This spring, Jon is coaching a 5th and 6th grade lacrosse team in Lake Forest, IL. This is the fourth in a series of posts about his season with the Jr. Scouts
“Winning is fun, fun is winning” -former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen
When a parent enrolls their child in any athletic endeavor, it’s fair to ask this question:
“What do I want Jonny or Julie to get out of this experience?”
It’s equally fair—mandatory in fact—for a coach to ask the same question.
When both parties use the principle of ‘experience’ as a guiding narrative, the outcome should result in a positive one. And winning should be part of the equation.
On May 13, we played a game at Evanston. Good grief.
Once you get off the interstate, the narrow and oddly directional streets with rows and rows of street lights easily makes it one of the hardest cities to get to from anywhere north of say, Dempster. (the late great Chuck Berry wrote a song about traveling to Evanston titled “30 Days.” OK, maybe Berry wasn’t opining about Evanston but you catch my drift).
None of this matters except for the drive being an annoying ‘experience’ for the adults. For 10 or 11 year old boys, long car rides should have no impact on performance once they get out and start moving around.
What can impact performance is the opponent.
Evanston is good. Undefeated in fact. They had given up only a couple of goals before we played them. When the game started, you could see why. They played with sound fundamentals.
In youth lacrosse, that’s as simple as passing and catching the ball, securing it in the stick’s netting (or ‘pocket’) and carrying it while running down the field. On defense, they didn’t allow our middies (Murf, Ryan, Kirby and Dylan) to just run into the middle of the field for an easy shot on goal. We had our hands full.
“These guys are pretty good, right?” I asked Ryan on the sidelines during a time out.
“They’re OK,” Ryan said, reluctant to give any praise while keeping the gaze of his eyes locked on the field of play.
As I’ve written about in a previous post, I’m big proponent of free play. Teach athletes fundamentals, give them a sense of how they fit within a team structure, reinforce those fundamentals and structure, rinse/repeat. Charlie (our head coach) and I don’t yell a lot during games (except when we are making substitutions. Or when we slip on an orange peel…) We believe the best way for the boys to learn how to play, is to well, play (the concept of normalizing, not constantly fixing). Provide a supportive framework, then trust them to figure it out.
In the Evanston game, they did.
Our defense held them to three goals and we got one more. The atmosphere was tense (a function of the closeness of the game) but on the field, the boys played relaxed. There was a collective belief they were going to win, the reason as simple as while playing lacrosse is fun, it’s ten times more enjoyable when you validate that pleasure by winning.
To be clear—this is youth sports. I’m not advocating victories over participation (the No. 1 purpose of youth sports). But for coaches, we see the organic growth that comes from winning (kids want to come to practice, they want to get better, they start to understand the collegial side of sports).
And that makes the vexatious drive to Evanston (another red light! Hmm…Starbucks?) so worth it.
COOL VIDEO OF THE WEEK (kind of sums up theme of post):