Lacrosse parents are always looking for the next great thing---better gear, more successful team, and certainly better coaching. We send our players to speed and agility, strength, stick skills and shooting with the idea of becoming DI/3 athletes. Specialty players have it extra rough since they need to keep up with the latest techniques, rules and field players getting bigger and faster. Goalies, face off kids, and attackmen are always refining specific skills. Other sports have them too---the long snappers and punters, pitchers and catchers, and surely goalies of hockey and soccer. Each sport has created a niche market of specialty coaches who have taken their pedigrees to the market. Outside of hard work, is there any lacrosse kung fu that is superior to the rest?
What happens then when a Coach associated with teams starts to pressure players to take their clinics? And what if there is a subtle suggestion that lack of clinic time will limit their play time in games and tournaments. We know of one club owner in our area that was fired from a high school job for just this reason. Ten years later, its the reason the school uses not to be aligned with any of the club teams, especially his.
One of the specialty coaches, new to the area, has been making waves. He came carpetbagging down from the Northeast, with the self-promotion of being responsible for getting some well-known players into D1 programs. Several of these players had done years of clinics with others, so in retrospect, not sure this was entirely the case. I envision a long relay race where a runner bulls his way in 50 yards from the finish line and takes credit for winning the race. He gossips incessantly to the kids about other players, and is frequently caught in half-truths. The final straw was his comment to one of the kids that he charges them differently than other players because "most of the parents in the area are rich enough to afford it, and too stupid to catch on anytime soon." When I finally asked my son what he learned from the coach, he couldn't say, and after some thought admitted nothing. The coach literally was charging a lot of money for group sessions with players where they took reps, but there was no actual feedback or comments. He still pressures my son and other players on his teams to attend these less worthwhile sessions for more than other coaches charge for individual sessions. Suckers.
How do we know if the sessions are creating any real value? We are expecting some steady results from coaches, not just regurgitated YouTube stuff. Does a shooter do a session or two and then hit the next few shots he previously would have missed? Can you see a noticeable difference in a goalie's save percentages? We sent our son to a speed and agility clinic and he came back running faster after two sessions---seriously. Told us that Dad was a poor running coach (which we already knew). I think this is probably an exception to the norm. Then there are the clinics that go on for months with no seeming benefit, but the fundamentals are so good that you know that they are good habits.
This brings me to our latest coaching experiences---which have been great. We have decided that coaches who are passionate about their craft, who have a strong philosophy of their view of the sport---their brand of lacrosse kung fu, so to speak, have something to offer. It also helps when the coaches have clearly thought through the position they are coaching for its relevance and can tailor the experience for the individual player. They all have fans and haters, mostly from their style and approach to working with kids. It's also a training business, so we need to keep that in perspective. We all have the option to vote with our feet, literally. But to help others, we will need to spread the word on coaching good and not so much.