Sports Specialization Study

Our partners at STOP Sports have brought us this interesting study from The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, It is titled, Prevalence of Sport Specialization in High School Athletics and is an important read for all high school athletes and parents.

Is your league covered?

League administrators might want to read this message from Little League International. We typically think anything we do under the auspices of our league will be covered for liability should an accident occur, but that may not always be the case. Stop and ask yourself, what could go wrong here and would we be liable if it did?

Terrific Tips from Texas Children’s Hospital

Want some tips on keeping youth athletes safe and healthy? The Texas Children’s Hospital has written some easy-to-follow guidelines for all parents, coaches and league administrators.

OnDeck Newsletters out today

You definitely don’t want to miss this month’s OnDeck Newsletters. If you haven’t yet signed up to have them delivered for free to your inbox, do it now! This month, get a great offer from our sponsor, The Bench Coach, will will save you a great deal, (and be one as well!).

Over the Top

By Brian Gotta

I stumbled upon an article in a small community newspaper that was headlined, “Youth Baseball Game Unfairly Umpired.” It was written by the grandmother of a player whose team lost after umpires ended the game due to a time limit having been reached. Dozens of people chimed in with online comments and reading them makes me wonder about these folks.

Here’s a sampling in italics below. I’m withholding the names of the teams/cities so no one is embarrassed. By the way, these kids are 7 and 8:

Actually it states in the rules that the drop dead rule is in effect during pool play games only….this game was an elimination game not a pool play game. They did not flip a coin to see was home like it says in pool play games nor would the game be able to end in a tie…..because then nobody would be playing in the Championship game. The rules were not clearly stated anywhere……so shame on all involved… The coach from the losing team for not clarifying the rules… FYB and Pony baseball for not stated the rules clearly…..overall it was a great game and it should have ended in a different way….With a win and loss by both teams in a game played to the end.

Did I mention the kids are 7 and 8?

The brackets were changed after the 2nd day of the tourney….. These two teams shouldn’t have even played……but it really didn’t matter because either one of these teams were gonna get beat by the (home team) in the Championship game!!!

Then someone made a suggestion about the rules.

Nice rule suggestion, but all coaches were made aware of the rules prior to the start of the tournament. Don’t complain about it when you are on the short end of the rule. A little “Johnny come lately” don’t you think?

The suggester responds.

First of all, I never said I was “on the short end of the rule”, did I? You know nothing about me. And, I heard parents from BOTH teams who were very disappointed that the boys didn’t get to play a complete game. My rule recommendation was merely a suggestion for implementing a more fair system the NEXT TIME. Think about it, though—honestly, wouldn’t YOU feel cheated if you ended up on the short end of that rule????

And from proud fan…

The brackets were changed after the 2nd day of the tourney….. These two teams shouldn’t have even played……but it really didn’t matter because either one of these teams were gonna get beat by the (home team) in the Championship game!!!

And, again, we’re talking about 7 and 8 year-olds.

Not only did the (home team) move on to the Regional Championship in (city)…..the two teams met again in a elimination game and the Spartans won 13-9 The Spartans now have advanced and will be the #1 seed out of (city) for the Pony Baseball World Series Super Region this weekend!

And finally, in the comments, some perspective:

Well new year new bunch of whiners will come in soon and blah blah. My son played in the tournaments last season. He ran around and got dirty. He jumped over a fence in foul territory trying to catch a foul ball. He thought it was awfully cool that they said his name over the loud speaker. At the end he said he had a great time, but that it was time to move on and play some hoops. He was just told he’ll be back again this year. Let’s remember why we are there.

I didn’t tell him about the coaches, from the league he plays in no less, that cornered the pregnant women to badger her to change the schedule of the games on the second day to favor his team the next morning. “Believe me this doesn’t help me, I am just doing what is best for the kids.” I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see it. Hopefully, that women has her hands full with her baby and won’t have to deal with any grown up infants this year. There are a ton of rules at these things. There should be one added in bold. No more than 5 grown ups with uniforms on from any league, per division. You have your team, you know the start time, play ball. To have endless “discussions” with the umps in games with kids this age is deplorable. Our league will sent a huge contingent again this year and will be in the mix come title time again. I remember every play of ever game I ever played as a kid. I remember every coach that was there for themselves and who was there with the kids best interests at heart. Do the right thing guys and let ’em get dirty and then head off to the snack bar after the game. The kids know who is a good guy and who is a jerk that is there for their own agenda. Be a good guy!! They all give it their best shots each game. We all had our chances to play when we were little. Let ’em play!

They are a bunch of kids, let ’em play the game. A lot less pot bellied gray hairs running around with jerseys on and more kids hitting it when they pitch it and catching it when they hit it.


This article was written in 2011 which means now, all of these kids are 12 and 13. I wonder how many are still playing baseball. Statistically, not that many. And for those who aren’t I wonder if this kind of pressure and intensity at such a tender age was really fun. Or if maybe it has something to do with why they’re no longer on the field.

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

How to Expand the Strike Zone Properly

By Larry Cicchiello

Whenever you are ahead in the count, you should “expand the strike zone.” No, let’s rephrase that. You must expand the strike zone! That simply means throwing a pitch off the plate, that’s actually a ball. Or throwing a pitch too high or too low that is out of the strike zone. Let’s be clear on one thing. I think it is a total waste if you throw the pitch too far off the plate. If ahead of the batter and the count is 0-2, it makes no sense to throw a pitch over the batter’s head or two feet off the plate. The objective is to get the batter to swing at a pitch that’s not a strike. If you throw the ball way off the plate or over the batter’s head the batter will not swing. The only thing that does is that it adds to your pitch count. That makes no sense.

It is estimated that at least 70% of swinging strike threes are on pitches that are NOT strikes. Please read the previous sentence again!

You don’t have to take my word for it. You can see it for yourself. Occasionally, when a pitcher strikes out a lot of hitters in a baseball game, the following morning on television, they sometimes show the replays of all the strikeouts. Keep a tally for yourself. (Trust me on this one, you can do it.) I have done it several times.

If the hitter took strike three, you DON’T tally it. You are ONLY checking the SWINGING strike threes. Simply count the pitches swung at that were strikes and pitches swung at that were balls. Your tally will go like this: 1 out of 1, 1 out of 2, 2 out of 3, 2 out of 4, 3 out of 5, etc.

I really suggest you try this. You will get very good at it and in no time at all and may find it very interesting as well as surprising. The batters swing at more strike threes that are balls than are strikes! That is a very powerful statement. It is because the batter can no longer be fussy about what he swings at and must protect against being called out on strikes.

There is an expression that has been around for decades and still holds true and will NEVER become obsolete. “You get ahead of them with strikes but you get them out with balls.” I know it’s been around for decades because my father taught it to me about 50 years ago, when I was 9 years old. Boy am I old!

Make very good use of expanding the strike zone because very often, if ahead in the count, you will get batters out with balls.

One of the better baseball pitching tips you should always remember is that there is simply no reason on earth to give a hitter a strike to hit if he’s going to swing at a ball! Baseball pitching is plenty tough enough.

Why not make your life easier?

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

Superstar Athletes: What Makes Them Tick?

By Bill Cole

Who is your all-time favorite star athlete? I bet you can name a few. Whoever came to mind, I bet you admire them because they have great physical skills and they are thrilling to watch. Have you ever wondered what made them so good? What is inside their heads that gives them laser focus, high energy and determined drive leading to such high performance?

All great athletes have certain qualities in common. In fact, superstars in any field or discipline have common bonds of high standards, a commitment to excellence, dedication, a robust work ethic and a strong resistance to difficulties in their paths. They overcome adversity and seek challenges.

Let’s take a look at the attributes and qualities championship athletes have that place them into the superstar category. Let’s see what they can teach us so we can use those same mental game tools in our own lives. They have:

1. Composure, Poise and Presence. Champions maintain balance under the most extreme adversity. They don’t panic. They’re able to focus, stay relaxed and continue to walk the walk. They stay positive and act confidently to handle stress.

2. Confidence In Self. Champions believe in their capabilities and know what they can do. They maintain this sense of self even under pressure, or when things are not going well. They remind themselves that they have succeeded in tougher times than these.

3. Eternal Hope. Champions fight to the end. They never give up. They continually seek ways to win and experiment with tactics to turn things around in their favor. They truly believe that there is a way to win, and they just have to discover it.

4. Pacing Skills. Champions know when to take a break and relax. They know how to control the clock so they get a rest. They know that working non-stop leads to burn-out. They have the experience to know when to cruise and when to turn it on.

5. Control Factor Awareness. Champions know what they can control, what they can only influence and what is out of their control. They focus only on those things within their control or influence and let go of the rest.

6. Self-Awareness. Champions know themselves well. They understand what they need to do to perform well. They are aware of themselves in the moment and can make needed adjustments. They listen to their bodies, their minds and their emotions.

7. The Ability To Learn. Champions absorb experience very rapidly. They learn from every outing, good or bad. They seek feedback from others and consider all sides to infuse new techniques and methods into their play. They see what needs to be done to improve and win.

8. Coachability. Champions are coachable. They seek help from those who are more experienced. They form collaborative partnerships with those who can help them. They appreciate the art and science of coaching and make it an integral part of their training program.

9. A Strong Work Ethic. Champions know that hard work leads to confidence and the belief that they deserve to win because they have paid their dues. They know that hard work staves off self-doubt and lack of action. They know that practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent. Only practice that is perfect makes perfect.

10. Commitment. Champions dream big and they make a pact with themselves to reach those goals. They stay on track in spite of setbacks. They continually remind themselves of their goals and readjust those goals as they are met. They make a commitment to train hard and follow-through no matter what.

Champions have control over themselves and yet can control only certain aspects of their performances. They know what factors they cannot control and let those go. They have practiced continuous improvement long before it became a buzzword. They learn well from themselves, from those around them and from their environment. They embrace winning, competition and reaching their potential as athletes and as persons. We can learn a tremendous amount from them.

Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on sports psychology, peak performance, mental toughness and coaching, is founder and CEO of William B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps sports teams and individuals achieve more success. He is also the Founder and President of the International Mental Game Coaching Association, an organization dedicated to advancing the research, development, professionalism and growth of mental game coaching worldwide. He is a multiple Hall-Of-Fame honoree as an athlete, coach and school alumnus, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published author of books and articles, and has coached at the highest levels of major-league pro sports and big-time college athletics. He can be reached at

Copyright © 2005-2008 Bill Cole, MS, MA. All rights reserved.

Steps to Becoming Faster

By Lee Taft

If I were to rank the steps I use to prioritize coaching speed to my athletes it would look like this:

  1. Intensity- Run more aggressively, stop trying to look pretty, and put force into the ground when you step. Use your arms to help the length of foot contact from acceleration through top end speed. Longer arm swing is needed for acceleration and the movement of mass. Shorter arm movement gets the feet off the ground quicker.
  2. Strength- I need my guys and gals stronger, but that takes time. This is the reason I list Intensity over Strength. I can get athletes faster if I teach them how to use more effort early on.
  3. Elastic Energy- Again, this is so important for getting the foot off the ground quicker, but it take a little time to develop. We not only have to make neuro-muscular change, but we also have to increase tensile strength to handle more demand.
  4.  Mechanics- I use the teaching of mechanics from day one, however not to the point of causing confusion and over thinking the job. My first order of business is getting the athletes to move first and then I will slowly and surely clean up technique.

Goals for Athletes
I need my athletes to understand the most important task. That task is to get the job done on the field or court. I want their mindset on covering what ever distance they have to cover quicker than their opponent. Don’t think! Just go!

I see many athletes attempting to run “pretty” and it actually has slowed down their turnover, force production, and results. I don’t want this as a result. I want acceleration and speed.

This is contrary to what most will teach, however you have to understand the “art of coaching” and that sometimes getting into the mind of the athlete is most important. If my athletes think technique and form always, then they don’t “run”.

My goal is to get them RUNNING, and then I worry about the rest as we go.

It may seem simple, but it works and the kids want to get fast, quickly!

If I am training top level sprinters the story changes because their job description changes.

STOP over coaching speed!

Lee Taft, known to most simple as “The Speed Guy”, is highly respected as one of the top athletic movement specialist in the world. Since 1989, Lee has taught foundation movement to beginning youngsters and helped young amateur athletes to professional athletes become quicker, faster and stronger.Lee has been asked to speak at numerous strength and conditioning and sports performance events across the world and has produced 13 instructional videos in the area of multi-directional speed and movement training. In addition, Lee has written several eBooks specifically on movement techniques and speed development. He can be reached at

How likeable is your Sweet 16 team?

Well, everyone’s got their own opinion. However, Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports’s counts more because he writes a nationally-syndicated column. So we’re not taking any sides here, but we found Stewart’s picks interesting. Welcome back, March Madness. We missed you the first half of this week.

Calling all soccer coaches

We received an inquiry from a coach asking for advice on how to run a dribbling session for U12 boys. Of course we recommended our 13 terrific dribbling exercises in CoachDeck, but we thought we’d see if we could reach out to our vast network of coaches for some additional tips. Please send suggestions to Thanks for your help!