark a passion in you without trying, and I assure you that lacrosse will still be here if you choose to spend the majority of your time practicing and playing lacrosse.

Featured Image Credit – www.teamedgeonline.com

Cheers,
Gordon

I Thought This Was A Contact Sport!

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Ugh. I’ve heard too many variations of this post’s title when I ref U9, U11, U13, and U15 boys lacrosse games. I’ve noticed that the new parents shout out what they perceive as incorrect calls and no-calls. Typically, the moms cry “foul!” when their child gets body-checked, and the dads shout “no way!” when their child is called for an illegal body-check. These shout outs indicate a lack of understand of the various youth boys lacrosse rules on proper body contact at each level.

Here is a link to the third edition of the “Youth Rules & Best Practices Guidebook for Boys” from US Lacrosse. Every new parent to boys lacrosse should read this guidebook with their player or players. It is an excellent resource to refer to during the season.

The important thing to remember about body checking in youth boys lacrosse is that each age level is very specific as to what kind of body checking is permitted. Here are the rulebook definitions for youth body checking along with a layman’s explanation:

  • U9 & U11 – “No body checking of any kind is permitted.”
    • “Legal pushes (Rule 6 Section 9, Pushing) and holds (Rule 6 Section 3, Holding Article 3 a & d) are allowed.”
    • “In all loose ball situations players should ‘play the ball,’ but incidental contact, ‘boxing out’, or screening techniques during such play shall not be considered a violation of this rule.”
      • NFHS Boys Lacrosse 2013 Rulebook page 100
    • Layman’s explanation: Boys lacrosse for the U9 and U11 age levels is essentially basketball with sticks. I explain body checking in this way to give parents a good visual. Players at these two age levels are permitted to push and maneuver players around to gain a strategic advantage, but they cannot try and knock another player to the ground. Just imagine a basketball game and you will have a better idea of how U9 and U11 players can contact other players.
  • U13 & U15 – “Body Checking is permitted. To be legal a body check should be delivered in a generally upright position with both hands on the stick and the player initiating the check may not use his lowered head or shoulder to make the initial contact.”
    • NFHS Boys Lacrosse 2013 Rulebook page 100
    • Layman’s explanation: Body checking is permitted but only in a very defined area. Any body check outside of the defined specifications should be penalized.

With all body checking at the youth level parents, coaches, and players need to keep in mind the following from Rule 5: “US Lacrosse expects stricter enforcement of the Cross Check, Illegal Body Check, Checks Involving The Head/Neck, Slashing, Unnecessary Roughness, and Unsportsmanlike Conduct rules than is common at the high school level.” In other words, this is youth lacrosse and the threshold for personal fouls is considerably lower the younger you go.

This takes me to foul prioritization, which was recently explained by Lucia Perfetti Clark, the officials education and training manager at US Lacrosse, in her post “Not All Fouls Are Created Equal: How Officials Set Priorities“. She writes that, “if there is a potential for safety fouls to occur amongst other, lesser violations, then officials must move that foul to the top. Prioritizing fouls makes the game safer.” Think about what is most important for the officials to call in a U11 game. Should the official call the offsides 40 yards away from the play around the ball or the late body check on the shooter? If both occur near the same time I would much prefer that the official prioritize and catch the safety foul. Lucia explains further that parents have a place in getting the right message to the players:

For safety prioritization to work, coaches, parents and spectators need to support officials. All too often an official makes a big and appropriate safety call, and the next thing you hear from the sideline or the stands is, “That was a great check! Great defense! Keep it up!”

This kind of comment just reinforces bad player behavior and will only serve to escalate the severity and frequency of calls. What works better? Substitute that player so he or she can be coached regarding the call in question or simply has time to cool off before rejoining the game.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve flagged a perfectly illegal body check in a U11 game only to have a parent or even a coach yell to the player, “Great hit!” It was not a great hit, that is why I flagged it. Now the player has two very different messages to put together. I just penalized him for a hit that is not permitted at his age level, but the adults responsible for the player are praising him for the hit. When coaches or parents say things like that my safety radar goes off, and I get even more vigilant for safety violations moving forward. I focus more after hearing those comments because after doing this for so many years I expect the players involved to listen to their coaches and parents more than they will listen to me (the random adult official who they don’t know). Often I am sending the same player off the field for an even more vicious hit.

Officials at every level prioritize calls with safety being the highest priority. The younger the players are the lower the threshold for fouls, and it does not do the player any good to criticize a properly called safety violation for everyone to hear.

Want to learn more about the rules of the game? Check out the US Lacrosse Online Courses!

Featured Image Credit – www.laxallstars.com

Cheers,
Gordon

I Cannot Prevent Fouls

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Whenever I have a game with a lot of flags this comment usually gets yelled out by someone: “You’re not controlling the game ref!” I beg to differ.

The coaches and fans making that comment do not understand that I only have two additional tools at my disposal after throwing flag after flag on both teams. I can either:

  1. Ramp up the penalty minutes and start disqualifying the repeat offenders
  2. Cancel the game once I believe that the players and coaches are not getting the message from all of my flags

What non-officials do not understand is that I cannot prevent fouls. All I can really do is strongly discourage players from committing another foul. Whether or not they get the message from spending time in the penalty box is up to them. I had a coach tell me that I was not keeping his players safe from the opposing team. Despite the fact that I had thrown multiple flags and my hat on fouls the other team had committed.

I was a little confused by this coach. Did he expect me to jump in front of one of his attackman who was about to be slashed and absorb the blow? Perhaps he wanted me to tackle one of the opposing players before they had a chance to hit one of his players. He was still pissed off at me at the end of the game even though the other team spent almost the entire game with someone in the penalty box.

What frustrates me the most is after I call a penalty, usually an Illegal Body Check for a late hit after a shot, sometimes one coach will tell his player kneeling in the box that it was a great hit. It wasn’t a great hit! That’s why I flagged it! Coaches that congratulate players on a body check that levels another player when the ball is twenty yards away undermine the called penalty.

One coach yelled at me, “How can you possibly call that? This is a contact sport!” While I did not respond to him at the time here is what I wanted to say:

  1. I can call that because I judged the hit to be illegal
  2. This is a finesse sport with contact
  3. Your player released from the penalty box, sprinted forty yards to the ball carrier, hit him from behind with the exposed metal of his crosse and managed to ride up to finish in the neck of the ball carrier

These kinds of coaches do not serve the game. I much prefer the coach who asks what I saw so he can inform his player not to repeat the infraction. That coach is working with me to keep the game safe.

Officials cannot prevent fouls. Everything we do is after the fact. I can warn a player to not do something, but I have no control over whether or not that player will listen to me. The only people who can prevent fouls are the players on the field.

Featured Image Credit – www.dailytarheel.com

Cheers,
Gordon