Get Fit Here!

Our partner, PHIT has created the ‘matchmaker’ for sports, exercise and fitness enthusiasts – This is an exciting one-of-a-kind database where you can find a sport or activity in your local community. Now there’s no excuse for not being out there and active!

You Are The Ref Wayne Rooney answers

Here are Keith Hackett’s answers to yesterday’s “You Are the Ref puzzler”. If you missed it, you can view it here.

1) This is a club decision, so the manager is entitled to take that view – but you do have a duty of care. If you feel that this defender genuinely cannot continue for the corner kick without receiving some medical attention, then you have the option of bypassing the club physio and calling for a stretcher. That alone may make the manager change his mind. Thanks to Philip Taylor.
2) Award the goal. There’s nothing in the laws that says the kick taker must be facing the keeper. Thanks to Alan Fenwick for this question, who says his dad saw Len Shackleton do this at Roker Park in the 50s. I know Len is revered in Sunderland – I once had to break up a fight between a Sunderland fan and a Newcastle fan arguing over whether he was the best all-time great centre forward. You have to admire the passion in that part of the world.
3) Show some common sense, and tell these opportunistic opponents to leave the officiating to you. Ask the player to remove the shirt, which was clearly a joke, and only consider cautioning him if he shows any dissent. Include it in your report.

You Are The Ref Wayne Rooney

We have a couple more installments coming of The Guardian UK’s “You Are the Ref”,  the classic from Paul Trevillion. Answers will follow each day.

You are the Ref Wayne Rooney

You are the Ref Roy Hodgson answers

Here are Keith Hackett’s answers to yesterday’s “You Are the Ref puzzler”. If you missed it, you can view it here.

1) Under the old interpretation of the offside law your assistant would have flagged the moment the ball was played towards the striker. But these days an offside offence is not committed until the player involved becomes active. Therefore, as play was still live, this defender is guilty of a straightforward deliberate handball. Award a penalty and a yellow card. It’s not a red because, had the ball reached the striker, he would then have been flagged – so there was no goalscoring opportunity.
2) Look at it like this: the ball is in contact with his hand inside the penalty area while play is live, and the action was deliberate – so award a penalty. The fact that the offence started outside the box is irrelevant. Show him a yellow card. Thanks to James Bloodworth.
3) First, delay the corner then call both players over to you. Show them a yellow card each – unless the defender pushed the striker in the face, which would be a red card. As play was not live, you don’t need to worry about awarding a penalty: restart with the original corner.

You Are The Ref Roy Hodgson

We have a couple more installments coming of The Guardian UK’s “You Are the Ref”,  the classic from Paul Trevillion. Answers will follow each day.

Roy Hodgson You are the Ref

August 2014 OnDeck for Soccer and Baseball/Softball

If you’d like to read this month’s issues you can download OnDeck for Soccer as well as OnDeck for Baseball/Softball. Happy reading!

Tomorrow’s OnDeck Newsletter is a winner!

We’re excited about tomorrow’s edition of OnDeck. It is filled with informative and entertaining articles. Be sure to get it delivered to your inbox!

Parents and Playing Time

By Brian Gotta (Republished from 9/20/2009)

We love that our kids play sports for the many life lessons that are learned. But when we intervene and try to influence our son or daughter’s coach, relative to playing time or positions, what lesson are we really teaching?

Parents want what’s best for their children. But far too many parents feel that they must control every aspect of what happens to their kids – and ensure its all positive – in order for their children to be happy. And while this may lead to more happiness in the short term, it can have severe, negative long-term consequences.

We all know that life is filled with ups and downs. Everyone reading this article has suffered substantial setbacks at one time or another. And for the most part, when we’re adults, there is no mommy or daddy to swoop in and save the day when we face adversity. We must pick ourselves up and forge ahead on our own. We have to cope. And most of our coping mechanisms were learned as children. Part of our growth process was figuring out that life isn’t always fair, and that sometimes things don’t go our way. And as painful as those lessons are to learn, they’re what develop character in us so that we can handle struggles in our lives.

Where better for our children to learn these lessons, than in sports?

Let’s say your son or daughter plays a sport where foot speed is an advantage, and a teammate who is faster is getting more playing time. You and your child have a few options: You could speak to the coach, try to influence him, and maybe even pressure him into playing your child more. Or, maybe your child could work on his speed or try to develop other skills that make him valuable to the team. Or, if that sport isn’t the right one for him, maybe he could use this setback as motivation to find a new activity that better suits him.

Because let’s fast-forward ten or fifteen years: Imagine now that your child really wants to become an architect but has no talent in drawing. He has a few options: He could work hard to improve his drawing skills. Or maybe he could sharpen other talents to compensate. Or maybe he might just have to give up that dream and find something else to do. But it is unlikely you’ll be able to storm into an architectural firm and demand they give your child a job he’s not qualified to do.

However, if we’ve been doing this for our children all their lives, what else would they ever expect?

Our job as parents is not to make sure our children never have any pain or disappointments – quite the contrary. Our job as parents is to prepare them as best we can for the inevitable time that they are on their own, without us to catch them when they fall. By trying to pressure our child’s coach into doling out more playing time we are weakening our children, making life miserable for the coach, and being unfair to other kids whose parents are playing by the rules. And we are teaching our children that if things don’t go well for them, it is not their fault, but the fault of someone else. Think about how successful someone will be carrying that attitude with them through life.

Below is a paragraph addressing playing time, from the letter I always send out to parents prior to each season:

Regardless of where your son shakes out in the playing time or lineup mix, it is important that your communication to him be positive. If he hears you talking about what a bad deal he’s getting, or something similar, his attitude is going to suffer. And if his attitude suffers, there is nearly no chance that he’ll earn more playing time or time at a different position he likes better. Conversely, if he really is deserving of more playing time and I’m just missing it, if he keeps working hard, trying his best and bringing a positive attitude to the field, I’ll notice it. I can tell you that if a parent comes to me to complain about position or playing time, then forever after that, if the player does move up or play more, you’ll have to wonder if it was something he earned himself, or if it was something that came as a result of your complaint. On the other hand, if everyone takes the attitude that “the cream will rise to the top,” and is patient, then you’ll know that everything your son gets is deserved. (The latter feels much better). Everyone will have their chances to show what they can do in the game. It is important that they are prepared for those opportunities, and make the most of them.

And what if your child really is getting a raw deal? What if you know his plight is clearly based on favoritism or politics?

First of all, unless you’ve been at every practice – not just the games, you don’t know. Children don’t see it objectively, so you can’t just take their word for it. Or maybe you can. I have a son playing Pop Warner and he began the season as the starting running back. For the past two games, he’s been replaced by the coach’s son. And don’t get me wrong, the coach’s son is good, but I haven’t seen anything in the games that he did to supplant my boy. And I was angry about it. Then I asked my son, “So what happened to make Johnny the starter over you?” And my son said, “Probably that I had a terrible week at practice and messed up my assignment on a couple plays and fumbled.” Oh. OK.

And finally, if you’re sure after really waiting for things to change, after observing practices and getting an “honest” assessment from your child, you still feel like its not going they way it should be, what should you do? Nothing.

That’s right, YOU, should do nothing. But it, if your player is old enough, (say 11, 12, or older), it would be very appropriate for your child to approach the coach and tell him he feels he could be helping the team more and ask what he can do to improve his playing time or position. The coach will respect that much more, and your child’s self-esteem and communication skills will get a big boost. (And if you’re worrying about playing time for a child younger than this, you should probably relax. This one season isn’t going to define him, and maybe he should just be playing rec ball anyway where everyone gets equal chances). The bottom line is, unless we plan on spending the rest of our days clearing the path of any obstacles for our children, isn’t them standing up for themselves exactly what they’re going to have to do all their lives anyway?

Brian Gotta is a former professional youth baseball coach and current volunteer Little League coach and board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels which can be found at He can be reached at

Is It Wise to Specialize?

By John O’Sullivan

The greatest difference between our children’s sporting experience and our own is the rise of year round, sport specific organizations that ask – even require – season after season of participation in order to stay in the player development pipeline. The pressure to have your child specialize in a single sport at a young age has never been stronger.

As a result, parents ask me all the time “When should my child specialize in one sport?”

When I tell them what the science says to wait, many tell me “That’s not possible. If my child does not specialize early she will be left out, not make the travel or high school team, and have no chance of playing in college. You live in a fantasy world.” They tell me about coaches who have told them they need 10,000 hours of organized, structured practice, and their fear that other kids will be getting a leg up on theirs if they do not specialize. They are stuck in a downward spiral that is detrimental to their children, but feel helpless to change course.

In the words of Kirk Anderson, Director of Coaching Education for the US Tennis Association:

“Even if parents and coaches know and understand age-appropriate principles for children, I think they would be reluctant to accept them because they would fear their child would fall behind the kid in a more structured program that focuses on training, competition and deliberate practice.”

This fear has forced kids into sports that often are not of their own choosing, and in many cases compels them to remain in activities that are not enjoyable, not intrinsically motivating, nor are congruent with their actual athletic abilities. This path fails to consider many of the physical, emotional and social costs to children who only play a single sport.

There is a different path. It is the one based in science, psychology and best practices of athletic development. It is one that serves the needs of children for a lifetime, reduces injuries and burnout, increases enjoyment and motivation, and produces better athletes. Sound appealing?

It is the path of multiple sport participation and less structured play.

But don’t take my word for it. Below are some eye popping facts and statistics that should make every parent think twice about early sport specialization in sports like football, soccer, baseball, hockey and basketball, where athletes peak in their 20′s.

First, here are five research excerpts that demonstrate how early specialization may negatively affect your child:

  1. Children who specialize in a single sport account for 50% of overuse injuries in young athletes according to pediatric orthopedic specialists
  2. A study by Ohio State University found that children who specialized early in a single sport led to higher rates of adult physical inactivity. Those who commit to one sport at a young age are often the first to quit, and suffer a lifetime of consequences.
  3. In a study of 1200 youth athletes, Dr Neeru Jayanthi of LoyolaUniversity found that early specialization in a single sport is one of the strongest predictors of injury. Athletes in the study who specialized were 70% to 93% more likely to be injured than children who played multiple sports!
  4. Children who specialize early are at a far greater risk for burnout due to stress, decreased motivation and lack of enjoyment
  5. Early sport specialization in female adolescents is associated with increased risk of anterior knee pain disorders including PFP, Osgood Schlatter and Sinding Larsen-Johansson compared to multi-sport athletes, and may lead to higher rates of future ACL tears

If that is not enough for you, here are six research based reasons for multi-sport participation:

  1. Better Overall Skills and Ability: Research shows that early participation in multiple sports leads to better overall motor and athletic development, longer playing careers, increased ability to transfer sports skills other sports and increased motivation, ownership of the sports experience, and confidence.
  2. Smarter, More Creative Players: Multi-sport participation at the youngest ages yields better decision making and pattern recognition, as well as increased creativity. These are all qualities that coaches of high level teams look for.
  3. Most College Athletes Come From a Multi-Sport Background: A 2013 American Medical Society for Sports Medicine survey found that 88% of college athletes surveyed participated in more than one sport as a child
  4. 10,000 Hours is not a Rule: In his survey of the scientific literature regarding sport specific practice in The Sports Gene, author David Epstein finds that most elite competitors require far less than 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. Specifically, studies have shown that basketball (4000), field hockey (4000) and wrestling (6000) all require far less than 10,000 hours. Even Anders Ericsson, the researcher credited with discovering the 10,000 hour rule, says the misrepresentation of his work, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers, ignores many of the elements that go into high-performance (genetics, coaching, opportunity, luck) and focuses on only one, deliberate practice. That, he says, is wrong.
  5. Free Play Equals More Play: Early specialization ignores the importance of deliberate play/free play. Researches found that activities which are intrinsically motivating, maximize fun and provide enjoyment are incredibly important. These are termed deliberate play (as opposed to deliberate practice, which are activities motivated by the goal of performance enhancement and not enjoyment). Deliberate play increases motor skills, emotional ability, and creativity. Children allowed deliberate play also tend spend more time engaged in a sport than athletes in structured training with a coach.
  6. There are Many Paths to Mastery: A 2003 study on professional ice hockey players found that while most pros had spent 10,000 hours or more involved in sports prior to age 20, only 3000 of those hours were involved in hockey specific deliberate practice (and only 450 of those hours were prior to age 12).

An additional thought is provided by top youth sports researchers Jean Cote and Jessica Fraser-Thomas. They suggest that at no time should a young athlete participate year round in a single sport. While they recommend that athletes in sports whose competitors peak after age 20 need to accumulate around 10,000 hours of general sports participation, no more than half of that needs to be deliberate practice of their chosen sport. As a general rule they recommend the following age breakdown for athletes trying to achieve elite status in a specific sport:

  • Prior to age 12: 80% of time should be spent in deliberate play and in sports OTHER THAN the chosen sport!
  • Age 13-15: 50/50 split between a chosen sport and other athletic pursuits
  • Age 16+: Even when specialization becomes very important, 20% of training time should still be in the non-specialized sport and deliberate play.

How Do You Approach People with this Information?

Every adult involved in youth sports will come up against people who advocate for single sport specialization. Some think their child is the next Tiger Woods, the next Venus Williams, the next Lionel Messi, so they are getting in their 10,000 hours. Others are afraid to go against the grain, and fear that they are disadvantaging their own child by not specializing. Hogwash!

I meet these folks too, and I blind them with the science. I then ask for the data and research that supports their theory. Cue the cricket noises, because it does not exist.

If you know these folks, send this to them. Post it on Facebook. Send it to your club director and your coach who thinks you should skip grandma’s 90th birthday because your U11 team has your fourth tournament of the summer that weekend (this is an actual call I took by the way).

Of course, this will not work all the time, or even most of the time. Visit your local airport smoking lounge to see the effect an abundance of science on the hazards of smoking has on many folks. But who cares, present it anyway!

At some point, parents need to ask themselves “Are we ready for a better alternative?” Does my 10 year old really need to keep playing 11.5 months of soccer a year in order to have a chance of success? Am I really doing him a disservice by making him play multiple sports, and trying to help him find one he is passionate about?

I think we are ready for an alternative. I think people are sick of 11 straight months of 6am trips to the hockey rink, and weekend after weekend of expensive out of town soccer tournaments for “elite” 11 year olds. I know I am not alone in thinking this.

The best sport psychology is on our side. The best research into athletic development and physiology is on our side. The top minds in sports medicine are on our side.

Aligned against us are a few people who stand to profit from promoting the mythology surrounding single sport specialization. Not scientists. Not researchers. Not top coaching minds. Profiteers, often backed by parents and coaches living out their own unfulfilled sports dreams through the children.

I like the company I am keeping these days. For the sake of our kids, I hope you will join me.

John O’Sullivan is the Founder of the Changing the Game Project, and author of the national bestseller Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High-Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports back to Our Kids. He is a longtime soccer player and coach on the youth, college and professional level, and a nationally known speaker on coaching and parenting in youth sports. His work has appeared in The Huffington Post, Soccer America, and, and he recently gave a TED talk on “Changing the Game in Youth Sports.

Shorten Your Swing with One-Handed Drills

By Bryan Sidensol, Owner of Hitting World

Having a short, compact swing is vital to a hitter’s success. Among other benefits, having a short swing enables the hitter to start their swing later, which can lead to better two-strike hitting, better opposite field hitting and more success with off-speed pitches.

As players get older, they will face better pitching which will require sound hitting mechanics. The sooner youth hitters develop a consistent short stroke, the better positioned they’ll be for long term success at the plate. Here is one great set of drills to establish the proper muscle memory for a compact swing.

One-Handed Drills

One-Handed Drills are ideal for promoting a short swing because in order to perform the drills effectively, the hitter has to swing the bat correctly. This drill is just like any basic soft toss drill, but the batter will only swing the bat with one arm. The goal is make sure each hand takes as short a path to the ball as possible.

Have the hitter use a shorter, lighter bat than they are used to. If the bat is too heavy, it will put stress on the shoulders and it will be very difficult to do the drill. The hitter will assume his normal batting stance. Have the hitter start off with the bat in their lead (bottom) hand, with their other hand pressed against their chest for balance. For better control, have the hitter choke up.

The tosser should be positioned about six feet away, at an angle. The tosser should throw the ball right around the hitter’s front hip. The hitter will try to hit the ball right back up the middle, using their normal swing. Do three sets of five swings each . As a coach, look for the hitter to keep his lead elbow down and keep the barrel of the bat above his hands.

Next, have the hitter switch hands so the bat is in their top hand. The key here is to make sure the hitter is not throwing their top hand too far out, or “casting” the bat. Again, the focus should be on a short, direct path to the ball with no wasted movement. Do three sets of five swings each.

Variations – Isolate the Hands

Taking this drill a step further, have the hitter drop to one knee when swinging with the bottom hand. It helps to drop the front knee – this will keep the shoulder in proper position. By taking the lower body out of the drill, you will further isolate the hands to focus on a short path to the ball. Keep the repetitions consistent as before. For the top hand swing, have the hitter drop to both knees. This will make it easier to perform the drill. After completing the one-handed drills, work in some regular soft toss so the hitter can put it all together.

Practicing these drills on a regular basis will give the hitter a feel for the proper hand path and will develop muscle memory to be short and quick to the ball. And that will provide a foundation of good hitting for years to come.

Bryan Sidensol is the owner of