Wooden on Mentors

Most of us know by now that John Wooden was one of the world’s greatest teachers, leaders and coaches. Have you ever wondered what he had to say about those who coached him in his youth? Here is Coach Wooden describing three individuals who shaped and guided him as a youngster.

Mentors, adults who provide direction and a good example are very important to youngsters. I know this because I had three who were so important in my life.

Mr. Earl Wariner was my country grade-school principal, teacher and coach back in Centerton, Indiana. From Mr. Wariner I learned that there are no “stars” or privileged individuals.

He would not compromise his principles for the sake of convenience, although he recognized the right of individuals to differ in their opinions on issues. And when he was wrong, he demonstrated that he was man enough t admit it without rationalization or alibi.

My Martinsville high-school coach, Mr. Glenn Curtis, had tremendous talent for getting individuals and teams to rise to great heights, to near their uppermost level of competency. He was also a fine teacher of fundamentals whom I tried to emulate in my own teaching later on.

And Mr. Ward (“Piggy”) Lambert, my coach at Purdue University, demonstrated extraordinary devotion to his principles and was willing to suffer whatever consequences that entailed.

For example, Coach Lambert believed that all intercollegiate games should be played on or near the campus of one of the participating schools. This, of course, ran counter to what was required in the playoffs, where games were often played on distant courts.

Coach felt this deprived the students of the colleges involved and imposed an unfair travel burden on them. He also believed it was inappropriate to hold intercollegiate competitions in commercial venues.

In 1940 Purdue University won the Big Ten title and along with it a trip to the playoffs in Madison Square Garden. Coach Lambert subsequently withdrew Purdue’s basketball team from the national tournament. Indiana, the team that had finished just behind Purdue in the standings, was the replacement team and won the national championship that year. Coach Lambert held to his principles. He was true to his beliefs.

My goodness, how fortunate I was as a youngster to have been positively influenced by these adults. I believe that we have an obligation as adults to help youngsters in a similar manner. Mr. Lambert, Mr. Curtis and Mr. Wariner: great teachers, leaders, coaches.

Want more wisdom from Wooden? Pick up Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court.

Complimenting youth in sports (Part III in on youth motivation)

By Dean Herbert

It seems so natural – intuitive even to congratulate young athletes. The words roll out of our mouths…
Good job.
Way to go.
Good race.
Good game.
You ran really well.
Good at bat.
You played well.

Before I introduce more powerful options here are some comments from a confidential survey I conducted with youth athletes regarding what they find un-motivating or dispiriting.

Congratulating me on a race even though I performed awful.
Telling me “good race or game” when it was my worst one of the year.
High five or a general comment like “good job” is too general and meaningless to me.
Whether I have performed well or poorly, always saying good job.
Complimenting one person on the team and saying nothing to me.
Not being honest with me that I didn’t perform well.

Making Compliments Powerful
To begin we have to admit that there is not single secret to providing motivational comments to youth athletes. They are just as individual in their emotional and psychological make ups as adults. The following three rules will go a long way to improving your complimenting!

Rule #1
Know your athlete!
Have a candid discussion about what they like and don’t like coaches and parents to tell them. Some are more sensitive to feedback and others want it black and white presented to them. Some do not want any feedback or comments until they’ve had a little space after the competition.

Many studies on feedback have taught us that for most people, there are specific patterns to the most effective feedback. Though we are all individuals, most of us respond better if we follow these guidelines.

Rule #2
Learn to compliment specifically!
Specific feedback or comments directly related to a performance are more powerful. “Good job” is OK and certainly better than ignoring someone in most cases. But, “great pacing today”, “excellent job passing runners effectively today”, “good job keeping your eye on the ball”, “solid blocking on that play”, “ way to block out under the rim”; are all more effective because the athlete now knows what is being complimented.

Compliments need to be sincere or they are empty. Most athletes know when they have performed well or messed up. It does not make it better by sugar-coating it. Complimenting everything someone does is misleading and unfair to the athlete.

Rule #3
Compliment actions that deserve compliments!
A high five with a big smile conveying someone did well is lost on the athlete. A “well done” on a poor performance is empty. At best you will be ignored. At worst you will anger them and they will lose respect for your ability to be honest with them.

Finally, in an athlete’s life, they will encounter many ups and downs, good days and bad days, wins and losses. For athletes to improve they need candid, tactful and meaningful feedback. Compliment what deserves complimenting and offer insights on the things that need work; commiserate on a bad day.

I’ll never forget the day one of my club cross country runners had a very bad race. She finished well off her normal times and instead of running in the top two positions she finished 6th on the team. Her high school coach walked over and “high fived” all the girls on the team telling them what a good job they all did (only two did well – the other five varsity runners did not and the team finished far off their expected finish). My runner walked over to me almost in tears. I looked at her and just said, “Ok, so today sucked. You’ll get ‘em next time.” She looked up with the biggest smile and said, “Thank you – it DID suck! At least you’ll say so!”

What was more interesting was that almost instantly her “pity party” was over. She turned around and with a sigh of relief rejoined her friends chatting away during their cool down run. By validating what was evident (the race sucked) and offering perspective – (You’ll get ‘em next time) – it worked to motivate with out a misleading compliment like “well done”.

Dean Hebert M.Ed. MGCP is a certified mental games coach specializing in youth athletes and youth coaches. He has authored several books and hundreds of articles. He works with individuals, teams and coaches in all sports as well as performs guest speaking engagements on mental toughness. His website is www.mindsetforperformance.com.

Does playing sports translate to more success in life?

It is something we hear repeatedly as an adage describing the value of youth sports: “Life Lessons.” I’ve written the words myself on numerous occasions. It would be difficult to imagine anyone reading this article who did not believe that the positives derived from kids playing sports far outweigh any negatives. But does playing sports as a child, and into adolescence and beyond, make it more likely we’ll succeed in life? And if so, why?

Throughout my business and personal relationships I’ve come in contact with many successful business people, lawyers, CEO’s and other high-achievers. As I get to know them, I’ve noticed what I believe is a surprising ratio of financially-successful people who starred athletically in high school, or even played in college or the pros. My theory? Maybe they grew up being successful in their sports endeavors and it carried over to the “real” world. Perhaps they just got so used to winning and conquering opponents and being chosen first, that when it came time to put their talents to practical use in the business world, they never considered failure as an option. The natural aggressiveness and competitiveness that served them well on the field of play carried over and helped them “win” in life too.

And, maybe that theory doesn’t hold water. Because we all also know people who were the captain of the team in high school who didn’t end up doing so well.

A study done by economists John M. Barron and Glen R. Waddell of Purdue University and Bradley T. Ewing of Texas Tech University, examines a series of surveys taken by American males who attended high school in the 1970s. It found that high school athletes achieved a level of education 25 to 35 percent higher than their non-athlete classmates. And it’s not just educational achievement that correlates with youth sports participation. Barron, Waddell, and Ewing also found that high school athletes had 12 to 31 percent higher wages than their non-athlete counterparts. And when the wages of college graduates who were high school athletes is compared with those who were not, the athletes generally earned more.

In her article, The Benefits of Team Sports, Lucy Rector Filppu also makes a case for the positive aspects of youth sports. Positive mentors – you coaches – can have a tremendous, beneficial impact on a child’s life, she explains. Often, children will respond better to an objective coach than to their own parent. She also goes on to list her three “Ps”, which are Patience, Practice and Persistence, all of which are virtues kids learn on the field. And finally, she says, youth sports are another reason for family time. “Playing catch in the yard, heading down to the local soccer field for some drill practice… these types of outings with your kids can mean a great deal in our busy parenting culture,” Filppu writes.

But what about the other side of the coin? We have a good friends who are neighbors, and their three kids, two boys and a girl, are about the nicest, most polite children you’ll ever meet. None of them played sports past the age of ten or eleven. For years, we’d hear the oldest boy, who was in the school band, practicing his saxophone in the evening. This year, he’ll graduate from Stanford. His sister, a high school senior, just learned she was accepted to Stanford as well. And my bet is the youngest, who wasn’t much of an achiever when I coached him in T-ball, will reach heights after college that few of his classmates will attain. Their dad is an oncologist. He cures people who have cancer. And if you were choosing sides for a basketball game, you’d pick a lot of guys before him. But if you got some bad news from a doctor, you’d hope he was first in line.

Is there a definite correlation between playing sports and succeeding in life? I don’t think anyone knows for sure. But I do believe that there a few benefits we can’t debate. Kids who play sports are generally healthier because of the exercise and conditioning they get. Athletic kids are less likely to get into trouble since they are busy and they’d have to answer to a coach and teammates if they did. Athletes learn that if you get knocked down, literally and figuratively, you can pick yourself up and keep going. They learn the value of teamwork. The longer kids play sports, the more they learn that life is about competition, and that everyone wants glory and success, but only those who work hardest and have the most talent achieve it. And they learn that sometimes, no matter how hard you try, things don’t go your way, but that failure is never fatal, defeat only temporary, and there’s always another chance to try again unless you quit.

Of course, academics and personal relationships also extremely important. And these “life lessons” certainly can be learned elsewhere. But as part of a package, its hard to imagine a better way than athletic competition to prepare kids for the game of life.

What kind of hitter are you?

By Chance Reynolds, Former Professional Baseball Player

One way to help your players have a very successful season this year is by taking a moment to ask them, “What type of hitter do you think you are?”

Most young hitters have never slowed down long enough to consider such a thought.  Typically, they run from hitting lessons to practice to games, with no consideration to the gifts they have blessed with and strengths they may have.

There are only three “types” of hitters:  Singles Hitters, Power Hitters, and “Line Drive” Hitters, and in scouting young players, they all typically fall somewhere within these three categories.  None are more or less important that the other, because in truth, a line-up needs all three to be successful.

A “Singles hitter” is typically a player who has a very short swing, terrific hand eye coordination, a small strike zone, and good to great speed.  This player also usually exhibits a low finish to his swing in order to 1) create more ground balls, and 2) help them get out of the box quicker.  If your son or daughter is small, and blessed with quickness, becoming this type of hitter this spring could really help them 1) get more playing time, and 2) help their team to accomplish their pre-season goals.  This type of hitter is usually found in the 1st, 2cd, and 9th position in their respective lineups, and is typically known as a “table setter” or the “second leadoff.”

The second type is the rarest of the breed, the “Power Hitter”.  There are very few true power hitters in the game today, which is why they demand the highest salaries at the Major League level (supply and demand).  Typical attributes include big body types with long arms, a swing and miss mentality (meaning high risk/high reward), a flair for the dramatic, and a high finish (which encourages more fly balls).  Everyone loves to see this guy hit, because he puts on a show that few forget.  Typically, he is responsible for driving in runs for the team and can usually be found in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th spots of the lineup.

The third and final type of hitter is a “Line Drive hitter”, and is the most common of the types.  In scouting young players, most kids fall into this category.  Typical attributes include medium to normal body size and speed, good hands defensively, and great discipline at the plate.  In other words, they are just “good baseball players”;  i.e. “doubles” power, very few strikeouts, and an innate ability to situational hit (meaning they hit and run very well, they drive in runs, move guys over, etc…)  If you son is this type of player, he usually fits into a lineup best in the 6th, 7th, and 8th spots, and there is no shame in that.  Always make sure to remind him that each and every lineup in America has a 6th, 7th, and 8th spot in it, and they all need great “baseball players” in order to fill those slots.

In taking a moment to discuss which of the three types your young hitter might be, in truth, you are asking him or her in the short-term, “how best do you help your team?”  and in the long-term, “in what capacity are you going to maximize your talent?”  As Coaches, we all need table setters, grinders, and someone who swings for the fence, so have this conversation with your players in order to help them find out what they can do best to 1) help them have a very successful spring, and 2) help their team win a championship!

Former Professional Baseball Player, Chance Reynolds, is the Inventor of the Pitcher’s Nightmare Swing Trainer.  Endorsed by 1991 N.L. M.V.P. and current Atlanta Braves Hitting Coach, Terry Pendleton, the Pitcher’s Nightmare Swing Trainer not only increases your bat speed, but teaches proper hitting fundamentals as well. Follow Chance’s blog at (www.pitchersnightmare.com).

The ultimate hero

Though this heartbreaking story is not sports-related, we know most of our readers have children and/or work with kids around the age of young Jordan Rice. Would all of us show as much courage and love the same life-and-death situation?

Coaching players in penalty shootouts

By Adrian Parrish, Director of Coach and Player Development, Kentucky Youth Soccer Association

The game of soccer can be extremely entertaining but because it also carries a reputation of being a low scoring game. Sometimes a winner needs to be decided through a format which some people believe is not a fair way of declaring a winner.

Matches from the professional level down to games played US Youth Soccer State Cup tournaments have been resolved by penalty shoot-outs and they will continue to play a part in major soccer competitions and tournaments. For the neutrals that are not involved in these pressurized situations the entertainment level can build. However for, those that are being sent to the spot the only thing that is building is the pressure to score. It is a mentally demanding contest between the goalkeeper and a lone striker with the odds usually in favor of the person trying to score. If the ball is hit correctly it takes approximately 0.3 seconds to hit the back of the net, which realistically does not give enough time for the keeper to pick out the trajectory of the ball and make the save.

There are many different strategies for successful finishing off a spot kick. Problems mount for coaches who are about to enter a major tournament in when, where and how to deal with these situations, as well as educating and picking the players to take the shots. It may be absurd way to decide a match based on a something that did not reflect the quality of the match but Penalty Shoot-Outs can be an appealing way to find a winner.

Realistically it is recommended that you do about 15 minutes of trial shots at the end of the training sessions in the week prior to a major event or game that could be decided by a shoot out. But this will not give you the perfect guarantee in picking out the players that can handle the pressurized situations. During this time you will be able to work on finding the players that show good technical aspects of striking the ball. But when it comes to game time and you realize that it will not be resolved during regular or over-time and a shoot-out is inevitable, you will need to think about some of the following issues:

Does the player have the right temperament? Have they played a solid game, or have they been mentally knocked out of the game by the opposition or other aspects? Do they show enough confidence at the end of the game or do they hide behind others in fear of being selected? Is the player over confident or are they being level headed? Because you would prefer to a have somebody cool and calm in these heated moments.

2. Can you rely on them?Do you and their team-mates have faith in them? Do you and their team-mates trust them to do the job? Have they showed quality and skills to previously deal with pressurized situations? During the time you spend working with the players on taking penalties, it is important that you try to rehearse the situations and make it as game realistic as possible. Not only will this help the players who you designate to take the kicks but also give your Keeper some challenges and an edge in trying to give your team an advantage when the situation may arise.

Some players may have established a routine in which they are comfortable with and will be reluctant to change their strategy. As long as they keep it simple and do not try to do anything too elaborate then they may be a perfect person for you to rely on in a penalty shoot out. Most teams are required to keep the players waiting for their turn to pick their wits against the opposing keeper, on the half-way line. The walk from the center circle to the 18 yard box can seem like an eternity because s many different thoughts can start passing through the player’s minds. “Should I drive it with my laces”, “Should I place it to the keeper’s left?” The point should be that players need make up their minds and stay composed as they make the walk and place the ball on the spot.

Insist the players put the ball on the spot, because some referees will demand that it is placed here and if the player is asked to move it after they have placed it and start moving back, it may just add more pressure to the kicker and knock them off their train of thought. As a player, I have been named as a designated penalty taker and have been involved with penalty shoot outs both as a coach and a player.

To help my players I found it useful referring back to some of my own personal situations. I would pick out the point in the goal where I was going to shoot; I would then recommend that players place the ball down and turn their back to the goal just picturing where they are going to put the shot. It is important not to stare at this point otherwise it will be advantage to the keeper. Just concentrate on the point, and wait for the referee to blow their whistle.

Player will gain more confidence and show comfort in taking the kick if they keep their run up to the ball the same. Make sure that you emphasize that players do not change their mind after starting the approach to the ball as thus will break the create them to question their ability when they need to strike the ball with confidence and believe that they will score.

When you observe the players for technical aspects you don’t need to be looking for players who can hit it with the most power, however, you do want players that can place the ball with some pace. The biggest chance a player has of failing to score is if they totally miss the goal. This is the worst possible shot since there is no chance that keeper may bundle it or to bounce a shot off of a post or bar.

Encouraging players to place the ball with pace into the bottom corners may create more successful results. There are several coaching strategies you may wish to employ when working with players on placing their shot. A tool that I would recommend is to place cones a yard inside of each post, or even place smaller goals which are used in U6/U8 games just on the inside of each post. Encourage the players to hit these areas and the players who hit these areas with more consistency may just be a perfect candidate for a designated penalty taker and one to use in shoot outs.

Encourage players to place the ball between the cones and the post. The expression of practice makes you perfect is not be 100% true because nobody is perfect and players will miss shots, however the more repetition they are given even if it is only 15 minutes after each session, the better they players will become.

Helping your players go through this kind of routine will make it more familiar and provide them with more confidence when it comes down to real thing. Don’t over think the order in which players should take their shots even though there is some evidence that skill plays a role, because forward players, who have more goal-scoring experience, tended to be more successful at penalties than defensive players. But if you have helped the players then everyone taking a shot will be confident of completing the task. Sit back, try and remain calm, but be confident and have belief in your players.

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

Athletes “Giving Back”

The Giving Back Fund releases an annual list, ranking celebrities who have made charitable contributions in each calendar year. Many professional athletes made the list, including:
Lance and Cara Berkman – $2,109,284; Charles Woodson –  $2,000,000; Madieu Williams – $2,000,000; Oscar de la Hoya – $1,300,000; Carmelo Anthony – $1,066,037; Lance Armstrong – $700,648; Mariano Rivera – $700,000; Derek Jeter – $525,664 and Scott Rolen – $505,838. You can read the entire list, and the causes to which all 30 celebrities donated here.

Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez remembers his Number One Fan

A very sad but inspirational story comes along like this every so often. Read about Mark Sanchez and his young friend, Aidan Binkley, who lost his battle with cancer Thursday. We all have our personal concerns and worries that we sometimes magnify, and stories like these help us put them in perspective.

Little League bat regulations

Little League has eliminated the use of composite bats at all levels of play. You can read the official press release here. This is a change that many saw coming and may have been helped along by the new legislation passed in California pertaining to metal bats.