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


What I’d Like to Hear a Coach Say After a Big Game

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

From youth leagues to high school, to college and pro sports, we’ve all heard coaches tell their team after winning a championship game, “Enjoy this moment. You’ll remember it the rest of your lives.” I’ve probably even said it myself. But it recently occurred to me that what I’d really love to hear a coach say is this:

After culminating a memorable season with a championship, how would this be for a message? “This was fantastic. Now, go live the rest of your life in a manner that makes this seem insignificant.”

The “Big Man on Campus” who can’t move on, the former high school star who is always saying, “Remember when?” These are cliches in American culture. Bruce Springsteen even wrote a song about it. So many athletes try to hold on their their “glory days.”

Our society places so much emphasis on athletic accomplishment. From the seemingly hundreds of television channels broadcasting sporting events, some at the high school level, to the pressure parents put on children barely out of diapers already on travel teams, to the crushing weight of college scholarships, one might draw the conclusion that there is nothing more important in life than winning, succeeding, achieving in athletics. We are arguably the world’s most competitive nation.

But with the possible exception of the Senior Tour in golf, it eventually ends for everyone. Some by middle school, most after high school, a lucky few get to play in college or even a few years in the pros, but what then? If we were told all our lives through every message that succeeding in sports is the highest aspiration, where do we go when it’s over?

Maybe instead we can strive to think like Leland Melvin. If you’ve not heard of him, Melvin was a star receiver at Heritage High School in Virginia who attended the University of Richmond on a football scholarship. He finished his career at Richmond as their all-time leader in receptions and was an honorable-mention All-American. He also finished with a degree in Chemistry.

He was drafted by the Detroit Lions but released after he injured his hamstring. He then signed with the Dallas Cowboys. At the same time he enrolled in the University of Virginia’s Materials Science and Engineering Masters program, studying at night after practice. When another serious hamstring injury ended his football career, he applied to NASA, eventually becoming an astronaut and flying two missions aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis.

According to his Wikipedia page his recreational interests include photography, piano, reading, music, cycling, tennis, and snowboarding. Melvin appeared as an elimination challenge guest judge in the 12th episode of Top Chef, with his dogs in the seventh season of The Dog Whisperer, and was the host of Child Genius. He is the president of the Spaceship Earth Grants, a public benefit corporation whose mission is to make space more accessible through human spaceflight.

A few minutes ago many of us would have agreed that if we or our children could play NCAA football, be the school’s all-time leading receiver and All-American, and be drafted into the NFL, that would be a lifetime achievement. But after reading what Leland Melvin went on to do after all of that, does the football part still seem like such a big deal?

If our children grow up knowing that what they can accomplish in science, business, social work, politics, the arts, education or other fields will give them more satisfaction and leave a more significant and lasting legacy than any trophy, travel-ball championship, high school banner or even college scholarship, it doesn’t mean they will not try as hard or get as far in sports. But it may mean they’ll understand that their “glory days” are always in the future, and never in the past.

Brian Gotta is a former professional youth baseball coach and current volunteer Little League coach and 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 He can be reached at

Why do more kids and coaches come back?

Leagues using CoachDeck tell us that not only do more coaches volunteer to return season after season because they felt like they did a more capable job of running practices, but because children better-enjoyed those fun and productive practices, more of them wanted  to come back and play again the next year. If you’re interested in creating the healthiest and most dynamic league experience possible for your coaches and players, CoachDeck can help!

Best Batting Stance: Comparing Open, Square and Closed Batting Stance

By Doug Bernier

Watching a baseball game, you’ll likely see 18 different batting stances. You will see some hitters stand tall, some squat low, and some very wide. But regardless of the vast variety of quirks, you will find that all hitters stances fall into one of these three categories: (1) Open (2) square, or (3) closed. This article describes the different batting stances, including the advantages and disadvantages of each, so you can choose the best batting stance for you.

This issue is very much an individual comfort thing, especially when dealing with how upright you stand or how low you squat.

What are the differences between square, open and closed batting stances?

A certain stance may help your hands or your swing work a little better than another. That is something you need to play with and feel comfortable with.

In this section I will talk about the open, closed, and square batting stances, including what the advantages and disadvantages are of each one.

Square Batting Stance

This is the most common stance hitters use in the batters box, and some would argue it’s the best batting stance. Beginners should start with this one.

This is where all good hitters want to be at contact, so if you can start here it makes your stride and swing less complicated.

  • A square stance is where both feet are in line with the pitcher and parallel with the edge the batter’s box.
  • Your stride just needs to go straight toward the pitcher.
  • From this setup you should be in an optimal position to hit any pitch.
  • Your upper body is already in the correct position to attack the baseball.
  • It should be easy to see the pitcher with both eyes.

Open Batting Stance

This one is second most common, and is usually from a result of having some problems with the square stance. Most people go to this setup because they were having a little trouble seeing the ball well, they like to get on the plate and pull the baseball, or they used to step in the bucket a little when they were square.

  • An open hitting stance is when your front foot is further from home plate than your back foot. You are open to the pitcher.
  • Standing open to the pitcher will allow you to turn your head a little more to the pitcher so you will be able to see the ball better with both eyes.
  • When open, you need to get back to square to hit the ball, so your front foot will step toward home plate eliminating the tendency to step away from the plate if you start square.
  • This is a problem that some hitters have especially when a right handed hitter is facing a right handed pitcher and a left handed hitter is facing a left handed pitcher.
  • Some people think to eliminate the problem, you should close your feet off, but that will make your stepping in the bucket more pronounced and you will end up in the same spot with your feet.
  • Getting your feet back square to hit the baseball allows you a better chance to hit any pitch in any location that comes your way.
  • Some hitters use this stance because they are more successful at pulling the baseball.
  • Getting a little closer to the plate will take away the outside part of the plate and make it closer to them. Then they can look to their strength which is to pull the baseball.
  • Sometimes these hitters sell out to pulling the baseball and don’t get quite back to square, that is why they have to get closer to the plate then most hitters.

Closed Batting Stance

This stance is not used as much as it was back in the 80’s and early 90’s. It is used mostly for selling out on a approach of looking for the ball the other way and hitting it that way. It can create some problems with getting to an inside pitch.

Your upper body is already closed off and your bat has to go a little further to get to an inside pitch because it has to get around your body. Most people go to this stance because they are having trouble handling the pitch away and hitting the ball the other way.

  • A closed batting stance is when your front foot is closer to the plate than your back foot – making you closed to the pitcher.
  • Being closed will make seeing the baseball a little more difficult since your back is turned a little toward the pitcher.
  • From here, you would like to get to square but if your front foot slides back from the plate then you have momentum starting to spin away from the pitcher. This makes it tough to stay square through the baseball.
  • If you keep your feet closed at contact, you will be able to handle the pitches away much better and hit the ball with more success the other way.
  • On the other hand, if you keep your feet closed at contact, it makes your path to an inside pitch very long and tough to get to consistently.

All baseball batting stances have pros and cons and should be used to fit the type of hitter and the swing that you have. Pay attention to problems that you may have at the plate and make adjustments to make your swing more efficient.

Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 13 years. Most recently, Doug signed with the Minnesota Twins in 2013, where he logged time at every infield position except 1st base in 33 Major League games. Currently Doug is with the Twins’ AAA team in Rochester, NY 

May, 2016 OnDeck Newsletter is out!

Check out the May, 2016 OnDeck Newsletter with great articles about promoting sportsmanship, educating volunteer coaches, making baseball and softball more interesting and teaching soccer players the right shot at the right time. Get your copy for either baseball/softball, soccer, or both here!

Running a great youth practice

Whether it be baseball, softball, soccer, basketball or any other sport, there are a few keys to running a great practice with your youth team, regardless of their age. The first, most important aspect is making it fun. This doesn’t mean you just mess around all practice, but nearly any serious drill can be made into a fun and exciting game that kids love. Check out to see how we turn ordinary drills into competitions that also simulate gameday intensity.

Coach, or Bully?

The girls field hockey coach at my daughter’s high school recently resigned amid allegations of bullying. She was last year’s city Coach of the Year and won a Division One City Championship for a school that has never had one in any sport. Was she a bully who cared about winning at all cost? Or a tough coach who demanded 100% commitment from her players?

Society’s focus on bullying is at an all-time high, and for good reason. No child should be subjected to torture or abuse a the hands of someone bigger, stronger, or in a position of power. But what constitutes “bullying” and what passes for “tough coaching”? Where is the line? And is that line blurry, subject to interpretation?

The coach in question (I’ll call her Jessica) is also the school’s girls lacrosse coach, a position she continues to hold. When she stepped down she did so with the stipulation that she was not admitting guilt to any of the allegations. She had full support of the school administration and the School District. My daughter does not play either field hockey or lacrosse, so I have to disclose that I have never actually seen this woman on the sidelines. However she attends all of my daughter’s high school soccer games as a fan and supporter. She’s young, pretty, and about 5’4”, so not at all physically intimidating.

For three seasons my daughter’s high school soccer coaches have let players get away with, what I believe is, way too much. Girls would go skiing with their parents over spring break and miss games, (games against our rival school!) and there would be no consequences. Girls would not feel like practicing, invent excuses, but then be allowed to play in the next game. Meanwhile, we heard that Jessica told her teams up front that they better not even think about going out of town for spring break, concerts, etc. if they want to play for the team. Many times the comment has been made around our dinner table that we wished she was coaching our soccer team.

But, apparently about nine parents did not like her. They complained to the school administration. The Athletic Director rightly, in my opinion, backed the coach. So, not getting satisfaction, these parents invaded a School District meeting and levied allegations. Among them were that she “belittled” their girls, and sapped them of their love of the sport and will to play. Comments that were attributed to here were, “You don’t fit in on this team,” and “You’re not good enough.” Jessica denied making those comments, but even if she had, does that make her a bully?

Without intending to prejudice the reader, I should note that this high school is not known for its athletics. It is an academy, very focused on arts and academics. Many kids play varsity sports here who would not make a more competitive school’s team. And it is a very affluent high school. Your jaw would drop at the cars parked in the student lots. My guess is that many of these kids and parents are used to getting their way.

When the article came out about the accusations in the paper, I took the coach’s side in the online comments section. I got into it with a few of the disgruntled parents, asking if they’d gone to every practice and witnessed any “abuse” first-hand. They hadn’t. They’d gotten the story from their daughters. “But why would they lie?” they asked. I know many parents and players also came to Jessica’s defense saying that she was the best coach they’d ever had. The disgruntled parents rationalized this support by claiming that those girls were given preferential treatment because they played on her club team. It sounded to me like maybe those girls were also the ones who took the sport more seriously and didn’t look at it as something to do recreationally. I was told by one of the parents who supported Jessica that the anger was all about playing time. That when Jessica brought up some girls from JV and benched players who she didn’t think were giving their all, it boiled over.

Here was the point I tried to make to the furious parents. When does this parental involvement end? Five years from now, when your daughter is in the workplace and has a jerk for a boss are you going to storm into the CEO’s office and demand he be fired? Situations like this are how young people learn the skills they’ll need to cope later in life when, presumably, mommy and daddy aren’t there to save the day.

If your child isn’t playing, if the coach “doesn’t like” her, before demanding she be fired, maybe look in the mirror first. Ask yourself what you could do to make her “like you” more. Show up for practice a half hour early. Stay a half hour after. Work outside of team activities and improve. Ask the coach what you need to do to earn more playing time and do it. That’s my advice to the players. My advice to the parents? Unless this coach has physically assaulted your daughters, let her coach and let the girls toughen up. This is an opportunity for them to learn a tremendously valuable lesson that will serve them the rest of their lives.

Brian Gotta is a former professional youth baseball coach and current volunteer Little League coach and board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels which can be found at He can be reached at