We’re not taking credit, but…

Rancho San Diego Little League, a CoachDeck customer since 2008, won three their District Championship in three age divisions for the second consecutive year. Maybe even more impressive is that their 9-10 and 10-11 teams won their section and are playing for the S. California State Championship for the second year in a row. Read all about it here.

Leagues using CoachDeck report that their teams benefit around all-star time because of the consistency in coaching our product provides. When leagues select 2-3 kids from several teams to form one all-star team, if those kids have all been doing the same drills all season with their various coaches calling them by the same names, they don’t have to spend as much valuable practice time at the beginning of the tournament season learning a new system. Obviously, RSDLL has great players and great coaching, but if CoachDeck even played a minuscule role in their success, we’re proud. Again, we’re not saying it was all because of us, but…

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Running of the Bulls

We’re big fans of Rick Reilly’s writing and so we thought we’d end the week with something light. Reilly recently completed the famous running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. His irreverent take on the experience will have you chuckling.

Kids learn creativity by playing

One of our Facebook fans just posted a very interesting article he found on NPR.org. For years, we’ve been talking about the importance of kids being able to play in unstructured fashion. This article really provides scientific evidence.

July issues of On Deck Newsletter are out

You can enjoy this month’s editions of On Deck now! Click here for our soccer newsletter and click here to read the baseball issue.

Five Super Ideas Your Organization Can Try

At CoachDeck we talk to thousands of youth sports organizations each year. And our conversations have uncovered some wonderful, creative examples of things clubs and leagues are doing to recognize achievement, give back to the community and enrich the experience for all. So here are five excellent programs that you can put into place with little or no cost, minor effort, but great results.

Student Honor Roll
Del Mar Little League in Del Mar, California has been a CoachDeck customer every year since we began in 2007. That fact alone proves their board of directors is pretty smart. But an even better indication is the “Academic All-American Program” they implemented for the 2010 season. Recognizing students for good grades is always a great idea and is simple and free using your organization’s website. See how DMLL did it here.

Give a Lifetime Achievement Award
Got a special volunteer who has been the bedrock of your organization for decades? What better honor to bestow on him or her than to name a field or other league property (snack bar, etc.) in their honor. Newspapers and other media outlets love to promote positive human-interest stories like these and this is the type of recognition that promotes and encourages volunteerism. Take a look at what Jersey City did to honor one of their own.

Create a Scholarship
Another unique way to honor a special volunteer or other member of your organization is to create an annual college scholarship in their name. The website for Malden East Little League’s provides an excellent example. This is something the league could fund with just a few hundred dollars each year, or is an outstanding program for a local donor to sponsor.

Soccer Club Helps Haiti
Marshfield Youth Soccer stepped up to help Haitian earthquake victims
. Closer to home, there are plenty of local, less affluent youth sports leagues in every city that would love to receive those old mitts, balls, bats and cleats lying around in your families’ garages. Organize an equipment drive at one of your upcoming events, such as Opening Day or Closing Ceremonies.

Create a Volunteer of the Year Award
Every year it seems there is that special someone who goes above and beyond. Why not set up a special section on your league website to recognize each year’s most dedicated volunteer? You can easily create a special “Volunteer of the Year” section of your website to preserve their names for posterity. This, perhaps along with a simple presentation of a plaque and dinner gift certificate at a monthly board meeting will suffice to make those special folks who go above and beyond the call of duty feel like heroes.

When organizations show their appreciation in these or any of the above manners, the natural by-product is that more and more people want to be included and offer to volunteer.

There are so many creative ideas to use youth sports as a vehicle to improve and enrich our communities. These are just a few. Are there other great ideas you can share?

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.

Combination Play: Support and Movement with the Game

By Tom Turner

Does the player move with the game and combine with others? At the U-10 level, an increase in the speed of ball circulation, coupled with a more controlled rhythm of play are common features of play. At the U-11/12 level, those qualities can be taken a step further with the expectation of more formal combination play. At eleven, take-overs, wall passes and double passes are much more universal, and up-back-through combinations can be developed over time. Because of their still growing appreciation for midfield width and rhythm of play in large numbers, overlaps are still much less probable. All other combinations (passes to feet, passes to space, dribbling, and one-three’s) are already established at this age, meaning that eleven and twelve becomes the period when most of the combining elements in the game can be performed for the first time.

Use of Space

Does the player move with the game when not in possession? In general, attacking players try to open up the field in order to create possibilities for small-group play, while defenders try to limit the amount of time and space available for the attackers to either penetrate by passing or dribbling, or change the point of attack to a more open area. In both cases, individual players have responsibilities to move with the game relative to their position. Attacking players should be instructed how to play with their immediate small group or stay away from the ball, and defenders should be instructed how to move as a defensive block. The attacking concepts of width, depth, support and mobility are critical applications of spatial awareness, as are the defensive concepts of cover, balance and compactness.

Playing with “Back to Goal”

Is the player more comfortable when facing the opponent’s goal than when playing with their back to the opponent’s goal? Many young players are uncomfortable checking and receiving the ball with their back to goal; however, 8v8 games provide many opportunities to expose young players to this important and difficult skill within a positional structure. To play effectively with back to goal, players must be aware of the tactical possibilities for receiving the ball to feet or into open space; they must learn to identify passing lanes or open spaces; they must learn to judge when and how to run for the ball; they must learn how to lay the ball off to a supporting player or turn with the ball; and they must learn how to disguise their movements and intentions. Playing with back to goal is an important concept for both midfielders and forwards and it is a disservice to encourage kickball, or exclusively direct soccer at this age.

Defending

Does the player understand basic defensive concepts? When the ball is lost, a defender’s first instinct should be to try to win it back. If this is not possible, they should either look to recover goal-side behind the ball, or take up a new position for any counter-attacking possibilities. Individual decision-making in defense follows a basic hierarchy of thinking.

First, try to win the ball and keep possession when it is passed to an immediate opponent.

Second, try to knock the ball away from the immediate opponent. Third, try to deny the immediate opponent space to turn with the ball. Fourth, try to keep the immediate attacker running towards a sideline or into other defenders. Finally, when not in position to achieve any of the above, recover behind the ball and help the team defend.

Transition

Does the player mentally transition after a change in possession? At all levels, speed of transition is often a critical element in the scoring and preventing of goals. With that said, it is beneficial to use live practice activities that incorporate transition to and from goal. The issue of vision is closely related to transition in that a player’s first attacking thought should be to score a goal; if that is not possible, passing to the furthest player possible is the next best option.

Decision-Making

By U-11, many players can read the game with some degree of sophistication and can be helped to identify the “best” option for play, based on the following hierarchy. First, can the player shoot at goal? Second, can the player dribble into position to shoot at goal?

Third, can the player pass to someone who can score a goal? Fourth, can the player pass the ball forward to a teammate to maintain possession? Fifth, can the player pass the ball sideways or backwards to a teammate to maintain possession? Fifth, is the player under enough pressure to warrant a clearance?

Creativity

What is a creative team player? Three elements impact creativity. The first is technique, the second is tactical awareness, and the third is self-confidence. Players who have the audacity to think and act out of the ordinary may be future stars of the game and their willingness to take risks must be nurtured at every level. As players move towards the teen years, a critical paradox enters the coaching challenge. Creative players are necessary for making teams unpredictable and creative players are often frustrating to coach and play with because they rarely conform to standard team concepts. Creative players are not always the easiest individuals to coach, but creative players are worth their weight in gold and America has yet to produce a creative genius.

Tom Turner is a U.S. Soccer National Staff Coach, Region II Boys ODP Coach, Ohio North State Director of Coaching. He can be reached at coaching@oysan.org.

Update to Winning Baseball: The Two Strike Approach

Not only have there been two perfect games this season but, as of last night, five no-hitters. After Matt Garza’s no-no of the Tigers, MLB is on pace to set the single-season record. Amazingly, there were seven thrown in back-to-back seasons, (’90 and ’91). Based on the dates these were thrown (below) and the fact that there should already be a sixth this year, it seems a pretty good bet that we’re not done seeing no-hit performances.

1991 (5 individual and 2 combined)
May 1 — Nolan Ryan, Texas def. Toronto, 3-0.
May 23 — Tommy Greene, Philadelphia def. Montreal, 2-0.
July 13 — Bob Milacki (6), Mike Flanagan (1), Mark Williamson (1) and Gregg Olson (1), Baltimore def. Oakland, 2-0.
July 28 — x-Dennis Martinez, Montreal def. L.A. Dodgers, 2-0.
Aug. 11 — Wilson Alvarez, Chicago White Sox def. Baltimore, 7-0.
Aug. 26 — Bret Saberhagen, Kansas City def. Chicago White Sox, 7-0.
Sept. 11 — Kent Mercker (6 innings), Mark Wohlers (2) and Alejandro Pena (1) vs. San Diego, 1-0.

1990 (6 individual and 1 combined)
April 11 — Mark Langston (7) and Mike Witt (2), California Angels def. Seattle, 1-0.
June 2 — Randy Johnson, Seattle def. Detroit, 2-0.
June 11 — Nolan Ryan, Texas def. Oakland, 5-0.
June 29 — Dave Stewart, Oakland def. Toronto, 5-0.
June 29 — Fernando Valenzuela, L.A. Dodgers def. St. Louis, 6-0.
Aug. 15 — Terry Mulholland, Philadelphia def. San Francisco, 6-0.
Sept. 2 — Dave Stieb, Toronto def. Cleveland, 3-0.