Preventing sprains

We’d like to share with you a great article from the National Center for Sports Safety article about how you can help avoid injuries by preparation. Read here.

KIDS in the GAME

Our Partners at PHIT America.org would like everyone to know about their alliance with KIDS in the GAME, and organization dedicated to getting children up and active. You can read the press release here.

STOP Sport Injuries “In the Game”

Our partners at STOP Sports Injuries have published their winter newsletter and it is chock full of great information. Articles on prevention of ACL injuries and a Q&A on wrestling nutrition and weight loss are the highlights. Read it here.

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OnDeck Newsletter sent out tomorrow

Our final 2014 OnDeck Newsletters will be on the online newsstands tomorrow. If you’d like your free issues, you can sign up here.

You Get What You Pay For

By Brian Gotta

I received two emails in the same week that were related. The first was from a parent who was seeking advice on how to handle her daughter’s first-ever team sport experience in which the coaches only cared about winning and didn’t let everyone play. The second was from a coach who was removed from his soccer team for focusing more on player development than winning. In both cases, I had a similar response:

The parent who wrote me complained that her fifth grade daughter was trying basketball for the first time and, in the first game, didn’t get in to play at all. She said her daughter cried on the bench, after the game and all the way home. Of course, I felt sorry for the young girl. But something about the story didn’t sound right.

I replied back and asked if this was a competitive or a recreational team. The mother responded that it was a competitive team. She said she’d spoken with the coaches after the game, and they’d told her that they would be trying to win every game and that only the best girls were going to play unless they were way ahead or way behind. They recommended her daughter try recreational basketball.

I get these types of emails frequently, from parents who have put a child on a competitive team and now are upset over lack of playing time or what position their child is playing. I always wonder the same thing. Didn’t they think to ask before they signed up? Weren’t they informed that the objective on this team is to win, only the best will play, and time on the field or the court will have to be earned, not granted? Why then do they complain when their child doesn’t get equal playing time with others? They apparently want it both ways. The idea of playing on the best team seems great until it means their child will be sitting the bench. Then it isn’t fair.

If you want equal playing time, that’s what recreational sports are for. Most rec leagues have rules mandating a certain number of innings or time be given to each child regardless of ability so that everyone gets a chance. The emphasis is not supposed to be primarily on winning, but on player development and enjoyment. If your child isn’t ready for the more competitive environment, (as this mother’s daughter clearly was not as evidenced by the crying), then let them play Little League, or AYSO, or whatever other sport, in a recreational setting. While these types of recreational leagues can still be very competitive, they are designed for players of all skill levels, not just elite athletes.

The other email from the coach seemed like a sadder case to me. Judging by his writing, English was not his first language. He told me he’d played as a youngster, had invested his own time and money into coaching this team as well as in obtaining a coaching license. He didn’t even have a child on the team. He was doing it, as he said, ‘because he loved the game.’ I told him that it was unfortunate that the club had taken such a hard line stance because he seemed to be someone I’d like to have coaching my kids. And like in the previous example, the players were preteen. Still, if the club’s philosophy was only about winning and he wasn’t in line with that mindset, there was no advice I could give him other than to find a recreational soccer club and take his desire to teach youngsters there. Youth leagues are always looking for volunteers, I told him, and I even searched through our database of clubs and referred him to one nearby.

So yes, it is a good idea to know what you’re getting into before you sign up. Ask about playing time and positions before you write the check. If the team doesn’t guarantee that everyone will play and rotate to different positions and yet you still sign up, then don’t complain if it doesn’t work out for your child.

And with all of that said, what kind of 5th grade girls basketball team is SO competitive that some girls just are not going to get to play unless the team is ahead by 20 points? I’m not a basketball coach but I guarantee you I could win some games and still make sure everyone got in for a few minutes, no matter how unskilled they were. In fact, win or lose, I couldn’t imagine coaching both halves, making substitutions, and looking at little kids on the bench but never once putting them in. If everything this mom was telling me was accurate, competitive or rec, shame on those coaches.

And as for the young guy who just wants to coach soccer skills and isn’t as concerned with winning, I feel sorry for the club that decided they didn’t need him. Because based on the brief email correspondence I had with him, they lost a good man. It is amazing how often in youth sports we can’t see the forest for the trees.

Brian Gotta is a former professional youth baseball coach and current volunteer Little League coach and board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels which can be found at www.sportsbooks4kids.com. He can be reached at brian@coachdeck.com

Things My Mother Never Said (Part 3)

By Tony Earp

As a soccer coach, I hear a lot of things said by parents to me or their kids that my mom never said to me growing up. Below is a sample of comments I hear all the time. As a coach, I cringe every time I hear them. Maybe because I never heard them growing up from my mom.

“I will talk to the coach.”

Nope, never, not going to happen… if I had an issue with a coach, I always was forced to discuss it with the coach. My mom never stepped in and expressed concerns for me. I asked my mom why she always made me talk to the coach. Her response was not what I expected.

In short, my mom said to me she would never talk to the coach about what he was doing on the field because she would never expect him to talk to her about what she was doing with me at home. It was a simple point and again a very good one. Can you imagine if your soccer coach knocked on your parents’ door and gave them suggestions how to be better parents? Her view was that he was the coach and she was the parent. She will do what she thinks is best for me and the coach will do what he thinks is best. Both will make mistakes and will need to learn from those errors.

With that in mind, my mom gave me the responsibility to discuss issues with my coach or any adult I felt it was necessary. When I was younger, she would go with me, but would still make me talk. I know there were times she may not have agreed with the coach but she would never express her disagreement to me. Why? Probably because as soon as I knew my mom did not respect the coach’s decision, she knew I would not respect the decision either. She would be giving me the “green light” to dismiss the coach anytime I did not agree with him.

There a lot of lessons my mom was teaching me by doing this, but I will not go into them all. Outside of taking responsibility and learning how to bring up concerns to people of authority in a respectful way, the most important lesson was probably the least obvious. By my mom refusing to talk with the coach, it made me really decide if my concern was important. When a parent will quickly bring up an issue with a coach, a player will be more likely to bring up every little thing seen as an issue with the parent because the parent will discuss it with the coach. When the kid is forced to have the discussion, the child will be a little more selective about what is a REAL issue and what is not.

“You are better than that player.”

I would ask my mom if I was better than player “x” or player “y” because those players were getting more playing time than me or playing in a position I wanted to play. Whether I was better or worse did not matter much to my mom, or at least, she never made it the focus of the rest of the conversation.

In my mom’s heart she probably thought I was the best player to ever wear soccer cleats. She loved watching me play and thought very highly of my ability and potential on the field, but she NEVER compared me to another player. She would let me know when I had good days and bad days, but she would not compare me to any other player on the field. There were no coaching points or suggestions on how to play better, but she would be honest about my level of play. Normally the comments would be limited to things like, “I have seen you play better” or “it just did not seem like your day.” On the positive side it would be limited to, “You worked very hard today” or “It was a lot of fun to watch you play.” She always made it just about me, positive at times and negative at other times. She was not afraid to let me know when it was not my best effort, but never slow to let me know I played well.

Honestly, I am not sure if I know how my mom felt about any of the players I ever played with. She never gave me specific feedback about any players on the field. Her comments about the rest of the team would be very general. She would always refer to the team and never about individual players. After games I would hear, “the team looked great” or “the team seemed a step slow today.” This continued all the way through college.

My mom just focused on me most of the time. I was her focus and none of the other kids were her responsibility. She never spoke about me to other parents or talked about other players with other parents. Although parents may ask, my mom deflected the questions and avoided those types of conversations. It just was not her concern and made a choice not to allow herself to be part of those discussions.

This kept me focused on me. We are quick at times to justify how well or poor we are doing based on others around us. My mom forced me to measure myself against myself. When using other players to decide how well I did can dangerously lower, or raise, my expectations for myself. It can create a false sense of success or a false sense of failure, depending who I would measure myself against. We all compare ourselves to others at times. It is unavoidable. But when you cut through all the distractions, you should measure success or failure against yourself. It takes a deep sense of awareness and the courage to accept the fact you did your best or you never even really tried. Both are hard to admit at times.

As parents and coaches, sometimes it is the things we do not say that have the biggest impact on a child’s ability to be successful. Youth sports is not about the parents or the coaches, it is only about the kids. It is their time to play, learn, and grow. The kids need to experience success and failure, confidence and doubt, courage and fear, anger and joy, and everything else that comes with playing sports. My mom allowed me to experience them all. She did not shelter me from the bad or shower me with the good, and I never got to take the easy road to where I wanted to go.

Tony Earp directs SuperKick/TeamZone Columbus’ Soccer Skills programs. Tony has a Masters in Education from The Ohio State University. Tony was a standout player both academically and athletically at The Ohio State University, earning multiple honors both on the field and in the classroom. He can be reached at tearp@superkickcolumbus.com

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