That’s a coach and leader

The St. Louis Cardinals’ Manager, Mike Matheny, apparently knows a great deal about motivation and leadership. He arranged an inter-squad scrimmage where the losing team would have to perform the duties of the clubhouse attendants for the day. Matheny made sure no one thought he was above it when he chipped in and took the least desirable task. There is no doubt that everyone, from the lowest levels of the organization to the top, were impressed.

PHIT America marches on Washington

Our partners, PHIT America, are mobilizing in Washington to promote legislation aimed at encouraging health and fitness in the United States. Read about the initiative here.

OnDeck new advertiser Varo Baseball

We’re proud to welcome Varo Baseball as a new sponsor of our OnDeck Newsletter. Varo’s bat sleeves combine great bat protection and weighted training for serious players.

Read this month’s issues of OnDeck

Our February 2014 OnDeck Newsletters are out. If you missed them, check out the baseball issue here and soccer here. You can always sign up to receive them in your inbox each month!

February 2014 OnDeck Newsletter goes out tomorrow

If you aren’t registered to receive our popular OnDeck Newsletter via email each month, you can sign up here. Our upcoming edition will be filled with informative articles and exciting offers you’ll love.

OnDeck welcomes new advertiser Three Piece Tee

We proudly bring you another great, new sponsor via our popular OnDeck Newsletter. Three Piece Tee is an innovative training tool designed for both baseball players and golfers to improve their balance and swings.

Letting someone else coach your child

By Brian Gotta

Those of us who have coached our own children in youth sports have done so for a variety of reasons. We’ve enjoyed the fun of competition, the time we were able to spend with our kids, and we wanted to ensure they had the best possible experience. But if our youngsters continue to play long enough, there comes a time for all of us when we must turn over the reigns to someone else and transition from the field to the bleachers. This can sometimes be difficult to do.

Some parents give coaching a shot the first year their kids are involved in sports, but then step away and let others do it. They either didn’t enjoy it as much as they thought they would, realized they didn’t have the time, or felt that there might be other coaches more qualified.

Other parents don’t volunteer initially but, conversely, are disappointed by the level of instruction they are seeing and throw their hat in the ring feeling they could do a better job.

And then there are moms and dads who jump in and coach the very first peewee season and continue coaching year after year as their children get older.

In all of these situations however, there is a day when we must decide to let our kids play for someone else. It might not happen until they finally get to high school. Or, maybe we have always coached our children in a particular sport but they want to play a different one that we’re not ready or able to get involved with. In any event, there are bound to be some feelings of anxiety as we give up the control to someone else. And because we have coached, we’ll be watching this new dynamic with a different lens than most parents in the stands.

It would not be uncommon for us to find fault with new coaches, to believe we could be doing things better and question their ability and motivations. And while those feelings are very natural, it is important not to share them with your child. It is in the player’s best interest to respect his coaches and if he knows you’re questioning their ability, it will reflect in your child’s attitude.

On the other hand, because of your experience, it is also possible you might show more empathy towards the new coach. You might be less likely to complain about playing time or positions because you understand that every player can’t be on the field at the same time and that these decisions are tough to make.

This outlook may be difficult to embrace since you’ve been used to managing your child’s playing time and it is now in someone else’s hands. But it is important for you to be willing to give up that control. Once you pass the coaching duties on to someone else, whether it be another volunteer or a paid professional, the best course of action is to let them do their job. Just as you didn’t appreciate any “advice” when you were in charge, the new coach probably doesn’t want to hear your suggestions either. And your child will grow more if he knows you’re not always going to be there to ensure his comfort and success.

If you’ve been coaching for a long time, it isn’t easy to decide when to step away. And once you do relinquish the responsibility, it can be challenging to accept a different style and to watch moves being made with which you don’t necessarily agree. But take a deep breath. If you look for the positives and understand that the person now running the team shares your same goals, you may find that the view from the bleachers isn’t such a bad one after all.

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

© CoachDeck LLC All Rights Reserved

33 Cues for Baserunners

By Miles Noland

1.You must be on balance when you finish your swing. This allows you to run your best time from home to 1st.

2. After hitting the ball and not being sure if the ball will get through the infield you should peek on the 3rd of 4th step to see if you should take a turn around 1st or run straight through the bag.

3. Never expect a single, always expect to take the extra base. In youth baseball you must run hard around 1st to even have a chance to take the extra base.

4. Always be aware of the pitcher when he has the ball in his hand. You must take a lead with your eyes on the pitcher.

5. Always run through 1st base. After running full speed through the base break down in an athletic position and look to the right for an overthrow.

6. In youth baseball always be aware of the opposing team when on base. You never know when you have an opportunity to take advantage of them not paying attention.

7. Have the mentality of a thief while on base. You must look to take anything they give you.

8. Anticipating the pitch thrown in the dirt, looking to advance to the next base. It is very hard for a youth baseball catcher to block the ball in front of him, stand up, pick the ball up, and make a great throw.

9. Understands the pitchers pickoff move and looks for differences between when he goes to the plate and when he picks.

10. Understands that if the pitcher slides steps he should not steal.

11. Knows that a headfirst slide in youth baseball allows you to get there slightly quicker, but doesn’t allow you to get up as fast in case of an overthrow, and is much more dangerous

12. Knows that a feet first slide allows you to get up faster in case of an overthrow.

13. Knows that you should not make the 1st or 3rd out a 3rd base.

14. After rounding first and thinking about going to third the baserunner should look at his third base coach

15. Constantly reminding himself how many outs there, and what he should do in each situation

16. Knows to try to tag in youth baseball with 0 outs, and try to get off the base as far as possible with 1 out.

17. Understands that with 2 strikes and 2 outs to be moving on a swing

18. Knows to freeze on infield line drives with less than 2 outs

19. While on 2nd base in youth baseball he must hold if the ball is hit in front of him (3B or 6 hole), and advance when hit behind him

20. Understands that if he is in a rundown he must stay in it as long as possible to allow the back baserunner to advance

21. Pick up the coach for the sign as soon as he returns to the base

22. At 3B takes a lead in foul territory and returns in fair territory

23. Sees a bunt down before advancing to the next base

24. Runs hard on the bases at all times

25. Must peek in to home on a hit and run to see where the ball is hit in youth baseball

26. Knows how to use a popup slide to recover quickly and advance to the next base

27. Never slide headfirst into home plate

28. Aware of the 1st to 3rd move while on 1st base

29. Knows outfielders arms and when to be aggressive and when not to

30. Understands pickoff moves to 2B and how to get back to the base

31. Knows what a walking lead is and how to use it to steal in youth baseball

32. Understand how to get deeper on a lead at 2B with 2 outs to get a better angle to score on a single

33. Must tag on any ball hit in the air while on 3B with less than 2 outs

Any player or team can have a huge advantage over the opposition by running the bases intelligently and aggressively.

Baserunning must be worked on and emphasized, because it can be the edge that wins your team the game!

Miles Noland operates Noland Fitness LLC. His website, www.athletehitting.com is a wealth of information for young hitters.

“Framing” Your Child’s Play

Every child wants to be successful. As a parent, you obviously want your child to have fun and succeed in youth sports. A barrier to this outcome, however, is that most participation-based youth sports programs (and many neighborhood games) are comprised of children with differing abilities. Whether these differences are based on talent, experience, age, or body type, they generate moments of failure for many kids. Overmatched beginners, players having less athletic ability, and teams missing key components, will all struggle to compete. In a purely win-loss scenario, there are lots of losers in youth sports.

Good instruction and organized programs well-matched to your child’s current skill level can of course provide your child with a better opportunity to enjoy success. But even as your child progresses down a normal development path, he or she will likely face many difficult moments. So when your child is frustrated, disappointed, or otherwise struggling, how can you and your child’s coach help?

Your child’s perceptions
Social psychologists refer to “framing” as a process of understanding and explaining events relative to the context (circumstances) in which they occur. As a parent you ideally see the bigger picture-the changing nature of your child’s participation in sports throughout his or her developmental years.

But a struggling child is unlikely to see past the reality of his or her current shortcomings. He or she doesn’t see personal differences and flaws as “having character.” And the future is distant to a child who is picked last, made fun of by other children, or feels unable to compete. It’s not surprising that many of these children develop a negative view of playing sports.

Through the use of framing, however, you and your child’s coaches can help bring a more balanced perspective to your child’s view of his or her youth sports experience.

How coaches can positively frame competition
If your child’s coaches are good teachers, they will provide both essential instruction and a positive, supportive learning environment. To create this positive setting for beginners and lesser players, they will commonly frame each player’s performance relative to other children of similar age and ability. With a chance to contend, each of these children will naturally begin to enjoy competing, giving his or her best effort, and striving to become better.

Where possible, a good coach breaks down contests into smaller ones, finding opportunities for each player to succeed. These “contests within a contest” enable a coach to frame the competition in a way that benefits every player. For example, during a basketball practice, a coach might have his players run a “Suicide” race where each player progressively touches lines further down the court, always returning to the starting baseline. There are always one or two children who will win the race and likewise lose it. Although this drill may help get kids in shape, promote team bonding, and appeal to the fastest ones, it’s not inherently fun for the slower ones. But by shouting words of encouragement to the slower players, giving attention, and framing the race as one against another player of similar body type and ability, the coach can motivate these players to give their best effort. Although they lose the overall race, they begin to enjoy competing. They see the connection between effort and reward-and they strive to win.

Framing team roles
In addition to framing competitive situations, a good coach will also frame a player’s team role. For beginners, the coach will emphasize to both the player and team how even minor contributions (e.g., setting a screen in basketball that leads to a layup) are important to the team’s success. For older, more talented children, the coach can frame the player’s role not only as it relates to obvious contributions (scoring), but also to the less apparent ones (leadership, making teammates better).

What you can do
But if a coach does not positively frame your child’s participation and team role, then you will need to do so. Cast your child’s participation and contributions in the proper light. You can easily frame the child’s mastery of a skill relative to their age, experience, talent, or past performance to provide a relative sense of positive progress and success. Explain how differences in age or experience (relative to other players) may make it more difficult to excel now. Try to show your child how a certain physical limitation (e.g., small in stature) can often translate into a positive attribute (e.g., quick, and strong). And always remind your child that his or her physical body is constantly changing and that this change can lead to new opportunities.

Emphasize how small contributions can make a huge difference in a close game. A child who has an understanding of his or her capabilities, and grasps the concept of playing a team role, will always find acceptance within that sport’s community of players. Even with limited physical talent, these children can enjoy the benefits of playing sports-and do so well into their adult years.

Finally, framing an experience does not necessarily mean sugar-coating events, setting low standards, or making excuses for poor behavior. You choose the extent to which you want to hold your child accountable. There may be instances where you believe your child should perform at a higher level. In these cases, you can frame your child’s performance against some higher standard. For example, a talented, confident child may score many goals (possibly against a weak opponent) and believe that he or she has played well. But the flip side is that he or she may also have played poor defense, giving up a number of goals. You may choose to remind your child of this fact to adjust his or her view to one that you
believe is more appropriate.

Whenever you believe your child’s perspective is limited or distorted, you can help your child by framing the underlying issues in a more appropriate, balanced way.

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 2010 – Jeffrey S. Rhoads. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Let the Players Coach

By Tony Earp

How do you know when you really understand something? It is said that when you really understand something, you can teach it to someone else. If this is true, then an easy way to check for understanding in your players is to have them coach. Sounds strange? Yes, it would be very weird to walk up to a training session and see the players giving instructions and explaining a technical, tactical, physical, or mental skill of the game. Although it may be strange to see, it would be a pretty amazing display of understanding by the player. For a coach, it would be affirmation the player understands that part of the game. How else throughout a practice, or a season, can a coach really check for understanding?

One of the biggest mistakes I make as a coach is saying to players, “Does that make sense?” Of course, most of the time everyone says “yes” in unison, and then everyone takes the field and it is immediately clear that what I said did not make sense. One of the techniques coaches use to avoid this is to ask the kids questions versus just telling them the answer. By asking a question and having the player tell you what they could have done is a great way to check for understanding. Based on the player’s response, the coach will know whether or not the player understands what the coach wants them to do.

Could we take this a step further? While asking guiding questions during a training session to check for understanding, could you ask a player to lead an activity or part of a training session? Just as an example, by asking a player to lead an activity on 1v1 attacking, the player would have to explain a single part of 1v1 attacking, but review all the important “coaching points” with his teammates. The player would have to, with the coach’s help, coach the other players on the team in that skill area. Would that not help develop understanding of important principles and skills, that in the long term, would help the players learn those skills faster, and more importantly, understand how to apply them to the game?

As a teacher, I used this approach in the classroom all the time. I would ask the students to teach the class on certain sub-areas of a major topic we were discussing during that time. The students would create a presentation, lead the class through the presentation, and then provide an examination for their classmates to check for understanding. The students really enjoyed this process versus me standing in front of the room and just talking about the topic while they took notes.

They had to work with the material and know it well enough to teach it to their classmates. In terms of long term understanding and comprehension, and the skills of how to process information and use it, were the invaluable benefits to this process for the students.

A side benefit was that students felt empowered, like they were the adult (teacher) for a little while, and they had control over what happened in the classroom. It gave them complete control of their learning and their classmates.

This is something as a coach would be easy to bring to the practice field and gain the same benefits. With the players studying different skill areas or tactical focuses and trying to teach them to their teammates, they will gain a deeper understanding and take ownership of their development as players. Again, like the kids in the classroom, all of a sudden the kids are empowered to be the adult (teacher) for a little while and get to learn how to speak in a group setting, teach a skill to another person, and the confidence to lead a group of people to complete a set task.

The benefits of this approach are endless, but it would require coaches to give up a little control by giving the players the freedom to lead parts of the training session. Of course, like in the classroom, you need guidelines for the kids to follow to ensure that part of the training session is productive and meaningful for all involved.

I like to think of the playing field for kids as an extension of the classroom (because it is). As we look for different approaches to make a meaningful impact on our players, it is appropriate to look at the best practices of teachers in the classroom and think a little bit outside of the box with our strategies for our players to learn. Depending on age and level of the kids you coach, you can make the opportunity appropriate and something that will not overwhelm or underwhelm the players.

If you really watch kids, they love to teach each other what they know. It is a way for them to display a skill or something they learned. You see it all the time when kids play video games or play sports in the backyard on their own. Thinking back, many of the “tricks” I learned as a kid was taught to me by teammates before or after practice. Kids would go home, work on a new trick, and once they had it perfected, they could not wait to teach the rest of us.

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