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Baseball and Softball SAFEty

We all want the safest environment for children to play in our leagues. When kids play baseball and softball, some injuries are unavoidable. However, as league administrators, it is up to us to do everything we can to ensure that the number of avoidable injuries that occur is ZERO. Did you know that coaches and board members could be liable for preventable injuries?

I have been involved in youth baseball and softball for 35 years, beginning as a high school player when I was paid to coach a summer recreational league. Four of my own kids, thousands of games and countless practices later, I have pretty much seen it all on the diamond. And, unfortunately, I’ve witnessed my share of injuries and potential injuries. Now, I can’t walk by a youth league practice or game without noticing something that needs to be corrected for the sake of safety.

So I have produced what I hope I will look back on as one of the most important pieces of work in my career. I have started SAFE Baseball, and our flagship product is our Baseball/Softball Safety Course which is designed to allow youth leagues to educate their coaches, team parents, board members and other volunteers on how to foresee potentially dangerous situations and how to avoid putting players in harm’s way.

The course is fully interactive, containing quizzes, photos, and tons of videos showing actual footage of youth league practices and games which are lacking in adult supervision, adherence of rules and, in many cases, common sense. There are sections on first aid, treatment of injury, concussion awareness, but mostly the course is designed to get your volunteers to be hyper-aware of everything that could go wrong on the field so that they’ll see accidents coming in time to prevent them from happening. I believe every league should invest in this course and guarantee you’ll be glad you did.

What’s so special about this course? Unlike other courses which only discuss treatment of injuries, this course shows actual video footage of mistakes being made so that viewers fully understand how to prevent them in their own games and practices. Do you believe all of your coaches are fully versed in when players should be wearing helmets, when they should swing bats, come out of dugouts, where they should be in position on the field? You can’t be at every game and practice to ensure there are no gaps in supervision or judgment. This course aims to drive home the importance of safety in a no-nonsense, easy-to-understand format. Students can take the course on their desktop computers, tablets or phones, at their own pace with a total time investment of around an hour.

We’ve made the course extremely affordable so that there are no barriers to providing access to everyone in your organization. And, in the unlikely event you sign up and decide the information wasn’t all that helpful then we’ll just give you your money back. If only one avoidable injury is prevented in your league because of Baseball/Softball Safety, I’m sure anyone reading this will agree it was worth it.

Ready to get started or want to learn more? Go to SAFEBaseball.com to see a preview and to get your league signed-up. We can give you immediate access and get your volunteers thinking SAFETY the rest of the season. And, because the subscription is for a full year, you can use the course to train your fall ball coaches and even new coaches early in 2019.

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

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Make Practice Fun and Meaningful

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

There are two things that kids want from practice. They want to get better, and they want to have fun. There are many coaches who are great at teaching fundamentals, but don’t have much fun doing it. And there are other coaches who run fun practices, but don’t teach much in the way of skills. The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Coaches who make their practices enjoyable while teaching the basics usually get the most of their players.

Don’t get me wrong. Practice isn’t supposed to be just amusement. But think about a job you may have had (or currently have), that was actually kind of fun. Sure, you were working and getting things done, but it was more of a pleasure than a chore. Why can’t we make our practices the same way?

Here’s an example of what I mean: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked by a field and seen a group of kids, standing line, each taking a turn dribbling to a cone and back. If the ball is not controlled properly or a player takes his time moving down and back – no big deal. The coach might tell them to speed it up or keep the ball under control, but other than a verbal correction, there are no consequences for lack of effort or poor performance. Meanwhile, seven kids are always standing still, bored stiff.

Instead, why not divide that same group of kids into two teams and run a relay race down and back? A coach can incorporate a minimum number of touches or require a zig-zag through middle cones to teach ball control, but now, as the two teams come down the stretch in a close race, everyone is involved and excited. And when the drill is over, they want to do it again.

But maybe most importantly, what you’ve also done by conducting the drill in this manner, is to simulate game competition. Now, when one of those players has the chance to put those skills into action during a game, they’ve been there before. They’ve experienced the same pressure in a practice setting and thus, are more likely to perform.

We’ve tried to build this coaching philosophy into CoachDeck. Beyond being a simple pack of 52 good, fundamental drills, each card has a unique, “Make it a Game,” feature that turns an ordinary drill into a fun and exciting competition kids will love.

We believe this is one of the reasons that baseball, basketball and soccer leagues using CoachDeck are reporting that more kids are coming back to play year-after-year. This obviously means more registrations and a healthier bottom line for the league. In this way, leagues using CoachDeck tell us they don’t look at CoachDeck as a luxury, but as an investment that pays dividends.

Which is all nice. But our bottom line is that more kids are playing sports – and sticking with it. If we can have a little to do with that happening, than that makes coming to work a little more fun for us too.

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

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Ten Years – What We’ve Learned

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

The release of today’s issue of OnDeck marks the anniversary, almost to the day, of our CoachDeck launch ten years ago. When that very first, small batch of decks came from the manufacturer we didn’t know if we’d still be sitting here ten years later looking at them in our warehouse. But then we started sending them out to youth leagues around the country and right away we knew we were on to something.

The feedback we received was 100% positive, overwhelmingly so. We immediately got to work on our soccer title, followed by basketball, softball and football. Now, as we head toward a milestone of over four thousand youth leagues using our products we look back on some of the things we’ve learned and changes we’ve seen.

First, the reported demise of youth sports is exaggerated. Not only do statistics show a rebound in participation numbers virtually across the board, all one has to do is take a walk around city park fields on a spring day to see that organizations catering to recreational sports are still alive and well. As long as there are active young children, there are going to be games played among them on weekends.

It is true that the landscape has changed. Travel or competitive sports have seen explosive growth in the past ten years. More and more players, or perhaps their parents, are opting for this avenue of athletic participation. There is much debate about the effect travel sports are having on the kids they are gobbling up, as well as their families. Regardless of the pros and cons, travel sports are not going away anytime soon and it will be interesting to see what the next ten years brings on this front.

We’ve learned that, by and large, volunteer coaches and league administrators are really good people. The comments we’ve received from articles we’ve written through the years, the conversations we’ve had with league board members, shows us again and again that there are a lot of wonderful, self-sacrificing folks who share our core mission which is to see to it that children have a safe and fun environment in which to play the sports they love. We can’t show our appreciation to each individual who has touched us with their passion, kindness and good intentions over the years. So we would like to say a collective “thank-you” to everyone we’ve gotten to know and to those we haven’t, who do their unpaid jobs quietly without the expectation of any reward other than the knowledge that they made a difference.

And we know that these coaches love our product. Since our inception we’ve seen coaching books, manuals and DVD’s that were supposed to be the “next big thing” to help coaches. Online services promising to help parent-volunteers run professional practices with the click of a mouse or a swipe of your screen are now voluminous. So why, through all this, has CoachDeck continually grown and become the number one resource for coaching drills in North America? We believe there are many reasons. First, a deck of cards is fun. Leagues tell us they love to hand them out at preseason meetings. Coaches love cracking the seal and fanning out the cards, looking at the illustrations, imagining themselves recreating them on the field.

Next, less is more. Using our product couldn’t be any easier. If a league tells their coaches to go to a website for drills and practice plans, it is the rare volunteer who gets excited about this prospect. They spend all day on the computer for work. When they finally remember they even have practice today it’s time to get in the car and head to the field. At this point there is only one tool that will allow them to get all the information they need to run a fun and effective practice in a matter of minutes. And unlike other resources, they won’t forget about CoachDeck because it is tangible and always with them.

We’ve had a great time over the past decade and we know, based on the feedback we get and the number of organizations who re-order our product year after year, that we’ve done a lot of good in community youth sports. When those humble first baseball decks came off the truck all those years ago we couldn’t have imagined what this would become, the friends we would make, the stories we’d hear. So here’s to the next ten years and beyond. We’re grateful and proud you’ve trusted us to help your players and parents, and we hope to always be that little coach in your pocket. Happy New Year!

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

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