The golden rules of discipline
Team discipline is crucial to the overall success of any team endeavor. Not only do disciplined teams perform well on the field, but if teams are able to maintain good discipline both on and off the field, the overall lacrosse experience is far more positive for all involved; parents, players, and especially coaches.
Before we start let’s think about disruptive behavior. Disruptive behavior from a player or a number of players within a team is due to a lack of interest. You’re probably wondering “a lack of interest”, these kids are attending lacrosse practice? However, some children are forced to play a sport by their parents. So how do we avoid disruptive behavior? A better question to answer is “what causes this disruptive behavior?”
Disruptive behavior is caused by
· The coach talking too much. Young children have a short attention span, anything over 2 minutes and their minds start to wonder. Heck mine does.
· Bad preparation of the training session or breakdown during. Once the kids are bored, they will start to fool around.
· Practicing only one activity or spending too much time on one activity. After a few repetitions the kids will get bored and start to look for something more exciting to do. This is especially true for the more experienced players.
· Players waiting for their turn. Young players left out will focus their attention on something else and you will inevitably see this as disruptive behavior.
· Choice of Lacrosse Drills. If the exercises or drills we are trying to teach are too advanced or too hard for the kids, they will simply give up and start to fool around.
FIRST AND MOST IMPORTANT- COACHES PLAN AHEAD
The single most important thing that can help is the coach’s organization. If it is obvious to the players that practices are conducted in an orderly manner, with clear goals and objectives, they are more likely to treat both the coach and the training time seriously. If practices flow easily from one activity to the other with minimal “down time”, the players are able to stay focused on the task at hand. By making training meaningful and educational, the players will be motivated to pay attention and keep focused. One of the ways you can help this happen is by having your children there on time. And that is defined as on the field and ready to go at 6:30, not driving in to the parking lot at 6:30!
SECOND – Choose our activities carefully
There is nothing worse than putting players through “boring” drills that are inappropriate to their playing ability either by being too difficult or too easy. The huge disadvantage we have in this area is players various levels of ability. To easy and we lose the advanced kids and too hard we lose the beginners. What parents can do to assist is to make sure our players are practicing at home. Lacrosse is a challenging sport and they aren’t going to master all the skills just practicing with us for three hours a week.
Having them do 5 push ups or more is standard treatment for learning to cradle and run. We have actually studied this repeatedly and found it to be true! Doing 10 pushups for a bad pass or catch is a standard. The whole team doing pushups for the coach to regain control, during the full moon, is standard. Lacrosse is a running sport. We plan in runs during practice and increase them throughout the season. We coaches also dole out some of those scheduled runs as “punishment” for team discipline failures.
As a parent I appreciate the fact that the young player comes home and sleeps through the night because they have tired themselves out in healthy, engaging fun activities. We make the promise to send them home TIRED!
THIRD – EVERYONE HAS TO HAVE A CLEAR PICTURE OF WHAT APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR LOOKS LIKE.
So the league start practice at 6:30 and that means EVERY player equipped on the field and cages are out at 6:30. Typically the captains start warm ups without being told. That is the expected behavior and a standard that is set at the first practice. Parents late getting them there? Don’t care. But I did talk to one of the moms when her son was late repeatedly.
THAT SIMPLE PROCESS OF STARTING PRACTICE TAKES A MONTH OF NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT. Teenagers ain’t to smart. One kid is late and what we joking refer to as “Mahoney’s house of pain” opens. Planks to sprints, push ups, burpies. All together as a team or we do it again or everyone waits. Two kids late equal twice as long. I can’t tell you how much aggravation this simple process saves us. You might not think it’s a big deal if a player is 5 minutes late but we do. They miss warm ups, chalk talks and its hugely disruptive and disrespectful to the coach.
As a coach I am volunteering my time. I don’t waste the kids’ time and they don’t waste mine. So make sure your kids are at practice on time, every time.
As soon as coaches notice disruptive behavior, we must deal with it. EVERY SINGLE TIME. Having players do pushups or run laps as punishment is appropriate, especially for younger players that may need reminders to pay attention. Removing them from an activity can be more effective for something like swearing, or flashes of temper. Their primary desire is to be involved in their peer group. Therefore, removing them from the activity is an effective way to deal with problems that occur.
Counter intuitive is group punishment….. One player causes discomfort for the entire team. I know this is a bad management tool but it works for the kids. Peer pressure is huge and nothing like getting an entire team an extra lap to get that going. Couple kids in line talking and not paying attention…Whole line is doing pushups. You will observe them telling each other to shut up in no time.
Peer pressure in the form of players being a jerk to their team mates for bad play is not to be tolerated AT ALL. And I think we all recognize the difference between a little friendly jabs that all men and boys are prone to and being a bully. I have had several kids not want to continue to play because they were effectively being bullied. The repercussion for this bullying behavior needs to swift and severe. Parent involvement is a must.
FOURTH- INVOLVE THE PARENTS
Especially with the younger players, having the parents support and reinforcing our discipline policies is crucial. Our expectation for player behavior is clearly stated during the preseason meeting, at practices and in this letter. We need your support and must enlist it for repeat offenders or major events. Benching a player or ejection from the league can happen and the player needs to know that. If you have an issue with the coach, please talk to the team mom. She will direct you appropriately.
FIFTH- COACH AS ROLE MODEL
It is always good to remember that our actions as coaches are speaking so loudly that the players can’t hear what we are saying. If we ask for respect, but show that we don’t respect others (e.g. the referee, not that any of us have disagreed with a referee!) then we are asking for problems. If we expect players to be kind to each other, but we are not kind ourselves, then we have lost. I’ve had kids come up to me years after I coached them to thank me. We have to remember that we are making a lasting impression. Model appropriate behavior and get it in return.
SIXTH- DEFIANCE VS. OOPS
“Kids will be kids” is a great phrase that both excuses a lot of inappropriate behavior, on one hand, and reminds us all that kids make mistakes on the other. When players openly defy, and act inappropriately, then swift, appropriate action is called for. However, when players momentarily forget themselves, and do not show any malicious intent, then a gentle reminder is perhaps more appropriate. Tapping them on the helmet and knowing we are watching them usually does the trick. We know youngsters are often quite skillful at disguising the two types of behavior. Forgive us if we don’t recognize the difference occasionally.
FINALLY- COACH AS A KID
So we have all had good and bad coaches. I find myself saying “man when I was a kid…” and I think that is a good thing. I am a respectful adult and I am because of my parents and coaches. So support your child’s coach and help us avoid possible challenges this season.