Legendary lacrosse coach shares youth coaching gems
By Greg Bach
During Dom Starsia’s induction speech into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, the legendary Virginia lacrosse coach and all-time winningest Division I coach said: "The wins and losses are fickle at best. It's the relationships that stand the test of time.”
Those are pretty powerful words that certainly fit perfectly into any youth coaching philosophy – in any sport and at any level.
Widely regarded as one of the best teachers, motivators and tacticians in the game, Starsia has led the Cavaliers to four national titles and 13 Final Fours, but his program never wavers from emphasizing good sportsmanship and good character and is routinely recognized for displaying some of the best sportsmanship in the country, win or lose.
SportingKid Live asked Starsia, one of only three coaches in the history of the sport to win 100-plus games at two different schools, to share three coaching gems that youth sports coaches can use to make a difference in their players’ lives:
Here’s what the legendary lacrosse coach had to say:
DEFINE YOUR CORE PRINCIPLES – AND STICK WITH THEM
“Decide on your core principles and stick to them,” Starsia says, “no matter what the early results.”
So, make your list of those principles, present them to your players and their parents at the start of the season and don’t stray from them during the first sign of adversity.
“It can start with the little things that ultimately will make a big difference,” Starsia explains. “Some examples may be that we are always on time, we wear the same practice gear, our chin straps are buttoned on the practice field, we never go offside in practice, we never curse on the practice field, and so on. There are lots of others that help build the culture of your program.”
“One of the best pieces of advice I ever heard was someone telling me, ‘If there is only one team rule allowed, make it ‘Tell the Truth,’” Starsia says. “Be willing to acknowledge that you don’t know all the answers.”
Youngsters crave information, and they’re going to come to their coaches looking for it.
“Kids want more things explained these days, so do not be afraid to tell them the truth,” Starsia says. “It’s OK to say, ‘I am still thinking about it, let’s work through it on the practice field.’”
LET LOOSE WITH THE SMILES
“Smiling is allowed, don’t be afraid to make this fun,” Starsia says. “Along this journey, you will find that people learn better and are more open to new ideas when they have a smile on their face. It starts with you. If you can communicate the joy of coaching, your players will join in.”
Grant Parr, a leading mental sports performance coach and author of The Next One Up Mindset: How To Prepare For The Unknown, on embracing roles, visualizing success, and more
A leading youth soccer expert on the importance of strong relationships between coaches and referees – and how to make it happen
University of Tulsa football coach Philip Montgomery shares his practice exit strategy to help bolster players' mindsets and build confidence
The quiet eye and predictive control: how they impact performance