HOW TO GET THEM TO THE RIGHT STICK – Questions to ask – Things to consider -
Sometimes less is more, but then other times, only more can be more…..
HOW OLD IS KID?
POSITION, style of player.
SIZE – weight consideration matters more when they are smaller, etc.
Overall stick length is minimum 40” always +.? Can be as short as 40”, but penalty is 3-min. with no release. Don’t go near there.
So always legal, but short as possible, especially for scorers and little guys. Never want to give the defender access to checking butt of stick (never show shaft below bottom hand).
Short stick defenders should get as close to the allowed 42 inch total length to give a little more defense coverage capability, while really not sacrificing much unless he is the high scorer on the team, too.
DOES HE CATCH AND THROW WELL? – What is stick-work level? -
IS HE GOOD? (yrs. Exper.) – Field presence, game understanding, any ‘strength’.
HOW DOES HE CARRY/CRADLE THE STICK, as in vertical/straight up and down, or does he drag the stick on the ground?, etc.
DOES HE HAVE THE LOVE? Always a good thing to know when investing in equipment at all.
WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT with stick you are getting?
2) Lightweight? – especially if kid is small
CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG? (Rodney King)
To connect as one, players don’t have to be all the same as one another. In fact the richness inside the great, historical and sacred game of lacrosse and the value of that fact is evidenced when different roles and styles link up and create a new kind of team character together and all together. I have always felt that lacrosse is a fertile land for overachieving when more roles are realized for more individuals.
MANNING OR BROCK? That can’t be an easy job of managing chaos, no doubt
A new Lacrosse season is upon us. Rarely can it (team building) be simply reloading. Scissors often cut up expectations that are on someone’s perfect on-paper proposal. A new Bronco season is upon us too and we have been somehow granted a reprieve and the chance to be #1 seed in a very #1 seed kind of world we now live in. Nothin’ to it but to do it, right?
Monday, December 7
Pearl Harbor Day once was a day that was a big deal every year. It certainly is part of American global fabric and history.
I like the new guys on TV late night, but I think I miss Dave Letterman and the top ten list. Anyway, here is a top 3:
THE TOP 3 THINGS I LOVE ABOUT COACHING (lacrosse especially)
3) I like the whole student/athlete/family thing. For the most part players all want to be there. It is not chemistry lab after all. Win win is totally possible possible inside a family team.
2) The final exam results that tell you how your team stacks up are posted on just ONE board, and it is simple pass/fail. Ties do not exist in my world, but levels do.
1) And The Number One Thing I love about coaching is the fact that What is accomplished in practice can never be ‘numbered up’ or totally measured and the pursuit of what that means or can mean motivates me.
JUST AN OLD COACH THINKING OUT LOUD
There is no true perfection, only the pursuit of it. To always listen is to always have the key to the doors you are trying to open.
The Team journey is joyful but the process may not always be. The ‘Team Dynamic’ can feel like a ship in orbit. It is worth the effort to make the trip.
THIS IS NOT EVERY DAY STUFF here on September 29
Well, we just had a ‘Bloody Moon’ (Lunar eclipse during a full moon), the Pope himself just finished his trip of coming to America, and then he was delivered safely back to the Vatican after ‘moving’ millions of Americans. ‘They’ found water of some sort on Mars the other day, too, and on top of all that it is almost Rock-it-tober already. That’s a lot, don’tcha think? Anyway, here is my most recent coaching rant, or should I say rant about coaching?
CHECKING UP ON FAMILY VALUES?
I think sometimes that we, as a country, maybe as the whole human race, are losing touch with what family means when it is inside the team-as-family definition for that word family. Teams all over sports refer to themselves as a family, lots of teams say it out loud and say it often. As I look around, and as an old guy, I see that yes, you can say FAMILY as much as you want, and even be a ‘family’ in some or many ways in some or many places, but that doesn’t cover all the levels needed for it to connect itself all at once and stay on line that way as a team/family inside the lines, nor can it just ‘reboot’ itself when needed as time goes by. It is easy to party together no doubt, but it is not always easy to be a family.
YOU MUST PREACH TO THE CHOIR – If it’s not that way you have to make it that way.
As a coach you need to redefine what family really means for your team, and you might have to do it pretty much every day of your head coaching life so the team can know and understand who WE are.. Who they actually are is likely to move with every day whether a coach wants it to or not, and a little or a lot.
“WE ARE FAM-IL-EE. I GOT ALL MY SISTERS AND ME” (Pointer Sisters ’79)
When a team really is like a family it can be somewhat intimidating to other teams on some or many levels. It doesn’t matter if you are the Hatfields or the McCoys in the family feud, it is simply the collective spirit that lifts a group to family status, and not the good, the bad, or the ugly as others see you.
TIC TAC YO!
Connecting on the field in a family way has a way of making the sum greater than its parts when players are all on the old ‘same page’ when out there.
JUST TEXT ME with the update. I already know we live in an imperfect world
Teams work best no doubt when the degree to which the WE connect inside the white (usually) lines like a family all wired together tighter than a family cell phone contract. Great communication and small, sometimes subtle things can have a sudden impact in a game situation. I love it when our team can put constant pressure on the other team’s goal on offense, and all over the yard if possible on defense.
JUST SAY BOO! And the ball can be yours
And by the way, when the other team, the one you are playing against at the time, has some sort of dysfunction inside its own ‘family’, that can help us in more ways than just the obvious. The more unhappy they are, and when they make mistakes that give the ball somehow to us, they are less intimidating overall, and some of my greatest fun as a head coach has been in rivalry games when I perceived to see the other team imploding enough to help us to succeed when ‘we’ were perhaps not doing as well as I might have hoped in terms of our own execution on that particular day or play. In general, though, when we function well as a team being a family we will do things that help the other team to throw the ball away or maybe into many sorts of “unforced errors” that give us the ball as a gift. This is always part of the master plan for me. A lift here, a flick there and it can be amazing what results can result.
KNIT PICK ONE AND PERHAPS YOU CAN HAVE TWO PEARLS
When individuals can hook up to make the other team look or do something stupid, that is straight out family style team balling if you ask me. I encourage this, and it becomes something when players are tuned in to one another. We always ‘practice’ the mind set daily and look to seize little moments in a game. There are so many ways for teams to give you the ball, especially in field lacrosse and especially when everyone of us knows the rules and gets being in the moment and what is going on out on the field. When effective, the forced turnover or an unforced error by them can be very efficient ways to actively seek and obtain possession of the ball. It becomes sort of an almost un-pressured form of very real pressure, and I never want to give the impression that we are just ‘sitting back’ on either side of the ball, so the approach is win/win.
MULTI TASKING IN A MODERN WORLD
As I see things, it can take a lot of team energy when you are actively trying to take the ball away from the other team all the time, especially when they are in fact a good team with “Players”, or you don’t have a natural take-the-ball-away player, etc. Still I like to pressure and do things to take other teams out of their comfort place whenever possible, no mater how good they are, and I always like it when we can create situations where the bad guys give us the ball by ‘accident’ here and there, and with little or no help from us.
I AM THE MONKEY WRENCH GANG
That direction of thought or counter-thought of helping the other team somehow underachieve and or screw up motivates me far more than trying to wear smarter pants than I have in the closet as is, or to match everything up in a certain match-up the puzzle game pieces way. I don’t really want to try to ‘outcoach’ anyone so much either. I know better. I want to sense our capabilities inside a game sometimes more than I want to search too far for the inabilities of the other team, although sometimes match-ups and other things can be very inviting and often useful, as well as occasionally necessary.
JUST A FAMILY GUY, but I have driven through South Park a million times
If I am the ‘head’ of the family I know how I want to coach my own, cuz they’re, well, family! We have answers, always tools in our tool bag for countering, but we like pro-active and to make each situation into our movie way more than we want to let it be part of someone else’s script!
NOTHING IS REAL, and nothing to get hung about. Beatles
I fear sometimes that the joy so many kids can get from being part of a team, like brothers, or sisters, or even like brothers and sisters altogether, is all being swallowed up and into a sea of “elite” teams and overall specialization in many sports. I fear that when everything gets politically and otherwise ‘corrected’ by social media (needs a new name), and with concussions, steroids, and other behavior issues, that, ‘we’ will, at some future point, turn around and kids will no longer be playing so many of these old school team sports anymore, or will we just be Nerd Nation and breeding athletes like racehorses and everyone is addicted to betting on fantasy everything.
LOVE IS A BEAUTIFUL THING
As a coach, when things at practice were in a place that say, I loved, and it never lasts more than a fraction of a second, but I used that quick, blasting FREEZE whistle to stop it, and I had everyone just freeze in their tracks. Then everyone could look and see what all was so good as I preached emphatically the virtues in or of what I had just witnessed and or what they had executed in some really good way.
LOVE IS NOT ALWAYS A BEAUTIFUL THING
On the other side of that pat on the back coin, when it was terrible or ugly for me because someone was not following one of our few commandments, poor spacing, or it is just chaos, when I froze them it was easy to tell/obvious what went wrong. More than that, if I/we coached them up right in the first place, the guy or guys who did the wrong thing will every time be trying their best to sneak back where to where he or they know they belong like no one sees that. Either way, this, too, becomes a great teaching moment.
FACTS ARE NOT FEELINGS, BUT FEELINGS ARE FACTS
I never wanted to break anyone’s spirit, player. Assistant, whatever, but I also wanted every practice to be more situationally demanding and pressurized than a game could ever be for them. I wanted to condition them in a way that didn’t require always changing a portion of practice to the running section, but rather often came right along with the intensity practice had that day.
ACCOUNTABILITY IS NOT ALWAYS JUST 10 PUSH-UPS
It is just never “All good” if it is not. Accounting for actions means, in my mind, that when they are poor on offensive connection and execution, then they have to ride, we don’t just whistle it and start over “all good” just because ‘WE’ are working on a certain offense. I abhor the concept of going through the motions, ever!
I know all this makes me a dinosaur. Maybe, but I say, “Bring it on” with all your perfect training! Or with all the numbers is it perfact taining?
This is almost 2500 words of Flip pontification – Subject coaching, stick evolution, left and
right handlingness -
(pssst 2500 is a lot)
“I JUST WANT TO SAY ONE WORD TO YOU, Benjamin….PLASTICS!”
(The Graduate – 1967)
Plastic lacrosse heads first ‘came out’ in the early 1970’s. They jumped quickly into the American lacrosse mainstream and off they paddled into the Brine and STX river of sticks for quite some time. By the time that I was playing lax in college just a few years after, the traditional wooden sticks had been all but completely eradicated from the sport, replaced by modeled heads that were made of molded plastic and screwed onto a shaft that was still mostly wood, but aluminum and all the other ‘ums’ would be along soon enough. Carbon fiber is not a recent invention either. Shaft and pole technology had a rapid evolution in the seventies and beyond.
GIRLS GOT TO BE GIRLS (all the time)
Women’s lacrosse used exclusively wooden sticks until really not that many years ago. I suppose that sort of goes right along with the whole archaic idea that women do not need helmets to play lacrosse, a game that, like the men, uses an extremely hard rubber ball and has sticks swinging about. This is a concept of okay that, as of now, continues to live on in women’s and girl’s lacrosse and their rulebooks.
A QUESTION OF BALANCE (Moody Blues – 1970)
When the perfectly symmetrical plastic heads burst on the men’s lacrosse scene it really was an explosion, one that happened quickly as did so many things in the early seventies. For the first time both of the sidewalls on a lacrosse stick became symmetrical, the left and right mirrored each other with these molded heads. This was far beyond a nominal change in the wooden sticks and for the future design of sticks.
BRAVE NEW WORLD (Aldous Huxley)
With plastic there was a new, different, all-of-a-sudden generic world of balance for the lacrosse stick and the ball inside the pocket. It is hard to calculate the impact that plastic heads had on how the game would be played moving forward, but it was no doubt huge. A whole new capability opened up and so did the styles for the playing of the game. It seems to me that coaches (Bob Scott at Hopkins perhaps) sometime around back then jumped on the possibilities of players using both hands more and more efficiently and what that could do for
THE TEAM concept of ball movement and balancing the field to move the ball more quickly.
The way that sticks made of wood were and are made in the Native tradition they seemed best suited to be played with using a right handed grip because the gut constructed sidewall on the left side was not as strong/stiff as the opposing wood side, and this also puts the wood side on the ground for face offs. I don’t know if the Natives ever constructed wooden sticks that curved the other way, but I am pretty sure I have never seen one. They have changed face off rules a million times over the years since the heads became plastic, but to this day a player must live by the very old rule that makes both players use the right-handed grip to face-off.
THAT’S ALRIGHT MAMA (Elvis)
I think using the strong (left or right) as much as you are able as a lacrosse player is a good thing. I am sort of my own less than shiny example, because for what seemed like years, when I had the ball in some sort of attacking area or situation the other team would often start yelling something like, “He’s ALL right”, as in totally right handed, not as in, “He’s ALRIGHT, Dude”! I know it was a different time, but for the most part most of ‘them’ couldn’t take it (the ball) away from me too easily when I kept it in my right hand at all times, and no one was really there to coach me out of it or farther into the world of one-handedness either. My right hand on top was my safe place. The other teams were indeed correct in their assessment of me, but I also knew that when I carried the ball that was my best chance for success, or was it survival?
BEWARE THE WHACK ATTACK
I hated being so publicly ‘exposed’ so often for this (or any) weakness. If I put the stick in my left hand during a game early in my college career, I think I can still almost remember that my level of self-confidence went down, while I’m sure that the team defending me would lick their collective mostly still wooden chops, so I tried hard to never do that (left handed actual playing) for a long time.
It was widely thought then that being all one-handed/sided was in fact a weakness. Coaches pounded the whole use both hands in every drill thing along with the ‘bounce shots only’ and a bunch of other stuff that sort of droned on from one generation to the next. I would say teams and coaches preached using both hands almost universally anywhere south of British Columbia until fairly recently.
THE MAN IN THE MIRROR (Michael Jackson)
I worked the wall obsessively and hour after hour because I wanted to change…., and also because
I just loved the wall and the tried and true results I got from using that tool to improve my
stick-work. I wanted to get some ACTUAL capability with my left hand so that, in my mind I could
be a better, more versatile lacrosse player and in general more useful as a player on ANY team.
When I did in fact achieve a certain level of ambidexterity I became much more as both a player
and later as a coach. I am absolutely sure of both those things, and I do not believe I have
changed my mind.
Everyone now seems in accord on the idea that all that matters is winning this thing/game, whatever now. There is a huge focus on only results. And all the young coaches seem to ask, “Where is my ‘magic bullet’ drill that will make my team great?” Well, those results will change in future time based on what you do with tools in your toolbox today, Coach.
BEING ELITE CAN BE FLEETING
A plus B almost never just simply equals C. Talent is wonderful and I will pretty much take all I can get, but in my mind ELITE teams MUST be built. They are not simply chosen and have a script and therefore they are elite, but that’s where we are, isn’t it?
FASTEST GAME ON TWO FEET (lacrosse promoting bumper sticker from the 70’s)
The speed of the game did indeed jump to another level with the advent of the plastic heads, even
if lacrosse had already been widely dubbed as “The fastest game on two feet”. It is a nice thing
to say, “fastest game on two feet”, but every hockey player I ever met reminded me that this was
not the actual truth, and they certainly have a case.
Even with the outstanding skills and athleticism of today, I think no one would look at a college lacrosse game in 2015 and the first thought is “Yea, that is the fastest game on two feet”. So much has changed in the game and much of that makes the game better, but from what I observe lacrosse has definitely become the most over-coached game played on any number of feet, but that is another story isn’t it?
THE CREATOR’S GAME? (Iroquois belief about lacrosse)
I never dreamed that in just 30 or 40 years time the concept of using both hands would be all but dead, but it absolutely breaks my heart to see that versatility in the game has been mostly replaced by specialization and other box lacrosse principles. Even the field rules in general encourage this. The NCAA toys with a shot clock to speed up play, but it is all just mumbo FIFA jumbo jargon to me. In college lacrosse the officials determine when it is time to put the 30-second clock into action. WHAT? There can be no EXTRA time determined by referees in lacrosse! I think that sort of thing is not the ‘Creator’s Game’ so much. I don’t know, maybe he (Creator) likes it too, but I say if you want to have a shot clock, then just turn the damn thing ON! Let it be free to do what it does, to be a clock and go tic toc. Resets are not tragedy.
EXCUSE ME? NO, no, no, EXCUSE ME!
NCAA rules are the compass to the future
As it is now in modern NCAA lacrosse, clearly nothing is allowed to happen until both teams have ample time and opportunity to get all the “right” players on, or maybe more importantly OFF the field. It is like it is some sort of unwritten rule. Hey, if that is the way they want it, just bring back the old horns with matching whistles! Or, maybe just drop the goals to 4’, that would be four feet high, and then the goalies can come out dressed up like the Michelin Man, too. Oh joy! Spectatortacular! And hey, while we are at it, what is prettier than a cross-check? NOT! They are ugly and make the game look cheap. Just my opinion, but why are ‘we’ doing this?
TWO ISN’T ALWAYS BETTER THAN ONE, but sometimes it is
I do get the concept of teaching kids to use their strong hand, but here is my big picture question. As a coach why would you not want a player and a team to have more capabilities when players as individuals absolutely do have the ability to do more than ever before? The X place that is behind the goal, for example, is a far more dangerous place to attack from than one step to either side of it, and that would be to the left or to the right. The more that the individuals on your team can do, the more capability your team has, right? Or am I just missing something? I cannot tell a lie, however, the first day of practice in any new season as a young coach, I was always snooping around for lefties, and I have coached high school teams where if you were left handed and could almost catch, you could start on my attack, but the game has come a ways from there.
MATCH-UPS!!! WE DON’T NEED NO STINKING MATCH-UPS
I preached a lot of physicality without too much whacking as a defensive approach as a coach, and I could be a bitch about it, too, basically because the best man down defense is NO man down defense, but if I had a kid like Plonkey (see CSU Lacrosse, Coach’s Journal archives – 2004), a kid that has the ability to check and bring fear upon the other team merely with his presence, why would I make him just another defensive drone? He is weapon. I will pay the price of the message he sends, and a kid like that has green light to whack when he has the skill to able to know the difference between an accurate check and just incessant whacking, which still seems to be the main method taught. In fact we always tried to set up team situations where Mark (or anyone really good on long pole patrol) could go around carrying a big stick. Anywhere far-from-goal was fine with us. We had his back. They always knew the things he (any of our LSM) would do. They (his checks) were creative, but nothing that was a surprise to his teammates. We did not search for match-ups, we jumped on them when we saw them, but anyone vs. Mark was okay with us.
EQUAL OPPORTUNITY DEFENSE
The truth was that he took the ball away from the other team a ton because of his surgeon like checking skills and abilities, but also lots of because ‘they’ wanted none of him for the most part, and they would screw up for us without much direct help from the Plonkster himself. We did not obsess over individual match-ups, though. We were equal opportunity to be sure. By the way, that is my favorite defense. I like to call it “Help the other team to screw up” defense.
MARK MY WORDS
If I would have made a player like Mark do things exactly like all his defensive teammates, what a shame that would have been for us. Moreover, I shudder on the other side of that coin to think what that kind of freedom (the kind he had) loose in the wrong hands might have done to allow chaos into the scene.
WOOD YOU BE ABLE TO PLAY DEFENSE?
I once coached a defenseman (HS) with a prosthetic leg. He did fine in the scheme of very solid team defense. It takes a village to accomplish, and all the villagers never are the same or perfect. I coached him quite differently from Plonkey you might say, but everyone had helpful moments in this process no doubt. His hunger to play and prove his worth in spite of what he did not have probably equaled anyone I have ever coached. It was a challenge, but the kid was an inspiration to me as a coach because of what he was able to accomplish to help our team, and therefore himself.
NO SQUARE PEGS IN THE ROUND HOLES PLEASE
At any rate the run and gun style of play in lacrosse has been pretty much gunned down, gone the way of a John Wayne western, lest the wrong person do something ‘out of the BOX’ lacrosse guide and handbook, and take a shot in an unsettled situation or something like that. Lord knows that in general I think that lacrosse shooting percentages are way over valued, and in my humble opinion, unless of course your team is one shot and done every time down on offense. And if that is the case then you have far more to worry about than individual shooting percentages. Overall, let’s just say that the pace of play is somewhat more controlled by the sidelines than it ever used to be, and also more than it should be. Don’t we want to prepare kids to make good decisions in intense situations? Isn’t that where champions are born anymore? Or is judgment and assessment all based just on their ability to follow directions and as long as you win, who cares about the rest?
JUST CLONE ME – Then you can own me
And I never bought into the promoting of the game with phrases like the ever popular “Friends
don’t let friends play baseball”. That, to me, is not a grow-the-game concept. It is an elitist
concept of addition by subtraction. That’s just me. I prefer to use the rise above approach, as
opposed to the kill the other guy way. I am allowed to love baseball. That is where I came from.
It seems to be commonly thought now that every pocket and every stick should be the same, and there is only one kind of offense to run, and shooting is the most/only important stick skill, etc. As coach I searched for dynamics. I want players that care, not players that just care if they get chosen for the Elite Traveling team based on numbers they accumulated and stuff like that. I always liked an oddball or two on the team, etc. Come on people, bring back freedom of expression. It is a beautiful way to live.
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