Boys’ lacrosse was well established in my community. Girls’ lacrosse was not. So a few parents decided to change it. They held a clinic through the local athletic association. My daughter attended. As did nearly 100 other daughters. The response was overwhelming. Now what?
The athletic association organized two teams, middle school and high school, to participate in a local league. Then came the big question: Who will coach them? I was in that group of parents when asked. I knew nothing about lacrosse. I grew up in Scranton, PA. There was no lacrosse, boys’ or girls’.
I was an assistant coach for our older daughter’s softball team. At least I could say I was familiar with that game. But lacrosse? Not a clue. So I stood silently, waiting for other parents to raise their hands. None did. And slowly, grudgingly, my hand went up. I was now the middle school girls’ lacrosse coach.
I had many coaches growing up. Most were parents of players. Coach Ross, Coach Fritch, Coach McLaughlin, all played a role in my perception of a coach. Their impact on me was amplified by my not having a father, having lost him to cancer when I was six. To this day I am thankful for them all.
But coaching was different back then. There was less science, and more “feel” on how to get players to maximize their potential. Teach it, practice it, and correct it when done wrong. The 5:1 “magic ratio”? More like 1:5. And the “1” was iffy. That’s the way it was.
What that type of coaching didn’t do, upon reflection, was maximize my potential as an athlete. Avoiding mistakes is not a great approach to a game. Or life.
But it was my coaching paradigm. And at the time, I saw nothing wrong with it. I turned out ok.
After the fateful raising of my hand to coach girls’ lacrosse, I moved quickly to pick up the game via books, DVDs, YouTube videos, and the generous assistance of other lacrosse coaches. The athletic association signed me up for US Lacrosse training, an extremely helpful and well-run coach-education program.
Part of that curriculum included Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA). I thought, “What is this stuff? I need to learn girls’ lacrosse, not how to be a coach!” Oh, how wrong I was.
It didn’t come easy to me. It’s not how I was wired. To this day I don’t achieve 5:1. I wouldn’t be genuine. But I work for 3:1. Sometimes I can make it to 4:1, sometimes I regress to 2:1. But I never flip the positive to negative feedback magic ratio on its head. And I’m always genuine. Looking for opportunities to fill a girl’s emotional tank for great effort, attitude, and improvement.
What resulted from my efforts to improve myself as a coach, and build a program (with many other hands besides my own, mind you) is a stable girls’ lacrosse program in our community, and in our school district. Boys’ lacrosse had been a high school sport for decades. And due to parent and player enthusiasm, and the number of girls that were now playing the sport, the team has enjoyed great participation and on-field success. The current high school coach is a Positive Coach. Would we have succeeded if their first taste of competitive girls’ lacrosse was with pre-PCA Coach Jeff? I’m not so sure.
In one of my pre-season team talks, I told player parents that I do not judge players by how they play compared to the girls next to them. I judge how they play compared to their potential. As a coach, I could not have moved as close to my potential without Positive Coaching Alliance.