One of sports’ greatest moments

We’ll probably never see anything like it again and those of us, (especially those with a rooting interest) who watched it live will probably never forget it. Last night’s final game of the baseball regular season was a reminder of why baseball isn’t dead – in fact, it is alive and well. Here is a great article recounting the events. It may have been the greatest two hour span in sports history.

It’s up to you

As an eight year Little League board member and 14 year volunteer, it pains me to see a message like I read on the homepage of one of our long-standing client’s website. There are so many positives to youth sports, however it is easy to become cynical when a few people do the work of many and others refuse to chip in. To some degree, when one volunteers, that is essentially what they’re signing up for, I understand. But it sure would be nice if more people would get involved and not always assume someone else will do it. I’ve withheld the names of the league and volunteers, but this could be any organization.

Hello to all (Blank) Little League families,

Just an update on the board meeting that was held on September 15th.
All nominations for board members are still open and will be validated on Sept. 26th, 2011 7pm Field #2 (Blank) Park.

This is a very urgent message please read thoroughly:

I would just like to let everyone know that as of July 30th 2011, (Blank) resigned as President and WILL NOT be coming back. She ran the league for many years and did a great job and I’m sure she along with others, would not like to see the league dissolve after all the hard work that was put into it. (Blank) is now with the District Office.

I would like everyone to understand that if the President position is not filled and voted upon at the next board meeting ,then I would like to highly stress THAT THERE WILL BE NO LITTLE LEAGUE AT (Blank) PARK. I have been been coordinating Fall Ball and with my obligations and job I will not be taking on or even casting my name in for the President position. I have been with the league for about 4-5 years and I cannot believe that out of 200 and some kids/families there were only 7 parents who attended the board meeting and 4 out of those 7 are the same people that help every year. I understand we all have other obligations and such but this will take in effect for Spring 2012.

It is very important that someone consider this situation and step up to try and help this charter. The league has been running for over 40 years and it would be nice and only right to keep it going for our youth and neighborhood.

Fall ball will continue to run thru the season which ends in November, but after that there will be no more baseball if no one is willing to take on the President position.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,

(Acting President)

Fields of hope

Here is a great article about how the San Diego Chargers’ Phillip Rivers and Quentin Jammer and others help get a high school football field built for the San Pasqual Academy, a school for foster children in Escondido, CA. It is great to see a story that so positively reflects professional sports and athletes.

Unbelievable punt return

Too bad it didn’t count, and too bad the likes of it will probably never be seen again since everyone will be wise to this play from now on. Still, got to hand it to the Bears for concocting this idea and pulling it off. Even if there was a phantom hold called to nullify it.

Help young athletes set goals in sports

By Dr. Patrick Cohn

Too often, sports parents set goals for their kids that are different than the kids’ goals. It’s important to help sports kids identify their own goals and then help them follow through on them.

Says Dony Wilcher, a popular basketball coach in Portland, Ore., “I had one parent who wanted the world for his child. He went out of his way to get him the right shoes and send him to the best camps. At the end of it all, he was perplexed that the kid was not a superstar. In some cases, kids will veer away from the sport altogether if the parents’ goals are different than theirs.”

At first, many sports kids generally want to play to have fun and be with friends. At that point, that’s their goal. It’s not necessary for parents to set goals with them. Adults want to structure the sports experience for kids. They can take the fun out of a simple pick up game in the back yard.

When sports kids begin to be competitive—when they play in tournaments or join competitive teams—it’s time to begin talking about their goals. This might be appropriate for some children as young as 7 or 8—if they display unusual talent and motivation.

For example, at peaksports.com, we worked with one 8-year-old motocross racer who spent four hours per day training. It would be appropriate to talk about goals with a child who competes at the national level.

When you’re talking with your young athlete, begin with a broad, open-ended question.

If, for example. your child’s goal is to try out for and make his or her high school basketball team, that’s the long-term goal. Ask the child what he or she needs to do to make the team.

Evaluate his or her skills in dribbling, free-throw shooting, and defense, for example. Try to de-emphasize the long-term goal of making the team. When young athletes are too preoccupied with making the team, they may impose too many expectations on themselves and undermine their confidence.

Instead, parents should help young athletes identify smaller, shorter-term goals, such as improving their free-throw shooting.

Once you’ve helped your young athletes identify their goals, it’s your job to help them follow through on them. The parents, coaches and athletes need to work as a team.

Parents should support their kids by driving them to practices, cheering them on, and finding ways to ensure they are able to follow through on their commitments.

However, it’s critical to be flexible. Parents should help kids modify their goals on a weekly or monthly basis.

Award winning parenting writer Lisa Cohn and Youth Sports Psychology expert Dr. Patrick Cohn are co-founders of The Ultimate Sports Parent. Pick up their free e-book, “Ten Tips to Improve Confidence and Success in Young Athletes” by visiting http://www.youthsportspsychology.com

Mom, I can do this!

Rick Reilly does it again with his touching article about a blind marching band in Columbus, OH. Need a little motivation? Read about 12 year-old bass drummer Brian Rowan, as well as the rest of these courageous kids, and see if you’re not inspired.

You call this baseball?

By Dave Weaver

I begin this article with a disclaimer. I run a program for catchers. I sleep, drink and eat catching. I look at baseball through the eyes of the catcher. I try to come up with ways that leagues can better help the development of their leagues catchers. And I make no apologies.

I discovered a number of years ago one of the reasons that it is often hard to get enough kids to want to catch. At the Minors level, why would a kid want to be responsible for 20 runs scoring? Since the pitchers are still learning to hit the glove, and the catcher is struggling to figure out how to catch the ball in the dirt, it is not uncommon for there to be 20 runs scored solely on passed balls. Why would a kid want to get behind the plate when he knows he’s going to “let” 20 runs score?

Few kids get the opportunity to learn to tag on a fly ball when on third and score from there because the first pitch that goes in the dirt and gets by the catcher he scores. Actually in many games, every kid that gets on scores. And you call this baseball????

A few years ago the youth program in our town made the change that in the Minors there would be no scoring from 3rd on a passed ball. NO scoring at all!!!! By the 2nd week of the season we were having games 2-1, 3-2, like real baseball, not 21-17. It took the pressure off the pitcher and catcher to relax and have fun and not be so overly concerned about runs scoring.

The next season we made some other observations. Our infielders never had the chance to make force plays. As soon a player got on first they would “steal” 2nd, then “steal” 3rd and any chance for a force was usually lost. So we implemented the following rule change: No runner can move, even on a passed ball, until there are 2 strikes on the batter. Suddenly,  there were many opportunities to make the force at 2nd or 3rd. And we even saw a few double plays that first year. We did have some coaches complain about the reduction in running. But then they have a very unrealistic view of base running at the youth level anyway. Here’s their  idea of what happens when a runner gets on first.

Pitch crosses plate, runner goes,…sorta…catcher fakes throw, runner goes back to first….sorta….runner dances the jig off of first to bait catcher to throw,…catcher runs out from behind the plate very badly faking a throw…..runner goes back to first…sorta….catcher tosses ball to pitcher, runner must go back to first..,…yeah that was baseball.

Try that base running at the Babe Ruth level on the 90ft diamond and the runner will be picked off every time. Why do coaches encourage all this unrealistic base running that in no way teaches anything that will be used once the player gets to the bigger field? Simple: The coach wants to win, and doesn’t care if the tactics he employs are not ones the kids will use at the higher levels.

No wonder our youth catchers have so much trouble making the throw at the big field. It’s bad enough that the throw is 42 feet farther then the small diamond, but as a youth player they have never been able to use the simple premise of..runner goes..catcher throws. We have allowed our catchers to get caught up in the ridiculous game of cat and mouse coaches play on the base paths instead of just acting like a catcher and making the throw. Teach your catchers if they see the guy break, make the throw, don’t wait for the coverage to get there, make the throw. That’s real baseball. If the infielder doesn’t go to the bag because he’s not paying attention, then he will be the one that needs the instruction. If your center fielder is paying attention then he will do what his job is and back up the play. That’s baseball!!!

Put in place rules that limit this joke called base running that has no other purpose then to run up scores at the expense of the development of young catchers and pitchers. I’m not opposed to teaching aggressive base running, stretching a single to a double, tagging up from 3rd on the fly to the outfield. But the ridiculous antics of some teams that run the bases in a manner that will only ensure they will be thrown out when they get to the higher levels needs to stop.

Dave Weaver founded The New England Catching Camp in 1994 after realizing that instruction for the toughest position on the diamond was generally unavailable. Weaver teaches at numerous facilities throughout New England and conducts group clinics, team workshops, coaches clinics, and private sessions with catchers of all ages. Dave has coached athletes in a variety of sports for over 30 years, and has been a coach for catchers from youth through professional levels.

Way to go, Mo!

Love the Yankees or hate them, it would be difficult to find anyone who doesn’t respect the greatest closer of all time, Mariano Rivera. Today, Mo gained the “official” designation when he passed Trevor Hoffman on the career saves list with his 602nd. Ian O’Conner of ESPN.com has written a terrific article about Mariano, detailing his incredible rise from a fishing village in Panama, how he was left unprotected by the Yankees, and the class and grace he demonstrates on the field.

Modified street soccer – A model for recreational soccer?

By Chris Brown

In a couple of communities in Western Pennsylvania a soccer revolution is taking place. Today in Fox Chapel and Mercer County the archaic adult model of recreational soccer has been replaced by a modified street soccer format. This model has been introduced to give the game back to the kids, give our children a “taste” for street soccer and to make sure recreational soccer is a positive introduction to the beautiful game.

In many communities a club or local park/recreational authority typically organizes recreational soccer. These organizations either pick teams randomly or quite often they identify an age group administrator who is responsible for creating teams. However, there have been numerous cases where the administrator has abused their position and loaded teams (often their own!) with talent. In an effort to eliminate these problems and equalize teams, some organizations have utilized “drafts” to distribute players to teams. But, is it really fair to draft six and seven year old children? Why should we evaluate their performance in such a callous adult manner, when many of them have limited ability to evaluate their own performance?

In western Pennsylvania, some clubs have responded to the adult orientation of recreational soccer by creating a new structure that maximizes fun, creates an enjoyable learning environment and allows all players to develop a positive rapport with the game. The structure they have hit upon is a modified street soccer or “scramble” format where children train with their “team”, but play games with different players from all over their community. In terms of administration this allows unlimited sizes for team squads, decreases coaching personnel demands, makes for more efficient game scheduling and eases practice field allotment concerns.

In practical terms, in a community like Fox Chapel this “scramble” format works something like this . . . During the week the children practice with their team and their assigned “coach”. However, on game days the teams come to an administrative tent and, in pairs (in their 1st year), the children are randomly assigned colored bibs/vests. This color is their team for the day. So if a child is assigned to the green team, he/she will play one quarter each against four other colored teams. Once assigned to a team, a team chaperone helps the children move from field to field at the end of each quarter to play their new opponent. Each team is assigned enough players for a starting line-up (subs are only used if there are not enough children remaining to make a team). Children are given a “position” for the day (one point on a diamond). The following week they are given a different position. Coaches stay at the field that was the site of their first game. The following week children are mixed up with new children and play on a “new” team against four “new” opponents.

Joe Francioni, the Fox Chapel Area Club President, has found the modified street soccer or “scramble” format to be a great success. “With the scramble format all children are starters,” Joe states. Moreover, it eliminates the triple threat of talent loading, overemphasis on winning/tactics and overzealous “coaching” from the sidelines. Joe has noticed, “that the scramble format creates soccer friends, not soccer enemies and brings the community together.” Playing for fun is prompted since wins and losses become somewhat meaningless. Furthermore, in this environment “coaches” are more willing to use “age-appropriate” activities at practice that promote and maximize ball contacts and allow children to experiment with different techniques. Although this modified street soccer format maximizes playing time for all players it is hard work for the club’s volunteers. Joe Francioni feels that sound organization is key. “We have some fantastic volunteers who ensure that game day organization is very smooth and quick,” says Joe. This can only be done with adequate planning and with the help of committed volunteer administrators.

Chris Brown is head coach of the Kenyon College soccer team and holds both the USSF and UEFA ‘A’ licenses. He has coached in the USL for Columbus FC (which reached the playoffs in 1994) and is a highly-respected former Director of Coaching for Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. He can be reached at brownch@kenyon.edu

CoachDeck partner, UNICEF, announces great news

Our partner, UNICEF just announced that the child mortality rate has dropped substantially. That means a child has a better chance of surviving to the age of 5 than just one year ago. Take a look at the press release below for the details.

However, there are many more lives to save – 21,000 children still die each day from causes we can prevent, and that’s 21,000 too many. Please visit CoachDeck’s UNICEF site and chip in, even a little, to make a difference.

12,000 fewer children perish daily in 2010 than in 1990 – UNICEF, WHO

NEW YORK/GENEVA, 15 September 2011 – The number of children under five years of age dying each year declined from more than 12 million in 1990 to 7.6 million in 2010, UNICEF and the World Health Organization said today, releasing the latest estimates on worldwide child mortality.

These new figures show that compared to 1990, around 12,000 more children’s lives are saved each day.

An annual report on child mortality found that in sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the highest number of under-five deaths in the world, the speed at which the under-five mortality rate is declining doubled from 1.2 per cent a year during 1990-2000 to 2.4 per cent a year during 2000-2010.

“The news that the rate of child mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa is declining twice as fast as it was a decade ago shows that we can make progress even in the poorest places, but we cannot for a moment forget the chilling fact of around 21,000 children dying every day from preventable causes,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director. “Focusing greater investment on the most disadvantaged communities will help us save more children’s lives, more quickly and more cost effectively.”

Between 1990 and 2010, the under-five mortality rate dropped by more than one-third, from 88 deaths per 1,000 live births to 57.

Unfortunately, this rate of progress is still insufficient to meet Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG4), which calls for a two-thirds reduction in the under-five mortality rate by 2015.

“Reductions in child mortality are linked to many factors, particularly increased access to health care services around the newborn period. As well as prevention and treatment of childhood illnesses, and improved nutrition, immunization coverage, and water and sanitation,” said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director General. “This is proof that investing in children’s health is money well spent, and a sign that we need to accelerate that investment through the coming years.”

Some of the greatest improvements are in countries where children are most vulnerable.

One example is Niger, where the 1990 under-five mortality rate was 311 per 1,000 live births. To address the often large distances between people and health centres, a strategy of deploying trained community health workers to deliver high-impact interventions at thousands of new health posts across the country was used. In 2010, Niger was one of the five countries with the greatest absolute reductions in overall under-five mortality rates, together with Malawi, Liberia, Timor-Leste and Sierra Leone.

Dr. Chan and Mr. Lake agreed that the commitment of governments and the implementation of strategies to overcome local constraints to access and use of essential services are critical success factors.

The report shows that newborns and infants are the most at risk of dying, and there has been less progress for them than within the under-five age category as a whole. More than 40 per cent of under-five deaths occur within the first month of life and over 70 per cent in the first year of life.

The improvements and progress are encouraging – but stark disparities persist. Sub-Saharan Africa is still home to the highest rates of child mortality, with one in eight children dying before reaching five – more than 17 times the average for developed regions (1 in 143). Southern Asia has the second highest rates with 1 in 15 children dying before age five.

Under-five deaths are increasingly concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. In 1990, 69 per cent of under-five deaths occurred in these two regions – in 2010, that proportion increased to 82 per cent. About half of all under five deaths in the world took place in just five countries in 2010: India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan and China.

The new estimates are published in the 2011 report Levels & Trends in Child Mortality, issued by the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (IGME), which is led by UNICEF and WHO and includes the World Bank and the UN Population Division.