Gordon Corsetti | @atlantayouthlax
This is a guest post from Gordon Corsetti, a lacrosse official in the Atlanta area. Visit the Atlanta Youth Lacrosse blog for more words of wisdom from Gordon.
Heads up parents, this post is going to sting.
- Is not going to play professional lacrosse
- Is not getting recruited to play at Maryland, Le Moyne, or Lynchburg
- Is not scoring the winning goal in the high school state championship
- Is not getting All-American honors as a freshman on the Varsity roster
- Is not winning “Most Improved Player” on his youth team
Your child is not getting any of this. At least not right now.
Or even tomorrow, or next week, or a year from now.
For most of you, what your child is doing tomorrow, next week, or next year is playing and practicing lacrosse along with homework assignments, other sports, sleepovers, pool parties, movie nights and family vacations.
I do not have children, so I am not about to make this post about how to raise your player. What I have is an outsider’s perspective, separate from winning and losing, that I want to share with every parent who has one or more children involved in youth sports.
My perspective is one of a sports coach and official who has seen many kids start playing the game in middle school, grow through high school, and head off to college. I’ve seen successful players and not-so successful players go on with their lives, and I’ve noticed that the successful players tend to have one thing in common:
Their parents got out of the way unless they were asked otherwise.
I’ve seen middle schoolers stunned speechless by their parents critiquing their ground ball technique after a game, and kids reduced to tears because their mom or dad thought the kid should’ve scored that goal in the third quarter. Parents who do this adulterate their child’s sport. They swoop in and steal the game away from their kids.
These are the parents who have gotten rid of the “youth” in “youth athletics.” Now it’s just “athletic development pursuant a full college scholarship, professional contract, or some high accolade.”
See the problem?
The sport-adulterators become their child’s agent. I’ve spent season after season deprogramming young players from their overly excited and demanding parents to just relax when they are on the field. It’s as if every game is a tryout to the kids, because of the pressure imposed by their parents.
I had one player that I had to constantly remind to not pay attention to his parents on the sideline. After a good bit of encouragement, I got him to understand that I, as the coach, was the only adult voice that he should care about when he played. The best part is how great the young man played when he wasn’t beholden to an arbitrary performance level. His parents wanted him to score three goals a game, and they let him know about it.
Guess what? He never scored.
When I rebuilt his operating system—I wanted him to relax, have fun and smile—he scored five goals in our next game. Suddenly, I’m a great coach who understood the value inherent in the young kid that his parents thought never shined in the old coach’s system.
Not the case.
I simply allowed the young player to play like a young player. Oh—the kid was eight, by the way.
The worst part is how innocent these parents’ justifications sound:
“I just want little Johnny to have more confidence on the field.”
Translation: “My kid needs to go to the goal more often.”
“I just want little Timmy to get tougher”
Translation: “My kid never gets ground balls. Maybe we should invest in an athletic trainer so he gets more explosive.”
“I’m just not seeing any improvement.”
Translation: “What if a scout sees my player now and isn’t impressed? His whole chance to get a scholarship will be ruined!”
“He doesn’t seem to be having fun anymore.”
Translation: “I don’t get it, I’ve invested thousands of dollars over the last three years in his athletic development, he plays year-round for two different travel teams, and I’m sending him to a four-day recruiting camp. He just seems to be going through the motions and I’m worried all of this money I’ve spent is going to waste because he is spending more time playing flag football with his friends at the park.”
If you want to be your child’s agent, then go all the way and actually hire an agent. I’m sure the big names agencies are stoked about signing your 12-year-old who shows great potential.
I’m being sarcastic because it is the only way I can discuss this issue without breaking down into tears. I’ve seen too many young players quit before they turned thirteen because the adults around them were more interested in the final outcome than the process. It is the adults that care which team wins or loses the U13 championship game at a summer tournament because they think it means more than it actually does. What does it actually mean? I say it means less than the plastic the trophy was made out of.
I won some championship games during my youth lacrosse days. I know I won because I have warm, happy feelings thinking back to those games. What I don’t remember is more significant:
- I don’t remember what my team name was in any of the games.
- I don’t remember what the final score was in any of the games.
- I don’t remember what the championship t-shirt looked like.
- I don’t even remember if I had a good game or not.
I do remember that I had fun, and because I had fun, I stuck with it past thirteen and got to be a pretty decent player.
Let’s teach our young players accurate self-evaluation. It will pay off better in the long run than pawning that plastic trophy.
What I love most about Atlanta Youth Lacrosse is that we do everything with one core concept in mind: “It is all about the kids.” Everything we do is measured against that belief. I want kids to win, improve their game and grow as individuals. However, I will not stand for any adult that puts professional-level pressures on an 8-year-old.
Matt Ryan is paid to be under pressure and scrutiny, while your 8-year-old probably doesn’t realize that you are paying for him to play. Keep that in mind next time you are on the sideline.
Gordon is a born lacrosse official who played for ten years before realizing he'd much rather ref the game than play it. He lives in Atlanta and officiates youth, high school, and collegiate men's lacrosse games all over the southeast. His passion is educating and training officials, coaches, players, parents and all other fans on the rules of lacrosse, the sport’s history, and how best to develop lacrosse in new areas. Contact Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo Credit: Peyton Williams