Crucial Power Swing Sequence – Part Two

By Dave Hudgens

If you missed the first installment of this article, you can read it here.

Keeping the barrel of the bat in the contact zone as long as possible is what you want to do. This reduces your margin for error. Your timing does not have to be perfect. Every good Major League hitter stays inside the ball. Staying inside the ball allow you to be accurate with the barrel of the bat to the ball which will allow you to hit for high average and increased power as you gain more strength. Picture this: imagine someone driving a rod through your shoulder, through your back leg, and through the knee. The line should be straight through your body with your back heel up. You will either end up on the top of the toe, or just turning a bit on the ball of the foot. I prefer that you get up onto the back toe to make sure your weight is in the center position at the point of contact. After contact, and during your follow through, your weight will be balanced. The key here is to go from back to center.

LEVERAGE
Leverage plays a very important role in the process of hitting for power. It is one of the components of having a firm foundation. If you don’t hit against a firm front leg, you will not create the needed leverage for power hitting.
When you start your approach to the ball, the back heel will come off the ground.

  • At this point the front knee will start to firm up.
  • This will help push the front hip out to give you the correct hip action.
  • If your front knee is bent, and by that I mean not firm, (because there can be a slight flex in the knee yet still be firm) you will lose a tremendous amount of power.

90% of kids that play baseball at the youth league level have long swings. They can get away with it for awhile but it eventually catches up to them as they advance in their playing career. It’s unfortunate because with the proper instruction, many of these kids could have a shorter, more explosive swing which would lead to success.  A long swing can be a result of:

  • Using too heavy a bat.
  • Having used an aluminum bat which has such a large sweet spot that gives the appearance of a good swing which can be deceptive until you face good pitching.
  • Trying to hit the ball too far and over swinging.
  • Casting the barrel of the bat out from your back shoulder, thus forcing your hands away from your body. This action forces you to use your upper body to swing the bat and you are no longer using your wrists to their full advantage.
  • Not getting into a strong position soon enough.
  • Improper sequence of swing.

It is very important to take a proper and consistent angle to the ball; the lower half of your body is what allows you to take this angle. If the feet and hips are not working correctly, the hands and arms will not be able to take the correct path to the ball. Also mentally the hitter must not be thinking home run or have these types of thoughts in his mind. These thoughts will throw off the proper swing rhythm and sequence of the swing. The approach must be fundamentally sound from the ground up or somewhere along the line you will reach your ceiling and improvement will stop. This is why it is so vital that these mechanics are learned as soon as possible, the more time that lapses, the more difficult it becomes to overcome.

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.

Youth sports survey – the good and the bad

Michael Popke,  Managing Editor of Athletic Business, shares this synopsis of a survey done by the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS) on the topic of youth sports. The results may not be surprising to many who read this blog regularly, but you might not be able to guess at the percentage of parents surveyed who rated their child’s coach, “good” or “excellent.”

Poor sportsmanship – or competitor?

Some may believe that Fletcher Cox of the Eagles might be showing poor sportsmanship in this clip by not helping Phillip Rivers off the ground. Others may feel he’s right on the money, because is job it to do the opposite of make Rivers comfortable. It is also possible that Rivers might have been playing with Fletcher a little bit himself.

How a Coach Builds a Team (What Every Sports Parent Should Understand)

By Jeffrey Rhoads

A good coach knows that a team’s success always begins with the players. Their abilities, both realized and potential, are the raw material from which the coach molds a successful team.

Every coach would love to have a team comprised of equally talented superstars-players able and willing to do it all. But that’s not how it works. At all levels of play, the reality is that each coach must put together a team from individuals who have different strengths and weaknesses.

So how does a coach go about this task?

Match Players with Team Roles
A coach needs to find players who can play the team roles necessary for the team to succeed. These roles can be viewed from the perspective of playing a certain position (point guard, quarterback, pitcher, etc.) or meeting a team’s functional need (scorer, defender, ball-handler, etc.).

With the right mix of players (ones who can play the required team roles well), a team can successfully compete-even against teams having superior individual athletes. In more competitive play, a team’s “chemistry” often makes the difference between winning and losing.

Roles are also important in equal-participation youth programs. At this level of play, team roles help provide beginners with an opportunity to find meaningful success. For instance, a young basketball player may initially have a limited role-setting screens, making good passes, and playing solid defense. But when a screen is set that leads to a teammate’s layup, this player knows that he or she has made an authentic contribution to the team’s success.

Identify Athleticism, Skills, Potential, and Intangibles
In evaluating prospective players, and the possible team roles they can play, a coach considers a variety of player attributes. Each player presents an observable body type, athletic quality, and set of sports skills. Athleticism and body type are often invaluable qualities necessary to a team’s success (and ones that can’t be taught). Similarly, excellent sports skills are important. Less obvious is a young athlete’s development potential and other more intangible attributes.

Although coaches need to have players who can immediately perform well, coaches are also interested in young athletes who may develop into exceptional players. For example, having just gone through a growth spurt, a young boy or girl may play a sport in an awkward, less-coordinated manner. But to a perceptive eye, the player’s movements and skills also demonstrate a certain grace that suggests the player will soon “grow” into his or her body.

A coach is also interested in players who demonstrate leadership, perseverance, a competitive nature, and other less tangible traits. These coupled with other valuable attributes such as a player’s attitude, willingness to prepare, and attention to detail all factor into a coach’s player evaluation.

Develop Individual and Team Skills (Improve the Parts)
Once a coach has selected the team’s players, he continues to build the team by helping players develop both their individual and team skills. The coach should focus on laying a solid foundation, one that is beneficial to the team and players in the long run. The coach’s instruction should help players understand how the simple fundamentals connect to more advanced skills and how this, in turn, leads to both individual and team success. The coach should build connections. Start slow,and finish strong.

As the players’ abilities improve, the coach should consider whether their roles are still appropriate. A player’s team role can evolve-even within the current season.

Matching Systems and Players (Improve the Whole)
Finally, a coach implements his or her team strategies and tactics-plugging in players that best fit his or her system while also modifying the system to better fit the players’ unique set of abilities.

Keep an Open Mind
As a youth coach evaluating players (or a sports parent evaluating a coach), try to see beyond the obvious. Don’t be too quick to judge. In your evaluation, keep the above points in mind. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • Which players can fill the essential team roles (e.g., “scorer”) and who are best suited to play the secondary, more supportive roles?
  • Do individual players, though lacking certain skills, somehow contribute an important quality to the team’s overall play?
  • Though raw, does a young player demonstrate potential that will benefit the team down the road?
  • Are certain player’s skills, and the team roles they play, essential to providing opportunities for teammates to succeed? (For example, a team unable to advance the ball against pressure will not be able to take advantage of its outstanding forwards.)

From these questions and others, try to understand how unique player qualities, individual development, player combinations, and well-matched tactics all represent unique pieces in the puzzle that is team success.

Jeffrey Rhoads has coached youth sports for over 25 years and worked with all levels of young players. He is the author of The Joy of Youth Sports: Creating the Best Youth Sports Experience for Your Child. His blog, Inside Youth Sports, can be found at: http://www.insideyouthsports.org. (c) Copyright 2009-2012 Jeffrey S. Rhoads; All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Winning vs. Development

By Adrian Parrish

I start with the retirement of probably the greatest manager to ever grace the game, Sir Alex Ferguson. Love him or loathe him, you can have nothing but respect on what he has accomplished during 27 years in charge at Old Trafford. As he bowed out with a 5-5 draw versus West Bromwich Albion in his final game very few people noticed that the Red Devils U21 team were also crowned League Champions.

Of course nobody could expect such a victory to make front page headlines and even though the club is about to enter a major transitional period, I doubt the philosophy in the younger age groups will change. Warren Joyce who currently coaches the U21’s seems to put so little stock in to winning games or trophies and as several people look negatively on the Academies within the English game, how can you argue with the fact that clubs such as Southampton, Aston Villa & Liverpool have all given Academy players the opportunity to represent the first team during the 2012-13 Premier League campaign?

As youth teams from grass roots to professional clubs end their season in England the same is for many of the grass root teams in the United States. However the focus for many of the clubs/team stateside may be blindsided by how successful they can be at winning State Cups or major tournaments. Obviously the difference between the two professional leagues is chalk and cheese but the more I observe teams play in major tournaments such as state cups the more a see the quality of soccer depleting. A fear of losing, at a fear of losing players is not something I would suspect from teams in Europe.

During a conversation I recently had regarding club structure and the possibility of two teams from the same organization having to face each other, I was shocked to hear the childish antics that were taking place between the two sets of parents to try and prove that the teams their child played for were better. No club cohesiveness, no concerns for player development and worst of all no long term vision for the players. I started quoting that parents “Parents pay to play, therefore they think the have a say” so do clubs and coaches buckle under the fear of not winning over developing players for the long term?

With social networking becoming such an important daily part of our life’s I find it interesting to see coaches talking about the importance of player development but hours later they are posting results. Is it to please parents, is it used as a tool to entice other players to join their team or perhaps it is self promotion? But if more clubs and coaches stuck to their hearts and not their pockets we could be helping more players move to the next level which is surely more important than winning trophies

Perhaps it is none of these reasons and possibly I should not be judging coaches for doing this, but it seems we have a serious lack of understanding about the long term player development model. If our youth programs took more pride in moving players on to the next level like they do in Holland perhaps we could see more unity. So like or loath this article, I am not writing it to try and have a Jerry Maguire moment because I will stick to my belief and help players do everything I can to move on to the highest level they want to and/or can accomplish. So who’s with me?

Adrian Parrish is the Director of Coach & Player Development for the Kentucky Youth Soccer Association. He is responsible for the Coaching Education Program and the management of the Olympic Development Program. A native of Louth, England, Parish currently possesses a USSF “A” License, UEFA “A” License (Pending), and the US Youth Soccer National Youth License. He can be reached at adrianparrish@kysoccer.net

Youth sports – the good, bad and ugly

Here is a terrific report entitled The Sport Behavior of Youth, Parents, and Coaches; The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly written by David Light Shields and Brenda Light Bredemeier from the University of Missouri, St. Louis, Nicole M. LaVoi, University of Minnesota and F. Clark Power from University of Notre Dame. Not surprisingly, you’ll find there are some glaring ethical problems in American youth sports – from cheating to taunting to disrespect – but the news isn’t all bad.

Nice grab by lady fan

Not only a nice grab, but fun to see how excited this lady, who looks to be a real fan, gets upon catching this foul ball.

Remember him?

It’s been seven seasons since the sonorous sounds of Keith Jackson graced the Saturday airwaves of college football. L.A. Times writer Chris Erskine recently visited the 84 year-old icon and wrote this piece, full of stories from Jackson’s life and career. And if you miss the voice, like any true college football fan does, here’s a montage of calls from Michigan games Keith Jackson covered. Proof of Jackson’s greatness is that even if you detest the Wolverines, you’ll enjoy listening anyway.

Pee Wee football TD run should have been called back

Yes this is a heck of a run by Pee Wee football player, John David Taylor. The best block he gets comes from number 10 on the other team, who clears out four would-be tacklers. The worst block comes in the form of a blatant and unnecessary clip by number 14 on his team, one that should have been called for a penalty and negated the run. Not trying to throw a wet blanket on the exciting play, but if you see the way the defender’s head and neck whiplash on the clip, you’ll know why that block is unsafe and illegal.

Sounds from the NFL

Now that football is back in full force, here is a terrific compilation of sound bytes from NFL players that will take you into the game in a way you haven’t experienced before.