Recruits – Check Your Body Language


Editor’s note: Please welcome Dave Madeira to Lax All Stars. Dave is an athletic adviser with Empower the Athlete, which provides college counseling for high school lacrosse players.

One of the things that you rarely hear a coach address in lacrosse is body language, and lately in athletics it has become my biggest pet peeve.  Since we have been in the midst of Fallball Recruiting Tourneys, all of you recruits should be reminded to Check Your Body Language, because coaches are watching, and they are critiquing everything you do on the field, especially the way you carry yourself.

I was psyched when I saw that the Jets have implemented a fining system for their QB, Mark Sanchez, whenever he shows Bad Body Language  in practice drills.  Forget the fact that I’m a Pats fan, I think this is awesome because the Jets administration is forcing their team leader to be…. wait for it… a leader.

Palms up. Not a good sign!

In team sports leadership is much more about what you do, and not as much about what you say.  Leading by example is not just about having the right work ethic, but having the right attitude.  It’s about how you approach and handle pressure situations.  If you are the leading scorer on your team, what kind of body language should you be displaying when you are down by a goal and within the 2 minute warning, and every underclassman is looking at you?

Case in point: check the response of Jay Cutler vs. Tom Brady after an interception.  You know by the way he carries himself that Brady’s got the situation under control.  Cutler is hard to watch; his mopey body language does not inspire confidence.

My attack coach in college called guys like this “dirty diapers”, and to this day I haven’t heard a better way to describe an athlete who sulks or whines on the field of play.

If you want to know how coaches analyze players at recruiting events check out this piece The New Yorker did on coaches recruiting at 205.

One of the main things coaches look for is coach-ability – that means work ethic and character on the field.  They want guys they know will be good teammates, even if they don’t bloom into All-Americans.

Body Language falls under this category.  If you are spending time on the field sulking, then you are taking away time that you could be hustling.  If you are kicking the dirt, mad at yourself because you missed the net wide, you may have just missed your opportunity to ride the ball back and the goalie will already have 3 steps on you by the time you pick your head up.

Even JHU’s Coach Petro told ESPN Rise that he is “always amazed when [he goes] to these camps and there’s a number of coaches watching and here’s the players, some who are not playing as hard as they’re capable of.”

A lot of the time younger players show bad body language and don’t even know they are doing it.  Fortunately, it’s one of the easiest things in athletics to work on, and it requires zero athletic ability.  I guess you could say bad body language is the opposite of “swagger”.  So, if you’re working on your game this off-season (which you should be) think about how you are going to carry yourself on the field  this spring and in the future.

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  1. I love this post, Dave. You nailed it. Displaying positive body language sends key messages to your teammates, your opponents, and yourself. Shake off failure and get yourself back into the game. If you want good body language to come out when the game is really on the line, you have to start practicing. Make sure that you focus on it in practice, work it into your visualization workouts, and into your pregame routine. Train the mind and the body will follow.

  2. Great post. I think that this is something that has to be reinforced by parents and high school/club coaches. I was at a number of recruiting events over the past month and it is crazy to see how players behave after something doesn’t go their way. Where do you guys think constructive criticism should come from for “dirty diapers”? Many times, parents come to us asking to speak to their kids about grades because they need to hear it from someone other than their parents. The whining syndrome is more touchy though.

    • I would say that the bottom line is that they need to hear it. A lot of the time they don’t know they are doing it, and don’t understand how it has a negative effect on the team. It probably has an even more negative effect on their play, because one bad play leads to another after they get in their own head and beat themselves up.
      I’ve seen constructive criticism be most effective when it comes from other teammates.

  3. Dave – Great perspective. Many young players either have inflated egos and senses of self worth, or they are “dirty diapers” always complaining. The type of player you speak of, who plays with confidence and leads by example, is the guy I want leading my team.

  4. Work ethic and character are not states of mind. They are not philosophies. They are pure, simple, states of action.

    They do not give a wet slap about the person or the situation or the implications – they demand we simply obey.

    In this is their greatness!