Youth baseball all-stars are coming

And you want to be ready. Ready as a player, fan, parent and especially a league administrator. We always recommend establishing clear-cut guidelines for selecting these teams prior to the season so that there are no misunderstandings, (read: cries of foul play and nepotism or cronyism), but if your league hasn’t decided completely how you are going to pick your all-stars, here is our take on the best way to do so. Good luck this season in those fun and exciting all-star tournaments!

OnDeck welcomes new advertiser, The Rock Sports Park!

The Rock Sports Park is a ten acre sports complex located in Chester, NY. When you attend a tournament at The Rock, you’ll experience FieldTurf playing surfaces with professional lighting, manicured grass fields and a 15,000 square ft. indoor field house. Unlike any other sports complex, they offer professional instruction, tournaments, leagues, summer camps and more. It’s  great youth and adults!  The Rock Sports Park is the home of Frozen Ropes National Training Centers, TGIF Football, RockFit and College Bound. This summer, thousands of youth will make the pilgrimage to enjoy tournaments at this fantastic facility. You should too!

Read this month’s OnDeck Newsletters here!

OnDeck is out and available online. We’ve got a great article from former NBA star, Keith Van Horn about sports parent dysfunction, and much more. Check them out here and you can even subscribe so that you don’t miss a future issue.

Tomorrow is OnDeck May Day!

The May, 2015 edition of our popular newsletter, OnDeck, will go out tomorrow. There’s only one way to get it, sign up here. When you read our interesting articles (including a new one from former NBA great, Keith Van Horn) and see the fresh, new offers from our sponsors, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it a long time ago!

Happy Memorial Day

We hope you are all enjoying your Memorial Day. No better way than to watch or play some baseball! Because of the holiday this month’s OnDeck Newsletter will go out on Wednesday instead of the customary final Tuesday of the month. Please remember those who paid the ultimate price so that we may have the freedom we enjoy.

What Do You Want From Your Child’s Sports Experience?

If you have children playing sports, or will someday, you may never have asked yourself what you hope they gain from the experience. In the beginning, we usually put little boys and girls into sports simply to see if they like it and to give them an outlet for their energy. But as they get older, Little League, middle school, high school and beyond, it might be a worthwhile question to ask: What do I hope they get out of playing?

There may be, and probably are many answers. One hopes that at the top, or near the top of the list is that they enjoy themselves. We wish for them to look back someday with fond memories – glad they did it. But too often we lose sight of this primary goal. We put so much pressure on our kids, to win – to be the best – to drive themselves, that we unintentionally risk ruining the best part of sports…the pure joy.

At the same time, I’ve written often before about the balance. Sure, some kids play sports solely to have fun and nothing more. And that’s great. However, others, even without parental influence, want more. They want to compete. To improve. To win. And that’s great too. Some of the most valuable life lessons about success and what it takes to attain it can be learned on the field, (or the court – the ice – pick your game).

What else might our kids get from sports? Some of us may wish for our children to learn habits of fitness and good health. Goodness knows that with the ubiquitous electronic distractions facing our kids everywhere, no one could argue the benefit of getting them outside unplugged, and running around in fresh air.

The social aspect of playing on a team can’t be overlooked. All of my children have lifelong friends they’ve made from their teams. And, on the positive side of technology, even after they have moved on from high school, summer or college teams they’ll be able to stay in touch through social media much better than I was able at their age.

I think back to what I hoped sports would do for my kids in their early teens. My only desire was that they’d have a positive structure to their days. I saw too many boys and girls who got to high school, got in with the wrong crowd, had no direction and ended up making big mistakes and potentially screwing up their lives or getting hurt. There is no doubt in my mind that when kids are on a team where accountability and performance are expected, where missteps would be public and have team-related consequences, they are far less likely to stray. Go to school, go to practice, come home. Not too much time to get in trouble with that schedule.

So it is important when we look at the question, “What do I hope they get out of playing,” that we remember we’re asking what we hope they get, not what we get. It is also a good idea to keep in mind that success is a journey, not a destination. Even if our children don’t turn out to be superstars, don’t get scholarships or play in the pros, their sports careers can and should be looked at as successes. If they were positive contributors to a team, became more healthy, figured out the correlation between work and achievement and kept their noses clean, if they made friends and had fun, they are winners.

Sports teach life lessons I doubt can be learned anywhere else. My kids have all had incredible moments of exhilarating joy in their athletic accomplishments. They have also experienced devastating failures that no parent would wish on any child. But you know what? They’re still here. And they’re still playing. And I have to believe that later on, when they eventually hang up the cleats, the way they survived the worst times on the field might end up being the most valuable lessons of all.

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 www.booksbygotta.com. He can be reached at brian@coachdeck.com

Delusional Parent Disorder in Youth Sports

By Keith Van Horn

Definition of Delusional Parent Disorder:  Parents who have false or unrealistic beliefs or opinions about their children even when confronted with facts: “Watching John yell at his son after the game makes me think he suffers from Delusional Parent Disorder.”

I am not a psychologist.  To my knowledge, there is no confirmed condition called Delusional Parent Disorder (“DPD”).  I’m just a dad and a coach, but coaching middle school girl’s basketball for Colorado Premier Basketball Club sometimes makes me wish I had a degree in psychology!  It would certainly help me to understand the thought process of some of the 3,000 parents who have kids in our programs.  Most of the parents on our basketball club are amazing and only suffer from a mild form of DPD, which I also admit to suffering from, but there are always those extreme cases.  You know that dad or that mom.  While I simply made up the name of the disorder, it is a real problem, especially when DPD creeps into parenting a young athlete.

It does seem that there is something in our genetic makeup that makes us parents feel that our children are always better than they actually are.  We can’t help it and I feel that way about my own four children.  Maybe mine are the exception?  They are the prettiest, smartest and of course, the best athletes.  My daughter is great at soccer, my son is an outstanding runner, and my two youngest daughters are the best basketball players.  Yeah right.  Well, isn’t it possible?  I just can’t help it and neither can most parents.

Alyssa Lundahl, who led a 2014 study at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln found that nearly 50% of parents with overweight children were in denial about their child’s weight.  They may not really be in denial.  Could it be that we are genetically programmed to believe our children are just better than they are?  I would argue that those parents in the study are just like us parents who believe that their children are better athletes than they actually are.

What is the problem of having an extremely over inflated view of our child’s athletic abilities? What does it hurt?  Actually, it can hurt a lot.  When we have unrealistic expectations of our children’s athletic abilities, we begin to put unnecessary pressure on them to perform to a potentially unrealistic standard.  Instead of appreciating their coach (who is usually an unpaid volunteer) we begin to think that they should be playing little Judy more, should be getting Judy more shots and by the way she really is a point guard.  We begin to coach them from the sidelines if their play or effort is not up to the level we believe it should be.  “Come on Johnny, play some defense for once!”  We have those post-game conversations in the car with our children, dissecting the game and inflating the importance of a twelve year-old youth soccer game when all they really want to know is if we will take them out for some ice cream.

These situations negatively impact the player-teammate, player-coach and most importantly the child-parent relationship.  It instills a belief within our children that they are not living up to our expectations and instead of learning to take personal responsibility for their own enjoyment and improvement in their sport, they learn to blame coaches, teammates and end up looking for someone else to help them get to the “next level” rather than finding the passion and desire within themselves to improve and reach their goals.  These situations teach our youth the exact opposite of what they should be learning from their participation in youth sports.

The parent suffering from DPD can cause their child to become a bad apple on their team.  John Calipari, the current head men’s basketball coach at the University of Kentucky and my first head coach in the NBA once told me a story.  When he was the head coach at the UMass, one year he had a top ten team that had a chance to win a national championship.  They were struggling early and he had a very talented player who was constantly getting in trouble, causing problems at practice and just plain being a cancer to the team.  After trying to help the player both on and off the court, his problems continued and eventually Calipari had to kick him off the team.  After dismissing him from the team, the team began to play great and they made it all the way to the Final Four.  Coach Calipari, after telling me the story said, “Our team that year was like a big tub of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream.  All of the ingredients mixed together so well and the result was something great.  But when that player was on our team, he was like a little, itsty bit piece of (expletive that starts with an “S”) in our tub of ice cream.  You put one little, itsty bit piece of (expletive that starts with an “S”) in your tub of ice cream, and all the ice cream is just absolutely (expletive that starts with an “F”) RUINED.”  Parents suffering from severe cases of DPD are like the you-know-what in their child’s team ice cream, causing relationship problems with coaches and teammates.

So how do we avoid allowing our ingrained DPD to creep into your child’s youth sport experience?  Nearly all parents suffer from DPD to some extent.  It all starts with putting children in youth sports for the right reasons and reminding yourself constantly what those reasons are; Learning teamwork and communication. Understanding the importance and benefits of fitness and an active lifestyle.  Competing in a healthy and positive way. Overcoming adversity and losses.   In a world where it is natural to help our children avoid pain and failure, coupled with schools implementing systems that guarantee success when success has not really been attained, youth sports is one of the few opportunities that a child has to learn how to fall and get back up.  If a youth sport organization, coach and team are providing these opportunities for our children then we should be ecstatic.

Once our children are in an environment that teaches those life lessons, we should let the coaches coach, the players play and the referees (attempt) to referee.  Then see where it goes.  If a child loves their sport, let’s keep them engaged.  There are so many lifelong benefits to having a passion for sport.  They may very well reach some amazing goal that THEY set, but the reason for having our children participate in youth sports should not be to get them a college scholarship or to go pro (more on the odds and costs of that mentality in a later post) or to meet our parental expectations of them as an athlete.  It is great to encourage them to dream big.  We just need to make sure it is their dream.

We need to make sure that we are not that mom or that dad.   We can avoid getting sucked into that black hole of parenthood that is filled with terms such as “Sports Scholarships,” “Top Team,” and “Nationally Ranked (at 13 years old!).”  By curbing our natural instinct of being a delusional parent and having potentially unrealistic expectations of our children’s athletic prowess, we can provide our children with a more positive sports experience and set them up to benefit from lifelong lessons they can learn from their youth sports participation.

Keith Van Horn is a husband, father, entrepreneur, coach, writer and former University of Utah All-American and NBA Basketball Player.  Read more about Keith’s life, basketball career, philanthropy and current projects here.

One Great Changeup and a Hitter’s Perspective

By Dan Gazaway
I love it when a pitcher has a great change. The Circle Change just happens to be one of the deadliest changeups out there. The reason: It not only slows down, it has wicked movement.
The Circle Change has a screwball type movement and it breaks down and away. It appears to look like a fastball and is very deceiving to a batters eyes.
To throw this pitch pronate your wrist and forearm slightly inwards. Your arm slot and arms speed is the same as your fastball. Place your fingers in the same position as you do with your fastball (thumb and middle finger split the baseball in half). Next, make a circle with your thumb and index finger. The tighter the circle the more drop you will have. However, your wrist and forearm angle is more important than the grip with this pitch. The most difficult part of this pitch is the forearm angle.
Gripping The Circle Change
The smaller the circle, the more downward movement you will have on the pitch. The slight wrist and forearm pronation is important when throwing the circle change. I recommend starting to throw this pitch making a C-shape instead of a circle when you first try this pitch. You will not find success with this pitch unless you throw the circle (or okay sign) toward home plate; that is what truly slows the pitch down. Most pitcher’s think they are throwing a circle or a c-change just by gripping the pitch correctly. The C or Circle is thrown at the catcher. Again, Keep your arm speed the same so that the pitch will be deceivingly slow to the hitter.
Arguably the most challenging pitch to learn is the circle change because of how the pitch is released. While the pitch can be tricky to learn, do not alter your body movement or motion in any way while attempting to throw it. Instead, work hard on the wrist and forearm angle.
I recommend just playing catch with it practicing the release.
Releasing The Pitch:
Throw the circle change early in the count and try to get a ground ball out of it. Remember, it is best to throw fewer pitches in an inning than to try and strike everyone out. The best change-up counts are the same as the split-finger fastball counts 3-1, 2-1, and 2-0. Also, whenever a fastball is in order a changeup can be thrown in its place. Becoming a successful pitcher simply means you mess with and throw off a hitter’s timing. When you are successful at doing that you will get any hitter out.
A Hitter’s perspective on a changeup.
“Besides the slider, a good change-up is terribly frustrating for most hitters. Because of its resemblance to a fastball initially, it can be particularly deceiving in fastball counts. I’m not sure why I don’t see more good change-ups in youth baseball today, but it’s a very much underutilized pitch.
Hitters hate facing pitchers who change speeds well, it’s tough to get good timing on anything. For a great example of this, you have to look no further than Jamie Moyer, who at age 45, helped his Phillies win a World Series championship in 2008. His signature pitch throughout his entire career has been his outstanding change-up. With a fastball that rarely ever reached 85 mph, Moyer’s ability to keep hitters off balance has paid off big time.
Circle change-ups with movement are deceiving and I would argue are nearly unhittable if thrown in the right location and in the right count. Being a pitcher also throughout my collegiate career, I relied on the change-up a lot to keep hitters off balance. Early in my pitching career I was leery of developing it because the thought of throwing a pitch slower to hitters seemed backwards. Wow, was I mistaken as it became my best pitch!”
Dan Gazaway is the owner of The Pitching Academy http://www.facebook.com/ThePitchingAcademy  and has been coaching pitchers for over 15 years.  His instructional products have been a valuable resource for many coaches, parents and pitchers of all ages.  His website is http://www.thepitchingacademy.com. Get their FREE pitching grips ebook here (use coupon code thepitchingacademy) Want nasty movement on all of your pitches! Get your copy of the pitching grips and workouts DVD. Disc 2 of our best selling 4 Disc series.

Players’ Homework – Foot Skills

By Adrian Parrish

Our young soccer players of today seem to have busier schedules with each passing season. I am sure the older generation reading this article will agree that the 21st century is very different than the on that we grew up in. Game consoles, computers, cable television, educational demands and other sporting activities seem to take time away from leisure activities and allowing players to develop and focus on one sport. Few can afford to spend three hours a day or five days a week in any single activity. Indeed most children spend only three to six hours a week at a soccer activity.

During the regular soccer season you may only practice or play with your club for 3 to 5 hours a week. If your team participates during an indoor season on average you may only get together once for an hour plus a game. It is already a well known fact that teams and players in the United States have a lower practice to game ratio then any other nations in the world. Yet more and more players are signing up to play organized soccer than any other sport. If a child is serious about the sport and participate in an elite program such as ODP they need to dedicate a significant amount of time to improving their skills outside all of their regular organized practices.

Children that do this will develop a real love for the game, although as coaches and parents we can constantly encourage and recommend this, the players themselves must have the drive and desire to do it. The best coach is always going to be the player themselves. They will learn from mistakes, they will express themselves more freely without having been told what to do. Working on such skills will also help a player develop a quality first touch and be more comfortable on the ball when under pressure. Players that are capable of doing such skills allow their coach the opportunity to move them on to the next level.

Homework can be set by the coach including such things as dribbling feints, ball manipulation moves, juggling challenges and using the wall for improving you passing can all be practiced at home either as an individual or in a small group of friends. The Home-Work Sheet along with descriptions below are skills you can do on your own time, all you need is a ball and an area as large as 5yd x 5yd grid. So even the excuse of bad weather cannot be used, practice in the basement or garage. You can set this up as a competition amongst your team and monitor which players develop.

HOME-WORK SHEET

Skill                                                    Mon      Tues      Weds      Thur      Fri      Sat      Sun

1. Fast Feet

2. Triangles (Right Foot)

3. Triangles (Left Foot)

4. Drag Push

5. Inside-Outside

6. Toe Taps

7. Double Taps

8. Slaps

9. Squeeze & Push

10. Step over Push Thru

11. Body Triangles

12. Juggle (Feet Only)

13. Juggle (Thighs Only)

14. Juggle (Head Only)

15. Juggle (All Parts)

On the foot skills 1 through to 11 you work for 30 seconds and record your score each day. Have a few practice runs before timing yourself. For descriptions on the exercises click, Footskills Diagrams – Parrish. Make sure to do all exercises on the balls of your feet and with speed. For the juggling exercises (12 through to 15) you work on the skill for 5 minutes each day and record your best score.

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

The decline of youth sports

Our partners, PHIT America.org are on a mission to get Americans up and moving around, away from poisonous sedentary lifestyles. So it is no surprise that they are concerned about the declining numbers of children playing team sports. There are several reasons for this decline and some of them are advanced in this article, but we know there is also a very important solution that is often overlooked. Better coaches are needed. When kids go to practice and are bored, not challenged or worse, mistreated, they don’t want to come back and play again the next season. We feel our CoachDeck, with 52 good, fundamental practice drills which can all be turned into fun and exciting games kids love is the perfect solution to what we see in an epidemic of average coaches who mean well, but need some help.