True crime in Little League

The youth league volunteer who steals money from the league is often thought of as the most vile of criminals, at least to those of us who love, follow, and/or participate in youth sports. But this entertainingly-written article by Joshua David Stein of Fatherly.com puts on a spin that (almost) has you empathizing with the scoundrels.

Do you know how to keep your team safe in the summer heat?

From our friends at TrueSport.org:

You see it on the news every summer. Youth athletes hospitalized due to heat illness. As parents and coaches, it is important to recognize the signs of dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Keep your athletes safe by learning how to detect and prevent heat illness from happening on your watch.

League in turmoil

The Stafford Baseball League in Virginia was, for a time, embroiled in controversy. We happy to report that it appears all sides have reached accord so that the kids the league serves don’t suffer.

Check out this month’s OnDeck Newsletter

If you missed it, the July, 2018 OnDeck Newsletter is out and ready for you to read cover-to-cover. Hope you enjoy all the articles and don’t forget to support our sponsors who make it happen!

Tomorrow’s OnDeck Newsletter…

Is going to be a winner! Make sure you sign up to have it sent directly to your inbox. Check out all of our previous issues while you’re there!

Who Is To Blame For the Decline In Youth Sports (Part 2)

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

Parents

I have no doubt that some parents are driving their kids away from youth sports. The “Crazy Sports Parent” has become less a caricature and more a phenomenon in the past decade. Why? One can only assume that the more competitive the environment, the more on-edge everyone gets. If Johnny is on the “C” team, his goal (or is it his parents’ goal?) is to move up to the “B” team. But, from his parents’ perspective, if he isn’t playing “as much as he should be”, then that’s perceived as the coach’s fault. Or if he doesn’t perform well, it’s the official’s fault. It might be that the other team’s fans are “out of control” and we have to match their obnoxious fervor.

Parents today are bombarded by sports 24/7, amplifying their significance in society. I wrote about how some are chasing scholarships but for most it’s about ego and status. After the game they pepper their youngster with questions about her performance saying things like, “It looked like you didn’t even want to be out there.” Maybe you’re right. But it could be the reason they don’t want to be out there is you.

Coaches

Unlike 25 years ago, there are now two common types of coaches in youth sports. The parent-volunteer and the paid professional. The parent volunteer usually has a child on the team and is generally more prevalent in rec sports. Just like with parents I discussed above, there are also crazy competitive, emotional, recreational coaches. Full disclosure, when coaching my first boy in Little League I had my moments too. By the time I coached my third son, I toned it way down. However, in all my years coaching in Little League Majors there was never a kid who played on my team who didn’t come back again the next season. I’m more proud of that than of any championships.

We’ve all seen the videos or heard the stories of the rec coaches who berate their players, the officials, or opponents. Yet the biggest complaints I hear about volunteer coaches are that they don’t know “the FUNDAMENTALS” and that they employ “DADDY BALL”. I’m sure there are many situations where both are true. It is likely that there are plenty of instances where the coaching staff’s kids get preferential treatment when it comes to playing time and position.

However, I also feel a lot of that can be perception. A parent whose child is not playing as much as or in the position in which that parent would like, is probably not going to blame the child. My experience, in the many emails I receive asking for advice, is that the parent always believes the child is being treated unfairly. They tell me theirs is every bit as talented as the coaches’ kid, but is just a victim of nepotism. Again, I’m sure this happens, but in all my years of coaching I can only think of a couple situations where the coach of an opposing team, in my opinion, gave his child unwarranted favoritism. With that said, I’ll bet many parents, looking through a less objective lens, would say it was happening much more frequently.

Which brings me to FUNDAMENTALS. Why do I capitalize this word? Because it seems to be such a big deal with sports parents these days. Their son or daughter is not being taught the proper fundamentals by their rec coach, so they say. Once again, I know that often this is true. However, I would also submit that to the average, unknowing parent, the same message will sound differently depending on who is delivering it. If the frazzled volunteer coach who showed up at practice straight from his job says something meant to be instructional, the parent bystander might figure he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But the same words coming from the mouth of the professional coach who played in college sound profound.

So if some rec coaches can be overzealous, fail to teach proper fundamentals and tend to give their own kids advantages over others, isn’t that a good argument for pulling your kids from the local rec league and putting them into travel clubs where they will be taught by impartial, knowledgeable coaches? There is some validity to that. But remember, in my many years of coaching I rarely witnessed “daddy ball”. The other dads I coached against mostly did a great job of teaching, and I never saw a YouTube meltdown on the field. So while poor volunteer coaching does exist, I don’t believe it is as rampant as some will have us think. And, as I maintained in Part One of this series, if the coaching is lacking, do something about it. Get involved as a volunteer. Organize clinics. Provide training materials (like our product). Everyone can be taught to improve.

But let’s look at the other side.

What I also witnessed in my years observing and participating in travel sports was that many of the paid coaches had an attitude that was not conducive to helping youngsters. They’d saunter onto the field wearing dark sunglasses, unfriendly; their demeanor a combination of boredom, arrogance and churlishness. I’d wonder, are they angry because their playing career is over and now they’re relegated to coaching kids? Or is this act borne of their feeling of superiority since they played at a higher level than anyone else at the field? And just like we can’t paint all rec coaches with the same brush, not all travel coaches fit this description. I coached alongside of and my daughter played for several paid coaches who were fun, approachable and great teachers to boot. But when it comes down to it, the former college or pro player who is now out of the game and coaching in the club may not be doing it so much because he loves it, but because it is his job. The rec coach, on the other hand, is more likely out there because he enjoys it and truly wants to be around the kids.

At an earlier and earlier age, today’s parents are wringing their hands about their child “falling behind.” My viewpoint is this: A kid who is not taught the “proper fundamentals” at age 6, 7, 8, even 12, is not going to be irrevocably damaged. If they keep playing, they will eventually run into good coaching that can maximize their potential. But if, on the other hand, they want to quit because they don’t like going to practices and games, they’ll never have that chance to develop. In terms of who is more likely to make kids want to come back because they just had fun out there, I’ll generally put my money on a volunteer coach over a pro.

Next: Specialization, Pressure and Electronics

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

Setting the Tone for a Positive Experience

By Dr. Darrell Burnett

Some coaches have a difficult time handling the youth sports atmosphere, and some may underestimate their importance to their players.

The No. 1 reason why kids come back is positive coaching. Coaches must grasp the idea that their role is important. When I talked to coaches and we define a successful coach, it isn’t determined by their win-loss record. The coach has to keep the kids involved.

There are four needs a coach must establish for a child to keep him or her returning to youth sports.

  1. A sense of belonging.
    If the children cannot find a group to come to them, they’ll go to the group. The coach can add to that sense of belonging by making the child feel like part of the team. This point leads to the second need.
  2. To feel worthwhile.
    If the coach relates to the kid as a person and as a member of the team, it will add to the value of youth sports.
  3. A sense of dignity.
    The coach’s job is to treat the children with respect, and let them know they will be treated with respect simply for coming out and playing.
  4. A sense of control.
    The coach lets the children know they are in control of their own destiny, and lets them work their way into a role on the team.

The other job of the coach is to control the parents to prevent a situation from getting out of hand. The first step is to define unruly behavior.

If you’re going to deal with unruly parents, you’ve got to have it all spelled out before the season begins. A preseason meeting with the parents can help prevent any unwanted situation. Coaches need to tell parents that offensive language, and the berating of players, coaches and officials are unacceptable. The coach also must provide consequences for any action considered inappropriate.

If there is a situation, the first step is to remain calm, otherwise you can feed the fire.

When a situation occurs, the coach has to have some way of dealing with it. One way is to have other parents who participated in the preseason meeting talk to the offending parent to try to calm him or her down. After the event occurs, the coach must become the teacher, so the parent understands what he or she did wrong and why it was considered unacceptable. The coach has to look for the positives in every situation.

Darrell Burnett is a clinical psychologist and a certified sports psychologist specializing in youth sports. As a member of the National Speakers Association he is active on the lecture circuit. His book, IT’S JUST A GAME!(Youth, Sports & Self Esteem: A Guide for Parents), is described at his website, www.djburnett.com, along with his other books, booklets, and audio cassettes on youth sports and family life.

One Question

By Tony Earp

Can you play? It is simple question and the most important one. All the evaluations and feedback, opinions about what makes up a great player, and debate about the most important skills a player can possess, all come back to that simple question. The only thing that matters when determining a player’s ability level is if or if not that player can meet the demands of the game. When players are training, focusing on improving different skill areas of the game is very important, but will it translate into the players being effective and better in the game?

As many coaches have seen, there are players who are technically sound, physically capable, understand the game, and work hard, but struggle to be effective in games. They have the tools, but cannot seem to use them when needed. All the pieces of the puzzle are there, but they cannot put them together to meet the demands and challenges of the game.

These players have worked hard fine tuning their technical ability on the ball. With both feet, they are sound in receiving, passing and dribbling with speed and control. Tactically, they understand their role in their position, the principles of attacking and defending, and the coach’s expectations on how the team should play. The player is physically capable of playing the game, and the player is competitive and wants to win. Again, all the critical skill areas to play the game are possessed by the player, but for some reason, the player is unable to use them in the game effectively.

Something was missing in the player’s training. Something very critical. Although the player has learned all of these skills and has these tools, he has never learned:

  1. HOW/WHEN/WHY TO USE THEM.
  2. HOW/WHEN/WHY THEY ARE CONNECTED

Often this occurs when learning of these skills are done in a vacuum, isolated of one another, and not within the context of the game.

Think of it this way… like many people, I enjoy watching the many YouTube videos of people doing crazy tricks and skills with the soccer ball. From juggling, skill moves with the ball and finishing, there are some amazing things people can do. Many may watch these videos and just assume these people must be great players based on what they can do with the ball, but that assumption may be very wrong.

The only thing I know watching that type of video is that the player is exceptional at that one skill. I have no idea if the player is actually an effective player in the game. I know he can juggle, do a wicked (insert Boston accent) skill move, or hit a crazy bending shot, but I have no idea if that player is any good at playing the game.

I am not being critical of those players or those videos. I actually think they are tremendous tool for young players to watch and get ideas to train on their own, spark their own creativity, and expand their understanding on what is possible to do with the ball.

The point is that a player’s goal is NEVER to just get good at a single skill movement or an activity in training. It is not to be a better juggler or be able to do a skill move with the ball. A player’s goal should ALWAYS be to improve their ability to play the game. So when training, or practicing any skill, it always needs to be done in the context of how it will be used in the game.

When training, without the context of the game, or a clear understanding of the application of the skill being worked on, it is possible to develop players who are excellent at training but struggle to play the game. Just like in the classroom, information and skills learned are most effective and useful when applied to their required use when it really matters (in real life).

In contrast, there are players that in training seem to struggle, but when the game starts, they are able to play at a higher level than expected. They may not be as technical on the ball or physically good as we think they should be, but when they step into a game, the player can find ways to be successful and very effective in helping his team. On an evaluation, a coach may have a slew of areas the player needs to improve on, maybe a lot more than other players, but at the same time, the player seems to be more successful than a player who would rate better on a written evaluation.

This type of player shows a clear understanding of several important things:

  1. His own strengths and weaknesses. He understands how to play towards his strengths and hide his weaknesses.
  2. The game. Really understanding nuances of the game, the critical points, that allow the player to make exceptional decisions and anticipate the game.
  3. Competitive spirit. Let’s face it. Some players are better because they just want it more.

The larger point is that all players are deficient in some skill areas comparatively to other players, but that may have little impact on their level of play. Despite not being as strong in some areas as other players, their “total game”, or their ability to be effective in games, is much higher than players who have considerable better technical or physical abilities.

Again, the real “evaluation” or the only “test” that really matters in determining a player’s level is how they do when the whistle blows. I have always been one who believes in player evaluations and feedback, but when we cut through all of the fog of player development and determining a player’s level of play, the only true evaluation is the game. The game is the only real measure of a player’s level of play.

The game is not biased, it is not political, it has no self-interests, and does not care about getting phone calls or emails from parents. The game will always be the most honest person with any player about what they are and are not able to do. Simply, either you can play or you cannot play.

When training, keep this in mind. Your goal, whether on your own, with your coach, or with some friends, is to get better at playing the game. Find ways to train yourself to be more effective in a game, when it counts.

Skills are necessary, juggling is important to improve your touch, YouTube is fun, but the game cares very little about how many “views” your last video post received, how many times you can juggle, or how crazy your skill moves look. It will only ask you one simple questions once the whistle blows… Can you play?

Tony Earp directs SuperKick/TeamZone Columbus’ Soccer Skills programs. Tony has a Masters in Education from The Ohio State University. Tony was a standout player both academically and athletically at The Ohio State University, earning multiple honors both on the field and in the classroom. He can be reached at tearp@superkickcolumbus.com

How to Get to Know a Hitter’s Tendencies Very Quickly!

By Larry Cicchiello

It is mandatory for baseball pitchers to find out the strengths and weaknesses of the baseball hitters they face. There are certain very clever things a pitcher can do. If the hitter takes a practice swing before facing you, pay attention to his practice swing! If he appears to be hitting an inside pitch with it, he is probably a pull hitter. If he appears to be hitting the ball the opposite way with his practice swing, chances are he likes to go the opposite way. If he appears to be hitting a high pitch, he probably likes the ball up. If he appears to be hitting a low pitch, you guessed it, he’s probably a good low ball hitter. One of the best baseball pitching tips to remember is that professional baseball hitters, all the way down to very young players like to practice what they do well and not what they do NOT do well.This very often includes their practice swings.

Some Guidelines To Use BEFORE You Actually See The Hitter Swing:

Batter Has A Closed Stance. He probably likes the ball away from him and out over the plate. Find out if he can handle a pitch inside.

Batter Has An Open Stance. He probably likes the ball inside. Find out if he can handle the low and away strike.

Batter Stands Deep In The Box. I would be thinking primarily breaking balls.

Batter Stands Shallow In The Box. Well, if the batter wants to give me an extra couple of feet on my fastball, I’ll take the extra foot or two he’s giving me to see if he can catch up to my heater.

Batter Has His Hands Held High. Almost always likes the ball LOW, with very few exceptions! You can check it out for yourself right now. Put your hands up high right now, by your back ear and pretend you are holding a bat. Move your hands like you are swinging at a chest high fastball. It doesn’t feel right, does it? Pitch him primarily up in the zone until he proves you to be wrong.

Batter Has The Bat Curled Around His Neck. Find out if he can handle a pitch that is up and in. His bat has to travel extremely far to hit that pitch well.

Some Thought Processes To Use AFTER You Have Seen The Hitter Swing:

Your first pitch is a real good fastball and he pulls it and hits a seed that’s a foul about 350 feet from home plate. You now know there is a very good chance he loves the fast ball. You should strongly consider going off speed on your next pitch. The only risk is that if he’s a good hitter, he might be thinking along with you after what he just did to your fast ball. (This is part of the chess match that takes place between a good pitcher and a good hitter.)

Good hitters are good hitters for a reason and that’s because they are always thinking. OK, he has clobbered your first pitch fastball. I’m not saying that you should not go off speed but you do have another option, considering this guy appears to love the fastball. The thought process goes like this…OK, you love the fastball, well I’ll give you another fastball. But this time it’s going to be six inches or so off the outside corner. Remember, if he loves to hit the fastball, he may chase one out of the strike zone because he doesn’t know if he’ll get another one from you. After two fastballs, he may start to think that you are going to stay with your heater. You might then go off speed, on your third pitch. If this sounds like a chess match to you, it is because it IS a chess match that should be going on between a good pitcher and a good batter!

Remember that even if I see that a hitter does NOT like a pitch in a certain location, it does NOT mean that I can throw that same pitch over and over and over again and expect to be successful. Good hitters will make adjustments at the plate. I still have to show him other pitches and other locations also.

Be cautious that a batter doesn’t start out one way and then when he is actually swinging, he changes. For example, a batter may have his bat curled around his head but when he’s actually ready to hit, he changes and it’s NOT curled any longer.

Another example is if a batter has an open stance. He may possibly close his stance just before getting ready to swing. You have to pay attention, just like a batter who takes your pitch and follows it all the way into the catcher’s mitt to see how your pitch is moving.

Baseball pitching tips require clever use of the mind as well as the body and pitching is NOT simply getting the ball and throwing the pitch. Please make sure you learn a hitter’s tendencies as quickly as possible!

Larry is the successful author of several very user friendly eBooks and CD’s covering 320 topics on playing or coaching excellent baseball. ANY player, coach or parent who wants to help their child will be fully equipped! Check out some FREE baseball tips on hitting and FREE baseball pitching tips at LarryBaseball.com. Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Larry_Cicchiello/436671

News from American Baseball Foundation

From our partners at ABF:

Dear BASIC Supporters & Donors,
Thanks to you, this summer has already been a home run.
Our Birmingham BASIC East and South programs teed off this summer divided among the following three gracious host sites: John Carroll Catholic High School, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, and the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. These sites have served as a stadium, a classroom, and a home to 140 children eager to learn, play, and connect with one another.
We also kicked off our Inaugural Huntsville Summer BASIC program, where under the umbrella of Summer Adventures in Learning (SAIL) North, the Huntsville School System has embarked on the BASIC adventure with forty-eight new students.
Your support has given these children access to over 300 sports-related math and reading lessons and 160 hours of access to qualified coaches and educators. Over the next few weeks, we will spend time actively and collaboratively learning meaningful content that will provide opportunities for choice and autonomy, a sense of belonging, supportive relationships, and a brighter future for those whose circumstances make it look bleak.
BASIC curriculum was written by the Learning Department at UAB and designed to redress summer learning loss in students grades 1st-8th. Over the last 20 years, our program has strived to relieve the stress and disadvantages had by under served children later in life by closing the learning gap between middle and low-income students at an early age. With tremendous success, the BASIC curriculum, our staff, and your support have averaged up to a six month gain each year in crucial subjects such as reading and math.
Here are a few examples of all the fun we’ve been having this summer!
To see BASIC in action, visit: https://youtu.be/DmsdRb1p7xA.
For more information about the American Baseball Foundation or BASIC, visit our website at http://americanbaseballfoundation.com.