As a lacrosse coach, you’ll inevitably be involved in a blowout game. Blowout games are a big frustration for players, coaches, and parents. For the losing team they can take the joy out of playing the game. For the winning team, they deny players the mental and physical challenges that closely contested games present. Generally speaking, blowout games lack the environmental energy that makes sports fun and exciting. Blowout games are a significant source of negativity in youth sports. The embarrassment and humiliation that blowout games often fosters is a big reason why many kids quit sports at an early age and why many parents lose their cool on the sidelines. And, while we’ve all seen amazing comebacks in every sport at every level, the fear that a team will miraculously close the gap drives many coaches to “keep the pressure on” well beyond the point that’s necessary to ensure victory. Yes, great comebacks do happen, but they’re rare. Last issue gave some tools if you’re on the unfortunate side of a blowout. Being on the winning side provides coaches the opportunity to create new challenges for their players. Here are some examples.
-FOCUS ON PLAYER WEAKNESSES Challenge your team in ways that aren’t related to the scoreboard. Ask your players to spend the remainder of the game focusing on improving their individual weaknesses. For instance, make players use their off-hands the rest of the game. This way, they can strive for skill improvement where they’re less likely to dominate the opponent.
-SCRAMBLE PLAYER POSITIONS
Blowouts present a great opportunity for experimentation and creativity. Try putting players at positions they don’t regularly play---move your attack to defense and vice-versa. This is a way to teach players an appreciation for other positions and it also gives you a chance to learn more about your players’ skills.
-START YOUR NON-STARTERS
If you are sure you are going to win big, get some kids who don’t normally play a lot into the game early. This requires some moral courage because sometimes blowout games turn into nail biters. But if you take seriously being a Double-Goal Coach, you’ll be willing to risk giving more kids more playing time earlier. Perhaps this will translate into more focus on these players in practice, which is also good.
-MAKE ADJUSTMENTS AT DEFENSIVE “ATTACK POINTS”
In every sport there is an “attack point” where the opponents’ offensive effort is initiated. Avoid keeping your best defenseman on the field the entire game during a blowout—give other players an opportunity to play defense. By doing this, you also allow the opponents’ attack and midfielders the chance to work their offense. This is a courageous act that shows respect for the opposing coach and players.
-AVOID SHOWING UP OPPONENTS
Be sensitive to the effect the score is having on your opponents, your players, and on the quality of the game. Avoid humiliating your opponents either by “pouring it on” or by mocking them through overdone restraint. Kids often know when they are being mocked or played down to so its important to continue to play the game and strive for learning and improvement on both sides of the ball. Be creative in creating new challenges for our players. It’s easy to showboat. A Double-Goal Coach strives to better his or her players without demeaning others.
-POST GAME CONDUCT
Stress to your players the importance of respecting the opponent. They should treat the opponent with dignity by acknowledging their effort. Lacrosse is not just a sport, it is a community. Model this for your players as you greet the opposing coach and players. Once again, they’ll handle the situation more comfortably if they’ve prepared for it during practice. Also, remember not to ignore the efforts that your team displayed. They should be complimented on their accomplishments, as well.
Blowout games happen, yet they do not have to demoralize players. A Double Goal Coach strives to win and teach life lessons. It is important to have a game plan ahead of time for teaching the life lessons available on either side of the ball.