Here are some resources to help you create practice plans, improve your understanding of girls lacrosse and develop your skills as a youth coach. This is your toolbox. Please reference it and, above all, remember that coaching is not about the adults on the field; there is no room for your ego! Please be mindful that what we may value as adults is not the same as what’s important to our players, particularly at the youth level and arguably more so with our girls, many of whom are at a critical point in their physical and emotional development where self-esteem is fragile. The team culture that you help create is what your team will remember long after they leave the field, win or lose.
You are responsible for shaping your team’s fundamental skills in a fun, positive and respectful environment. Your role is to impart a love for the game, nurture the benefits of being part of a team, and encourage our young athletes to give their best effort without fear of the outcome. We have had teams with dismal win/loss records at the end of the season but it was, in every other respect, the most successful team in program history. The teams were happy, unified, committed and we received more positive feedback from those parents about their child’s experience than any other team in our program history. In contrast, we’ve had teams with dominating winning records, but the players were decidedly miserable because the team culture was devoid of fun and positivity.
The Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) is an organization that partners with US Lacrosse and many other youth sports organizations to provide education and resources to coaches, parents and program leaders. PCA states our mission best:
Leading a school athletic program or youth sports organization, you have awesome power and responsibility to impact youth. Creating a positive, character-building youth sports environment may be the most important thing you ever do, because it can provide thousands of children with life lessons in teamwork, commitment, persistence, overcoming adversity, empathy, and leadership. And, as they cultivate a lifelong love of sports in your program, they will stay involved as athletes, coaches and parents in later life who carry forward the legacy they gain from your leadership to influence the next generation. Use the tools below to make it so.
Among the many tools that PCA provides, here are a few for you to implement with your teams that echo our values and philosophy as a youth lacrosse program:
Help players pursue mastery of their sport, not just scoreboard wins.
Fill your players’ Emotional Tanks.
- Teach players the ELM Tree of Mastery (Effort, Learning, and bouncing back from Mistakes).
- Reward effort, not just good outcomes. Recognize players even for “unsuccessful” effort.
- Encourage players to set “Effort Goals” tied to how hard they try not how many goals they score.
- Use encouragement and positive reinforcement as your primary method of motivating. Yelling, shaming or demoralizing a player is de-motivating, counterproductive and a fast track to that player shutting down. Don’t do it.
- Achieve the “Magic Ratio” of five positive reinforcements to each criticism or correction.
- Learn to give “Kid-Friendly Criticism,” such as criticizing in private (never humiliate a player by calling her out in front of her teammates), use the Criticism Sandwich (ie, sandwich criticism between positive comments), and avoid criticism in non-teachable moments (ie, in the middle of the game when the player is on the field; instead, sub out the player and talk about the mistake privately on the sidelines and put her back in to try again).
Remember, the objective is to build a solid foundation of lacrosse skills in a fun environment where our young athletes honor the R.O.O.T.S of positive play: respect for R
eammates, and one’s S
elf. Go to www.positivecoach.org
for additional resources for coaches, parents and players.
Player Development Tools for Coaches:
Here are just a few of the many online, print and video resources available. One of the best assets we have for player development is right here in Ridgefield. Michelle Ralph has coached and taught all levels of girls lacrosse for many years. Contact her by email at
with any questions you may have about age appropriate player development, expectations for skill development and ideas for fun and productive practices.
US Lacrosse is the national governing body of men’s and women’s lacrosse. USL’s website is a treasure trove of information about lacrosse, education, training and player development. There are drills and practice plan archives. You can download pdf files of the youth rules
and best practices guidebook
and download the Mobile Coach
app to your iPad or phone to access drill archives and create practice plans on the go. There is also great information for parents (and most of you as parent/coaches) to clarify the parent’s role as a purely “supporting player” to a young athlete.
There’s an endless supply of girls lacrosse videos from stick tricks to training drills available on youtube.
The Ridgefield Youth Lacrosse website has links to a number of player development resources under the Coaches Resources tab.
Kudda’s website provides training videos, practice plans and much more. It used to be a free site but now allows access to most of its features only with a subscription membership. However, there may still be some free resources available so it’s worth checking out (and there are a number of Kudda videos posted to youtube).
, published by US Lacrosse, is an excellent resource for drills and tips. Every RYL household receives a copy by mail, but you can also access it online here
Coaching Girls' Lacrosse: A Baffled Parent's Guide
. Author Janine Tucker is a highly respected coach and authority on women’s lacrosse. Although the book is outdated in some respects, it remains the bible of girls lax and is packed with timeless drills designated by skill level. You can find this book in bookstores and online retailers like Amazon.