WebGem Glove Form joins OnDeck

We’d like to welcome WebGem Glove Form as a new advertiser in our OnDeck newsletter. For one of the most innovative and exciting new products in the baseball market check them out at http://www.myperfectglove.com.

January OnDeck Newsletters

The January issues of our OnDeck Newsletter went out yesterday. In case you missed our baseball issue featuring eight issues your league must address before Opening Day, you can view it here. Our soccer edition, containing an article providing tips for smoothing the rift between parents and coaches is here. And, of course, if you want to make sure you always get OnDeck delivered to your inbox you can sign up for either sport, or both.

Five youth coaching sins

There are many mistakes – big and small – made by youth sports coaches everywhere. But here are five in particular that seem to be some of the most common traps we fall into.

1). Degrading an opponent: While common sense tells us that most youth coaches know enough not to outright demean a youngster on another team, unfortunately in the worst of circumstances, it does occur. However, what is much more prevalent is when an opposing coach thinks he is being sly or clever and denigrates a player on the other team under the guise of “coaching” his own kids. Examples are, “Get ready to rebound. He has hasn’t made a free-throw this half,” or “Just throw strikes, he hasn’t swung the bat yet.”
2). Becoming angry with players and embarrassing them without coaching: Sure, especially at the youth, recreational level, coaching should be mostly positive and encouraging. The younger the players, the more, “Good try!” and “Get them next time,”s there should be. But as players get older and more skilled, and as winning becomes more important, kids want a coach who will get the most out of them. Even if that means pointing out mistakes. However, the difference between a good coach and a poor one is this: A good coach will address a mistake a youngster made and combine it with something helpful; namely what he could or should have done differently so that he can have success in the same situation next time. A poor coach only gets angry, as if the kid intentionally did something to annoy him, and simply berates. Yelling things like, “What were you thinking?” or “Were you listening in practice?” or “We can’t have that!” certainly serve the intended purpose of making players feel bad, but does nothing to help them improve. In fact, statements such as those have the opposite effect by creating fear, nervousness and lack of confidence.
3). Setting a poor example: When I coached, if our team went to the pizza place after a game, I’d never drink anything alcoholic in front of them. I don’t smoke, but if I did, my players would never know. And a coach should never swear or make crude remarks in front of his players, even if they’re teenagers. These players look up to you and think of you on a level that may equal or even surpass their own parents. Why then let them see or hear you do something you wouldn’t want them to do?
4). Giving up on a team: The coaches I admire most are the ones still working and exhorting their players even in the face of obvious defeat. The soccer coach down 6-0 in the second half who is still up motivating his team to attack and defend. The basketball coach behind by twenty with two minutes left trying his best to cut into the deficit until the buzzer sounds. Or the baseball coach losing by eight runs who tries to make his team believe they can still come back and win. And a sin even greater then giving up on a game, is giving up on the season. When they’re older, the kids you are coaching will be confronted with plenty of adversity. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they learned early in life to never surrender, regardless of the circumstances? You have the opportunity to teach that life lesson.
5). Giving up on a player: We’ve all had kids on our teams who didn’t have the athletic tools to become great. A selfish coach ignores them and focuses on the stars who can help him win. But don’t the players with lesser ability deserve just as much help and instruction as the stars? They need it more. And even a self-serving coach should know that every member of the team is like a link in a chain. Concentrating on only on the strongest links means sometime, in a critical moment, a weaker link is bound to fail and hurt everyone.

The secret to being a great coach is to prepare your players – for the next play, the next game – but also for the next season and for the years ahead. If you can instill in your team tenacity, sportsmanship and self confidence you’ll have taught them to be winners – regardless of your record at the end of the year.

January 2013 OnDeck Newsletter goes out tomorrow

If you haven’t subscribed yet to receive our popular OnDeck Newsletter via email, do so here today! Tomorrow’s issues will be filled with terrific information for all youth sports parents, coaches and league administrators. You’ll want to read “Five Youth Coaching Sins”, by Brian Gotta as well as other useful articles and offers from terrific partners.

Community hero lost on Christmas Day

Here’s a story by the LA Times’ Bill Plaschkes sure to bring a tear to your eyes. Pasadena, California’s Victor McClinton began an organization that allowed thousands of youngsters in the community play youth sports. He was killed on Christmas morning by a stray bullet from gang-related activity.

Gloves 4 Troops

If you want to find something to do with those old ball gloves, help our men and women who are serving overseas and feel great about it, Gloves4Troops is waiting for you to chip in. Minor-league player Vance Albitz read about a soldier who said he wished he had a mitt and ball to fill in the downtime while stationed in Afghanistan, and the idea was born. Read Rick Reilly’s story about Vance and his mission, or just get out to the garage and clean out those shelves with old gloves and balls and send ’em off to Vance. He’ll take care of making sure a thousand of our troops have sore (but happy) arms this spring.

The Rift (Part one of three)

by Tony Earp, Senior Director of Programming SuperKick/TeamZone

If you are around youth soccer long enough, you will certainly hear a coach complain about a parent or a parent complain about a coach. This is not news and everyone has accepted this is a part of youth soccer. It is unrealistic to believe a team can go through a season without a conflict or two between the coach and a parent. There will always be difference in opinions in regards to how coaches coach and how parents feel coaches should coach. There is not one right answer and you will get different opinions from different parents and different coaches about what is “right” and “wrong” when working with kids.

Every parent has different expectations for their kids and how they feel their kid should be coached. Some parents may want their kids to be pushed harder by a coach and expect the coach to be “tough” on their child when mistakes are made. Other parents want coaches to be heavy with the encouragement and never want to hear a negative statement made to their child. Some want a balance of both.

Parents’ opinions will differ on what the coach should be coaching and how the coach should do it. Some want more technical training while other parents want more tactical training. Some parents want their child to be taught how to play a specific position and others want their child to learn many positions. Parents may feel a coach does not do enough conditioning and other parents feel the same coach is doing too much conditioning.

Coaches are no different. Ask different coaches what they feel is important for players of different age groups and you will NOT get the same answer from all of them. All coaches coach a little different and feel some things are more important than others at different age groups. Although there are basic principles coaches tend to follow, you can put the top coaches in the world in the same room and have a very lengthy debate about “best practices” when training players and working with teams.

Between the differences in parent expectations and the vastly different types of coaches who work with youth players, a natural “rift” will form between coaches and parents. This rift can often lead to issues throughout the season, long and uncomfortable meetings, kids switching teams, coaches opting not to coach anymore, and a feeling of “us against them” for the coaches and parents.

As there will always be difference in opinions and issues that come up throughout a season between coaches and parents, I do not think the rift needs to be as big as it seems to be made each season. Coaches and parents need to work together to make each season a positive experience for youth players. Not against each other! Frankly, without a collaborative effort and understanding of one another, a season will quickly become a negative experience for the player, the parents, and the coach.

How do we bridge the rift between coaches and parents? Well, here are some areas where parents and coaches must gain a mutual understanding before the season even begins:

Player vs. The Team

Coaches have to walk a tricky line during a season when trying to do what is best for the entire team and each individual player. At times, it is impossible to do both. Coaches have to make tough decisions about playing time and where kids play on the field in an effort to give the team the best chance to be successful. This can put an individual player in a situation that is not ideal for his/her development or not allow them to enjoy playing the game as much. The coach still needs to make the best effort to ensure each individual player gets the same opportunities, but in team sports that is not always guaranteed. It is the nature of being on a team.

From the parents’ perspective, all want the team to do well and have success, but that is not as important as how their individual child is doing. It is not because they are paying for their child to be part of this team and with that comes certain expectations about playing time and opportunities (although it is part of it). It is simply because all parents want the best chance for their kid. When that chance is taken away by a coaching decision, it is irrationally blind for a coach to be apathetic to the parents’ feelings on the matter.

Coaches need to understand parents are going go care more about how their individual child is doing versus the team, but parents need to also understand the coaches have the responsibility to make decisions that are in the best interest of the entire team and individual players at the same time. There will be times when a coach may have to decide between the two. This is not easy. Veteran coaches struggle with it, so a new coach will certainly run into issues and make mistakes.

When this occurs, coaches and parents need to discuss this openly. Both need to come with an open mind and willing to understand the other person’s point of view. Even better, this needs to be discussed before the season begins! How will decisions like this be made? What is the process? What is considered by the coach? Etc…

How a coach makes these decisions will differ in relation to the age of the kids, competition level of the team, the organization’s philosophy the coach has to follow, coach’s personal views, and other pertinent variables. If the parents and coach discuss how this Individual Player versus The Team question will be addressed before the season, it is less likely to be an issue throughout the season. (In Part 2: What’s best for the player and communication)

Tony Earp directs SuperKick/TeamZone Columbus’ Soccer Skills programs. Tony has a Masters in Education from The Ohio State University. Tony was a standout player both academically and athletically at The Ohio State University, earning multiple honors both on the field and in the classroom. He can be reached at tearp@superkickcolumbus.com

Three tips to win at the blame game

By John Ellsworth

After a tough loss or even a big win where your sports kid makes a few errors, what habits and behaviors do they exhibit after the game. Do they blame the loss or errors on external factors like the condition of the field, the officials, crowd noise, or the opposing team?

If this happens your kid is in the process of or has already developed a “blame game” mentality. At the end of the day its important for every kid to learn how to take the wins and losses into context. Taking responsibility for making mistakes is as important as feeling good about their individual performance in wins or losses. It’s important kids learn how to cope with the challenges that comes with making mistakes, or coming off of a poor individual performance.

“The major problem with making excuses and giving explanations is that it doesn’t help the child learn to manage him or herself or to perform,” says James Lehman MSW.

As sports parents, coaches, and mentors, it a necessity for everyone involved in kids sports to remember that’s its how the message is delivered that sets the tone for how kids cope with and learn from mistakes. Does the message support the “blame game“, or does it support the reality that mistakes are a part of life.

It’s important for adults to model positive behavior in the face of setbacks. The language adults use in both verbally and non-verbally teaches both good and bad approaches to coping with the situation. If kids see parents playing the “blame game” on an official or coach for a bad call they will learn that its permissible to deflect the responsibility for mistakes onto others.

Tip #1: The Role Model Concept

Here’s a novel idea, why not use the role model concept to talk to your young athletes about setbacks. Have a few examples ready to pull out of your back pocket of situations and athletes responses to these situations. They can serve as constructive alternatives to playing the “blame game.” Use all the resources at your disposal to educate your young athlete. Most important of all encourage your athlete to move on.

Everyone makes mistakes, fails, makes errors and get frustrated when they don’t have what it takes to be successful on the field of play on any given day.

Being able to deal with, rather than fear, mistakes is one of the most important character traits for a “Major League Person” to acquire. Consequently, I have felt that one of the most important contributions Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) can make to improve youth sports is to make the “mistake ritual” a common practice in youth sports,” says Jim Thompson of the Positive Coaches Alliance (PCA).

Tip #2: Flushing the Mistakes

Many coaches have used the “flushing mistakes technique” to help athletes rid themselves of self blame for making mistakes. It’s a simple technique that requires the athlete to use a flushing motion, kind of like flushing a toilet, to metaphorically flush away the negative feeling that comes from making a mistake.

The 2000 US Women’s Olympic softball team used the flush to come out of the loser’s bracket to win the gold medal in Sydney.

Ken Ravizza, sports psychology professor at Cal State Fullerton and consultant to many college and professional teams, has developed the concept further. Ken, helped Cal State Fullerton turn its season around and win the NCAA Baseball Championship in 2004

Tip #3: Communicate Healthy Messages

We serve as teachers, parents, coaches and role models for young athletes. In these roles it’s critical we communicate messages that support healthy approaches to meeting life’s challenges void of defensive maneuvers to deflect and place the blame elsewhere. In doing so we not only develop healthy approaches to sport performance, but longer term tools for dealing with the challenges kids will face down the road of life.

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.

Build Self Esteem – Reward Your Players

By Olan Suddeth

So, you are coaching youth league baseball. Did you realize how important you now are in the eyes of a dozen or so kids? If you doubt this, then ask a few random ex-youth baseball players about influential adults from their childhood. I guarantee that a large number of them will answer “youth league baseball coach” – assuming, of course, that they were lucky enough to have a good one.

Don’t think for a moment that your job as a coach is just about teaching kids to catch, hit, and throw. Baseball is full of valuable life lessons, as well – how to work with others, the importance of hard work and discipline, how to succeed, how to handle failure. You have a fantastic opportunity to help build confidence and self-esteem in these kids… the opportunity to make a difference.

Now that I’ve perhaps overwhelmed you a bit, let’s bring this discussion back down to earth. Understand, I expect a lot from my players – even if they happen to be only five or six years old. If they dog it and don’t turn in a good effort, I’ll let them know it. I don’t believe in coddling baseball players; organized sports are not play groups, nor should they be. However, if you are always negative, not only can you hurt a kid’s feelings, but you run the risk of no longer being able to reach them – and thus, your team suffers. Address problems as they arise, deal with the incident, then move on. Stay positive!

Encourage, encourage, encourage

It may sound trite, but if a kid does a good job, let him know. You know good and well that if he misses a grounder, you’ll remind him to stay in front of it, to get his glove down, etc. Are you telling him “good job” when he makes a good play? You don’t have to brag on every routine grounder in practice, but you need to let kids know that you see and approve when they do things right.

If a kid makes a bad play, but is giving it his best, let him know that it’s okay. He already feels bad about not making the play – and what more can you expect than his best effort? It’s fine to give him pointers on what he can do next time to help succeed, but don’t berate him just because he fails.

On the other hand, if he’s not giving it his best, point that out, and let him know that you expect more – and that he should, too. Your players will respect you for this, especially if you apply this standard to the whole team (star players should never be exempt).

Don’t underestimate the power of a bribe

Kids love to get rewards. Heck, people in general love to get rewards. Sure, your players are there to play baseball, and some coaches seem to think that baseball in and of itself should be a reward. I say, bribe ’em!

Go to your local sporting goods store and invest a few dollars in some helmet stickers (these usually retail for around $2.99 per pack). Think of the tomahawks you see on the helmets of the Florida State Seminoles football team – the principle is the same. Set some standards early in the year, then announce them to the team. When players meet these standards, give them a sticker, and let the put them where they like.

Ideas include: hitting safely in a game, making a good stop in a game, stealing a base, throwing a runner out, etc. I’ve also seen coaches give out baseball stickers for hits, skull & crossbones stickers for defense – this is very popular with kids.

Give out game balls. Select a player who has done a great job during the game, and give them a baseball. In most leagues, this one won’t cost you a cent, since the ballpark usually provides at least a couple of balls per game. Don’t just hand over a blank baseball, however. Grab a sharpie, wite the player’s name, the date, the teams involved, and “Player of the Game” or “M.V.P.” on the ball. You’ve now turned just another baseball into a keepsake – reminder of a special moment.

Game balls are a great way to make sure that everyone gets some recognition over the course of the year; keep track of who has and who hasn’t gotten one, and try to make sure that every player gets at least one. However, don’t fall into the trap of bragging on the “lesser” players every time they manage to put a bat on the ball, while still neglecting your good players if they fail to go three for three with five put outs in the field.

If you own a computer and a printer, you might want to consider giving your players certificates. Pre-print some “player of the game” certificates to go along with their ball. At the park, you can fill out their name and the date, and sign it. These don’t have to be fancy, but they can really make a kid fee special. Give out certificates (and balls) for kids that get their first home run.

Extracurricular activities

Sure, you’ve spent hours at the ballpark this week. The game is over, practices are done, and you are ready for some relaxation time. Guess what? You are a youth league coach. Relax in the off season!

Now, don’t be silly and insist on taking the team somewhere after every game. You should, though, take the team to Pizza Hut, McDonalds, or an ice cream parlor at least a couple of times over the course of the season. I have observed a direct correlation between the number of such after-game events and the overall happiness of the team.

Go to your local dollar store and buy enough water guns for the whole team. Have a parent fill them, and then pull them out, unannounced, after practice or a game. Add some water balloons, and you have a happy team!

Bring a football to practice one day, end practice early, and play a little two hand touch. Bring a couple of half gallons of ice cream to a game once during the year. Give your kids small hollow chocolate Easter bunnies right before Easter.

At the end of the year, go and spend the five dollars per kid – collect money from the parents to finance this, if need be – and buy the team simple medals to go along with whatever league trophy is handed out (you can get these from any trophy or award store – they’ll be happy to help you). Be really classy and have their names engraved on the back for another whopping dollar or so!

Be positive, be upbeat, and demonstrate to your players that you enjoy them, believe in them, and appreciate them. Not only will you enrich their lives, not only will they play harder for you, but you might just get a little bit out of it yourself.

Olan Suddeth is a Little League coach in the Birmingham, Alabama area. His website, Youth Baseball Info, offers free articles, drills, and tips for youth baseball coaches, parents and fans.

More Little League rules (myths) you might not know

Rule? The pitcher gets eight warm-up pitches between innings.

Reality: Under normal circumstances a pitcher gets amaximum of eight pitches between innings. The pitcher is only allowed a maximum of one minute in order to complete these pitches, however. Thus, if the pitcher is slow he or she may not be able to complete the eight pitches before the one minute elapses.

The one minute clock starts at the end of the previous half-inning, that is, when the third out is made. Thus, the time for the pitcher and catcher to take their positions comes out of the one minute that the pitcher is allotted.

Little League umpires rarely time teams with a stopwatch. If the pitcher and catcher (or another player wearing the required helmet/mask/throat guard) take the field promptly and don’t dawdle between pitches, then umpires usually allow them the full eight pitches, even if it takes somewhat longer than a minute. If the catcher is slow getting his gear on and the defense doesn’t send another player out in his place, or if the defense has a two-minute rah-rah huddle before taking the field, an umpire can limit the number of pitches allowed, or even eliminate them completely once the one minute period is exceeded.

Conversely, if weather or other game conditions warrant it, an umpire can grant a pitcher extra warm-up pitches. In particular, if a pitcher is injured and his replacement has not had time to warm up, the umpire may allow the replacement as many pitches as the umpire sees fit.