New OnDeck advertiser – Olde Master

We’d like to shine the spotlight on new OnDeck advertiser, Olde Master Originals. The make a unique assortment of personalized wood gifts such as baseball bats, putters, and other unique gifts sure to delight any sports fan. Check them out at www.oldemaster.com.

College Football kicks off tonight!

It seems like we’ve waited forever, but finally, the football season is upon us with a nice slate of games tonight and a full schedule on Saturday. Get ready to cheer on your favorite team!

OnDeck welcomes new advertiser, Soccer Innovations

Soccer Innovations is just that – innovators in the world of soccer products. And their latest and greatest product, the J-Goal lets you turn your backyard into a soccer field extremely economically. They’ve got a full catalog of terrific products for players and coaches.

Catch the latest issues of OnDeck

The August editions of our popular newsletters for soccer and baseball can be read here. Or sign up and get every issue delivered to your inbox.

August OnDeck Newsletter goes out tomorrow

The August 2012 issue of our popular OnDeck Newsletter goes out tomorrow. On the baseball side, we’ll be featuring a great article by Dave Hudgens, New York Mets Hitting Coach, providing cues for hitting success. We also have some great ideas for leagues to try with their websites for the coming season. Our soccer newsletter features another tremendous read by Dave Simeone, this month’s topic: The Four Components of Club Soccer. There are more great articles and special offers from our partners in both editions. You may sign up to receive OnDeck in your inbox each month and read previous issues here.

Win, or be the star?

Would a player rather be a starter and star on a team that loses most games, or be a role-player on a team that wins? Kids want to play – but they also like to win. How can we balance the two?

In recreational sports, coaches and leagues all struggle with determining where and how much everyone should play. I believe we can all agree that in the youngest divisions, all kids should rotate around to play every position and share playing time equally. Imagine a 5U soccer coach making one player only go on defense or sit out much of the game. Or a T-ball coach who lets a five year-old only play outfield and bat last every time. This would be unthinkable.

Opinions vary about when this play equality ends. In other words, at what age and what level of competition do we no longer let everyone play the same as everyone else? When do we begin putting the more talented players in the more coveted (and important) positions, and relegate the less gifted players into back-up roles?

There is no clear and definitive answer to these questions. Some feel that anytime a league is recreational in nature, everyone should play equally, no matter the age. Others believe that with each year can come more merit-based play and position assignment – even in rec. In most sports, at the youngest ages, no score is kept to encourage coaches, parents and players to only focus on playing and having fun, not results or winning. Theoretically, it shouldn’t matter if less talented and more talented players share equal time and roles since no one is trying to win.

But eventually, in all sports, we do begin keeping score. Once that happens, whether it be right or wrong, coaches, players and (maybe especially) parents, do start to measure the outcome of games and seasons by the result of the score. At this point, because everyone would rather win than lose, it is natural that coaches will be prone to play their “stars” where they can help the team most and will assign the others to less important roles.

What would the typical kid prefer? Play a prominent part on a losing team, or be a bit-player on a winner? I’ve seen all four situations. I can tell you about kids who loved being on a championship team, even though they weren’t on the top half of the depth chart. I’ve also known some on the same team who groused and moped because they didn’t get to play where they wanted or as often. And, on the other side of the coin, I’ve known kids who’d rather score a goal and lose 10-1, or be the pitcher for a team that didn’t win a game all season, than to be on a better team and have to give up the individual glory. And I’ve seen kids who were the best athlete on a losing team become bored and disenchanted as the season went along. I think they would have rather been an average player on a winning team. So the answer probably is that there is no “typical” kid. Some are more interested in their own individual accomplishments and fun, and others take more pride in team results.

As coaches, we have the ability to improve the experience for every child, even if there are some who play more than others. One way is to not just cater to the stars, especially since they get most of the glory anyway. This is easy to forget. We spend the post-game exuberantly talking about Melissa’s great game-winning goal or Kyle’s game-winning two-run homer. Make as big a deal about Kevin’s walk to get the rally started or Lisa’s fantastic pass to start the ball going the other way, which lead to Melissa’s goal.

It’s a valuable lesson when kids begin to learn that they’re not all equal in talent. They realize soon enough that not everyone is special athletically. However, the more we as coaches can make them feel special, the more they’ll enjoy playing the game – and the longer they’ll play it. Even if they’re not a superstar.

Congratulations and good luck to Petaluma National in today’s championship

Petaluma National had to take the tough road through the losers bracket to do it, but they’ve reached the United States Championship of the Little League World Series, (today, 3:30 PM EST/ABC), where they will face the only team to have beaten them from Goodlettsville, TN. If they win, they will play tomorrow for the Little League World Series Championship, at 3:o0 on ABC. Best of luck to Petaluma National!

Getting more playing time

By John Ellsworth

Every athlete that comes to me for help almost always wants to improve their performance and get more playing time.  Every parent wants their child to be the best in their sport, have fun, and grow from the lessons sports teaches us about life.  I would like to think all parents want this, but some miss the point and are more focused on what sports can provide in return.  What is the message we are giving to our kids about sport participation?

I recently worked with a very talented volleyball athlete that was invited to play for an elite travel team.  At this level competition everyone on the team is very talented.  Playing time comes down to those with the best skills, and ultimately those the coach feels can best serve the team goals.  At this level the goal is highly end result focused.  At this level most players hope to be seen by a college coach in hopes of receiving a scholarship.  But what happens to the athlete that is obviously very talented, wants desperately to be seen, but likely will not get the playing time they desire.  Every athlete that comes to me wants to be the best, but they don’t all have the talent to make it at the next level.  So how do we help this athlete get what they need?

There are many ways to approach this subject all of which have their pluses and minuses.  The most important success factor in addressing this subject however, is indeed how the coach is approached and how the message is delivered.  On one hand too many parents feel they must control what happens to their kids and make sure every experience is positive otherwise the kids won’t be happy.  As a result they get involved in assuring success is a sure thing.  While this may lead to short term gratification, it can unfortunately have negative long term consequences.

Everyone has and will experience setbacks, challenges, and disappointments in life especially in sports; this is one aspect of how character is developed.  One of the best motivators in life comes from experiencing and feeling what it’s like to lose.  It either motivates us to learn from setbacks or it demoralizes us and we rarely hear the life message or learn the life lesson.  Let’s face it we learn how to cope with adversity, defeat, and difficult situations in childhood.  In childhood our parents impart upon us the coping tools they learned from their parents.  Right, or wrong our children learn from what we teach them and from their own experiences.  Part of growing up is learning how to cope and or navigate our way through the tough times.  This is how we develop character and develop the tools that help us to handle the life struggles we will face.

This athlete wants to be apart of the starting lineup, but at this point she is not getting the playing time in scrimmages and therefore is feeling passed up by the coach.  It’s not yet been determined whether the coach is playing his favorites or whether he is actually picking the most talented athletes to be his starters.  At some point however, before the season starts the coach will decide on his starting lineup.  To address this issue the parents could get involved by approaching the coach, but I would not suggest this.  The athlete approaching the coach is the best first approach.  If the athlete approaches the coach with the right intent and the message is delivered effectively the results can be overwhelmingly positive.  But how exactly should the player approach the coach?  For purposes of discussion let’s say the coach has an open door policy and encourages the athletes to come forward if they have any issues.

Here is what I believe to be the 3 Steps to Getting More Playing Time. It represents a reliable strategy to approach the coach and ask for what they want.

1.  The athlete must know what their goals are.  What do they ultimately want?  Is it simply more playing time right now this season, or is there a longer term goal the athlete has in mind like a college scholarship.  Lastly, it’s important to know who has the agenda – the child, or the parents? The goals must be written down and available for discussion with the coach.  I would ask the athlete to pick no more that three goals; one long term goal, and two season specific performance goals.

2.  The athlete must know their strengths and weaknesses.  From their own assessment and from what they have heard from coaches and others in their support system make a list of your Top 10 strengths and weaknesses. What are the skills the coach will most likely identify as needing improvement?  Have these with you when you meet with the coach.

3.  What is the message you want to bring to the coach?  Be clear and concise about what you plan to say. The message should come from a more global view of helping the team be more successful and how you believe your contribution will help the team.  The following approach takes the “me” out of the discussion, and places more emphasis on the “team,” while asking for help to define where you need to be with your skills to become a major contributor to the team’s success.

“Coach, I would like to be one of your go to players – a part of the starting team.  I know I have strengths and weaknesses and am willing to do whatever is necessary strengthen my weaknesses in order that I may be a stronger asset to the team.  Can you please tell me what you believe to be my Top 3 weaknesses that if improved will help me reach a skill level that would give me a good shot at a starting position?”

The benefits to this approach are many.  The coach gets a wonderful perspective of an athlete that is not afraid to ask for what they want.  This is a great teaching opportunity for the coach to learn more about the athlete’s character and provide guidance and feedback.  There is no guarantee the feedback will be what the athlete wants to hear, but at least the athlete has taken the steps to ask for what they want.  The benefits to the athlete are many; they gain more respect from the coach, they learn effective communication skills, they build self-esteem, and they get immediate and informative feedback.  If the coach is forthright the athlete now knows what needs to be done to take his success to the next level.  The benefits to the parents are many as well, but most importantly they have helped their son or daughter develop effective life skills and empowered them to not be afraid to ask for what they want. If they feel empowered they see life from a greater world view perspective.

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. http://www.protexsports.com. You can also send your questions to Ask Coach John.

Armless archer goes for gold in London

Don’t tell Matt Stutzman about obstacles being tough to overcome. This bright, positive, father of three was born without arms, yet at age 16 learned to shoot a bow and arrow using his feet and face, and is now headed to London to compete in the Paralympics for the United States in the archery competition. The story and video are here.

Preventing football injuries

It’s football season across the country…some high schools have already begun playing or will in coming weeks, and youth football practices are underway, gearing up for the regular season. Our partners at STOP Sports Injuries want to help you prevent as many injuries as possible. Download their free tip sheet here and keep all of your kids in the game all season long.