August 1, 2018
Ahhh the age-old question for every youth coach out there, do I coach to win or for my players to “have fun”? Should I play everyone equally or should the better, or at least harder working players get more playing time? What age is too early to stop coddling and start coaching players more aggressively? Unfortunately there are no right answers, but here is my best stab:
Ages 10 and Under
At these ages, it is the parents, not the kids, which drive everyone else nuts. No your kid is not a lock to get a scholarship, yes he or she does need to sit on the bench for a few minutes each game. No your kid’s coach isn’t biased against your kid. The worst I have ever seen is baseball parents of young kids, just because your kid had a homerun last game does not mean he will have a 15 year career in the major leagues.
Coaching kids and dealing with their parents in this age group is all about tact. You will want to play each kid close to the same amount of minutes each game and make sure that each kid has the opportunity to start throughout the course of the season. Foster a positive experience and atmosphere so that your kids look forward to practices and games and are able to learn both hard and soft skills. You will want to teach your kids all of the basics, making use of lacrosse rebounders will allow them valuable reps to improve their coordination and anticipation.
Never lose your temper with kids this young or raise your voice, even if you “have an excuse to”. You will be fighting a losing battle and doing your kids a disservice.
You can turn up the intensity a bit with middle school aged players. There is nothing wrong with having depth charts and giving your stronger players more opportunities. We cannot shield our kids from reality forever. Anyone reading who has had middle school aged kids would agree, they can be MEAN! Keep the culture positive and do not allow for any bullying. Guys especially like to give each other a hard time so make sure that it never crosses the line, you want your players to look forward to practice and games.
High School Lacrosse is one of my fondest memories as a teenager. Almost all of my best friends in high school played lacrosse with me. Teenagers love to push back to authority so make sure they know who is in charge, but that doesn’t mean you cannot have a sense of humor and a whole lot of fun coaching your kids. It will shock you how much progress your kids make year to year when they work hard. Between how much they grow physically and mentally and how much time they put into becoming stronger players, they will shock you which is one of the true joys of coaching. Even though they won’t admit it at this age, the kids still look up to you and appreciate you.
There is no magic bullet with coaching kids, when in doubt, air on the side of being patient, understanding and keeping your composure. Outside of their parents, you are one of the kids biggest role models. Teaching the fundamentals of the game is crucial, but playing team sports like lacrosse as a child means so much more, the opportunity to meet lifelong friends, learn soft and hard skills and overcome obstacles is invaluable to children. If you haven’t considered it before, give youth coaching a try, it is essentially volunteering and youth counseling but I suspect you will get as much out of it as the kids to, especially if it means spending quality time with your kids.
This is a guest post by Evan Sutker, founder and owner of Lacrosse Scoop