February OnDeck Newsletter released tomorrow

Tomorrow we will be sending out our popular OnDeck Newsletter. You can get it delivered to  your inbox as well by signing up for free here. Enjoy this month’s issue!

Play More Games

By Brian Gotta President of CoachDeck

Where I live, in Southern California, youth sports spring seasons have already begun to ramp up. I observe preseason practices taking place and am amazed and saddened by the lack of spirit wherever I look. Drills are being run by well-meaning coaches and kids are doing what is asked of them, but no one seems to be having much fun. Here is an easy solution that can be adopted tomorrow by any coach who wants to:

Play more games.

Ask yourself this: Would you rather work at something or play it? I remember having a discussion several years back with a fellow Little League board member. The topic of the conversation was whether youth sports should be competitive. He said, “If you put a ball on the ground between people, there is going to be competition.” How basic, and how true. Yet the kids we coach aren’t competing as they naturally would, because we won’t let them!

I walk by baseball practices. Fly balls being hit to kids who may or may not catch the ball, then may or may not make a good throw back in. There’s no one even to throw to. Just get it near the bucket. Ground balls being hit and fielded. No apparent object to the exercise except to work on fielding.

I see soccer practices. Kids in line taking turns receiving passes and shooting on goal. No one remembers whether it went in or not the minute after it is kicked. Players dribble through cones and then get in line to go back the other way. I’m bored just writing about it.

Think about how many times you’ve started a sentence with, “Let’s work on…,” or “We’re going to work on…” compared to how many times you’ve said, “We’re going to play…”. When you start a sentence with “We’re going to play…” watch all the kids look up from the ground with smiling faces and expectant looks in their eyes. Now you’ve got their attention!

I can’t imagine running any of the above drills, or any others for that matter, without turning them into an exciting competition the kids will love. And if you’re wondering how, grab a CoachDeck because these drills and 50 others are in there and every one contains a unique, “Make it a game,” feature. Maybe it was because my siblings were all much older then I am so by the time I was in grade school I was essentially an only child. And there was no X-Box. I made up games for everything, even if I was alone, competing against myself. Even if you’re training one player you can make boring drills more fun simply by using a stopwatch and going for “record” times.

Come on, coaches…get inventive! Let your kids do what they inherently want to do, which is compete against each other, play games – have fun! You’ll see better attendance at practices, and your kids will be more prepared for real games. And guess who else will have more fun at practice? You will. Getting the kids together at the field tonight? Don’t work on anything with them. It will be the best practice you’ve run all year.

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

Velocity Concerns Before and During Puberty

By Dan Gazaway

It’s been my experience, teaching many pitchers throughout the years, that velocity comes with maturity and when proper mechanics are incorporated in a pitcher’s delivery.

Many coaches are concerned if their athlete is on the low end of the totem pole when it comes to hurling the heat.  For good reason to, velocity is important, however, it’s very difficult to tell how much potential a pitcher truly has until after they mature if your only looking at velocity.  There are so many other things to consider when rating a pitcher.

As I was working with one of my students tonight who just turned 16 (I started working with him when he was 12) I remembered him battling with velocity until he was about 15.  Throughout many of the lessons he would bring up how slow he threw, his father would often ask if his boy really had what it took to pitch.

This pitcher is a late bloomer, but he stuck with it and it has paid off big time for him. Now he is throwing hard and his pitches are moving a lot more.  I honestly think he wouldn’t be the pitcher he is today if he wouldn’t have been annoyed by how slow he was throwing.  He is dedicated and has worked very hard to be where he is now.

I still believe he will put on another 5 mph by the end of this year because its just that time for him and his mechanics are solid.  Most of his momentum is going where it needs to go and there is hardly a wasted movement in his delivery.

I’ve taught several pitchers like him that mature late.  Many think they don’t have what it takes to be a pitcher because of velocity alone, but that simply isn’t the case during adolescent years.

If you yourself aren’t throwing as hard as some of the other boys your age and you have a strong desire to pitch, stick with it.  Keep working very hard on your mechanics, core strength training, speed and agility etc. and you may just surprise yourself and others later. Have you noticed that some kids that seem to have a natural ability to throw a baseball early on don’t seem to have the work ethic to make it far?  Those that have weaknesses in sports, but have a burning desire to do whatever it takes to overcome it, seem to make it further than those that have it easy in their youth simply because they think they don’t have to work as hard.  The fact is, those that put in the time and dedication are the ones that succeed the most.

I recall I was one of the fastest pitchers in our little league from 10-12 years old; then a crazy thing happened, it seemed like I couldn’t throw hard anymore.  All of the other pitchers in my grade were throwing hard and I couldn’t; it didn’t help that I was 6 months younger than everyone.  But what happened? I turned into one of the slowest, if not the very slowest pitcher from about 13-15 years old.

I remember hearing in the dugouts “man this kid throws slow”; then I would strike them out or they would hit a slow roller.  Luckily I had an awesome coach and great pitching coaches who believed in me and kept me pitching most every game.  Later on, within 6 months to a year, I became one of the fastest pitchers again.

Stick to proper mechanics, keep a solid work ethic and believe in yourself and you’ll always know you gave it your all with no regrets.  That work ethic will follow you wherever you go in life.

Dan Gazaway is Owner and Founder of The Pitching Academy (www.thepitchingacademy.net). He has instructed over 2,000 pitchers in the last seven years and received a Bachelor’s Degree as a Health Education Specialist at Utah State University. He is a motivational speaker for topics ranging from attitude, goal-setting and leadership and be contacted at contact@thepitchingacademy.net.

Three Tips for Teaching Players to Finish

By Adrian Parrish

Have you ever been in a situation where you control the whole game, out-shoot your opponents and end up losing by one goal? Opportunities to score may have been handed to your team for easy goals when the keeper spilled the ball but your team failed to capitalize on this because they never followed up their shots.

As coach’s we conduct shooting session’s focusing on the technique, but how often do we focus on the tactical and psychological part of finishing? Many times our players believe the harder they hit the ball the better the chance they have of scoring, when a majority of goals could be scored by simply slotting the ball in and finishing with finesse.

No matter how good a shooter you are you have to practice finishing not just shooting. There will be games when the opponent’s keeper is just too good or lucky for you to rely only on your shooting skills. Below are some good practice tips that can be used with most shooting activities/games to
improve a player’s ability to finish:

Tip #1: Taking the Opportunity
A striker’s confidence will be high when they are scoring goals, but it will be very low when they are missing the opportunities, this may result in them even refusing to take shots. If they are creating chances we need to keep encouraging this, from there the minimal request I have for them is to make the goalkeeper work, the maximum I can demand of a player is to score.

When conducting finishing and attacking practice sessions, during the warmup have the players play into the keeper, this will help them hit the target, warmup both sets of players and they will be reaching your minimal request. As in every other practice session we then add pressure and make the activity a little more complex, so as well as adding defenders, raise your demands to request that the players score.

Tip #2: Terminology
When I observe coach’s conducting shooting sessions I will often hear them instruct their players to shoot. As long as the player gets the shot off, no matter of the end result, the coach will often be satisfied. If the shot misses the target, a coach will tell the player that they are unlucky. This could make the player believe that the coach is satisfied with any kind of shot. Instead of shouting shoot, encourage the players to finish.

Tip #3: Following up the Rebound
Lazy attackers have a bad tendency of watching their shots when they “know” that the shot is going in. They then miss the opportunity to score when the ball hits the posts or bar or is batted down by the keeper, and either one of the strikers fail to follow in.

Adding special requirements to a practice can help solve this problem. On any shot that an attacker takes, that attacker has three seconds after shooting to enter the goal and touch the net or the goal is disallowed. This ingrains the habit of going to the goal every time they shoot.

Great shots, no matter how pretty, only count once the ball enters the goal. There are no style points in soccer. Ruud Van Nistelrooy of Manchester United and Holland may be one of the world’s best strikers but he scores majority of those goals with toe poke or tap in from inside the six yard box and those goals count the same number as that beautiful 30-yard scorcher that hits the top corner of the net.

Adrian Parrish is the Director of Coach & Player Development for the Kentucky Youth Soccer Association. He is responsible for the Coaching Education Program and the management of the Olympic Development Program. A native of Louth, England, Parish currently possesses a USSF “A” License, UEFA “A” License (Pending), and the US Youth Soccer National Youth License. He can be reached at adrianparrish@kysoccer.net

Beating Fear of Failure

By John Ellsworth

Fear of failure is one of the many mental obstacles which can impact athletic performance. It is characterized by the following:

An avoidance of risks. (E.g. plays conservatively, tries to protect score, etc.)
A strong concern about what others think about him/her or his or her performance. (E.g. makes assumptions about what others think, mind reading, etc.)
An avoidance of embarrassment (e.g. avoids mistakes by playing “safe”, fear of what will happen, etc.)

Whatever the symptoms may be, fear of failure ultimately causes athletes to hinder, rather than advance, their ability to succeed. While social approval is desired by all people, regardless of their athletic abilities, is should not be the driving force behind how an athlete performs especially in competition.

I challenge you to answer this question:
Do you compete for yourself, or do you compete for the approval of those in your athletic circle (e.g. coach, teammates, parents, audience, etc.)?

As you ponder the answer to the above question consider how you make decisions or what determines your reactions in your sport. Ask yourself: Do I feel that everyone is watching me when it is my turn? Do I fear how others will react if my performance is very good, or very poor? Do I have ideas or thoughts about what others may be thinking about me or my performance? Do I sometimes feel myself stiffen up when I am in a stressful situation in my sport?

If you have answered even one of the above questions with a “yes” then you likely have a strong fear of failure. While fearing failure is normal, you should begin to change your mind set. Instead of fearing what others may think, protecting your score or playing safe, recognize that there is no failure where you are trying to take your performance to the next level.

Give yourself the “right” to make a mistake. Don’t worry about what others may think or try to read their minds. Focus your energy on making the effort to let your brain trust in your body’s ability. Do this and you will establish a new approach to taking action toward improving your performance.

For more information about this article or for information on mental game coaching contact John R. Ellsworth – Mental Game Coach at Protex Sports, LLC. www.protexsports.com.

Soooo close!

That’s what the Rock Creek Mustangs were thinking in their Kansas Mid-East League 8th Grade Basketball League tournament game against the Riley County Falcons. Watch as time expires in the game. You’ll never see an ending decided by this narrow a margin.

Help PHIT America.org and get a $2000 tax break!

If you already have kids playing sports, or if you are a member of a health club, this is a no-brainer. If you are searching for some financial ‘relief’ from the soaring costs of keeping your child busy playing sports, ask Congress to pass the PHIT (Personal Health Investment Today) Act – today!

In layman’s terms, the PHIT Act is pending Congressional legislation that would allow consumers to use their pre-tax medical accounts to get reimbursed for physical activity expenses that complement a healthy lifestyle, such as health club dues, sports league registration fees, entry fees for road races, pay-to-play school sports fees, personal trainer costs, and many sport-specific equipment purchases. Translation: Up to $2000.00 off  your personal tax bill for doing what you’re doing anyway if this passes!

It takes less than a minute to send a note to your congressional representatives. Just go to PHITAmerica.org and click on Advocate or click here. There is an easy 1-2-3-step process to send an email to your Members of Congress.  “We have made it easy for anyone to have their voice heard. The PHIT Act is a very important piece of legislation for this country. We can help prevent and reduce health care costs while giving families and Americans an incentive to be more active, fit and healthy,” says Jim Baugh, Founder of PHIT America.

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