It is hard to believe that I have only been doing this – all of this – for four years. With my year round commitment to lacrosse, there are times when it feels like I have been doing this forever. Yet other times it feels like yesterday that I got my first stick. I have told this story before, and will spare you the details this time around.
Still, considering that I have been active member of the lacrosse community since just before my thirtieth birthday (and a fan for even longer), I have been doing a lot of self reflection lately. With the world not ending last week, what better time than the end of another year to share my thoughts?
As a Player
Nobody will ever mistake me for an MLL player, that much is certain. In my mid-thirties, I am not exactly in the prime of my life. My fitness, or lack thereof, only worsens matters. Despite knowing that wall ball and regular workouts are critical to improvement, I usually neglect to do either. Sure I could make some excuses – both legitimate and lazy – but at the end of the day it comes down to making the time to do these activities. I am not one to make resolutions since they seemingly exist merely to be broken, but I always hope to find creative ways to force myself to adopt better habits.
On the positive side, I know that I have improved over the lat four years. Have I done so at the same rate as the kids I have coached in that time? For the most part, no. While there are a lot of factors in the equation, this is in large part due to the differing ways we approach the game. Much of my time is spent in an instructor role. I demonstrate and observe, but rarely have the opportunity to employ what I know in meaningful competition (aside from our box league). Without routine participation in practice, drills, and actual games, my development is stunted. And that is okay.
Given that I didn’t even own a lacrosse stick until I was 30, I am not too disappointed about my overall development. I may not be an all star, or even a second stringer, but I can hold my own. Each time I pick up my stick I am better than the last. More importantly, I have fun when I lax. And that, friends, is what this game is all about.
As a Coach
My foray into lacrosse coaching started as an accident. It was a happy accident, but an accident nonetheless. That story has already been told. In summary, when Zach launched this program, he was eager to have some help herding the kids. My background in education and eagerness to assimilate into the game played a major role.
After helping Zach as much as I could that first year, I began working more with new players. Having learned the game recently myself, I was able to connect to their fears and apprehension about lacrosse. This naturally evolved into running the JV team.
New challenges will be heading my way this year with the departure of Zach and the other coaches. I have already had my first taste of being the head coach during fall ball. While our fall record was not as great as a couple of years ago, I am proud of how well the team performed. With the sheer number of new and (2012) JV players on the roster and the extremely limited number of varsity guys, things went well. These results give me something positive to build on this spring.
Last year I took a major step towards improving myself as a coach by attending a US Lacrosse coaching education clinic. I am currently contemplating attend a level two clinic in January, weather and schedule permitting. Even if I don’t visit Kansas City this winter, I plan to complete both the level two clinic and online course before 2013 wraps up.
I also study new drills and speak with other coaches on a regular basis. Anything that can help me improve as a coach and that will help my players improve as individuals and as a team is beneficial. The access to coaching education materials is mind-blowing. Most of it is free or at least relatively cheap, so why not utilize it? Heck, I’ve cribbed a few notes from watching top level lacrosse. One of our most fun (and successful) man up plays this year came courtesy of a team playing on BTN. My strength lies not in my ability to play the game, but in my ability to learn from it.
As a Blogger
Frankly, there is plenty of room for improvement here as well. With the additional responsibilities bestowed upon me since September, when I assumed the head coach duties, and the realities of being a home owner and father, I simply do not have as much time as I used to.
I could simply state a goal, like I will contribute x amount of posts per week. But I want to focus on quality rather than quantity. Still, I always want to put up at least one per day. If I have enough material to post a couple per week, I am happy.
With the increasing number of college programs, both NCAA and MCLA, in Iowa, I hope to find some additional contributors. At the very least one would think that these teams would like to spread word about their programs…
As a Game Grower
When I started on this path, I had no serious ambitions. I literally had little more small hopes of finding somebody to throw around with once in a while. I set up random throw around events. Shortly after I was providing free new player clinics. Before I knew it, I was coaching and organizing a weekly pickup game. A few months later I was running an actual league; I am still running that league to this very day.
Unfortunately the adult summer league I started in 2010 has gone on hiatus; we did not play this summer. Above I mentioned that playing lax is fun for me; the 2011 summer league took a turn towards making lax stressful due to some individuals with their priorities out of whack. Initially I had hoped that the adult league would produce coaches and volunteers, but it did not. Although numbers improved every year, it was not due to growth but due to relocated laxers – the very same people I assumed would embrace the opportunity to grow the game. Since that was not panning out, I opted to shift my focus on growing rather than playing.
This year I took a bold step and, with the support of the YMCA and help from Zach and a generous gift from the West Genesee High School community, launched the first youth lacrosse program in central Iowa (Dubuque, in northeast Iowa, launched theirs a couple of years back). Unfortunately we had to cap participation, leaving several kids on the outside looking in. The reality of having a small number of people that can/will volunteer their time is that limits do have to exist. Still, we boosted our capacity a couple of times before hitting around 90-100 boys and a handful of girls (whose cap was never reached, sadly).
Last night I ran the initial leg of our first winter clinic (Santa’s Stick Skills). Admittedly it was put together with less than ideal circumstances due to facility limitations, time issues, and my own limited resources. Still, it is functioning nicely as a pilot program; I am already exploring the possibility of holding a much broader clinic next winter, with some help.
For the most part, boys lacrosse sells itself. Unfortunately the girls game is not doing as well. As I mentioned above, only a tenth or so of the participants were girls. Despite being open to both genders, no girls registered for Santa’s Stick Skills. To truly be a game grower, I need to find a way to spark girls lacrosse. In addition to my coaching duties, girls lacrosse has become a priority for me in the coming year.
We experienced unprecedented growth in 2012. My increased focus on girls lacrosse and the addition of a boys middle school team ensures that 2013 will be even bigger. The future is bright for lacrosse in central Iowa.
It is always good to end on a high note.