Should UCLA have fired Ben Howland?

By all accounts, Ben Howland was a class act – a gentleman. In his ten years at UCLA he led his team to three Final Fours, something 95% of the schools in D1 college basketball would sign up for in a minute. This past season, his squad won the conference title. Yet, still, this week he was fired by the school. L.A. Times’ columnist Bill Plaschke believes the school did the right thing. However another L.A. Times columnist, Bill Dwyre opines that Howland’s firing is just an example of the sad and misguided state of college basketball. Which side do you take?

Let her play!

The L.A. Times’ Chris Erskine loves to write about youth, community sports. This article tells the story of Ella Wood, a 13 year-old girl who played on her school’s flag football team. The team was 8-0, but were made to forfeit every game for letting a girl play.

More baseball myths

This one is among the most common. I once heard a dad who had played baseball at Stanford argue that this myth was true:

Myth: If a pitch hits a player’s hands it’s considered a foul ball, since hands are considered part of the bat.

Reality: The hands are not part of the bat. They are part of the arm.

Don’t believe it? Try this. Hold a bat in your hand at arm’s length. Now open your hand. Did the bat hit the ground? Good, gravity works. Where is your hand? I’ll bet it’s not on the ground. So your hand is not part of the bat.

When a player is hit on the hand by a pitch, the umpire must evaluate the situation just as he would if the pitch had hit him elsewhere:

If the pitch was in the strike zone the ball is dead, runners return to the last legally touched base, and the batter gets a strike. If that was the third strike, the batter is out.
If the batter was in the process of swinging, just as in the previous case, the ball is dead, runners return to the last legally touched base, and the batter gets a strike. If that was the third strike, the batter is out.
If the pitch was not in the strike zone and the batter was not swinging at it, but the batter makes no attempt to get out of the way, the ball is dead, runners return, a ball is charged to the batter and he/she must continue to bat. (Unless that was ball four.)
If none of the above conditions apply, the ball is dead, the batter is awarded first base, and runners advance only if forced.

Remember – when a batter is hit anywhere by a pitch, the ball is immediately dead, whether or not a base award is made.

Read the March OnDeck Newsletters

If you don’t already subscribe to OnDeck, our monthly newsletters, you can read March’s soccer issue and March’s baseball issue now.

OnDeck Newsletter goes out tomorrow

Our March, 2013 issues of OnDeck for Soccer and Baseball go out tomorrow and are filled with tons of great information for youth sports administrators, parents and coaches. If you’d like to subscribe to OnDeck and have it delivered to your inbox each month, you may do so here.

Photos to store in our scrapbooks

As a youth coach, I was lucky that a retired gentleman named Jon decided to pick up photography as a hobby. He had a son playing in our league and loved youth sports. So nearly every game, whether or not his boy was involved, we’d see him beyond the outfield fence with a lens as long as his arm shooting photos. Consequently, hundreds of shots of my childrens’ Little League careers were captured on film and we have those to enjoy now, years later.

But there are so many moments, some funny, some poignant, some exhilarating, that my mind captured along the way too. And while our teams were fortunate enough to do a lot of winning, these instances weren’t necessarily about championships or trophies, but rather, about the kids I had the privilege to  coach through the years.

I remember seeing twelve year-old Colin come up to bat the first game of a new season. He was our lead-off hitter, great player – maybe the best in the league, I’d coached him since he was eight. And now, as we embarked on our final season together, it struck me: This was it. After this year I’d still be coaching, but never him again. And here he was, a player with so much confidence and poise, so different than the little boy I drafted, but still looking down to me to see what I wanted him to do.

There was Andrew, son of my best friend and co-coach, Jeff. Andrew would come to bat in a tense situation – crucial juncture in the game – and  I’d start to give him the signs. He’d smile and raise his eyebrows like John Belushi and I had to turn around to keep from laughing in front of the entire team.

And Jake. He was on my Little League team and my travel team. Earlier in the winter at a travel tournament, in typical Jake fashion, he’d dived for a foul ball near the fence. But as he did so his teeth smashed into a cement strip, causing extensive injuries that would require multiple oral surgeries and years of recovery. I was the first to him on the field that night and realized that this was a player I loved like my own son. Now, just a month later, he was at our first Little League practice of the season – my final as a coach. He had to wear a mask to cover his mouth and he still had pain, but he wasn’t going to miss a moment of the season. I told the team about Jake’s courage and tried to keep it together while I presented him with the ball I’d retrieved from his glove. Of course he’d made the catch.

And, obviously, there are thousands of moments with my own sons and daughter too. Moments that no one got on film or tape, but that will stay with me as long as I live.

There are many goals you will have as a volunteer coach. Run great practices, make your players better, have fun, teach them to work hard, and yes, maybe even win a championship. But as you embark on a new season of coaching, make sure you take the time to load some “film” in your mind’s camera. You want to be ready to capture as many wonderful moments as possible, for your scrapbook of future memories.

Coaches Curriculum for Injury Prevention

Our partners at STOP Sports Injuries have developed a tremendous curriculum toolkit all youth sports coaches should read prior to their first games and practices. Contained within is instruction on preseason conditioning and proper warm-up, overuse injuries, concussions, and heat illness. This can be downloaded and sent to league coaches and/or as the basis for safety clinics. Download the curriculum toolkit here: AOS-103 Coaches Curriculum Toolkit (nm) 2.8[1].