ABF Inaugural Huntsville Summer BASIC

From our friends at BASIC:

Under the umbrella of Summer Adventures in Learning (SAIL) North, the Huntsville School System has embarked on the BASIC adventure.  On May 29th, fifty rising 3rd, 4th and 5th graders began enjoying summer learning by rotating from sport-skill stations to academic stations related to sports. Besides reading related to sports and math related to sports, the students will receive daily STEAM instruction that will broaden their educational horizons.

Day one centered on the definition and the interiorization of tenacity. Woven into the instruction and the competition, the new students learned a BASIC foundation block—Never Give Up! Staffed by Huntsville system teachers who have sacrificed their summer to make summer fun for their students. Huntsville invites its sponsors and partners to stop in and review student progress.

Check out the May OnDeck Newsletter!

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OnDeck Newsletter Arrives Tomorrow!

Don’t miss this month’s OnDeck Newsletter! From Craig Sigl’s continued series coach communication to Brian Gotta’s first installment of his piece on the decline in youth sports participation and much more, you won’t want to miss it!

Who is to Blame for the Decline in Youth Sports? (Part 1)

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck LLC

In September of last year the Washington Post printed an article that should send shock waves through the youth sports community. In the past decade youth sports participation in “the big four”, baseball, football, soccer and basketball has fallen to under 37% of school age children. Why is this happening and is there anything we can do to reverse this trend?

In order to have any chance of turning around the downward spiral in youth sports, we first need to identify some of the causes. What follows is a list of various factors that have combined to create a culture which is not conducive to mass participation. No one factor is solely to blame, nor is there any easy solution.

Travel Sports

Whether you want to refer to them as travel, club, competitive or select teams, the explosion of non-recreational sports organizations has undoubtedly had a tremendous impact on the youth sports landscape.

I am not against travel sports. All of my kids played them. What I am not a fan of is travel sports instead of rec sports. I’m not in favor of travel sports as a sole way of life, as a child or (usually) a parent’s identity. I feel that, often, they begin too early. I do believe travel sports and rec sports should be able to coexist. My boys, for instance, all played Little League games during the week and on Saturday. They then played a travel ball game or two on Sunday. Most of the kids on their Little League team did not play travel….rec ball was good enough. But the kids who wanted more got it without losing the Little League experience.

The hardcore travel parent will argue that the coaching their child gets at the rec level is inferior and that they are not learning the proper fundamentals. Then why not do something about it? Organize a coaches clinic with the local high school coach. I don’t know of one high school coach who would not do this for free. Not to insert a shameless plug, but buy CoachDecks for your coaches so that even those with no experience can run great practices. Volunteer yourself. But to run away from the problem instead of trying to solve it is unconscionable.

It’s a simple matter of math. Travel ball is not rec ball because it is not open to all skill levels (or income levels but I’ll get to that later). Therefore in a community where there may be, say, 100 kids who might form eight rec baseball or soccer teams, instead only 25 make up“A” and “B” team rosters of travel. Consequently, the remaining 75 kids often feel less worthy or embarrassed and choose not to play at all. If they do play, the league is diminished in size and quality, making the experience less attractive. The result? Kids play a year of rec and then don’t choose to come back for a follow-up season, and the participation numbers take a hit.

Why can’t competitive organizations scale back to allow for participation in recreational leagues and in other sports? One reason is money. The people running these leagues know that if they demand 100% commitment they can charge top dollar to participate. They say their mission is to help kids but often they are really more interested in their incomes. When my oldest son had finished with Little League, we had a little travel ball team made up of a dozen kids from our league who were friends. The cost was minimal. The parents only paid for uniforms and umpires. My friend, who also had a son on the team, and I coached for free. We played what I thought was a reasonable schedule of games.

Then a young guy who had played in college formed a new travel organization and recruited players from our team. Several of them left to play for him, leaving our team without enough to continue. The young coach had a brilliant strategy. He told all of the parents of 12 and 13 year-old kids that he’d make sure they all played in high school. That was all many of them needed to hear and they signed the check. I don’t know if anyone asked him how he was going to make sure they all made the high school team, but since not making the team in a few years was a big fear, he stoked it. At the time, this young coach was going to law school and said this travel club was just something he was doing until he became a lawyer. Thirteen years later he is still running what is now a huge competitive baseball organization as its CEO and has, to my knowledge, not bothered to finish his law degree.


Rising cost is another reason fewer kids are participating in sports and that is also related to the travel sports explosion. What is interesting is that years ago competitive organizations really were reserved only for those who exhibited the talent to be considered elite. Then, many of these clubs figured out that they could simply create “A”, “B”, “C”, even “D” teams at each age group so that they didn’t have to turn anyone away who was willing to pay. Parental egos are satisfied because they can say their child plays for (insert prestigious club name), and they can feel that they are giving them an advantage over others. This has often led to less than rec quality play at travel club prices. And it has hip-checked out of the way a lot of youngsters who may or may not be just as talented, but who can’t afford fees.

And even the cost of some rec sports like football and baseball are daunting. Any quality baseball bat now costs in the hundreds of dollars and if you don’t have your own, the parents of the kids who paid that much don’t want you borrowing theirs all season. Some families see soccer cleats as a luxury they can’t afford. Kids from households earning less than $25,000/year play sports at half the rate of kids from homes making at least $100,000. It is surely not because the poorer boys and girls are just not as interested. That greater resources provide greater advantages is a fact we all have to live with in business and real life. But should it now trickle down all the way to our youngsters?

Next: Parents and Coaches

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

Coach Communication (Part 5)

By Craig Sigl

(If you have not read Parts 1-4 you may do so here, beginning with our January, 2018 issue)

12) Put down on paper your philosophies and rules. Give to both kids and parents.

I am forever asked questions that are along the lines of this pattern:

“Craig, what can I do when (bad thing) happens?”

It is so much more efficient (and I’m an efficiency fanatic) to ask the question:

“Craig, how can I stop (bad thing) from happening?”

You as a coach know all too well that if a player only learns from making mistakes AFTER the fact, then it’s going to be a rough time for that player during the season, right? One of my favorite success principles is: PREFRAME everything!

Human beings do so much better when operating within frameworks. Since you are in charge, give it to them! Spell out as much as possible on a sheet or two of paper about how you are going to run things at the beginning of the season (and remind them throughout the season) and then simply stick to it!

People are afraid of the unknown and they lash out when they perceive unfairness. In the absence of your rules and philosophies, it’s much easier for them to think you are unfair and you are going to pay the price for it. The key to getting the most from this is to go into as much detail as you can like a roadmap.

Be deadly accurate honest about how are going to coach and go over specific things like:

How you make decisions for playing time, starting positions
• How much value you place on hustle at practice. What does that look like?
• How much will numbers/stats play a part. Which stats?
• How much being a “team player” matters and then define what you will be looking for.
• What specific behaviors in practice or games will reduce chances of more playing time
• Could you have a rough “scoring” system for that to put an assistant coach in charge of?

Philosophies about sport and/or coaching.
How important is winning vs. skill development to you.
Whose coaching style has influenced you? A mentor? Retired coach author?
A specific grievance/feedback process for parents and another one for players (tell them exactly how to get your attention, when, where, etc. )
What is not tolerated and the consequences if discovered

Spell it all out! Be specific. Don’t make people guess about you and what’s important to you as their coach. Take full advantage of your players’ desire to please you. I bet if you start this today, you will continually add to it as you go and eventually it will be like a mini company policy book and it will get better with time and you can re-use it every season.

Believe me, people appreciate knowing what they are getting into that is all out in the open for everyone to see…ESPECIALLY THE PARENTS. By the way, when you do this, a byproduct benefit is that you will become much more congruent and consistent in your actions which will be noticed by all. That’s leadership!

The idea of “unfairness” moving through a team or the parents is a cancer that destroys performance. PREFRAME how you operate and eliminate the problem. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

13) Project openness and be an active listener to get valuable info.

Yes, I know some coaches are not really interested in being good listeners but I’m here to tell you that you are blowing it if you ignore this side of the coin of communication. I see no reason for you, as a coach and leader, to give off the attitude that you are unapproachable or scary to talk to. Any one of your players, assistant coaches and yes, the parents, may just give you a nugget of information one day that saves you and/or your team some serious difficulties at the very least and at best, point something out that you have missed that makes the difference in a game situation.

If you watch the TV show, Game of Thrones, you know there is a character named Lord Varys. His special power is that he has “spies” or “little birdies” everywhere whom he has cultivated relationships with that constantly feed him information. Information is power! In the show, with no ability to fight, no royal blood, no family tradition, no wealth, he is a major player who makes big things happen and kings and queens consult him.

You don’t have to use all the information you get, and yes, you will get a lot of useless information to sift through if you truly are open to receiving it. But I promise you, it’s worth it. There is one trick to making this work without driving yourself crazy. I’m guessing that reading this tip, some coaches are thinking something like – “That’s all I need is to open myself up to all sorts of complaining and whining and I don’t have time for it and I have to tell them things they don’t want to hear anyway.”

I get that, but what you are missing in that equation is this:

In order to be a powerful info gatherer (active listener), you don’t have to agree to or promise any change or action on your part based on what they are saying in order to cultivate the benefits like Lord Varys. In other words, people just want to be heard and validated! That in and of itself is a valuable commodity.

That’s actually more important to them than you doing anything with what they say. For example… Parent comes to you after the game and says: “My kid should be the starter because he is putting up more points than the starters you have out there.” The basics of your response will be:
“Let me make sure I understand what you’re saying. You think that your kid should be getting more time than some of the other starters because he is scoring more points when he does play than today’s starters. Do I have that right?”

Parent answers “Yes” or adds some more clarity.

You answer back repeating back anything additional they just said finishing with another sentence to make sure they know they have been HEARD. You end it with something like:

“I really appreciate you coming to me with that feedback, I will definitely take it into consideration with my decision-making process. Anything else? I can’t promise you anything here except that your feedback is important to me and well taken.”

What most people do is skip the middle part of the conversation where they repeat back what the other person said (You can do it word for word or by paraphrasing). This is the key that gets the person off your back and prevents the cancers from ruining things (as best as you’re going to get). That’s called validation and just know that people crave it!

Do not skip the validation part! Of course the other person hopes you change your actions based on their feedback but they will feel an unconscious satisfaction from simply having been truly heard. Do NOT underestimate this power, it goes a long way to keeping people from the“unfairness” problem blowing up on you.

Craig Sigl’s work with youth athletes has been featured on NBC TV and ESPN. Get his free ebook: “The 10 Commandments For a Great Sports Parent” and also a free training and .mp3 guided visualization to help young athletes perform under pressure by visiting: http://MentalToughnessTrainer.com

Next: Part 6

Baseball cutoffs and relays – 3 simple tips for instantly faster relays

By Doug Bernier

In baseball cutoffs and relays, split seconds can mean a HUGE momentum shift in the game.

Get that out and now your team is energized. The game is shifting in your favor, and that attitude is contagious. It’s also contagious when that all out effort falls short and the runner is called safe.

It’s more than just one out. It’s the kind of play that can set the tone for the rest of the inning or even the rest of the game.

Every step counts. We can’t afford to waste time by being inefficient with our body movements.

So, thinking ahead and getting into a strategic relay position is a very easy way to see massive improvement in your relay time. Watch the video or read (below) to find out 3 easy ways to shave precious seconds off your baseball cuttoffs and relays.

Baseball cutoffs & relays – 3 Simple Tips for instantly faster relays
Cutoff Speed Tip 1 – Catch the ball on the glove-hand side of your body
Think ahead and get into position to cutoff the baseball by making the catch on your glove side. This will save you precious time and put you into a better position for the relay throw.

Cutoff Speed Tip 2 – Turn to your glove side, not the other way
Turning to the opposite side from your glove requires extra steps, which costs precious time in a cutoff situation. It also creates an awkward momentum that can lead to weaker and less accurate throws. So to be faster, stronger and more accurate, turn to your glove side to make the relay throw.

Cuttof Speed Tip 3 – Get into throwing position earlier
This is something to work up to (because first you have to have a good read on where the throw is going)… Get your body so you’re nearly in throwing position already before you even catch the ball.

All 3 of these tips are simple, but they require thinking ahead and getting into position. Practice them until they’re second nature, and you’ll never have to think about it again!

Use these 3 simple, strategic tips to eliminate inefficiencies in your baseball cutoffs and relays. You’ll have more success throwing out baserunners, and those exciting close plays will work in your favor instead of against you.

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 5 organizations (CO Rockies, NY Yankees, Pirates, MN Twins, & TX Rangers) over the past 16 years. He has Major League time at every infield position, and has played every position on the field professionally except for catcher. Where is he now? After a 17-year pro career, Doug has officially retired from playing and is now a scout with the Colorado Rockies. You should click to watch this great defensive play by Bernier

3 Simple Steps to Soccer Confidence

By Dan Abrahams

“Confidence takes constant nurturing. Like a bed, it must be remade everyday.”

So says the great soccer player Mia Hamm. I think she’s right. Confidence is an every day thing. It’s an every week and an every month thing.

I feel that many soccer players (and soccer coaches and parents as well) think that confidence is some magical, mystical thing. They think that it can’t be nurtured and it can’t be worked on intentionally. They think it’s something you either have you you don’t! In my opinion they’re wrong! Confidence can be worked on. It just takes time and effort. It must be worked on constantly, it must be an every day thing.

Here are three simple steps to help you develop confidence:

1. Use your memory. Possibly my number one tool for developing confidence is to take time out every day to remind yourself of you at your best. This should comprise your personal highlights. You might include games you’ve played well in, or training sessions when you’ve been on fire.

Whatever you include in your daily reel of inner images, make sure you make your mental movie big and bold and bright. Enhance your images by asking yourself these questions:

“What does my very best look like?”
“What does my very best feel like?”
“What do others see when I play at my very best?”

2. Just as it’s important to exercise your memory, it’s vital to use your imagination. I’d like you to take time every day to picture your dream game. And when I say ‘dream game’, I don’t just mean you at your best, I mean you surpassing your best. I mean you being quicker and stronger. I mean you showing Lloyd-like ball control, Neuer-like bravery in goal or Ramos-style defending.

“What does 10/10 look like? Feel like? What does 12/10 look like? Feel like?”

This is your opportunity to make your images unrealistic. It’s your chance to feed your brain a mental map of excellence that surpasses your current game. By doing so you create a blueprint on your mind to strive for. Don’t sweat the bad moments, the mistakes made so much. Focus your mind securely on the future standard you want for your game.

3. Finally, the third tool in my confidence toolbox is perception!

Mistakes WILL happen. You WILL have bad games. You WILL PROBABLY get dropped at some point. You MAY get injured. Bad stuff happens in soccer, it’s inevitable, and that’s ok. Accept the tough times, the bad games, the hairy moments. Be patient. Be persistent. Learn from them, but don’t dwell on them.

“I know I’ll make mistakes…that’s ok. I may be slightly disappointed when I do, but my job is to carry on playing, to carry on working at my game, to carry on getting the most from my ability”.

Great soccer players are, in part, great because they accept the rough with the smooth. They accept that along their soccer journey there will be some tough times. That’s part and parcel of striving to find out just how good you can be in the game we love so much.

Dan Abrahams is a global sport psychologist, working alongside leading players, teams, coaches and organisations across the world. He is known for his passion and ability to de-mystify sport psychology, as well as his talent for creating simple to use techniques and performance philosophies, and he is the author of several sport psychology books as well as the founder of the Dan Abrahams Soccer Academy. You can order his books and contact him at https://danabrahams.com/books/

How to Teach Accountability In A Positive Way

Another great piece from our friends at TrueSport.org:

Holding people accountable is often perceived as a negative, but accountability can be empowering when it is done in a positive way. Read this to learn how you can use positive reinforcement to teach youth athletes accountability. 

Should coaches be allowed to warm up the pitcher?

A recent Facebook post by Little League addressed this issue. Most of the comments were from people calling Little League’s rule that adults cannot warm up pitchers, “dumb”. What do you think? Is it OK for a coach to jump behind the plate and warm up a pitcher when his catcher is getting his gear on? Or should it be, as Little League mandates, a player with a mask who does it.

Answers to yesterday’s You Are the Ref

If you missed the quiz yesterday, take a look. Below are the answers courtesy Keith Hackett and the UK’s Guardian.

Keith Hackett’s verdict

1) Tricky. The striker may have faked the whole thing to put the keeper off, but you’d have to be very sure before taking action against him. Technically, he has taken the kick in one movement and scored a valid penalty and the keeper should not have dropped his guard – so award the goal. Thanks to Philip Hawthorn.
2) The manager can indeed replace him in the starting line-up with one of his named substitutes. It just means that his side now has one fewer substitute. Calm everyone down before starting the game and include full details in your report.
3) Award a penalty for deliberate handball – and caution one of the two players for the offence. This is one piece of advice referees often give to defensive walls – it’s fine to deliberately make themselves larger by jumping when the kick is taken, but if their hands are raised in the process the dangers are obvious.