Stepping onto the Lacrosse Field as Coach
Seeing kids running up and down the lacrosse field with smiles on their faces, watching them learn and improve skills, and helping them develop a love of lacrosse make all those hours you volunteer worthwhile. During your time with the kids, what you say to them and how you say it have significant impact on their experience. Based on your interactions with your players, you wield the power to fuel their passion for the game or to drive them away in disappointment.
Planning and executing practices
Game day is what young lacrosse players look forward to most, but the bulk of their skill development takes place during practices, so you need to design quality practices and use drills that meet all the kids’ needs and allow them to see improvement in their play. Well-planned practices pay big dividends in fun and player development, whereas those that are simply thrown together in a couple of minutes squash the team’s potential.
To make each practice productive, keep the following tips in mind:
- Make the setting fun. The most effective practices are enjoyable; fun is emphasized, and mistakes aren’t viewed as catastrophic. Let the kids know at the first practice of the season that mistakes are part of playing lacrosse and that everyone makes them. Make sure they all know that all you ask is that they listen to your instructions and give their all during practices and games. Kids who know that they can make mistakes without being humiliated or yanked out of the game will be much more relaxed on the field and will have much more fun. A relaxed atmosphere also helps the kids pick up skills faster and learn more aspects of the game.
- Be creative. When you’re putting together drills, look for clever ways to enhance the fun. Visualize going through the drill, and ask yourself what would make it more interesting. Challenge yourself to run practices that the kids can’t wait to get to. You want your players to have so much fun at practice that they hate it when the session comes to a close.
When you’re putting together your practice plan, go with those drills that keep the kids on the move and that match their skill levels. Drills that force kids to stand in line or spend more time watching than participating kill energy levels, as well as sabotage learning, development, and that all-important fun factor.
Handling game-day duties
Coaching a youth lacrosse team on game day is all about being prepared, adapting to ever-changing situations, and providing a constant source of positive motivation. You have to make a wide range of decisions, often with little time to think about them and while juggling other issues. You have pre-game, halftime, and post-game talks to deliver; playing time to monitor; substitutions to make; and strategies to employ. Yes, game day brings a lengthy list of responsibilities, but don’t lose any sleep over it.
Game day allows you to get across some important points beyond just using new lacrosse skills, such as working as a team, displaying good sportsmanship toward opponents and officials, abiding by the rules, doing their best at all times — and having fun regardless of the numbers on the scoreboard.