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Making our Children Better

We’ve all made mistakes as parents and wish we could have a do-over. The sad truth is children aren’t born with owner’s manuals. And unfortunately some wouldn’t bother to read them if they were. The Harvard Graduate School of Education recently did a study on parents and caretakers and produced a sheet of seven strategies and tips for raising children. Its as close to an owner’s manual as you can get.

The full study, including tips and why they are important, how to implement them and steps to try, can be read here. By following these steps as a parent, children will have better relationships their entire lives, and strong relationships are a key ingredient of happiness.

The study encourages us to ask question of our children such as:

  • “What was the best part of your day? The hardest part?”
  • “What did you accomplish today that you feel good about?”
  • “What’s something nice someone did for you today? What’s something nice you did?”
  • “What’s something you learned today—in school or outside of school?”

It provides tips on how to be a strong role model and mentor and how to teach children to think of how their actions affect others. By encouraging kids to honor commitments. For instance, before letting your child quit a sports team, band, or a friendship, ask them to consider their obligations to the group or the friend, and encourage them to work out problems.

There is also a briefer summary of the survey here, though I encourage all parents to read both. I’d like to think my kids have turned out pretty well, and much in the survey my wife and I have done without having the benefit of the “manual.” But there are many other pointers I wish I’d had twenty years ago. We all want our children to be the best they can be. And being better teammates, better friends and generally better people – having strong relationships with their parents and others – makes a happy life more likely. And if this quick read can help us achieve those goals, it makes me happy to be able to pass it on.

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

The Last Day You Ever Choke in Sport

By Lisa Brown

Whenever I would choke, my coach, Dad, or sport psychologist would tell me that all I need to do was believe in myself.

They would say things like, “You’re a great athlete, why are you second-guessing yourself like this? Just go out there and play the way you KNOW you can.”

Sound familiar?

If so, you know how ridiculously superficial and UNHELPFUL this advice is.

Fortunately I refused to give up on figuring out the sports psychology mindset needed to win under pressure.

What I soon realized is that rather than ignore the fact that you’ve choked, you need to ask yourself WHY you choked.

Here’s a typical case study from a real athlete I worked with:

“Lisa I won the first match and was up 18-12 in the second. I just needed three points to close it out. But I got anxious. I hit the bird into the net and then out. He got momentum, I got frustrated, I ending up losing the tournament. Lisa I need more mental strength.”

–Branden, badminton player

Can you see Branden’s MAJOR problem?

What he’s missing?

He’s doing what 97% of athletes do. He’s thinking about the fact that he got nervous and choked.

And he’s putting himself down for choking.

He forgot to ask WHY he got so nervous.

If you try to fix your sport mental game without answering this question first, you’ll spin your wheels forever.

So I asked my badminton player the one question he WASN’T asking: “What was happening in this match that made you so nervous?”

Turns out his opponent was a long time rival.

Branden beat him five months ago by moving him around the court.

See, Branden’s a smart player. He’s quick. He specializes in exhausting the other player so he can’t get shots back.

That’s how he won five months ago.

But then the inevitable happened.

After he got beat, Branden’s rival got mad.

Then he got better.

When he saw Branden again, he was returning Branden’s shots.

This unnerved Branden, who counts on his opponent not being able to get the bird back.

And here’s the truth: There’s a story behind every match, every game, and every race.

There are physical, technical, and tactical REASONS why one side wins.

There aren’t many flukes in sport.

That’s why it’s so sweet when you win.

But Branden forgot to dig up the story.

My guess?

He didn’t want to face the story.

But that’s how you prevent choking, my friend.

When you get scared, you need to figure out WHY you’re so scared.

There’s usually a very good reason, and it’s often technical, strategical, or physical.

Something is happening out there that’s making you scared.

Once you know what it is, your power is back. You’re now in a position to solve the problem.

Ignore the problem, and your nerves will only get more intense.

That’s why you need to learn the psychology in sport you need to emotionally prepare yourself for every scenario.

Lisa Brown is the founder of the Courage to Win and is considered the world’s leading expert on deep mental toughness for success in career, love, and sport. She has personally coached over 7,200 achievers to new heights and conducted over 1,300 live seminars on mental toughness across North America. She has been featured by major media including the New York Times and Entrepreneur Magazine, who called the Courage to Win “a straight-forward guide to success, highly recommended.” To get your free guide chock full on how to improve your baseball mental toughness click here. And click here for your free guide on how to improve your soccer mental toughness. 

Coaching Throw-ins

By Rick Meana

Apart from the importance placed on passing and shooting, Coaches rarely emphasize the technique of the throw-in during practice. Yet, it is a basic method utilized in the game of soccer. This is especially true in the youth game, where because of the technical deficiency of the players, the ball frequently goes out of play resulting in a throw-in. And, 99% of the time, the throw-in ends up going to the opponent.

I strongly feel that the throw-in is not necessary for U6-U8 game play. On any given weekend, I have watched numerous games where feeble attempts are made by U6-U8 coaches to “mold” the bodies of their players, hold down their feet, demonstrate, and explain their version of a proper throw-in. Incidentally, it is done incorrectly as the player either drops the ball in front of them, or in an effort to bring it back over their head, they drop it, throw it to the other team, or fire at the face of the nearest victim — sometimes this just happens to be the coach. And worst of all, when patience has run out, the game is allowed to continue and the player is allowed to re-enter the field with a “slight nudge” by the coach, having learned an improper throw-in.

All this should indicate to the coach that something needs to be fixed. It indicates to me that too much time is spent in the games trying to deal with this phenomenon, when this is something that needs to be practiced outside the game first. So much time is spent; that I have estimated over 25% of the game time is wasted trying to deal with this. That’s 15-20 minutes less the players are in contact with the ball. Less contact with the ball means downtime, downtime results in boredom and disinterest.

A solution to this problem would require modifying the rules of U6 and U8 play. Coaches should emphasize the importance on the technical application of the throw-in during practice. For U6 and U8 play, I strongly recommend that when the ball goes “into touch” or outside the sidelines, the ball is put back into play by the player choosing to either dribble or pass. Also several balls should be placed around the outside of the field, so that when a ball goes out of bounds, time is not spent trying to chase it down. The nearest ball is played in, being careful that no stray balls roll onto the field. Since the hands of a U6-U8 player are not properly developed for the proper execution of the throw-in, more emphasis needs to be placed on providing the players with more opportunities to manipulate the ball with the foot. Not to mention, throws that result in someone getting a ball to the face can also be avoided – the pass or the dribble – is a safer alternative while maximizing chances to play the ball with the foot.

To learn the proper technique, and technical application, the following should be stressed. First, coaches at any level should teach their players how to correctly hold the ball. For U6-U8 coaches, this can be done to teach the habit of securing the ball, which later on can be used to teach proper technique for catching in goal keeping as well. Coaching Implications 1. Secure the ball with both hands; ensure that the index fingers and thumbs are as close as possible (almost forming a “W” or “u” shape with fingers on the ball). 2. Bring the ball over the head just behind the ears with your arms loose and elbows bent and flared out. 3. Stand with your feet a little more than shoulder-width apart with one foot in front of the other (start at a standstill first, then add 1 step, then 2, and so on). 4. Face the field. 5. Bring your head, neck, shoulders and trunk back, bending at the knees. 6. Thrust the ball forward resulting in your entire body going forward. 7. Release the ball as it just goes past the head.

The throw-in is a pass; so therefore, it should have all the characteristics of a pass, i.e. played to a teammate with the proper pace so that it can be controlled easily and possession can be maintained.

Rick Meana has been the New Jersey Youth Soccer Director of Coaching for over 16 years and in that time he has directly impacted the education and development of thousands of players and coaches from all levels. Rick has served on both the US Youth Soccer ODP Region I Boys and Girls Coaching Staffs for more than 18 years and currently is the director of the Under-12 Boys South Development Camp. He holds the USSF ‘A’ License and National Youth License, as well as the NSCAA Premier Diploma.

You Blew the Game Coach and it Wasn’t My Bad Call!

By Larry Cicchiello

I umpired an extremely competitive and closely fought high school baseball game a couple of days ago. My assignment was to be the field umpire and my partner was assigned to home plate. We had our pregame conference with both head coaches and they both seemed like terrific guys. We shake hands and we all wish each other good luck. Boy, things can really change in a hurry and so can personalities.

About the fourth inning, a player on one of the teams is taking a very HUGE lead off second base. After about three pitches, the catcher throws behind him to second base. Everything looked like the runner was going to be picked off. The throw from the catcher arrived at second base and beat the runner there. But the throw was high and the runner had very good speed and got back to second base a split second before being tagged. So I correctly made the “safe” call. This is when I heard the first of two grumblings from, let’s call him Coach Joe. Come on blue…that throw beat him, etc. He whined for about ten seconds so I let it go and didn’t say a word. If he continued longer than that or if he said something inappropriate, I would have not hesitated to have a “chat” with him.

OK, so things settle down and we get back to playing baseball. That is until the seventh and final inning. Coach Joe’s team is at bat in the seventh and final inning and are trailing by a run. They have a runner on second base, in scoring position, representing the tying run. There are two outs and they are a base hit away from tying up the game. Like I said, very close and very competitive ball game!

The pitch to the batter is in the dirt and bounces away from the catcher, but only about three feet away. Coach Joe is coaching third base and yells for his runner to break for third base. The runner sprints for third base. The catcher makes a very quick and good throw that is slightly high. I knew it was quick, not because I was watching the catcher but by how quickly it arrived to third base.

The third baseman makes a very quick tag and tags the runner up high, around the chest area. Yours truly makes the right call…”He’s OUT!” Coach Joe is very upset. Like I said, personalities can change in a hurry on the ball field. I’m walking off the field and Coach Joe hollers to me, “He got him in the head.” I asked Coach Joe what he meant by that. He said that he tagged him up high, the runner was safe. I told Coach Joe I could care less where he tagged him.

I’m now in foul territory and Coach Joe yells to me, “That’s two calls you blew.” (He was referring to the other “banger” I had at second base where I called the runner safe.) I decided to ignore his last “parting shot” and simply walk to my car. I was thinking how every close call an umpire makes is going to please half the people and the other half are going to be let’s say, annoyed.

I have a thirty minute drive home and obviously my thoughts are about my game ending “out call.” I had very mixed feelings and have two thoughts going through my mind. One is that I got the call right and that’s every objective for an umpire so who cares what Coach Joe thinks. The other thought is that I’m slightly bothered because as an umpire, a good game is usually when you are not noticed at all. I want the game to be about the players and not the coaches or umpires. But in this case, I was very much in the limelight.

And then something occurred to me about Coach Joe. He broke a cardinal rule of the game…You NEVER make the third out of an inning at third base. So either he thought the runner was safe or possibly he was trying to get the “heat” off him and his poor decision and trying to blame me for HIS huge mistake.

I’ve had two days to digest this and I’m at peace with this situation. I truly believe that I got both those very close calls (bangers) right. And you know what, I too have growled at a few umpires in my many years of coaching. And Coach Joe did not “step over the line.” Like I said, for the most part I totally ignored him because his griping did not go on for very long or we would have had quite a conversation.

Hey, I might get to umpire Coach Joe’s game again in a couple of weeks. Would I look forward to it? My honest answer is, “No, I would not.” I have no idea if he holds a grudge or how long he holds one for.

I’ll tell you what I am certain of though. I would go into the game with an open mind and make every call to the absolute best of my ability. I could care less what uniform a player is wearing or if Coach Joe is their coach or not.

Hopefully, Coach Joe and I will do just fine when and if we meet again. I have a responsibility to the kids on the field to get the call right. My personal opinion is that the game should be about the players and NOT about coaches or umpires.

Larry Cicchiello is the successful author of several very user friendly eBooks and CD’s covering 320 topics on playing or coaching excellent baseball. ANY player, coach or parent who wants to help their child will be fully equipped! Check out some FREE baseball tips on hitting and FREE baseball pitching tips at LarryBaseball.com.

Checklist for all-star parents

It’s that wonderful time of year when all-stars come around. The fun, the excitement and the memories can’t be beat. But there is also a tendency for parents to get over-the-top wrapped up in the team and make what could have been an enjoyable experience a contentious ordeal. Several years back we published a checklist for parents to guide them through the all-star process. Are there any additional tips you can add?

CoachDeck for Pop Warner

With Pop Warner practices soon to start we thought it would be prudent to mention that our CoachDeck for Football is a great resource for those volunteer coaches. With drills for offense, defense and special teams, cards can be divvied up among assistants so that one deck can be shared by an entire team. It’s excellent for forming practice plans or even just new ideas on the fly. http://www.coachdeck.com.

Come out strong in the second half!

Second half of the year, that is. Can you believe that as of today the year is half over? Well here’s wishing you give yourself a motivational locker room speech, storm out onto the field ready to dominate the remainder of 2015. Whether you’ve built a nice lead or are a few points behind, the rest of the year is yours for the taking!

Happy Father’s Day from CoachDeck

Dads, you deserve a day in your honor. And we know what you’ll be doing tomorrow. You’ll be out on the field kicking soccer balls around to your kids or pitching them baseballs or softballs. Maybe there’s a game of hoops one-on-one in the future. Or maybe all of the above. We know, because you’re sports dads and sports dads can think of nothing better than playing sports with their children. Have a great day!