Tag Archives: coach

The Strength Of Coaching With Confidence And Humility – The Journey Of The Lacrosse Coach

Posted on by .

My son was still an infant when I co-founded our community youth lacrosse club so I started coaching at the U15 boys division where expectations were highest among families trying lacrosse for the first time.  I had the most lacrosse playing experience among the coaches in the club at the timeand was the only coach who had played in college.

I remained there until my son turned 5 and I dropped down to coach the U7 division, and I was following him up through the ranks for a few years until this season.  In the years since I had dropped down to the younger levels to coach, I thought things were fine where I had left them with coaches standardization having been implemented and coaches stepping up to volunteer and take the initiative to get US Lacrosse certified.  What I did not realize was that, with our club beginning to compete increasingly well and make a name for ourselves, some parents and players in the older divisions were beginning to feel that the coaches that were nevertheless dedicated and committed; lacked ability to take the player to the next level of truly elite competitive youth lacrosse.

Some of that criticism I thought may have been legitimate, but I assumed that the lian’s share of it was fed by a for profit club that formed to the south of us that was promising Division I scholarships if kids played for them (those for profits offering the promised land almost always inevitably show up at some point).  With a few parents/players having drank enough of the Kool-Aide to jump ship for that club, I decided to jump back up to coach the elite upper middle school division of our  Venom Elite program.  My son is still 8 years of age and not yet eligible for elite tournament play (Venom Elite starts at U11), so I am still able to coach his and my 6 years daughter’s respective rec teams.

I thought at first I was doing this more for the perception that my lacrosse background brought to the Venom Elite team, but then one of my assistant coaches who had not played but learned to coach lacrosse through the years in our club who did not play lacrosse, shared something with me recently.  He told me that when it was decided that I was to move up to take over the Venom Elite team, while he understood the necessary perception that it brought to the team and the club, he could not help but take some offense for the dismissal of the value that he and other dedicated volunteers brought to the boys at this stage in their lacrosse coaching careers.   He also had never really coached along side me.

He told me that the very first day of practice, he realized that the parents had a point.  He told me that he was grateful that I had moved up, not just for the sake of the club, but he realized that my ability to demonstrate skills and schemes, make set changes on the fly, manage the game, and recognize mismatches was more valuable than anything he had seen in the club to date; with his 3 years of coaching experience having occurred while I was coaching exclusively in the younger divisions.

I really appreciated this feedback because I did honestly did not know myself that there was such a difference.  My perspective came from my experience learning from and working with college and professional lacrosse legends that put on summer Pro Camps for us here in Central Florida.  When I watch guys like Brian Megill, Ray Megill, Marcus Holman, and Kyle Hartzell in action as they teach and demonstrate skills and schemes I feel truly grateful to have a front row seat for the best coaching I have ever experienced.  I learn new concepts every time they come.

Coaches to be sure need to be confident.  If they are not confident in what they are attempting to get their team to buy into, the players will lack confidence in the coach.  Even kids can very easily sniff out uncertainty and reluctance.

However, ALL coaches must be open to other points of view and new ways of doing things, especially when it is coming from coaches that have played and coached at a higher level than they have.  But humility does not necessarily have to come from a highly experienced coach.  I regularly get valuable feedback from my assistant coaches including the gentleman I discussed in this article.  Sometimes we can get caught up in within our systems where we may not notice a particular wrinkle that someone observing from the outside in may notice.

Confidence, open mind, and humility comprise the ultimate journey coaches must walk to be successful, inspiring, and to honor the game.  As in all other aspects of life, the day we think we know it all and stop learning, is the day it is time to hang up our whistles and move on.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of tpics and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.

Profit Motivated Coaches And Organizations Are Bad For Youth And High School Lacrosse

Posted on by .

The Scourge Of For Profit Youth Lacrosse Teams Is Bad For The GameIn my little corner of the world of the Florida Space Coast in an area very steeped in the traditional school sports, the introduction of lacrosse has been an uphill climb.  With the first elements of lacrosse having been seeded in 2008, while the game continues to grow, it is still very much in the emerging sport category.  Although our lacrosse growth is a very positive development, it was only a matter of time before we would draw the attention of a growing problem in our sport: the for profit organizations and coaches that aim to pick away at established not for profit clubs and leagues with the promise of the best coaching in the world and a path to a Division I scholarship at a marquis college lacrosse program.

Having played along side incredible talent from my home state of New Jersey, having come from a high school program that has yielded a lot of Division I talent and to date has seen 6 players have success in the professional Major League Lacrosse, I have a unique perspective and insight into the world of Division I lacrosse.  The truth is, Division I scholarships are very rare.  Even top talent coming out of lacrosse hot beds like New Jersey, New York and Maryland often feel very fortunate to earn a no scholarship roster spot or receive partial scholarships at best.

Thus, while players should all strive to be the best lacrosse athletes they can possibly be, a coach who understands sports and is being honest will tell you that as much great coaching as a player gets, it is ultimately up to the player to perform.  Many factors that cannot be taught, such as innate speed, physical size, strength, and demeanor, go into the entire player package.  Does good coaching help facilitate that?  Of course it does, but it will only take a player so far.

What’s more, just because a coach may charge parents a fortune to play for his team does not make him necessarily a better option.  Case in point, in the not for profit youth lacrosse club I preside over, we have 6 boys coaches with college playing experience (3 from Division I programs) and three girls coaches with Division I and Division II playing experience.  Double that number are US Lacrosse Level II and III Certified.  Just because we choose to volunteer our time for the kids and love of the game does not diminish what we bring to them in their lacrosse development.

I will tell you clearly what we are NOT doing, filling families with delusions of grandeur that their only path to a Division I scholarship is through us.  That kind of propaganda as as unethical as it is untrue.  Unfortunately, there are parents out there that drink the Kool-Aid and break out their check books so that little Johnny will be assured that roster spot at Johns Hopkins one day.

In the end, it is generally not the parents of the best players who fall for the draw of the for profit rhetoric, but more commonly it is the parents of the average or slightly above average player.  As parents, we naturally have pride in our children and want them to succeed.  However, this pride sometimes leads parents having an unrealistic outlook of their child’s innate talent.  If he or she is not getting the playing time that the parent expects or their performance leaves them far short of being stars of the team, it cannot be that their child’s talent has limits, it must be because of the coaching.

For profit entities in the sport also cause animosity and discord in communities that are otherwise tight nit.  Because their livelihood depends on it, they often do not stop at puffing our their chests and touting their lacrosse resumes and credentials, but they belittle the selfless and tireless efforts of volunteers that have given their their precious time, hearts, and souls to the community, the sport, and the kids.  Sadly, their belittling takes root with some parents and we have occasionally seen once appreciative members of our club join the for profits in denigrating our efforts.

For longstanding volunteers, this can be at times hard to swallow and  simply shrug off.  At times, I will be honest, it feels like a punch in the gut.  But just like in my playing days, when I was knocked down and it made me more motivated to work harder to make certain that next time I was in that same position, the tables would be turned; my fellow volunteers and I are ready to push back against the influence of for profit groups in our lacrosse community.

Many other lacrosse friends I have all over the country share my motivation curtail the influence of profit driven organizations in the sport of lacrosse in their respective corners of the world.  If/when the day comes that you are faced with the decision to jump on board with the bells and whistles of a for profit team or stay with the not for profit club that provided your child the opportunity to play lacrosse in the first place, always remember this quote by the great James Doolittle:

“There is nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer.”

That is as true in the sport of lacrosse as it is in anything else.

Dr. Roger Welton was a 4 year starter for Montclair State University and was selected as a First Team All Knickerbocker Conference Midfielder in 1995, 1996. He is the founder of the Viera-Suntree Lacrosse Club and Space Coast Elite Lacrosse Club in Brevard County, Florida.

Introducing Kids To Lacrosse As A Guest PE Teacher!

Posted on by .

Roger Welton conducts lacrosse clinics for several PE classes in Viera, FL at the Viera Charter SchoolI had a great experience today having been invited to the Viera Charter School, a K-8 school school in my community of Viera Florida.  From 8:30 AM through 2 PM, with the support of the school’s PE teachers, I ran instructional clinics for class after class today.

Introducing the game of lacrosse to kids that have never experienced it before never ceases to be a source of enjoyment for me.  The newness of the experience almost always makes for a very attentive audience.  The smiles and clear expressions of triumph as they successfully complete skills speaks for itself.

For those of us that long ago experienced the draw of the game, it begins to sound cliche when we constantly say that the game sells itself, but it really is true, the game sells itself.  All one needs to do is take the time to introduce the sticks and concepts to the kids, and their interest is instantly piqued.  Throw in a few fun games and relays that bring some competition into the reinforcement of basic skills, and it seals the deal.

Roger Welton enjoying one of his favorite pastimes, teaching lacrosse to youth

The next challenge lies in the open mindedness of the parent to allow their child to participate in a sport that is unfamiliar to them.  Some may even view it as a threat to an existing more traditional sport that they prefer their child to participate in.  I believe that the age of the internet and all of the information that is now at our disposal to some degree, helps us that endeavor to grow the fame in drawing new families to lacrosse.  I know that if either of my children came home begging me to sign them up for something I have never heard of, before I would consider it, I would at least “Google” the activity to get more information.

In the case of lacrosse, a simple Google search provides pages of links about the game, from youth through high school, college and professional lacrosse.

I will be crossing my fingers and toes that the kids I won over today on on their desire to sign up for my spring 2017 youth lacrosse league, will be successful in either selling the sport to their parents, or at least make a big enough fuss that their parents will be unable to say no.

Regardless of the outcome, I feel great about how I spent my day today!

Dr. Roger Welton was a 4 year starter for Montclair State University and was selected as a First Team All Knickerbocker Conference Midfielder in 1995, 1996. He is the founder of the Viera-Suntree Lacrosse Club and Space Coast Elite Lacrosse Club in Brevard County, Florida.


Vipers Lacrosse!

Posted on by .

vslc_vipers_logo…Continuation of “Rediscovering The Love Of The Game.”

Seeing something of a divine serendipity in the events described in my previous post above, I attended the meeting that would profoundly affect my life.  The meeting was for the small but committed Brevard Lacrosse Association (BLA), that at the time was a small league based in the beach side community of Satellite Beach, FL just over the causeway from my newly home town of Viera.  It was January, 2008 and my wife was pregnant with our first child.

The league was looking to expand beyond the beach and the dad that I had met in my neighborhood that was responsible for bringing me to the meeting, was charged with the expansion into mainland communities of Rockledge, Viera, and Melbourne.  We were to be called the Vipers.

So there we were, 3 divisions of lacrosse teams, U11, U13, and U15 boys only, with one other team to play, the Satellite Beach Riptide.  We played one another week in and week out, but the parents and players were so excited by the fresh, fast paced, new sport of lacrosse, that they did not care.  Without a child in the league, I was originally tasked with coaching the U11 division that was most lacking in coaching personnel, but with only one other coach in the league with playing experience, I floated around all of the divisions to aid in instruction.  It was a blast!

With a buzz in the air about lacrosse and kids and parents already seeking more varied and competitive play, the decision was made (despite my dissent) to disband BLA and start independent clubs that would play each other in an established Orlando based league.  At this point, a community called Merritt Island was also about to start their own lacrosse program, so the thought was that by disbanding and going independent, that other communities would follow suit and lacrosse would organically grow from there.  That is not how things played out, but for the purposes of this story, all you need to know is that the powers that be suggested that with the most extensive lacrosse background in the Viera community among active coaches, that I would the best candidate to serve as the first president of the Viera-Suntree Lacrosse Club, home of Vipers Lacrosse.

8 years later, I remain the first and only president of the club, now with an 8 year old son and a 6 year old daughter playing lacrosse.  To my point about how much that meeting would change my life, that original club has grown from 6 boys to 300 boys and girls playing lacrosse from K-8th grade projected to be playing Vipers Lacrosse this spring.  We now have both developmental rec teams and elite travel teams.

Within Vipers I personally coach U7 girls, U9 boys, U15 elite travel.  I also host regular camps and clinics for area high school programs and coach and elite high school fall and summer tournament team called the Space Coast Stingrays.

Oh yes, much has happened since that first BLA meeting and it seems I am still only just getting started!

Dr. Roger Welton was a 4 year starter for Montclair State University and was selected as a First Team All Knickerbocker Conference Midfielder in 1995, 1996. He is the founder of the Viera-Suntree Lacrosse Club and Space Coast Elite Lacrosse Club in Brevard County, Florida.

Rediscovering The Love Of The Game

Posted on by .

Roger Welton Coaching U15 Boys Vipers Lacrosse 2010Not that I necessarily would have considered trying out for a professional Major League Lacrosse team, but the option did not even exist when I finished my college career in 1996 even if I had the ambition and/or the ability to go there.  The only profession lacrosse league at the time was the Canadian indoor National Lacrosse League.  Indoor lacrosse was fun, but most American players were more adept to the field game, so that career path did not really appeal to the vast majority of us.

As a result, for those of us that played college lacrosse even at a high level, once our eligibility was up we would reflect on a fulfilling experience in the sport we loved and move on the the next phase of our professional lives, which for 99% of us did not include lacrosse.  For me, it was to increase the hours I worked an an off campus veterinary hospital, enroll in post graduate courses to pad my GPA and academic resume, take the Graduate Record Exam, and begin the extensive veterinary school application process.

With the excitement of a future in a field of my dreams and the whirlwind of admissions interviews and making plans to pack up and begin veterinary school, it is amazing how quickly one can move on.  I can honestly say that I did not even think about lacrosse again until I was about to start my second year and I saw one of my classmates having a catch with lacrosse sticks.  Although I had already known this gentlemen for some time, we never compared notes about our lacrosse backgrounds.  Having been raised in Boca Raton, FL, my friend had attended and played lacrosse for St. Andrews private school.  I was amazed that I has not even picked up a stick in nearly two years, nor did I even think to bring my lax stick to vet school with me!

Still, even with the reminder and having a periodic throw around with my classmate through my vet school years, as I met my future wife in my fourth year, passed boards, and prepared my new life in New York with my new wife and my new career; lacrosse was but a fond memory and little more.  When my wife and I decided to sell our home and move to the warmth of the Florida Space Coast and purchase a veterinary hospital, not only was I not thinking about lacrosse, but I was moving to an area that had ZERO lacrosse!

As life started to get into a rhythm and my wife and I became more settled and made friends in our new community of Viera, Florida, the memories started surfacing again.  Not only was I reflecting on and really missing the game, I began to talk about it more, and with many in my new area not having been exposed to the game, people were genuinely interested.

One evening when I was hanging out with my yard neighbor, Brian, he commented on the evident love that he noted when I talked about lacrosse and suggested that I fulfill that passion though coaching.  I made a mental note that I would keep an eye out for coaching opportunities, but in an area without lacrosse, I did not see that possibility for the foreseeable future.

That weekend, on my way home from golfing driving in my golf cart, I saw a father and his 12 year old son having a lacrosse catch in their front yard.  I could not help but stop and inquire how they learned about lacrosse.  As it turned out, they were part of an effort on the beach side to start a youth lacrosse league.  He told me that they were badly in need of coaches that had real playing experience and that if I was interested, there was a planning meeting that week!

There was far too much coincidence for me to feel that the progression of the conversation with my friend, the chance meeting with a dad and son who was part of an effort to start lacrosse in an area that I moved to that previously had no lacrosse; for me to dismiss this as anything other than something that was meant to be.  I planned to attend that meeting which ultimately would change my life dramatically.

See my next article Vipers Lacrosse for the continuation of my rediscovering the love of the game!

Dr. Roger Welton was a 4 year starter for Montclair State University and was selected as a First Team All Knickerbocker Conference Midfielder in 1995, 1996.  He is the founder of the Viera-Suntree Lacrosse Club and Space Coast Elite Lacrosse Club in Brevard County, Florida.