The following post is adapted from a presentation at the 2013 US Lacrosse National Convention, presented by Champion, by Katie Mueth, then-head women’s lacrosse coach at Missouri Baptist University.
- Trying to change too much (or nothing at all)
Unless you’re starting a new program, your players have had a coach before you. Regardless of their relationship with that coach, they need stability as they move into the next year. A great strategy to gauge where your players are coming from is to ask returning captains or team leaders.
While you might want to maintain some of the team’s existing traditions, feel free to add new traditions, set different expectations for preseason, implement new practice plans, and add tournaments and events to the team’s calendar. Establish yourself early on and make the program your own, but give some ownership to the captains to help you run the team.
Idea: Consider giving your captains 1-2 minutes during halftime to address their teammates before you and your assistants arrive.
- Allowing parent opinion to control you as the coach
Parents should have a say in what happens on the team and with their children. It is important, however, to have a balance between what the parents want and what you see as best. Hear the parents, respect the parents, and be available to the parents, but make your own decisions. After all, you’re the coach!
Idea: If you’re a varsity coach, sit with JV parents during part of their game. You’ll be a valuable resource for new lacrosse families in terms of understanding game play, and you’ll earn their respect.
The two biggest things that need to be organized are paperwork and practice. I recommend that you keep a binder with information on every player, including contact and health information. Create systems for tryouts and depth charts, and document your decisions, so you can explain yourself later.
Idea: Create a spreadsheet for tryouts and identify players by number. Set up drills that give kids lots of exposure and touches. Keep notes and ratings on each player’s performance and be prepared to share those notes with parents.
- Lack of communication
Provide your players and their parents with a calendar of team activities at the beginning of the year. Make sure they know what is expected of them in preseason and at tryouts, practices and games. Lack of communication on your end is not an option, and the same goes for your players. Setting expectations upfront allows you to penalize players for unexcused absences, tardiness and generally failing to communicate.
You should also set expectations for your coaching staff. This can be as simple as daily practice times and number of practices per week.
Idea: Have players and parents sign off on your expectations before the season.
- Failure to become part of local organizations
Locate lacrosse organizations in your area and get involved. There are usually state and divisional boards you can join. Really become involved in committee work and have a say in selection processes in the area.
Idea: Being part of a board that helps determine awards allows you to get a better understanding of the lay of the land in your area, and gives you a platform to help reward your most deserving players.
- No boundaries with players
Especially for young coaches, be careful of what you say and do. Regardless of your age, your players look up to you. This applies to how to interact with officials, other players, and other coaches in front of your team. Your words are permission for action in their minds.
Idea: The coaches that act the harshest toward officials tend to have players that act the same way. Set up a zero-tolerance policy for this behavior, and take players off the field if necessary.
- Failure to refresh yourself with the rules
It’s a good practice to brush up on rule changes each year. Even if you go directly from playing to coaching, it is important to read the entire rulebook. You can’t best advocate for your players if you aren’t very comfortable with the rulebook.
Idea: If you’ve got the means, come to the Convention each January. The sessions on rules interpretations and points of emphasis are invaluable.
- Not getting to know your local officials
Get to know the officials in your area, and your chances of in-game conflict will decrease. The refs deserve your respect. Be open to communicating with them in an appropriate manner, and listening to them about the game, players or facilities.
Idea: A greeting when they arrive goes a long way. Depending on the level of play, providing officials with a designated place to change and talk, a towel or even a bottle of water communicates a degree of professionalism.
- Waiting to jump in and get your players involved
Encourage your players to play in offseason leagues and try out for select or divisional teams. Fill out the paperwork to make your players eligible for local, state and national awards. Be involved in the meetings to choose conference-level selections. Unless you have the best player in your area, the other coaches likely will not notice that player unless you put their name out there.
Idea: College coaches have SIDs to help publicize their athletes. Most of you won’t. Depending on your level of play, reach out to local media or find a student writer that can author summaries of games.
- Not giving it your all
New coaches should always have a practice plan prepared. Planning helps show your players that their time is valuable and there is a reason that the practice is important.
Volunteer to join committees and coach teams, help select other teams, plan practices with other coaches and run camps. Be creative on what you can do to help your players and build lacrosse in your area.
Idea: The website uslmobilecoach.com was designed for busy parents who double as youth coaches, but it’s an invaluable resource for any coach regardless of how much time he or she has for planning.
What other struggles have you experienced as a new coach, or observed with coaches of your team? Suggest solutions in the comments section.
Photo Credit: Scott McCall
Katie Mueth presented this drill at the 2013 US Lacrosse National Convention, presented by Champion. Don’t miss out on more conventional wisdom. Save 28% off walk-up registration for the 2014 Convention (January 10-12 in Philadelphia) through January 2.