Lead by Example was originally published 10/30/17 on PowellLacrosse.com via their Field Exploration series and republished with permission.
Believe it or not, time is running out. Lacrosse season is only a few short months away, but for those who want to be great, it never really ended. Whether their team missed the playoffs or hoisted the trophy, Powell Pathfinders don’t stop moving forward. That’s how they became Pathfinders in the first place. The options to play lacrosse at the highest level are limited in relation to other sports. But, when a focused athlete fights day in and day out to keep the dream alive, they get what they want.
If you haven’t done it already, show up to conditioning without getting in shape on your own and it’s going to suck. There’s no way to sugar coat it, you didn’t come prepared and that’s not the coach’s job to do so. Conditioning is there to help you get up to competition speed, which you’ve probably slipped out of. Even if you’re in great shape, it’s not just about getting it over with. You’ve got to prepare yourself to do things you never expected of yourself. You know what your dodge looks like right now. It’s no secret how hard you can shoot. Everyone knows exactly how fast you are. But that’s right now.
You can be faster, stronger, smarter, tomorrow. If you do it right, maybe even by the end of today. There are guys you will play against this year that you will absolutely embarrass. Things came together well enough to this point that you did your job a whole lot better than your opponent did his. Then comes the guys that absolutely beat you like a punching bag to the point you don’t even want the ball anymore. Did it have to be that way? Could you have taken the time to learn that nasty fake that would knock them off your heels, or developed a quicker step to shake them out of your path to the cage?
There’s always going to be guys that are significantly bigger, faster, and stronger than all of us on the lacrosse field. None of that matters if a player is well-conditioned, focused on the plan, and playing strictly to his strengths and weaknesses. You have time to put yourself in that position, even before coach blows that first whistle. What’s the worst that can happen… You absolutely dust that guy that thought you were a scrub last year? Boy, how terrible.
Let’s stop making this about you for a second and remember the other nine guys on the field, the row on the sideline, and leaders instructing you all what to do. Each one of them made the commitment to be there and without them there’s no game, no team, no community. Everyone has a role on the field, and the coach will help you figure them out. There are some leadership roles outside the lines that can be filled by any guy on the roster.
Staying in shape and coming into the season ready to work can be done by anyone. When time isn’t wasted on getting a guy up to speed, everyone can move on to much greater things. Communication is also an invaluable tool that every single lacrosse player can develop.
Talking on the field, loudly, and within the system produces big results in games. Spending time getting to know those around you off the field will may almost as great of dividends. When athletes are comfortable with the guys going to battle with them and they know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, the whole team can develop a flow unachievable without familiarity.
Look at any squad that has achieved great things and you hear the words like brothers, family, and best friends, thrown around a lot. The great majority of the time, these guys didn’t choose each other and often barely knew everyone more than a few months. In that time, special bonds can form between athletes, regardless of lifestyle differences off the field. It’s okay to not be attached at the hip with every last guy, but learning what makes him tick and how to get his best performance could result in that buzzer-beating game-winner, or not. It’s all another part of the mental preparation lacrosse requires to become great.
You can try to do it alone, and conditioning is really going to help, but you don’t have to. You’re surrounded by guys all looking to achieve the same goals. Lead them by example. Work hard, share knowledge, be understanding, but push people in a way that you know will help them be great. Everyone has a purpose and unique roles in lacrosse, it’s a big part of the game’s greatness. Doing the little things behind the scenes will help you become a significant part of something bigger.