From the Editor: Lessons For the Long Haul

PHOTO BY MASON PERRICONE


This article appears in the December edition of US Lacrosse Magazine, available exclusively to US Lacrosse members. Join or renew today! Thank you for your support.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

A dad insists he has too much happening in his life to take on another commitment and politely declines the overture to coach — only to get roped in anyway for what turns out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of his sports life.

That’s me, the masked middle-age man running around the soccer field with 7-year-olds giddy like it’s his first time playing under the lights. I’m only an assistant coach, but it’s a travel team, which means there are no dandelion-pickers.

Our head coach is a serial volunteer for our community-based club. Soccer, basketball, baseball — he’s always in season and usually coaching multiple teams. My son started with him in tee ball, our boys are good friends and we live in parallel worlds. How could I say no?

At first, the return-to-play protocols seemed so restrictive. No shared equipment. Masks to and from the field for the players and always for the coaches — even if you’re huffing and puffing through a dynamic warmup demo. Checklists for every symptom under the sun and temperature checks with fickle scanners.

We quickly got used to these mitigative measures, and actually foresee keeping some of them in place long after the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Cones, no huddles. Instead of huddling during water breaks and team talks, the kids each have an assigned cone. This limits horseplay.

  • No out-of-state tournaments. I’m sure we’ll go back to traveling at some point, but it really seems unnecessary now.

  • One-hour practices. Time flies. We don’t jam too much into a session. We use the play-practice-play model and focus on one skill or strategy each practice. We don’t have time for more than that. It leaves the kids wanting more. Burnout has not been a problem.

  • Parents on the same sideline as the team. Some coaches might not agree with this, but I find it beneficial for parents to be within earshot. They can hear the concepts we are reinforcing and see them in action. They’re less likely to berate officials, interfere with instruction or contradict the coaches. We’re literally all on the same side.

  • Smaller everything. We had 10 players and three coaches. Lacrosse Athlete Development Model fans understand why the growth in compete and skill level was most palpable in station-based games with lots of touches.

  • Free play. Sometimes, we just let the boys go. They’re cooped up all day, many of them in virtual classrooms. This is their one outlet. Their bubbles don’t expand much beyond their immediate families and this group of 13. We let them play.







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