The Right Thing to Do

The LA Times’ TJ Simers writes about Johann Olav Koss, a four-time Olympic gold medalist in speedskating for Norway in the 1990s, who is improving kids’ lives and making the world a better place through his Right To Play organization. Read this article and be grateful for the wonderful lives our sport-playing children have in North America.

The most rewarding career

“Where does the time go?” This was one of my mother’s favorite sayings when I was a child. Now I know what she means. Just the other day I was in the grocery and a good friend, Katie, walked up in line behind me. Her son, Gus, was a 12 year-old on the first Majors team I coached. She said, “Can you believe that boy you taught to play baseball just graduated from college?” No, Katie, I can’t.

Half of my four are already out the door. The oldest two are in college, the third is mid-way through  high school and our baby girl, (wasn’t she just born last year?) starts high school in the fall. It’s amazing how fast it has all gone. When they were all much younger, a man who was my mentor in business and like a second father to me, Tony Arminio, and I were talking about our families. He was in the twilight of his career, having already put six kids through college. I was just starting out. He told me something I’ll never forget: “You’re just renting them for eighteen years.”

I didn’t want to waste a moment of that rent. I’ve coached each of them in various sports, sometimes as many as four teams at a time. Many weeks, I put in as many hours on the field as I did in my job. During any “down time” when I wasn’t with one of the teams, then I was at the school with my kids pitching batting practice, running passing routes, playing basketball or kicking the soccer ball.

Would I have more money if I hadn’t coached over a thousand games of baseball, basketball, soccer, football and roller hockey? Sure. Would the retirement fund be a little healthier if I’d worked more hours, if we hadn’t paid for travel baseball and soccer, expensive bats and mitts, gas and hotels to out of town tournaments all those years? No doubt. Would I trade that money now for the memories and bonding all that time with my kids produced? Not a chance.

If a young parent were to ask my advice it would be this: Just as it takes drive and determination to succeed in a career, those same qualities are necessary to succeed as parents. And while the definition of successful parenting will vary widely, I believe one foolproof way to define success is in the amount of time spent together. It doesn’t even have to be coaching or sports for that matter. Time in the car, or playing a game or watching a movie, anything that means they’ve got your undivided attention – that’s what studies say they want more than money and things. There were plenty of times I didn’t feel like going down to the park and pitching batting practice or kicking the ball around. There were days I’d rather have been doing something for myself – resting, for instance. But little is more rewarding than knowing you gave 100% effort as a parent at the end of the day.

Of course we all need to work to make a living, and there are economic realities we must face. Some have more freedom and time to devote to their children than others. But even if you only have a few spare minutes a day, use them wisely. Because when those minutes are gone, they’re gone forever. There will be plenty of time to rest soon enough.

OnDeck Newsletter goes out tomorrow

Our May issues of OnDeck will be sent out to 13,000 + soccer, baseball and softball leagues tomorrow. If you’d like to catch up on any issues you missed or sign up to receive tomorrow’s and future issues, you can do so here.

Parents and playing time post popularity

Forgive the alliteration, but our Parents and Playing Time post continues to be popular with readers. Here is a recent email we received:

I just read your piece on “parents and playing time” and was blown way. That is great stuff and something I wish I would’ve stumbled on much earlier in my current season. It really helped me mentally with a difficult situation I’m dealing with right now as a coach. Thank you and keep up the good work.

It seems that from the youth sports level all the way up through high school and beyond, parents continue to feel the need to “help” their children get what they want in their sports careers.

Five keys to sustaining the motivation to finish

In my work with athletes I hear all sorts of reasons why it’s too tough to finish. Some of them are indeed creative, but most of them I have heard a thousand times before.  For some, the task no longer offers enjoyment or intrinsic rewards.  Sometimes meeting failure so many times can build a negative habit of disbelief which is hard to extinguish.  I hear from students that “others” expectations of them far exceed their abilities and they simply lose interest because it’s impossible to please their parents.  Emotional outbursts can sometimes mask themselves as fear and worry about injury. When there is fear there is often a reduction in motivation.

Remember, confidence is directly related to repetitive task success regardless of how large or small the task is.  If success is perceived to be always out of reach then motivation will slowly expire.  If the wind can no longer fill the sails and provide the momentum to move forward doubt will creep in and we will develop a belief system that does not support desire and motivation.  With this type of thinking going on we will strongly consider giving up.
One of my students can’t seem to get the academic grades his parents want, or win a tournament even in the face of hours of practice, desire, and motivation. This smells of either external pressure or higher than usual performance expectations. I am here to tell you that “it’s not how you start, but how you finish that is the most important” regardless of the time it takes to get there. If you have a plan based on reasonable and measurable performance objectives you will achieve incremental success.

Regardless of the school project or the skill mastery required to succeed at a sport there are methods you can use to keep the fire burning and the motivation to succeed at the forefront of your brain.
1. Have a written plan with a goal in mind and milestone objectives.  The size of the task might seem gargantuan and therefore seriously challenging to envision success.  The #1 objective is to accomplish the task or complete the project on time. In the process of execution it’s important to have little successes along the way. We do this by breaking the task into little “increments” to be accomplished over a period of time.  This reduces stress, anxiety, and makes the task much more manageable. By making the task increments more manageable they are consequently easier to complete and therefore satisfaction comes more often and confidence grows.  The success inspires the athlete to tackle the next milestone.  Accomplishment builds intrinsic value and therefore self reward for the accomplishment.

2. Momentum is your # 1 supporter.   Accomplishment builds confidence which builds belief in self, which develops the trust one needs to execute without distractions.  I call executing without distractions a “functional performance.”  Functional performing requires clear and conscious process oriented thinking.  You need momentum!

3. Avoid distractions.   Distractions come in two forms; internal and external.  Internal distractions are the thoughts, and feelings that block us from conscious process oriented thinking. The good news is that we have the power to control internal distractions. Where external distractions are things outside of us we cannot control and actually have no real bearing on our success or failure unless we let them. Distractions creep in when confidence is at a low point, concentration wanes, or boredom sets in.  If too much information congests the mind you will becomes distracted.  The mind can realistically only give one subject 100% of focused effort.  Research suggests no 100% focus can last a maximum o 45 minutes, depending on the subject, which is just about the max amount of time anyone can focus with true clarity. Too much mind chatter causes mental congestion and confusion which causes thought drifting and loss of focus. To avoid distractions you need to know your limits and be aware of what distracts you.

4. Take time outs.  The #1 objective is to focus for as long as possible without getting distracted.  To beat the distraction monkey it’s important to know your concentration time limit.  When you reach your processing capacity take a planned time out.  Almost every sport has time outs. They are designed for regrouping, rest, stress reduction, and strategy.  You are a performer so why not build in scheduled timeouts during your performances to clear and rest the mind.  I like to suggest 4-8 minutes for mind clearance. Walk the dog, take a quick ride on your bike, listen to music or enjoy a cup of tea. The whole idea is to fill your mind with something unrelated to the task at hand.  When you return to the task you will feel energized, alert, and ready to move forward.

5. Lighten the load.  We create way to much stress for ourselves.  If it’s not for the high expectations we create for ourselves it’s about the expectations others create for us that we stretch to accomplish.  All day long we collect what I call “stress nuggets.”  By the end of the day these nuggets weigh us down physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Life is about much more than the “performing” we do to reach that pre-determined goal.  Whatever it takes please be sure to reduce the stress. Incorporate these 5 tips to keep the fire burning.  It’s not always about the end result, but more about the process and the joy we encounter while on the journey.

For more information about this article contact or for information on mental game coaching contact John R. Ellsworth – Mental Game Coach at Protex Sports, LLC. www.protexsports.com. You can also send your questions to Ask Coach John.

NSPCC video archive

We came upon a fantastic video series developed by the UK’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), which should be viewed by every sports organization. Covering topics from bullying among peers, inappropriate behavior from coaches, discrimination and push parents, these brief (less than two minutes) videos dramatize real situations our sports-playing children may face, and provide tools and guidelines league administrators can use to address concerns. These are absolutely must-see for anyone involved in sports activities with children and young people including coaches, volunteer helpers, activity organizers, management committees, participants and parents.

NSPCC – Keeping Children Safe in Sports Series

Introduction
An introduction on safeguarding for anyone involved with children and young people in sports activities including coaches, volunteer helpers, activity organizers, management committees, participants and parents.

Pushy Parents
This video provides advice on keeping children safe in sports and dealing with pushy parents to help anyone involved in sports activities with children and young people – including coaches, volunteer helpers, activity organizers, management committees, participants and parents.

Coach’s Inappropriate Behavior
Does your sports team or club have clear guidelines on appropriate behavior for a coach?

Verbal abuse, aggression and inappropriate workloads
This video provides advice on keeping children safe in sports and what’s considered verbal abuse, aggression and inappropriate workloads.

Disability Discrimination
Is your sports team or club accessible for children and young people with disabilities?

Responding to concerns about physical abuse
How does your sports team or club handle concerns about physical abuse?

Inappropriate demonstration of a technique
This video provides advice on keeping children safe in sports and what’s considered inappropriate demonstration of a technique to help anyone involved in sports activities with children and young people – including coaches, volunteer helpers, activity organisers, management committees, participants and parents.

Confidentiality and safer recruitment
Does your sports team or club have a careful recruitment process for people working closely with children and young people?

Bullying
How do you respond to bullying?

Responding to concerns about sexual abuse
How does your sports team or club handle concerns about sexual abuse?

Responding to concerns about self-harming
Know what to do if you think you think a child or young person is self-harming?

Victimization following a complaint
How does your sports team or club handle complaints?

Supervision Levels
What’s an appropriate level of supervision for children or young people playing sports?

Harassment of a referee or official
Know how to deal with parents or spectators harassing referees?

Racial Discrimination
What is your sports team or club doing to prevent racism?

For more information on the NSPCC go to www.nspcc.org.uk

The perils of over-coaching

By Dave Simeone (Part three of three)

The games that youngsters play on Saturday mornings in their local leagues and associations should be viewed as a vehicle for learning. The same is true concerning their one, or two, days a week in practice. The acquisition of playing ability is a long-term process that begins at the ages of 5 or 6. It is unrealistic to expect youngsters at 10 or 11 years of age, and younger, to have an adult perspective on the game. Because of their maturity level youngsters are learning about the broadest parameters of play. They are at a stage where development is the priority since the acquisition of skill, elementary decision making and an appreciation and passion for soccer are founded. Young players learn, and are a product of their experiences. They learn more from their experiences ( games, activities, and the environment ) than they do from the coach. The role of the coach is to then organize and set up games and activities that the players enjoy and learn from.

Unfortunately, the majority of over-coaching occurs with youngsters who are between the ages of 5 to 11. It occurs, in part, because of the “profile” of the average parent/coach. These parent/coaches bring little practical soccer experience with them. At the same time they are learning about soccer they are learning about coaching. The availability of coaching education throughout state associations, combined with the information that is presented in the courses, simplifies coaching. Once youth coaches are exposed to this information they can assume their role with greater effectiveness While coaches are somewhat responsible to educate the parents of their players parents, in turn, should evaluate the effectiveness of the coach: is my child learning to play soccer or is the coach preoccupied with drills that only permit the players to play at soccer?

Parents should evaluate the demeanor and approach the coach takes towards games: is the coach willing to allow youngsters to play the game for themselves or is he/she absorbed with their active, but unnecessary, participation? Is the coach most concerned with making decisions for the players rather than accepting that the players must make decisions on their own? Overall, there should be uniform agreement and understanding between the parents, coaches and league or association administrators on this matter. This shared responsibility helps ensure that play remains a leisure activity with a long-term interest of player development. REMEMBER…..Play is a key word in player development!

Dave Simeone brings nearly thirty years of coaching and managing experience combined from youth, college, Olympic Development, U.S. National Teams and the National Coaching Schools. Simeone earned his “A” license and National Youth License from U.S. Soccer and the National Diploma from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.

Twenty-one questions: Are you over-coaching?

By Dave Simeone (Part two of three)

TAKE SOME TIME TO EVALUATE WHETHER YOU MIGHT BE OVER-COACHING……………….

  1. Do you find that you are hoarse and your voice is strained following a game?
  2. Is the information that you give your players during half – time emotional but non-specific in terms of assisting them solve the problems they encounter?
  3. Do you utilize catch phrases such as “suck it up, boys” or “no pain, no gain” in attempting to motivate youngsters?
  4. Do you find that you are sweating and running just as much during the game as the players?
  5. Are your pre-game, half time or post-game speeches similar to the president’s state of the union address? In addressing the players do you ramble and cause the players to wonder “What’s his/her point”?
  6. Are your remarks and instructions made during the game and to players repetitive and redundant?
  7. Is this information general, non-specific jargon and cheerleading altering the player’s performance?
  8. Are you reluctant to allow players to make their own decisions during a game? Are you constantly barraging players with instructions during the game?
  9. Do you coach in absolutes such as always or never?
  10. Do you choreograph and arrange players into strict positions with instructions such as “never go out of your zone” or “defenders never cross midfield”?
  11. Have you instructed players to refrain from passing the ball to certain teammates because their present level of ability is, from your adult perspective, inadequate?
  12. Do you spend an excessive amount of time in practice on throw-ins, kick-offs, corner kicks or penalty kicks?
  13. Are you utilizing methods of training that do not allow for players to acquire and improve technical skill, tactical decision making, physical stamina and confidence? (i.e. – dribbling through cones, standing in lines awaiting a turn)
  14. Do your practices resemble games or activities that produce the same degree of movement/stimulation as a soccer game?
  15. Are you attempting to improve the team’s level of fitness by minimizing the time the players have contact with the ball?
  16. Do you view the game as a contest based only on fitness that leads to a preoccupation with running?
  17. Are you openly emotional or upset when addressing the players to the point that they stare at you while thinking “what is he/she so disturbed about”?
  18. As the coach do you have difficulty accepting a realistic approach to winning and losing? Do you believe that winning is synonymous with player development?
  19. Do enjoy and have fun coaching youngsters?
  20. Are you consistently aggravated and apprehensive about coaching?
  21. Do the players seem to enjoy playing because of the input and involvement of you, the coach?

Dave Simeone brings nearly thirty years of coaching and managing experience combined from youth, college, Olympic Development, U.S. National Teams and the National Coaching Schools. Simeone earned his “A” license and National Youth License from U.S. Soccer and the National Diploma from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.

Over-coaching: Resist the urge

By Dave Simeone (Part one of three)

Most of the sports that are currently predominant in our culture involve the coach as an active participant. Although the coach is along the touchline, in the coaching box or on the bench the opportunity for being overly involved with the players constantly exists. These opportunities are aside from the usual timeouts or substitutions. These typical stoppages in play already contribute to many sports being coach oriented rather than player oriented. Combine the standard loud encouragement( i.e.- screaming and yelling ) with animated cheer leading and you have an excess of over-coaching.

Soccer is different than most sports. The involvement of the coach is secondary to those participating in the game: the players. While coach oriented activities ( basketball, baseball, American football ) demand, and allow for, a high degree of involvement by the coach during competitive games, soccer is different. It would be more appropriate to contend that soccer coaches do their work and prepare their teams during the week. By the time it comes to the game on Saturday morning it is up to the participants to act, make decisions, and play! It is essential that the youth soccer coach understand their role. If continuous over – involvement during the game is not the best way to assist the players then the coach has a responsibility to alter their behavior and learn to take a different tact.

Sports such as baseball and American football are what we would refer to as “set up” sports. Between pitches (baseball) or plays (American football) time and opportunity exists for diagrams to be drawn or the coach to reposition an outfielder. Soccer does not allow for similar stoppages since play is continuous and fairly uninterrupted. Players must be allowed, and ultimately able, to think and make decisions on their own. They must learn to solve problems during the game. This self – sufficient type of thinking necessitates that players learn from the game and utilize any and all information that they receive and process towards finding solutions to the problems they encounter. NEXT: Twenty-0ne questions to ask…are you over-coaching?

Dave Simeone has nearly thirty years of coaching and managing experience combined from youth, college, Olympic Development, U.S. National Teams and the National Coaching Schools. Simeone earned his “A” license and National Youth License from U.S. Soccer and the National Diploma from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.

50/50 Hitting

By Dave Hudgens

Weight Transfer
Some hitters may be more weight transfer than rotational. They want to get on top of their front foot and transfer their weight through the ball. You’ll see these hitters on top of their front leg more dramatically than others. The hitters who use a greater percentage of weight transfer, generally speaking, hit more singles and doubles. I have racked my brain to try to give you an example of a Major League weight transfer hitter and I can’t think of any. Some might argue that George Brett was a pure weight transfer hitter – this is a misconception. If you can get a hold of old footage of George, he is definitely a combination of the two. While editing this section, Jordan thought Frank Thomas was a good example of a hitter who utilizes more weight transfer then rotation. I agree, however, he is not purely weight transfer. If you were to arbitrarily assign percentages to his swing, he would be more of a 60% weight transfer, 40% rotational – he uses both.

Rotation
A total rotational hitter will have more power than the weight transfer hitter simply because he uses his hips and legs more and of course you know that is the core part of the body from which power comes. However hitters who are rotationally dominant will generally have a longer swing, pull off the ball more and be more inconsistent – therefore they will have more holes in their swing. They will not be able to use their hands to react to different locations and types of pitches. Dave Kingman, who played in the 1980’s, is a good example of a pure rotational hitter. Dave would hit 40 homeruns a year and hit .200 for average. I can’t think of any Major League hitter who hits purely rotationally, although both Barry Bonds and Greg Vaughn utilize more rotation then weight transfer. Now they would be more in the percentages of 60% rotational, 40% weight transfer. They still use both.

Ted Williams – Charlie Lau
I frequently am asked questions about the all time great hitter, Ted Williams and the late Charlie Lau. Williams is thought of as being a pure rotational hitter, while Lau was a pure weight transfer teacher. Both are misconceptions and misrepresenting the swing. Percentage wise, Ted teaches more rotation but if you look at his old videos and still shots, you clearly see his weight going from back to center which is weight transfer. Lau embraced a pure weight shift philosophy and many of his still shots in his book do show hitters on top of their front leg, however, that isn’t what happened to those same hitters in real game action swings. If any of you have Ted William’s book, The Science of Hitting, turn to the very last page and you will see a perfect swing. However, look closely. Ted has gone to the center position, with his back heel in the air, and his toe – NOT the ball of his foot – on the ground. This clearly shows you the weight has transferred to the center position and therefore, it is not a pure rotational swing. A pure rotational swing would involve no weight transfer and would consist of the weight spinning on the ball of the back foot. It is clear cut – he is definitely not spinning. The swing is definitely a combination of both rotation and weight shift. However, there are varying degrees of this combination. Speaking in mathematical terms, look at it as a matter of the percent used of each. Some hitters will use a greater percentage of rotation, while others will use a greater percentage of weight shift. Ideally the swing should be 50/50. Fifty percent rotational and fifty percent weight transfer. Most great Major League hitters are at 50/50 – A-Rod is a good example.

The effect of having a pure rotational approach is that the hitter will be guaranteed to have a less effective, more inconsistent circular hand path. When taking a circular hand path through the zone, the barrel of the bat stays on the contact plane for a very short time. This leads not only to an improper hand path but also to inconsistent contact. In addition to that, these hitters will have a greater likelihood of rolling over the ball with their top hand which in turn leads to more weak ground balls being hit. Contrast that to a hitter using a strict weight transfer or linear path. Despite the fact that he will stay on the ball longer, he will in fact have more of a chopping type swing. That is why a combination of the two is what leads to the most success. The proper hand path will start out linear or straight to the ball. On the finish or follow through, the swing becomes more circular. In other words, the swing is more linear on the approach to the ball, and more circular on the follow through. Remember to keep it simple because this truly isn’t a difficult concept, people make it much harder then what it is.

Dave Hudgens has been involved with the best of baseball for over 30 years. He is currently the Hitting Coach for the New York Mets. Prior to that he was a longtime hitting coach in the Oakland Athletics’ organization.