Why the Emphasis on Character Development?
Most of us have come across the saying “this game is 90% mental and 10% physical” at some point in our coaching or playing careers. As a former Division I coach and player I could not agree more and have most certainly used the phrase myself. I have seen and personally experienced the ugly side of how much a player’s mental performance can outweigh her physical talent. I know most people in this industry can agree that if we worked harder on getting our athletes mentally prepared for each game they would be able perform at their best and more importantly ENJOY their time on the field. We all share the understanding that the game is mentally challenging, but we continue to place a greater emphasis on physical training.
Character Development: Define who YOU ARE off the field
In working towards a player’s mental training, her first step needs to be defining who she is. For our younger female generation this can be a daunting task. There are so many outside forces that try to weigh in on HER decision-making process. In order for young women to find what they value most about themselves, they need to realize that anything with a measureable quantity such as likes and followers isn’t something that defines them. Who you are and the value you have to others is something that can never be of a certain numerical value. Having a strong and clear focus on character development will play a pivotal role in an individual’s overall comfort level with herself. When a player is comfortable and confident with herself as a person off the field, it’s visible on the field. When a player does not define WHO she is, she is simply just another girl who can catch, throw, shoot and dodge…and that sounds a bit more like a machine than a young lady with substance.
From a player stand point I want players to begin to brainstorm 2-3 strong characteristics that they want to be remembered by in the eyes of their teammates, coaches, and teachers. To provide an example, I myself embody the values of HARD WORK, INTENSITY, and SELFLESSNESS. For those who know me personally they can agree that these traits define me in the office, on the field, and in my personal relationships. An individual’s characteristics can change over time and that is GREAT. This exhibits personal growth, avoiding complacency, and continues to put more value in different aspects of who she wants to be. Defining a few characteristics now can help players focus more on the field. These traits can serve as mental reminders when their game slips away from time to time. Mental reminders of being the person you want to be are great ways to draw yourself back in. When practice isn’t going well or that test you thought you aced is not the grade you hoped for, you can repeat those 2-3 traits to yourself. If you use your defining characteristics to keep you grounded they will serve as a tool to help propel you through any adversity that gets in the way of reaching your goals on the field, in the classroom and in your relationships. So for me, every time I step onto the field or dive into my work I remind myself… HARD WORK, INTENSITY, SELFLESSNESS.
Recruiting Process: Be Memorable NOT Measurable
As lacrosse grows rapidly across the country more opportunities are provided for young ladies to play at the collegiate level which ultimately creates more competition at Division I,II, and III programs. With the level of competition rising, college coaches are making sure they fill their programs with not only the best players, but athletes who will bring a positive impact into their program’s culture. Head coaches fight and work hard to create culture within their respective program that will be effective in helping young girls grow into strong women. This is why there is a level of importance in finding players who can contribute athletically, academically, and to the overall team dynamic.
A player’s ability on the field will usually allow a player to get her foot in the door, but it is not always the deciding factor of whether or not she is a good fit for a program. The game has evolved enormously over the last decade and because of this growth; there are plenty of players that can put up high numerical values into scorecards and statistics. It is important that girls find their voices and learn to put value in being memorable to college coaches. In my college coaching career, some of my more memorable recruits were those who presented themselves as strong individuals. They were fearless to ask questions on campus tours, they made an impact when they stayed over with the team, and they were open to providing me more information about themselves other than lacrosse. College coaches want to know the girl behind the goggles and uniform. They want to know YOU. Below I have provided a few questions so players can begin to focus on areas in addition to on-field training. I find the following questions important to help a player work towards understanding the big picture and ultimately become a “total-package athlete”. Ask yourself:
- Do I listen to my teammates?
- Do I support my teammates both on and off the field?
- Am I coachable? i.e. Am I willing to try new concepts? Do I put 100% effort into my game?
- Am I respectful to my guardians, teachers, coaches and teammates?
Bad attitudes can leave a lingering impression compared to the number of goals scored, mile times, and other athletic achievements. Athletic achievements can be overshadowed by toxic traits, habits, and character.
Imagine you have reached the end of your career. Picture what will leave the greatest impact on those who you spent countless hours with putting your heart and soul into the game that you love. Records that have been set will be broken. The jersey you once wore will be passed down to someone who will share the same excitement you had when you first saw it hanging in your locker firmly pressed and prepped for game time. The games that you thought you would remember every second of will become distant memories. I have quickly learned in my career that the person and teammate you are will leave a legacy greater than any goal or win that took place. The people you impacted along the way will appreciate the times that you spent doing extra work with them, providing a support system when times are tough and the effort you put forth into relationships, practices, and overall love for your program. All these instances cannot be measured but they WILL be remembered. They will impact you for the rest of your life and form a network stronger than any shot you take or weights you lift. If you focus on character and create a strong mind everything else will fall into place. Never be scared to be yourself…. Always choose to Be Memorable.