The Little Things Matter


Repost from Team Elevate
Written by Coach Dave Kotowski

This week starts a whole new chapter in the athletic lives of many of our girls – the start of tryouts for high school lacrosse.  Some of you will be trying out first time ever and some of you will be trying out again.  Either way – your experiences will be new and different no matter who you are.  

For those of you trying out for the first time, I am sure you are super excited and also a bit nervous.  Being nervous is totally OK because nerves are a good thing – it means that whatever you are doing is important to you. Your nervousness will go away as soon as you start and the reason it will go away is that you are READY.  Just think about all of the hours that you have put into playing this awesome game of lacrosse.  The practices, the clinics and the camps have all prepared you.  

Some of you will be trying out for the 2nd, 3rd or even 4th time.  Hopefully, you are not as nervous as when you first tried out, but just remember there are plenty of girls who are in the same shoes you once were in.  As leader, it’s important to remember these things because it’s your job to help those girls who are trying out for the first time.  Remember how you felt the first time.  Maybe an older player made you feel better by some simple words of encouragement.  Maybe they did some “little thing” to help you.  

I’d like to talk to you about the “little things” and why they matter.  In the course of your life, in the course of a year, in the course of a month, a week, an hour – you are going to find out that the “little things” matter a lot.  
33 years ago, on January 28, 1986 the entire world would come to now just how important one “little thing” could be.  

The space shuttle program was launched by NASA in January of 1972 and the first ever launch was on April 12, 1981.  A lot of money and planning went into making that first launch a success.  The space shuttle program was focused on re-usable spacecraft that would be used to build space stations for the United States.  NASA and other government agencies were at the forefront of space exploration and the USA was the world leader.  
Billions of dollars were allocated to this program.  Hundreds of missions were successfully flown and the United States and NASA trumpeted the space shuttle program as a success.  Unfortunately all of this success came crashing down on January 28, 1986.  

The Challenger space shuttle was originally planned to launch on January 22 but was delayed 5 times due to weather and technical issues.  After a two hour delay on January 28th, Challenger was cleared for liftoff at 11:38am.  72 seconds after liftoff the entire world would watch in disbelief as the Challenger exploded.  Among the crew was NASA’s first ever civilian astronaut Christina McAuliffe.  She was one of 110,000 applicants who all wanted to be the first civilian in space.    
McAuliffe’s students along with a live audience and millions of viewers on TV watched in horror as the entire crew of 6 Astronauts – Gregory Jarvis, Judith Resnik, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair, Mike J. Smith and Ellison Onizuka along with McAuliffe all perished after the Challenger exploded.  

After a formal investigation and a rescue mission that cost over $12 million dollars, the cause of the crash was determined to be a faulty .75 cent O-ring.  
One .75 cent O-ring  – a “little thing” would bring down the Challenger and take 7 lives with it.  The “little things” matter.  

So as you get ready to take the field this spring I’d like you to keep in mind all of the “little things” that you can do that can make a difference for you and your team.  

I saw this graphic a few years ago and I thought it was fantastic then and I wanted to review it with you now.  On this list – there are a lot of “little things” you can do to differentiate yourself and help make you, your teammates and your team better. 

Being on Time: This specific topic relates specifically to all of our high school and middle school athletes because you are 100% percent in control of this.  Younger players are relying on their parents to get them to practices and games on time.  For those of you playing school sports, it is really simple – be on time. 
As soon as school ends, hustle to the locker room and get ready right away.  Don’t dilly dally in the halls, don’t check your Instagram account, don’t send out texts messages that can wait – go get ready.  BE ON TIME! 

Your coaches put a tremendous amount of time into planning your practices and your schedule.  I personally spend hours planning, watching video, creating plays, writing up practice plans and drills all to be ready on time.  All coaches want from you is to be on time.  

Now if you can’t be on time – let your coach know ahead of time.  Communicate with us – keep us in the loop rather than surprising us.  

Champion’s Tip: Be the first one on the field every day.  Get out there early to put in some extra work on the things you need to be doing.  Your coaches will see you, your teammates will see you – but maybe most importantly, you will KNOW that you are working hard towards your goals.  

Work Ethic, Effort, Energy: I combined these 3 topics together because I think they are very similar in nature.  The beautiful thing about the “3 E’s” are they are literally 100% in your control.  I used to tell my own daughters that there would be days when you may not be on your “A” game and you might struggle a little.  On those days it was so important to make sure that you worked your butt off, gave 100% effort and maintained a positive energy at all times.  

Jon Gordon is an awesome author and motivational speakers.  In his book The Energy Bus he talks about “Energy Vampires.”  These are the Debbie Downers of the world (watch below and get ready to laugh)! 

They can literally suck the energy out of a room.  Don’t be the person who is an energy vampire – be the opposite.  Be the person who lifts up your teammates.  The Positive Coaching Alliance talks about our emotional tanks and how important it is to help keep each other’s tanks full.  When I first started coaching girls I heard a great quote – “Boys feel good when they play well, girls need to feel good in order to play well.”  Help each other feel good! 

Champions Tip: Work hard all the time, be a vocal cheerleader for all of your teammates, never give up no matter what you do.  If you see someone who is not having a good day or made a mistake, be the first person to lift them up.  When you lift up others, the world will lift you up as well.  

Attitude & Body Language: This past summer I was playing in a master’s lacrosse game up in Lake Placid.  It was a really tight game with playoff implications.  I made a bad play and immediately cursed out loud.  I received a 1-minute penalty for cursing and the ref came up to me and said, “hey – this Lake Placid,  we don’t accept that stuff up here.  It’s a family environment and there are kids everywhere.”  I had two immediate reactions.  At first, I was upset with myself because not only had I gotten a penalty because of something I did, but it was totally avoidable if I had controlled my attitude.  My second reaction was actually being grateful to the ref for the way he had spoken to me.  It made me realize what was really important – honoring the game and being a role model. 

Luckily for me, the rest of the defense and our goalie bailed me out and the other team did not score while I was in the penalty box.  As soon as the penalty was released I ran back out onto the field and headed right for the ref.  I immediately apologized to him and I also thanked him.  He had given me a quick lesson about what was really important.  Control the things we can control.  
We will all make mistakes – no one is perfect – how we handle those mistakes says a lot about the person you are.  Don’t curse out loud like I did, don’t slam your stick, don’t hang your head – instead, erase the mistake by going out and making the next play.  

Champion’s Tip:  Find a teammate that you really trust and ask them to be your Attitude Partner.  The two of you are responsible for keeping each other positive.  When one of your makes a mistake have a routine that you follow to erase the mistake – flush it down the toilets or brush it off – so you can move on to make the next play.  If you can do this as an entire team it would be amazing! 

Being Coachable, Being Prepared & Doing Extra: As a coach I truly want ALL of my players to keep getting better and I want to try and get the most I can out of every player.  Being coachable is one of the most important aspects of being a top student-athlete.  What actually is coach-ability?  It’s actually listening to what your coach is saying – not just to you but to everyone – and putting their words into action.  

I can’t tell you how many times I have stopped a practice for a “teaching moment.”  A time where I can impart some wisdom, a specific technique or a mindset for my players.  The way I handle these moments is to speak to the entire team including anyone not in that specific drill or game situation.  I may be talking to one person, but I am talking to everyone.  Way too many times, immediately after stopping a practice to discuss a specific point, a different player will make the same mistake on the next play.  Like I said, everyone makes mistakes.  But when you make the same mistake that the coach just spoke about – that is not being coachable.  You were not listening, you were not taking your coach’s advice and directly relating it back into your own skills.  

Champion’s Tip: Great players need to be able to do two important things as it relates to this topic.  The first is be a great listener.  If your coach thinks it is important enough to stop a drill or practice to talk about something, make sure that you zero in on what they are saying and repeat it back to yourself so you remember it.  Coach’s love seeing their players put into action the the things we teach them.  Secondly, if your coach tells you you need to work on something, devote some extra time to mastering it.  Don’t be afraid to ask your coach for specifics in what you need to do.  We are there to help you! All of this will help you be the best prepared.  

Passion: I left passion for last, because for me it may be the most important.  According to the Urban DictionaryPassion is when you put more energy into something that is required to do it. It is more than just enthusiasm or excitement, passion is an ambition that is materialized into action to put as much heart, mind body, and soul into something as is possible.   Everything we do in life requires passion.  If you are not passionate about what you are doing then I would tell you to stop doing it.  

Every year I get a call from a player who tells me that they are not going to play lacrosse anymore.  Oftentimes I think they are nervous to call me and tell me this because they know how passionate I am about lacrosse.  But here is the truth, yes I am passionate about lacrosse, but that is not what drives me.  What really drives me is that I am super passionate about helping every young student-athlete that I come into contact to be the best they can be in whatever they do.  If it’s being a great lacrosse player -awesome.  If it’s being a great dancer or actor or scientist – awesome.  

My conversation with players who no longer want to play go much differently than how they thought it would go. I always thank them for their commitment, I thank them for their courage and then I ask them for a favor.  I ask them to find something that they are super passionate about and chase after it like their life depended on it.  And I also ask them to keep me posted on how they are doing.  

It doesn’t matter what you are passionate about – it just matters that you have a passion.

Champion’s Tip: Take some time on your own to really think about what you love to do.  Do you love to play lacrosse?  If so write down WHY you love it.  What are the things about it that make you so happy?  Keep your note on your phone so that on days when you don’t really feel the passion, you can open up your own note and remember WHY you love it.  Our WHY will always help us is with our HOW!!

All of the things above are “little things” that lead to big results.  All of these are in your control to give them the focus you deserve.  

Since I’m a lacrosse coach I feel like I have to give you a quick list of lacrosse-related “little things” for you to do/remember:

* Hands choked up on the plastic on ground balls

* Run through ground balls – Remember, “ground balls saves lives!”  (Footnote: Nancy Kotowski)

* Be a loud communicator. More communication = better play

* Sprint to every shot out of bounds

* Be the 1st person into the circle on the draw

* Play defense with your feet first and your stick/hands second

* Choke up with both hands when catching the ball for better eye-hand coordination

* Give a goalie a fake before shooting

* You always have more time than you think you do – good decisions lead to good plays

* Finish every sprint and don’t cheat.  Inches become feet, feet become yards.
* Playing Time – if you want more playing time, ask your coaches what you can do to “earn” more playing time – never demand it.  Work for it. 

I could go on and on with this list.  Just remember that all of these small things all lead to bigger things,  Just imagine how good your team could be if each and every one of you focused on doing the ‘little things” really well.  

Have a great season and know that we are always here for you – in good times and in bad!  

Elevate Your Mind * Elevate Your Body * Elevate Your Game * Elevate Your Life
Coach K


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here