The Cowboy Coach

Updated Monday January 9, 2017 by Richard Schwartz.

The Cowboy Coach – A Holiday Wish for Lovejoy Lacrosse

One of the hardest issues coaches of all youth teams deal with is managing player frustration and anger, both during a game and before a game.  I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times players get angry at an opposing player, or a ref for missing a call or making what they perceive is a bad call.  It’s a form of intolerance, and usually driven by the still immature brains of our children.  We have all seen the results.  Players cause penalties because they commit unnecessarily violent offenses, and then storm off the field blaming everyone else but themselves.  Personally, I believe these players feel, hear and see what they believe, because they are blinded by their frustration and often make up their own truth.  Now, doesn’t that truism sound like it can apply to many of the current social and political issues we face today as a society?  As coaches, it is up to us to play cowboy, and reign in these loose steers before they get away from the herd.

Many times, a coach can see the frustration building in a player even before a game starts…the clues are in the pregame banter between teammates.  Statements like “We’re going to kick the #$%@ out of them” or “I’m not going to take any bad calls from those dumb refs” are very typical.  As cowboys, it is up to the coaches to temper these aggressive attitudes and focus the players’ pregame aggression in a way that makes them understand that the herd is stronger, and more competitive, when every steer stays together. 

Every coach uses a different system to achieve this goal…some more effective than others.  But I’m not here to talk about the best methods. 

What is more important is that we as a lacrosse community focus on the bigger picture.  As we enter the holiday season, and then the highly competitive spring lacrosse season, every player, parent and coach alike, should consider the problem of player anger, frustration, lack of respect, and intolerance in the context of the world we live in.  Lacrosse gives our families an opportunity to get together and celebrate the achievements of our children.  They are growing up in a different world than most parents.  None of them will ever feel the same anger as some of you did watching the twin towers collapse in 2001.  But most of our children don’t know that level of anger…their anger and frustration are relative to their self-absorbed realities.  It’s all about “today.”  Our players have a very limited perspective; their “bell curve” of anger and frustration is far narrower than ours as parents and coaches.  The problems they face on the field are hardly third world problems, and the horrific suffering of millions of people in the middle-east, or across town, are but a dinner table evening news flash in their minds. 

This holiday season, we should give thanks for all we have.  We should give thanks that our lacrosse community is strong and supportive.  And we should never forget that our players are children focused in “the moment.”  Nor should we forget that respect, caring, understanding and tolerance are traits that our players develop NOW.

So, what’s my wish?

I wish that, come spring season, each of our players performs to the best of his ability, without anger, without revenge, without recourse.  There is enough of that to go around. 

I wish each of our players treats the other team’s players with more respect than the other team gives to us. 

I wish each player not only honors the game of lacrosse and the extended families that we have all become, but also honors his opponent.  Without them, we would have no one to play.

I wish each player thanks the refs and their coaches after each game for doing their absolute best without holding bad decisions against them, and realizing even the best players make a lot of mistakes too. 

And, I wish every player after every game would thank his parents for letting him play lacrosse for the Lovejoy Leopards Lacrosse club.    

Being a cowboy is hard work.  But in the end, having a strong herd, where every steer feeds off the good deeds of the other, is all we, as coaches, can wish for. 

Have a safe, warm and compassionate holiday.


Richard Schwartz