Tag Archives: youth lacrosse

Oldies, But Goodies

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Below are a compilation of some posts from the early blogging days of your’s truly. While they are dated by about a year or so, they are still quite relevant to the sport. Also, this gives me a little bit of extra time to get my writing schedule in order, and do some research on future content. As always, if anyone has any ideas for future posts, please comment below or email rules@ayllax.com.

I think that makes a pretty good and broad list of some past posts that are still very applicable to the game as we move into the summer. Feel free to comment below, and let me know what kind of topics you want written about!

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Keep It Simple

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Parsimonious is a scientific term that effectively means to phrase something as simply as possible. The longer and more convoluted a statement is the less parsimonious it becomes. Now why am I drudging out scientific nomenclature in regards to youth lacrosse? Put parsimoniously, I want coaches to stick with the basics.

In my ten years of coaching and officiating youth lacrosse I have seen a lot of varying coaching styles. Some successful, and others not so successful. Please note that I equate successful youth coaching to how much their players improve over the course of the season. Not how many wins or losses a team accumulates due to the coach or coaching style. The best youth coaches I see generally do two things very well. One, they maintain discipline. One coach uses a particularly effective technique where he shouts out “Ready!” When he says “ready” all of his players snap their eyes to him and shout back “Focus!” I’ve seen this coach calm down an entire team with that one technique. The second thing that the best youth coaches do well is they have a simplistic game plan.

Here is where some youth coaches and I part ways. I personally think that the simpler an offensive and defensive scheme is, the more efficiently a youth team will perform. This goes against a lot of youth coaches that dream up cool plays, or zone defenses for their teams, and then whiteboard them to the whole team on game day. I have seen a lot of confused looks on many players trying to remember their job on the “Indigo Blue 31” play. This does not mean that a team should not have some set plays, or set defenses. What I am stressing here is the need to keep things simple.

For instance, last season a coach was unable to show up to coach his team. No problem, we are lucky enough to have staff on hand for these instances. It just so happened that my name was next in the rotation to coach so I strolled over to the team as they were warming up, and got them into some passing drills. I had no idea what their head coach had told them about offense or defense, so I went to my old standby: “players, remember that when we are on offense we are spread out like fingers, when we are defense, we are close in like a fist.” Every dead ball I repeated that mantra of spread and tight. Every time out I zeroed in on becoming like fingers on offense and being like a fist on defense. The kicker here is that the kids got the concept beautifully.

Offense = Spread


Defense = Fist


They played a tough game and wound up winning, more in part to their effort than my coaching, in a one-goal game. The coolest part was how the entire team latched onto two very simple concepts, and translated them into good lacrosse. I gave them no plays to run, or slide packages to consider. I just said stay tight on defense and stay spread of offense.  This became a team mantra for that game, and I could hear players on offense saying “get wide, get wide,” and players on defense saying “come in tighter!” The defense kept the goal guarded by protecting the middle of the field, and the offense got the ball around nicely by staying open and cutting naturally.

Tight. Spread. Two words that all of the players focused on, believed in, and executed well. At the end of the game I told them how great they looked as a team, and how they played the game well. I wrapped up question to every team I coach after a game, “did everyone have fun?” I got a big “yes” for an answer.

Finally, I will end with a quote by one of my favorite philosophers – Mike Tyson. Who said that “everyone has a plan till they get punched in the mouth.” Coaches – ask yourself if your game plan is simple enough to survive a punch in the mouth. If it has a lot of moving parts, and is very convoluted it will likely break apart. However, if it is strong, direct, and simple, your team will always have a fighting chance.

Featured Image Credit – www.robertsaric.com


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Focusing on Self Improvement

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There is a lot to be said for winning in sports. Without winning we have no reason for overtime, and no weight given to championships. However, winning cannot be the end-all-be-all for youth sports. The goal of coaches, parents, and players should be on self-improvement for the child; both as a player and as a person.

I found the following article during some psychology research for a paper I’m working on. I believe it hits the mark with what all coaches should emphasize in youth athletics. The following comes from: www.psypost.com.

Underserved youth athletes report more life skill and character development when their coaches place greater emphasis on creating caring climates instead of focusing on competition, according to research from Michigan State University’s Institute for the Study of Youth Sports.

Playing in an atmosphere that focuses on player self-improvement versus player competition creates a sense of teamwork and develops initiative, social skills and a sense of identity, report the authors of the study from the Department of Kinesiology institute.

The study, led by Daniel Gould and Larry Lauer, was published recently in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise. Ryan Flett, a former doctoral student at MSU now with West Virginia University, also took part in the research.

“The research adds to the growing body of knowledge that shows coaching actions and the team climates they create have important influences on the personal development of youth,” Gould said. “Our data suggests if coaches want to develop life skills and character in youth, it is important to focus on player self-improvement more so than winning.”

The study surveyed 239 young urban athletes who completed the Youth Experiences Scale-2, which measures both positive and negative youth development experiences. The athletes, ages 10-19, came from underserved communities with a shortage of personal services and economic, cultural or linguistic barriers. They also completed a caring climate scale, a sport motivation climate scale and measures of the importance their coaches place on psychosocial development.

The results clearly show that the more coaches create caring and task-oriented climates, the more likely important positive developmental gains will occur. Creating an “ego climate” was found to be the single most powerful predictor of negative youth experiences.

“Coaches should create a climate or atmosphere where kids feel cared about, valued, safe and supported,” Gould said. “These positive things should occur while at the same time avoiding the creation of an ego-oriented climate focusing primary attention on comparing themselves to others.”

Conversely, creating an ego-oriented climate that focuses primarily on beating others was associated with negative developmental outcomes such as negative peer influences and inappropriate adult behaviors.

Coaches must balance the challenge of motivating players to be better with more important developmental goals, Lauer said. To achieve that balance, coaches need to accept positions in environments where they have support for their philosophy.

“If you want to focus on youth development and being positive, make sure you have your athletic director’s and principal’s backing,” he said. “Then, make this expectation clear from the beginning of the season with parents and players.”

Lauer added that improving performance and character do not need to be mutually exclusive.

“By teaching players to be responsible, communicate, lead and control their emotions, you will likely improve their performance,” he said. “Coaches always talk about performing and having good character; the two ideals can co-exist.”

So to all youth lacrosse coaches out there, I ask you this: What kind of climate are you cultivating on your team? It it “ego-centric?” Is your goal to win at all costs, or do you want each of your players to improve their skills and not worry about the win/loss record?


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