Blogs and Commentary

posted 05.16.2013 at 5.45 p.m. by TJ Buchanan

Coach's Corner: Winding Down and Gearing Up

TJ Buchanan -
US Lacrosse Coaching Education Content Manager
©John Strohsacker

Every month US Lacrosse sends out monthly newsletters to parents, program administrators, officials and coaches. And every month I add a Positive Coaching Alliance and Coaching Tip for all the coaches out there.

Here is where I'll keep the extended version of those tips as well as other topics that come about related to coaching.

Feel free to share this resource with all of your coaching colleagues and suggest in the comment box below with other topics for me to cover.

PCA – Positive Reinforcement
Effective positive reinforcement stems from a coach's "move toward" attitude, as opposed to an "avoid" attitude. Tell players what you want, not what you don't want. 

Even when giving detailed instructions, say "do this" instead of "don't do that." Then, reward and reinforce the athletes' attempts to "do this" and do not punish them for doing "that." Another great technique to keep athletes focused on the positives is to count catches instead of drops. Mentally they are now focusing on the positive outcome of a pass, rather than the negative.

Athletes will maintain a greater level of excitement and effort trying to succeed at something, as opposed to trying not to fail at something. Positive reinforcement is not happy talk; it's an integrated system of thought, action and communication that moves people toward their goals

Coaching Tip – Winding Down and Gearing Up    
For all but the best teams in your league, the season is coming to a close and with that comes a whole new challenge. How do you convince your team to keep working hard when they know they do not have a chance for post season play? How you finish the season mentally, can set the tone for returning players and if you play your cards right, you can create a foundation to build on and set the tone for success next year.

The first thing you should focus on with your athletes is fun. Put the winning aside, experiment with changing the way you practice and what you practice. If kids are having fun, they’ll work hard and with hard work comes success. Coaches do all sorts of creative things such as a “color wars” practice, where the team is divided into two equally skilled squads and compete in everything. At the end of each drill, the winning team gets to choose a full team conditioning activity or maybe the next drill.  

Another suggetion is to set small attainable goals. Again winning is put aside and you have the team focus on something smaller such as getting more groundballs than their opponent or taking 10 more shots per game. Sometimes reaching for a smaller goal leads to bigger successes than originally anticipated.

Finally, it’s important to make time at the end of the season to have a meeting with every player on your team. The end of season meeting is crucial to adding closure to the season and providing a foundation for the next one. What should you talk about? First, compliment the athlete on things they do well. Kids like knowing that you noticed the good things they contribute to the team. This is also a time to have the player reflect on what they might need to improve upon for the coming season, whether they are staying with you or moving on to the next level in their career. I like to ask the players what they think they could work on to better help the team for the next year. It takes the focus away from them thinking “I’m bad at __________” and makes it more of “I can help my team if I __________________.” It’s also a good idea to take time to meet with your coaches and discuss what you all learned from this past year. Reflection on the past can help you and your staff prepare for the future.

The best part of the season ending, is that no matter what happened over the past three months, you’re now back to a 0-0 record just like everyone else. Learn from your past year and use that knowledge to make the next year better. For the record, my definition of success is not completely related to our teams’ record. I also define success as having 100% of our eligible players return to play for our team the next year. If we have accomplished that, then we have fulfilled our mission as coaches.

Final thought:  “Never be a child’s last coach.” - unknown