A baseball bat, gratitude and love

You may have seen this by now, but if you haven’t, please take a moment to watch as a dad surprises his son with the birthday present he’s been wanting. The result will have you wiping your eyes.

Check out this month’s OnDeck

Our OnDeck newsletter is out. Did you miss it? Well you can view our soccer and baseball/softball issues now, and get caught up. Lots of great articles, lots of great offers, and loads of enjoyment. Make sure you sign up so you get all future issues.

July OnDeck Newsletter slated for tomorrow

We have some great articles and offers in our July, 2016 OnDeck Newsletters which go out tomorrow. If you’d like to have either our soccer or our baseball/softball issues sent to your inbox, sign up here and never miss an edition!

Giving Signs From Third Base

By Dave Holt

While umpiring I like to mess with youth coaches some times. I will see a third base coach touching all these areas on their bodies for baseball signs like in a situation when there are runners on second and third base and two outs.

Obviously this is not a time to put on any signs or plays. The batter will be starring down at him as he goes through his repertoire of plays indicating a baseball sign is on. There is no chance of a bunt, steal or hit and run play.

Between innings I will ask him in a friendly tone, I’m trying to learn the game and can you help me? Can you tell me what plays you are giving the batter in that situation?

Boy, do they dance around that one. They start scrambling for a logical answer which they cannot come up with and usually admit they basically just want everyone to look at them before every pitch no matter what.

The simplest sign system is usually used when you have a one game league all-star game or exhibition where players from several teams assemble for a game or two. That is because it is very simple and a fast, easy system to implement.

Coaches get frustrated when players miss signs and it usually hurts the team. How do I make a system that is so simple no one misses signs? Ah Ha. Just use my easy system all the time.

Just pick a HOT indicator. I use the right hand to the bill of the hat. Nothing is on until I touch my right hand to the hat when going through the signs. Touch the indicator and the count is on. All the batters and the baserunners have to do is count how many times I do this particular thing.

Now that the indicator has been touched everyone must pay attention to count the thing I do at the end of the signs. When I do it once, the sacrifice bunt is on, twice and the steal is on. Three times is the hit and run. Four times is the delay steal.

If you think your opponent has picked off your system just change the indicator.

I have a few more individual signs for the things like a squeeze bunt, steal on your own, drag bunt for a hit, rare take sign and stuff like that. These are pretty discreet and I do not use an indicator. But you could if you wanted.

Whatever signs you use keep them simple and do not put on signs when all the batter can do is hit away. Review the signs regularly.

After finishing his professional playing career Dave spent eleven seasons managing in the Red Sox minor league system helping to develop several major league ballplayers. After leaving the Red Sox Dave managed and recruited in the Independent Professional Baseball leagues. He has also coached collegiate wood bat and high school teams. His site, coachandplaybaseball.com is a wealth of information for baseball players and coaches of all levels.

The Not-So-Great Divide

By Brian Gotta

I recently made a visit to Montgomery, AL to see my son play baseball. The town was filled with history, both from the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement. Here was where Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat on the bus, where Martin Luther King, Jr. preached and led marches. Learning more about the events of those times made me wonder how much progress we’ve actually made in all of these years.

I can’t imagine there is anyone not saddened by the state we find ourselves in today, fifty years after the famous march on Montgomery. It seems we, as a society, are retreating even farther into our own camps, separate ideologies and prejudices. Tolerance of differences and celebration of diversity have always been points of pride in America, but everywhere you look it seems those ideals are being trampled by hateful rhetoric and bigotry.

So what does this all have to do with youth sports?

I was thinking about a team of kids aged, eight, nine, ten, eleven or twelve, it doesn’t really matter. And it isn’t important what sport they’re playing, baseball, softball, soccer…anything. The team is comprised of two or three youngsters each who are Christian, Jewish, African-American, Asian, Hispanic, Muslim and Hindu. Their parents come from different places in the world and society, but here are their kids all on the same team.

When a young Asian boy slides in home safely, there is a white and black teammate there to give him a high-five and pat him on the back. When the Middle-Eastern player scores a goal, he’s hugged and congratulated by a young Indian player, joined shortly after by one of his Jewish and Hispanic teammates.

When the team’s manager teaches one of the players how to swing a bat, he does the same for the next and the next, regardless of color or creed. When the soccer coach demonstrates the proper technique to strike the ball, he has each player give it a try one after another, providing the same gentle instruction and encouragement to every child.

I don’t know what the parents would be doing during these games and practices. Would they be on the sideline eying each other suspiciously, or would they commune in the shared joy of watching their children do something they loved?

At the end of the game I see the Team Mom handing out home-baked cookies and juice boxes, beaming as each child politely tells her “thank-you” and watching them sit in a circle laughing and enjoying their snack.

We know how to play together. What changes when we become adults that makes it so difficult to live together?

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

Youth Development in Sports

By Lee Taft

Our talks about Youth Development, in my opinion, need to be more focused on the mental side versus the physical side. Let me explain…

The volume of exercise/play that kids can do, or should I say are “capable of doing”, is very high. They play hard, rest quickly and play some more. This can go on all day long. Of course, we want to be concerned with proper skill development and technique, but the real concern to me is the emotional side.

Just Let Kids Play
If you let kids just play, then they will do so all day long. When you start putting pressure on them to get in the car, drive to a private lesson, a training session, a tournament, etc., then it becomes an emotional overload. Not to mention the parents and coaches barking instructions and putting each and every movement under a microscope and scrutinizing the kid. It simply becomes too much and this is why many kids under perform, become frustrated and eventually quit.

This is exactly why I say emotional volume is the issue more than the physical volume. Most kids are fine with the physical volume by itself, but tagged with emotional volume it becomes too much.

Parent’s Words can be Harmful
I have said it before, I am not opposed to kids playing in travel sports at all. My kids are involved. But my wife and I make it about the kids, not us. I don’t say a word while they are playing. I am not one of those parents who constantly yell out instructions and negativeness to my child while they are playing. Which by the way is WAY MORE HARMFUL THAN PARENTS MIGHT THINK! I am at the game 100% as a fan and just love seeing them play. Most of the time they will ask me after games how I thought they did. At this time, I will then give my thoughts.

When I see young kids constantly looking over at their parents in the crowed, I then know they are self-conscious of what their parents are thinking and worried if their parents approve. This behavior spawns from constant critiquing and overbearing criticism.

This is why the emotional side of youth development is where we need to keep watch.

Lee Taft, known to most simple as “The Speed Guy”, is highly respected as one of the top athletic movement specialist in the world. Since 1989, Lee has taught foundation movement to beginning youngsters and helped young amateur athletes to professional athletes become quicker, faster and stronger.Lee has been asked to speak at numerous strength and conditioning and sports performance events across the world and has produced 13 instructional videos in the area of multi-directional speed and movement training. In addition, Lee has written several eBooks specifically on movement techniques and speed development. He can be reached at www.leetaft.com

Is More Actually Better?

By Rick Meana

Nope, the direct opposite according to sports medicine doctors is actually the case. No two words have raised more concerns amongst those in the sports medicine field recently than overuse injuries.

According to most of the Sports Medicine Professionals I have spoken to recently report that just 15 years ago, overuse injuries accounted for 20% of patients visiting their clinics, now it’s up to 70% and increasing year after year! What is interesting to note is that over training, early specialization and too little rest and recovery all contribute to overuse injuries. What is even more interesting to note (and very troubling) is that they point to the “youth soccer club mentality” for the “epidemic” that is affecting all youth sports across the board!

Overuse injuries develop when tissue is injured due to repetitive loading of a muscle, bone, tendon, ligament, that is too much physical activity and too little rest and recovery. It is also defined as the cumulative effect of many tiny injuries that cause pain and loss of function. Close to half of the injuries reported regarding youth soccer are overuse injuries!

So Why Are Kids Being Pushed To Play Sports So Hard?

Parents? Coaches? Or a combination of the two? Are they being lead to believe they can get a college scholarship?

”It’s amazing how many parents project their children at professional levels,” says Vern D. Seefeldt, director emeritus of the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State. Coaches feed the frenzy too. When a soccer guru urges playing another tourney or ratcheting up practice time, parents often don’t object. They’re being told by the coach: “Your son has amazing potential and needs to continue to improve”.

“There are few people guiding the parents who have the welfare of the child at stake,” says Dr. Eric Small, head of the Sports Medicine Center for Young Athletes in Mount Kisco, N.Y., and author of “Kids & Sports”. Here is what Dr. Small says, “Making the injury list even longer is the trend toward sport specialization. A decade ago a peppy 10-year-old might divide his play among soccer, basketball, and baseball seasons. Now more are being channeled to one sport that they play year-round. The extra training improves skills but adds to the wear and tear.”

One of the most popular women’s soccer stars Mia Hamm’s parents encouraged her to play a variety of sports. When high school soccer season ended, she played as a point guard on the basketball team. ”I was a terrible shot, but fast,” says Hamm. ”My dad never said: ‘Go out and work on soccer.’ The decisions about playing came from me.” Hamm tells parents and kids to avoid early specialization.

All over the country Sports Medicine Professionals are advising parents to closely monitor how much time their children are putting in to organized sports. Be leery of the number of hours that coaches may be demanding to play and train. Parents are so focused on their kids being superstars that they think they’re doing a service when training jumps from 10 hours a week to 30. They love their child, but they have blinders on. Dr. Small goes on to say, ”Often those blinders don’t come off until a youngster gets hurt, but by then a youngsters sports career could be over.”

A Watch List for Parents, Coaches and Administrators

Many injuries occur when organized practice time is ratcheted up from two days a week to five. A good rule of thumb to follow is physical activity should not be increased to more than 10% a week.

Be Aware Of Growth Spurts

As kids grow, muscles can become less flexible and more susceptible to injury. Parents should watch for periods of rapid growth.

Early Specialization Leads To Muscle Imbalances

Kids who play one sport year-round develop certain muscles to deal with the demands of that particular sport while others remain weak. A well balanced conditioning program of playing a variety of different sports and proper rest in between activity is healthy.

When There Is Pain There Is No Gain

Child athletes and parents shouldn’t ignore the warning signs assuming that injuries will magically go away. Have a doctor check out any minor pains in joints or bones before they become major ones.

Signs of Overuse: Weakness, Loss of Flexibility, Chronic Pain, Inflammation, Swelling. The inflammation is actually a degeneration of tissue caused by the micro trauma Some others: Loss of Performance, (Hard to differentiate between a ‘bad day’ and overuse injury). “I don’t know, its just a little sore”, “I don’t remember getting hurt”

Soreness after workout is normal but it should dissipate after a day or 2 and soreness, aching and limping lasting 3 days or more may indicate overuse. The overuse injury is a process, and will take time to develop, starting 3 or 4 weeks into a season. Muscles affected by overuse injury tend to be tighter, more irritable and will become prone to an acute injury.

Rick Meana has been the New Jersey Youth Soccer Director of Coaching for over 16 years and in that time he has directly impacted the education and development of thousands of players and coaches from all levels. Rick has served on both the US Youth Soccer ODP Region I Boys and Girls Coaching Staffs for more than 18 years and currently is the director of the Under-12 Boys South Development Camp. He holds the USSF ‘A’ License and National Youth License, as well as the NSCAA Premier Diploma.

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