What the Stoics Can Teach Us About Being a Lacrosse Goalie
By Coach Damon on August 5, 2019
Awhile back I spoke with Tim McGeeney for the podcast and the topic of Stoicism came up multiple times.
Stoici – what now?
For those that have never heard of Stoicism, the Stoics were a group of ancient philosophers dating back to 3BC.
Many modern Stoics consider this branch philosophy as guidance for how they live their lives now in the 21st century.
Remember Russell Crowe’s man crush on Marcus Aurelius in the Gladiator?
Marcus Aurelius was one of the most famous Stoic philosophers whose writing and teachings help modern day Stoics live amazing lives.
The most powerful man in Rome sat down each each day to write to himself notes about restraint, compassion and humility – elements of Stoic philosophy.
Stoicism is a tool that we can use to become not only better lacrosse goalies but also better friends and better people.
Let’s explore it a little more and I’ll share some Stoic exercises that help your lacrosse goalie game.
Brief History of Stoicism
When most people hear the word “philosophy”, they think of a boring intro college course that they need to graduate.
Stoicism is not that. It’s a practical set of exercises and ways of thinking that really help you live.
Stoicism has just a few central teachings.
It sets out to remind us of how unpredictable the world can be. How brief our moment of life is. How to be steadfast, and strong, and in control of yourself.
And finally, that the source of our dissatisfaction lies in our impulsive dependency on our reflexive senses rather than logic.
Stoicism is a way of acting, living, and thinking that helps you deal with adversity and difficulty.
It’s not a set of ethics or principles. It’s a collection of spiritual exercises designed to help people through the difficulty of life.
That’s why it’s incredibly popular amongst high performers including those in the athletic space.
The Stoic philosophers drew constant parallels between the athlete and the philosopher, claiming that body and mind are one, and that mental dispositions are crucial for performance. I agree.
Even you’re interested in the slightest in learning more about Stoicism I suggest Ryan Holliday’s site the Daily Stoic. Much of this post is inspired by articles Ryan has written.
To sum it up, Stoicism as a philosophy is really about the mental game of life.
Here are a few Stoic philosophies that you can use in your lacrosse game.
Events Don’t Upset You. Beliefs Do.
The Stoics say there are no good or bad events, there’s only perception.
Let’s use a real-world example to explain that point.
The women (or man) you’re enamored with dumps you. Do you feel sad? Yep. Like the world is going to end sad.
Okay, same scenario, but afterwards you find out that person was actually a psychopath who killed their last three partners. Now do feel sad you got dumped?
No, you’re thrilled you escaped alive.
So clearly “getting dumped” isn’t the important factor here.
What changed? Nothing but your beliefs.
Most of the bad feelings you have are caused by irrational beliefs.
Next time you’re feeling negative emotions on the lacrosse field from giving up a goal, don’t focus on the event of giving up a goal. Ask yourself what belief you hold about giving up goals. And then ask yourself if it’s rational:
- “I should be saving every shot”
- “I’m letting my team down if I make a mistake”
- “I’m not a good goalie because I gave up that goal”
Revise your beliefs and you can change your feelings: “Even if I give up goals, I can always save the next one and our team can win”.
Amor Fati – A Love of Fate
The Stoics practice a philosophy called Amor Fati which means “a love of fate”.
Amor fati is the Stoic mindset that you take on for making the best out of anything that happens,
So when you give up 5 goals in a row. When you get pulled at halftime. When your coach tells you that you’ve lost the battle to be the starter.
You’re not pissed about it. You don’t even just “accept” it.
You actually feel great about it. Because if it happened, then it was meant to happen, and we’re glad that it did because we can learn from it.
I understand it’s completely unnatural to react positively to all those events I described above. But what might you learn from those experiences?
Now you know what giving up a run of goals feels like and get yourself back into the game and not get pulled the next time it happens – because spoiler alert – it will happen again.
It’s unnatural – I know – to love being relegated to being a backup or to be declined from the top college program you wanted to play for.
But we can chose to love it because it is fuel for you to push harder. Fuel for you to work harder when you want to quit. The opportunity to show the team what you’re made of.
Amor Fati is loving whatever happens to us and facing it with unfailing cheerfulness and strength.
Control What You Can. Ignore The Rest.
My college lacrosse coach would say all the time – fellas, control what we can control. Only years later do I realize he was actually tapping into a key Stoic principle.
Because an important aspect Stoicism is just asking yourself, “Can I do anything about this?”
The Stoics believed that worrying about things that were out of our control had a negative effect on our performance.
When you focus on an uncontrollable thing, your head is no longer in the game. Stress, anxiety, and poor performance quickly follow.
So much of what worries us as lacrosse goalies we actually have NO direct control over:
- playing time
- referee’s calls
- playing conditions
- trash talking from the other team
- and on and on ….
Worry about anything on that list above is not doing to make it better. In fact, worrying about those things distracts you from you really should focusing on – the controllables.
So what exactly can you control as a lacrosse goalie?
- Your preparation
- Your attitude
- Your focus
- Your effort
- Your fitness
- Your nutrition
- Your body language
So I encourage each lacrosse goalie (or coach) reading this to control what you can control.
Next time you’re worrying, pause and ask yourself, “Do I have control over this?”
If you can control it, there’s no need to worry – get to work!
If you can’t control it, ignore it.
Another common Stoic practice is called premeditatio malorum (the pre-meditation of evils).
The famous Stoic Seneca wrote:
What is quite unlooked for is more crushing in its effect, and unexpectedness adds to the weight of a disaster. This is a reason for ensuring that nothing ever takes us by surprise. We should project our thoughts ahead of us at every turn and have in mind every possible eventuality instead of only the usual course of events…
Premeditatio malorum is a Stoic exercise of imagining things that could go wrong, so in the event that they do wrong, we are better prepared to handle the situation.
I think it’s pretty obvious how Premeditatio malorum can help us prepare for the inevitable setbacks of being a lacrosse goalie.
- What if I give up a goal on the first shot of the game?
- What if I give up 5 goals in a row?
- What if I miss a save on a slow shot?
Mentally as lacrosse goalies we must prepare for these scenarios. Then when they do occur in the game we’re better equipped to handle them.
This is the reason I tell all my goalies to develop a post-goal routine.
Instead of slamming our stick or displaying poor body language, since we already rehearsed these scenarios in our head we know how to handle it.
We know how to give a run of 5 goals and still maintain calm and leadership amongst your boys (or gals).
Anticipation doesn’t magically make things easier, of course. But we are more prepared for them.
Expect to have a great game or a great practice, but just be ready in case for the setbacks.
Stoicism as a philosophy is really about the mental game. So it’s no surprise that is has been widely embraced by professional athletes, coaches, and the sports community as a whole.
So much of what we do has lacrosse goalies involves the mental game so I argue a simple understanding Stoicism and its exercises will help any goalie.
In this post I touch on just 4 Stoic principles and exercises:
- Event don’t upset us. Beliefs Do.
- Amor Fati
- Control what you can control
- Premeditatio Malorum
By working these mental exercises into our lives, we can be better goalies, better athletes, better humans.
Once again, if you’re interested in learning more about Stoicism, I highly recommend Ryan Holliday’s books.
Until next time! Coach Damon
Anyone have another Stoic principle they use in their training? Let me know in the comments down below.