Cool. And not so cool

If you want to just watch this clip, it is about 10 seconds long, and it shows a 3rd grader named Tyrik Petway make an incredible, buzzer-beating behind-the-back shot from nearly half court. It is pretty fun and cool. But if watching the entire You Tube video makes us wonder if these little kids really are enjoying themselves with the screaming parents who seem to be a little too “into it.” It’s great to cheer, but you be the judge is this is a little much and should be toned down.

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When Coaches Cheat

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

Sometimes youth coaches who cheat make national news, as was the case recently when it became known that this summer’s feel-good youth baseball story, of Jackie Robinson Little League winning the World Series, was tainted. But more often, cheating in youth sports is hidden in the shadows. However, even the slightest “bending” of the rules by a coach can have long-term, significant consequences.

An article recently ran in the Los Angeles Times sports section entitled, Little Lie Got Him in to Play Baseball 59 Years Ago, by respected columnist Bill Dwyre. The article juxtaposed the Jackie Robinson Little League story with that of a young African-American boy, Phil Hart, and his white friend, Gary Cagan. Hart admits that the Jackie Robinson scandal has brought back memories about his initiation into youth league baseball. When he was eleven, (he’s now 70), he tagged along to one of Cagan’s Little League practices to watch. The coach asked if he wanted to play and found out he was good. The only problem was, he lived outside league boundaries. So the coach concocted a plan to list Hart’s address as Cagan’s. Hart was then able to play for the team, which won the city championship. The twist in the story was that Gary Cagan is now a somewhat notorious figure, claiming to be an informant in the Oklahoma City bombing and having served prison time for insurance fraud. Meanwhile, Phil Hart has gone on to a successful career and says he often wonders why his white friend’s life went awry.
But I read something deeper in this story: Think about the message this Little League coach taught all of those kids; namely that it is OK to break the rules in order to win. Now think about what happened down the road with Cary Gagan’s life. Is it a stretch to say that he was influenced by the example set by this coach? Maybe. Phil Hart turned out fine and presumably the other kids on the team didn’t all become criminals. But isn’t it possible that one eleven year-old boy, who likely idolized his coach, was deeply imprinted by these actions and, like a train switching tracks, was sent in a new and jaded direction that affected his perceptions and decisions for life?

This is why, even if the kids from JRLL didn’t know what the grownups had done, it was important that they experience consequences. I have heard pundits saying that they don’t believe the kids from Jackie Robinson should be punished because it is the adults who broke the rules. I have even heard some say the rule breaking itself was not such a big deal – that probably lots of leagues do it. But here’s where those of us who are deeply entrenched in the value of youth sports disagree with those sentiments. Youth sports is not so much about winning as it is about life lessons and leadership. One of those lessons should be that if you cheat, you will be caught and there will be punishment. The young boy in this story, Gary Kagan, learned 59 years ago that cheating is OK, and it even pays.

The guess is that most coaches reading this don’t believe themselves to be cheaters. But even if you “bend the rules” by fudging playing time restrictions, putting players in positions they are not supposed to play, or other such “minor” oversights that you can justify as not being a big deal, your players are watching. Yes, the kids at Jackie Robinson Little League did have their title vacated after the fact. However, since we cannot strip these players of their glory and the experience, the punishment handed down will be titular at best. And what these impressionable youngsters really learned from the adults in their charge might end up manifesting itself in a tragic manner years down the road.

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.booksbygotta.com. He can be reached at brian@coachdeck.com

Who Are The Best Coaches?

By Adrian Parrish

July 30th, 1966 is the day that all English Football Fans can look back upon with nostalgia. Although I was not alive, I know it is the only reason we have a solitary star above the crest on our national team’s soccer jersey. But it was the World Cups of 1986 in Mexico and 1990 in Italy that I was inspired by some of the world’s greatest players. Diego Maradona of Argentina and Paul Gascoinge of England inspired many youth players such as myself during their respective World Cups. The soccer world witnessed them take the game to another level. Both players had the skills, talents and ability to inspire their own team-mates, but also had young players dreaming and imitating them throughout fields and playgrounds in most of the world. This turned these great soccer legends, into soccer coaches.

In the 21st century street soccer has largely disappeared, but the greatest game in the world is more popular than ever. Like so many fellow Brits, I am gaining great satisfaction helping develop US youth players to compete at the highest possible level. In the 5 years I have been living in the United States, I have witnessed the game change so rapidly. With nearly 11 million Youth Players playing in the United States, it is easy to see why it is a game for all to be involved with and have fun.

People around the globe know that this country is becoming a force in the world’s most popular game. Along with the growth of the game in the African Nations there is a reason why the US Mens National team sits proudly in the top five FIFA rankings. There are many reasons for the growth of the sport in the US, but nobody should underestimate the work that US Youth Soccer, USSF and NSCAA have put in to help raise the level, especially through coach education and grassroots soccer.

A majority of today’s youth players have coaches that can inspire them whether their coach is a volunteer parent or a paid professional; they have somebody that has the desire and willingness to shape their life through sport. If you were to ask people that have been fortunate enough to make a career from sports; majority of them will thank a coach that worked with them during their youth. As a child playing the game in England, I never had a professional coach with any qualifications until I was 16 years old.

If you recall back to your own childhood I am sure you will remember playing pick-up games with your friends, or throwing a football or baseball with your parents, I often wonder where did those scenes go? It saddens me that those times have changed and I believe this is because a child’s social life is as busy and organized as an adults work life. Apart from watching great soccer players like Maradona & Paul Gascoinge, the best coaches during my youth soccer career were my parents. Not only did they transport me around from game to game and watch without commenting, but they encouraged and received satisfaction from watching me practice in my own back yard, trying to impersonate my soccer heroes.

(Watching professional soccer) offers coaches and parents the opportunity to help our youth soccer players build a real passion for the game. We can all learn from it and build the game to even higher limits. Every, pass, shot, dribble and tackle will be broadcast live on television, and still one of the best ways to learn is by watching the world’s greatest players performing.

Trying to get your players to watch the game is not an easy task, so as coach’s and parents we can encourage this by watching it with them. You can commentate on what the players did and what was successful. Then have the players provide you with feedback and give their opinions on the game.

Have the youth player watch an individual who plays in a position that they like to play. Most children like to score goals and play as a striker, but have them observe more than just the final product. Watch the runs that the forwards make to create these opportunities and then see if they can reproduce the skill in a practice or game. This is a good tip for the older or more skilled player.

All of my life I played defense, but I would watch the bigger picture and was mesmerized by the players who would beat their opponent on the dribble with great skill and moves. After the game my father and I would go outside to play 1v1 so I could mimic the player I had just watched. One soccer ball, a patch of grass and probably 20 minutes was all I needed to have fun as a child. Many coaches have approached me with the problem of trying to get players to do soccer work at home. Have the players write a report on a game and bring it back to the next practice; this may sound boring to the child, but what will happen is the child will pay greater attention to what is going on and probably end up going outside and start playing with the ball.

Thanks to my parents the game of soccer is in my blood; I live, breath and drink the game. So why not help our young soccer players to become better soccer players not just by coaching them during scheduled practice times but to love the game beyond the field.

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

Donate Double

Until Midnight tonight, any donation you make to UNICEF to save children’s lives is doubled. So even if you can just spare $10.00 – that turns into $20.00. Do you know far $20.00 (or a little more?) will go? You can give here.

Do You Want to Be a Youth Coach?

By Jeffrey Rhoads

Are you thinking about becoming a youth coach? Besides considering your qualifications to teach your sport, you will run through a number of questions in your mind including, “Do I want to get involved? Am I ready to commit my time and energies?” Implicit in these personal questions is another one: “What are the benefits?”

If you’re coaching your own son or daughter, the benefits may seem obvious. But there are a host of other reasons to coach youth sports–both good ones and bad ones.

Coaching youth sports provides a coach with many internal rewards including a strong sense of personal satisfaction in teaching young children how to both participate in and enjoy sports. As a coach, there’s a special feeling in knowing that your efforts have helped a young player realize that they too can contribute and play the sport–seeing their self-esteem takes a step forward as a result of your efforts.

When I coach, I enjoy building a team–developing each player’s skills and understanding of the game, and then watching a bond slowly form among them as they begin to share a common goal. More selfishly, I like being part of a team, competing, and staying connected to the child inside me. I also enjoy playing basketball with my former players when they become adults, each of us appreciating the unique community and circle we are a part of.

What about the reasons not to coach? If you’re competitive to the point that this attitude dominates your coaching decisions and behavior, you may want to step aside and let someone else coach. Screaming at the officials and your players, placing too great an emphasis on winning (versus fun and learning), and using an overly critical teaching style, are all characteristics of the potentially hurtful youth coach.

But If your heart’s in the right place, and you feel that you’re reasonably qualified to coach youth, why not give it a try?

Here’s a story that describes my first “big” moment in coaching. If you’re still on the fence about coaching, you may find it helpful. As you read the following words, ask yourself how you would feel if you were in my place. What rewards would you take away from this experience?

As a town recreation counselor during my college summers, I taught fourth through sixth graders fundamental basketball skills and also officiated their games. At the end of the summer, an All-Star game was played between teams representing each of our town’s two parks.

On the team that I coached was a sixth grader named Chris who was an outgoing boy who loved to shoot the ball and score. But when it came to playing good defense, or expending energy on anything other than the offensive side of his game, Chris seemingly could care less. He had a somewhat lackadaisical attitude toward the game.The All-Star game was closely contested and went into overtime. With little time left and the score tied, I called a timeout and ran through what I wanted my team to do. Chris, bending over, still breathing hard from his all-out defensive effort, looked up at me and proclaimed, “Coach, if we win this game, I promise to hustle the rest of my life!”

More experienced coaches and parents are probably accustomed to these types of statements from young boys. But for me back then, it was all I could do not to burst out laughing at this unexpected and exceedingly earnest statement. Besides the humor of Chris’s prospective life commitment, I was also struck by his desire to succeed and willingness to expend all of his remaining energies to help our team win. That moment revealed a noble part of Chris’s character I hadn’t seen before.

I don’t remember whether our team won or lost the game, but I haven’t forgotten that timeout. To finish the story, I happened to run into Chris years later when he was a young adult. He introduced himself to me, and we talked briefly about those summers in the town park. Before our conversation ended, Chris said, “Coach, do you remember that All-Star game I played in?” I told him I did. He went on to talk about the thrill he experienced playing in that game. Years later, that game still represented a fulfilling moment in Chris’s life–a proud remembrance of meeting a challenge early in life and playing to the best of his ability.

Although Chris’s experience came in the heat of an All-Star game, I’ve many times since seen the same response from players of limited skill engaged in a competitive game. They too have found themselves playing an integral, exciting part in something larger than themselves. They’ve also experienced the personal satisfaction of contributing to the success of their team, whether it was sinking a shot or setting a screen that freed a teammate to score.

So Coach, “Are you in?”

Jeffrey Rhoads has coached youth sports for over 25 years and worked with all levels of young players. He is the author of The Joy of Youth Sports: Creating the Best Youth Sports Experience for Your Child. His blog, Inside Youth Sports, can be found at:http://www.insideyouthsports.org.
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