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By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck
From youth leagues to high school, to college and pro sports, we’ve all heard coaches tell their team after winning a championship game, “Enjoy this moment. You’ll remember it the rest of your lives.” I’ve probably even said it myself. But it recently occurred to me that what I’d really love to hear a coach say is this:
After culminating a memorable season with a championship, how would this be for a message? “This was fantastic. Now, go live the rest of your life in a manner that makes this seem insignificant.”
The “Big Man on Campus” who can’t move on, the former high school star who is always saying, “Remember when?” These are cliches in American culture. Bruce Springsteen even wrote a song about it. So many athletes try to hold on their their “glory days.”
Our society places so much emphasis on athletic accomplishment. From the seemingly hundreds of television channels broadcasting sporting events, some at the high school level, to the pressure parents put on children barely out of diapers already on travel teams, to the crushing weight of college scholarships, one might draw the conclusion that there is nothing more important in life than winning, succeeding, achieving in athletics. We are arguably the world’s most competitive nation.
But with the possible exception of the Senior Tour in golf, it eventually ends for everyone. Some by middle school, most after high school, a lucky few get to play in college or even a few years in the pros, but what then? If we were told all our lives through every message that succeeding in sports is the highest aspiration, where do we go when it’s over?
Maybe instead we can strive to think like Leland Melvin. If you’ve not heard of him, Melvin was a star receiver at Heritage High School in Virginia who attended the University of Richmond on a football scholarship. He finished his career at Richmond as their all-time leader in receptions and was an honorable-mention All-American. He also finished with a degree in Chemistry.
He was drafted by the Detroit Lions but released after he injured his hamstring. He then signed with the Dallas Cowboys. At the same time he enrolled in the University of Virginia’s Materials Science and Engineering Masters program, studying at night after practice. When another serious hamstring injury ended his football career, he applied to NASA, eventually becoming an astronaut and flying two missions aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis.
According to his Wikipedia page his recreational interests include photography, piano, reading, music, cycling, tennis, and snowboarding. Melvin appeared as an elimination challenge guest judge in the 12th episode of Top Chef, with his dogs in the seventh season of The Dog Whisperer, and was the host of Child Genius. He is the president of the Spaceship Earth Grants, a public benefit corporation whose mission is to make space more accessible through human spaceflight.
A few minutes ago many of us would have agreed that if we or our children could play NCAA football, be the school’s all-time leading receiver and All-American, and be drafted into the NFL, that would be a lifetime achievement. But after reading what Leland Melvin went on to do after all of that, does the football part still seem like such a big deal?
If our children grow up knowing that what they can accomplish in science, business, social work, politics, the arts, education or other fields will give them more satisfaction and leave a more significant and lasting legacy than any trophy, travel-ball championship, high school banner or even college scholarship, it doesn’t mean they will not try as hard or get as far in sports. But it may mean they’ll understand that their “glory days” are always in the future, and never in the past.
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 and a baseball coaching book which can be found at www.booksbygotta.com. He can be reached at brian@
By Doug Bernier
This is the last and most important part of hitting. It’s where you decide if you are going to swing the bat. If so, release the barrel of the bat towards the baseball and try to square it up.
How to release the baseball swing:
After we decide to swing the bat, we take our weight shift and turn it into a rotational movement, to get the most bat speed possible. With your lower half out of the way all you have left is throwing your hands at the ball.
1. To start your baseball swing, take your back elbow and drive it into your body. At the same time your bottom hand will drive the knob of the bat toward the baseball. Your bottom hand is the guide hand.
Your back elbow is key once it comes into the slot (where it physically touches your body) you reach a point of no return. This creates a lot of hand speed and once your elbow gets all the way to your body you will not be able to stop your swing.
Once your elbow gets into the slot your barrel will almost be in the zone and will start going through the zone.
2. Once your back elbow gets into the body, your top hand will start to take over and dominate the bottom hand. Your top hand is your power hand, guiding the barrel of the bat toward the baseball.
3. The action of releasing your swing happens as everything rotates around your head. Keeping your head still will allow you to see the ball better and make consistently better contact.
4. Finish your swing by following through the baseball. Hit “through” the ball, not “to” the ball. In other words, follow through.
The old saying of “Short to and long through” is a simple way of explaining the perfect swing. Meaning, quick to the ball and long follow-through.
Final thought on releasing your swing
Once you decide to swing and fire your hands at the baseball, swing hard and don’t try to guide the bat to make contact. Sometimes it is better to swing and miss than to guide your swing to make contact and hit a weak ground ball to an infielder.
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.
By Tom Turner
Defending Against the Counter-Attack.
Knowing that the counter-attack is a pivotal tactic, good teams will look to develop transition skills that slow or stop an opponent’s immediate forward progress. This is achieved by immediately pressuring the ball to force sideways or backwards passes; and by keeping the midfield and defensive lines well balanced positionally and numerically. Importantly, this continual defensive organization takes place during the building-up or attack. Teams that wait to defend until after the turnover are much more likely to be punished for their ball watching by good counter-attacking teams.
At the moment of transition, players in attacking positions are often on the wrong side of their immediate opponent and out of position to cover their own teammates. This is why immediate pressure on the ball can be so critical. However, where the turnover occurs on the field and whether the risk of counter-attack is high or low, will, in part, dictate how a team should react to a loss of possession.
The Pressing Dilemma
In addition to factors such as weather, fitness, field conditions, and technical range, the time remaining, the score, and the importance of the match situation to any competition impact where teams start to defend. Counter-attacking situations aside, if, for example, a team is losing, or needs an additional goal, the onus is on that side to increase their defensive tempo and chase the ball. This results in pressuring the ball closer to the opponent’s goal.
When a defending team chooses the right tactical cues, pressing can be a very effective tactic; however, it does bring risks. Pressing can be perilous because the defensive block must move forward and towards the ball. If this movement does not happen at the right moment and with the players reacting together, there will be attacking spaces left open within the block, or behind the block, or on the flanks. With defensive players committed forward without being organized, a quick build-up may produce dangerous attacking opportunities and break-a-way situations for the opponent. The defensive application of offside tactics also becomes important, as pressing teams can’t also effectively protect the space behind their back line. This is one reason why goalkeepers must play out of their goal in pressing situations.
Defending From Behind a Line of Confrontation
Pressing makes sense when the ball can’t easily be played over or through the defensive block. When pressing doesn’t make sense, teams can either force the issue by pushing players forward and taking greater risks, or they can drop back a little and start to defend closer to their own goal. When this strategy is employed, the team may still press when the right moment presents itself, but will otherwise drop back behind a pre-determined “height”– such as 25-30 yards from the opponent’s goal, or to the top of the circle on the opponent’s side, or behind the half-way line — before attempting to regain possession.
When a line of confrontation is established during the match preparation, the basic strategic approach is for the team to drop back in transition and begin defending when the ball reaches the confrontation line. However, the moment of transition creates a few more tactical dilemmas for players to assess. What if the closest defender doesn’t pressure the ball and a counter-attack results? Or, if the closest defender correctly pressures the ball, should his/her teammates still drop back to the line of confrontation? Or, what if two defenders are in the vicinity of the ball and both are needed to eliminate a counter-attack or a quick forward pass. And, how do these decisions affect the reorganization of the defensive block?
At the extreme, a team may simply defend “en masse” behind the ball in their own half and attempt to score goals with as few passes and as a minimal number of players committed to any attacking foray. This strategy of “bunkering and counter-attacking” is often chosen when one team is significantly overmatched by their opponent; are playing numbers down because of a red card, fitness, or injury; are playing to protect a lead; or attempting to keep a clean sheet. Ironically, this strategy can also work well for a good team playing against a tactically naive opponent, or a counter-attacking team that must secure a result.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Craig Sigl
In this article about confidence building, we are going to go a little more “Mental Toughness” on you and a little less actionable strategy than Part 1
We are going there because the biggest holdback to building long lasting consistent confidence is because too many of us are looking for magic bullets to solve our problems.
We hope and dream for a pill or potion that will help us build confidence or kick our bad habits or lose 20 pounds in 2 weeks, or stop our overactive anxiety and worry or get to sleep, etc., right?
Well, this mentality actually PREVENTS solid confidence from forming and so we must destroy it to get maximum confidence-building results. So here’s the next 4 strategies in this series that are really concepts to open the gateway to real confidence that lasts:
Strategy #4 You don’t NEED any confidence to accomplish great things.
Yep, you read that right… not even a shred of it is necessary for brilliant performances in any sport or field.
The first step in building confidence is in letting go of the NEED for it! You see, athlete’s (especially young athletes) hold themselves back from their best performances when they show up to competition and don’t FEEL confident. They then, incorrectly, judge themselves lacking and therefore start thinking about performing and trying to control their movements, which just doesn’t work.
In other words, it’s the thought that you NEED confidence when you don’t have it that creates tension, tightness and nervousness that actually hurts your ability to perform!
If you think you NEED to feel confident in order to perform, and you aren’t feeling it, well then, that’s a big problem, right?
And the truth is, Athletes, and people in all endeavors for that matter, do amazing things every day with ZERO confidence!
Let’s take this to it’s logical extreme and see if my theory holds up…
We were all babies once, right? And we wanted to walk because we saw adults around us walking, right? We end up walking because we possess 2 character traits, even as a baby:
Drive/Desire. We want to walk, just like we want to achieve/win in our sport.
They aren’t afraid to fall down and get back up again.
Those 2 things are all you need to achieve anything.
Babies have ZERO confidence about walking when we decide to walk. Babies don’t even have the ability to comprehend Confidence…and yet, they teach themselves to walk. If we needed confidence to achieve things, then very little would get in our world!
Confidence is icing on the cake. Traits 1 and 2 above are the cake!
Strategy #5 Teach your child that acquiring confidence is a skill that you learn and practice just like any other physical skill such as swinging a baseball bat.
Everyone understands that learning how to swing a baseball bat properly or shoot a basketball accurately, or play the piano takes instruction and practice, right?
But, for some reason, we think that confidence is some kind of random thing that happens to us (or not) or only occurs AFTER we have some kind of success. Can you see how if you believe this (which most of us do) then you’re not going to do much toward creating it other than hope and pray it shows up at game time. Good luck with that!
The reason we believe this is because we don’t see the instant results from our confidence building work like we do with physical skills work. In addition, even young kids can comprehend the cause and effect of doing a drill for tennis serve and how that can improve how they will serve in competition.
But they struggle to make the connection between what you tell them about confidence building and how it will pay off in the game. There’s a huge disconnect there. If you can bridge that gap, then you might actually get them to DO this work.
How do I bridge the gap?
Basically, 3 steps. 1. Ask them about the last time they played their best and how they felt while doing it. Stick to the feelings. 2. Ask them about the last time they played poorly and draw out those feelings. 3. Ask them if they play better when they FEEL like they did in step 1 or 2.
Finish with…”So, if we could get you to FEEL like #1 BEFORE competition, are you more likely to perform better?
The answer should be yes. And then you hit them with “Confidence is the feeling.” Want to get confident again whenever you want so you can play better?
Boom, we’ve just connected Confidence feelings to playing better and now you can proceed with the rest of my strategies.
Strategy #6 Switch from fixing what’s wrong to repeating what’s right.
In sports, it is commonly taught by coaches that the way to improve is to identify your weaknesses and work to fix them. This is a useful teaching concept, especially for highly confident people but if that’s all you’re teaching them, then guess what? You are teaching them to FOCUS on where they are not good which makes it really tough to build confidence.
Why? Because confidence, in essence, comes from the belief that you can accomplish something. Can you see how focusing on what you do wrong destroys that belief?
This goes for adults too but kids take this to the extreme and is a big part of performance anxiety.
Now, I’m not saying be pollyannaish and only praise the good stuff and ignore the mistakes. What I’m saying is, when a kid is taught something and he/she performs it well, STOP and focus on what you did WELL. Have your kid pause and send a message to himself after the successful execution of the skill to sink it in that he CAN do it and DID do it right.
Send him home that day (or to bed) thinking that message and repeating in his mind his/her successful execution of the skill over and over and over in his/her mind.
If they do this, they will literally be laying down a special chemical (Myelin) on their bodily neural network that fired off to execute the skill properly, thus helping the nervous system to REPEAT the electrical impulses!
In short, do something right and think about what you did right a lot and you will be more likely to repeat what you did right. It’s simple biology and sometimes we call it “muscle memory” but the great thing about the mental game is that you don’t have to actually do it in reality to release the Myelin and create the “muscle memory.”
Stand by for Part 3 of this series where we will get back to more things you can actually do and drill on to build long lasting consistent confidence!
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
Below are some excellent tips from our partners at Just Fundraising.
Often, a team fundraising manager can put in endless hours of effort organizing, following up, and reporting on their fundraiser, only to have the fundraiser yield dismal financial results. Here are 3 important pointers that will significantly increase your chance of fundraising success.
1- Know WHY you are fundraising and communicate it throughout your fundraiser.
When parents and players know WHY they are running a fundraiser, the results are always better. It gives the fundraiser more purpose, and with purpose comes people’s desire to step-up to the plate and help. Another key reason to communicate your WHY to your participants, is so they can pass on the message to their potential supporters, who will often be more generous when they know WHY they are supporting your team instead of just WHAT they are buying. Wouldn’t you buy more than 1 chocolate bar if you knew the team would be representing your city in their very first out-of-state tournament? Would you be more open to buying a $15 tub of cookie dough, if you knew the city had recently cut the local budget for youth sports, and that the teams’ 4 year-old uniforms needed replacing? When you communicate WHY you are fundraising, you appeal to your supporters’ emotions, and they will naturally want to help you.
2- Establish your precise fundraising goals.
When our sales team asks coaches and group leaders how much they need to raise, 90% of the time, the answer is ‘as much as possible!’ By having a vague or unrealistic target, you’ve already taking the energy out of your fundraiser. Most participants need to know what effort and results are expected of them in order to reach a pre-determined meaningful goal. If not, they simply won’t be as motivated and many will take the easy route, and sell a bare minimum. If your overall goal is to raise $750, the exact amount needed to cover your 2 tournaments this season, and if you have 15 players on your team, then each child needs to bring in a minimum of $50 profit. If you’re selling products (i.e. gourmet popcorn), and making $5 profit per unit sold, then you should set a clear goal for each player to sell a minimum of 10 units each. If you want to encourage more sales, add more prizes over the 10 unit mark, and let your team know before-hand where any extra funds raised will be allocated.
3- Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!
A great location is to business, what great communication is to fundraising.
Prepare them… Before the fundraiser kick-off, it would be a good idea to let parents know of your team’s budgetary shortfalls, and the need to fundraise, so that they’re not surprised when they are asked to fundraise.
Kick-Off … Even if this is just a team fundraiser, it’s important to have an official fundraiser kick-off, with all of the parents and children. It’s the perfect opportunity to create team spirit and to talk about how much greater your season will be thanks to everyone’s expected fundraising efforts. It’s also a great idea to have a few kids do a role-play of the perfect sales pitch in front of all, so they can all see how it’s done!
Parent Letter … Make sure you write up a parent letter specifying the important dates, reminding them why this fundraiser is so important, and noting their expected sales obligations,.
Follow-up … once or twice per week, take the opportunity to highlight the players who are doing a great job selling, to share their selling strategies and to encourage all to keep up their fundraising efforts so they reach their individual and team fundraising targets.
JustFundraising’s How to Start a Fundraiser guide has more in-depth tips and ideas to help teams, schools, and other groups run a successful fundraiser.
Michael Jones is a writer at JustFundraising.com. He has 16 years of experience helping sports teams, schools, church organizations, community groups and charities reach their fundraising objectives