Six Ways Youth Athletes Can Keep Each Other Accountable to the Team

Kids can be held accountable by coaches and parents, but in great sports teams athletes hold each other accountable. Here’s how it works in youth sports. Courtesy, our friends at TrueSport.

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How to use CoachDeck

CoachDeck was designed to be used in a variety of ways. If you are a coach that likes to plan your practices ahead, take some time to go through each card and think about the drills and how they fit your team. You can group cards together to form practice plans far in advance. Or if it is everything you can do to just get to practice on time, it’s perfect for that. While players are arriving, getting their arms loose, it takes less than a minute to crack open the deck, pull out three or four cards and “stack the deck” so you’re ready to go. Some coaches also like to reward a player by shuffling the deck and letting him choose the next drill.

Be sure to utilize the “Make it a Game TM” feature on every card because kids find drills to be boring, but love playing games and competing. Plus, turning each drill into an exciting competition prepares them for the real games coming up.

The cards are broken into four, color-coded categories, (hitting, infield, outfield and base running). Ideally, for a 90-minute practice, you could choose one card of each color and spend 20 minutes per drill. Another great feature of the deck-of-cards format is that you can use the cards to break the team into smaller groups and rotate through stations. Give an assistant an outfield card and have him take a group to the outfield. Give another assistant an infield card while you work on hitting with your own small group, etc. Be creative and have fun. There should never be a coach who has a CoachDeck who stands on the mound and just throws BP to one kid while the rest of the team wilts out in the field. The bottom line is that kids want to have fun. If they get into the car and their mom says, “How was practice?” and they say, “It was boring,” there is a good chance that kid won’t come back to play next season. If they say, “It was so fun!” that player will be back for the next practice and the next season. And above all else, your job as a coach, is to make sure every kid comes back to play again next year. Regardless of wins and losses, regardless of how many “fundamentals” you taught, if every player shows up at registration next year, you were a success. That is the thought process behind CoachDeck.

How Coaches Build Cohesive Teams

From our friends at TrueSport: Boys and girls tend to value and prioritize relationships, competition, and hard work differently, which means coaches use different strategies to build a cohesive boys’ team compared to a cohesive girls’ team. Sport Psychologist Roberta Kraus, Ph.D., explains these differences to help parents and coaches better understand what they’re seeing and hearing during practices and games. Read Article

A Preseason Checklist for Predicting Elbow Injury in Little League Baseball Players

This study, while a long read, sheds some interesting light on the aspect of Little League arm injuries and how to prevent them. Source: Taiki Yukutake.

Do Not Stress Over Your Competition In Sports

By Stan Popovich 

Many athletes sometimes get anxious when they go against a tough opponent. They get nervous on who they are competing with and they get so worked up that they lose focus on playing their sport. In the end, they make mistakes and end up beating themselves up if they do not win. As a result, here is a list of techniques that an athlete can use to help manage the stress of going against the competition.

The first step is to learn as much as you can on your opponent. Although this may seem obvious, some athletes may think they already know what they need to know. Remember there is always something to learn about your competition. Read the reports about your opponent and watch him or her performance. Try to figure out an angle on how you can beat your competition. The more you know about your competition the better your chances are you will win. This will also help to reduce your worries in the future.

Do not assume anything about your competition whether they are stronger or weaker than you. Every athlete has his good and bad times and just because you may be facing a stronger opponent does not mean that you will lose. Remember that you and your opponent both have an equal chance of winning. You are both starting from scratch. This should help you to give you confidence going into your next event.

Focus on how you can best strive for perfection in your own event instead of worrying about your opponent. For instance, you are going against the number one athlete in the tournament and you are nervous. Instead of focusing on how good your competition is, focus on your performance. Concentrate on how you can perform your event and how you can best improve on your problem areas.

Realize that you can’t win all of the time and that also includes your competition. You may be the best athlete in the world, however you will still sometimes lose. No one can win all of the time.  When facing a tough competitor, use this fact to your advantage. Even the best athletes will make some mistakes.

It is not uncommon to get nervous when you go against a better opponent.  All you can do is to focus on your skill sets and do the best you can. This will help you in the long run.

Stan Popovich is the author of “A Layman’s Guide to Managing Fear” – an easy to read book that presents a general overview of techniques that are effective in managing persistent fears and anxieties. For additional information go to: http://www.managingfear.com/

Train the 90

By Tony Earp

In business, an “80/20 rule” is often talked about in regards to productivity and profits. It is believed that 80 percent of a company’s revenue/success/profits comes from 20 percent of its activities. Now, when thinking about soccer and what helps a player be successful on the field, how does that translate? This stat made me think about the way I train players and where do I focus their energy during training sessions. What activities and game situations do I put them in to help them improve their level of play and be prepared for the game? Over the years, it has changed the way I approach my training with players. I decided to spend the vast majority of my time with players to “Train the 90” during my training sessions, not the 10.

I believe high level players are high level because they can do the basic and consistently used skill movements the game requires of them at an extraordinary level (the 90 percent). Both the speed and effectiveness of their ability with those skills makes their level of play beyond the common player. Simple tasks in the game are done with very few errors, and are performed without much thought… almost subconsciously.

If you watch a professional match, you see all players doing the same things 90 percent of the game. Receiving the ball, passing over different distances, dribbling, moving off the ball, and defending are the most common activities of each player on the field. When players are excellent in these areas, they can do what the game requires of them 90 percent of the time. Often progress and development in these areas comes in three forms:
  1. Speed in which these skills are executed.
  2. The less time and space needed to execute them.
  3. Recognition of when, where, why, and how to use them.

During training sessions, I tell players all the time that if they can do the simple, every game activities, with consistency and speed, they can be a higher level player. I tell them to “Train the 90” on their own as often as they can, and spend less time on the 10. Frankly, when the 90 can be done at a high level, the 10 is much easier to learn and perform when needed. Unfortunately, with a generation of YouTube watchers and street soccer style moves, the players tend to spend more of their time on the 10 when training on their own. I believe all practice with the ball is beneficial, but what type of training is the most effective? What gives the best return on your time?

Think of it this way… if you go to the gym, that is obviously better than not going. But when you are there, do you make the most of your time and effort to see the results you want?

Now, as I said before, I think many of the YouTube channels with crazy skill moves and trick shots do serve a great purpose for players. It provides players with ideas and spurs imagination and creativity with the ball. Although, many of the activities are overly complicated or require a lot of expensive equipment to do on your own, and I think it has re-focused players on training and practicing the 10 percent (or sometimes 1%) of skills they rarely ever use in a game.

Why do I say that? I have worked with players (and played with players) that can do some crazy tricks with the ball, but lack the fundamentals. They struggle to receive and pass or even run with the ball at speed while keeping it under control, but can dazzle you with a couple juggling tricks, and fancy lift, or one “sick” skill move. All while their passing and receiving, two areas that are critical for a player to have success, are not at the level required to play the game at an average level. Although the tricks are fun to watch and impressive, it does not make up for how often the player loses the ball.

In short, when the whistle blows, it is not a YouTube trick competition. It is the game, and if you are not prepared to do what the game requires you to do, “The 90”, the game will expose your lack of ability in the fundamental areas of the game.

I know the basics are not as much fun as the fancier skill moves to do in training, but then again, you have to consider what you are training and practicing to do. Are you training to be able to perform tricks or are you training to improve your level of play? It is not always the same type of training.

As coaches, our goal is to help kids play the game at a high level. It is not to help them perform training activities at a high level or be great on video clips. With that goal in mind, what do our training sessions look like? Are the activities all about improving skill areas and movements commonly used in the game? Does the activity look and feel like the game?

As I tell players all the time in training, I am not trying to get them to improve their ability to do a training activity, I am trying to help them improve their ability to play the game. Within each activity, I ask them not to focus on the activity, but play the game within the task. Nothing is done in a vacuum in the game. Every movement and action in a game leads into another movement, has a consequence, and requires adjustments (constantly). This is how I ask players to train. It is always about what is next, what was the result of their action, and how they can adjust when needed.

I am not demonizing the teaching of tricks and complicated skill combinations as I teach those as well. BUT, and this is important, I think these items should make up a very small percentage of a training session. Let’s say about 10%. When you consistently “Train the 90”, the things your players will repeatedly and consistently be asked to do in the game, they will be more prepared than players who spend too much time on the 10%.

Now if you are training the next generation of YouTubers, than spend more time on the 10%. But if your goal is to help develop the next generation of high level players, you should be focusing on the 90%. “Train the 90” and make sure your players are prepared for what they will be asked to do when they step on the field to 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

Sudden weight loss for wrestling detrimental

We’ve spoken before about the long-term consequences teen athletes may face when losing weight for wrestling and here is documentation that there are also immediate health impacts that my occur as well. Courtesy our partners at STOP Sports Injuries.org and Jonathan Gelber, MD.