Seventy-five great sports photos of 2012

Very cool slideshow, courtesy of Sports Illustrated.

In defense of football

With all of the increased scrutiny and concern regarding concussions and other injuries often related to football, it seems more and more parents are choosing not to let their kids play tackle football. Some are even calling for an outright ban of the sport. Here is a great article written by a mom, who describes herself as over-protective, who has chosen to let her son play.

OnDeck Newsletters for November

If you missed this month’s issues of OnDeck, they are available to read online. Our soccer newsletter, featuring a great article from Tom Turner on teaching creativity can be viewed here. OnDeck for Baseball, including a ton of tremendous information for coaches and players by Ryan Sienko, is here. If you want to ensure you receive all future issues, sign up today.

Is it ever too much?

One of my sons is coaching a 10U travel baseball team in Southern California. The day after Thanksgiving the families on the team (and he) had to leave at 4:30 AM to drive to Las Vegas for a tournament there. My daughter’s soccer club hosted a Thanksgiving tournament attended by teams from out of state, as young as U7. Aside from Christmas, New Years and Thanksgiving, there doesn’t seem to be a day off for kids playing competitive sports.

Some may say that this is a great thing. What is the downside of kids playing the sports they love? The more they play, the better they become and the less opportunity there is for them to find trouble. We all love sports for the lessons it teaches and the healthy lifestyle it promotes. So how can there be too much of a good thing?

School
Our family has had to pull our kids out of grade and middle school early to travel to tournaments. When my boys got into high school and college, the entire team routinely missed classes to go to away games or series’. I can’t count how many school nights over the years we got home from games so late that homework was either done well past midnight, or not at all. Obviously, learning and grades have to suffer in these instances. And maybe more importantly, it is one thing to preach that school is the priority over sports, but it is difficult to convince kids we mean it when we’re allowing them to skip education time because of it.

Injury
Injury can occur in children who only play occasionally – it is not just the competitive players who get hurt. However the most common youth sports-related injuries in the past decade are from overuse, such as stress fractures and tendinitis. These injuries are the body’s way of saying we’re pushing too hard, that we need a rest. Kids who participate in 15-20 hours of sports per week are far more susceptible.

Family
I remember one weekend, before any of our four kids could drive, that they each had out-of-town tournaments – all at different locations. My daughter was essentially handed off to another family on the soccer team for the weekend, my wife took one son to his baseball games and I had to arrange a meeting at a gas station just off the freeway to provide a ride for another son. When multiple kids are involved, family becomes secondary to athletics. Time spent together is virtually non-existent. As kids get older and their sports more competitive, there is rarely time for vacation, church – even dinners together are often a luxury. And younger kids in tow often get the worst of it. When my daughter was a pre-schooler her weekends often consisted of sitting on hot aluminum bleachers at a dusty baseball field from morning to night both Saturday and Sunday.

Burnout
And of course, the more kids play, the more we risk burnout. I feel fortunate not to have had any personal experience with this issue but there are plenty of young athletes for whom fun and games somehow seemed to become life and death. Enjoyment was replaced by stress and anxiety. And they quit playing altogether as a result.

Some parents probably have the perspective that even if a kid plays competitive sports from age 8-18, that’s just ten years out of a lifetime. They’ll be grown up and done before you know it and we’ll wish we had more opportunities to see them play. Even though my wife and I often longed for a lazy weekend together as a family with no games on the schedule, when we could maybe just go to the beach, we never pulled in the reigns. Part of the reason is this is what our kids loved to do. And part is that with so many kids competing for so few spots, you feel like you can’t take time off or you’ll fall behind. Whether this non-stop activity in today’s youth sports culture is good or bad, one thing seems clear: It doesn’t look like it will change any time soon.

The be a successful player, you must…Part one

The first of two parts. This outstanding checklist bullet-points everything needed to be a successful pitcher, hitter and teammate.

TO BE A GOOD TEAMMATE YOU WILL

  • Be On Time
  • Come to Practice and Games Dressed Correctly
  • Come To Practice and Games Mentally Prepared to Get Better and COMPETE
  • Do Your Job (move runners over, get runners in, catch the ball, do your field work)
  • Always HUSTLE
  • KNOW THE SIGNS
  • Have Focus on the Task at Hand
  • Know Where the Ball is at All Times
  • Run the Bases Hard
  • Be Prepared
  • Be Relentless
  • NEVER GIVE IN
  • NEVER GIVE UP
  • Want the Ball or Want to be the Man Up at the Plate when the Game is on the Line
  • Properly Warm Up and Loosen Up Daily to Avoid Injuries
  • Play Fundamental Baseball
  • Always Pick Your Teammates Up
  • Always Encourage Your Teammates
  • Always Congratulate Your Teammates
  • Take Responsibility for your OWN Actions
  • Look at Yourself to Help the Team BEFORE You Look to Others to do it
  • Take Care or Your Body and Prepare it During the Off-Season and Maintain it During the Season
  • Understand that Every Day is a New Opportunity to Get Better
  • Understand that Ever Day is a New Opportunity to Succeed
  • Take Pride in Your Pre and Post Game Field Responsibilities
  • Prepare for the next game starts as soon as the last out of the present game is made.
  • Understand what the game today taught you about how you will prepare tomorrow
  • Alert the coaches quickly if you were injured
  • Plan Ahead if You need added time tomorrow to get prepared
  • Realize That EVERY PLAYER has an Important Role to OUR TEAM SUCCESS

TO BE A SUCCESSFUL PITCHER YOU MUST

  • Prepare Your Body During the Off-Season to be Ready from Day 1 of the Season
  • Be Mentally Prepared for Every Outing
  • Be Willing to Make Physical Adjustments to your Delivery
  • Be Willing to Change
  • Repeat Your Delivery on All of Your Pitches
  • Be Able to Recognize Quickly when You are NOT Repeating Your Delivery and Make and Adjustment
  • Be Able to ACCELERATE Through Every Pitch
  • Locate Low & Away Fastball to Right Handed Hitters
  • Locate Fastballs Up and In to Right Hand Hitters
  • Be Able to Throw First Pitch Strikes
  • Throw a Breaking Ball for Strike
  • Be Able to Field Your Position
  • Be Able to Give Quick and Accurate Throws to All Bases on Comebackers
  • Point Out and Be Vocal to help the Catcher Locate the Ball on Wild Pitches
  • Understand & Execute Horns Plays & Coverages
  • Be Able to Focus & Concentrate on Task at Hand
  • Be Able to Throw an Off-Speed Pitch
  • Focus on getting ahead of Each Batter
  • Make the Batter Put ONE of the First THREE Pitches in Play
  • Work at a Pace the Keeps Your Defense In the Game
  • Be Able to Get the Ball to Home Plate From Your 1st Movement In UNDER 1.4 Seconds
  • Be Able to Control the Running Game by HOLDING THE BALL
  • Be Able to Give the Catcher a Good Feed on Pitch Outs
  • Execute 0-2/1-2 Pitches
  • Execute an Elevated Fastball over the MIDDLE of the Plate
  • Have a Pre-Pitch Routine to Get you Prepared to Execute the Next Pitch
  • Understand How to Prepare for a Start

How Much Time You need Before a Game. This will consist of:

  • How much time do you need for stretch including running, cords, light dumbbells
  • How much time do you need to play catch
  • How much time do you need to do towel drills
  • How much time do you need to do work on the mound
  • How much time do you need based on if you are a visiting pitcher vs. the home pitcher
  • What pitches will you throw in the bullpen

Fastballs-How Many

Curveballs -How Many

Change Ups -How Many

Secondary Pitches (2 Seamer, Cutter, etc.) -How Many

  • Do you want to throw any Pitch Outs
  • Do you want to throw any Strike out pitches
  • Do you want to throw any 0-2 Breaking Balls
  • Do you want to throw any Sequences
  • Do you want to throw a simulation to the first couple hitters in the line up (This is a tool used by many guys to that they feel that they have already faced them when they get in the game for the first inning).
  • Anything else that you can think of!
  • Complete ALL of the Required Day After Pitching Recovery Program

TO BE A SUCCESSFUL HITTER YOU MUST

  • Be Aggressive
  • Be Willing to Change
  • Have a Plan at the Plate and Have the Discipline to Execute Your Plan
  • See the Ball and Get the Information from the Pitch (Pitch Type, Pitch Speed, & Pitch Location)
  • Know what Pitches the Pitcher Throws
  • Watch in Bullpen and during Warm Ups
  • Know what Pitches the Pitcher can Throw for a Strike
  • Can he locate his breaking ball for a strike or is it usually a ball or in the dirt?
  • Know WHERE the Pitcher is Locating his Pitches
  • Stay Inside the Ball
  • Keep Your Swing Short to the Ball
  • Stay Through the Ball
  • Swing the Bat HARD
  • Be Able to Execute a Sacrifice Bunt
  • Be Able to Execute a Hit & Run
  • Be Able to Drive the Ball the Other Way
  • Be Able to Get a Runner in From 3rd Base with Less Than 2 Outs
  • Shorten & Compact Your Swing
  • Make Adjustments During At Bats and During the Game
  • Watch how the Pitcher Pitches to Similar hitters
  • Let the Bat Head Lag and Explode through the Strike Zone
  • Consistently Hit Line Drives in Batting Practice
  • Approach your Swing to Middle/The Other Way
  • Keep the Ball Fair in Batting Practice
  • Hit the Ball with Backspin
  • Consistently Hit “Your Pitch” Hard During the Game
  • Have the Discipline to Swing only at Strikes
  • Have Balance Throughout the Swing
  • Drive Forward Through the Ball

TO PLAY IN THE FIELD YOU MUST

  • Be Able to Play Catch at 30, 60, 90, & 120 Feet
  • Move your Feet to the Ball
  • Know, Understand, and Be Able to Execute All Coverages
  • Be Able to Execute a Rundown Correctly
  • Stay in Front of the Ball
  • Hit the Cut-Off Man (Outfielders)
  • Communicate Outs After EVERY HITTER
  • Call for the Ball
  • Echo all Calls from the Catcher

Next issue: “Musts” to be a successful outfielder, infielder and catcher

Ryan Sienko is founder and CEO of Catch and Throw, a catching instruction, information, and conditioning company. He played professionally for eight seasons with the Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox and in independent baseball where he was an All-Star. In early 2010 the Joliet Jackhammers inducted him as the inaugural player to their Hall of Fame. He is also an associate scout for the Baltimore Orioles. Ryan can be reached at ryan@catchandthrow.com

Ultimate disc fun

It is nice when an article combines information about an up-and-coming sport with a terrific value lesson about our youth sports culture. The L.A. Times’ Chris Erskine nails it in his article about ultimate disc.

Happy Thanksgiving!

To all of our CoachDeck friends and customers, we wish an enjoyable and memorable Thanksgiving.