Written by Colin Davis, True Lacrosse Regional Manager for Maryland, District of Columbia, and Virginia
Sideline culture is a loaded phrase with varying levels of interpretation. Parents, players, and coaches all add or subtract to the heartbeat of a team. The sport of lacrosse has, and continues to show, tremendous growth in North America. With that growth comes varying experience levels in coaching, playing, and parental exposure to the sport we know and love. In our hyper-competitive world, there are certain things, like sideline culture, that are important for the growth and sustainability of the game. Here’s a breakdown on how sideline culture can affect a game.
The Parents Role
The number one thing to remember is that it’s about the kids. Camilla Knight, an associate professor of sports science at Swansea University in the UK, puts it perfectly. She says, “Parents need to take the lead from their child and remember it’s their child’s experience. Although a parent might think they are acting really supportive and encouraging, research indicates that parents and children often interpret or perceive behaviors differently.” We encourage our parents to cheer loudly but respectfully. Dr. Knight suggests incorporating a game plan for parents for various scenarios. Communicate with your child about potential situations and what they think. I guarantee that if you poll any parent, the last thing they want to do is embarrass their child at a game. Preparation prevents poor performance, and it can be as simple as talking in the car with your young athlete.
The Coaches Role
Obviously, spectators are the most visible example of sideline culture, but coaches and players also play a role in sideline culture. Coaches can either add to a great culture or enable bad habits. Culture is not a stop-start type of thing. If coaches approach their team culture like this, they cannot expect a cohesive group or team buy-in. Things such as team building, team contracts, required readings, expectations, or goal setting, really allow the team to work towards a common goal. I have found that when aspects like this are intertwined with x’s and o’s, great things start to happen. If there is a positive culture on the sidelines, it is merely a speed bump when adversity hits compared to an implosion.
The Players Role
Trust is a necessary part of sports as well. Coaches tend to play those players whom they trust the most. Players that know the system, understand the plays, and are reliable are usually on the field. Players play hardest for the coaches they trust too. If a player believes that their coach is honest and has their best interest at heart, you’ll get their very best. The player’s role in sideline culture is rooted in trust and respect. Teams that act out on the sidelines with poor body language or destructive behavior don’t trust the current situation. Communication and mutual respect are essential in the player’s role for great sideline culture.
There is an old saying that, “If players play, coaches coach, parents parent, we’ll all love the outcome.” This allows for everyone’s experience to be great and wins and losses become a footnote to the overall experience and love of the game. Sport mirrors life, and if we create positive cultures and reinforce morals and ethics, chances are the wins will continue well after the final whistle has been blown.