CoachDeck and UNICEF

CoachDeck partner UNICEF is reaching out for your help. Hundreds of thousands of children worldwide face the threat of starvation and disease every day. You can make a difference through CoachDeck’s UNICEF website portal. Knowing you’ve made a difference will make you feel great about your contribution.

iPhone apps for CoachDeck Softball and Football coming soon!

Development is underway for two new CoachDeck iPhone apps…CoachDeck for Football and Softball. Our apps for basketball, soccer and baseball are extremely popular and we expect to have the full product line up on the iTunes store within a matter of weeks. Stay tuned!

March OnDeck Newsletters

If you didn’t receive the March OnDeck Newsletter today, the soccer and baseball/softball issues can be can viewed online. This month we feature great articles from Dan Gazaway, Adrian Parrish and John Ellsworth, along with several great offers for your organization and players.

OnDeck Newsletter goes out tomorrow

The March issues of our popular OnDeck Newsletter for soccer and baseball/softball will go out tomorrow, March 27. We’ve got some great articles and offers you’ll want to see. If you’re not already receiving OnDeck you can subscribe and read previous issues here.

Titling vs. redraft…Parity?

Over the years I’ve used this forum to wage a battle in favor of keeping Little League’s “titled” or “keeper” player system as an option for youth baseball organizations. For those not aware, the titled system is where a player, once drafted to a team, remains on that team for the duration of his Little League career. If you’re interested in reading some of what I’ve written on the topic, you can begin here.

Whenever I’ve debated the merits of titling with someone who favors a redraft, I always hear the same argument in favor of picking the teams anew each season, which is that a redraft favors parity. This statement is made as if an absolute fact that everyone knows to be true – not a point of discussion. My response is always, “Wait, what evidence do you have that redrafting makes teams more even?” There is never a good answer, other than “It just does.”

I don’t think it does. My local league operated under the titled system while my three boys went through. A year or so after my sons graduated and I left the board of directors, the decision was made to forgo titling and switch to the redraft method. I happened to look at their Majors Division standings the other day. Take a look at the results from one of the teams in this league:

If it’s too small to read, I’ll summarize: Halfway through the season, the first place team – the Cardinals – is undefeated, 7-0, and has outscored opponents 58-2! And, because league rules do not allow teams to post margins of victory of more than ten runs, my guess is that the two 10-0 victories and the 12-2 win were probably more lopsided.

This team was picked fresh this year from a common pool, designed to ensure parity. I’m not sure the Cardinals’ opponents would agree that it worked.

Game day protocol

Infield
Both teams get 10 minutes of infield warm up, starting with the visitors at 25 minutes before game time and for the home team at 15 minutes before game time. For example,for a 1:00 game, visitors take infield at 12:35 and the home team at 12:45. If the visiting team is 2 minutes late getting on the field, they get an 8 minute infield. (Here’s a tip: Practice your warm up at your weekly practice. It not only builds confidence in your players, but it will also make your pregame go smoothly).

Pledge
After pregame, 5 minutes before game time, managers are to line up the players on the first and third baselines and recite the Little League pledge and the Pledge of Allegiance. A player from each team can be chosen to take the lead in reciting the pledges (LL Pledge is on the back of the green book). This will take place after the umpire has had discussion with the team Managers. All players to remain in their respective dugouts during the umpire plate meeting.

Personnel
Only one manager and two coaches (previously approved by league) are allowed on the field during any part of a team’s pregame warm-up. Moreover, players are not permitted to circumvent this rule by going outside the field boundaries to be warmed-up by an adult.

Communication
Only one manager and two coaches (previously approved by league) are permitted to interact with the players during a game. Players and coaches are not allowed to fraternize or communicate with parents, siblings or friends during the game.

Sportsmanship
Our league encourages managers to teach the kids sportsmanship and show respect for opponents. Teams ahead by 10 runs or more should stop stealing on passed balls and taking more than one base on hits.

Your players ought to be reminded that chanting or yelling (or doing anything designed to distract a player) is not permitted when a pitcher begins his wind up. Your team’s parents need to know this too. Umpires should be reminded that if this occurs, the umpires have discretion to call a strike on the batter or a no-pitch, whichever favors the non-offending team the most.

Coaches cannot approach the umpire. Only managers can communicate with the umpire. Before addressing an umpire on a question, call time out and approach him in a calm manner. Remember, you are setting an example in your behavior.

Managers are not to address players on the opposing teams. Please simply communicate to and cheer on players on your own team. No references should be made to opposing players. (i.e. “He can’t hit it…Just throw a strike”.) Please do not try to intimidate a child with comments designed to do so either directly or indirectly. The offending manager/coach will be removed from the dugout immediately.

Procedure
Managers and coaches must stay inside the dugout on the cement during play (no sitting on a bucket in the dirt or standing on the field.

If there is a game after yours, get your team to clean out the dugout quickly and BEFORE taking them down the line to have a post-game talk. This is common courtesy as there is another team waiting to get in and get ready with precious little time to do so. Take your post-game talk outside the field so the teams for the next game can begin getting ready.

Home team is responsible for game score reporting. Game scores should be posted within 24 hours by the home team manager. It is preferred that they be posted on game day.

Home team is responsible for pitch count tracking and reporting. If there is a discrepancy, the home team’s record of pitch count will be used. The pitch count volunteer should be “neutral” during the game sitting outside the home team dugout and close to the umpire. To avoid any problems with pitch count reporting, managers should carry a pitch log and have it signed by the other manager at the end of the game.

Home team sets up the field; visitors break it down. (Including dragging it, watering if necessary). Both teams are responsible for picking up trash in their dugouts before they leave). When dragging before new, upcoming game, please try not to drag over the chalk.

All injuries or players who have quit need to be reported immediately to the Division Coordinator, Player Agent and Safety Officer within 24 hours. Managers who are playing with less than a roster of 12 (or 13 in Juniors) and have not notified all parties are subject to penalty from the league Board of Directors.

Coaches may not warm up pitchers or any players at any time. Please have the player on the bench that inning ready to warm up pitcher to move game along. This should be an expectation of the player who is on the bench. Please remember that this is a game for the children not the adults.

Spectators
No spectators may stand behind home plate. It is up to the manager/coach to ask them to move. The umpires have discretion to remove the offending team’s manager from the game if it persists.

Parents or other non-coaches may not coach from stands/behind fence. Cannot say things like, “infield – coming home on a ground ball,” “Johnny, move in,” “get closer to the plate,” etc. Parents may cheer for their team but must leave coaching to the approved volunteer coaches in the dugout.

MAKE THIS A FUN EXPERIENCE FOR EVERY PLAYER ON YOUR TEAM!

Pitching velocity: Three kinds of velocity?

By Dan Gazaway

Did you know there are three types of pitching velocity? They are real, perceived and effective velocity. I am going to spend more time talking about perceived and effective pitching velocity more than I will real velocity because there is simply more to them. Real pitching velocity is what shows up on the radar gun; easy enough. That’s all there is to it.

Perceived pitching velocity is truly how the hitter sees the pitch. You see, as a pitcher, we really have an advantage over any hitter, regardless of who they are. Not only is hitting a baseball one of the hardest things to do in any sport; as a pitcher you have many ways to effect the hitters inability to hit the ball. Some of these are to ensure your stride is at least as long as you are tall; you have a great delayed shoulder rotation etc. Why would that help? The closer you are to home plate at release of the baseball the better. It has been said that every foot closer you are to home plate at release; the perceived pitching velocity is 3 miles an hour faster to the hitter. Perceived, meaning, the ball appears to be traveling faster to the batter because the ball is released closer to home plate; less reaction time for hitter to react to the pitch. Would you rather have Randy Johnson throw 50 feet away from you or 45?

Effective pitching velocity deals with what pitches you are going to throw, what location you will throw those pitches and in what sequence. It is very deceiving to a hitter’s eye when your arm speed and angle are the same whether you throw a fastball or a change-up. Many times hitters predict a certain pitch like a fastball and you throw a curve; or vice versa. Those scenarios explain what effective pitching velocity is.

Dan Gazaway is Owner and Founder of The Pitching Academy (www.thepitchingacademy.com). 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.

Crazy start to a hockey game

You’ve heard the old joke, “I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out?” These guys barely waited for the game to start. Wayne Gretzky once said, “If any of this was fixed, I’d have been in more of them.”

 

Four steps to being in the moment

By John R. Ellsworth M.A

Every athlete I work with in one way shape or form has challenges with “being in the moment” or focusing in the present when it’s time to perform in competition.  When in the heat of a ballgame it is critical for focus to be on only the things that matter to successful execution of the skill or task at hand.  Anything that penetrates or distracts an athlete’s focus is what I call “mental congestion”. Singular focus without mental congestion is what aligns the athletes thought processes on getting the job done and achieving success.

Below are 4 Steps to Being in the Moment I have offered to athletes in an effort to help them perform with a clearer mindset:

1. Stop thinking about your performance.

“I have rarely felt comfortable in the game.  I feel awkward, as if my movements and actions with the bat are all over the place. When I get in this frame of mind I tend to focus on who is watching and what they might be thinking about me and my performance. I try so hard to let go, but I can’t seem to let things go and trust in my skills.”

Athletes are almost always aware of where they are in their routines, but sometimes the awareness becomes “over-awareness” and when this happens we become less connected with our own body awareness in the moment. Thinking too hard about what you are actually doing injects what I call “mental congestion” which in turn takes you out of the performance “frame of mind.”  Focusing more on what’s going on in your mind’s eye about performance execution and not so much on the things outside of you and out of your control is a critical “factor” in performance success. Often athletes pay more attention and in essence give more power to “others” they believe are judging and being critical of their performance. This kind of “power giving” thought process affects self-esteem, and damages confidence.  The critical point to remember is that no one outside of you has any direct control over your success or failure, unless you give them the power to do so.

2. Forget about the future or the past.

“I simply cannot stop thinking about the errors I made last week at a critical time in the game.  These mistakes caused us to lose the game, and consequently the team lost the tournament.”  In some shape or form I hear this from every athlete I work with. It’s either a statement about what I didn’t do or a statement about what I must do that interrupts the unconscious presence that is required to be in the moment.  Think a moment about the last time you really enjoyed something. Were you distracted by something else; absolutely not. You were you were deeply connected with the experience of doing whatever it was that you were doing.  Everything feels better, tastes better, and looks better when in the moment. Performing in the moment allows for a complete sensory experience.  Negative thoughts, or negative self-talk is often centered in the past or the future neither of which we have any control over changing. As Mark Twain said, “I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”  Worry, causes anxiety, and results most often in stress. Worry and it’s by products by their very nature are affected by thinking about something that has either happened, or something that has not happened neither of which we have any control over.  Ruminating, or thinking bleakly about what “might” or “might not happen based on events of the past is the flip side of worrying. You can only master thinking in the present if you practice it.  The next time you are about to sink your teeth into a tasty bowl of vanilla ice cream try and savor what the taste does to your present state of mind.  My guess is that you won’t be thinking about what you had not accomplished today. Savoring simply drives your mind to a place where it can’t focus on anything else because it is occupied in a present tense state of enjoyment.

3. Focus on Task Relevancy

Baseball requires mastery of specific skills for hitting, fielding, or pitching.  Success with the skill requires repetition and hours of practice.  When we achieve practice success we build confidence and when we build confidence we have the physical and mental capacity to perform to the levels we desire.  Sound simple, right? Easier said than done!  The most important aspect to success is making sure the practice plan is focused on the mastery of the appropriate skills required for success.  We all work hard in the batting cage or in the bull pen, but we aren’t always working hard at mastering the right tasks? To achieve mastery the ballplayer must focus on the tasks associated with the skill and only these tasks.  Anything that is essential to the successful execution of a skill is said to be “relevant” to that skill and visa versa anything irrelevant will not support success.  For example, anything external and out of the athletes control is said to be irrelevant because it has no bearing (unless the athlete lets it) on the successful execution of the skill. For example, letting the crowd have an impact on what you do at the plate, or letting the condition of the mound affect success.  Relevant to execution of a swing would be hip rotation, head position, and driving your hands through the ball. Before you embark on mastering any skill, take the time to make a list of the skills relevant and critical to hitting, pitching or fielding and a list of the irrelevant tasks.  This little exercise will help with focus, and the development of a well thought practice plan.

4. Find Flow

The most complete way to achieve and living in the moment is the state of total absorption psychologists call flow. Flow occurs when you are so engrossed in the task that you lose control of everything else around you. Flow embodies an apparent paradox.  How is it possible to be living in the moment if you are unaware of that moment in time? The depth of total immersion locks in focus and attention so that “mental congestion” is unable to penetrate.  In essence, you are unaware of the passage of time.  Flow is elusive, and some say challenging to repetitively achieve.  I disagree! I believe that with the right set of tools, executed in sequence (routine) the stage can be set for the creation of a flow environment.

In essence you create the optimal conditions for the flow state to occur. Step 1: set goals that are achievable, 2: Goals are to be clearly defined. “It could be playing the next bar on a scroll of music or finding the next foothold if you are a rock climber, or turning the page if you are reading a good novel,” says Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the psychologist who first defined the principle of flow. 3: The task needs to offer direct or immediate feedback allowing for immediate communication of success or failure so adjustments can seamlessly adjust your behavior. As attention focus narrows, self-consciousness slowly evaporates. Awareness merges with in the moment action. Personal mastery is achieved in such a way that you are aware, but at the same time unaware. The task is totally intrinsic and being done for the sake of doing rather than the gain of something. Everything is effortless.

There are other steps that enhance and enforce “being in the moment”, but in my view these four have most power in helping others achieve their sense of what an unconscious in the moment performance is like.

John Ellsworth holds a Master’s Degree in counseling psychology with a specialization in sports psychology. You may contact John at Protex Sports, LLC. www.protexsports.com.  You can also send your questions to Ask Coach John.

CoachDeck for football now available for sale!

If you’ve been waiting to get your hands on a copy of CoachDeck for football, now you can. We have it available at www.coachdeck.com. We think you’ll love it!