The Jr. Wildkits Lacrosse program run by Evanston Youth Lacrosse Association (�EYLA�) has been formed for the purpose of strengthening youth lacrosse for boys and girls in Evanston, IL by (1) creating a communication channel between national lacrosse orga
We offer these occasional notes of advice and opinion about youth lacrosse and youth sports in general. Our goal is that these philosophies can be an observed element of the "Culture" of Evanston Youth Lacrosse.
Summer Tips for Parents of Young Athletes Introduction by Sara Noon, Managing Director of Membership at US Lacrosse and article by Paige Perriello, MD, FAAP, Pediatric Associates of Charlottesville, and Dr. Richard Ginsburg, Ph.D.
As summer approaches, I have mixed emotions about the continuing pace of lacrosse for many of the kids who are doing summer tournament programs. Just a week passed from when my daughter had put down her stick from high school lacrosse, to pick it up again to start practicing for her last summer club season. I heard a bit of a sigh, which broke my heart. Lacrosse is such a fun sport, and it is frustrating and sad to see the competitive grind that can drain the fun out. While this is the path that she has chosen, the last thing I would want is for her to lose her love and passion for the game. On the positive side, she had a blast at her club practice and now seems to have a new breadth of excitement for lacrosse as she heads into her last summer season. So, as parents, how do we maintain that passion for the sport -- at all levels of play? Below are some insights and tips from Dr. Richard Ginsburg on how we as parents can best support our players in the upcoming summer months.
Summer lacrosse offers a host of opportunities for players of all ages. For the younger, less-experienced players, summer camps and leagues provide a relaxed and fun setting to learn about the game and enjoy time with new friends and coaches. For some of the older, more-experienced players, summer presents an opportunity to hone one’s skills, increase playing experience, and possibly play in highly competitive tournaments. Regardless of your child’s age, skill and hopes for summer, there are some important themes for parents to keep in mind. These tips are not absolute in their claims. There are always exceptions, but hopefully, they will serve as helpful considerations as your child enjoys summer lacrosse.
1. Fun is essential at all levels of lacrosse!
Nothing is more important than fun in youth sports – kids quit sports because they are not having fun. Even as kids get older and fostering competition becomes appropriate, the young athletes should always be reminded that sports participation is all about fun and physical activity.
2. Teach sportsmanship early
Teaching strong values such as discipline, integrity, dedication, respect for self and others are the foundation for strong character. Early exposure to and emphasis on sportsmanship will not only foster a balanced athlete, but also, more importantly, will cultivate a healthy and resilient adult.
3. Kids are not little adults
Sometimes our kids, because of their size, ability or apparent maturity seem, as if they can be treated as adults. It is important for us to remember that our kids are kids. They are not ready for adult expectations and training regimens, and they need our help to keep the bar at appropriate levels for their age and ability.
4. Age-appropriate practice
Although the old adage that “practice makes perfect” has validity in helping players improve their skills, it is important to help our younger children limit the length and intensity of their training. Short practices with brief instruction designed with fun in mind are the key to success at the youth level. And even for older athletes, short, lively, and fun practices serve athletes much better as they protect them from dehydration, burnout and injury.
5. Define success appropriately for each age group
As our children move from one age-group to the next, it is important to think about appropriate and realistic goals. In our book, Whose Game Is It, Anyway? , we encourage parents to keep the following parameters in mind:
Preschool/Kindergarten – fun, safety, joy of movement
Elementary School – competency, exploring interests, making friends
Middle/High School – independence, identity development, achievement. Establish strong connections with mentors (eg: teachers, mentors, coaches).
6. Positive feedback
While many of us parents are not directly involved in coaching our children, there is often plenty of opportunity to offer our thoughts and opinions about how our children are playing. Positive and constructive feedback is the best tool at any level. Praise must be accurate in order for our kids to believe us, but they will play better and feel better about lacrosse if they are getting positive encouragement from us.
7. Save specialization for older kids
Parents and coaches should encourage children to try multiple sports before specializing. Consider holding of on specialization at least until after puberty. This is good for their physical fitness as well as their mental health.
Strong, versatile athletes, who have never played the game of lacrosse, have been known to pick up the game in high school and even some cases in college. Having a strong, balanced athletic background can enhance the enjoyment of the game, and in some instances, contribute to even better play.
8. Don’t over train – one sport/one team per season
While there is temptation to enroll our kids on multiple teams to help develop their play, it is often helpful to limit their participation to one team. It will give them more rest and allow their play to be more enjoyable as opposed to a summer vocation. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule as some athletes love playing for multiple teams or feel it will help their chances to play at a higher level. Such goals should be pursued cautiously while keeping an eye out for balance.
Kids should have two days off per week and greatly reduce training and playing schedules every two to three months to help prevent injury and burnout.
At early ages, children should be discouraged from playing four seasons of a sport—take one season off to rest or cross train.
9. Use appropriate equipment – correct size and not outdated
Although it is a great money saver to use hand-me-down equipment, be sure it still meets safety standards and hasn’t been compromised by previous uses.
10. Avoid “playing up” even if the child is advanced.
This tip is particularly relevant for younger athletes. Despite having equivalent skills to older players, differences in size and speed can put some young kids in physically dangerous situations, not to mention may alienate them from their peers and put unneeded pressure on their play and development. Because fun and enjoyment with one’s friends is so crucial to younger kids, it may be appropriate to avoid playing up simply because your child has more friends on the younger team.