Have a fantastic Friday

Watching the NHL Playoffs this weekend? Maybe the NBA? Hopefully enjoying the nice spring weather and going outside for a round of golf, some tennis, or perhaps coaching a youth baseball, softball or soccer game using your CoachDeck cards. Whatever the plan, make it fun and make it sporting!

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Dear Coach, I Play On Your Team

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

Dear Coach. I am one of the players on your team. I am too young to understand that you volunteer to be my coach and that you are not an expert. I don’t know what you do away from the field, I only know you as “Coach”. But I thought maybe it would be good if you knew something about me.

I like watching sports on TV, playing video games, riding my skateboard and going places with my family, especially when we can bring our dog, Misty. My favorite foods are pizza and my mom’s mac and cheese.

This is my fourth season playing and I’m probably not the best at it but I think I’m pretty good. Sometimes I go out in the backyard or down to the park and practice with my dad but he’s really busy so not as much as I would like. I practice by myself sometimes too.

The first coach I ever had was really nice and he called everyone, “Buddy”. I liked that and I liked him. I think our team was really good but I can’t really remember. I know that twice he said after the game while we were having our snack that I was “Player of the Game”. I think there were a lot of players of the game that year but I was proud I got named that those times.

The first few times I went to practice that year I was really scared because I had never done it before and the coach was bigger than my dad and had a loud voice. I got used to it though and at the end of the year almost everyone on my team was one of my best friends.

The second year, I had a different coach. He didn’t call everyone Buddy, but it was better because he came up with nicknames for all of us. I was “Alligator”. I don’t really know why but that’s what he called me. When practice was over Coach would always say, “See you later, Alligator.” and it was funny. What I liked about this coach was that he made everything a game. If he thought we should practice running, he made it a race. When we practiced other stuff it was always half of us against the other half. I think our team was pretty good that year too. I am pretty sure we won a lot of games.

The coach I had last year was not my favorite. He was always talking to us about winning, which is fine because I want to win, but it was more the way he did it. He would say things to some of the kids, including me, that made me feel bad. He’d say we were hurting the team and that we didn’t “want it.” enough. I thought I wanted it plenty, though I’m not sure what “it” is. He would always make the team run when he was mad and he was mad a lot. He would yell at us when he got really mad. Sometimes my mom and dad yell at each other at home and I hate it. So when he did it, it reminded me of that.

This coach would tell us to do things we didn’t understand and then act like we were not paying attention when we didn’t do it right. When all-stars were picked last year I wasn’t on it. I thought I should have been but when the coach announced who made it he said they deserved it. So I guess I didn’t.

I told my parents I might not want to play this year but they said that was silly and that of course I was going to play again, so they signed me up. I know this is a new level I’m at now and that we have some good players. I think I will be able to help the team just as much as them. But I’m also afraid of making mistakes.

No matter what happens, I hope you know I’m trying my best.

Thank you, Coach.

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

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.

So What if Everybody Gets a Trophy?

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

Anyone following youth sports has noticed a groundswell of sarcasm and criticism online and in the media about leagues that give out trophies to every kid, just for playing. The general consensus seems to be that this teaches them the poor lesson that they will be rewarded even if they didn’t earn anything. My thought is that we’re focusing on the wrong thing.

I’ve seen at least one viral video of a professional athlete walking with his daughter who has just finished her soccer game and throwing the trophy she was given in the trash. The video was touted as an exemplary piece of parenting. Thousands of views, shares and comments applaud this man, who is obviously physically and mentally stronger than all of us, for showing us how to raise strong children. The phrase “Participation Trophy” has become a pejorative. “Give everyone a ribbon” is a political insult.

As I’m writing this, I wonder what kind of impact this has all had on the trophy industry.

I don’t care if you don’t want to give trophies out to little kids. I don’t happen to think its a big deal. If the children are 5, 6, 7 or 8 years old should we really be focusing on winning and championships? At that age a trophy is not an award for athletic achievement, it’s a memento – a souvenir. My kids got dozens of little trophies for playing various sports when they were young. They liked to put them on their shelf in their room and collect them through the years. They would occasionally point them out to me and ask me if I remembered that team. It was nice. And as for making them weak, all four of my kids went on to play sports collegiality. Two of them are now pros. I don’t think handing them a small faux marble base with a gold plastic statue on top when they were nine did any long-term damage to their psyches.

And yet I will watch tee ball games where a player fields a batted ball, actually throws it to first, the tiny first baseman actually catches it and puts his foot on the base before the runner gets there and….the runner is allowed to stay at first base anyway. The parents are afraid the batter will be devastated if he is the only one who gets called out. What kind of lesson does that teach every player on both teams? Even if the child is upset, can’t we use that as a moment to explain that he did a great job hitting the ball but sometimes when you do your best it still isn’t good enough? That we should respect our opponent and congratulate them on their achievement? That we can use setbacks to motivate us to do better next time? But that would take more work than just letting him stay on base.

One season when I coached pee-wee basketball I spent all my preseason practices teaching my team to do the one thing that was most difficult for them: To dribble and pass the ball so as to move it up the court without traveling. Then, at the first game, the players on the other team are picking up the ball and straight running it down the court, maybe bouncing it one time, and throwing it in the hoop. I asked the referees to actually enforce the rules and call traveling when it occurred. This was not so my team could win, in fact I requested that they let the other players keep the ball. I just wanted the officials to explain to these kids that they had to dribble the ball so they would learn something their coach had obviously not taken the time to teach them. And so that my players would not witness their opponent breaking the rules and gaining an advantage without consequences. So that my team could see the value of the work we did at practice. But this league didn’t think that was important, and no whistles were blown.

Our society seems to want to grab onto the easiest thing it can find…to support, to blame; because that takes much less effort than actually digging in and teaching, learning, doing work, making progress. So the problem with kids and youth sports today is that “everybody gets a trophy”. Doesn’t that strike you as being a little too simple of an explanation?

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

Building Robots

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

It is very easy to search the internet and find articles written about over-competitive coaches who ruined the experience for young players and turned them off a sport. But soon, I am concerned, there will be just as many kids who are disenchanted not by hyper-aggressive coaches, but by too much structure at an early age.

I read this on a soccer club website:

Our coaches are master teachers whose demonstrations include demanding instruction, step-by-step clarification, and playful joking to bring out the most sensitive technical points for children to grasp and imitate. They have a great understanding cognitive, psychosocial, and motor development of youth, knowledge about components of physical fitness and appropriate training principles, knowledge of sport and physical activities including skills, rules, officiating techniques for a variety of activities.

A description of their elite, travel program preparing players for playing in college? No, this was in their self-described “Rec (Beginners)” division for five and six year-olds

There seems to be this gripping fear in the United States soccer community that the reason our National Team doesn’t compete with the rest of the world is that we’re not properly training our children from an early age. Everywhere I look I see pressure coming from various national organizations for coaches, even those of the volunteer variety to run fully scripted practices with “progressions” that are planned well in advance.

Yet we all know that some of the best soccer players in the world grew up kicking a homemade ball on the street with friends from morning until night. They had no regimented or professional coaching until they were well into their teens. They weren’t “constructed.” They just loved to play and the grown-ups stayed out of their way.

If a six year-old has the potential to be a National Team player, A) you don’t know it when he’s six and B) no “superior” coaching is going to be required at that age to get him there. However, there is a good chance that if he’s subjected to “demanding instruction” and incredibly “structured” practice plans, that he might someday opt to be a great video game player instead, where there are no forced agendas.

And this, “the earlier we can begin formal training the better” attitude isn’t just limited to soccer. I received an email from a Little League President which stated, in part;

We are very blessed that we have several former Major Leaguers coaching at the T-Ball Level.”

That’s fine, but what skills can a Major Leaguer teach to five and six year-olds that couldn’t just as effectively be imparted by an average parent? Yet it is likely everyone in that league believes these tykes are getting a big jump start to their baseball careers because of the people teaching them to run to first base after they hit the ball, instead of to third.

The younger the players are, the more the experience should be about having fun making mistakes and the less it should be about correcting those mistakes. Volunteer coaches, without impressive pedigrees, are often better in this role than pros. Kids don’t want to go to practice knowing that every minute will be choreographed and planned, stripped of fun or spontaneity. If they’re on the field with a ball, they’ll naturally get better. It’s when they say they don’t want to play anymore that even the greatest coach in the world can’t help 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

What day is today?

Of course…it’s Friday! Time to get ready for a weekend of youth baseball, softball or soccer. Or basketball, or football or walking, jogging, going to the gym, hiking, biking, anything that gets you active and energized. The weather shouldn’t be an excuse this weekend. And you can rest your sore muscles Sunday afternoon watching the final round of The Masters!

Simple Fundraising Tips for a Grand-Slam Fundraiser!

Below are some excellent tips from our partners at Just Fundraising.

 

Often, a team fundraising manager can put in endless hours of effort organizing, following up, and reporting on their fundraiser, only to have the fundraiser yield dismal financial results. Here are 3 important pointers that will significantly increase your chance of fundraising success.

1- Know WHY you are fundraising and communicate it throughout your fundraiser.

When parents and players know WHY they are running a fundraiser, the results are always better. It gives the fundraiser more purpose, and with purpose comes people’s desire to step-up to the plate and help. Another key reason to communicate your WHY to your participants, is so they can pass on the message to their potential supporters, who will often be more generous when they know WHY they are supporting your team instead of just WHAT they are buying. Wouldn’t you buy more than 1 chocolate bar if you knew the team would be representing your city in their very first out-of-state tournament? Would you be more open to buying a $15 tub of cookie dough, if you knew the city had recently cut the local budget for youth sports, and that the teams’ 4 year-old uniforms needed replacing? When you communicate WHY you are fundraising, you appeal to your supporters’ emotions, and they will naturally want to help you.

2- Establish your precise fundraising goals.

When our sales team asks coaches and group leaders how much they need to raise, 90% of the time, the answer is ‘as much as possible!’ By having a vague or unrealistic target, you’ve already taking the energy out of your fundraiser. Most participants need to know what effort and results are expected of them in order to reach a pre-determined meaningful goal. If not, they simply won’t be as motivated and many will take the easy route, and sell a bare minimum. If your overall goal is to raise $750, the exact amount needed to cover your 2 tournaments this season, and if you have 15 players on your team, then each child needs to bring in a minimum of $50 profit. If you’re selling products (i.e. gourmet popcorn), and making $5 profit per unit sold, then you should set a clear goal for each player to sell a minimum of 10 units each. If you want to encourage more sales, add more prizes over the 10 unit mark, and let your team know before-hand where any extra funds raised will be allocated.

3- Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!

A great location is to business, what great communication is to fundraising.

Prepare them… Before the fundraiser kick-off, it would be a good idea to let parents know of your team’s budgetary shortfalls, and the need to fundraise, so that they’re not surprised when they are asked to fundraise.

Kick-Off … Even if this is just a team fundraiser, it’s important to have an official fundraiser kick-off, with all of the parents and children. It’s the perfect opportunity to create team spirit and to talk about how much greater your season will be thanks to everyone’s expected fundraising efforts. It’s also a great idea to have a few kids do a role-play of the perfect sales pitch in front of all, so they can all see how it’s done!

Parent Letter … Make sure you write up a parent letter specifying the important dates, reminding them why this fundraiser is so important, and noting their expected sales obligations,.

Follow-up … once or twice per week, take the opportunity to highlight the players who are doing a great job selling, to share their selling strategies and to encourage all to keep up their fundraising efforts so they reach their individual and team fundraising targets.

JustFundraising’s How to Start a Fundraiser guide has more in-depth tips and ideas to help teams, schools, and other groups run a successful fundraiser.

Michael Jones is a writer at JustFundraising.com. He has 16 years of experience helping sports teams, schools, church organizations, community groups and charities reach their fundraising objectives