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Tryout Stress: It's a Real Thing!!!

Well the weather has broken, at least it has here in Michigan, and the smell of the Spring LAX season is here. I can smell it now, oh wait, that's the sweet smell of sweaty cleats and nasty, sweaty, smelly under shirts and socks...LOL!! However what is MORE serious than the smell of stanky lax gear is the stress of tryouts. It's that time where kids start to stress out because they so badly want to make their school's Varsity or maybe JV lacrosse teams or fight for that starting role, and so their stress levels go through the roof. I can easily say that one way to avoid the stress of whether or not they are going to make the team is to remember you control your own destiny, at least that is what I teach my students, let your performance dictate your destiny.

Let me discuss further what I order to give some brevity to that statement let me start with understanding how we get to your performance. Your performance is a representative of your ability to control the controllables. Chris Buck discusses this topic in his book "Thinking Inside the Crease" about what to worry about. There are things you can control, things you can't control, and then there are things you can influence. Controlling your performance is on you, the individual/the athlete. YOU control how you train/practice/play when it comes to sports, just like studying for school......the more you put in the the more you will get out. If you increase your inputs, your outputs will become greater. If you practice or train a skill 1x a week throughout the year, you are increasing your input and therefore your overall output will emerge in your game. If you only train 1x a month or 1x every couple months, your output will most likely decrease and you lose that ability to remember what to do, or in simple terms you lose muscle memory, which is your output. The harder you train will result in improving your skill set versus someone who trains once a month their skill set is not exactly polished and in fact they might actually show signs of regression. When it comes to tryouts, if you train all year, then you should know how tryouts are going to play out and what will result after 2-3 days of tryouts. Most coaches say Hard Work Pays Off #hwpo. If you didn't make the team or achieve desired results, you need to reflect on what you could have done in your training regimen to increase your chances of making the team. Coaches, despite not knowing anything about goalies, are observant and can tell who put the work in to train their skills during the off season, and that extra time has influenced coaches to make their final decisions when making their rosters. Let's circle back to my statement I made earlier, "let your performance dictate your destiny." The extra work you put into improving your skillset will demonstrate your ability to perform at a higher level and coaches will note that when it comes to making their final decision.

I just mentioned the word influence, and it's important to know that your influence is YOUR power to control what you can't can't control who the coaches select for their team, but you certainly can influence them. Everything I mentioned above is what you need to know when it comes to influencing your coaches. If you work hard in the off season, you train hard, you keep at improving your skill set, and maintain a positive attitude those influencing traits will shine and coaches will note that on their clipboard when it comes to selections. The BIGGEST influencing characteristic is your ability to maintain a positive attitude regardless of result. You may not be able to control a goal that was given up but you can control how you react after a goal. Your reaction that you can control, can also be a positive influence to those who speak negatively about you or make negative comments as a result of their frustrations for their own performance. You can't control their reactions, but you can influence even if they don't immediately respond. It is extremely difficult and stressful as a goalie that we have to do everything, but that's what makes our job so important and fun at the same time. Knowing that we literally run the show, because without us there's no team, no team means no games. So to all those field players who want to criticize their goalies for giving up goals, step in between the pipes just one time and lets see how you handle the pressure of stopping shots; and oh yeah the negative feedback when you give up a goal. Did I mention the ball hurts and leaves bruises, which to me are pretty bad ass...I'd rather have a bruised thigh or calf any day of the week than a bruised ego because I can't score. LOL

My thoughts about handling the coaches.....First of all let's get real, there is a very small percentage of Head Coaches that know something about goaltending, but I would bet that the percentage of head coaches that know nothing about goalies is about 90+%. That being said, how can we trust coaches who criticize goalie play when they themselves know nothing about goalies. They base their entire goalie knowledge on what they see on ESPN (NCAA D1), NBCSN (PLL), and random goalie clips on the YouTube. I don't mind sounding off on this topic, because it kills me every day, of every week, of every month, all year about coaches who speak negatively or make aggressive remarks towards their goalies as if they were some 4x All American Goalie at XYZ D1 Lacrosse program. In fact I just had a student last night text me after the 1st day of tryouts stating this, "My coach just kept yelling at me, and when I made saves, she just kept saying those WEREN'T good saves, they were just bad shots." When I read that I was like "is this coach serious???? who is she?, did I miss something?, did she graduate from a Top D1 program registering record breaking saves or something that I didn't know about?" the simple answer is NO she didn't, she graduated from a local D2 program and she was an offensive player. This is just one example of stories I receive from students of mine, in fact I had 2 more like these in the same day, but I can guarantee there are more stories like these all over the country. You would think that the two positions that coaches should have some base knowledge about is faceoffs/draws and goaltending, but do they educate themselves.....ehhhhh some do, but most don't, so when their players don't win a faceoff/draw or a goalie can't stop a shot, their frustrations are taken out on these players and it's not right. I repeat this in my head all the time but, "Hey Coach, if you want to criticize me, why don't you step in between the pipes and let me rip shots on you. I bet you will think twice next time before you criticize me on my saving abilities." I digress...

Look, goalies have two jobs (1) Stop Shots and (2) Give up Goals. Let's be real folks, it's lacrosse, NOT SOCCER!!!!!! We will stop shots, but we will also give up goals, but it's how we bounce back and react to the goal that matters most. If we are feeling good and we are okay with giving up goals it's actually a good thing. That's the level we want our goalies to be at, after all this is a TEAM sport. There is simply no place for negative comments by coaches, players or even parents LOL don't get me started with parents, yeah, all those Syracuse Alums hanging out in the high school stands in Michigan LOL and their expert comments....that's a whole other topic for another blog. I can't...NOT Today!!!! Anyways, it takes hard work to train ourselves to be reactive and stop shots consistently, but it also takes hard work to be able to remain positive and put goals in the rearview mirror. Some days it's easy and other days it's's not that easy to brush off a goal or the negative comment(s), but the harder we work at turning off the outside noise the easier it is to bounce back. Don't think in the moment as to what happened, utilize video and coach feedback based on overall performance (EXPERT TIP: just don't ask after a practice/game, ask the next day.)

FINAL THOUGHT - a goalies job is never easy, it's tough as it is, the last thing we need are fake experts out there giving us feedback. Remember that you control you, let your performance dictate your destiny, however during tryouts if it's blatant that the coach selects the "other" goalie who may be less experienced find out what it is that YOU need to improve on so that you can compete for the starting role or spot on the Varsity team. Goalies are natural born leaders and we are resilient and we are always ready. If there is a way to overcome and conquer, goalies do. Let's face it.....Goalies are the glue that really holds the team together. Everyone else are what I call "Fake Leaders" they act all positive when things go there way, but as soon as they are having an off day, they turtle in their shell, they shut down, and start wagging their finger towards everyone but themselves. This is what makes us #GoalieStrong

DISCLAIMER: these are my opinions and mine only, but I speak the truth because these stories are not made up. I lived in this world for 15 years as a player and 20+ years as a goalie coach I have seen and heard it all.

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