The Rift (Part three of three)

by Tony Earp, Senior Director of Programming SuperKick/TeamZone

Measuring Success
The success of a team or a player is normally measured by wins and losses. This is a very misleading way to measure whether a coach is doing a good job, a team is having success, or if the players are learning and improving their level of play. For example, a team can be having a very good season, but the individual players have not improved much from the beginning of the year. Another team could be struggling to win games, but the players individually have made tremendous strides in their individual skills and ability with the ball.

The success of a team or a player is determined by a lot of different things that need to be outlined by the coach to the parents before the season begins. These areas of measurement should be different for teams and players of various ages and competitive levels. In short, measuring success for a U8 team is very different than a U16 team. Unfortunately, it is common for adults to use the same barometer (wins/losses) for both age groups.

The areas of measuring success for a team and the players need to be addressed by the coach with the parents before the season. The coach must explain what parents should be looking for throughout the season, and the parents ought to have the opportunity to ask questions and be part of the discussion for determining how success will be measured. This will help set the expectations for the team and players for the entire year. This will also affect how a coach approaches training and games in regards to focus of the training sessions, playing time, moving positions, and other coaching decisions. If the coach’s actions correlate positively with how the coach and parents are measuring success of the team and players for the season, there should fewer issues.

Mistakes will be made by coaches and parents over the course of the year. Every coach has games, practices, and conversations with parents or players they wish they could do over again. Parents make decisions for their kids or comments they probably wish they could take back. In the end, no one is perfect, so to go into a season thinking no one will ever make a bad decision is unrealistic. With that in mind, it is important for coaches and parents to recognize when mistakes are made and acknowledge them. Then, an effort needs to be made to correct the mistake.

For example, I was coaching a U12 girl’s game and I completely mismanaged the playing time for a couple of players on the team. I knew it right away and it was made more evident by the body language and expressions on the girls’ faces. I immediately pulled the girls aside and apologized to them. I let them know that I made a mistake today and I will make sure it does not happen again. An e-mail went out to all parents as soon as I got home acknowledging the error. A coach can cause unnecessary issues by not recognizing when a mistake is made and addressing it immediately.

Similarly, parents need to do the same thing. During another game I was coaching, a parent got into a verbal disagreement with the referee. Before the season started, I made it clear that my expectation was the referee would only be addressed by me. When I saw this happening, I knew I was going to have to address it with the parents. As soon as the game ended, the parent immediately found me and apologized for the behavior. Then, the parent went up to the other parents and apologized to them as well.

These are two examples of a situation which could have turned into an issue between the coach and parents, but instead became moments of growth in the relationship. As kids are taught to take accountability for their actions, adults need to practice what they preach and adhere to the same expectation.

To bridge the rift between coaches and parents, clear expectations set before the season and consistent communication throughout the season are required. Coaches need to view parents as allies, not adversaries, in helping the players and the team have a successful season and make them part of the process. Parents need to allow the coach to do their job and understand there are other kids and parents on the team who may not share their views on what is right or wrong.

Whether you are a coach or a parent, your goal should always be to make things better, not to just point out mistakes and criticize others. A difference of opinions is a good thing. It breeds debate and discussion which creates new ideas and better ways of doing things. If you do not like how something is done, do not be an agent of blame; be an agent of change. This will ensure coaches and parents are working together (closing the rift) throughout the season to provide an exceptional soccer environment for each child.

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


How does the aluminum bat hurt your swing?

by Dave Hudgens, New York Mets Hitting Coach

Every kid today uses an aluminum bat. Through the years, the aluminum bat has developed into a high tech, light weight lethal weapon, with which kids really have a tremendous amount of success. Recently I read an ad that sang the praises of the “large sweet spot” on the aluminum bat. What the ad doesn’t tell you is that this large sweet spot could keep you from maximizing your success as a hitter. Let’s see how the aluminum bat affects your swing:

The Aluminum Bat Increases the Habit of Creating a “Long Swing”
90% of kids that play baseball at the youth league level have long swings. They can get away with it for a while, but it eventually catches up to them as they advance in their playing career and face better pitching. It’s unfortunate because with the proper instruction, many of these kids could have a shorter, more explosive swing which would lead to success.

One of the reasons most kids today have a “long swing” is the muscle memory they’ve developed through the years of using an aluminum bat. Years of using an aluminum bat creates a “sweeping motion” in most kids’ swings, which causes them to actually drag the barrel of the bat through the strike zone. When you sweep the bat through the strike zone, you are incorrectly training your hands to take the wrong path to the ball. You do not want to incorporate any of these bad habits into your swing!

How Can the Aluminum Bat Ruin or Delay Your Career?
Year after year, I see newly drafted players with both an extremely long swing and an ego to match. These guys have been fooled into thinking they are professional hitters when, in reality, they merely had an aluminum bat swing.

One player with whom I worked had a typical aluminum bat swing. He had great success in high school and college. He was drafted, by our scouts, in the first round. Unfortunately he was determined not to change his swing.

For the first two years he would not listen to instruction. After two years of struggling in the low minors (when he thought he would be in the big leagues), he started to listen.

He realized he had to change in order to have some success as a professional ball player. He eventually advanced to the AAA level, but he never attained the success to which his potential could have carried him. His lack of instant success was because of the development of an improper swing and the years of training muscle memory incorrectly. He fell short of reaching his potential.

What if 99% of your practice time created a bad habit that could cost you a college scholarship or Big League career? When would you want to change that habit?

Dave Hudgens has been involved with the best of baseball for over 30 years. He is currently the Hitting Coach for the New York Mets. Prior to that he was a longtime hitting coach in the Oakland Athletics’ organization.

High school girls state championship buzzer-beater

Yesterday in honor of the NCAA Tournament, we showed you the 26 best buzzer-beaters from the 2012-23 college season. Today, while this isn’t college, we bring you a moment that 24 high school girls and the most raucous, enthusiastic crowd maybe ever to watch a girls high school game will never forget.

26 best buzzer-beaters of the 2012-13 college hoops season

In our continued celebration of the impending NCAA tournament, enjoy these 26 great buzzer-beaters from this season. When you get to number eight, and realize its only number eight, it will dawn on you what a great year this was.

Upset stats to review before filling out your bracket

Those first-round picks are so important if you want to win your office NCAA Tournament pool. Here is a graphic breaking down the first-round upsets by seed over the past 28 years.

Funny Futbol Ferret

For your Friday. If you haven’t seen this video of the critter on the loose on the soccer field, it’s worth watching before the weekend.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Beginning today, for those who love college hoops, it’s like the holidays all over again. With meaningful tournament games televised today and tomorrow from Noon Eastern to 2:00 AM  and conference tournament championships Saturday and Sunday; bubbles burst, Cinderella’s bursting on the scene, culminating with the NCAA Tournament selection of the 68 teams invited to the “Big Dance,” we’re in for some buzzer beaters, heart break and jubilation. And that’s just the appetizer to the feast we know begins next week as “March Madness” officially kicks off. Enjoy!