Disclaimer: Lacrosse education is available for ALL (coaches, parents, players) at USL (www.uslacrosse.org) to help you understand the game, rules, and positions of the game.
First of all I feel like every time I have inspiration to write a blog, it always seems to happen during the Spring lacrosse season…..maybe it’s because that’s where you see the most variation among coaches, parents and experience. I feel, that with every issue that arises we have to identify the issue before we can propose a solution(s). One of the things I see the most is the micromanaging, or viewing the goalie (or any other individual component in sports) under a microscope. We have too many Monday Morning Quarterbacks where people are over analyzing issues on the team. So before we get to the “BIGGER” picture I feel like we need to do a run down of the organization of lacrosse to help with understanding. I swear I need to be a consultant……anyways here we go
Y’all can agree to disagree, but at the end of the day I am not wrong….why? because I have been around coaching for 23 years and played for 15 years, and I’ve seen and experienced a lot. Let me include this, that I have been a part of multiple teams and won a number of championships to know what works and what doesn’t work. So let me explain the ORG chart (above), it looks crazy complicated, but really it’s pretty simple to understand.
HS VARSITY COACH
Really EVERYTHING runs through the HC, they should be the one who sets up the success of the program and ALL decisions, expectations, and responsibility lies on their shoulders, which is why they make the big bucks. The HC needs to “KNOW” the game, not just X’s and O’s, but they need to be familiar with the responsibility of EACH position and how to teach them...to an extent. If coaches knew more about the positions it will make life easier as a player. The HC should set up the expectations for each level of the lower-level grades and flow down those expectations to each set of coaches at those levels. The HC is also responsible to work with the JV coaches to let them know what the expectations are as a Varsity player and develop them in preparation for moving up. The HC has the responsibility to control the parents and provide them a list of expectations to include: Team Support, being positive, be respectful of coaches, players and officials, and finally let them know their place…….in other words be a parent not a coach. They should encourage or help educate parents about the game. If parents KNEW more about the game and rules of the game, then there will be less debate and arguing with coaches and officials. LAST THING – the politics of playing time, making the team, starting, etc. should be based on performance NOT politics.
HS JV COACHES
Pretty simple, continue to develop players and prepare them for the next level at Varsity by running similar plays and strategies that varsity team is running to aid in the transition period.
Pretty much your job is to develop fundamental skills for lacrosse and introduce Offense, Defense, and Transition plays. MS Coaches should be demonstrating and teach GOOD sportsmanship, respect, discipline, and teamwork. The focus should NOT be on Wins or Losses.
There’s your basic lacrosse ORG CHART or any sport for that matter. What you see is that the Varsity HS Head Coach is the head of program, and they should be setting the tone and expectations for the entire program from top to bottom and be responsible for any issue that arises. They are to cultivate a culture that can be admired by the kids/players. What you do and say is magnified and picked up by the players and will copy what you do and say as acceptable. Coaches are role models, parents, and leaders and the players are the product of what you cultivate.
THE BIGGER PICTURE
Let’s get back on track and take a look at what it means to look at the BIGGER PICTURE. For the younger kids reading this let me explain it to you this way…..If you were to take a look at one of those picture games were you have to identify similarities or differences, what you are looking at are the small little things, but the BIGGER picture is just a picture. Another example, look out a window while flying in a plane from the highest altitude and notice how much you see, but when you approach the landing how much do you notice as you get closer to the ground…..the HIGHEST altitude is the BIGGER picture. That being said let’s take a look at the smaller picture in lacrosse.
There are a variety of things we see, at least I see from a coach’s perspective…I see Groundballs, missed shots, missed slides, quality shots, transition, offenses, defenses, goals, goalie play, training, extra work, etc. I could go on and on because these are things we focus on every day. As coaches we use the lines “if only…” or “We should have done….” These are common phrases that players hear all the time and we as coaches say all the time and these are the driving forces that can turn anything into a negative, and for those struggling with mental health issues these negatives only drive you further into the Grey. I mean even when we WIN games, we will continue to say “Man we got lucky, but we need more work on this or that….” And again, we are still finding the negatives. What happened to finding the silver lining, the BLUE sky, the bright spots and focus on those??? Because as coaches we are always trying to look at ways we can improve our game, our team, our style of play, our areas of improvement. Sure, we can do all of this, but we shouldn’t be having these conversations in front of the kids, have them behind close doors, coaches only meetings etc. After a loss we can always say, “it’s the little things that makes the difference between a win and a loss,” or “in order to be successful we need to do more of this…..(aka own groundballs, stop more shots, etc.)” These are cultivating negative phrases that will kill your team’s morale, and place you in a GREY area. So what can we do to get out of the grey and into the BLUE….aka our HAPPY PLACE???
In order to get into the BLUE, we need to look at the BIGGER PICTURE or determine what is the BIGGER PICTURE. Over the last few months, I have made some realizations based on a serious event that happened in my own personal life that has made me look at the BIGGER picture more and hone in on the blue. First of all, we have to know what the “BIGGER PICTURE” is in sports. This may come as a surprise to many, but the two fundamental concepts that sports teach us are Life Lessons and to have FUN!! If coached by a quality coach who knows how to lead and educate you will learn a vast amount about life while having fun regardless of the end result. Also over the last few months, I have heard TOO many stories of kids and parents who are small picture focused, it’s insane. The statistics game drives me nuts, sure we can learn a lot from stats, but as a highly qualified coach and by that I mean logical…..I know that there are more to goalies than stats.
EXAMPLE: I have seen a goalie lose a game 18-12. Looking at the score you could say the goalie did not play well, they gave up 18 goals. However, you are only seeing the score without watching the game. When you focus in on the goalie and the shots they are facing, no one is telling you that 10 of those 18 goals were on the crease, 1 v 0 with the goalie. The remaining 8 goals, 4 were shots made by great players who earned All-State or even All-American recognition. The last 4 goals were bad goals that the goalie probably should have had. So, if you look at the content of these shots, if you take the 4 shots the goalie should have had and the 4 goals that were made by a great player, the score should have been 12-8 in favor of the goalie’s team. So, what about the other 10 goals……it’s simple, those were TEAM goals. The TEAM found a way to let a player get in on the goalie 1 v 0 and scored a high percentage of those shots, as expected. I could really break down those 8 goals, but I think you can read between the lines. The goalie’s stats were really 58% svg. (which is an average to good save percentage in the NCAA), they faced 45 shots in the game, cleared the ball 80% of the time, after each goal the goalie spoke with the defense and made adjustments as needed, and most of the time they made the corrections and they worked. Goalie communicated to everyone, and the best part of it, the goalie felt they played an amazing game and was very satisfied with their performance.
SMALLER PICTURE – we gave up 18 goals and we can find blame on many individuals and reasons why the team lost the game, and some will say the goalie didn’t play well.
BIGGER PICTURE - The TEAM learned how to lose the game, the TEAM learned what they did wrong so they know what to work on for the next game, the TEAM came together and tried their best. The Goalie played well and knew they played well, and that the goals that were scored, were TEAM goals. The whole TEAM contributed to the goals that were scored upon. More than anything, the TEAM had fun because it was another opportunity to play the greatest game on earth.
WHY did the TEAM feel this way and felt it was a success despite the result?…because the Coach cultivated these values and concepts into the team. It’s what we call Buying In to the culture. Does one loss or many losses mean it’s the end of the world or define the team? HELL NO!!! As long as the kids learn something from the loss, then it’s considered a WIN in my book. Think about the real world, there will be times where these kids will have to work with other co-workers and learn to come together, get over the differences, in order to accomplish the mission or goal. If your group does not get selected, it doesn’t mean you lose your job, your vision and idea may not have matched with what the big bosses were looking for, there will always be another opportunity.
We can’t focus on the small things in life, we need to see the BIGGER PICTURE. Life goes by way too fast to worry about the little things, that are meaningless. There is no such thing as a “PERFECT” life, but we can lead a perfectly imperfect life. We need to remind our kids that there is more to life than losing a game(s). I have been trying to remind kids AND parents that there is more to life than wins and losses. Did your kid learn something from that game (regardless of result) and did they have fun?? If they didn’t have fun, then we have to figure out why that is, and maybe at the end of the day the coach didn’t do enough to create an environment that allows kids to learn without repercussion. When I used to coach organizationally, if I saw a kid struggling with a skill or concept, the idea is the take the kid off to the side and discuss the solutions to help them improve. Coaches can’t expect kids to watch and learn, they need to show them or break things down so they can understand in a way that makes sense to them. If it’s a fundamental skill issue, I would meet the kid outside of practice to work on those skills i.e. work on shooting, feeds, clearing passes, etc.
Anyways I feel like I have rambled too much, but I think you get it….The BIGGER PICTURE is all about what you learn, how you learn, and having fun. Until you become a professional, which in this sport is less than 1%, have FUN, learn what you can, so when you enter the real world, you will be ready!! I hope I was able to help you with understanding the BIGGER PICTURE, and if you know of someone who could benefit from this, please share this with them. Until then, Be A Voice, stand up and be vocal in your life. Don’t sit back and let life whiz by you.