This spring, Jon is coaching a 5th and 6th grade lacrosse team in Lake Forest, IL. This is the first in a series of posts about his season with the Jr. Scouts
It only took one hour into the first day for me to remind me why coaches coach.
I had given instruction to one of our new-to-the-sport fifth graders on how he could most improve at lacrosse.
“Hit wall balls,” I said. “Find a wall near your house.”
The idea is hardly innovative. If one were to Google ‘how to get better at lacrosse,’ nine out of the first 10 posts are ‘hit wall balls.’ (the other is grow your hair out). Considering Jack has a shaved head and grooming advice is not on the master list of required tasks to be performed by volunteer youth coaches this spring, I stuck with wall balls.
Lacrosse is a rare game in that it requires athletes hold a stick in their hands. It’s usage is actually a necessity, not an instrument for dispensing playfulness, frustration, laziness…(whatever it is a kid’s level of emotion can accelerate or decelerate towards). Nothing happens on the field if the athlete holding the stick can’t:
- Catch the ball
- Pass the ball
Why wall balls in lacrosse work is they teach kids how to do both. What they do is throw a lacrosse ball against a wall and catch it on the rebound in the pocket of the stick (lacrosse balls are made of rubber so balls bounce rapidly off hard surfaces). Through repetition comes mastery.
As the mechanical aspects of the game become learned, anxiety dissipates and confidence blooms. Then the fun, creative side of the brain starts to work. As a coach, when you see that emerge in a young athlete, you know they are hooked on the sport.
You know what hooks us? I was reminded the first day.
“Coach Kerr,” Jack said, as he removed his helmet at the end of practice. “I’m going to hit those wall balls you said I should hit.”
“Great,” I said. “Now to be clear…I don’t mean a wall in your house. Or the side of your house. That includes all garage doors. The key word here is near.”
Jack smiled as if my clarification was unnecessary. Not sure if he got my attempt at humor. He’ll figure out I’m a bit of a wisecrack eventually.
Then he said it again.
“Coach Kerr I’m going to do it this weekend,” Jack said. “I’m going to hit wall balls.”
That’s it. Having a kid say he wants to get better is cat nip for coaches.
Our first game is Saturday. I’ll know pretty quickly how well he follows through on what he said.
I just hope he doesn’t break any windows.
Do you have a story about a recent coaching experience similar to Jon’s? Feel free to share in the comment section below.