CoachDeck buyers guide

We’ve pulled together some great companies and outstanding offers on products for leagues, parents and coaches that may not have been on your radar.

Select Links for Youth Sports League Leaders

FIELD PREPARATION
AthleticFieldMaker.com special field marking offer through end of July. Save on Marking Whiskers and Raptor Stakes. Besides helping mark intersections on sports fields customers are using them for marking skills and drills courses, running paths, golf Tee-boxes, and softball and baseball batter box corners for quick chalking operations (no need for a template). Each set comes with 25 marking whiskers and Raptor Stakes (composite nails for additional equipment safety). Additional savings in sets of 3 and 5 with multiple color options.

Visit us at JayPro.com to see how quick and easy our Field-To-Go soccer line is to use! Portable products that set up in minutes and store in your trunk!

NaturalSand.com has the solution for your infield problems. We have infield mixes engineered for maximum playability in all weather and all maintenance levels.

ONLINE LEAGUE MANAGEMENT
Schedulesmith.com is a free player communication and confirmation website. The site will send your players automatic emails and text messages to remind them of games and confirm attendance

RunMyLeague.com has a comprehensive travel sports league management system for baseball, softball and all other major sports. Visit our site at for details. Use coupon code COACHDECK to receive a 20% discount on subscription price for first year.

PLAYER/LEAGUE EQUIPMENT and UNIFORMS
CleatSkins How do you move to and from games quickly and with safety, without having to carry a spare pair of shoes? How can you protect cleats from being damaged from wear on hard surfaces? And how can you save time getting to and from the game? By using Cleatskins.

Swenson Baseball Co. www.swensonbaseball.com.
The Crons Brand Uniforms and Sports Apparel www.crons.com
(208) 484-6860 or swensonbbco@aol.com

PORTABLE PLAYING FIELDS/ARENAS
Our portable soccer arena is perfect for small-sided Youth games www.premiersoccersolutions.com

FUND-RAISING OPPORTUNITIES
Help Kids Play custom-creates value cards for youth organizations. Potential for incredible $15.00 profit per card! Earn $5000 – $7500 in just a few weeks. Request a free information packet at info@helpkidsplay.com http://www.helpkidsplay.com

MySportsDreams.com raises sponsorship dollars for youth baseball and soccer leagues. No selling for your players, they do 95% of the work for you, done completely online, riskless, and all of your supporters receive $50 in free dining good. Call Jordan at 800-376-5988 x300 or email jordan@mysportsdreams.com for details. Mention Coach Deck for a free $25 donation. http://www.mysportsdreams.com/youth.

LEAGUE ACCESSORIES/PLAYER AND COACH GIFTS
Impact Canopies USA has a special offer on printed canopies. FREE solid colored back wall with every custom printed canopy ordered. Call 877-840-3524 and use coupon code FREEWALL.

Take a look at sports most unique BPA free collector card Bottles where you are the “STAR” www.starviewbottles.com

TheByrdStore.com has a special offer for used and collectible sports books and autographed collectibles. These are unique and special gifts for players, parents, coaches, and league leadership. Use coupon code COACHDECK to receive a 10% discount on all sports books and collectibles.

TRANSPORTATION
The BusBank provides ground transportation for sports teams across the United States. Visit www.busbank.com in order to get a quote today.

COACHING ACCESSORIES
More Than ERA is the most comprehensive pitching data software available on the market. Now offering a youth version! Use what the pros use to make your pitchers the best they can be!

PitchCount Watch/Goal Count Watch. The only sports wristwatch with dual tally counters for tracking pitches, passes, shots, anything you can imagine! Also comes with date and stopwatch functions.

DVD TRAINING
ChampionshipProductions.com is the World’s #1 Source of Instructional Sports DVDs. Enter promo code C25DECK at checkout to receive a 25% discount on all DVDs through July 5, 2011. Learn from Alex Rodriguez, Derrick Rose, Coach K, Bob Knight, Dan Gable, and many more!

SureHitter — Hit, Bunt, Field, Catch. Multi-purpose Baseball/Softball training aid that produces amazing results with young players. Visit www.SureHitter.com for details.

TRAVEL OPPORTUNITIES
English Premier Soccer Tours has a special offer for use on soccer tours to England. Use coupon code COACHDECK to receive a 10% discount on all soccer team tours via our web site at www.englishpremiersoccertours.com

Baseball Factory hosts 400 events nationwide including training camps, tournaments and college video sessions. Visit baseballfactory.com for details.

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The making of a champion

By Dr. Jim Taylor

I was asked recently by a sports parent, “What does it take to make a champion?” I thought for a moment and then responded with three words: “Genes, motivation, and support.” So let’s explore these three essential components to athletic success.

Genes

Genes are the foundation of all athletic success. Athletes can have all the motivation and support in the world, but if they’re not physically capable of performing in their sport better than everyone else, nothing else matters. Though physical capabilities, such as strength, agility, stamina, and flexibility, can be developed to some degree through conditioning, we are all limited by the genes we get from our parents.

Genes are also the X-factor for two reasons. First, there’s no way to tell whether young athletes have good athletic genes until they show those genes by growing up. Sure, you can look at their parents and see what kind of athletes they are and what kind of body types they have, but if you look at the parents of a lot of professional athletes and Olympians, you’ll wonder whether genes have anything to do with being a great athlete. And early success that many see as indicators of good genes often doesn’t prove anything (How do you account for all of the late bloomers?).

Second, good athletic genes aren’t enough. I’ve seen many athletes over the years who had tremendous natural physical ability, yet lacked the motivation to become successful. These athletes invariably never lived up to expectations and many I have spoken with regretted not having had the work ethic to match their physical capabilities. Conversely, if you have kids who are incredibly motivated and well supported, but lack world-class genes, they may not win Wimbledon or play in the Super Bowl, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t have a successful and rewarding experience as an athlete. Not only that, but it’s likely that these less naturally gifted athletes will learn important life lessons that will help them to be successful later in life. Ultimately, as I see it, you can’t control genes, so there’s little point in even talking about them.

Motivation

Motivation is the only contributor to athletic achievement that is thoroughly within the athletes’ control. They can’t control their genes, but they can do everything in their power to fully realize whatever genetic capabilities their parents gave them. And research has shown that the single greatest predictor of success is the amount of time athletes put in. Those who are most motivated will devote the most time to training which will lead to the greatest success. Of course, those with the best genes and are also highly motivated will have the most success.

So the $64,000 question for parents is: “How do I motivate my athlete-child?” Motivation is the most difficult psychological contributor to success because you can’t give your children motivation. Rather, they have to find it within themselves which means finding a reason that they want to play their sport and work hard toward their goals. If your children aren’t motivated, you’ll want to find out whether something or someone (often a parent) is squashing their motivation. They may be playing the sport for a reason other than to become a superstar or maybe that sport just isn’t for them and they should find something else to do.

Nonetheless, let me offer a few suggestions that can bolster motivation. The easiest way to answer this question is for athletes to have a great passion for the sport. Athletes who love to train and compete will do whatever it takes because they just love being out there. Setting, working toward, and achieving goals are immensely satisfying, so you can also help them set realistic, yet challenging goals toward which they can strive. Having your kids in a junior program with an inspiring coach and other motivated athletes creates an environment that fosters motivation. You also need to make sure that it’s fun. Given that the odds are very long that your children will become great athletes, there’s no other reason for them to be doing it. Finally, get out of their way! An absolute motivation killer is for you to get overly invested in children’s sport and take ownership away from them. If you care more about their sport than they do, you guarantee that they will not be successful or enjoy the sport.

Support

This is the other $64,000 question: “How do I best support my athletic children?” The answer starts with everyone involved understanding what their jobs are. It’s the athletes’ job to work hard, pay attention to their coaches, and take full advantage of the opportunities they are given. It’s the coaches’ job to prepare athletes physical, technically, and mentally to achieve their goals and have fun. And it’s your job to provide the opportunities for your children (e.g., coaching, camps, equipment), pay the bills (which can be incredibly difficult, especially these days), get them where they need to be on time, pat them on the back when they do well, console them when they do poorly, and support the coaches so they can do their jobs. If everyone does their job and their job alone, then young athletes have a good time and usually perform to the best of their ability. If someone either doesn’t do their job or tries to do another job, then things go south quickly.

Let me conclude with some thoughts about your goals in having your children participate in sports. If your objective is to turn them into champions, the odds are that you’re wasting your money and time and your children’s happiness. Sports are metaphorically littered with the scarred psyches of children whose parents tried and failed to do what Earl Woods and Richard Williams succeeded at doing. Your goals as parents are for your children to have fun, learn life skills to succeed later in life, value health and fitness, and develop a love of sports. If by some freak chance you give them world-class athletic genes, they love the sport enough to work incredibly hard, and they get the right kind of support from you, and they become professional or Olympic athletes, then that’s just icing on the cake.

Dr. Jim Taylor holds a Ph.D. in Psychology, is an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco, and blogs on politics, education, technology, popular culture, and sports for huffingtonpost.com, psychologytoday.com, seattlepi.com, and on his own blog at drjimtaylor.com.

Why do you coach?

You may find it interesting to examine the origins of the word, “Coach”. The word originates in England, from “coach” as in “carriage”; a vehicle that transports one from where they are now, to where they want to be. University students in 19th century England likened their instructors to carriages, “guiding” the students through their classes and exams. The word in that sense first appears in the written record in 1848. The “instructor” sense was then applied to sports trainers by 1885.

Why do people volunteer to coach soccer? There are many different reasons – some better than others. Some do it for the love of the game and because they would like to share their knowledge with others. Some coach for more selfish reasons, because they want to make sure that their sons or daughters have as many advantages as possible. Others sign up for the first time because they see other coaches who are in so far over their heads that they’re sure anyone would be an improvement. And some people end up coaching because there are simply no other volunteers willing to take the job and they heroically “step up to the plate” and offer to give it a try.

Whether you’re coaching for one of these reasons or a combination, and regardless of how many years and at what level you’ve played soccer, you can step out on the field with confidence, because we’ve designed CoachDeck to enable anyone to run professional-quality practices even if they have no experience or no time to prepare.

However, being a great coach involves more than running great drills. And just as there are different reasons to get into coaching, kids have different reasons for wanting to play. Your team may very well consist of players whose objectives are to make an all-star team, or play in high school or even college. But you may also have players with no such aspirations. They may be on your team for no other reason than that they love to wear the uniform, socialize with friends and get exercise. So going back to the origins of the word, “Coach,” if you buy into the notion that your job is to transport your players to their desired destinations, it is important to understand that they may each have different goals. Wouldn’t it be a shame if you coached them all the same way?

This means you’ve been given a great responsibility, opportunity, and privilege. It means that there will be many children to whom you will be a mentor and major influence. In many cases these kids will remember you for the rest of their lives. If any of this talk of “responsibility” makes you nervous, don’t let it. It’s mostly a lot of fun. If you stick to five basic objectives, you’ll have a lot of success. They are:

  • Keep it safe
  • Make it fun
  • Teach fundamentals
  • Be a model of respect (to officials, parents, players and other coaches)
  • Instill the love of the game

That’s it. If you can keep those five goals in mind through every practice and game, you’ll have done a great job. The rewards for coaching a soccer team are many, and the more prepared you are, the better chance you’ll have of transporting all of your players exactly where they want to go.

Note: This article originally appeared in OnDeck October, 2008 and is being reprinted due popular demand.

The purpose of juggling

By Adrian Parrish

Coaches will often request that their players practice and perform juggling skills/exercises during downtime at practice sessions or even ask for them to develop this skill at home. But why is it required of a player to execute such a skill considering it is very rarely, if at all, used in games? Obviously it serves a purpose, and that is not just to help players become more comfortable with the ball by developing their first touch. It also helps develop a player’s balance and agility – two characteristics that we look for players to posses.

It is required of a top level player to have a good first touch and be comfortable on the ball, especially when under pressure from opponents, with limited time and space. Therefore, coaches must encourage juggling in order to develop touch, because touch translates into being composed in games. With a good touch players will be at ease when bringing the ball under control and holding it against pressure.

Juggling can also help players develop a better weight on their passing as well as being able to pass it with more accuracy. This technical skill is developed through juggling activities because players should be able to feel the ball through the shoe, giving them control of their first touch or pass and not the ball dictating what the player does.

Practicing juggling can also help players settle with the ball when it is dropping to them from out of the air. As they improve at juggling they will become more relaxed in bringing the ball down and continuing with it in a natural flow of the game or even shielding it from a defender.

Within today’s US school system it is not a rare occurrence to see physical education classes and activities being removed from the curriculum. Not only is this resulting in children becoming unfit but can result in children struggling with simple tasks such as tumbling, hopping and balancing skills. When you juggle, touching the ball is half of the battle. The other is being in control of your body.

We may underestimate the importance of balance in soccer, but with all of the rapid lateral movement that takes place in the game, it is something that we can not afford to neglect. If we encourage juggling skills, balance will be improved. When players practice juggling they need to have a relaxed posture, with slightly bent knees, using their arms for balance. During the task a player is likely to lose control of the ball and will stretch out to get that extra touch which could result in the player losing his or her balance.

Therefore encourage players to become familiarized with the ball and if they feel they are about to lose control simply let it touch the ground and have them start again. This will allow the player to maintain their balance. It is amazing that players do not really understand the meaning and purpose of agility and why it is required in soccer. During this past summer I questioned a group of regional level players as to why they needed to be agile as a soccer player. Not one could give me the meaning of agility or why it is important to be agile so they can play soccer.

Agility is a natural partner to balance, but it is being able to keep your balance while performing the skill in motion. Juggling can help players improve their agility especially if they work in pairs or challenge their individual skills by knocking the ball out of their proximity and keeping it under control. If working in pairs, players must move after playing the ball off to their partner and prepare to receive the ball back after a set number of touches.

All of these skills may seem like a coach can develop and improve these during the practice time with players but with juggling, players are in control of their own development and can also improve their fitness level while doing something soccer-specific. Juggling is mainly an aerobic activity which helps with the development of those muscles such as hip flexors and lower back muscles that, if not conditioned properly, will tire in games and leave players lacking speed in the later stages of matches.

As coaches you need to keep a variation of juggling activities that will help keep the players motivated. Whether they practice at home in the back yard or at the soccer field, players have to want to improve and must show this desire. Players can work on juggling skills to improve their touch, balance, agility and general fitness and do so at their own rate. It is important for players to have patience while practicing their juggling skills. They can’t expect to become good at juggling in few weeks. This is something that takes time but players who do it on a more consistent basis will obviously reach their goals sooner than those who practice once a week.

When players first start, they may only be able to juggle the ball one or two times; the majority will start in a comfort zone by only doing the skill using their thighs. Instead of requesting that players count how many times they can juggle the ball before it drops to the ground, allow them to see how many touches they can accomplish in a set time no matter if it touches the floor or not.

As the players become in harmony with the ball and start to master the skill of juggling, you can then challenge them by assigning tasks to accomplish. Set goals, such as a set number of touches before the ball hits the ground. Juggle while moving from one place to another or knock the ball high and away slightly so the player has to adjust their position to keep the ball under control as it drops.

Many of you may have seen high level professional players partake in juggling exercise in pairs or small groups. This is a skill you can introduce to your players and teams as they start to become more comfortable so you can continuously focus and develop the skills behind the purpose of juggling. Keep encouraging this skill amongst your players and realize it does have a bigger purpose that will help them in the game.

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

Why pitchers should be skeptical of most professional pitching instructors

By Dick Mills

Professional pitching instructors have many duties when they are being paid to instruct pitchers at all levels – some of those duties are to help them improve to the best of their ability and give to them an ongoing plan for ongoing improvement. Unfortunately, that is not what is happening in most cases because professional pitching instructors are not videotaping pitchers during each practice session. Without videotaping even big league pitching coaches can only guess what is happening with a pitcher’s overall mechanics.

Certainly there are some actions that can be observed by just using the naked eye. For example, it is easy to see the back foot action and the front foot positioning as a pitcher moves from the back leg to the front let. It is easy to see when the pitcher is landing on the midline or not or even whether he is swinging his lead leg out and around…all of which will reduce velocity, lead to poor control while adding stress to the arm.

However, the main mechanical components for maximizing force production and thus improving velocity cannot be seen with the naked eye.

For example, an experienced instructor cannot see these important points that maximize velocity, affect control and can add or reduce stress to the arm:

  1. the position of the back knee whether it is collapsing the back leg or not
  2. whether the pitcher is completing back leg drive or not…a major component for maximizing velocity
  3. the amount of elbow flexion or elbow bend which can impact the positioning of the arm at landing and going into acceleration
  4. the angle of the front leg at landing and whether the leg and hip are bracing at the right time or not
  5. the position of the throwing arm, hip and trunk at maximum external shoulder rotation (arm laying back to parallel)
  6. back foot action and timing for maximizing hip rotation
  7. position of the hips and trunk at maximum external shoulder rotation
  8. position of throwing elbow in relation to trunk at maximum external rotation
  9. stride length – can the pitcher manage his stride and maximize trunk rotation and flexion speed?
  10. arm position at ball release – is the arm fully extended

There are more of these mechanical issues, however without videotaping a professional instructor is simply guessing. And you may be wasting money and valuable time.

Dick Mills was a pitcher with the Boston Red Sox and has been a pitching instructor for his entire adult life. He is the first instructor to use sports science research as the foundation for teaching velocity and control while reducing the risk of arm injuries. Dick was a faculty member for the American Sports Medicine Institute’s 27th annual Course In Baseball Injuries in January, 2009. His website, pitching.com, has been online since August of 1996, helping over 20,000 pitching prospects from Little League to pro baseball improve their mechanics and velocity.

Good guy, Granderson

New York Yankee star, Curtis Granderson, recently delivered a huge surprise to a Bronx high school which is certain to help kids struggling with the economics of playing baseball and softball. Read the story here.

Offsides illustrated

Here is a link to a great animated explanation of the soccer offsides rule which may be of great benefit to parents and even youngsters who are new to the sport.