Silent Saturday – An experiment

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists,
when his work is done,
his aim fulfilled,
they will say ‘we did it ourselves.’ “
– Lao Tzu
Our fall practices culminated this past weekend with a scrimmage against another local team. As a continuation of our empowerment experiment, here is a quick summary of the conversation I had with my main assistant coach (who is 24 years old) after our last practice:
Me: ‘Hey man. We’re going to implement a silent Saturday approach to our coaching during our upcoming scrimmage. The only 2 things we are going to yell from the sidelines are substitutions and praises.’
Assistant: ‘But 2/3 of these kids have never played in a lacrosse game before. I think we’ll be setting them up to be confused and frustrated if we aren’t giving them some guidance.’
Me: ‘Your concerns are valid. What if we do this: 1- Utilize our experienced players to coach up the newer players and explain to them where to be/what to do on the field. 2 – Use timeouts and play stoppages to answer questions to minimize their frustration’
Assistant: ‘I will try it out. I don’t agree this is the best way to do it, but I’ll give it a try.’
Me: ‘OK I respect that. Let’s debrief after the game, and we’ll write down what we were most tempted to yell out as instructions, and that way we’ll know those are areas we need to focus on in future practices to better prepare them for gameday.’
I read a post by my friend James Leath this week that was discussing the same thing, teaching in practice and letting players play in games. He said it like this:
‘make sure every athlete understands the expectations you have for them and the knowledge to live up those expectations.’
You can read his full post here: James’ blog
I told James about my experiment and here is how he said he does it:
I keep a 5×8 card in my pocket and fill it up after the game with areas I need to teach better in practice. The game is not the time, it’s too late!
So full disclosure – it was very hard to bite my tongue during the game! 🙂 But we did it for the most part, and the whole experience was much more enjoyable – for the coaches, players, referees, and parents!

We are meeting as a coaching staff next week – and we are going to take the notes from after the game and use that as a starting point as we prepare for practices in the spring.
John O’Sullivan writes about this process and summarizes the issue very well:
“It’s the introduction of adult values into kids’ games,
When I grew up, it was children competing against children.
Now, more often than not, it’s adults competing against other adults through their children.” 
– John O’Sullivan Changing The Game Project
Teach in practice, let kids play in games!

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