Never Mind The Boo-Birds…that's the name of my band. Well, not really. I don't have a band and I have very little musical talent, if any at all. Anyway, never mind the boo-birds is the topic of this blog…obviously, you guys! It means ignore the doubters, the cynics, the critics and the haters. When we are athletes (or participate in any walk of life for that matter), these are the types of people that we will all run into at one point or another. You see it everyday in professional sports, on the talk shows and on the papers. They actually pay people really good money to criticize athletes and stir up drama! From the harsh criticism of pros on television, this insidious cancer works it's way down into youth sports. Athletes of all ages may experience it with fans, reporters, teammates, coaches, opponents and the list goes on and on. The saddest part is that this negativity filters down to even the youngest levels. For little guys on youth teams, maybe it's another player's parent who believes their son is better than another player and is very vocal in voicing that opinion. In whatever manner it happens and from whomever it comes from, criticism and negativity is an unfortunate, everyday aspect of sports and of life at this point in our evolution (which seems stunted in this manner).

Personally, I dealt with criticism throughout my sports career, especially in lacrosse with a high-profile coach as a father. I remember hearing kids saying at a camp when I was seven, "That kid's really not that good for having a father that's an assistant coach at Hopkins!". Then in high school, the lacrosse forums started and there were people on there that said I was not worthy of getting recruited and the only reason that I did so was because of my father. The rumor got back to me early in college that a couple of legendary coaches thought I would never be good enough to play at the Division I level. They would continue to say the same type of things when I made the pros and two national teams. Even after I won almost every award and championship that you can win in lacrosse, there were still people that said I stunk! The criticism and put-downs went on through my pro and international career, into my coaching career and still happen today when I write blogs or coach our youth and high school club teams.

If someone ever wanted to give me respectful, constructive criticism, I would be all ears and happy to learn and grow. But, most of the time when people criticize us in the athletic world, it is not constructive, by any means. For the most part, the people who do this are probably unconscious of their own negativity and it would be pure speculation to try and figure out their personal motivations behind doing something like this. Many times, these people do not even have the courage to put their name next to their criticism of you. They will post their thoughts on an anonymous board or comment section with absolutely no accountability. I do not understand why this happens, as I have never personally had the impulse to tear someone down. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

But, you know what? Through all this time and understanding all these things, it has never become any easier for me. It still stings like it did when I was that seven-year old who first heard other kids say that he wasn't good enough. I was trying my best then, just as I continue to try my best at other things now. Sometimes it feels like people just think that athletes or coaches in the sports world are robots or machines that are there for their pleasure to insult. I'm not sure if I will ever get used to it, to be honest. The irony in me writing these blogs is that every time I do it, I have to face that fear of getting criticized and I absolutely dread it! But, I do it anyway because I love to write and I love to share my experiences with others. This is just like when I was an athlete and continued to play because I loved the game and wanted to push myself to be my best.

Therein lies my point of this writing to young athletes out there.
Whether it's right or wrong, there are going to be people out there who are going to want to tear us down. There are going to be people who do not believe in us. There is sadly going to continue to be negativity in the world, especially in our athletic world. But, it's important for us to continue to work hard and do what we love to do. It's important for us to use the negativity as inspiration to keep getting better and better and be greater and greater. And through all the negativity and pain that people try to push out on to you, the most important factor may be that we keep smiling through it all and try not to let the doubts get to us. At the end of the day, if we allow the negativity to stop with us and not keep perpetuating it, then we have really done something great!

That's why it is so important to ignore the boo-birds, the doubters, the critics and the haters. When they shout at and heckle us from the sidelines, do not even give them the satisfaction of letting them know you hear them. When the rumors from other parents or other players get back to us, let those beliefs and drama end with us by simply feeling whatever comes up and not reacting negatively back at those people. When the anonymous online world wants to sit behind their computers and say things that have no merit, just stay away from that environment. By letting the negativity stop with us, we are providing others with a different example and a more positive way to live.

So, the greatest lesson (and the one that I am still learning myself) is that it is important for us to be who we want to be, speak from our heart, and live the life that we want for ourselves.
If people want to criticize us and try and stop us from doing that, well that's just too bad for them and is more than enough reason for them to be ignored.