The Strength Of Coaching With Confidence And Humility – The Journey Of The Lacrosse Coach

My son was still an infant when I co-founded our community youth lacrosse club so I started coaching at the U15 boys division where expectations were highest among families trying lacrosse for the first time.  I had the most lacrosse playing experience among the coaches in the club at the timeand was the only coach who had played in college.

I remained there until my son turned 5 and I dropped down to coach the U7 division, and I was following him up through the ranks for a few years until this season.  In the years since I had dropped down to the younger levels to coach, I thought things were fine where I had left them with coaches standardization having been implemented and coaches stepping up to volunteer and take the initiative to get US Lacrosse certified.  What I did not realize was that, with our club beginning to compete increasingly well and make a name for ourselves, some parents and players in the older divisions were beginning to feel that the coaches that were nevertheless dedicated and committed; lacked ability to take the player to the next level of truly elite competitive youth lacrosse.

Some of that criticism I thought may have been legitimate, but I assumed that the lian’s share of it was fed by a for profit club that formed to the south of us that was promising Division I scholarships if kids played for them (those for profits offering the promised land almost always inevitably show up at some point).  With a few parents/players having drank enough of the Kool-Aide to jump ship for that club, I decided to jump back up to coach the elite upper middle school division of our  Venom Elite program.  My son is still 8 years of age and not yet eligible for elite tournament play (Venom Elite starts at U11), so I am still able to coach his and my 6 years daughter’s respective rec teams.

I thought at first I was doing this more for the perception that my lacrosse background brought to the Venom Elite team, but then one of my assistant coaches who had not played but learned to coach lacrosse through the years in our club who did not play lacrosse, shared something with me recently.  He told me that when it was decided that I was to move up to take over the Venom Elite team, while he understood the necessary perception that it brought to the team and the club, he could not help but take some offense for the dismissal of the value that he and other dedicated volunteers brought to the boys at this stage in their lacrosse coaching careers.   He also had never really coached along side me.

He told me that the very first day of practice, he realized that the parents had a point.  He told me that he was grateful that I had moved up, not just for the sake of the club, but he realized that my ability to demonstrate skills and schemes, make set changes on the fly, manage the game, and recognize mismatches was more valuable than anything he had seen in the club to date; with his 3 years of coaching experience having occurred while I was coaching exclusively in the younger divisions.

I really appreciated this feedback because I did honestly did not know myself that there was such a difference.  My perspective came from my experience learning from and working with college and professional lacrosse legends that put on summer Pro Camps for us here in Central Florida.  When I watch guys like Brian Megill, Ray Megill, Marcus Holman, and Kyle Hartzell in action as they teach and demonstrate skills and schemes I feel truly grateful to have a front row seat for the best coaching I have ever experienced.  I learn new concepts every time they come.

Coaches to be sure need to be confident.  If they are not confident in what they are attempting to get their team to buy into, the players will lack confidence in the coach.  Even kids can very easily sniff out uncertainty and reluctance.

However, ALL coaches must be open to other points of view and new ways of doing things, especially when it is coming from coaches that have played and coached at a higher level than they have.  But humility does not necessarily have to come from a highly experienced coach.  I regularly get valuable feedback from my assistant coaches including the gentleman I discussed in this article.  Sometimes we can get caught up in within our systems where we may not notice a particular wrinkle that someone observing from the outside in may notice.

Confidence, open mind, and humility comprise the ultimate journey coaches must walk to be successful, inspiring, and to honor the game.  As in all other aspects of life, the day we think we know it all and stop learning, is the day it is time to hang up our whistles and move on.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of tpics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Lacrosse Gets Props From NFL Football Player

Chris Hogan, wide receiver for the New England Patriots, gave a shout out to lacrosse during the Sunday Night Football lineup this past season when he said, “Chris Hogan, Penn State Lacrosse.” Chris Hogan is a former Penn State Nittany Lions lacrosse star having scored 57 career goals in three seasons.

Chris Hogan Also Played Lacrosse For Penn StateDuring his sophomore year, a high ankle sprain shortened Hogan’s season, enabling him to take a red shirt year to play football at Monmouth University, which ultimately paved his path to the NFL. Chris Hogan now plays for Bill Belichick, ironic, since he is a huge lacrosse fan himself.

In an interview with US Lacrosse Magazine, Chris Hogan credits playing lacrosse with helping him to hone his football game. Stated Hogan, “College lacrosse is very physically demanding. I was a midfielder, so I was always running up and down the field taking hits, giving out hits. The physical aspects of both the sports were similar – eye-hand coordination, getting away from somebody. The only difference was memorizing a playbook.”

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of tpics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Why Major League Lacrosse Got It Right With The Shot Clock

The Lacrosse Shot ClockIn my freshman year at Montclair State University, the 1993 men’s lacrosse program was in a rebuilding mode. I was one of two freshmen starters, both of us midfielders. The team was young, with a small core of veterans to lead us, and the overall expectations were mediocre at best.

But rather than stagger the other freshmen and I on middie lines with more experienced players to help carry us, my coach instead chose to put us both on the same line along with a sophomore forming middie line two, stacking middie line one with our three best and most experienced midfielders. The plan was to aggressively engage in a run and gun attack while middie line one was on the field, then dial it back to a ball control and ball movement offense when middie line two was on; thus enabling us to take time off the clock, to keep the ball out of the sticks of the other team’s offense, and rest middie line one. While middie line two was on the field, we were only to shoot if within point blank range (5 yards or closer) of the goal, with the shot being the closest to a sure thing as one could get in lacrosse. Case in point, I only registered 6 goals that season, with perhaps just over double that number in attempts.

My own personal stats notwithstanding, the strategy proved effective, turning what was supposed be a rebuilding year for Montclair State, into a 13-3 record, Knickbocker Conference Champs, as well Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) tournament champs. We accomplished all this while being the clearly less talented team on the field in at least half of our games. While my coach gave us our best opportunity to win that season, this strategy was hardly his brainchild. He merely borrowed from Bill Tierney’s strategy as he guided the Princeton Tigers to six Division I national titles. Ball control and clock management with only the highest percentage shots taken enabled Princeton to be one of the most successful Division I lacrosse programs in history without the benefit of luring the best blue chip recruits with scholarship offers (Ivy League schools are not permitted to offer athletic scholarships).

Bill Tierney was successful to be sure, but watching the Princeton Tigers offense (and Montclair State’s offense in 1993) was sometimes as entertaining as watching paint dry. It slowed the game and lulled the audience into a rhythmic monotony. Such drawn out ball and clock control led to lower scoring games, something that is not as fan friendly, as scoring is exciting…everybody loves a shoot-out no matter what the sport may be.

Enter the newly formed Major League Lacrosse in 2001 who, determined to draw in new fans, endeavored to make the game fast and furious by implementing a shot clock (among other changes meant to make the game more exciting). The 60 second shot clock (increased from 45 seconds to 60 seconds in 2005) begins ticking once the ball reaches the offensive half of the field. At first, its detractors and lacrosse purists thought this change would lead to careless shots and poorly organized offensive schemes given the limited time to set up an offense set. Quite the contrary, this innovation instead led to faster ball movement, adapting to quickly setting up offensive schemes, and a wonderful increase to the pace of the game. The fans loved it and continue to love it to this day.

Of course, talk of an NCAA shot clock and having one even at the high school level began shortly thereafter, following the success and popularity of the MLL shot clock. NCAA responded by implementing a “stall rule,” where an official may issue a stall warning to a team that is not showing enough intention to attack the goal. Once the stall warning is given, a team must shoot within 30 seconds or lose possession of the ball.

This was definitely a step in the right direction, but from my view, it leaves too much discretion to the officials. Intention to attack the goal may look very differently from one official to another, leading to an inevitable lack of consistency in implementing stall warnings. A proper shot clock like that of MLL would take all subjectivity out of the call, increase the integrity of the game, and increase the pace and excitement of NCAA lacrosse.

I would not just stop at NCAA shot clocks, but I would have them for high school lacrosse as well. Many would argue that high school lacrosse players are not ready for the pace that a shot clock would mandate. However, I counter with the same argument that was made when NCAA implemented the 10 second clearing rule. It took years for high school lacrosse to follow suit, but once implemented at that level, we learned that high school players were perfectly capable of clearing the ball in 10 seconds, so much so that the 10 second rule is even now implemented in many youth leagues.

The shot clock is the future of lacrosse and its sustained growth as the fastest growing sport in the United States. The sooner we embrace it, the sooner we will reap its benefits for the sake of the game.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of tpics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.