Tag Archives: travel

The Crippling Effect Of High Self-Esteem

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self-esteem

When I started elementary school two major things were developing in the world. Coming home from school one day I discovered that the family computer now had an internet connection. That was the more obvious change. The change that took me many years to see was that high self-esteem for children was slowly gaining greater importance than teaching children to deal with disappointment and strive to be better. The idea is that increased self esteem leads to greater achievement because the individual should feel better about themselves. Having worked with young kids for the past 10 years, I consider putting high self-esteem before achievement one of the worst wide-ranging social experiments for developing children.

The dictionary definition of self-esteem is “a¬†feeling of having respect for yourself and your abilities.” I believe we should teach young kids to have respect for themselves as a unique individual, but the second part of the definition is where I’ve seen problems. The idea that I should feel good about my abilities in anything despite solid evidence to the contrary confuses me.¬†This idea filtered into sports with the “everyone gets a trophy” idea. Even if a player was terrible they got a trophy! Most of the average and below average players kept getting trophies until realizing at an older age that they were not very skilled.

I scored a goal against my own team in my soccer league when I was 5. It was the last game of the season and I got turned around on the field. I tore through my teammates as they stood wondering what I was doing and kicked the ball into the net. My parents told me that I was so excited to score my first goal that none of the coaches or parents had the heart to tell me that I sealed my team’s loss. I got a trophy, but I was 5. I barely knew what sport I was playing, and I definitely didn’t know which direction to run to. This had little to no effect on me. I kept playing soccer, tried baseball and swim team, but eventually landed on lacrosse as my go to sport.

I have no problem giving trophies to kids U9 and below for participating for a whole season. I think committing to a full season of their chosen sport is a good lesson for little kids to learn, and a trophy for showing up is good positive reinforcement. Above U9 is an entirely different story.

U11, U13, and U15 kids know who is good, who is okay, and who is bad. Giving trophies to every kid at the end of the season cheapens their knowledge that one team is definitely the best, and some players are better than others. This is not to say that little Johnny is a better person than little Timmy, but that little Jimmy is a better lacrosse player than little Timmy.

Trevor Tierney recently posted “The ‘Best Team’ May Not Be What Is Best For Our Kids” on his blog. He asserts that adults should not rush to create the “best” or most dominate team in an area simply so their players can have the best winning percentage. This is best illustrated by the fracturing of select travel teams at every age level in Georgia. In 2005-2006 there was exactly one travel team in Georgia, but that was a function of the times. As the sport grew it made more sense for there to be travel teams based off geographic location so players didn’t have to travel 2 1/2 hours just to practice. Unfortunately, the drive to give kids better self-esteem through cheap wins has diluted Georgia travel teams (also travel teams across the nation. This is not a one-state phenomena).

Some parents got frustrated when their player’s travel team didn’t post enough wins or hoist a plastic tournament trophy. So splinter groups formed and kids who had years of playing experience were loaded onto teams and scheduled in “B” division tournaments while their worst player could start on any “A” division team in the state. Predicable scored followed: 22-0, 15-3, 25-5 game scores started cropping up more and more in the various youth games I officiated over the course of a year. The parents did this for two reasons: One, the parents wanted to be a part of a winning culture as soon as possible and without putting in the years of effort it takes to get to that point. Two, parents wanted their kids to feel good, which means winning games, and what better way is there than stacking a bunch of U13 players together to play against kids who just learned how to hold a the lacrosse stick? I’ve reffed these games, and it is more than a little demoralizing to watch.

These parents miss the point of athletics. There are times when when one team is going to dominate another. My old high school Pace used to crush some teams. We considered those games “taking care of business,” not “business as usual,” and our coach regularly worked the less experienced players into those games. I rarely enjoyed those blowout victories. Sure they were fun, but the pride in the win didn’t stick around for long. Oddly enough, I have more positive memories from our loses to Westminster in my three years at Pace. My senior year I remember losing to Westminster 4-3, or 5-4. More importantly to me was that both teams came to play and it was one of my best performances as a player I ever had. We lost, but it didn’t destroy my self-esteem. I was more proud of how my teammates and I played in that loss than how I played in every blowout victory my team had that year.

Trevor’s final sentences from his post state: “Instead of finding a better team to play on, find a way to make your team better. This is how you can truly learn to win something of lasting value through the sports.” I have learned far more from losing games than winning them. Most players will have blowout victories at some point in their careers, but the win matters far less than the road to get there. Consider that Peyton Manning currently has an 11-11 playoff record. He is mathematically average in the playoffs, but I would challenge anyone out there to say he is not one of the greatest QB’s of all time (and don’t tell me that he left to another team. Archie didn’t trade him to the Broncos so that argument is moot!). The way he plays the game is more important than his ultimate win/loss record. That is a lesson all adults in youth sports should take to heart.

If you want your child to play a youth sport so they can win lots of games you will always be disappointed because there is always another team out there with more wins. Find a program near you that you like and don’t leave just because the team doesn’t win enough games. Is your kid improving? Is your kid having fun? Those are the questions you should ask yourself when thinking about moving to another team.

As a coach, I want a player who has experienced losing. I don’t like spending time teaching a U15 player who lost a close game that the world hasn’t ended. We all want to win, but losing is a part of life so it is definitely going to be a part of your kids playing experience. If you want to build their self-esteem by seeking out the dominate team two hours away so they can never lose then I say you are crippling your child because they will lose in the future and they won’t have losing experiences from childhood sports where they learned how to deal with it.

Cheers,
Gordon

How Can They Get Better?

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How does a player get better to make a select/elite/travel team if they don’t make the team? This is a problem. The kids who make the team get concentrated lacrosse knowledge and the vision of a capable lacrosse coach. The kids that don’t are left to their own devices. Generally, the kids that make the team get better than the kids that don’t make the team. Then the next year rolls around – guess who makes the team? The same kid that made it last season. It’s a cycle that is a problem with select teams at the youth level. The question is how does a driven kid who was on the bubble at last year’s tryout break the cycle?

Notice that I said driven kid, not just a kid. If a player has drive and determination, at any level, I am paying attention to him. However, determination is not enough. That quality trait must be backed up with skill and as my good friend Andy says, “everyone can stand to have a better stick.” I believe that both drive/determination and skill can be improved upon by any kid, but it takes practice. Not just any practice, but focused practice.

What do I mean by focused practice? It is practice with a purpose. Anybody can go out and throw a ball against a wall, but not anybody can make a select lacrosse team. Those that make select teams improve their skill by:

  • Hitting the wall with his off hand for fifteen minutes, five days per week. Focusing on hitting the same brick every time.
  • When the player watches TV, he does it with a stick in his hand and a tennis ball in the stick.
  • During Fall Ball, playing almost exclusively with his off hand.
  • Asking coaches questions during practice, or for clarification on a technique after practice.
  • Taking group or private instruction lessons (you can email requests for those to rules@ayllax.com).
  • Watching games on ESPN or film clips on YouTube.
  • Buying a rulebook and reading the rules.

That covers just a few things that players who make select teams do before tryouts. Now lets switch gears on improving drive or determination with a little story:

When I was seventeen I earned my blue belt in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. This was a big moment in my life. I spent three years training to earn that blue belt and it felt great when I finally got to tie it around my waist. A belt, though, only covers two inches of your rear. Your skill covers the rest of it. A short time after receiving my blue belt I went to wrestle with one of the older white belts in the class. I was overly confident that I could beat him.

We shook hands and he immediately leapt forward and sunk a quick choke around my neck. I tapped out in about three seconds, completely devastated. Here was this sixty-five, I’m not kidding, year old man who was a white belt, and he just tapped me. I didn’t know what was wrong so I sat on the side of the gym and watched for the two hours as this old man kept rolling. After the live roll was over and everyone was sweating and exhausted I had a lightbulb moment. He had tapped me because he had the determination to keep wrestling win, lose or draw.

I learned an important lesson that night, and I vowed that I would be the last person off the mat for as long as I trained. I spent the next two years sticking to that vow and I saw my skill and conditioning reach higher levels than I ever thought possible, but it never would have happened if I hadn’t gotten tapped out in three seconds by an aging white belt.

My experience is that determination can be learned and improved upon if one thing happens. You have to lose. You have to fall short. You have to fail. I believe that failure is only permanent if you allow it to be so. I am reminded of a quote by Michael Proust – “Happiness is good for the body, but it is grief that develops the strengths of the mind.” I’ve grieved over my failures when they occurred. I was crushed when I got tapped by that old man, but it was good for me. It helped me develop a deeper reserve of grit and desire. Going through failure, though, is not enough to improve your determination. You must also do something about it should you want to succeed.

I am a personal fan of writing down goals and objectives for life, work, and my hobbies. I find that if I don’t write them down and stick them in a prominent place, that I forget about them. For example, I have a lifetime goal of running an ultramarathon. On the wall in front of my bed I have dozens of pictures of ultrarunners in some of the most beautiful and harsh environments on Earth. Every morning I am reminded of that goal. Those pictures fuel my desire to reach that goal when I feel like it is a million miles away.

So to all the players out there who didn’t make the travel team last year, and to all the players who may not make the team this year I have these steps for you to follow, should you wish to:

  1. Write down why you want to make your particular travel team. The why is important, you don’t want to forget why you are driven to do something.
  2. Write down how you are going to make that goal a reality. This can include practicing, watching film, sleeping with your stick, or anything that you can think of to make you a better player.
  3. Print out pictures of your favorite lacrosse player and post them in a wall in your room. Use that for fuel on days when you don’t feel like practicing.
  4. Finally, stick your written down goals on the wall right next to your bed. Every morning, right when you get out of bed, go read your goals. This will remind you every day what you are striving for and why you are sacrificing your time and energy.

I wrote this post because Atlanta Coyotes tryouts are coming up in November for all age groups. Not everyone will make the teams. If you do not make the team I want you to look back on this post and, if making the team is your goal, to follow the steps outlined above. I sincerely believe they will make you a better lacrosse player, but also a far more determined individual than you thought you could be.

Cheers,
Gordon

 

Introducing AtlantaCoyotes.com!

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Coyote Logo

Coyote Logo

The Atlanta Coyotes have moved to atlantacoyotes.com!

The Coyotes grew so large they needed their own website, and our new website shows how awesome the coyotes are. On the new site you will find:

  • Tryout Information
  • Coaching Biographies
  • U9, U11, U13, U15, and HS team overviews
  • A history of posts from notable Coyote victories
  • Every video recorded of the Coyotes

Remember players and parents, November tryouts will be here before you know it. A few blog posts each month will focus on ways to improve your game and increase your chances of making the team. No guarantees though.

Cheers,
Gordon Corsetti