Tag Archives: winning

We’re Number One! We’re Number One!

Published by:

***This is a repost of an article I wrote entitled “Complete and Utter Domination” in May 2011.***

The trouble with youth sports is every kid grows at a different rate in both size and skill. This creates a very wide disparity between teams on the lacrosse field. I officiated a middle school team where I swear every kid must have been fed Muscle Milk since birth. Compared to the other team, these kids were giants. Not only were they big, they were also very skilled overall, and by the end of the first quarter the score was 10-0. The opposing team could not keep up in any facet of the game. They were completely dominated from the first whistle to the final horn.

There are going to be youth teams with a first-year coach and zero game experience. There will also be feeder teams under a public/private school banner that have two quality coaches and players with a wealth of experience. Kids that weighed 120 pounds soaking wet in seventh grade hit a growth spurt, then look down on me from a six foot frame. This wide variation exists in every youth program I have seen, but disparity is one thing. Poor winners is another.

Few things make me angrier than a coach letting his team shell a hapless goalie for four quarters. When one team is flat out better than the other, every kid on the better team wants to score. These are games where the goalie comes out in the fourth quarter, runs pasts a stunned defense and takes a shot. The game turns from a competition to a glorified shooting practice that demoralizes the losing team. Is is fun to put up twenty goals on a team that cannot clear the ball past midfield? Yes. Does it show good sportsmanship? No.

While the losing team falls deeper into the abyss, the winning team actually gets worse. During the shooting gallery, the superior players spend their time running past three defenders who cannot check and shooting from three yards out. I guarantee the winning team will not be able to do that against a stronger opponent. For all four quarters, the more skillful team only works on pouring goals into the back of the net. Their defense gets almost no work at all, the goalkeeper could set up a rocking chair in the crease, and the offensive players could care less about passing the ball in favor of going to the cage. In this situation, the coach of the prevailing team must take a firm hand and impose a new game strategy.

Game Strategies When Your Team is Crushing their Opponent:

  1. Sub in your second or third string. This lets your less experienced players get reps on the field.
  2. Every player switches to their off-hand, and cannot use their strong hand.
  3. Switch out your goalie with a player who would like to try the position.
  4. Make your offense pass the ball until the officials put a stalling call on. Now you are forced to keep it in the box.
  5. No one may shoot the ball until there are three complete passes. If they do that move to five, then ten.
  6. Your defenseman may only use poke checks.

Feel free to use any of these strategies if you are up by ten or more goals, and the other team has no chance of being much of a threat. I certainly do not want you to lose the game. So if the score starts to creep back up for your opponent, go back to your first string and gain a comfortable lead again.

The goal of these strategies is to level the playing field while providing the greater team with opportunities to improve. Taking multiple passes before shots creates players who look for the extra pass instead of getting tunnel vision towards the goal. Switching everyone to their off-hand develops critical muscle memory, and gets all of your players more comfortable using their non-dominate hand. Finally, requiring your defenseman to only throw poke checks forces them to play better body position, which will serve them well against stronger attackmen.

We cannot eliminate the size, speed, and skill imbalances at the youth level. Yet, as stewards of the game we can ensure those advantages do not negatively impact the game. Do not allow the lure of twenty-five goals make your team forget about sportsmanship. If your team is dominating, find ways for your players to improve and not just run up the score.

If anyone has any other strategies please use the comment section below.

Focus on Getting Better. Not Destroying the Other Team

Featured Image Credit – www.examiner.com

Cheers,
Gordon

Sweating and Smiling

Published by:

How does the staff at Atlanta Youth Lacrosse judge a successful day of games? Simple – if the kids leave our fields sweating and smiling we’ve had a great day.

I was speaking to my dad, Lou Corsetti, this past evening about how the 2012 Fall Ball season was wrapping up at AYL. We agreed that, from our perspective, each kid we see after a game is sweating, smiling and seems to be loving life because they are playing a sport they enjoy. That is our measuring stick when determining if a particular day or season is successful. We are a child-centric, as opposed to an adult-centric league. Here are the differences:

Adult-Centric

  • Focused on score
  • Finding a championship team
  • Keeping detailed statistics and reporting them to the masses
  • Interested solely in determining “the best” player(s) or team

Child-Centric

  • As much equal play time as possible
  • Interested in the concepts of teamwork and perseverance
  • Working with new and inexperienced players to improve their skill

It seems like I am bashing all adults with this comparison. That is not the case. I am highlighting the stark differences between the wants of adults and the wants of children. Adults want a winner, kids want close competition. Adults want to separate the “best” from the “rest,” while kids want a mix of all abilities. Adults need detailed statistics to determine “the best,” but kids can tell just by watching who is better than others. Simply put, the wants of adults are considerably different from the wants of children when it comes to sports.

Here is an interesting observation that I have noticed over years in youth lacrosse: Even if they lose, as long as they got in the game the youth players have a great time. On the flip side, some (not all) parents do not seem pleased if their child’s team loses a game. Despite their child’s happy, smiling face over a hard game well played, the adults have difficulty sharing in their child’s exuberance. Why is this? It could be that adults are inundated with the benefits of winning and not the benefits of competing.

I think that kids naturally want to compete. They play tag to see who is going to be “it.” They start a pickup hockey game in the street and keep score. They play kickball and know who is the “best” kicker out of all their friends. Kids like competition, but once winning and losing become more important than the competition itself they start losing a little bit of their childhood idealism. Is winning great for professional athletes? Absolutely. Winning often comes with bonuses, trips to the playoffs, awards, and star recognition. Is winning great for youth players? I do not believe it is the end-all-be-all. What do the kids get after a win? They feel really good and proud for a few hours and then they’re worried about who is going to host the next sleep over.

Youth players care about winning. They often know the score more accurately than the adults. But they are not consumed by winning the same way adults can be. As long as they sweat on the field they will come off it smiling. Which is why we at AYL judge our days and our seasons by those two metrics.

Cheers,
Gordon

Coach Versus Coach

Published by:

Sometimes we can lose sight of our true purpose as coaches. We get wrapped up in the goal of winning so much that we forget our job is to serve the players on our team. Why does this happen? Well I have a few theories:

  • Theory #1 – The allure of winning is intoxicating. It means your team is better than the other team. By extension, it means you are the better coach.
  • Theory #2 – Losing is painful. It hurts. Our society puts a lot more stock in winning than it does in losing. So the fear of losing is a powerful motivator for a coach.
  • Theory #3 – Reputation. Winning coaches get more respect than losing coaches. Case in point, how many perpetually losing coaches do you see in professional sports keeping their jobs for more than three years?
  • Theory #4 – This is how it has always been done. Coaches before you and coaches after you coached to win. Nobody coaches to lose because nobody was coached to do that.

All of these theories can be boiled down to winning is better than losing. Therefore, we all coach to win. But at was cost?

Some of you may recognize the featured image today of Spy vs. Spy, which I think aptly shows the conflict that all coaches have with one another. In a game one coach is going to win and one coach is going to lose. In another game the roles may be reversed. In yet another game they switch back. Win, lose, win, lose. All coaches lost in the goal of winning and avoiding washing up on the shores of defeat. Does any of this serve the players, or is it all just a zero sum game?

ZeroSum

This cannot be what coaching youth lacrosse is about. Unfortunately, it is how many coaches approach the youth game. If your purpose to coaching a youth lacrosse team is to win and win only, then you need to seriously rethink if you have the proper mindset for coaching youth lacrosse. If two opposing coaches approach a game with the purpose of just winning, then they have done a disservice to the game and their players by turning the contest into a zero sum game.

nonzerosum

The solution to the zero sum game in coaching youth lacrosse is to make it a non-zero sum game. Where both coaches acknowledge their different interestes, but also find common ground. What is that common ground? Here’s a short list:

  • Sportsmanship
  • Fair play
  • Honoring the game
  • Playing to the best of your team’s ability
  • Respect for your opponent

This is by no means an extensive list, but it illustrates what all youth coaches should be focused on instead of just winning and losing. In a non-zero sum game you create a win/win situation. Sure one coach may win and the other may lose, but if both approached the game with the above list in mind then they have served their players and done well by the game.

I keep referencing serving your players and doing well by the game, but what do I mean by that? A short story will illuminate my point:

I had the distinct privilege of coaching the U11 Atlanta Coyotes Travel Team this past summer. They were, and still are, a tremendous group of young men. I made it my job to give them my best in every practice and every game. To do any less would be a disservice to them and to the game. I had the pleasure of coaching against some coaches who shared a very similar coaching philosophy to mine, and those game were always fun to be involved in win or lose. Then I had the unpleasant task of coaching against some individuals who, in my opinion, just didn’t get it.

These were the coaches that were yelling bloody murder at their kids. Grabbing them by the face mask, lifting them up on their tiptoes, and screaming in their face, “Why did you do that?!” Or calling a timeout to berate their players about their lack of effort, hustle, or intelligence. Mainly these coaches complained to their players constantly about everything they were doing wrong. These were the games where I was praying the clock would run out so I could get as far away from the opposing coaches as physically possible.

My assistant coaches and I always shared an incredulous look at one another after watching the opposing coaches lose their minds over the performance of a kid who wasn’t even eleven yet. I am happy to report that these coaches were the exception to the rule. Just about all of our opponents were coached by individuals who had a good coaching credo that they clearly stood by. Those coaches knew that their coaching philosophy would be reflected in their player’s actions. They knew that one of their jobs as coaches was to honor the game.

I have always thought that one of my jobs as a coach was “to do no harm.” Yes, I took that from the rephrased Hippocratic Oath. Then I thought, maybe I can expand on that mantra. Maybe I can modify the Hippocratic Oath into one for youth lacrosse coaches. Well, here it is:

I swear by the game of lacrosse, and those that coached before me, and I take to witness all my fellow coaches and all of my players, to keep according to my ability and my judgment, the following Oath and agreement:

To consider dear to me, as my parents, my fellow coaches; to live in common with them and, if necessary, to share my goods with them; To look upon his players as my own players, to teach them this game; and that by my teaching, I will impart a knowledge of this game to my own players, and to my fellow coaches.

I will create practice plans for the good of my players according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to any of them.

I will give no bad advice to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and similarly I will tell my players only truths about this game.

But I will preserve the purity of my coaching.

I will not berate or dress down a player, even if that player makes a mistake; I will instead always strive to build up my players and impart my love of the game to them.

In every game that I coach I will enter it only for the good of the players, keeping myself far from all intentional ill-doing and the seduction of winning at all costs.

All players and parents that may come to my knowledge in the exercise of my profession or in daily commerce, which ought not to be spread abroad, I will keep secret and never reveal.

If I keep this oath faithfully, may I enjoy my life and practice my art of coaching, respected by all humanity and in all times; but if I swerve from it or violate it, may the reverse be my life.

I believe all coaches need to have a positive coaching philosophy that emphasizes their players instead of just winning. If we could get every youth coach to do that just imagine how great every game would be.

As always, post ideas can be sent to gordoncorsetti@gmail.com.

Featured Image Credit – www.zarious.deviantart.com

Cheers,
Gordon