Standing ovation for the actor!

We’ve brought you articles from the L.A. Times’ Chris Erskine for years. This one may be our favorite yet. Retired actor Paul Napier who was the original Mr. Goodwrench and had parts in commercials and television shows over a lifelong acting career has been moonlighting for the past 45 years as a high school and youth sports coach. You’ll want to read his aphorisms in the piece and enjoy the wisdom his age and experience have brought him.

U.S. Soccer Federation vs. high school soccer

In this piece by the L.A. Times’ Eric Sondheimer, we must decide if the U.S. Soccer Federation’s decision to demand that the top high school players – thousands of them – must give up playing for their high schools so that the United States has a chance to field twenty or so on a championship World Cup or Olympic team.

Prospect pays mom’s mortgage

Toronto Blue Jays prospect Marcus Stroman paid off his mom’s mortgage and posted it to Instagram. Courtesy of Bleacher Report.

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.