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.

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.

Tips for avoiding heat distress

Heat illness is a serious issue, especially this time of year. Here are some tips from CoachSafely.com to help athletes a prevent overheating while playing or practicing during the dog days of summer.

Pitcher injury prevention

This excellent article, courtesy of Dirk Chatelain and Salamanca Press discusses the problems that pitchers have as they continue to put significant stress on their arms and asks if colleges should institute a pitch count.

A “Sometimes” Player

By Tony Earp

With over 15 years of working with players, regardless of ability, I have found the most distinctive difference between players is whether or not a player is an “ALWAYS” player or a “SOMETIMES” player. Always players are exactly what they sound like. No matter the day, time, activity, game, or any other circumstance, they ALWAYS give a maximum effort. They do not take breaks or choose when to compete and work hard. There is no compromise or variability to their approach to training or games. It does not mean that every performance is their best, but they always give their best effort.

Then, there is the “SOMETIMES” players, and they are exactly what they sound like. They give their best effort and work hard sometimes. Not always, but when it is usually the easiest or most convenient for them. Or even worse, only when they are certain it is in their own best interest.
Here are some situations where “SOMETIMES” players shine, and the different approach of the “ALWAYS” players:

“It is Fun”

Of course. It is easier to give a good effort when we are having a good time. To work hard when it is not your favorite thing to do, is much harder. Ironically, the things we enjoy doing the least, often are what benefit us the most. I have trained players that completely change their work rate and attitude as soon as the training session consists of something they find fun and enjoy.
In contrast, an “ALWAYS” player does not require it to be fun for the effort to be given. Although they like certain things more than others, they do not let that affect their drive to play or miss an opportunity to improve.

“They Can Do It”

These players love to show people what they can do, but are scared to be seen struggling at anything. When they can do a task and do it very well, then they are willing to give a good effort. But, when something is hard or just out of their reach, they stop working hard for it. They find it easier to believe they could not do it because they did not CARE TO DO IT. Not that they were not able, but they just convinced themselves it was not worth it, it was below them, or just marginalized the importance of the activity. This approach helps them feel better about not being able to do it, and does not make them look vulnerable struggling to learn it.
On the other hand, “ALWAYS” players like the opportunity to do things they do not know how to do. They embrace the struggle and will not be discouraged or embarrassed by failure. They have learned that for each moment of struggle comes a lifetime of rewards.

“They Will Win”

These players play hard and with confidence when they are NOT in a fight. When they know they can easily walk over an opponent and get the result they want, you can see their energy level rise and often this is when they are at their best. On the flip side, when the opponent is tough, or they are completely outmatched, they shut down. They disengage from the game, begin making excuses, blaming others, faking injuries or fatigue, or anything else that excuses them from taking responsibility of the result. Often after or during this type of situation, the player will seem apathetic about the result or his performance.
The “ALWAYS” player always tries to compete at his best level. Although he will have “off and on” days, it is never an excuse for a drop in effort and his competitive level. Normally, as the opponent gets tougher, this type of player uses it as fuel to push beyond his current level or drives him to train harder in the future. He learns from the experience, does not make excuses for himself or others, and does not blame anyone. Not even himself. He just goes back to work so he can fight even harder next time.

“Playing with a Friend”

There is a social aspect of the game and it is important. Although it is a lot of fun to play with friends, there will be times when that is not possible. I see this a lot in training sessions. If certain players are not paired with who they want to play with, their effort drops considerably. If they do get paired with who they want to play with, then their level of play is much higher. When they are not on their friend’s team, the body language changes drastically, head drops down, and I know the players is going to give half the effort he normally would.
An “ALWAYS” player may prefer to play with certain kids, but he never lets it show. No matter who he is playing with he will do everything he can to support and play with the other players on the team. Regardless of level, this type of player gravitates towards being a leader on the field and knows success is a group effort. He relies on the other players and they rely on him. He knows not giving his best effort is an insult to his other teammates on the field.

“Coach/Parent is Watching”

For me this is the most common example of the “SOMETIMES” player but the most subtle form of it. When a coach or their parents are nearby, I can see a distinct increase in their level of play and energy. For people watching, this looks like an “ALWAYS” player, but if you can sneak peaks of these types of players training when they do not think anyone is watching, that is when the “SOMETIMES” is exposed. This can be the most self-destructive form of the “SOMETIMES” player. When kids learn to only work hard when people are watching, it will be very hard to achieve anything, on or off the field. Most of the things earned in life are worked for when no one else is around or when no one is asking you to do it.
An “ALWAYS” player does not care who is watching or not. Often, their effort is even higher when they are alone. They are not doing it for anyone else. It is not about pleasing or gaining approval of another person. It is about making sure they never let down themselves or others who rely on them when the whistle blows. They have set an unbelievable expectation for themselves to meet. Higher than anyone else could ever put on them. They hold themselves accountable to never falling below those expectations.
“SOMETIMES” players grow into “SOMETIMES” adults. “ALWAYS” players grow into “ALWAYS” adults. This is an important lesson to teach kids from an early age as it will play an important role in the rest of their lives. When we help players become “ALWAYS” people, they not only have a better chance of succeeding in soccer, but in even more important aspects of their lives.

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

Advertisements

Where You Fit in the Baseball Lineup

By Doug Bernier

A good hitting philosophy should definitely depend on what kind of hitter you are. Are you a player that hits for a lot of power, do you try to set the table and get on base for the middle of the lineup, can you run, are you a good situational hitter, can you hit to all parts of the field or do you mostly just pull the ball.

Accurately evaluating yourself and knowing what kind of hitter you are can be difficult. The great thing about baseball is there is room on every team and in the big leagues for all types of hitters.

Players get in trouble when they want to be something they are not. This is fairly common and a problem most young hitters face. Everyone wants to hit homeruns. But not everyone was talented in that area. If you hit one homerun a year and most of your outs are fly balls, you are only hurting yourself.

The good hitters use what they are given and use it to the best of their ability. If you can run, hit balls on the ground and utilize the bunt. If you can handle the bat, try to hit the 3-4 hole (in between 1st and 2nd base) with a runner on 1st base, to get the runner to move up to 3rd base. Some hitters are trying to get on base any way possible, while others are in scoring position when they step up to the plate. Understand your game, and embrace it.

What Makes Up A Typical Baseball Lineup

The leadoff hitter

The typical leadoff hitter can usually run. He has a high on base percentage, good average and takes his walks. The leadoff hitter can handle the bat by bunting, good hit and run guy and doesn’t strike out a lot. He can create havoc on the bases when necessary.

The 2, 8, and 9 hitters

These guys are table setters, they can handle the bat. You need to be able to bunt, situationaly hit ( hit and run, hit a ball to the right side with a runner on second and 0 outs, sacrifice fly with runner on third.) These players should be gritty and battle.

Just because you hit eighth or ninth doesn’t mean you are not an important hitter. At some point all hitters, no matter where in the baseball lineup they are, will be up in a big situation.
If you are hitting in the spot before the pitcher (usually 8th) that can be a tough assignment. You will usually be pitched very carefully. The pitcher hopes you will expand the zone and swing at bad pitches. With runners on base don’t be surprised to get off speed pitches in fastball counts and fastballs that are meant for the corners of the plate. They know if you walk they have a weak hitter behind you, but they are hoping to get you to chase and get yourself out.
The number 3 hitter

The number 3 hitter is usually your best in the lineup. He most times will have a unique blend of batting average and power. He hits in this spot to drive in runners, and he is guaranteed to hit in the first inning. He can put runs on the board.

The 4 and 5 guys

are usually power guys that may strike out more than the others in the lineup but have long ball potential. Every time they step in the box they strike fear into their opponents.

The 6 and 7 guys

are very good hitters usually high average with a little less power than the 3,4,5 guys. They are very important to protect the power spots in the baseball lineup by hitting well and driving in runners. The 6 and 7 spots in the lineup can have big RBI potential. A team that has strong 6 and 7 hole hitters makes the baseball lineup so much deeper and a lot more difficult to pitch to.

This is a very basic template of a typical baseball lineup, this can change depending on the teams personnel in the lineup. Possible changes might include:

Your leadoff hitter may have the most power but he hits there because he doesn’t strike out very often and the coach wants him to get as many at bats as possible.
Your number 3 hitter may have no power at all but he hits for a high average and has been pretty successful with driving runners in. He is not your prototypical 3 hole hitter, but can be very productive in the 3rd slot.

I hope this overview of the baseball lineup can help you determine your own personal hitting philosophy and where you fit in the lineup.

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 batting .200 in 45 at-bats and fielding .950 during 2017 spring training with the Rangers, Doug was assigned to the Ranger’s AAA team the Round Rock Express.
(Originally Posted at www.probaseballinsider.com)

The New Form of Specialization: The Multi-Sport Athlete

By Tony Earp

There has been a lot of research and articles about the dangers of kids specializing in sports too early in hopes for a future career in the sport or scholarship opportunities down the road. Outside of physical and mental burnout, risk of more injuries, and the “fun” being removed from the game, many players deal with pressure from adults to excel on the playing field. The game becomes more about the adults than it does about what is best for the kids. The good news is that it seems parents are taking note and kids are doing other sports or activities throughout the year. The problem is that it seems an important step was skipped. Now instead of doing just one sport, kids are “specializing” in multiple sports. In other words, we forgot to take anything away, and we just keep adding on to the problem.

The idea is correct. It is important for players to play and experience different sports and activities as they grow up. Outside of developing better athletes, it helps prevent overuse injuries and creates well-rounded individuals with a more diverse youth sports experience.

The move away from early specialization and its benefits relies a child playing multiple sports or activities, but not necessarily multiple at the same time. This is the detail that was overlooked by some and now kids are not specializing in just one sport, but are specializing in many sports. In some cases, the situation has gone from one extreme to the other.

With this comes a new kind of burnout and over-scheduled kids who are training 4 plus hours a night in multiple sports. They run from basketball practice to soccer practice, or lacrosse practice to baseball practice, or track to volleyball. Parents do their best to try to manage the schedules and avoid overlap as much as possible so the kid can avoid missing a game or practice for both sports.

The demands of one practice, workload, intensity, what is physically or mentally targeted, is not at all coordinated with the other practices and game schedules. One practice may be a walk through before a game or recover day after a game, and the other practice could be a physically intense session with a lot of fitness oriented activities. In this case, both coaches, are trying to do what is best for their players, but since it is two separate sports with two different schedules, one practice can be very counter productive to the other. In short, it is much harder, and almost impossible, to manage the player’s mental and physical well being due to their being no collaboration between the coaches and sports.

This is not the coach’s fault as most run their teams and seasons in relation to just that season and team. It would be a tall order for coaches to manage their teams and players based on everyone’s extra sports or activities. It falls on the responsibility of the parents and the players to manage their schedules to make sure there is a good balance between both sports and life outside of sports.

Some players who do this are not playing sports on two “competitive” teams, but instead, are playing with one competitive or travel team while the other team is more recreational. Obviously the demands of recreational sports and competitive sports is often very different, but when combined can still create a situation where a child is over-scheduled and not getting the proper rest throughout the week in relation to one sport or the others.

The other issue arises when the athlete is very good at both sports. Often, it can become inappropriate for a player to play at the recreational level of a sport because of their level of play. It can lead to a negative experience for the player, his teammates, and other teams in the league if a player has clearly outgrown this level of play. The player can be seen as a “ringer” and does not belong due to running up high scores or clearly dominating even the next strongest players.

If a player is good and loves to play multiple sports, and they overlap in seasons, then what do we expect the parent or player to do? Pick? This could be an impossible decision for both. Playing at the recreational level at any of the sports is not fun for the player or really that appropriate, and playing competitively at both sports is not appropriate for the physical and mental health of the athlete. It becomes a very tough decision, so it is understandable for the player to try to do both even though it could be too much.

To help with this problem, sports need to offer competitive options that are not yearly or multiple season commitments. This would give players more options to play and train at a level that is appropriate for them, while not having to stack the same sports in the same season. Coaches and programs would need to allow flexibility for kids to play just for a single season or not train in the “off-season” without it being seen as a lack of commitment or dedication to their sport or a lack of drive to improve.

Instead, it would be supporting the multi-sport platform and the benefits that come with it that have been well documented. There will still be players who just participate in a single sport and train more than others, but that does not mean that those players will necessarily have an advantage over the kids who do not train year round. But, it also could mean that they do, but that is ok, because that is how it goes sometimes.

Every player is different and every situation is different, so players who want to, and do, play multiple sports, need to be handled according to what is best for that particular player. With that said, it has to be recognized that there are additional dangers with kids playing multiple sports that overlap in season. Just like a player who specializes and is just playing one sport without rest, a player with multiple sports and no rest could be in an even more developmentally inappropriate situation that can have more negative effects than just playing one sport. There can be additional wear and tear on the body. In reality, the training and time has just doubled… along with diversifying the experiences. The real goal would be to diversify in sports without drastically adding to the number of hours/time spent training and playing to create the most developmentally ideal and safe playing experience possible.

In short, there are issues with specialization, but there can be even more issues with playing multiple sports at the same time. It is all about balance which is what the original push against specialization was based on. Although you want to be careful not to paint everyone with the same brush. What is right for one person is not right for another. Although, most agree that a proper balance needs to be struck between sports and other aspects of life. Especially when the push to play one sport or multiple sports is coming from adults with goals of making higher level teams, scholarships, professional contracts etc, there are a lot of adverse effects to the child.

We do not want to acknowledge the dangers of specialization, but at the same time, have kids stretched thin between multiple sports and only point to the benefits. The benefits of being a multi-sport athlete can quickly be diminished by the overwork and fatigue placed on the body. We want to be careful we do not move from one extreme side of spectrum of youth sports to the other.

Kids can play one sport, or play multiple sports, but parents and coaches need to be constantly monitoring the player’s physical and mental condition. The player must be enjoying the experience and growing within that experience. It should be self-driven, and not externally driven. The player has to want it, not just the coach and/or parents.

As a child who loved one sport, I understand what it is like to have a passion for something and pursue it relentlessly. It has sacrifices and struggles, but I never did it for any other reason except that I loved it. I do not think that is right for most kids. And, what about the child who is truly passionate about multiple sports or activities? Do we deny the opportunity to pursue both? I think that is a hard thing to do.

In the end, we do not want to push kids in specializing in one sport because we think it will help them achieve more, and we also do not want to push kids into playing multiple sports because new research shows it is better for them and many high level athletes played multiple sports. The common ground there is the word PUSH. It is the PUSH from adults and coaches that make either scenario inappropriate for the child.

Know your child. Know your players. Make decisions based on what is best for them and what they love to do and are passionate about. Do not make decisions or push one way or the other out of fear your child or team will be left behind or will lose opportunities to be successful.

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