Prior to the season we had a discussion about character and mental toughness. The players did most of the talking. I was really impressed with the fact that our guys had a great understanding of those areas. I was also impressed with their honesty in knowing the areas they needed to work on as individuals.
Such candor demonstrates a high level of reflective thinking, honesty, and humility. It also means they are courageous enough to recognize and voice some of their weaknesses. That is rare and admirable.
Today is our first game, and I think it is important to remind ourselves of what we discussed.
About 1/5 of our players said they need help with self-control in games. They have to find the zone they work best in, and stay within it. It’s a process, but so long as they keep improving that’s what matters. If someone is struggling in this area it would be better for them to come off the field on their own, rather than a coach call them off or a ref send them off with a penalty. “Keep it together”
About 1/3 of our players said they lack confidence before games. They need to improve their self talk. We all have a voice in our head that can say positive or negative things. These guys need to stay away from telling themselves negative things. I encouraged them to remember how hard they have worked. They need to tell themselves that that they are going to make mistakes but what matters to all of us on the team is that they play hard and improve. “Keep getting better”
All of us need to work on our mental toughness. For our guys this means they need to remind themselves to stay focused on the goals of playing well and improving. So when they get pushed or checked illegally, they are not to complain. When they get a poor officiating call against them they are not to complain. This is because to complain means that they are not focused on their goals of playing well and improving. Their mouth (and body language) is where there mind is. “Keep focused on what’s important”
Finally there are two things they have control over, no matter the ref or the weather or the score or the ability of the competition. Each of them can control their own attitude and effort.
The 1st attitude and effort issue we have all have to combat is the human tendency to do “enough” to win, rather than “more than enough” to win. When you do enough, that means you are trying to succeed with as little effort as possible. This means you could do more. You may luck out and win by doing “enough,” but you may also lose, and if you are a competitor, you will be upset with yourself for not working harder.
When you do “more than enough,” you are truly giving it everything you have, and if you lose you will still feel that you did all you could. If we can get in the habit of doing “more than enough” we no longer have to worry about playing down to poor competition or raising our game against the big boys. Likewise, we don’t really worry about winning or losing. Instead we will develop an ability to consistently perform to the best of our ability.
In lacrosse we are doing “more than enough” if we check constantly, close out quickly, hustle in our off ball defense, talk, keep playing after the whistle (number up/ set-up clears and rides/ get in position on offense) cut like we want the ball, and fight for every ground ball. “Keep the pace up”
There are a lot of factors that govern winning and losing. We won’t know how we do until the game is over. However, I do know that if these guys continue to work on those areas they will not only be better players, they will be better people.