Spread the word about PHIT

Our partners at PHIT America.org do outstanding work. And you can help them by spreading the word. If you know any other companies, people, sponsors who might be interested in their message, pass along this video to help publicize the mission of PHIT!

Can exercise delay mental aging?

That’s what a new study seems to suggest. Check out the article from our partners at PHIT America.org. A CBS News study shows exercise, especially in seniors, may reduce aging in the brain, maybe by as much as ten years. Its never too early or too late to get “PHIT”!

Can you make the call?

This is a really fun and cool little widget we found for you baseball fans and umpires (and wanna-be umps) out there. You can quickly create your own unique umpiring quiz with one click and see if you know the rules as well as you think you do. Warning: It is addicting!

Read this month’s OnDeck Newsletter!

You can check out April’s OnDeck Newsletter for soccer and for baseball/softball, both filled with great information for youth sports parents and administrators. We hope you enjoy them, and you can always sign up to be added to our mailing list here.

OnDeck for April goes out tomorrow!

Our popular OnDeck Newsletter is cued up and ready to roll off the electronic presses tomorrow. If you want it delivered to your inbox, make sure  you sign up. It’s free, there are tons of great offers and lots of indispensable information for youth league parents and coaches.

Who Is Your MVP Volunteer?

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

Having coached four children in multiple youth recreational sports, I have encountered many, many great people who have selflessly devoted their time as volunteers to helping create a positive experience for the kids in the league. There are hundreds of thousands of individuals out there who do this important work and receive no pay, no recognition, maybe not even many “thank-you’s.” Let’s change that: Who is your league’s “MVP Volunteer”?

Is there a board member who works tirelessly “behind the scenes”? The one everyone knows they can count on and who probably does more than their fair share? How about a coach who has been there “forever” and does it for the love of the kids? Maybe an official who volunteers to referee or umpire games without pay, even though it costs him money to do so. Who do you have that we can recognize?

If we get some good stories, we’ll publish them in upcoming issues of OnDeck so that not only will your special people see they are, in fact, truly appreciated, but so that others will have the privilege of knowing about their positive contributions. Maybe we can inspire more people to act in kind, which means more kids benefit.

Here is my MVP: I coached two of Mark Remick’s boys on my Little League team so I got to know him pretty well. There is not a more selfless individual I’ve met. In addition to being at every game as a coach, he was on our league’s board of directors for many years and never missed a meeting. But where he really stood out was in his care for the league’s fields. Before and after games, Mark took care of the dragging, watering and chalking. Throughout the year he maintained the outfield grass with fertilization and weeding, installation of outfield fences and much more. It has been several years since he and I moved on from the league and now, when I drive by the fields, its apparent that they sure do miss him.

See how easy that was? And I’ll bet you can do even better.

So submit your write-ups to info@coachdeck.com and if your story is chosen we’ll thank your special person by highlighting their accomplishments in an upcoming edition. We may not be able to make them famous, but its the least we can do to give them the recognition they deserve.

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

Building Real Confidence

By Tony Earp

Confidence and self-esteem are important for every player to have in order to be successful on and off the soccer field. As coaches and parents, one of our goals is help develop both of these in players over the course of their childhood to help them be prepared for the real world when they are off on their own to face the challenges ahead. Confidence and self-esteem help people deal with adversity by being able to make thoughtful decisions in difficult situations that are aligned with their core values. It helps people stay the course in pursuit of their goals while others tell them it cannot be done or they are doomed to fail. Confidence and self-esteem prevent people from quitting too early. The importance of these traits in a person cannot be stressed enough. With that said, we need to be very careful in how we try to develop confidence and self-esteem in kids as they grow up. Too often, we are too focused on making kids feel confident and have self-esteem through artificial means versus developing the skills that are the foundation that confidence and self-esteem are built upon.

Success does not develop confidence or self-esteem. Confidence and self-esteem develops sustain, life-long success. It is not the other way around. Too often, we try to manufacture situations that kids will have success in order to build their confidence and self-esteem. Although in the short term, yes, a child will feel good about what just happened, but will that confidence last? Is it the type of confidence that will remain the next time the child fails? Or is it more like a big shiny bubble that is great for a moment but will not last? Unfortunately, artificial success creates a confidence “bubble” that will always pop leaving nothing of substance behind.

To build confidence and self-esteem in kids, you are not really focusing on building those things. To build that in a child, the focus needs to be on developing the skills required, and abilities needed, to actually be confidence and self-assured about what they are able to do. To build confidence and self-esteem, a person needs the skills and ability to be successful in whatever they choose to do. Building confidence and self-esteem without any real substance behind it, is like building a house with no foundation. Under the slightest amount of pressure, it will crumble.

For example, a doctor who is confident is normally confident for good reason (at least we hope so). Over a career of developing knowledge and skills to provide the best care possible for patients, the doctor is confident in the ability to diagnose a problem and treat it accordingly. Although the doctor may be wrong at times, it does not hurt the doctor’s confidence or cause doubt in the doctor’s ability to do a great job. But what if the doctor lacked any substantive knowledge or advanced skills, what if deep down the doctor really knew that those abilities were not there? How quickly would the doctor’s confidence and self-esteem fade at the moment that the doctor is challenged or faced with adversity to any degree? How quickly would the doctor shy away from “difficult cases” or give up when a diagnosis could not be found quick.

In relation to soccer, confident players are ones who have the necessary skills to play the game. They are not necessarily the players who are having success. Yes, they may claim to be confident and may even show the body language and demeanor of a confident player, but what happens the first time they are really challenged by the game or another player? What happens the first time they fail? Does the confidence remain or does it quickly fade? Does the player assume he is no longer a good player? Or is the player confident in what he is able to do and recognizes a temporary setback and an opportunity to grow and develop.

Kids are confident and have a high self-esteem when they know they are good at something. When they know they have the skills to be successful, and they can make a positive impact on what is going on around them, they are confident and will shine. When challenged, they do not break. They rely on what they know how to do and what they can do to meet the challenge and overcome it, but even when they fail, it is never from a lack of effort or persistence. More importantly, they do not take it as an attack on their self-worth or confidence, but as an opportunity to learn, grow, and become better. Even in failure, self-esteem and confidence can grow, but only in those who are really confident and have a self-esteem solidified on the substance and value of their abilities.

Too often we are too concerned with the final result, a score, a grade, a certificate, etc… and not concerned enough with what the child actually is capable of doing or what the child actually knows. Think about back when you were in school, and you got an A on a test or a paper. Getting the A is a great thing, and in no way am I saying that trying to achieve high scores is a bad thing. My question is what did you really have to do to get that A, or what did you learn? Getting the A is not what built your confidence or self-esteem. It is what you are now capable of doing or what you now know that was significant. It is what real self-esteem and confidence grows from. If the A was not really earned, nothing was learned, or the child was setup to do well (easy questions, “spoon fed” the answers), then the A really has very little value. Yes, the child may be “proud” of the grade, but then what? What is the child left with besides a memory of a moment that they felt good about something they “accomplished?”

On the soccer field it is the same, we are too concerned on whether a child wins and loses and the effect it will have on their self-esteem or confidence, rather than really looking to see what the child is or is not capable of doing. What is the child learning or not learning how to do? Winning is a great thing, and every player should compete to win, but winning does not build confidence. Ability does. Players can be on a team that wins all the time, but if deep down they know they do not have the skills to play the game, then they are not confident or have a high self-esteem when it comes to soccer. Yes, they feel good and smile after a win. Of course they do, since winning feels good. But the truth is, they are not building confidence to play the game. Why? They have nothing to really be confident about.

Confidence and self-esteem come from one simple question: What can you do? The more skills and ability a person has, the more they are capable of doing, the more confidence they will have in what they do. Past success, does not help a person in regards to what they are capable of at this moment. When the answer to the ability question is “not much,” how would we expect someone to be confident in that scenario. This is why our mission and goal as coaches and teachers is NOT to help kids have success. It is absolutely and most importantly always to help kids DEVELOP SKILLS and ABILITIES to be able to answer that question…. What can you do?

Also, when that becomes the focus, it provides the kid a straightforward answer to what needs to be worked on. Simply, whatever they cannot do right now is what they should be working on to be able to do in the near future. Confident players know their strengths and their weaknesses. They are not ashamed or embarrassed by their weaknesses, but instead use those areas of their game to guide their training and drive to improve. Unconfident players, ignore their weaknesses and try to pretend they do not exist. When those weaknesses are exploited, a player’s’ confidence in his level of play immediately plummets.

Instead of trying to build confidence and self-esteem through artificially, adult manipulated, worthless “victories” or prizes, confidence needs to be developed by making players confident in the skills they possess. In order for them to be confident in those skills, the focus for coaches, teachers, and parents should be to instill those skills, not confidence. Without the skills, there is really nothing for a child to be confident about. Again, yes, having success, winning, getting a good grade, makes anyone feel good, as it should. All I am saying is that it is critical to pay attention to the context in which those things are being accomplished. Are they being done in a way that it is earned by the children through the development of skills and knowledge, or is it being given to the children with little substance or value supporting that success? It is the simple difference between building confidence and building nothing in child.

 

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

Coaching Dilemma – Athlete Dilemma

By Dean Hebert

The conflicts between club coaches and school coaches are well-known. On rare occasions the school coach also acts as the club coach for their athletes. However, far more likely the club and school systems are in competition with each other.

  • What philosophy on training prevails?
  • How are competitions treated? Is one put above the other?
  • Are training sessions cooperatively designed in the student-athletes’ best interest or is it a tug of war on what the focus will be?
  • Do one-a-day workouts become two-a-days or three-a-days as a result of coach and team demands?
  • What role do parents play? When and how should they intercede and advocate for their youth?
  • When there are opposing views – who settles them and how are they settled?
  • Is it about egos?
  • Is the athlete penalized playing time or positions if their loyalty to a team is questioned?
  • Is the athlete’s best interest being served?

Let’s just take one example of Mary Cain who lives in Bronxville NY. Not out of high school, this 16-year-old is an elite runner who sought out the highest level of coaching. She is coached by Alberto Salazar in Oregon. She no longer runs for her high school team. She has set national youth and high school records at distances from 800m to 5000m.

A talented high school soccer player who plays both club and school ball: Different coaches. Different approaches. Different training philosophies. Different priorities. Conflicting tournament schedules. The club coach clearly states the only way you will be recognized is through high level club competition. The school coach has college connections and insists on team and school loyalty. (i.e. If you don’t come to practice you don’t play.)

1. Situations are not all created equal. How many athletes are at a Mary Cain level – one. Odds are your youth athlete is not at that level. That means you will more than likely have to deal with several coaches along the way and some of them simultaneously.

2. Only 2% of high school athletes go to college on scholarship. And only .06% eventually go professional – and that only counts the major sports. If you are in an Olympic sport (like track & field) the odds are far worse.

Why do I bring this up? We have to put sports competition – and teams and coaches in the process – into perspective. This helps us deal with competing issues and contentious situations.

Coaches:

  • Focus on what the athlete and parents want; not what you want.
  • Have factual objective data, not your opinion, to back up your side. Whether that is how to train, what competitions are needed, what the future possibilities for the athlete are.
  • Let go of your egos. This is not about you. This about the athlete.
  • Communicate with the other coach and collaborate to make the athlete the best he or she can be. (This is rare but I’ve experienced it.)

Parents & Youth Athletes

  • Parents, focus on your youth athlete. This is not about you. It is not about the coach.
  • Keep perspective. It is not about potential. That is what dreams are about. The odds are clearly that one more team membership, tournament, practice or cross-training session will not get them to the next level.
  • Do not confuse “giving my youth every opportunity possible” with trying to “make something that isn’t there” or “giving my youth something I never had”.
  • Physical health and mental well-being should be the overriding objectives.
  • Keep open lines of communication. By high school the athlete’s wishes should carry more weight than a parents’ or coach’s in this scope.
  • Parents – ultimately you must be a voice of reason. Leave your personal feelings aside (easier said than done.) Use real data (not opinion) if you want to sway your youth in a direction. What is to be gained or lost? This is a learning opportunity for your youth about decision-making and accepting responsibility and consequences (unknown – good or bad).
  • Too much, too soon yields burned out athletes. They not only do not reach any hypothetical potential, they often walk away from the sport all together.
  • Remember that this is not a life-or-death decision.

I coach both club and high school. My perspective is that your high school years are supposed to be enjoyed. Being part of a school team is something almost every athlete looks back on fondly. You are in high school only once. It is where your friends and school-mates are. It does not have to be an either-or situation. If your club and school coaches cooperate you could have a fulfilling time with both. If not, then there is opportunity to take part in club sports when your high school sport is out-of-season. The one thing I know is that when egos and emotions are set aside and the youth athlete’s interest is served – we will have done right by them.

Dean Hebert M.Ed. MGCP is a certified mental games coach specializing in youth athletes and youth coaches. He has authored several books and hundreds of articles. He works with individuals, teams and coaches in all sports as well as performs guest speaking engagements on mental toughness. His website is www.mindsetforperformance.com.

Hitting Situations and Strategy

By Doug Bernier

Situational hitting is important slice of a balanced offensive attack.  Understanding baseball situations and how to hit strategically in those situations set you up for a productive at bat, even if you don’t get a hit.

Effective situational hitting can keep pressure on the defense and push runners around to score even if the offense isn’t fully clicking.

Runner at 1st base with less than two outs (most likely 0 outs)
Potential bunt
The direction of our bunt will be towards first base

Potential hit and run
When a “hit and run” is signaled to you the hitter, it means the runner is going so your number one responsibility is to swing and make contact with the baseball no matter where it is thrown – unless it is going to bounce in front of the plate.

If the baseball is going to bounce we are betting that the catcher won’t be able to block the ball, pick it up and throw out the runner that is stealing on the pitch.

Next we want to hit a ground ball, the runner is stealing the base and we have to protect him.  If we hit the baseball in the air there is a potential for a double play, or at least the runner gets back to 1st but we make an easy out.

Ideally we would like to hit it to the opposite middle infielder.

*If right handed, hit a ground ball to the second baseman.
*If left handed, we want a ground ball to the shortstop.

We want to hit it to the off middle infielder because he likely will be the person covering the second base bag on a steal, so there will be a big hole open for you to hit through.

However, it is more important to hit it on the ground anywhere than try to for the hole and end up with a pop fly getting caught.

If the pitcher has a good sinker (especially righty on righty, or lefty on lefty) it may be difficult to put his sinker on the ground to the opposite middle infielder.

*As a righty facing a right handed sinker, it is sinking down and in to the hitter.  The bat is more likely to get under the baseball and end up with a weak pop fly to the 2nd baseman or right fielder than to bat a ground ball the other way.
*In this situation it is probably better to just turn on a sinker and hit a ground ball in the 5-6 hole (in between the shortstop and third baseman).

Hitting behind the runner
When the 1st baseman is holding on the runner at 1st base, the 2nd baseman is in double play depth which brings him a little closer to the 2nd base bag it leaves a huge hole open to the right side of the infield.

This is much easier for a left handed hitter but there are many hits to be had by hitting the baseball in the lane between the 1st and 2nd baseman.

This isn’t so much situational hitting, its more handling the bat and taking what the defense gives you.
Runner at 2nd base with 0 outs (move the runner to 3rd base with less than 2 outs)
Potential bunt situation
The direction of the bunt will be towards third base in this hitting situation.

Hit behind the runner
Hit a grounder to the right side of the runner at 2nd base (toward the 1st or 2nd baseman)

Even if the shortstop fields the baseball and has to move to his left, he will most likely just take the out at 1st base. It is too risky of a throw to make to third base, because of his momentum and that the base runner will be potentially in the way of the throw.

Hit a deep fly ball
You can move the runner up from 2nd to 3rd base by hitting a fly ball deep enough for the runner to tag up and move up a base.

The runner is more likely to tag up if you bat a fly ball to deep center or right field, it is a much further throw.

Runner at 3rd base with less than 2 outs
Potential squeeze situation
As the bunter, wait until the pitcher is about to release the baseball. Square around and just get it on the ground, in fair territory.

This bunt can even go right back to the pitcher. We are taking the out at 1st base for a run.

Infield back
Keep your sights up the middle and hit a ground ball.  Keep the baseball away from the corner infielders (especially the 3rd baseman, sometimes the 1st baseman is really deep and its ok if he has to make the play.)

This is a great situation as a hitter because they are giving you a free RBI, all you need to do is just hit a ground ball toward the middle of the field.

Infield In
In these hitting situations, you need a line drive or fly ball to the outfield so the runner can tag up and score.

Think of driving the ball rather than hitting a fly ball. More people get in trouble by trying to hit a great fly ball that they get a little loopy with their swing and they pop the baseball up in the infield, or they miss it all together.

Most people hit more fly balls to the opposite field and more ground balls to the pull side. Think of driving the baseball middle of the field to the opposite gap, this will give you a good approach for driving the runner in from third base.

Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball Insider.com, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 13 years. Most recently, Doug signed with the Minnesota Twins in 2013, where he logged time at every infield position except 1st base in 33 Major League games. Currently Doug is with the Twins’ AAA team in Rochester, NY. Originally published at http://probaseballinsider.com/baseball-instruction/fundamentals-of-hitting/baseball-situations-and-hitting/

Not serious enough, or just right?

Watching a Little League Majors game yesterday and observed a play where the runner on first took off for second with one out on a pop-fly to the second baseman. The 2B caught the ball on the edge of the grass and then threw it to first to complete the double-play to end the inning. Both the first base coach and player jogged into to the dugout together and the manager pointed at them and said, “You guys!” in a nice way. The kid laughingly said the coach told him to go. The manager jokingly asked the fans if there were any interested in becoming the new first base coach. There were jokes made about not having to come to every practice because not all of the coaches did either. The team ultimately lost the game 5-4. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.  There certainly didn’t appear to be any pressure to win. It looked like everyone on that team was just as relaxed as they could be. Is this how you believe Little League should be? Should there be more intensity or is this just right?