“I love to watch you play.” These words have special meaning to my family and me.
I first heard those words from my extended family after an experience with an FCA team in Colorado. FCA staff member Scott Hodgson later brought them back to me after a game last summer, when my son was fortunate enough to be part of a fantastic lacrosse experience at Lake Placid.
“I love to watch you play” are the words your child wants to hear after a lacrosse game or practice. They already get plenty of internal pressure to perform from peers and coaches. They want to hear those words from their parents and family—the people that matter most in their life.
I have two lacrosse pictures hanging in my space at US Lacrosse. One is a team of kids—the Hens—that I truly loved being a part of, both coaching and watching them play. The second is of my son when he came off the field after his first organized lacrosse experience.
He was 11 years old and the Triad (N.C.) Youth Lacrosse Association offered a fall ball introduction to lacrosse. It was an hour of drills and skills, followed by one hour of loosely organized scrimmages. Teams were split up based on ability. The photo shows a sweat-covered young man—my son—with a huge smile on his face. He loved those two hours from top to bottom. What a great gift for me as a parent. My child found true joy in something that he loved.
It took a few years of being a lacrosse parent, then a US Lacrosse-certified coach, to continue to be part of the experience he loved so much. My son worked hard to be accepted to a great high school away from home with a great lacrosse tradition and outstanding academics. He is in boarding school, and I miss him. Last season, I made it to many of his freshman-year games, and to help bridge the physical divide, I started watching all of his film.
Eventually, I put together a highlight reel. Not for college coaches to watch, but for me. I still watch it whenever I’m bored with what’s on TV. I love to see the joy he expresses after a great play. It is usually a small fist pump or shoulder shrug, way after the play is over and no one notices. But I notice it, and it reminds me of the joy he gets from playing lacrosse and why I love to watch him play.
As a parent or loved one, I encourage you to seize the opportunity that is right in front of you. Tell your children that you love to watch them play. Then step back and do just that. Forget about the score, your pride, your anxiety or the dream of college lacrosse and simply share in the joy of their experience.
The season is fast approaching. Find time to love lacrosse as much as your child does, and learn how to love watching them play.
Over to you. Have you found it challenging to switch between roles as a parent and parent-coach? What ideas can you share with other parents to create safe spaces for both roles? I shared one of my favorite strategies below. Let us know yours in the comments section.
Bruce Griffin is the director of health and sport safety at US Lacrosse.