Five ways to support youth sports

This week we bring you a five-part series from our friends at TrueSport.org:

In order to make youth sports a positive and enriching experience for all kids, it’s important to understand the challenges many families face in terms of participating in youth sports.

This week we encourage families and your sport organizations to consider 5 components of youth sports – one each day – and how it impacts your kids.

Day 1: Physical Activity

There are a ton of activities competing for your kids’ attention, and across the country physical activities like youth sports are losing the battle to sedentary activities like video games and handheld screens. It’s not that there can’t be benefit from those activities; it’s that kids miss out on some very valuable benefits from being active.

When you are physically active and fit, your are ready for anything!

All-Star Congratulations to California CoachDeck Customers!

It’s a big deal to win the your Little League All-Star District Championship in Southern California. Going on and winning Section is an even greater accomplishment. Congratulations to CoachDeck clients, La Verne Little League, Orangecrest Little League and Santa Margarita Little League for all doing just that! And, La Verne and Santa Margarita are still alive in the tournament. They could end up playing each other and could end up going to the Little League World Series! We’ll keep you posted!

Walk more, weigh less

The Stanford University study sent to us by our partners at PHIT America.org should come as no surprise. By using smartphone data, the study was able to track people’s walking habits in 100 countries, (the US was ranked 42nd in most-walked) and drew some interesting conclusions. We know the weather can be extreme this time of year, but if you do more walking you’ll lose weight and live longer. And you’ll enjoy it.

Ten things soccer coaches wish soccer parents would do

This comes from a client of ours, Auburn (IL) Soccer Association. Great stuff:

1. Get the players to practice on time, fully equipped and ready to go. Coaches understand that some kids have back to back activities, but there’s no reason for a player without a previous activity to arrive at the field the minute practice starts wearing high heels or sandles. Players should arrive 5-10 minutes early, ready to play, with cleats/shinguards on and a water bottle. Leave the toys at home – no balloons, skateboards, electronic devices, etc.

2. Let coaches know more than 6 hours in advance if your child won’t be able to make practice or a match. Based on the number of players who can’t make a given event, it can affect how coaches plan to run things. You don’t need to ask permission – just let them know a couple days in advance if you can.

3. Pay attention at practices. If you have a child that can be, er, a handful – stick around at practice at least once a week and watch. If your child starts to become a distraction to the team during practice, ask the coach if they want you to step in and take care of it. Some may, some may not. But don’t just drop your child off and run away, knowing they may be disruptive. It’s not fair to the rest of the team. Also don’t ignore the obvious because it’s your child. Coaches want EVERY child to have a chance to play and enjoy the game, but disruptive children sometimes become too much for a coach to handle and a parent really needs to step in and handle things.

4. Refrain from coaching from the sidelines. Coaches want the players to focus on the game and any instruction they may shout out from the team touchline. So stick to cheering and encouragement. If you find the urge to coach overbearing – ask the coach if they need an assistant!

5. Put your folding chairs at LEAST 2 yards away from the touchline. Our fields include ‘parent boundary lines’ which allow the players to take a step or two to throw the ball in. It’s also a danger to players trying to make sliding saves or who collide/trip/lose control near the parents if you’re sitting too close.

6. Respect the coaches decisions and, if you have a problem, approach them about it. Don’t bottle it up inside, let it stew or share it among the rest of the parents. Coaches are not perfect, but perhaps given some additional explanation you might understand what they did. If not, at least you know why they did what they did.

7. Try to have your paperwork, fees, and any other administrative stuff taken care of well in advance with the league. Coaches just want the kids to play, have fun and learn. The less that paperwork intrudes on that, the better.

8. Don’t scream at your kids on or off the field if they make mistakes. That’s how they learn. Coaches tell their players ALL the time that they’d rather see them take a risk by trying out a soccer move and losing the ball, than taking the safe route using the inside of their foot all the time or passing the ball as soon as they get it. Too many players are afraid of making mistakes at a young age on the field. Risk taking and creativity should be encouraged.

9. Volunteer to help the league. Coaches and the league administrators do not get paid. They donate tons of time ensuring the league operates smoothly. So when they ask for help doing concessions, paperwork, field maintenance, fund raising, etc., offer to help. If you look at other programs in the area, our recreational program is dirt cheap because it is run by volunteers. Where else can you get 2-3 hours a week of healthy activity for your child for $30-$40 a season? Too many leagues rely on a core group of committed but overworked volunteers to run things because parents aren’t willing to donate an hour or two during the season. We aren’t asking you to commit to multiple hours every week for the entire season (though we’d love it if you could!). Just an hour or two a month.

10. Have fun. Youth soccer should be fun for kids AND adults alike. By keeping a level head and a positive attitude, you can have about as much fun as your child does. So keep things in perspective and have fun!

CoachDeck Client wins District Championship

Congratulations to CoachDeck client North Boulder (CO) Little League’s all-star team for winning their district all-star tournament. Way to go guys!

Today’s OnDeck Newsletter hot off the presses!

If you didn’t get today’s OnDeck Newsletter delivered to your inbox you can go here to read both issues and sign up so that you don’t miss future issues!

Tomorrow’s OnDeck Newsletter a Must-Read

You’re going to love the youth sports articles and offers in tomorrow’s OnDeck Newsletter. Subscribe now if you’re not already signed up!

What Makes and ODP Player?

By Tom Turner

Many young soccer players are probably wondering what it takes to become an “elite” player at the State Regional or even National ODP level. While some players have good technical skills, others have speed, and still others can kick the ball a long way or are strong in the air. Is it any one thing, which makes a player get noticed?

The answer of course is yes… and no! While some elite players have impressed coaches by doing one or two things better than their peers, others may have impressed by simply being good over a wide range of abilities. The key component for all elite level or ODP players, however, is the ability to control the ball and be comfortable with it when in possession. This is the first thing a coach looks for when evaluating talent: what can the player make the ball do?

The “yes” and “no” answers can be illustrated by comparing the following two teams. The first team has 11 players who work hard to get the ball, but do not have the individual talent to take advantage of their possession and therefore struggle to win games. The second is loaded with individual talent but has no one willing to do the hard work in winning back the ball when it is lost.

This team also struggles to win matches. Finding the right blend or balance between the two teams is the key to choosing select team rosters. There needs to be players who work hard to win the ball and there need to be players with the individual talent to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them.

Choosing rosters for the Olympic Development Program, like any other team, is in part a question of balance. Coaches must try to blend the “workers” and the “players”, the consistent with the brilliant. The following is a list of terms which identify what coaches look for in “elite” level players. While each coach has his/her own preferences in looking for talent, these components will all be considered in selecting players for ODP teams.

TOUCH ON THE BALL: Does the player have control over the ball with both feet? Can he/she make the ball do what he/she wants while in possession? Does the player look comfortable with the ball under pressure?

BALANCE: Is the players in control of his/her body? Is the player able to change direction in a controlled manner with the ball?

TECHNICAL SPEED: How fast does the player control the ball and play it? Does the player have the ability to use good skill quickly?

COACHABILITY: Can the player carry out a directive from the coach? While many young players are tactically weak, a good player will be coachable, and therefore have the ability to develop good habits?

WORKRATE: Is the player willing to push him/her self to the limits? Does the player attack and defend?

AWARENESS: Does the player see good opportunities to pass/dribble/shoot? Does the player have vision of what’s happening on the field or does he/she make the game difficult?

REACTION TO FAILURE: How does the player respond to a bad call or a mistake? Does failure result in a drop in performance?

LEADERSHIP QUALITIES: Does the player communicate to others? Does he/she demand the ball? Will they take charge when the game is on the line?

PHYSICAL SPEED: Is the player fast? Does the player have enough speed to be effective without being exploited by opponents?

SIZE & STRENGTH: Is the player physically able to play with bigger opponents? Is the player’s size the reason for his/her success (especially at younger ages)?

As you can see, there are many components, which can go into making an “elite” soccer player. Different positions call for different requirements in players’ abilities. During the State Olympic Development Program camps, you will learn many new ideas about soccer. It will be a chance to compare your abilities with other players of the same high standard. For those who advance to the

Regional teams it is another step towards national team recognition.

Tom Turner is a U.S. Soccer National Staff Coach, Region II Women’s ODP Coach, Ohio North State Director of Coaching and Assistant Coach US Women’s Pan Am Gold Medal Team.

So What if Everybody Gets a Trophy?

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

Anyone following youth sports has noticed a groundswell of sarcasm and criticism online and in the media about leagues that give out trophies to every kid, just for playing. The general consensus seems to be that this teaches them the poor lesson that they will be rewarded even if they didn’t earn anything. My thought is that we’re focusing on the wrong thing.

I’ve seen at least one viral video of a professional athlete walking with his daughter who has just finished her soccer game and throwing the trophy she was given in the trash. The video was touted as an exemplary piece of parenting. Thousands of views, shares and comments applaud this man, who is obviously physically and mentally stronger than all of us, for showing us how to raise strong children. The phrase “Participation Trophy” has become a pejorative. “Give everyone a ribbon” is a political insult.

As I’m writing this, I wonder what kind of impact this has all had on the trophy industry.

I don’t care if you don’t want to give trophies out to little kids. I don’t happen to think its a big deal. If the children are 5, 6, 7 or 8 years old should we really be focusing on winning and championships? At that age a trophy is not an award for athletic achievement, it’s a memento – a souvenir. My kids got dozens of little trophies for playing various sports when they were young. They liked to put them on their shelf in their room and collect them through the years. They would occasionally point them out to me and ask me if I remembered that team. It was nice. And as for making them weak, all four of my kids went on to play sports collegiality. Two of them are now pros. I don’t think handing them a small faux marble base with a gold plastic statue on top when they were nine did any long-term damage to their psyches.

And yet I will watch tee ball games where a player fields a batted ball, actually throws it to first, the tiny first baseman actually catches it and puts his foot on the base before the runner gets there and….the runner is allowed to stay at first base anyway. The parents are afraid the batter will be devastated if he is the only one who gets called out. What kind of lesson does that teach every player on both teams? Even if the child is upset, can’t we use that as a moment to explain that he did a great job hitting the ball but sometimes when you do your best it still isn’t good enough? That we should respect our opponent and congratulate them on their achievement? That we can use setbacks to motivate us to do better next time? But that would take more work than just letting him stay on base.

One season when I coached pee-wee basketball I spent all my preseason practices teaching my team to do the one thing that was most difficult for them: To dribble and pass the ball so as to move it up the court without traveling. Then, at the first game, the players on the other team are picking up the ball and straight running it down the court, maybe bouncing it one time, and throwing it in the hoop. I asked the referees to actually enforce the rules and call traveling when it occurred. This was not so my team could win, in fact I requested that they let the other players keep the ball. I just wanted the officials to explain to these kids that they had to dribble the ball so they would learn something their coach had obviously not taken the time to teach them. And so that my players would not witness their opponent breaking the rules and gaining an advantage without consequences. So that my team could see the value of the work we did at practice. But this league didn’t think that was important, and no whistles were blown.

Our society seems to want to grab onto the easiest thing it can find…to support, to blame; because that takes much less effort than actually digging in and teaching, learning, doing work, making progress. So the problem with kids and youth sports today is that “everybody gets a trophy”. Doesn’t that strike you as being a little too simple of an explanation?

Brian Gotta is a former youth baseball coach and volunteer Little League 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

Teaching Players How the Respect the Game

By Dave Holt

One of my best coaching tips for baseball is this. Teach more than the game.

We baseball coaches are pretty good at coaching skills, coaching strategy and teaching baseball techniques. We are called to go beyond the X’s and O’s and baseball fundamentals.

We must take advantage to seek opportunities to teach more than the game. Baseball is our ‘vehicle’ that we use as an excuse to teach vital life skills and virtues.

If a group of baseball kids can leave us as better teammates, having learned to play by the rules and pulled together when times are tough, don’t you think you might have left a pretty big footprint on their lives?

My player expectation chart started with character. In my ‘character’ column I break it into (3) categories of RESPECT”. Incorporate teaching these points in with your coaching tips for baseball.

  • Respect for your family, school, classmates, teachers, coaches, community and church. Take time and effort to be a good citizen. Give back to the people around you. Look out for the needs of others. Be part of the solution—not part of the problem.
  • Respect for baseball equipment, facilities, umpires, and opponents. We do not ever throw helmets, bats or baseball equipment. It is dangerous, distrustful and destructive.
  • We always take care of our facilities and do our work duties around the ball field. We may not always agree with the umpires but we will be respectful at all times. We do not show up our opponents or run our mouths in disrespect.
  • Respect the game by always playing hard. Run hard, play hard, and practice hard all the time. Take special notice to grow and become the best teammate possible.
  • Pick up teammates when they are down. Pull together in tough times—do not look to point and blame others. Put the team before yourself rather than pouting and pulling others down.
  • Avoid bad things and bad actors. Stay away from tobacco, drugs and alcohol and your peers that do use this stuff. There is plenty of bad stuff and bad people in this world.
  • It is not hard to find illegal products and the people that can provide the stuff. Saying No takes courage and conviction. Pick your friends extra carefully. Temptation and peer pressure is real and powerful.

Evil is lurking at every corner to get our kid’s attention on the bad stuff. Resist bad stuff. Keep an eagle eye out for destructive habits.

I spent almost great 20 years in professional baseball as a minor league player, field manager, and various time in scouting, and acquiring players. I was with an affiliated ball club the Boston Red Sox and a few years in the Independent Professional Leagues.

I hardly ever experienced any players disrespecting another team’s players. Yes, professionals are highly competitive and we did get into occasional bench clearing situations. But, these incidents were not out of disrespect but more out of individual frustrations and backing up your teammates.

Now, I have a very different story in my years in amateur baseball. At every level I have coached in I have seen several obvious instances of mean spirited and unsportsmanlike behaviors.

I have seen coaches tell players to bench jockey my teams, fail to control their players’ mouths and look the other way when the dugout gets raunchy and classless.

My players often ask me if professional ballplayers razz the other team’s players. I tell them, “You know, pro ball players respect each other enough to not engage in stuff like that. Everyone is trying to survive just to keep a uniform on, therefore pros play hard, compete hard but rarely get into a mouth war with their opponents as peers.”

I want my team to be the classiest team we will see all season. My most important coaching tips for baseball is to play with class. Be humble in victory and sad but determined in defeat. No profanity or verbal abuse. No taunting opponents—only pull for out team. No arguing with umpires—and call the umps by their names.

Coaching Tips for Baseball Parents

Baseball coaches set the tone for your baseball parents. Baseball parent behavior is an extension of the baseball coach whether you like it or not. One of my biggest coaching tips for baseball is ‘set the tone’ for the behaviors you want from your spectators.

  • Parents are an example of good sportsmanship at ball games especially with the opponent’s fans, umpires and opposing players.
  • You are welcome to watch baseball practice. If you do, please situate yourself where you will not be a distraction. Stay in the seating areas.
  • Please do not talk to your child during practice or games until practice is over.
  • Please do not come on the ball field or near the dugouts at any time. Players should begin to take responsibility to bring their own gear and drinks.
  • Never coach your child or any kids from the bleachers.

Parents: Enjoy the games and support the players by letting them know you enjoy watching them play and are appreciative of the effort they put out.

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.