WYC 052 – Youth Lacrosse – John Doss talks Committing to your Dream and Using the bench to teach not to punish


What does it take to be a winning youth coach? Listen in as John Doss shares stories and discusses his journey to becoming a successful youth sports coach.

John is entering his first year as the the Brownsburg Lacrosse High School Head Coach after 2 years as the 7th/8th grade coach.  John played collegiate lacrosse as a goalie at San Jose State University. He was named a West Coast Lacrosse League (WCLL) All-Star 3 times.  Coach Doss also played 3 years of post-collegiate lacrosse with San Francisco Lacrosse Club and still remains active as a player with DOGS Lacrosse in Indianapolis.  John is married, lives in Indianapolis and is a supply chain sales manager.

Twitter: @laxcoachdoss

Websites: brownsburglacrosse.com; indyelitelacrosse.com

Listen Now:

Listen in ITunes: Itunes link

Listen in Stitcher: Stitcher link



‘Play hard, have fun’

My Cringe & ‘Ah-Ha’ Moments

  • ‘The Dreaded Playbook’ – installing too many plays and confusing the kids.  Learned that simple is better, fundamentals are more important than game theory.
  • Teach kids: ‘That’s a cone, not a magnet’

Teaching Children & Keeping it Fun

  • Lots of games to keep kids engaged and competitive
  • Teach a concept, drill a concept.  Then allow time for free play for them to try it on their own

Free Play

  • John grew up playing with kids in his neighborhood – and had to figure it out on his own without parents/coaches hounding him

Self-Confidence and teaching kids to achieve peak performance

  • The Knute Rockne-type speeches by a coach often take the fun out of the game and cause the kids to tighten up – just let them go play and have fun
  • Coach says these 4 words before every game: ‘Play hard, have fun’
  • Coach has a goalie that beats himself up after any goal allowed – he tells the kid he can take 3 seconds to be upset, then move on.  He will even count 1,2,3 out loud so the kid remembers.
  • ‘Make the right lacrosse play, we’re not worried about the results’

Culture – Discipline/Rewards/Teambuilding

  • Have a well-thought out team meeting with parents to set the expectations and guidelines
  • 1 rule: Respect.  Respect coaches, teammates, opponents, referees, yourself, and the game.
  • Coach Doss uses the lacrosse game format to discipline during practices – he has the player take a knee for 1 minute – he is taking away what they really want, which is to play.


  • John will pick out a kid before practice and tell that kid to keep his eye out for a player putting out extraordinary effort during practice, then let that kid recognize the player they choose at the end of practice
  • John asks his players what they are seeing during a game – but they have to phrase it as a ‘we’

Connecting with Kids

  • One of John’s goalie’s parent was debating about having their son try out for a travel team – John encouraged the parent to have the kid tryout – regardless of the outcome – try it!  Don’t be afraid of failure, just go for it.

The One that Got Away

  • John’s team was overmatched, got down early, then scored several goals and had a bunch of momentum – and John called timeout to set something up – and he totally killed the team’s momentum.

Best Stolen idea


  • When coaching a kid in a game – if you want to pull them out to teach them something – don’t pull the kid out and put them at the end of the bench.  Pull them out, teach them, then put them immediately back into the game.  That way kids don’t see coming to the bench as a punishment, they see it as an opportunity to learn.

Recommended resources

Coaching/Leadership Quote or Book

  • Roger Federer when asked his definition of mental toughness: ‘Committing to your dream’

Parting Advice

  • As a coach – you have to set the example of every behavior you want to see


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