Tag Archives: youth lacrosse

How come my child is not playing and how can I be a better teammate!

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Everyone

One of our coaches (Dave Regan) recently posted the below article as well my son Gordon posted this article for US Lacrosse yesterday.  I thought they were both important for several reasons.

Atlanta Youth Lacrosse provides a safe environment for all of our players and like anything in life especially as it relates to children we take it seriously.  While we always want to have fun and be competitive we  never want to get in the way of being safety consensus first.

The first article revolves around the world of playing time and allowing young people to face adversity with failure.  All to often we protect our kids and in some cases hurt them in the long run.  As a youth program we want to be conscience of the development of each player but we also want to teach them the rules of the game, sportsmanship, respecting coaches, officials, opponents and their parents.

The article focuses on football but it can be applied to any sport.  This quote stood out for me.

“The thing is that many kids know what they’re good at, and what they’re not good at. When it comes to football, for instance, most of the middle-schoolers or freshman already know the one or two kids who are good enough to play on the varsity team. And be the ones likely to catch the eye of a college recruiter. Their parents do not.

The rest play because they enjoy it, need the discipline, want to belong to a team, have dreamed of it since they were 5 or 6, are trying to make their parents happy, need a varsity sport on their college application, or some combination thereof.”

The rest of the article is very thought provoking and puts things in perspective.

http://www.boston.com/sports/blogs/obnoxiousbostonfan/2014/10/were_about_a_month_or.html

Gorden’s article tackles the issue of learning the rules and playing a better brand of lacrosse.  If you notice in our U9 games the official counts to 4 and if the player does not pass the ball it becomes a turnover.  This is not a real rule in lacrosse and can be confusing.  We call this game “Hippo” it does several things:

  1. It forces players to look up field and move the ball
  2. It forces players without the ball to get open for their teammates instead of just standing there
  3. It eliminates the stronger player from the game who can go “coast to coast” with the ball and just score at will.  I call these players the BLACK HOLE.  Once they get the ball their teammates never get it back.

As Gordon highlights we do these things to help the players get a better understanding of the game when it means little.  When you tie it back to Coach Dave’s article it shows the importance of what we learn on the field and how we can be better teammates and develop a way to deal with adversity.  Sports are a great way with dealing with the ups and downs of life and the earlier we learn these lessons that better we will be in the future.

http://www.uslacrosse.org/multimedia-center/blog/postid/781/4-unwritten-rule-ideas-for-improving-youth-boys-lacrosse.aspx

 

See ya on the field!

 

Coach Lou

 

Ender’s Game

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Many coaches cite coaching legends as their inspiration for their particular coaching style. While my Dad and John Wooden are my two favorite coaches, I gained many insights into working with young players from the book Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. If you are unfamiliar with the novel, here is a brief synopsis from amazon.com:

In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race’s next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn’t make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender’s skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.

I’ve read Ender’s Game at least a dozen times over the years, and every time I learn something new about the characters or plot that I didn’t pick up on in an earlier read. On my most recent reread I realized that the character Ender is an excellent example of how a youth coach can manage a team.

In the book Ender is given a team of young soliders to train and compete against other teams in the Battle Room. His team is filled with what the instructors’s at the Battle School believe are the dregs, or least capable soldiers. Under Ender’s tutelage his team, Dragon Army, goes undefeated in the Battle Room. They beat other armies by unheard of margins and still win even when the instructors stack the odds against Dragon Army. From this book I learned the following principles that I believe can be applied to any group of young players:

  1. Be loud for the group and quiet for individuals – Whenever Ender spoke to his army he always projected a commanding and strong voice. He gave orders loudly so everyone could hear, but did not scream angrily to get his point across. However, when he spoke with individuals he lowered his voice to a calm, measured level and gave easy to follow instructions for the members of his army that were having trouble with a concept. As a coach you need to be loud with the group, but there is no need to yell an answer at a player who asks a question.
  2. Find the leaders on your team and use them – Dragon Army was unique at Battle School because Ender gave a lot of control to his subordinate officers, known as Toon leaders. He wanted an army that was autonomous, could think for itself and adapt to changing situations. He did not want a group of automatons latched onto his commands without any deviation. Try to find the leaders on your team, or allow your team to vote on captains. Then use those captains in practices and games by telling them to give the orders on the field instead of you yelling them out to everyone. If you have a play called “Nitro,” have a captain on the field or on the sideline yell out the play. This will involve the leaders of your team, and give your voice a break.
  3. Keep things simple – Ender always gave simple orders. Be early. Be ready. Be focused. Youth players do not need to know the intricacies of a zone defense or an overly complex offensive formation. Plays should be simple to understand and easy to execute.
  4. Give broad orders – Specific orders tend to be restrictive. Ender always gave orders that were open to interpretation on how to achieve the objective. In lacrosse a broad order would be to pass the ball twice after picking up any ground ball. A specific order would be to always pass the ball to the left when starting your offense. Well what happens when the defense starts overloading the left side? Specific orders stifle creativity and ingenuity. Give your players broad orders and you’ll be surprised at what they come up with to score a goal or get the ball back.
  5. Your players are smarter than you think – When at the fields, I am constantly astounded by how smart and intuitive the kids are. One thing I’ve found after years of coaching youth players is that they can absorb a large amount of information if the instructions are simple (see #3) and direct. If your players are not getting what you are teaching it is not because they are stupid or slow. It is because something is amiss with how you are teaching/coaching. Remember principles 1-4 and you’ll be well on your way to coaching a successful team.

As I said earlier, I’ve read Ender’s Game many times for two reasons. One, I love to read and I thank my parents profusely for instilling a love of the written word in my life. Two, it is an excellent read that both kids and adults can enjoy.

Go read!
Gordon

We’re Number One! We’re Number One!

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***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