I’m a fan of balance. Which is why I am perturbed with the ever expanding attitude of more, more, more when applied to youth sports. I’m also a fan of the psychology of marketing. There isn’t an ad agency in the world selling a product to dogs. They sell to humans because humans put down the money, and it doesn’t make much sense to market anything in a manner that won’t appeal to a human being. Take toothpaste for example.
Images of toothpaste on a toothbrush, like the one in the featured image on this post, are all over toothpaste print advertisements and commercials. A little kid getting ready for bed puts a huge glob of toothpaste on the toothbrush and starts brushing happily. Once done, the kid rinses and flashes his pearly whites in the mirror. The message of use lots of toothpaste is clear, but why use so much when dental care professionals suggest a pea-sized amount is sufficient for cleaning teeth? There are two reasons for the gratuitous use of toothpaste in commercials:
- It looks fantastic in the ad
- It gets people to use more toothpaste, which means they run out of toothpaste faster and have to buy more
More toothpaste in ads just looks better than the recommended pea-sized amount and it gets people to use more toothpaste, which increases annual sales of toothpaste. In the end it boils down to how can the advertiser make more money by exploiting human nature? There is nothing wrong with making money in this way either, since the dawn of bartering the best salespeople knew their customers. Today, however, there is more science and big data behind advertisements and there aren’t many advocating for people to buy less of their product.
Being a smart consumer in the face of targeted ads playing on our subconscious is important, and so is being smart in youth lacrosse.
Our brains are hardwired to think that more is good, but we are lucky to live in a world of abundance while walking around with brains designed for being cave people. The more food/water/shelter a caveman had, the better his chances for survival were. Even though most of us have all the food/water/shelter we could ever need our brains want us to get more stuff. So we start looking for other things to accumulate or do to fill this very primal desire. For some people they desire to make more money, others more clothes, still others more accolades. We are driven by ancient processes written into our DNA whether we admit it or not.
The good news is by being aware of these processes we can work on thinking differently, which brings me back to doing less in youth lacrosse. I cannot tell you how many new players and parents buy the most expensive equipment for Fall Ball, or pay for upwards of four private lessons a week, or spend thousands of dollars to send the player all of the country to three different recruiting events. “Buy, pay, spend” – as if more money makes a better player. The only thing that makes a player better is time invested, not money, and the time invested must be consistent and focused.
I’m going to do another post on focused practice, but for this post I’m interested in consistency. Players cannot practice well if they are tired, burnt out, or injured. My jiu-jitsu instructor when I was a teenager always told classes that consistent practice was the way to improvement. Someone could train seven days a week and go hard every single day, but that person developed a higher risk of injury and burnout. He cautioned us to go four days a week max so we could train without injury and keep up our desire to practice. As a teenager, I did what all teenagers do, I ignored my instructor and trained six days a week. I would have trained seven, but the academy was closed on Sundays. The benefit of being a teenager was I could basically destroy my body during four hours of jiu-jitsu after school and wake up the next day feeling fresh. Now that I’m twenty-five I can still destroy my body during a workout, but my recovery time increases every year.
While I got very good at jiu-jitsu in a few short years, by the time I was eighteen I was burnt out. My practice suffered because my focused dropped, and suddenly all the little aches and pains after class were not so little anymore. I took a year off to let my body and mind recover, but when I came back it wasn’t the same. I’d lost my desire to practice jiu-jitsu and I’m still working on getting it back. Fact is, most teenagers are terrible at time management. Like I did, they’ll spend the bare minimum required doing something they hate and spend the rest of their available time doing whatever it is they have a passion for. That is not balance, that is using all of their toothpaste.
More practice, more shooting, more traveling, more wins do not necessarily make a great lacrosse player. The Gaits, Powells, and Rabils of the lacrosse world did not get to the top of their game by spending more money on gear or private lessons. They spent their time on consistent practice, and players can spend fifteen minutes a day (pea-sized amount) on practicing in a focused manner, and a small amount of consistent and focused practice will always beat out a large amount of inconsistent and lazy practice.