One of the most rewarding things about working here at LeagueApps is the opportunity to connect with the leaders of local communities – people who actually have the potential to impact the future of the area around them. Matt Bond is the head coach, owner, and founder of SixFifty Lacrosse in California. Going into our interview, I knew Matt was going to provide me with a great perspective on the world of youth lacrosse. What I ended up getting was much, much more.
When asking the owner of an elite sports club what the goals of their organization are, you would expect to almost always hear, “win at all costs.” What I heard from Matt was entirely different. He explained that the entire purpose of SixFifty Lacrosse was to be a pillar of support for the youth in the surrounding area. He shared that his program and day-to-day actions are his, “personal labor of love.”
Matt did eventually agree that at least part of the drive for his coaches and players was to win games. The reward, he said, was not taking home trophies, but growing his players into well-rounded young men. As role models, the key is to, “invest in the personal development [of the players]…where are they now, and where are they going to be when they’re 17?”
That is something that every coach should be asking. Many players have the dream of growing up and to continue playing at the elite level, be it in Division I college sports, or professionally. The sad reality is that less than 1% of players ever get the chance to live out their dream. Matt touched on how important it is for coaches to realize this, and look at the future of each and every athlete. By doing this, they can shape each player into a complete individual that will be successful at whichever path they choose to live their life. “The worst thing that we can do as adults is push a child down a path that they did not choose on their own.”
Pushing to get a deeper understanding of why Matt thought this was on his shoulders was quickly met with a response, “coaches have the greatest opportunity to impact a generation than any other group.” He went on to explain that there is no larger common denominator between the world’s youth than sports. It is truly a universal language that everyone can relate to. Regardless of economic status, intelligence, or religion – sport is what binds us all together.
The challenges around coaches fulfilling their obligations to their participants isn’t seen in the weight room or on the field – rather it is seen in offices and on the sidelines. “You get to see the good and the bad. It’s the things that hurt that stick with you, if the kids don’t have an adult to guide them, they’ll get lost.” Coaches see the greatest joy coming from winning a tournament, and the darkest lows – sometimes coming from the loss of a loved one.
So why then have we seen player retention rates drop over the past few decades? Matt thinks that it has nothing to do with the joy of the game, but rather the pressure that comes associated with playing. “There is pressure to win at all costs.” He mentioned a stat that I have read a few times since joining the LeagueApps team – one out of every three children in the U.S. plays some sort of competitive sport. Of that number, 70% quit by the time they reach high school. Many organizations stress winning as the most important goal for their players, when in reality, the coaches and organizers should be focusing on growing each player as an individual.
Which brings me to the perfect opportunity to shamelessly plug the most inspiring aspect of the SixFifty program. Each year, Matt brings around thirty members of his club down to Costa Rica. Not for a leisurely trip, but instead to give the players an opportunity to become well-rounded young men.
During the trip, the team plays against the Costa Rican National Team and helps prepare players for the international scene. They also visit local schools equipped with their own gear and expose the area’s youth to a game that they probably never would have experienced otherwise.
To learn more about SixFifty Lacrosse and follow the club, head over to their website for updates as they happen.