An example of overbearing parents?

This article recently ran in the Los Angeles Times about a Southern California high school where sports parents seem to feel they can/should influence coaching decisions. It probably happens everywhere.

Here we go again

A couple days ago we told you about a Pop Warner football league in California that was investigating possible embezzlement. Now we hear of a Little League in Indiana looking at the same issue. If you volunteer for a youth league you cannot even consider doing something like this and, if the allegations are true, we hope the culprits are found and prosecuted to the fullest extent.

Your coaches will love their CoachDecks

Feedback we received the other day from a Little League President who ordered CoachDecks which he had just handed out to his managers. He said they all loved the decks and asked if they could have one to give to their coaches. Our handy, little deck of 52 fundamental drills broken into four, color-coded categories is exactly what your coaches and managers need this season since we know they don’t have time for books, manuals or online training sites. They need something they can carry onto the field and use at a moment’s notice while players are getting out of their parents’ cars. Every drill in the deck can be made into a fun and exciting game that kids love so they’ll want to come to every practice.

Pick up your copy of February’s OnDeck Newsletter

If you didn’t have it delivered you can still read this month’s issues of our popular OnDeck newsletter for baseball and for soccer.  Make sure you visit our sponsors and take advantage of all the great offers.

Pop Warner in hot water

We try to bring you these stories whenever we stumble across them in the hopes of raising awareness of this type of activity in youth sports organizations and in case anyone might want to contribute to a good cause. This Pop Warner seems to have some financial issues which may or may not be because of misappropriation of funds. But it also seems like lessons can be learned from mistakes that may have been made within the executive board. We certainly hope the league can get back on track financially and that some of our readers help.

Don’t miss tomorrow’s OnDeck Newsletter

The February issue is full of terrific articles, ideas, tips and offers. If you’re not on the list to receive OnDeck, its easy and free!

Let Them Play “Up”, Not “Down”

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

Recently I came across a Little League website and looked over their rules and guidelines page. This particular league holds tryouts for seven year-olds who want to play “up” in the Machine-Pitch division and for eight year-olds who want to play “up” in Kid-Pitch. This line caught my eye: “All 9 year-olds not drafted into Kid-Pitch will play down in Machine-Pitch.”

Now I’m not one of these guys who thinks every kid should get a trophy all the way through high school. I’ve written several articles about the positive lessons learned through striving to win, competition and through failure. But I couldn’t get one image out of my mind.

That was the face of a little nine year-old who was told that he “didn’t make it,” and that while all of his friends would be moving “up” into the glamorous world of “real” baseball, he was going to have to stay “down” and repeat another year where the balls are pitched by machines.

It is the same with soccer and other sports that have “elite” teams at very young ages where players must be “good enough” to participate. It saddens me to think of how many of these very young kids play in organizations that believe tryouts should begin at the earliest levels or are pushed into a tryout by overzealous parents only to have to endure the sting of rejection and humiliation.

Again, kids have to learn sometime that there will be disappointments. They’ll need to learn the lessons that either through talent or hard work, or both, some succeed and some don’t. But at what age should that happen? It seems like nine might be a little soon. Years ago, Little League International changed their rule and mandated that all 12 year-olds who wanted to play in the highest Little League division, Majors, would be allowed regardless of ability. At the time there were many who complained this would dilute the talent in this division. But a more compassionate way to view it was that it was overly-harsh to have a child go all the way through the Little League process and never have an opportunity to play at the top level, if even only for one year.

I imagine Little League also looked at this as a way to try and reduce attrition. Because it is a fact that nearly every 12 year-old who didn’t make Majors simply quit rather than play in the lower division. I am guessing many of the 9 year-olds in this particular league who are told they must play again in Machine Pitch do the same thing.

There is an epidemic of youth quitting or simply not participating in sports. Numbers are down in nearly every category. More kids are choosing video games instead where they can control what happens, where there is no judgment from adults, where failure is private and unimportant, not public and devastating.

If we want to get more kids playing sports, and if you’re reading this you probably do, shouldn’t we be doing everything we can to be more inclusive, instead of more exclusive? Wouldn’t we be better-served, at least at the youngest ages, to tell everyone we want them to play?

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

Development Requires Competition

By Tony Earp

Often when talking about development and soccer players, it is assumed you are reducing the importance of trying to win or the will to compete for the players. Since development is the focus, than whether you win or lose is irrelevant, right? No matter what, after each game, everyone is given a gold star, ice cream cone, and patted on the back and told they are great. The kids should feel no different after a loss than they do after a win. Results do not matter, so who cares who won, right? In reality, nothing can be further from the truth. In fact, competition is at the heart of development and learning.

When I was a kid, part of the reason I trained so hard was because I hated to lose. I still to this day despise losing at anything. With that in mind, I also had a coach who made it crystal clear that in order to give myself the best chance to have success, I had to get better. It is not enough to show up at a game and want to win really really really badly. It is not enough to show up and just feel like you can work harder than everyone else on game day and expect to get positive results. From early on, my coaches, and parents, made me earn every ounce of success I had on the field by helping me understand it would be a direct result of what I was learning and how I was improving.

Part of any player’s development is learning how to compete, and what is required to have success on the field. The problem is that kids can be set up and put into situations by adults to have success without earning it, to be set up to win without having to compete. I call it “bumper bowling success.” By manipulating the kids’ actions or the challenges of their environment to make things easier or only asking them to do what they already can, success is handed to players. The success is not earned.

When players are set up to succeed, they are not really being asked to compete at all. Although a player can have success initially, eventually without the development and learning, the success will end. The player may have assumed he was getting better due to the wins or positive reinforcement from the coach or parents, but all of a sudden he will find himself in a situation where he has no chance of being successful. Without the fundamental skills to play the game, there is no way he can compete. Not only will he not know how to compete, the player will also lack the tools to even give himself a chance.

Is there a crueler thing to do to a child? Make them believe they are heading down the right path, when actually, they are going the wrong way.

It is really a simple concept. The players all need, and should, develop a desire to win when they play. But, you know what, if they want to win, then they need to learn how to play and earn it. They need to compete the right way and try to finish first. That is how life works. There is no logic in wanting to win and not wanting to learn the skills needed to play. This is true in school, business, sports, and every aspect of life. You should want to do well and want to have success. Not for the sake of the success, but for the fact that is the standard you hold yourself too. And that is what kids need to learn. If you do not want to learn how to play soccer, you do not want to learn how to control the ball, dribble, pass, receive, defend, move off the ball, and everything else needed to play, then you really do not want to compete at all. You really do not have a strong enough desire to win because you are not willing to do what is necessary to win, not once, not just now, but for as long as you play.

Winners, true competitors, win because they work harder than their competition to get better. They want to win, so they know they need to get better. They work hard, get better, and win they win more than those who do not. As they win, the competition gets tougher so they still strive to continue to improve.

When players do lose, there are plenty of lessons from the loss that need to be addressed and learned by the players and the coach. A “development-first” focus is not saying, “Hey, we lost. No big deal.” There is no room for learning or development in that statement. Developing players is using those times to look at the games and identify where the team and each player need to improve to get better. Again, development is key. The players are asked to reflect on what went well and what did not, and how can they replicate the things that worked and improve on the things that are currently out of their reach.

On the other side, a loss does not mean that the game was a waste, and that is where the line is drawn. Those who just want to win, and do not care about development, fail to find the important takeaways from those games. The only thing focused on is the fact that the player or team lost. If a team loses but the players are executing and utilizing skills learned throughout the week with the coach, then there is success there that needs to be recognized and acknowledged.

When any player or team tries new skills or tactical approaches on the field, it does not work perfectly the first time or the first full season attempting what is being learned. While trying to learn those skills, the players and team expose themselves to a higher possibility they will lose some games. Not until they have mastered those skills will the players have the best shot at winning playing that way and using the new skills.

This is where the lessons are found when a player loses. Those lessons are what they take back with them to training to work on to improve before next game. If the approach is “who cares that we lost,” then it does not give the kids goals to work towards at the next training session. On the flip side, if the kids are just scolded for losing and their attempt to use those skills are not recognized and praised, then what is their motivation to continue to get better at those skills or try them again?

In training and in games, competition is key for player development. The drive to win and have success on the field is connected to the drive to improve and get better at the game. A player cannot only focus on one or the other as it would not allow the player to develop. If a player just wants to win, but is not willing to train to improve, there will be no development and winning is not possible. If a player just wants to get better but does not want to win, then they have no reason to use what they are learning. If you cannot use what you are learning, why learn it? And frankly, if you do not want to win, there is no reason to play.

Competition is healthy when it is presented in the correct way to the players. We cannot ask kids to compete without giving them the tools to play the game, and we cannot ask them to develop the tools if we do not want them to compete. It is when winning is the only goal and the development is sacrificed in order to take short cuts to help players “cheat” themselves into a win and out of getting better that competition is grossly warped by adult influence.

The purest form of competition can be found in the streets and parks when kids play pick up on their own. With no adults or added external pressure, the kids will still compete because they want to win. Because they want to win, they will take risks, take charge, and assert themselves into the game. This is part of why “free play” is an important part of player development. Free play creates some of the most competitive environments kids will find themselves playing.

When someone mentions favoring a player development focus over a focus on winning, it does not mean that winning is not important. It usually means that the goal is to develop players which requires learning how to compete and win games, but there is no room for taking shortcuts to win a game if you want to create an environment to develop players. As with a developmental approach, it is understood there are no shortcuts to developing players but plenty of shortcuts to win games.

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

 

Is Losing Stressing You Out? Try This Mindset to Fix It!

By John O’Sullivan

As a young coach, I was convinced that there were only two possible outcomes to a game, winning or losing. Of course, losing was to be avoided at all costs, even if that meant not playing weaker players, benching under-performers, criticizing referees, you name it. Then I started to study people whom I would call master coaches, people like John Wooden, Mike Krzyzweski, and others, and realized that their entire philosophy was built not around winning and losing, but winning and LEARNING!

Armed with two positive outcomes every time we had a game, throughout the season the question I asked my teams changed from “Why did we lose?” to “What did we learn?” Players performed better in the second approach, because they knew they were either going to win and learn, or lose and learn from it. At practice the next week, we discussed what we learned, and got on with the journey of getting better. It turned the focus on the process, and not the outcome of games. As we have discussed before regarding the work of Dr Carol Dweck and Mindset, focusing on effort and process instills a growth oriented state of mind in your athletes, which has been proven to increase performance.

Now do not get me wrong, this did not mean we did not try to win, or compete to the best of our ability. One of the biggest misconceptions in youth sports today is one held by misinformed coaches and parents who think that if you do not win all your games the sky is falling. They think that if you do not focus on things like wins, trophies, and rankings, you are not being competitive. They think that if they forgo a win in the name of developing players they are teaching kids to be non competitive. They could not be more wrong. They confuse success and excellence, and those two things are quite different.

Success is about the outcome, excellence is about the process of becoming proficient. The former gives you a short term buzz, yet instills fear of losing. A quest for excellence, however, turns an athlete’s focus upon the journey of athletic development, which is filled with struggle, disappointment, and success. Athletes on a quest for excellence inevitably have much more success then those who focus solely upon winning and positive outcomes. They accept more challenging situations, so they will learn from them. They go out of their comfort zone in the quest to improve. They also celebrate the achievements of others.

Success oriented individuals fear all achievement other than their own. They do not seek out challenges, for their validation comes only through outcomes, and not the journey. They seek praise through wins instead of effort. And when the going gets to tough, success seekers get going.

My advice to you is to follow the path of our most SUCCESSFUL COACHES, and that is a path of EXCELLENCE! That is the path of winning and learning! Don’t take my word for it. The results speak for themselves.

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 SoccerWire.com, and he recently gave a TED talk on “Changing the Game in Youth Sports.”

How to Greatly Benefit From the Long Toss

By Larry Cicchiello 

The “long toss” is simply a throwing session where you start out fairly close to your throwing partner, then gradually increase the distance between the two of you. You finish the drill by then gradually decreasing the distance until you are back to the distance you originally started from.

Many very good authorities believe that the best way for a pitcher to build arm strength and increase the speed on the fastball is by making very good use of this fabulous drill. It is totally acceptable to take a couple of steps when long tossing.

You can approach it basically the same way as if you are trying to throw a runner out from the outfield. You don’t want to be throwing fly balls when long tossing. A trajectory that goes a little bit up and down is okay but try to keep it as low as possible.

How To Long Toss:

First, be advised that you may have to work yourself up to the distances listed below and BE PATIENT until you can comfortably work up to these distances. Adjust distances downward for younger pitchers. Be extremely cautious with both the distances and the number of throws. This is NOT a competition of any type between you and your throwing partner and DO NOT overexert yourself!

You and your throwing partner should be sure to loosen up your arms before doing the drill.

Possible Distances When Doing The Drill:

60 feet apart–6 throws

90 feet apart–8 throws

120 feet apart-10 throws

90 feet apart–8 throws

60 feet apart–6 throws

Remember not to overexert yourself and find distances and number of throws that are comfortable for you! I would NOT recommend long tossing on two consecutive days. If you have a somewhat serious session, I would take two days off before long tossing again.

During the season, I would recommend long tossing only occasionally. Some pitchers don’t like to long toss at all during the season and love it in the off season.

It’s going to come down to your personal preference as to how often you “long toss” and don’t overdo it.

Long Toss In “OFF” Season:

In the off season, many pitchers use this drill every other day and gradually increase the repetitions to develop arm strength. Several outstanding professional pitchers have changed their off season throwing strategy and incorporated more “long toss” and less throwing from the mound. One M.L.B. pitcher actually gained 5 m.p.h. on his fast ball after increasing the amount of time spent on the drill and decreasing his throwing sessions from the mound. The drill has definitely grown in popularity the last several years.

Please Remember:

  1. This is NOT a competition between you and your throwing partner.
  2. Be VERY CAREFUL with the distances and the number of throws!
  3. We do the long toss to improve arm strength and NOT to get injured. Please…proceed with caution!

Larry 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.