What do teachers and coaches have in common?

One of our readers, Dennis Hillyard, has written several terrific articles regarding coaching youth in soccer. We will be publishing many of these over the next several weeks. This is the first installment.

I am often asked which profession is similar to that of the soccer coach.
Without hesitation I always reply a SCHOOL TEACHER‟ but with one very important difference.

The teacher usually specializes in one or two subjects and where for example there are thirty students in the class then guaranteed that a fair percentage will NOT be interested in the particular topic (s). Accordingly, youngsters will always learn quicker when being taught something they enjoy.

Children are required to attend school by law. They are NOT required to attend soccer training therefore the advantage and it is a tremendous advantage is that youngsters join a soccer club simply because they WANT to play soccer thus, the role of the coach Is that much easier.

Unfortunately, with this advantage and even if the squad of youngsters are all extremely talented then it is not always a guarantee of success.

Why? If we refer back to the teacher versus the soccer coach then the teachers role basically is to develop the individual students abilities whereas the soccer coach whilst requiring to do exactly the same than has the added responsibility to develop those individual skills within the framework of the team.

At the same time it is ESSENTIAL that each child should retain there individual skills so that they are best utilized for both, the benefit of the player and the team.

Contributed by Dennis Hillyard, FLMSL Head Coach

Cal eliminates its baseball program

Here’s a story we never dreamed we’d see. UC Berkley, citing budget cuts and pressure from Title IX, has eliminated its baseball program. As someone with sons hoping to someday play Division 1 college baseball, this does not come as good news. Read the LA Times story here.

Pee Wee football team banned from postseason play after coaches brawl

The video you can see here exemplifies everything wrong in youth sports. Over-the-top, testosterone-fueled parents wildly brawling at a youth football game, while kids try to pull them apart. The result? The kids now don’t get to play in the postseason. Is it fair that the kids get punished for the actions of their coaches? If not, what else could have been done to address the situation?

And by the way, judging by the one play in the game shown in the clip, these little boys in Pearland, TX can play some football!

Stride Length: What Pitchers Should Know

By Dan Gazaway, Owner & Founder of The Pitching Academy

How long should your stride be? That is a question that we get from many coaches, parents and pitchers. Many coaches give their opinion of how long a stride should be; some say as long as you are tall, some say longer and some say 75% of your height. The answer is as far as your body will allow you to while maintaining proper pitching mechanics. You don’t want to jump to foot strike (losing balance and posture) just so you can add a foot to your stride. You want to push off the ball of your pivot foot while maintaining a closed posture to foot strike. Don’t jeopardize your pitching mechanics at the expense of gaining distance. There is a way to do it right. Your ultimate goal however, is to get a stride at least as long as you are tall.

Why is a long stride important? There are two reasons why you need a good stride. One is to gather enough momentum to foot strike so your fastball has pop. The most exciting reason is that 1-foot = 3 mph perceived pitching velocity. The closer you are to home plate when you release the ball the better. To the batter’s eye the ball appears to be going faster than it really is. Furthermore, when you throw inside, the batter has to react that much quicker to the pitch as well. In order for him to hit the ball on the fat part of the bat, he has to react much quicker to get the bat around.

How do you get a longer stride? Maintaining a proper strength and flexibility pitching workout is important. For example, if your hip flexors aren’t conditioned to handle the demands of the workload pitching places on them, it will affect your distance and you will be more prone to injury. To add distance, try a delayed shoulder rotation. Some pitchers gain an extra 6 inches to a foot delaying their shoulder properly. Work on releasing the baseball later; this will also help you gain velocity. Pushing off the ball of your pivot foot not only keeps you balanced, it also helps you to explode to foot strike adding some distance along the way.

Dan Gazaway is Owner and Founder of The Pitching Academy. 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.

3 Simple Steps to Save 100,000 Lives

We’ve all been hit by economic hard times. But our lives are fairy-tales compared to the disaster victims in Haiti and Pakistan. And nothing is more tragic than seeing the effects of disasters on suffering, innocent children – children who would love to have the “problems,” our kids have. That’s why when we heard the UNICEF report that over 100,000 children in Pakistan may die of starvation in the next six months, we immediately asked ourselves what we could do. And that’s what made us think of you.

We’ve been fortunate enough to become associated with over 10,000 youth baseball and soccer leagues. That means that with the right connection, our message has the potential to reach millions of parents who could help this cause. You are that connection.

We made a call to UNICEF, the world-leading advocate for children. With their assistance, we have created a micro-site that allows concerned individuals to easily and securely make financial gifts to this cause. 100% of all revenue goes directly to UNICEF. We are asking all League Administrators to help us in one or more of three simple ways to get the word out so that we can band together and save lives.

How can you help?

  1. Email the following link: http://inside.unicefusa.org/goto/coachdeck directly to your organization email list. A suggestion for an accompanying message might be: “(Organization name) is teaming up with CoachDeck and UNICEF to aid in disaster relief efforts in Haiti and Pakistan. Over 100,000 children face starvation in the next six months. Any gift, even $10.00, will help us save lives.”
  2. Post the link onto your organization website with the same message.
  3. “Like” us on Facebook and help us spread the word that way. Tell your Facebook friends about the cause.
  4. Do all three.

Imagine if every League Administrator reading this contacted every parent, and every parent just gave $10.00. We’d raise millions of dollars and make a world-changing, long-lasting impact on behalf of the American youth sports community. All of us have, in one way or another devoted much of our lives to improving the lives of children. And none of us would ever turn our backs on kids in need. Just because these kids are half a world away doesn’t mean it’s someone else’s problem. Let’s all do our part to make the lives of children better in every corner of the world.

Snack Ideas for Prevention and Maximal Performance

by Jodi Sheakley, MS CFT

Which snacks qualify as superstars that assist with recovery and may also assist in helping prevent injury and illness?  The following list has been designed with young athletes’ increased needs for the following vitamins and minerals.  Keep in mind that active adolescents have a need for not just increased calories, but increased quality calories.

Whole grain crackers, cheese (string cheese, part-skim/2% lowfat cheese slice, mini cheese wheels or cheese wedges, cheese cubes), and whole fruit such as a pear or plum

Crackers provide whole grains and fiber, cheese provides protein, and the fruit contains fiber and vitamins such as vitamin C.  Because whole fruits such as apples and pears come “pre-packaged,” as does single servings of cheese, these options are also “easy packing” choices.

Almonds and fresh pineapple

“Good” plant fats for heart health, plus fiber and small amounts of protein from the nuts;  pair with pineapple, which has enzymes that can repair muscle.


Granola with berries and Greek yogurt

Also a good choice after your event, berries are a source of vitamin C;  the berries and granola provide carbohydrates that can help replenish glycogen stores.  Greek yogurt is often low-fat and contains more protein (and perhaps less sugar) than “regular” yogurt.


Baked potato topped with salsa – may mix salsa with 1-2 Tbsp of lowfat/fat-free sour cream

The skin of the baked potato contains potassium and fiber, plus the salsa contains vitamin C;  a great post-event choice!


Banana with peanut (or other nut) butter

Another ideal choice after your strenuous exercise, bananas contain potassium, which helps to replace lost electrolytes and avoid muscle cramps.  Take advantage of the single-serving packs of peanut butter for a packable, portable snack solution.

Jodi Sheakley, MS, CFT, is the founder of Nutrivita Wellness, a healthy living consulting practice.  Jodi works extensively with family nutrition, weight management, nutrition for athletes, and whole-foods supplements.  For more information, email jodi@nutrivitawellness.com or call 704.965.0785.

7 Tips for Effective Soccer Shooting

By Joey Bilotta
EduKick International Soccer Camps

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.” –Wayne Gretzky.

Gretzky may have been a hockey player, but his quote about scoring goals is true in any sport–including soccer. A lot of students in our EduKick soccer camps and boarding schools start out with hesitation to shoot. We teach them take advantage of every opportunity. If you never shoot, you’ll never score.

Here are a few tips to help you make every shot count:

Soccer shooting tips:

  • Observe the goalkeeper’s position. Have they left a gap that you can exploit?
  • Select the best technique for your shot. A sidefoot shot will have greater accuracy, but an instep (laces) with good follow-through will have greater power.
  • Put your non-kicking foot alongside the ball.
  • Keep your head down and your eyes on the ball when striking.
  • Keep your body over the ball.
  • Make contact with the middle to top half of the ball.
  • Maintain your composure.

Tips to improve your chance of scoring:

  • Shoot wide rather than high. There’s a better chance of getting a deflection that will wrong-foot the goalkeeper.
  • Shoot low. It’s harder for a keeper to reach shots along the ground because it’s further for them to travel. It’s easy for them to jump up and save, but much harder to crouch down and get it.
  • Shoot across the keeper. It’s tougher for them to hold these shots, and means they could divert the ball back into the path of another attacker.

Where Are the Most Shots Made?

Ever wondered if there’s actually a “sweet spot” in a soccer goal? A place where you could kick the ball and it would go in almost every time?

Well, there may not be a definitive “sweet spot,” but a recent study did take a look at where scored goals most often went into the net. Here are the results:

  • Top Left: 8 percent
  • Top Center: 4 percent
  • Top Right: 5 percent

Ouch. As you can see, shooting high means you have a pretty low percentage of actually scoring.

  • Middle Left: 7 percent
  • Middle Center: 8 percent
  • Middle Right: 6 percent

While you have a better chance of scoring if you shoot to the middle than up high, the odds still aren’t much in your favor.

  • Bottom Left: 22 percent
  • Bottom Center: 21 percent
  • Bottom Right: 19 percent

Look at these stats: 62 percent of all goals were scored low. This makes sense because it is very difficult for goalkeepers, especially tall ones, to get down to the ground. It’s much easier and more natural for them to jump high.

Also, looking at the statistics, 67 percent of goals were scored in the corners versus 33 percent down the middle. If you combine the two statistics and shoot low into the corner, you should have a much greater success rate in scoring goals.

As with any soccer technique, you need to practice if you want to improve your shooting skills. Fortunately, the techniques used for shooting are similar to those used for passing. So you can build up two vital soccer techniques at the same time.

But most importantly: If you see the goal, shoot!

This one piece of advice is important enough to reiterate: You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take. If you see an opportunity to shoot, take it! The only way these tips can help you is if you implement them, both in practice and in games.

Ready to kick-start your soccer adventure overseas? Thousands of our soccer players have achieved international confidence and world-class soccer skills. Some have gone on to trials with professional teams. Will you be the next? Contact EduKick Soccer Camps to find out how you can take your soccer game to Spain, England, Italy, France, China, Brazil, or Mexico.

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.” –Wayne Gretzky.

Gretzky may have been a hockey player, but his quote about scoring goals is true in any sport–including soccer. A lot of students in our EduKick soccer camps and boarding schools start out with hesitation to shoot. We teach them take advantage of every opportunity. If you never shoot, you’ll never score.

CoachDeck Joins Forces with UNICEF to Aid Disaster Victims in Haiti and Pakistan

San Diego, CA  September 21, 2010 – CoachDeck LLC, (www.coachdeck.com) a leader in providing training resources for youth sports coaches, has announced a joint venture with UNICEF to create awareness about and raise money for disaster relief efforts in Haiti and Pakistan.

UNICEF recently reported that over 100,000 children in Pakistan are at risk of starving to death over the next six months due to lack of food and clean water. Children living in rural areas who already did not have enough to eat before the floods are fighting to stay alive as diarrhea, respiratory diseases and malaria attack their emaciated bodies.

“When we heard of the possible scope and magnitude of this catastrophe we asked ourselves what we could do,” said Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck. “It occurred to us that we have a forum of over 10,000 youth sports leagues with whom we communicate regularly. Some of these organizations are home to thousands of families. We have the potential to reach millions of parents who, we expect, would jump at the chance to help save the lives of children.”

UNICEF is supplying clean drinking water for nearly 2 million flood victims, and is vaccinating children against polio and measles in the affected areas. But with the number of people affected by the flooding exceeding the number of people affected by the 2004 tsunami, the Haiti earthquake and the recent earthquake in Pakistan combined, more funding is urgently needed.

CoachDeck and UNICEF have set up a special website where individuals can donate to the relief efforts: http://inside.unicefusa.org/goto/coachdeck. The company plans to promote the site through its monthly On Deck Newsletter, through social media and conventional media outlets.

“If you really boil it down,” said Gotta. “The ultimate mission of CoachDeck is to make kids’ lives better – to make them happier. We felt it would be unconscionable to have the ability to help kids who have none of the abundant advantages enjoyed by our children, who are literally dying for the most basic necessities, and not try.”

About CoachDeck
CoachDeck cards were created to assist the millions of hard-working youth sports volunteers and parents who would like to help players learn important skills and fundamentals though fun drills and games. Designed by professional coaches, the drills in CoachDeck can be performed by players from 6-16 and are laid out in a fast, easy-to-understand format that allows coaches to conduct an extremely effective practice with little or no preparation.

UNICEF works at the family, community, regional and country level—with direct access to policy makers and local organizations—to create lasting positive change in areas as far-ranging as maternal and child health, nutrition, HIV/AIDS, water and sanitation, education and child protection. So trusted is the UNICEF name that in recent years, UNICEF and its partners have been able to negotiate ceasefire “days of tranquility” in a number of conflict areas—most recently between warring factions in Burundi and Sudan—to immunize children against killer diseases like measles and polio.

Brian Gotta, Principal

CoachDeck to assist in disaster relief efforts for Pakistan and Haiti

We have a big announcement coming soon about how we’re going to help with the flood and earthquake victims in Pakistan and Haiti. Look for more information in upcoming posts.

LSU offers scholarship to 15-year-old freshman

In case the world of high school and college sports isn’t already crazy enough…

LSU offers scholarship to 15-year-old freshman.