Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus’ are best friends

This hilarious video shows you why. They mess with each other on pop flies. Andrus takes advantage of Beltre’s dislike of having his head touched. Funny stuff. Nice to see some guys having fun playing baseball.

Read July, 2013 OnDeck Newsletter

If you missed them, you can download your copy of our popular OnDeck newsletter from this post. Choose soccer or baseball…or read them both!

July OnDeck Newsletter goes out tomorrow

Don’t miss the exciting July, 2013 OnDeck Newsletter. Lots of great stuff in our soccer and our baseball/softball editions. You can sign up to receive either or both editions each month.

Letter from a player to a volunteer coach

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck LLC

Dear Coach,

Thank you for coaching my team this season. I hope you can pick me again next year, because I had so much fun. I thought I’d tell you some of my favorite things about you being my coach.

I loved how you were always in such a good mood. I had been scared before the first practice. I didn’t know anyone on the team and I’ve had other coaches who always look serious and mean behind their sunglasses. You smiled at every kid and knelt down when you talked to us. You were always making funny jokes, but not ones that made anyone feel bad.

I really liked coming to practice. We all got so much better because of the drills and instruction you gave us. And since you usually divided us into smaller groups we weren’t ever standing around bored that much. My dad said that gave us a lot of “repetitions.”

But what was amazing was even though we were working hard, your practices were so much fun. I guess part of that was because you were always encouraging us and complimenting us on things we did right. I’ve seen other coaches who are constantly yelling about the things their players are doing wrong. I like your way better. And when someone did make a mistake you’d point it out, but not in a mean way. You’d show us how to do it right and ask us to try again. That really helped.

Another reason your practices were fun was that we were always playing games. Everything we did, even when we were just warming up, you’d figure out a way to make it into a competition so that everyone got excited and wanted to do it again when it was over.

I especially liked coming to the games. I know I wasn’t the best player on the team, but you made me feel like I was. I got to play as much as everyone else and there were a couple of games you said I was one of the “MVP’s”. Did we win those games? I can’t remember.

There were a few times I saw other teams’ coaches yelling at the officials, and then all of their parents did too. I don’t remember you ever doing that. And our parents were quiet. I guess we were lucky and all the calls must have gone our way this season.

It was great that we could count on you. If there was ever a day when I was the first kid to the field, you were already there. And even the times when my mom was the last one to come and get me, you still hadn’t left. Did you live there? Just kidding. I know you really didn’t.

So Coach, I really, really want to say thank you for being such a terrific coach. Every game this year I saw how you joked around with kids you’d coached before, even though they were on the other team. If I can’t be on your team next season, I hope you’ll say “hi” to me too. And I hope my next coach is just like you.

Brian Gotta is President of CoachDeck LLC (www.coachdeck.com). He can be reached at brian@coachdeck.com.

I Want to Play in College (Part 2)

By Tony Earp

If you missed Part 1, you can view it here:

Cost:
This is the most anxious part of the college process for most. How am I going to afford it? Some families have the financial means to pay for a college education, but with rising costs of tuition it is becoming much more difficult. This means many students will need college loans, scholarships, and a job in school to help cover their expenses.

I know many aspiring college players have a dream of earning a full athletic scholarship to the program of their choice. It has been documented in many other articles and books how rare this is for a soccer player. With more than twenty players on a roster at a time, and a limited number of athletic scholarships, a “full ride” is an unrealistic hope for most.

This is why performing well in the classroom is a HUGE asset to players. There is more academic money to be earned at schools than there is athletic money. Having outstanding grades, test scores, and other extracurricular/service credentials on a college transcript can ensure a player more money than success on the soccer field. On a side note, these are things coaches look for as well to decide if they want to bring a player into the program. Not many coaches will take a risk on a player, no matter their skill level, if they feel they will be an issue off the field or struggle to stay eligible to play.

When a player and family do the research to find academic scholarships, financial aid, grants, loans, and other means of paying for college, along with some athletic scholarship money, even the most expensive schools can become an option financially to attend.

The Ultimate Consideration:
Simply, if you were not going to play soccer at the school, would you still want to be there? If your answer is “yes” to this question, the school should be strongly considered. If the answer is “no”, I always implore a player to look elsewhere.
Now how about soccer related items?

Of course these need to be considered as well, and are important to where a player will enjoy their experience playing soccer.

Team Roster:
There are some things a perspective student can tell about a program when looking at the team’s roster. Here are a couple things to look for…

How many seniors are on the team? Yes, some years a program will only have a handful of seniors, but a severe lack of seniors or no seniors on a roster can be an indication that many players to do not stick around for four years. There are a lot of reasons this could be the case, but it is something that should be researched.

What is the average size and weight of the players? This can be an indication of what type of player the coach is looking for and the team’s style of play.

How many players are listed who play your position? This could be a sign of the team being of need of players who play your position or that the team is pretty set. This is especially true for goalkeepers. If the team has 4 goalkeepers on the roster, and most are sophomores or freshmen, there is a good chance the school will not be recruiting a goalkeeper for a couple years.

Where are all the players from? Here you may look to see if the coach recruits in your area. Coaches tend to have recruiting patterns or habits. If there are some players from your area, it means the coach has recruited out of your area before. It may be more likely the coach would get to see you play or trusts someone’s opinion in the area to scout you. When I was looking for a school, one roster I looked at was comprised mainly of players from Europe. I had no problem with that, but it made me feel the coach definitely had a preference in regards to where he recruited and the type of player he wanted on his team.

Number of players on the roster? There are some schools that bring kids into the program as it helps the school with their enrollment numbers. If a roster exceeds 30 players, it may be worth inquiring about the large roster with the coach.

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

Teaching Fielding Fundamentals – Ground Balls

By Olan Suddeth

Chances are that you’ve seen a variation on the following at a youth practice: The coach lines his players up, hits the ball to them, and the ones with some existing skill or innate talent do a good job… while the new player or the less talented athlete struggles. The coach tells them to “get in front of the ball,” to “get their glove down,” and to “keep the ball in front of them.” And that’s about the extent of it.

Maybe this improves over the course of the season. Unfortunately, it has been my experience that this is all too often not the case – instead, the lesser fielders get dropped into the outfield in an effort to minimize their liability to the team. As a result, they get less practice reps than the infielders, and if anything, the disparity between the skill level of infield and outfield widens further.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you should place your weakest fielder at shortstop. What I am suggesting is that you, as the coach, need to make sure that you give all of your players the tools they need in order to succeed. The best way you can do this is by emphasizing – and then consistently teaching – the fundamentals of baseball fielding.

Remember the triangle. Before you begin fielding, line your players up with some space in between them. Have them set up with their feet about shoulder width apart. Now, have them reach their glove out on the ground in front of themselves about the same distance as the width between their feet, as if they are fielding an imaginary grounder. Have them hold the position, and point out that the three things on the ground – each foot, plus the glove – form the points of a triangle. This is the ideal position for fielding a ground ball; feet too close together take away the ability to move laterally, a glove too close to the feet gives no room for error when scooping up a grounder.

Use both hands. This is possibly the most critical aspect of fielding grounders that you can teach, and is oddly enough, the one most often ignored by coaches. When set to field a grounder, the glove should be placed on the ground, and the other hand should be open, above the glove, with the heels of the hand fairly close together (the analogy used for younger players is that of an alligator’s mouth).

When the ball enters the glove, the secondary hand should automatically close over the ball and gather it in; not only does this ensure that the ball won’t pop out, but it places the fielder into a favorable position to make a throw. The further, and less obvious benefit, is that balls that skip off of the heel of the glove cannot pop up and hit the fielder in the face if this basic fundamental is employed; the top hand will simply deflect the ball back down into the dirt where it can then be recovered.

Start low, then come up high. Teach your kids that, when fielding a grounder, they should always begin with their glove all the way on the ground. If the ball takes a hop, they can bring their glove up to it; even if they misjudge, odds are excellent that their top hand and/or their body will block the ball and keep it from going past.

However, if the player tries to start with their glove high and then go down to the ball, they will invariably let grounder after grounder go between their legs.

Keep soft hands. Ground balls come in with so much velocity that they will frequently bounce out of even a perfectly placed glove. Bringing the second hand in will help this, but sometimes, the ball will still pop out in the time it takes to bring that hand down.

The best way to reduce this effect is by having soft hands. In other words, teach your players to not lock their elbows in, thus presenting a brick wall for the baseball to ricochet off of. Instead, they should “give” ever so slightly – this will reduce the energy of the baseball enough to prevent it from popping out. If you have a player who always seems to get into the right position for fielding, who uses two hands, who gets his glove down, and yet still seems to lose a lot of balls, odds are excellent that he has no idea what soft hands are.

Watch that footwork! The first instinct that many young fielders have when fielding a grounder not right right at them is to turn to the side and run towards the ball. Unless the fielder is trying to make a stab at a ball deep in the hole (and even then they should give ground, taking a proper angle), this is the wrong way to do it.

If the player turns his head and runs, he loses track of the ball. Since the first rule of pretty much every phase of baseball is some variation of “keep your eye on the ball,” we know that this cannot be correct! Furthermore, even if the fielder can pick up the ball in time, he then must turn his body and reset his feet in an effort to get back to a good “triangle” stance.

Coaches are often tempted to ignore fundamentals in the case of a talented fielder who can make plays, even when doing it the wrong way. The fact of the matter is that you are doing a disservice to your player if you take this path.

Instead of turning and running, players should “slide step” to the side, allowing them to keep the eye on the ball. Further, this allows for a simple stop in motion to place the fielder into proper triangle form. Practice this by lining your players up with several feet in between them, and have them simply “slide” to the left, then to the right. Repeat this for a minute or so, until you have them breathing nice and hard.

The idea is that the should be stepping wide to the side, then following the other foot over until their heels almost click together. In younger players, this will be somewhat of a hopping motion, but as they become more accustomed, it should become second nature and more of a glide.

You don’t have to practice footwork every time you meet, but you should emphasize it and correct bad footwork whenever you see it.

Your job as a youth baseball coach is to teach your players, to give them the tools they need to improve. If your players are not improving, ask yourself if you are doing everything you can to help them succeed. If you are not teaching fundamentals – and thus, giving your players instruction on the correct way to play the game – then you are doing them a disservice.

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.

Skydiver takes out shortstop

The Hannibal Cavemen, a summer collegiate baseball league team, decided to spice up a game by having a skydiver land on the field. They probably didn’t intend for him to slide into their shortstop Mattingly Romanin like he was trying to break up a double play.