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?

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 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.

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.

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.


  • 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
  • Have Focus on the Task at Hand
  • Know Where the Ball is at All Times
  • Run the Bases Hard
  • Be Prepared
  • Be Relentless
  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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

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.

Ten tips to boost confidence

By John Ellsworth

Athletes face many common challenges every day. It’s important for young athletes to develop an awareness of the challenges and how to best beat them. Here is a list of some common challenges:

  1. Performance in practice is better than in performances. Something changes between practice and competition, but it’s difficult to put your finger on it.
  2. Performance takes a hit when “others” are watching. When important people are watching you become aware of their presence, and lose focus. Faced with the worry about letting others down the focus is directed more toward not failing rather than a winning performance. This is similar to stage fright.
  3. Doubt limits performance before and during games. Confidence is gained in practice when the pressure is low, but when a competitive performance requires execution something happens. Doubt sets in and the ability to get the job done disappears. This is called “practice self-confidence” versus “competitive self-confidence.
  4. Fear of failure creates tension and performance suffers. Practice is free and without worry, however during games dear and anxiety paralyzes your execution. The dear and tightness comes from wanting to win so badly. Fear of failure or embarrassment causes the need to try too hard and worry too much about outcomes.
  5. Loss of focus during critical times during a game. When the pressure is on too perform in critical “crunch time” situations attention gets lost. It’s the pressure to perform that causes a “lights out” mental game situation. The mind becomes congested and consequently difficult to clear the congestion and focus in the present.

10 Tips to Boost Confidence & Mental Toughness

1. Boosting Confidence

Confidence is the athlete’s best friend. It is the most important factor determining whether success is felt and internalized. The confidence or lack thereof will spill over into other aspects of your life. That is of course if you identify with your sport performance as a major element to yourself image. Confidence is a core mental game skill because of its importance and relationship to other mental skills. Confidence is the athlete’s belief in his or her ability to perform..

Factors that help athletes feel confident:

  • Having a solid support system
  • Attending practices where pressure is less intense.
  • Performing well in practice
  • Access to good coaches
  • Access to good equipment
  • Being in good physical condition.

TIP: One of the best ways to BOOST confidence is by identifying beliefs, doubts, and expectations that undermine confidence. Beliefs like: “I am not talented enough.” Doubts like: “I can’t perform because I have not mastered the skill in practice.” An expectation: “I need to not give up any turn over’s in today’s game. Knowledge of these gives one the opportunity to practice positive thinking. Since you are aware of them you can then be proactive.

2. Coping with fear of failure.

Fear of failure is characterized by high expectations, a strong desire to succeed (not fail) and anxiety and tension. Fear of failure causes the athlete to worry too much and focus on end results, and about approval by teammates or peers. Fear is generally about:.

  • Feeling embarrassed.
  • Being reprimanded by a coach or peer.
  • Wasted practice time on the wrong things.
  • Not performing up to others expectations for you.

TIP: Fear of failure is rooted in social approval. Being accepted by the group causes the athlete to focus too much on what other people think. It’s important to be aware of your fears and the limited importance of others thoughts about your performance. It’s important that focus be placed on goals the athlete sets and the criteria for measuring success.

3. Identify self-limiting expectations

Expectations about performance cause athletes to focus on perfection and limited tolerance for making errors. Expectations can quickly torpedo confidence because the success target is always moving

Tip: Identify personal expectations or demands about performance that cause the loss of confidence and focus. It’s the constant judging against the unachievable levels of performance expectation that undermines success and joy.

4. Improve focus by dealing with distractions.

Concentration is important, but often the focus is set on a single issue that is the distraction. Example: “I simply cannot drop this pass” – wide receiver while on the offensive line before the ball is thrown. This is what is called a results-oriented focus. It’s best to remain focused in the moment, and let go of worrying about the results. Tell yourself, “One catch at a time,” or “One pass at a time.”

TIP: Focus on the process of the game, and not about the outcome. Decide ahead of time what thought or cue phrase that will keep you centered on catching the pass. For example; concentrate on executing the route pattern and seeing the pass into your hands.

5. Coping tools for setbacks.

When you expect too much of yourself it can be challenging to deal minor errors that are a natural part of sports. It’s important to take note of the expectations (write them down). Give yourself permission to make mistakes. Make a decision in advance on the number of mistakes you will allow yourself to make without judgment. It’s OK to not “make the shot” from time to time. No one can execute perfectly..

TIP: When you have an error or mistake it’s critical you move onto the next play or shot without judgment. Remind yourself to look ahead to the next shot, play, or period of play.

6. Have your own agenda.

Your participation or your performance is for you and not for anyone else. Understand why it is that you participate in sports:

  • Is it for the joy of competition?
  • Is it for the vigorous exercise and health benefits
  • Is it for the reward of reaching a goal?
  • Is it for the social aspect?

TIP: Tap into your reasons for participating in sports. Ask yourself, “why do I do this?” or “what is it that keeps me coming back for more?” Once you know the answers to these questions you will better understand your purpose for engaging in competitive sports.

7. Make sure you are having fun.

Everyone wants to win. Winning is exciting and gives one a sense of accomplishment. Above all make sure you are participating mostly for fun. Remind yourself once again why you are participating in the sport. If it is to please someone else you might be competing for the wrong reasons..

TIP: Fun and enjoyment is the seed that if cultivated develops motivation and desire. If you have allowed yourself to have fun, experience enjoyment, and the joy of being with friends or teammates you will most likely be free of unrealistic expectations for your performance.

8. Use positive self-talk and self-feedback.

It’s important to give yourself positive feedback. It’s easy to call out the critic and beat yourself up for making mistakes. However, I assure you that if you compliment yourself on the things you do well rather than chastising yourself for making mistakes you will perform at a higher level. It’s ok to identify areas needing improvement, but its far more important to give yourself five times as many positive compliments. By doing this you build character, self-confidence, and belief in yourself..

TIP: When your critic shows up try to park it. Ask yourself: What can I say after a game to help myself grow more confident? Don’t dwell on this mistakes or errors, focus more on the improvements made and the plays executed successfully.

9. Don’t let the coach get you down.

Develop a tool for that gives you the ability to hear the coaching and filter out the noise. Coaches have the ability to coach well, but they can often cloud the message with unnecessary chatter and emotion. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the emotion and miss the message..

TIP: Don’t shoot the messenger (the coach). Become your own coach and check in with yourself. Try to understand the coach’s agenda and philosophy. Then execute on only the critical aspects of the message.

10. Self-motivation versus motivation by others.

It’s just the greatest feeling in the world to have others acknowledge you and praise you for your efforts. Getting your name in the paper or receiving an award for your performance success is awesome. I am here to tell you that the most important message or rewards are those you give yourself. Every other accolade is simply the extra icing on the cake. In the end no one but you can really make the difference in your performance because it’s you that is doing the performing..

TIP: Self motivation is the best type of motivation. It’s the intrinsic motivation that is derived from your love of sports. Set goals that are achievable, but challenging. The #1 goal is to have success and feel good about what you have accomplished.

Conclusion:Confidence is the most important factor that influences how we see success and happiness in sports and life. Most athletes gain confidence from practice and success over time. However, you can take a proactive step on your own to boost your confidence and mental toughness by trying some of these tips on yourself. If they work for you who knows how they just might work to help your kids.

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. You can also send your questions to Ask Coach John.

“Imagination”: Part Two

By Tom Turner (Part two of three)

Street Soccer Learning
Youngsters understand very little about the real game. When they begin to play at five or six, they consciously struggle to control the ball in any coordinated way and, invariably, labor to understand even basic ideas about the tactical nature of the game. They might have difficulty stopping the ball with their feet, so they often use their hands. They can be seen stumbling in the wrong direction and they have no appreciation for the lines or the markings on the field. They have little or no use for teammates because they are very egocentric in their thinking.

As these young players start to compete in games with their friends of various ages, they begin to assemble their knowledge slowly and in piecemeal fashion, with observation as their primary mode of learning. They learn how goals are scored and which surfaces of the foot can be used to dribble and kick the ball. They learn to tackle and recover the ball and they learn to find spaces to receive passes from teammates. They learn to move in relation to the ball and to combine with teammates in elementary ways. They learn about boundaries and fouls. Goals are often makeshift from clothing or bags or rocks, and games like “ten goals to half-time and twenty goals to win” often determine the time limit of the street game. Playing with the “star” of the elementary school, or with the big kids on the big field are milestones in a youngsters’ street career.

Significantly, motivated young players as young as six or seven will take time to practice skills that they have observed in others. At first their bodies may not be coordinated enough to successfully use these new skills in games, but they are planting seeds for their own futures. When they are the older, dominant players, the younger players will be the ones falling for their fakes. As they gain experience, they may begin to appreciate that by using their eyes and shoulders and hips and legs they can unbalance or unnerve defenders and buy time to escape a challenge or eek out an opening. Younger and smaller players must learn to adjust to the aggressive play of older or bigger opponents who limit their time and space with the ball and, by the time a street soccer player has reached the age of twelve or thirteen, they will have firmly established both their comfort level with the ball and their basic understanding of the game.

The motivation to play street soccer is found in scoring goals and being involved in the action and the images on television can be vivid and vital. Who would be Claudio today? Which team was USA? Who would be Mia or Michelle or Sissi? Heroes are worshipped by imitation. Emotionally the game is played to emulate and compete and score. There are no coaches or referees or timekeepers or parents. It is young boys and girls in their own world until the calls to return home to the dinner table or bed become too frequent and loud to ignore.

Learning Theory
In our adult world, survival is a matter of habits and routines. We create systems for much of what we do, including getting up, showering and leaving the house in the morning. We create systems for taking care of the lawn, for doing the laundry and for paying the monthly bills. By consciously or unconsciously organizing as much of our lives as possible, we can reduce our stress levels and meet most unexpected challenges. In doing so, we learn a little more about navigating life every day. And so it goes with sport. If a young player has the opportunity to learn the routines of tactical play through small-sided games, they build a repertoire of responses to game situations. As they gain experience, they develop the skill and understanding to play faster; success finds reward in growing confidence. When an unpredictable problem is confronted, the player must either find a solution or learn from the failure in the hope of a better outcome next time. When the numbers are small and the problems are highly repetitive, players can learn solutions in their own time and in their own way. When the numbers are too large, there is too much pressure to experience repetitive success, and frustration can lead to avoidance and eventual withdrawal from the sport.

(Part three of this article to come in next month’s issue).
Tom Turner is a U.S. Soccer National Staff Coach, Region II Boys ODP Coach, Ohio North State Director of Coaching. He can be reached at

Soccer: Club vs. High School

There has been much debate recently about the merits of club soccer players participating on their high school teams. Many clubs are pressuring their players to forgo the high school experience so that they can focus on the club team. Here is an article addressing the subject from Soccer America.