Coaching for Fame

Updated Monday January 9, 2017 by Richard Schwartz .

Coaching for Fame:  Question is, 15 Minutes or a Lifetime of It?

I have coached every age group of boys’ lacrosse.  By far, the most rewarding experiences were at the bantam and youth levels.  Why?  Because the players appreciate you … no … I take that back … they show their appreciation for you.  The parents also show their appreciation (and dissatisfaction) which is equally rewarding.  These young players are eager, untainted, blank slates.  They gladly try anything, are generally nice to their teammates, and care deeply if they make a mistake.  As the parent of four college and high school lax players, I can assure you that bantam and youth players are angelic, no matter how frustrating it may seem to you as their coach or parent.    

The impact that coaches have on young players is profound, and that includes those of you reading this article that have volunteered your precious time to coach in the Lovejoy youth lax program.  I don’t think most coaches realize their impact until it is too late.  In my years of coaching, I have witnessed coaches whittle away their best opportunities to make a real, lasting, and meaningful impact in not only the lives of the players they coach, but their own lives.

Let me first tell you a story, then let me give you some friendly advice.

I was at Fuzzy’s Tacos this past June in Garland, a town I am rarely in, and a restaurant I had never been to before (but recommend).  I was waiting for my Taco Supreme when I heard “hey coach Richard” from behind me.  I turned to see a bright eyed young man, clearly high school age, and his father, with hands out seeking to shake my hand.  I responded in a guarded fashion, not sure if they had me confused with someone else, for I certainly had no idea who they were.  Finally, rather than smiling and exchanging pleasantries, I had to tell them I didn’t remember them…and they laughed and said their names, and then I remembered them.  I had coached the young man in 3rd grade for the now defunct Plano Youth Lacrosse organization.  When Plano Youth Lacrosse broke up to form the three present day Plano youth feeder programs, this young boy went off to the Plano West feeder program, and I never heard from him again.  But now, as a young man, he remembered me, and told me it was his time in bantam lacrosse that gave him the drive to play in high school for DI Plano West.  He mentioned how he went on to play select lacrosse, and was hoping to play in college.  Standing there, at Fuzzy’s Taco, waiting for my Taco Supreme, I felt like I had just received my 15 minutes of fame.  Then I realized it wasn’t 15 minutes of fame.  It was 6 years of fame.  Not my fame, mind you.  His fame.  It was his positive experience as a youth player, his positive self-worth, and his desire to compete, that led him from being a 3rd grade player with no experience to a DI varsity lacrosse player.

So, here’s the advice.  Don’t coach for 15 minutes of fame.  Don’t coach for a life time of fame.  Coach for the player’s fame.  Coach to unleash each player’s own power, their sense of worth, their inner mojo, if you will.  There are many ways to coach…positive, negative, aggressive, loud, etc.  Even the Positive Coaching Alliance offers countless methods of coaching youth players.  But if I had to offer you just one life altering technique, it would be this:  When you talk to a player, or team, get down to the level of the player(s) and talk to them eye to eye.  This one, simple, effective and long lasting coaching technique achieves greater results than all of the others combined.  Why?  Because young players need…truly need…to know you care enough about them, and looking them in the eye sends that message far better than standing looking down at them.  When you look down at them, you talk down to them. 

And here’s the best part... it doesn’t matter if what you are saying is positive or critical.  Pulling “Johnnie” out of a drill, bending to one knee, putting you hand gently on his shoulder, looking him in the eye and telling him how great he just did, or what he can do better, will be well received by the still forming brain of the young player.  Perhaps more importantly, the after practice/post-game ride home in the car with mom or dad where the player spits out how much fun he had, or how much he learned, will mark the moments he will remember most.  As players move from bantam to youth and then to high school and beyond, they will remember the skills and training you gave them because you took the time to pull them aside, get down to their level, look them in the eye and tell them what they needed to hear.

Never ask yourself why you coach.  Always ask yourself “how I coach?”  That’s the ticket to a lifetime of fame.  Not your fame…but those you coach.


Richard Schwartz


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