"Being a parent is humbling," said Ginsburg, the co-director of the Paces Institute for Sport Psychology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, faculty member at Harvard University, US Lacrosse Sports Science and Safety Committee member and co-author of "Whose Game Is It, Anyway?"
"As a parent, Im getting more and more data on myself. Im amazed at how many mistakes Im making, and how often I can get swept up in the very things that Im warning parents about. Ive studied this, and Ive written books about it. And I still find myself vulnerable to these things," Ginsburg said.
"Its hard work. No one is perfect here. Ninety-nine percent of parents are well-intentioned, and were not crazy, bad people. But theres so much pressure in the culture, and we can get pulled in a lot of directions. Its hard to keep it together. Were going to make mistakes as parents, and thats OK, as long as we learn from our mistakes and try to re-center ourselves by reviewing our values."
Well make this the first observation: Check your ego at the door. Its hard for everyone.
The second observation: There are no hard-and-fast rules. Every child is different. Every parent is different. Every situation is different.
When US Lacrosse Magazine embarked on an adventure to compile advice to help parents navigate the youth lacrosse experience by getting the opinions of more than a dozen influential figures across the game, we didnt know where it would take us. So what did we find? No one has all the answers.
"I tell parents and kids: Listen, I have no idea what Im talking about right now. And I know you have no idea what Im talking about right now," said Team USA and Duke mens coach John Danowski, who has been on all sides of the parent-child-coach triangle. "If we can all agree that we have no idea, then at least we have a base to start from. At least we can say, All right, were all kind of clueless. Lets start from there."
Were here to help. Acknowledging that parenting is challenging and there are no definitive guidelines, US Lacrosse Magazine settled on five underlying principles that can help parents steer through the youth lacrosse experience. What follows are five things every lacrosse parent should know.
1. THERE IS NO POT OF GOLD AT THE END OF THE RECRUITING RAINBOW
Ruthie Lavelle, mother of five and president of the Maryland Youth Lacrosse Association, a volunteer-based recreational league of about 40,000 boys and girls ages 5 to 14, said parents have lost perspective in their decision-making because of recruiting, the process for which has been hastened remarkably in recent years. "What are parents chasing? Theyre chasing disappointment," Lavelle said. "They think theres a pot of gold, but theyre chasing dissatisfaction. Theyre crazed about it."
Parents vigorously pursue and make great sacrifices in time, finances and energy in a competitive quest, hoping to capture an athletic scholarship. The return on investment is not what you think.
"The current culture is suggesting, If you just get the right coach, and play in the right program, and play enough hours, you can be great. And you have to pay for it," Ginsburg said. "But the reality is if you do the math there are going to be many disappointed people."
As of today, there are 73 mens Division I programs, and 116 womens programs. For men, the NCAA maximum number of allowable scholarships is 12.6 over four years. For women, its 12. Estimates suggest roughly half of these programs are fully funded; some schools have fewer than the allotted total, while Ivy League and service academies do not offer athletic scholarships.
These scholarships most often are divided among players. Charlotte Hounds coach Jim Stagnitta joked: "I can think of a handful guys who got full rides, and most of them are named Powell."
Said former Virginia mens coach Dom Starsia: "If you take our Tewaaraton Award winners Matt Ward, Chris Rotelli and Steele Stanwick and added them all together, it might equal a little more than one full scholarship."
Said former Team USA and current Georgetown womens coach Ricky Fried: "Theres a misconception of the full ride. Theyre just not out there."
Any high school athlete has a 6-percent chance of playing college varsity sports in any division and 3.7-percent chance in Division I, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article.
"What happens when an athlete has put all his eggs in one basket? It creates a risk of imbalance," Ginsburg said.
"IF WE CAN ALL AGREE THAT WE HAVE NO IDEA, THEN AT LEAST WE HAVE A BASE TO START FROM. AT LEAST WE CAN SAY, ALL RIGHT, WERE ALL KIND OF CLUELESS. LETS START FROM THERE." - JOHN DANOWSKI
2. THE RULES OF THE GAME AND WHY THEY EXIST
Lacrosse has been called the fastest sport on two feet, and the fastest-growing sport in the country. The result? With an increasing number of new people being introduced to the fast-paced game for the first time, theres uncertainty about the rules that govern the game, and why theyre in place. Sometimes, this can be frustrating and lead to unsportsmanlike behavior most notably vocal displeasure from parents on the sidelines.
Chase Howse, former US Lacrosse Youth Rules Committee chair, spent 35 years playing lacrosse and the last 30 officiating the game. His message to parents: "Take whatever time and steps you feel necessary to learn the rules before your son or daughter steps on the field. Is he or she learning from his coaches during practice? Or is it from watching a bunch of fouls being called during a game often accompanied by howls of displeasure from coaches and fans?"
US Lacrosse, in conjunction with its Sports Science and Safety Committee, in 2012 released the Youth Rules and Best Practices Guidebooks. As part of the organizations effort to develop consistent national rules based on the physical, cognitive and psychological development stages of children, US Lacrosse developed these gender-specific guidebooks to help explain the rules and the rationale behind them. The three golden principles: safe, fun and fair.
A reminder from Cathy Russo, US Lacrosse Girls Youth Rules Interpretation chair: "Our No. 1 priority is always to keep the players safe."
The guidebooks along with uslacrosse.org provide a tremendous foundation from which to learn about the game.
Beyond reading the rulebook, former US Lacrosse officials and education manager Lucia Perfetti Clark said, "The best way to learn the game is to get out there and do it; some of the best officials are parents." Russo and Clark suggested attending an officials/umpires training course or rules interpretation session, which are often offered through US Lacrosse chapters or affiliated youth organizations.
These sessions can help clarify the most misunderstood rules of each genders game which, it should be noted, are significantly different.
On the boys side, the least understood rules revolve around contact, and theres varying amounts of legal contact allowed at every level of the game. At higher levels, the loose ball push versus push with possession leads to confusion. On the girls side, shooting space violations and three-second held ball calls are most bewildering.
"In both games, even if a call goes against your team or kid, be happy when officials make calls for safety," Perfetti Clark said.
"And remember, were all part of the same team," Howse said. "Were all in this together. Were all responsible for creating a positive environment, and we share a big responsibility for imparting a solid sense of the culture of our game to the kids that learn to play and love."
3. THE HAZARDS OF SPORT SPECIALIZATION
Dom Starsia developed a reputation. He got cold calls from coaches and players across the country suggesting their linebacker or point guard might make a great lacrosse player. Starsia, who played football and lacrosse at Brown, is an advocate of multi-sport participation, in an era where media hype is driving parents in the direction of sport specialization.
"As the game spreads and theres more press coverage and more popularity and more opportunities to profit, youre seeing a greater emphasis on the belief that, The earlier the better, the more the better, of anything, of any sport, of any academic endeavor," Ginsburg said. "But theres not really any definitive evidence that indicates specializing is going to lead to better performance."
Which is why Starsia went after players like Chris LaPierre, a former Shawnee (N.J.) High football star who had played lacrosse in the summers for fun, and ended up as one of the nations most dynamic players. The Cavaliers short-stick defensive midfielder was named a second-team All-American in 2012.
"There is nothing you can be doing in lacrosse on your own in the fall that would be better for you than going to football or soccer practice every day," Starsia said. "You can go bang a ball against a wall all you want, but how do you become a better team player? By playing other team sports."
Becoming coachable, paying attention to detail, understanding the importance of preparation, working toward a goal, understanding your role and evaluating your performance from playing other sports are "such a huge advantage," Danowski said. "Playing club lacrosse once a week, I dont know if that its the same.
"You have one time to leave a legacy at your school. You have one time to take advantage of putting on a football helmet or playing soccer," Danowski continued. "When you look back at your school yearbook 40 years from now, would someone say, Yeah, that guy was a lacrosse head? Playing other sports helps develop a wealth of confidence that doesnt come from playing in a meaningless club game in November."
Ginsburg said sport specialization can lead to burnout, overuse injury and fragmentation of friendships. Conversely, participating in multiple sports also helps children develop muscularly, in what four-time U.S. womens national team player Danielle Gallagher, the founder of the Long Island Liberty lacrosse club, called "a cross-training theory."
Fried added sport specialization leads to a general lack of "being a kid... Creativity starts to fade away."