Tomorrow’s OnDeck Newsletter Released at Noon

You have until tomorrow at Noon EST to sign up to receive our popular OnDeck Newsletter. And if you sign up today, it’s free! Well, it’s always free, but an accurate statement nonetheless. Free secure when you subscribe that you will only receive our monthly newsletter and nothing else. Join the thousands who enjoy OnDeck every month!

Advertisements

Coaching for Fun

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

It was a new riff on an old joke: I asked someone how he came to coach his daughter’s soccer team. He said, “I was standing with a group of parents and they asked for a volunteer to step forward. I stood still and everyone else stepped back.”

For those of us who have been there, have taken the reigns of a team we weren’t necessarily ready to coach, who did it more out of necessity than out of enthusiasm, we can relate. It’s funny, but then it’s also not.

Volunteer coaches are the youth sport equivalent of saints. Sure, volunteer board member also often work tirelessly for little reward. I was a board member while coaching three of my sons’ baseball teams in three different divisions. There are volunteer officials and umpires who also work hard. But an official can choose when he works. A board member who doesn’t coach isn’t in the spotlight. Coaches must be at every practice and every game. And they are the ones who take the heat when kids don’t play as much as parents think they should. When positions are decided. They are the ones criticized when the players don’t play well.

Most organizations would cease to exist without these coaches. But often, we take them for granted. We don’t always give them the support they need. We don’t show them the appreciation they deserve. Sometimes we expect too much of them in terms of requirements we demand of their time beyond the necessary practices and games. And we often expect more than we ought to when it comes to how they run practices.

For kids ages 5-10 technical training should take a back seat to fun. I’ve said this before: If a kid that age is going to be a college or pro star it’s not going to be because he had incredible coaching. If you’re not convinced, look at all of world class soccer players who grew up playing on the streets with friends from dawn to dusk. Look at the professional Latin baseball players who had no resources as children, but just played.

On the other hand, adolescents with great potential can be derailed by coaching. Coaches who are pressured to run ultra-structured practices focusing on technique and tactics take the chance of alienating children from the sport because practices are a chore. And the same goes for coaches. We all know that the attrition rate for youngsters and volunteer coaches is too high. But would anyone ever quit doing something if it were fun?

So when you look at your volunteer coaches roster before the season begins, put yourself in their shoes. Imagine yourself as a scared novice who feels unsure of himself. Think about them working a full-time job and having to ask for time off to get to practice. Consider the pressure they’re under to balance work, family time and this new responsibility and be mindful of your expectations. Do you want to make it more difficult in the vain hope that everyone is “trained properly”? Or do you want to make it easy and fun? This isn’t training for the Olympics, it’s rec sports. The kids who are going to make it are going to make it…if they choose to come back next season. And if they have someone willing to coach them.

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

Starve the Beast

By Tony Earp

There are many benefits of taking time off during the year as a competitive athlete. The obvious ones are mental and physical rest the body needs in order to stay healthy and avoid overuse injuries or “burnout.” The amount of rest needed changes from player to player depending on age, competitive level, and personal needs. In short everyone is different, and so is the need for rest and recovery. But what is the best thing about rest? The answer is the least talked about benefit and the one I found to be the most helpful as a developing young player. In short, REST STARVES THE BEAST, and when the time is right, you let the beast eat again.

Let me explain… I hated taking time off from playing soccer. I had to be pulled kicking and screaming away from the soccer field. I would even go as far as to sneak out to play or lie about where I was going when leaving the house with my friends (sorry mom). My coaches and my mom constantly encouraged breaks and stressed they were necessary, but I was a kid who loved the play and I did not care about what was “necessary” or “good for me”…. I just wanted to play.

I had a coach that finally got me to buy into the “rest” concept with the “Starve the Beast” approach. Simply, he explained that you have this beast inside of you who loves to play and feasts every time you step on the field. He will always eat and he is always hungry, but he can only eat so much at time. He told me that I needed that beast ready to eat every time I step on the field. When I rested, or when I starved the beast, he could eat a whole lot more.

It is not easy to starve the beast. The urge to let the beast eat and go play is strong and it takes discipline to ignore it. But when done right, and at the right time, when I stepped on the field to play again, the beast was hungry to eat more than he was before. In other words, the “beast” was willing to work harder, for longer, and break through any barriers that stood between him and his food. After a break, I learned that my level of play and level of training drastically increased.

As a kid, I did not care or really relate at all to the idea of stopping burnout or overuse injuries. Why? Because I was a kid! Those things did not mean anything to me, and I did not feel it was something I would have to deal with no matter how much I played. Although I could have been negatively affected by those things, it was not going to stop me from playing and training. When this coach explained the “starve the beast” concept, it made more sense to me.

Of course I saw myself as “the beast” (what kid does not want to be a BEAST), so it became something I bought into because I understood it and I related to it. After a break, I noticed the difference in my effort, attitude, and level of play after a break. I recognized how the BEAST responded when I got back on the field. When I stepped on the field, I wanted to show everyone what the BEAST could do, and I wanted to let the beast EAT.

When you have a passionate kid who loves something and pursues it relentlessly, parent and coach request to take breaks is not going to convince the kid to put the soccer ball away. It just does not make sense to the child to do that. The equation is simple… I love something, doing it makes me happy, so I am going to continue to do it. The starve the beast approach is not just fun, it acknowledges the kids passion and drive to continue to do it. It says, “I know you want to play, I know you’re a BEAST, but watch what happens when you cage the beast for a bit and then let him loose when he is rested and HUNGRY.”

My parents made it fun. When my break was up, the question would be asked, “Are you ready to let the beast eat?” I would always answer, “Oh, he’s ready to eat.” Then off to training I would head. Normally to one of my best training sessions I had in a very long time.

Make sure your child takes time to “starve the beast.” Not only will it help prevent injuries and burnout, but it will also set your child up to have more success on the field in the future. In short, breaks are good. They are necessary. BUT, you need to find a way to get your child to accept the need for a break. Just saying, “you need a break” may not do the trick. It may just cause frustration or resentment. Try the “starve the beast” approach, or something similar, and make the time off away from the game something they will welcome.

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

Seven Absolutes of How to Hit a Baseball

By Doug Bernier

Because of the different set ups and stances, there are different ways for how to hit a baseball. But once a hitter gets to the contact point that is where all the differences stop and the absolutes and similarities start.

If you compare Johnny Damon (who has a very open stance and a leg kick), to Albert Pujols (wide stance and has very little movement), and to David Eckstein (gets in his legs a lot, chokes up and stands very close to the plate) you would find that initially they look completely different.

BUT… when you strip away the pre-pitch rhythm, the leg kicks and all of the other movement that is personal preference, you find that they are a lot alike.

The 7 absolutes are seen at contact. No matter how a hitter gets to the contact point of his swing, all great hitters do the same thing.

Every good hitter will do these 7 things on a perfect swing. Sometimes, depending on a pitch, not all 7 will be attained every time. It’s important to remember that hitting is a battle, and sometimes using your athletic ability to hit a ball will trump all the perfect mechanics we will talk about.

1. Hitting against a firm front side.

This doesn’t always mean a stiff leg, you can have a slight bend but this leg is keeping the rest of your body and hands behind the baseball. This leg will stop your forward momentum and start the axis of rotation that you will now be hitting on. This is very important, you lose this firm front side you lose a lot of bat speed and your head movement drastically increases.

2. Have your back foot on its toe

When you commit your backside and decide to swing, the force you generate going toward the baseball will be abruptly stopped by your firm front side so you can start rotation, what’s left is your back toe on or slightly off the ground.

3. The hands are in a palm up, palm down position.

On a right handed hitter if you took the bat away at contact and had him open up his hands his right hand should be facing straight up towards the sky (or receiving the money) and the left hand should be facing the ground. This bat grip is the most powerful position you can be in at contact.

4. Head on the ball.

I.e. Seeing the ball at its contact point. This might be obvious, but it’s not simple. Knowing how to hit a baseball starts with knowing how see the ball. How to be a better baseball hitter – Seeing the Baseball talks more about the importance of this point, as well as some tips to improve your ability to see the baseball.

5. The Your back knee, back hip and head should be in a straight line.

A thought is to stick a pole in the ground through your knee, hip and head and rotate around that pole. That ensures you are not too far forward losing power and not too far bat getting tied up and having an uphill inconsistent swing

6. Your head should be right in the middle of your feet.

Think of it as a triangle draw 3 lines between your head and two feet. A triangle is a very strong structural object used in many applications (roof joists etc.) So being in a strong triangle will be the strongest possible position for your body. Also it allows you to rotate on an axis with minimal head movement.

7. Top arm is bent

Ideally you want your elbow planted firmly against your side. This is where you are most powerful. The closer your elbow is to your body, the more torque you can create as you spin. The farther your elbow gets as you straighten it, the more you are losing power and leverage and making the force of the baseball more powerful 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 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

Open Letter to Atlee Softball Players

By Sue Enquist

You and I have a lot in common:
You don’t know me, but I am a huge softball fan. You probably think there is no way I could understand your pain, but I do, because I too have been a national embarrassment to my family, team, school, community, association and sport.
You-Inappropriate behavior (the FU sign) in the dugout, during post game.
Me-inappropriate behavior (tossed a trophy) in the dugout, during post game.

You and I have a lot in common:
I know how angry, disappointed and embarrassed you are. I know how gut wrenching these consequences are. I know you naturally want to tell the world you are good people who love the game. I understand you will want to explain what happened and what led up to it. Yikes, I know that makes your stomach turn over thinking that’s what is happening to you, right now, in this moment.
Having said that, I want you to know something, if you show remorse (even though you feel you were treated poorly), accountability (stay focused on your mistake and not that others get away with worse) and improved future behavior (you know this isn’t who you are, you know you will never let this happen again) it ends up being a GREAT learning experience and part of your story of leadership growth. I know you don’t want to hear that now, but it may get you through your long days with your friends who want the scoop: “What happened?”

Below I hope these 5 suggestions can help you during this difficult time, because you and I have a lot in common:

1. Great people/players don’t justify or deflect their mistakes. They own it and move on. I have total confidence you can do this! I don’t know you, but I believe in you.
2. Great people/players use their failure experience as part of their story to teach others, especially younger ones. Even though you are young, you are a role model for many. Use your story to teach others what you have learned. Be a big sister who knows the right way. I have total confidence you can do this! I don’t know you but I believe in you.
3. Possess the confidence in these embarrassing times, to share you know you have a pattern of good behavior, you are a good girl, who had a lapse in judgement. Trust me, this doesn’t define you or taint you for life unless you become the “Not my fault girl.” (by the way, college coaches can’t stand that “Not my fault girl”).
4. High schools, colleges and the global work force aren’t asking for PERFECT people, they are asking for hard workers, with a positive attitude and GREAT FAILURE RECOVERY SYSTEM (AKA: own your mistake and move on: don’t stay stuck in your junk).
5. Last and equally important: You will learn the sport of softball is ONE big family. You will learn many of your softball big sisters: College players, National Team Players, Olympians and National Pro Players have a story to tell about failure, accountability, and recovery. We have done some stupid stuff too. We have your back. WE STILL BELIEVE IN YOU if you show remorse, accountability and good failure recovery. It will all work out.

In summary, You and I have a lot in common
You: Signed on to being on a TEAM and agreed to be a part of a big brand called: LITTLE LEAGUE. You learned the consequences of not complying with high standards. I hope you learn that HOW you behave is VALUED MORE to LITTLE LEAGUE than access to competing for a championship
Me: I played & coached on a TEAM and agreed to be a part of a big brand called: UCLA.
I learned the consequences of not complying with high standards. I learned HOW I behave is valued MORE to UCLA than the opportunity to win a game or championship.

You will learn: Who your true friends are during this time. Remember you need your family and a close inner circle that is it. Don’t listen to the noise out there. Own it and move on.
I learned: My family and inner circle will always be there for me. To hold me accountable and get me through tough times. The same will happen for you.

You will learn: Little League, has a proven record of doing the right thing. They uphold high standards by their swift decision. I believe they will continue the investigation so all parties are held accountable, having said that, stay focused on your error in judgement, how you can show remorse, own it and move on because you can control all those things. Control the controllables and you will have greater peace of mind during this crazy time.

I hope you stay in the game a long time. It’s a wonderful community who will hold you accountable and equally important-have your back in good and bad times!
Good Luck,
Always in your back pocket, if you need me.
Coach Enquist

Sue Enquist holds more National Championships (11) than anyone in the history of softball. She is UCLA Softball’s first All-American, National Champion, and Hall of Famer. In 2006, Enquist concluded her storied 27 year career as head coach of the UCLA Bruins with a 887- 175-1 (.835) record, making her the winningest softball coach among all active coaches. She is the only person in NCAA Softball history to win a championship as a head coach and a player. Hailed a “coaching legend” by ESPN, Sue Enquist’s tenure produced 65 All-Americans and 12 Olympians. She has been inducted into the Women’s Sports Foundation International Hall of Fame, the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame, and the UCLA Hall of Fame. Enquist is also the recipient of multiple National Coach of the Year and Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors. She concluded her UCLA MVP playing career with a career batting average of .401. In her tenure as both a player and coach, Enquist has a combined 1,314 wins. UCLA Magazine lists her among the top 20th Century Bruins. A former World Champion and USA National Team coach and player, she is the only person to have played on the first Pan American gold medal team (1979) and to coach on the first Olympic Team National Staff (1996), which took home the first gold medal in the Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia.

Wednesday’s quote

To get you through hump day: “Win or lose you will never regret working hard, making sacrifices, being disciplined or focusing too much. Success is measured by what we have done to prepare for competition.”  – John Smith

Walk-off win for the coaches

If you haven’t seen the end of yesterday’s elimination game between Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, you missed an exciting walk-off two run double to end the game. But what we liked best was the way the Venezuelan coaches rushed to the field to comfort the Dominican pitcher who was sobbing on the field. Great stuff reminding us what youth sports should be about. (Courtesy of The Big Lead.com and Kyle Koster).