Core sports on the decline

More Americans are choosing “casual” sports over “core”, which may not only be bad for participants, but for the industry itself according to an article by our partner, PHIT America.org. One issue, which we’ve written about here for years, is the “over-seriousification” we see in youth sports. There are other issues the article addresses as well.

Get used to hearing this name

Hunter Greene. Maybe the first player ever who could be drafted out of high school as the number one pick as both a right-handed pitcher and a shortstop. His athletic gifts are remarkable, but you’ll want to read the Sports Illustrated article to find out how baseball is only part of what makes him so impressive.

Tremendous turnaround for high school baseball program

New coach. New attitude. A lot of hard work in fundraising. And now a high school team that had recently lost a game 42-0 is playing like a team and winning games. We’re rooting for Ranier Beach the rest of the season!

Did you miss today’s OnDeck Newsletter?

Nothing the hang your head about! You can read both the soccer and the baseball issues here! Enjoy and be sure to sign up to get all future editions sent to your inbox!

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My Bad

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

We have all heard the famous phrase, “To err is human. To forgive, divine.” However, when it comes to parents, teachers, employers and, especially coaches, what I’d rather say is, “To err is human. To admit it is fine.”

I was watching a baseball game on television. A runner was on first and there was a base hit to right field. As he headed to second I noticed the runner hesitate, clearly looking for direction from the third base coach who was off camera. The runner then accelerated towards third and was thrown out, fairly easily. The announcers made comments that he “got a little greedy,” implying he was to blame and had made a mistake.

I don’t know whether the coach signaled for him to come or did nothing. I am pretty sure he didn’t tell him to hold up, or else the runner wouldn’t have tried for third. Either way, the coach goofed. No big deal. Sometimes you take a chance and hope the other team can’t make the play, and this time the gamble didn’t pay off.

After the play ended and the umpire had signaled out, the coach walked away stoically. In the pros, you don’t worry about what the fans or announcers think. If they thought (as I’m sure most did) that the base runner erred, that’s not the coach’s concern.

But what if, instead, he’d given the kid a couple claps for his hustle and a pat on the back on the way back to the dugout? Then, at least, the fans would know that the coach, (who had told him to run) was not upset with the player. What if he’d even taken it one step further and patted himself on the chest a couple times as if to say, “My bad.”? Then everyone in the stands and watching on TV would know what had happened and that the player had not screwed up. By not making a public display of acknowledgment it almost looked as if he was hoping that no one would know he’d told the runner to go and that people would blame the runner. Of course, I may be reading too much into this.

Why is this a big deal? Again, in the pros, it probably isn’t. But if you’re coaching a youth league team, a travel or even high school team. I think it is. Here are some reasons why:

Having their backs
Players who know the coach is going to accept the blame for his own mistakes will be more relaxed and play better. I’ve seen too many youth coaches make blunders and then try to deflect the spotlight by blaming the kid. Or, almost as bad, saying nothing, even though fans in the stands clearly believe the youngster just messed up. If a coach owns up to his error, “My fault, Johnny,” then players play more free and loose, not as afraid of taking chances. In my opinion, a great coach will tell players, “If I tell you to do something – do it – and if it doesn’t work out, I’m going to take the blame.”

Loyalty
All it takes is that one time for you to bail out a player who has just had something unfortunate happen and they’ll be a fan of yours for life. Imagine this scenario: There is a crucial moment in the game and the ball is hit to the left of your second baseman. He does his best to get to it but it goes off his glove and the other team scores. The kid feels terrible. And then you say, “That’s my fault, Johnny. I should have had you playing more over to the left. Great effort.” After hearing something like that every player on the team knows that you’re putting their interests ahead of yours. And isn’t that the job description of a good coach?

Team
Publicly accepting responsibility also sends a powerful message not just to a single player, but to the team, which is: Team first. We are not individuals here only caring about ourselves. We are a team from top to bottom and we look out for each other.

Life Lessons
When you own up to your shortcoming you teach your players a valuable skill in life, which is to accept responsibility and not blame others when things don’t go well. You also help them understand that mistakes are not the end of the world. We get back up and move on.

And finally, when you get right down to it, the ironic thing is that rather than make you look weak in the eyes of parents and fans, admitting your errors publicly actually makes you look stronger. Because only someone with supreme self-confidence is willing to do so. No one is right 100% of the time. But no one really respects someone who pretends he is.

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@coachdeck.com

Top Three Pitching Tips

From professional baseball to all levels of youth baseball hurlers will be able to compete on the mound using the top three tips. All baseball coaches will benefit their youth baseball teams by coaching these baseball tips into their players. You do not have to be an expert baseball guru to coach successfully. You do not need to know much about baseball instruction, baseball mechanics, or baseball technique.

Although there may have other coaches, instructors and personal trainers say this, Ray Miller from the Baltimore Orioles is known to coin the phrase. His mantra was: “Work fast. Throw strikes, Change Speeds.”

#1 Work Fast: Keep Your Fielders on their Toes

Ask infielders and outfielders if they would rather play behind a guy who works fast or lollygags around the mound between throws? The answer is unanimous.

Work Fast. Although there may not be solid data to show proof there appears to be a strong correlation in better defense and guys who work fast. Players who work fast are able to keep the attention of their fielders better.

In other words the fielders do not have enough time to let their minds wander and lose focus. They have to stay ready because the next throw is coming.

When I see a youth player take several steps toward the catcher after they throw a the ball I know that the fielders are probably going to loose focus. They have too much time to let their minds wander between throws.

The best coaches, pitching instructors will condition and train them to retreat immediately to the rubber after delivering the ball. I call it “Back-track.”

Proper technique and fundamentals are to go directly back to the mound after the delivery. Then the hurler can immediately toe the rubber, get sign from the catcher and begin to throw their next delivery. Repeat this process every throw.

Often in amateur youth baseball coaches and managers instructing a youth baseball pitcher will allow them to parade around the mound area between throws.

Keep encouraging little league players and youth league players the best pitching tips are to back track to the rubber and see if the defense plays better. Include ‘working fast’ in your bullpen baseball practice drills and baseball throwing drills.

#2 Throw Strikes: Make ’em’ Swing the Bat

When I was scouting and recruiting baseball players for independent professional baseball teams I often could not see the player in a game. I had to go by his stats and recommendations or other baseball coaches.

The stats I would look at were strikeouts and base hits per inning and walks per inning. If the guy’s numbers showed they kept their walks low and the other stats were decent I knew I found a player that would be able to help our ballclub.

Just knowing that they throws strikes was enough to take a chance on signing a guy site unseen.

We know how important it is to get ahead of the hitters to have the advantage. Command and control allows getting ahead with the first throw.

When we are ahead in the count they can go for the corners of the plate. You will often hear the top instructors teaching and mentoring players to ‘get that good stuff over the plate,” and “Let the defense help you out.” No matter what baseball pitches are thrown “throw them over the plate.”

Down the middle until two strikes. Have the catchers set up their target down the middle until we get ahead of the count.

Good youth baseball coaching tips for your players are to go to the corners when you get ahead in the count. When you go back to even or behind in the count then go back to the middle.

What if the other team finds out this is your baseball strategy? You do not care because you want your defense to show their stuff. You want your defense to make plays. You want the hitters to swing the bat and put the ball in play.

#3 Change Speeds:

Baseball instruction should include changing speed on pitches. Baseball drills are good techniques for teaching players how change speeds.

Keep it simple when teaching baseball strategies. Work off the fastball. You do not need to throw curves, sliders, knuckleballs and other trick throws. The Curveball does not come until a kid can shave.

When coaching youth baseball have your players throw the basic baseball pitching grips pitches the most. The four seam fastball or the two-seam fastball, the straight change-up and the hump-up fastball. That is all you need to use in your drills and practice plans.

Throw strikes with your fastball. That is the best type throws to be able throw over the plate and to the corners.

Throw your change-ups only to the best hitters who can really hit your fastball. If you throw change-ups to the weaker hitters you often do them a favor…they cannot get around on your fastball anyway.

Use your hump-up fastball when you really need to get out of a jamb and cannot afford to give up a base hit. The hump-up fastball is thrown 2 or 3 mph faster than your normal working fastball using the four-seam baseball grips…just enough for a good hitter to miss hit the pitch.

Use these top baseball coaching tips to keep the game simple and help instruct players how to play baseball.

After finishing his professional playing career Dave spent eleven seasons managing in the Red Sox minor league system helping to develop several major league ballplayers. After leaving the Red Sox Dave managed and recruited in the Independent Professional Baseball leagues. He has also coached collegiate wood bat and high school teams. His site, coachandplaybaseball.com is a wealth of information for baseball players and coaches of all levels.