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Team Captain: Lessons in building & leading a lacrosse team.

There are many lessons to be learned from building and leading a lacrosse team, especially as a captain. The Art Of Lax shares best practices, stories of success and failure and what it means to be a captain.

“Well done is better than well said.” – Cornell University Lacrosse

There’s a section in my resume titled, “Misc./Other/Etc”.  In that section I list personal interests and achievements outside from relevant and professional experiences as a way to keep me from being a one-dimensional person.  One of those subjects are my experiences in starting and running my post-collegiate club lacrosse teams and have been topics of conversations in past interviews and discussions with current work clientele.  In retrospect, starting and running club lacrosse teams have introduced me to the harsh realities and great rewards of the leadership role.

Alexander the Great

“Leaders not only lead by example, they LEAD at the FRONT.”

Alexander the Great was always known for being the “lead horse” when charging into battle, that’s why his men followed him from Macedonia to present-day India.  So you want to start a club lacrosse team?  It’s not just the person(s) with the best idea(s) or the most vocal and/or eloquent speaker; rather it is the person(s) willing to take the FIRST STEP.  Goals and ideas can be discussed in groups and it’s an excellent way to get a lot of viewpoints on the tasks at hand.  But ultimately you have to find where the “rubber meets the road”.  The best leaders are the ones willing to put their thoughts and opinions to the test.  It doesn’t matter what your belief system is; rather, it’s how you translate belief into action.  The lesson here is: Talk is cheap.  

In the nation’s largest and oldest post-collegiate lacrosse league of the A.L.L. (American Lacrosse League), the organized competition usually starts somewhere in late-February but the organizational work start in October.  That work such as searching and budgeting for field space, uniforms, officials and scheduling competition are the details not a lot of people love to do, or truthfully, are not willing to do.  But that organizational work has to get done either before or during a search for another importance to fill for the team – talent.  Yeah, you can wait till after New Year’s to start all the responsibilities but most likely the amount will be like a constant trickle of light snow that sticks to the ground.  Soon enough you will be in a snowball that will turn into an avalanche.  The lessons here are: Discipline and Time Management.  

“You can do anything, but NOT EVERYTHING.”

Remember it’s a TEAM.  There’s offense, defense and the specialty guys.  If your specialty is stopping the shots you better find the ones to do the scoring.  Yes, leaders do have their weaknesses and imperfections, too, so you have to know your limits as well.  In the past, I’ve made the mistake to taking on too much, thinking that I could do it all and fearing others would mess up.  You have to designate the responsibilities.  That midfielder from UPenn working on Wall St. can be the team treasurer.  The FOGO who is an IT guy, can be your webmaster. The advertising account manager on Madison Ave. that plays crease-attack can be in charge of competitive scheduling. The bartender and LSM from a JuCo program can be your team party-planner.  One aspect of leadership ability is admitting to not knowing everything and seeking the roles to fill the gaps.  The lessons here are: Honesty, Personnel Management and Diversity.

Gen. George S. Patton

“Realistically, it’s not a democracy.”

One of my favorite movies is “Patton” starring George C. Scott as the famous American General in World War II.  There’s a scene where his armored column of tanks can’t advance on a single-lane road on a bridge due to a farmer and his horse and carriage not willing to move, while from above, a German fighter plane is strafing Patton’s army!  Patton realizes that his men are “sitting ducks” and takes matters in his own hands by shooting the horse and dumping it over the side of the bridge, thus enabling his men and tanks to proceed and escape from being attacked.

Well, that’s the same kind of deal here.  When it’s you on the watch, it is your watch!  So on your roster of 30 players, 24 have paid seasonal dues of $200 on time.  6 players say that they will get it next week but have been late for the last 2 weeks.  Uniforms have to be ordered and worn by opening whistle on a field that is fully paid for the season.  You as the leader are forced to pay $1200 to cover the lacking 6 player’s dues because in reality they don’t take responsibility—highly unfair. Those 6 players should not be allowed on a team, no matter how much talent they posses.  And when you “axe” them from the team let that be an example to any who try and test those habits on you.  As much as I would like to be “nice & friendly” to all, you have to do what is BEST for the direction of the team and sometimes that means disappointing a few individuals. There will be spoilers among the bunch that will test your “way of the law”.  Do not let a small problem slow down the group.  The lesson here is: You can’t please everybody.

“There is no ‘I’ in TEAM but there is an M and E”.

And that spells ME!  Leaders shouldn’t be self-centered and look at themselves as the only say in the group, but they should reflect on their actions and conduct from time to time.  The best way to do that is to listen to your “staff” for feedback.  In truth, they are your direct audience.  Ask how things should be handled differently or how they would personally do it.  More importantly, ask yourself if you are the kind of leader you, yourself would follow?  Asking questions is not a sign of weakness.  The lesson here is: Self-Assessment.  

But sometimes the unexpected becomes a reality and things just do not work out in the long run.  It HAPPENS.  And what that means for the leader(s) is to really know when to call it quits.  An effective trait of leadership is admitting to fault and not looking for a scapegoat.  I think this is the toughest pill to swallow.  The lesson here is: Accountability.

Final Thoughts.

I can go on about my MANY personal trials as a team leader and warn about the MANY that will come.  But that’s the thing; they will keep coming as long as you undertake the responsibility of running such an enterprise.  I would like to take the following closing points as a personal address to both the player and the leader, respectively.

If you just want to play on a team, that’s cool, too!  It’s a great release from your day-to-day.  But these team leaders aren’t your servants or your serfs.  They are the ones taking a lot of time from their schedule doing the important work – the work off the field.  Respect their rules and what it is they want you to do so that all goes according to plan.  Remember, without them, there wouldn’t be things to do on the weekend, unless sitting on your couch is your activity of choice.  If you can’t stand the leader of the team, then join another team, quit or start a team of your own…

So you want to start a club lacrosse team?  Usually the person who addresses the idea is most likely the one looked to lead.  That’s how things kinda’ work out in this world.  Truthfully, it’s no joke because the role is a very thankless position, but it has its positives.  I get a chance to play lax, not talk or think about work and be with personalities I can relate with.  But no question about it, a lot of the lessons learned in managing a club lacrosse team have contributed to the successful things I’ve done in starting and running The Art of Lax™.

So go ahead, start and run a post-collegiate club lacrosse team or just any team, whatsoever.  The days and nights of organizing can be long, lonely and boring but you will be contributing to the growth and exposure and that’s always a good thing for the sport of lacrosse!  But you too, will be growing, more like developing better things and habits for yourself – the team leader.

And don’t be afraid to put it down on your resume.  It has definitely prepared me for life.


Some teams and I ran and organized for leagues and tourneys in the past:

Rhinos Lacrosse Club--Jersey Shore Summer Lax League 2002-2004


Team Cobra--War at the Shore 2007


Team Crank--War at the Shore 2009


Brooklyn Lacrosse Club--Grow Lax Tournament 2009
With Chris Korzonkeiwicz (Hofrsta '99) & Chris Massey (Princeton '98)
Brooklyn Lacrosse Club--Champions, Salt Shakerz Invitational 2011

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