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Make them Feel Appreciated

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

In any relationship – marriage, employee/employer, coach to player – we know the personal dynamic suffers if either party is made to feel unappreciated or neglected. So why do so many leagues virtually ignore their volunteer coaches, and then complain each season that it is difficult to get anyone to be a coach? Here are some tips to make your coaches feel appreciated.

All too often we, as league administrators, have so much to do that once we get people in place to coach our league’s teams we think, “That’s done. I can move on to the next job.” But meanwhile, unless we hear complaints, we don’t give another thought to these coaches who are out there working for free every week. What if we created a “Coach Appreciation Committee” that focused all season on making sure coaches had the support and encouragement they needed?

Communicate with them
What are some things we could do to show we care:? How about an easy one for starters: Periodically during the season send an email to your coaches. Ask them, “What can I do for you?” or “Is there any help you need?” Maybe they’ll tell you about an equipment issue they’ve just been putting up with. Perhaps there is a parent who shows up late each practice, forcing the coach to wait around. There could be many small things your coaches won’t bother mentioning, but that annoy them. Imagine if you could fix some of those issues to make their jobs easier. And, even if they don’t request any help, which will usually be the case, everyone likes to be asked.

Pick up the phone throughout the year and call them just to see how they’re doing. You’ll be surprised how much mileage you get with this simple touch. Plus, as a board member, you’ll gain invaluable feedback about the inner-workings of your league.

Communicate with parents
Send an email to all parents with a message such as: “Please be sure to help your coach at practice. If you can’t help at practice then please offer to help in some other way. Get involved with field prep or breakdown. Offer to bring snacks to games. Organize a post-season team party and coaches gift.” Encourage them to simply thank the coach after each game and practice. Get parents to realize that there is something they can contribute even if they aren’t directly involved with the team.

Thank them in person
League officials can swing by a game or practice every now and then and tell the coaches they did a great job and thank them. Point out something positive that was observed. Tell the parents in the stands that the coaches are doing a great job. This goes a long way when it comes from a third-party and a board member.

End of the year volunteer reception
Lots of leagues do this but if you don’t, you may want to consider it. This doesn’t have to be an elaborate soiree, just burgers and sodas at the park would do. But letting the coach and a guest have a nice meal, “on the league” will sure go a long way towards rewarding the season’s hard work and even soothing any frustration that may have accumulated.

Do you have other ideas? What are some things you do in your league to make your coaches feel special, (besides give them a CoachDeck, of course!). Send us your suggestions to info@coachdeck.com. We’d love to hear from you. Have a great 2017 season!

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 Better Team Lost! Exploring Soccer’s Phases of Play: Part 1 – Attacking Phases

By Tom Turner

Part I. The Attacking Phases

Attacking and Building-up
Soccer is a game of passing and dribbling, with the objective of scoring more goals than the opponent. In terms of individual decision-making, the first thought any player should consider when in possession is whether they can score a goal.

How often, for example, do we see young players creatively attempting to beat the goalkeeper from distance? If scoring is not possible, the player should assess whether an assist is possible. If an assist is not possible, they should look to move the ball forward towards the opponent’s goal. In most circumstances, looking to advance the ball forward is preferred to moving the ball square or backwards. However, when a forward option is not available, the objective is to keep the ball in possession until a forward dribbling or passing option, or a shooting opportunity, becomes available.

As the options to attack the goal become more limited, either because the ball is too far away, or the opponent is too well organized, the better teams will look to circulate the ball and maintain possession. This is called building-up, or the build-up, and it is the phase of play most lacking and perhaps least understood in American youth soccer.

Transitioning From Build-up to Attack

At any moment during the build-up, a pass, dribble, or shot may signal that a goal scoring opportunity is available and the tactical phase has changed from build-up to attack. When an attack on goal is possible, the speed of play will often increase significantly as individuals take initiative, or a small group of players attempt to gain a numerical advantage around or behind a defender(s).

Given these definitions of building-up and attacking, the distinction between the two can often be quite blurry. For example, the build-up may be as simple as a long throw from the goalkeeper to a forward when the opponents are caught in a poor defensive posture; to a long pass over the top of a flat back line by a quick-thinking full back; to a quick transitional pass by a midfielder to a forward following an interception close to the opponent’s goal.

More likely, the formal building-up phase will involve forward and backward and side-to-side passing and dribbling. It is also true that the build-up will take two very distinct forms depending on the position of the ball.

Building-up in the Defensive Half

In cases where the goalkeeper or a defender has secured possession and the opponent is not pressing, the better teams will take the opportunity to slow the game down and circulate the ball into attacking positions. This tactic of building from the back helps save energy and, as the ball is advanced, provides the attacking team with shorter distances to run with the ball or play penetrating passes.

The tactical advantage is simply a function of numbers, with the vast majority of system match-ups providing for the defenders and the goalkeeper to outnumber the attackers. For example, when both teams are playing 4-4-2, the four defenders and the goalkeeper often play against only two forwards, ensuring a high probability of maintaining possession and successfully advancing the ball.

When building out of the back against a retreating defense, the flank players will create space by moving as wide as possible; the forwards will create space by getting as far down field as possible; and the central midfielder(s) will provide the defenders with time and space by initially moving forward. If this space is not created, the team that attempts to build out will find themselves under pressure and in danger of turning the ball over in a very dangerous part of the field.

Playing out from the defensive half does not always include a formal choreographed build-up. Many times, the goalkeeper can initiate open play with a quick release to a teammate in space; the same is true of any player who gains possession in the defensive half. Sometimes these passes result in a counter-attack; most often they simply force the defense to retreat into their own half and allow the build-up to take place further forward.

Building-up in the Opponent’s Half

When a defending team deliberately bunkers in, or is otherwise pegged back in their own end, the attacking team is faced with a very difficult problem, as there will be very little space behind the defense and very little space between the defenders. Even on a regulation-width field of 72-75 yards, the challenge of creating goal-scoring chances demands skill, mental patience, and a high degree of tactical discipline. The team that possesses good dribblers may succeed; the team that possesses the ability to pass the ball with pace and accuracy and length may succeed; the team that can quickly combine in tight spaces may succeed; the team that can score with shots from outside the box may succeed; the team that can score from wing play may succeed; the team that can score goals from restarts may succeed; the team that can change their formation and style may succeed; the team that can add a “dimension” player, such as a tall striker, may succeed. But nothing is assured, and history is replete with examples of courageous defensive performances resulting in famous results being secured against very long odds.

To build-up effectively when an attack has stalled, or patience is required, individual players must have the dribbling skills to keep the ball and the passing skills to warrant teammates spreading out from back to front and from side to side. With the offside law restricting how far forward a team can expand, the onus is often on the defensive line to drop off from the midfield to create time and space at the back of the team. This is often achieved in the defenders own half of the field and is one of the primary reasons why the lingering practice of positioning “goalie guards” – those who are required to stand on top of the penalty box — is so abhorred by youth soccer observers. By restricting the forward movement of defenders to support the team during the build-up, coaches are destroying these players’ natural and necessary connection to their teammates and to the most enjoyable phases of soccer.

The Moment Of Transition

In any soccer game, teams will find themselves in and out of possession, and the most dangerous moments during open play are often found when the ball transitions from defense to attack and from attack to defense. When a team is building up, the players are usually spread out from back to front and from side to side. The opposite is true of the defense, whose organized shape will be very compact, as players move towards the ball from the sides and from the front and back. While a good attacking team will have wide players as much as 75 yards apart, and will have committed defensive and midfield players forward for attacking support, a good defending team will try to move as a tight block in order to help create layers of help around the ball.

Counter-Attacking

In the seconds immediately following a change of possession, two opposing dynamics come into play: The counter-attack and defense against the counter-attack.

The team that has just regained possession will look to exploit the spaces between and behind their opponents before the defensive block can be organized. At the higher levels, the team that can effectively counter-attack is often the more successful and therefore a premium is placed on speed of recognition and speed of play. The counter-attack can be carried out with any combination of dribbling and passing movements, with the point of origin generally impacting the likely tactical solutions.

Because attacking spaces are more available when counter-attacking, under-pressure defenders are often forced to take greater risks with offside tactics. This, in turn, pressures attacking players to better appreciate how, where, and when to run into shooting or crossing positions. Players who understand the value of lateral and diagonal running in these situations often become the game breakers; conversely, players who run in straight lines often become offside.

Sometimes, what starts as a promising counter-attack opportunity quickly peters out as defenders recover goalside, or technical/tactical lapses kill the impetus of the moment. While the initiative for an attack may still be regained, it is more likely that teams must abandon the counter-attacking phase and revert to formally building-up.

Next: The Defending Phase

Tom Turner is a U.S. Soccer National Staff Coach, Region II Boys ODP Coach, Ohio North State Director of Coaching. He can be reached at coaching@oysan.org.

10 Strategies To Build Unstoppable Confidence In Youth Athletes – Part 1

By Craig Sigl

Over the years, probably the 2nd most common issue parents bring their kids to me for is “lack of confidence” or “inconsistent confidence.” There are many specific, actionable steps parents and coaches can take to help their kids in this area that I will share with you in this and coming articles:

Strategy #1 Teach and Enforce that any form of “I Can’t” are not acceptable

This was one of the most powerful teachings my mother taught me as a kid and I have personally lived it and taught it ever since. The true story I tell often is that one day, when I was about 9, I was in the back seat with my brother while my mother was driving us to a game. Our mom was telling us about what she wanted to see from us while watching in the stands, something along the lines of hustle. In that conversation, my brother blurts out: “But I can’t” and my mom actually pulled the car over to the curb, turned around, looked us in the eyes and said, I don’t ever want to hear those 2 words “I Can’t” from you boys ever again. You can do anything you put your mind to. From that point on, she enforced it like it was the law in our family and I think my brother one time actually had to write 100 sentences “I will not say I can’t ever again.” When you emblazon a belief like this on a kids mind, through emphasis and consistency, it tends to stick with us as it did for me. I don’t need to tell you how having an “I Can” attitude builds confidence do I?

Strategy #2 Remind them of their past successes

Confidence is a state that results from a thought that I CAN. Our past successes are the most convincing thoughts that support the I CANs. If you’ve done something before, you can do it again, right? Us humans are pretty much wired to do default thinking about what went wrong in the past and what could go wrong in the future. It’s a survival mechanism. This is even more pronounced for kids. Unfortunately, unless we train our mind otherwise, that’s a big confidence killer. I have spoken with countless kids who can remember very well their biggest chokes but can’t remember their successes. As a parent, you can help fill that gap by finding appropriate times to reminisce about things they have done well in the past.

Note: the power of it will be in the specifics of what you bring up. For example, my son is a golfer. We could be sitting around watching a TV show and during a commercial, I’ll just start talking about that time in the District tournament where he was 1 over par after 9 holes and how he finished out. Like this: Hey, I was just thinking about that time you played districts, remember? I’ll never forget your steely face as you walked up the 14th fairway and your ball was under a tree and you didn’t flinch for a second, kept total composure and focus, and with all that pressure, calmly holed out. That was just so awesome”

….and then we have a connective bonding experience in addition to boosting his confidence today from something that happened 3 years ago. To make this stick as a lifelong belief, make sure and emphasize what you want to see more of, like: “Composure” or “Calm under pressure.” Repeat this key word in other areas of life and they will keep it forever which acts like the cornerstone of their “Confidence Building.”

Strategy #3 Have your kid teach you something about their sport

Every day your kid goes to practice, he/she learns something. Often, they are unaware of what they have learned and it would be highly beneficial for them to gain that awareness so that they can reinforce it. Now, you may have tried this directly by asking something like: “How was practice? Did you learn anything?” And you will probably get one word answers like: Fine. Nope. Nothing. That rarely works. But what does work, and it’s a very under-the-radar confidence builder, is to ask more specific questions that are designed to get the kid to teach you something about the sport.
So, to get specific, you might ask things like: “I’m curious, what kind of drills did you do today? How do you think that helps you improve? What does your coach say about that? Did you do any conditioning/physical work today? What kind? I’m really curious about what muscles that builds up for you, what do you think?

The trick here is to be genuinely curious with your questions and to ask questions that you think your kid can answer to “enlighten” and “inform” you. If you want to take it to the next level, have your kid show you how it’s done in the yard! Huge confidence builder in 2 ways, they are reinforcing their learning and feeling good about teaching you something that you don’t know.

Craig has personally worked with thousands of professional and amateur athletes on the mental side of their game. He is an author and creator of 7 mental toughness programs sold in 28 countries and writes to over 30,000 athletes in his emails. Learn more about Craig and contact him at www.mentaltoughnesstrainer.com

Hitting Process Part Four: Weight Shift

By Doug Bernier

Stage 4 of sound baseball swing fundamentals is the weight shift, which will create a rubber band like torque action for your hands and will propel them into the zone as fast as possible.

Your weight shift begins after you have completed your separation. You should now be in a strong, athletic, launch position. It begins with your front heel making contact with the ground, thus starting your back knee to turn and gain ground toward your front knee. Our goal is to move our weight in a way that starts our path to the baseball in a straight line through the baseball. The baseball swing starts from the ground up, and the weight shift is where we start our movement toward the ball.

Weight Shift Breakdown.

The separation step of the swing finishes with your front toe on the ground but the heel on that foot is still in the air. Everything starts with your front heel touching the ground to start your move.

1. Back Knee

Your back knee will start to turn towards the ball and gain a little ground toward your front knee. To help with this move you should feel like you are driving your back hip into home plate. This small move allows you to use gravity by staying on top of the baseball and swinging down hill. It puts you in the optimal position to hit a baseball.

Your momentum should be going towards the pitcher, while your back knee and hip are firing towards the ground.
This is where your weight shifting and rotation start coming together.

2. Front Leg

Your front leg is firm and not allowing the weight shift to get over your front foot.

3. Front Side

You should feel like your front side is holding this motion back, so once you start your swing, you will have a violent leg drive happen underneath you. This should place you in an optimal position for the best bat speed possible. Once the action hits your front leg and creates tension your front leg will halt any further forward movement and you will start to rotate around your head.

4. Front Leg

If your front leg collapses and doesn’t hold all of this momentum back, you will lose all of the built up torque you have built up in the load and separation portion of the swing. The result is a weaker swing, with less bat speed.

5. Hands

Your hands follow what your base does, so if you have proper strong leg drive in your weight shift, you will have a proper bat path towards the baseball. You will actually get your bat in the hitting zone quicker and it will stay in the zone longer, which is the ultimate goal. The longer the barrel of the bat is in the hitting zone, the better chance we have to hit the baseball with authority. Your weightshift will create a rubber band like torque action for your hands and will propel them into the zone as fast as possible. By using a strong and correct shift towards the baseball with your legs, you are allowing your hands to follow the path that your base started.

Final thoughts:

The weight shift heading into rotation will allow your bat to be in the zone longer than just rotating. It is this stage of your baseball swing that allows for last-second, mid-swing adjustments to tricky pitches.

Next: Decide and Release

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

PHIT Act ‘Looking Very Positive’

From our partners at PHITAmerica.org:

Many of you may be wondering about the chances for passing the PHIT Act with the new administration and makeup in Congress. Well, in talking to our partners at the SFIA, the mood is very positive. Here are some comments I have received which makes us confident:

 

 

  • Trump and the GOP Congress have made Healthcare their top priority
  • Trump and the GOP Congress want to expand HSAs
  • The PHIT Act is only widely supported HSA expansion bill with more democrat co-sponsors the republicans
  • House tax chairman is the former lead sponsor of the PHIT Act
  • The Senate tax chairman dropped his physical activity language in HSA reform bill and replaced it with the PHIT Act language
  • There will be multiple health and tax reform bills in next few months
  • We have done all the leg work. The general consensus is this is the year due to Healthcare reform

    Thanks to all our sponsors for supporting our non-stop efforts to pass the PHIT Act!

Wild day in college basketball

Well if yesterday was any indication, this year’s March Madness tournament will be especially crazy. For the first time in 20 years three of the top four teams were defeated. Number One Villanova was upset by Marquette, West Virgina beat Kansas, and Kentucky fell to unranked Tennessee. Take a look at the excitement here, courtesy of ESPN.com.