Monday, March 24, 2014

Switching Sports at Age 15

Can a young athlete change sports at age 15 and find success?

My son's baseball career came to an abrupt end after playing at the highest level from age 9 to 14. A nagging elbow injury limited his ability to throw hard enough to compete on elite teams anymore. He could have moved to a lower level team, but he had lost his love for the game after three years of constant ice and physical therapy.

He decided to concentrate on golf and set his sights on making the high school team as a freshman. It was an ambitious goal for a kid who has spent more time on the baseball diamond than on a golf course, especially considering the school he was going to attend. The school of 800 boys only has two golf teams of 12 golfers (JV and Varsity). The team only took 4 freshman. Nic's score after 4 days of tryouts had him ranked 5th. He was the last freshman cut.

After he was cut, I asked him what sport he was going to play. He was discouraged and did not want to tryout for any sports. I told him that he needed to play at least one sport in high school because it is such an important part of connecting to the school and making friends. I talked him into trying out for the volleyball team. Nic tried to convince me that he could not make the team that wins state championships often. I talked to the coach and the coach told me that while the program is one of the best in the state every year, a good athlete with little experience can still make the freshman team.

While that is what I was hoping to hear, I was a bit surprised because my perspective was baseball and soccer. Boys baseball is a very developed sport and it would be impossible for a player new to the sport to compete with kids who have been playing travel ball for 5 to 7 years. Soccer is also very developed. High school players have been honing their skills on elite club teams since they were 8, so it would be very difficult to jump into soccer and expect to make a team at a big high school with competitive sports programs. The coach explained that boys volleyball is different. While girls volleyball is very developed in our area with 10 to 15 clubs training girls from age 8 on, boys volleyball is not. So a good athlete can pick up the game and compete in a relatively short amount of time.

Nic signed up for a winter volleyball club team to prepare for the tryouts. He came home from the first practice and said he felt like a fool. He knew how to bump, serve and spike, but he did not know the positions. The game was much more complicated than it looks. The coach and the guys on the team gave him the business in a lighthearted way. They called him Kobe because he was the only one wearing basketball shoes. Still, they taught him the game, he improved quickly and he started to love the game.

Nic tried out for the freshman volleyball team at his HS and made it. He did not play a single point until match number 9. Then he got his chance and he did not sit out another point all season. This year, he made the JV team and plays outside hitter and middle back.

Oh yeah, he was also named the team captain.

The Main Point

Keep competing and trying new things. You never know what it is going to lead to.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Youth Sports or Science Fair?

If your young athlete had to choose between competing in a sports tournament or a science fair what would you do?

In December, my daughter, CC, worked on her science fair project. All honors students in her school were required to participate. My daughter decided to study beach erosion after seeing the destruction of the New Jersey beaches from Hurricane Sandy. She replicated a shoreline and ocean floor in a large clear plastic container, simulated waves and then measured the movement of the sand with and without barriers. She also took time out from this project from time to time during the month to try out for a National Level Junior Olympic Volleyball team.

CC won first place in the local science fair and qualified for the District competition on March 15th. She also made the National Level JO team which meant lots of travel. The first thing that we did was check the volleyball schedule to see if the science fair was a conflict. As luck would have it, her volleyball team was schedule to play in a big tournament in St. Louis. We had a decision to make.

Crazy Youth Sports Parent Alert

The St. Louis tournament was scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Friday had two sessions, an am session and a pm session. I was hoping that CC's team was going to get the Friday morning session so that we could drive out on Thursday night, fly back to Cincinnati for the Science Fair competition and then fly back to St. Louis on Saturday evening to be there to play on Sunday. We planned to drive home after the tournament. I found flights that worked but waited to book the flights until the final schedule was announced. As it turned out, our team was placed in the Friday afternoon session and there were no flights that would work. We had a decision to make.

We decided to forgo the volleyball tournament. It was a really easy decision to make. CC has played in 100's of sports tournaments in her 13 years. She remembers some of them vividly but most are a blur of muddled memories. The Science Fair was going to be a memorable event that had the possibility to shape who she will be. She is not going to be a professional volleyball player.

Another girl on the team, decided to decline her invitation to the Science Fair to play volleyball.

The Main Point

Only 5% of athletes get to play sports in college, so academics should always trump sports.

Actually, a student can increase their chances of getting a scholarship if they are good students. DIII coaches often work with the admissions departments to give academic scholarships to lure athletes to play for their school.

As it turned out, we made a good decision, CC won several cash awards and was selected to advance to the Ohio State Science Fair in May. The first thing that I did was check the sports schedule. She does not have a volleyball conflict, but she does have a soccer tournament that weekend. We have a decision to make.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Youth Volleyball: Crazy Weekend, Crazy Money Spent

I had to share my crazy youth sports weekend and the ridiculous amount of money I spent because of it.

Flash back to November, my wife and I planned a five day getaway trip. Five days is about all I can handle being away from the kids. We planned to leave on Sunday, January 26th and return on a Friday, January 30th. We typically plan our getaways on a Sunday to Friday schedule for two reasons: 1) Every night is a school night. This makes it easier for my parents to watch the kids and 2) chances of missing a game are reduced.

As our trip approached, we found out that our daughter had a volleyball tournament in Nashville, Tennessee which is a 5 hour drive from Cincinnati. Our flight home from vacation was supposed to arrive at 11:30 pm on Friday. I did not want to drive 5 hours at night after a long day of traveling from the Caribbean, so I called Delta and the resort and changed our trip to a Saturday to Thursday schedule. 

COST: $300 and 20,000 miles to change the flight. No charge for the room change.

My wife and I had a great time, but we were ready to go home on Thursday to see the kids. Right before we were about to leave the resort, we found out that our flight to Atlanta, our connection city, was cancelled. We were stuck in the tropics for an extra day. We had to buy an extra day at the resort and Delta was not going to reimburse the amount because it was weather related.

 COST: $350 for an additional night at the resort.

We had to scramble and figure out how we were going to get our daughter to Nashville. Option 1 was to get home at 11:30 pm on Friday and drive all night. Option 2 was to get our daughter a ride to Nashville with a teammate or coach and meet our daughter there. 

We were very reluctant to choose option 2 because we do not know the coach or the other families yet. This is the first season that we have been with this club and this was the first tournament. We spoke to our daughter and she thought it would be fun to ride with the coaches, so we chose option 2. 

We called Delta to change our final destination to Nashville instead of Cincinnati. They were willing to do it, but would not put us on the 7pm flight to Nashville because they did not think that we could make the connection in time due to customs. Our option was a 10:30 flight. Instead of waiting 3 hours for a hour long flight, we decided to reserve a rental car in Atlanta and planned to drive the 3.5 hour trip. Well, our flight arrived early into Atlanta and we breezed through customs, so we asked Delta if we could jump on the 7pm Nashville flight. We made it with minutes to spare. We then rented a car in Nashville.

COST: $270 for a three day rental and a drop off fee.

Nashville is in the south, but it was not exactly warm there in January and the forecast called for snow on the Sunday of the tournament. We did not have any warm clothes. We left Cincinnati in a snow storm the day we left for our trip, but we left our coats at home. As a result, we had to buy a few sweatshirts and some long sleeve shirts. 

COST: $170 for warm clothes.

The team gathered for a team dinner at Old Chicago Pizza and Tap Room and we stopped at a grocery store to get tailgating food, paper plates, forks, etc. so the kids could eat quickly between games. 

COST: $130 for food and drinks.

It was all worth it. My daughter's team did really well in the tournament. Too well. They advanced all the way to the finals. The final match went to 3 games. The final game went to 16-14. As a result, we did not leave Nashville until 4:30 EST which was just about the same time a big snow storm was sweeping across Tennessee and Kentucky. After 6 hours of white knuckle driving, we got home, but we missed the Super Bowl. I apparently did not miss anything because it was not a good Superbowl.

I would rather watch my daughter than Payton Manning any day. She was fun to watch. At five foot one, my daughter was the shortest outside hitter in the entire tournament, but she did great because she can jump. She also played middle back.

The Main Point

Total cost $1,150. 

I would do anything to watch my kids play the sports that they love to play. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Youth Soccer: Is Field 6 Cursed?

Field #6 is cursed at the Mead CUSA Cup Invitational in Beavercreek, OH. 

What is wrong with field #6 at the Ankeney soccer complex in Beavercreek. Was it built on an ancient indian burial ground? Something ugly always seems to happen on this field when I stand on the sidelines.

Flash Back

On April 20, 2010, my son played in what I think was the dirtiest game of soccer that I have ever seen. It was a U17 match that became more and more violent as the game progressed because the ref did not call any fouls. 

In the second half, one of our players took out a kid with a hard slide tackle. It was not malicious, but it most definitely a foul. No foul was called. A few minutes later, number 6 from the other team retaliated by taking out one of our players with a malicious foul. Our player did not even have the ball when he was leveled. No foul was called.

Both sets of parents voiced their opinions about the poor officiating. I have to say that the parents had a right to be upset. 

A few minutes later, number 6 flipped our best offensive player over his hip right near the corner flag that stands to the left of the goal by the row of trees. Our player fell and broke his wrist. The ref finally issued a yellow card. The parent of the kid who was injured was not satisfied with a yellow card. He thought that the foul deserved a red card and immediate ejection. The ref and the dad exchanged words. Then the dad decided to eject the ref. He chased after the ref for a beat down. The ref eluded  the dad by zig zagging through a row of trees and to his car. The sideline refs called the game a forfeit and we lost.

Last week

My daughter plays U13, so she plays on full size fields now, and her team was assigned to play on field 6. Before the game, my wife asked me if this was the same field that ugly game was played on years ago. I looked up a saw the row of trees that the ref used to escape the irate dad and concluded that it was.

There was a game in progress on the field. We watched two teams in our division play a very evenly matched game. Late in the game, a player from the team dressed in red, made a perfectly timed break to get behind the defense for a one on one breakaway goal. The sideline judge wrongly raised his flag to call offsides. The head ref called it off. I assume that he had decided that the player ran behind the defense after the long pass was already made which was the right call. An extremely large dad who looked like he never played a game of soccer in his life, screamed at the ref with a powerfully loud voice. He continued on and on, until the entire crowd went quiet when a girl fell awkwardly and broke her arm. It was an ugly compound fracture. Guess where this injury took place. You guess it, near the same corner flag where my son's teammate broke his wrist years before.

After they took the little girl away in a cart, the crowd gave the obligatory round of applause and the game resumed. As soon as the game started back up, the irate dad started in on the ref again. The ref ignored him for a while then issued the team a red card and threw the dad out. He picked up his chair and slowly made his way out as he threatened the ref over and over again.

At the conclusion of that game, our girls took the field knowing that they only needed a tie to win the pool and advance. The game was evenly contested with very few shots made on goal. Late in the first half, one of our bigger players, who falls down when the wind blows, got knocked down in the box. Our team was awarded a penalty kick. It was a terrible call. Our best player buried the ball in the back of the net for a 1-0 gift goal. 

The parents of the other team were boiling after the goal and they took out their frustrations on the ref with a relentless barrage of ugly remarks. The second half, neither team could get anything going so we held on to win the game 1-0. The PK goal turned out to be meaningless because a 0-0 tie would have knocked out the other team anyway, yet one of the dads kept giving the ref an earful after the game. He screamed, "Way to go ref, you determined the result instead of the girls. You are an incompetent #@%#@&"

I am not a confrontational person, but I could not contain myself. I tried to calm the dad and make the dad feel better by telling him that the goal did not matter because our team would have advanced with a 0-0 tie. 

Let's just say he did not appreciate my information and started barking at me. I ignored him, but one of our more confrontational dads who was sitting on a soccer chair in the shade behind me started chirping back at the dad. The irate dad could not see the other dad and thought I was bantering with him. He started coming toward me. I continued to ignore him, but the dad behind me kept chirping. The dad got within 20 yards of me and said, I am going to teach you a lesson tomorrow.

I said, "OK" I was not concerned because this moron still did not realize he is not coming back tomorrow. His daughter's team was eliminated. I did not remind him.

The Main Point

Don't play on field #6 at the Mead Cup without a policeman, your lawyer and a doctor close by. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Youth Basketball: What Makes A Basketball Player a Great Leader

What Makes A Basketball Player a Great Leader And Teammate?

Lamar Hull at Inspirational Basketball is the guest blogger for this post.

Strong leadership on the basketball court is a key component to having a unified, successful, and winning team. Leadership does not always come directly from the coach, but can come from within the team itself. Typically, a leader emerges from the team. Some people are born with natural leadership abilities and others have to strive and work hard to obtain that same quality.

There is a saying in the sports that holds true for all sport’s teams, "there is no I in team". A leader will excel as an individual player, while simultaneously helping to improve the effectiveness of the entire team. The first and most important key to becoming a successful team player is to know the game inside and out. Knowing the actions and talents of your fellow teammates will help the strength of the team to prosper.

Leaders are exceptional team players. Usually, a team player does not often have to be the most talented player to be the leader. Skills and natural talent of course help with leadership, but are not required. The leaders is typically the most vocal and leads by example. A leader needs to know the rules of the game, player's positions, duties and the team’s plays. This is one of the most important aspects of a leader, they have to be unselfish. One reason I exceled at being a leader on the basketball court was because I would never quit, no matter the score. A leader must have confidence in themselves and their team; this is a pedigree for a successful team.

Most importantly, along with those other attributes stated above, a leader must set high standards for their team and themselves in order to provide high quality leadership. Here are a few more attributes of a leader. They are on time to practice and games, usually the first player in the gym and usually the last one to leave, hardworking, and they put their heart and soul into producing great outcomes for their team.

An example of a great leader was Michael Jordan when he played with the Chicago Bulls through the late 1980's and 1990's. During this time he was considered a leader and great player because of the character he portrayed on and off the court. Jordan won the NBA's MVP award five times between 1987 and 1998, held the scoring title seven times from 1987 thru 1993, and then three more times since 1995-1998. Michael could not have won 6 championships without his teammates and in every interview he made sure to mention his teammates in the team’s success.

Michael Jordan showed leadership qualities from a very young age. Michael didn't make it onto his high school team when he first tried out. With his perseverance and dedication to become part of a team, he tried out the next year, and so began his basketball career as a team leader.

Leaders and great teammates are not made. Anyone can be a leader if they dedicate themselves to becoming successful communicators and hard-workers. Stats Dad talks about how to lead with passion. This is definitely a characteristic that a leader should have. It doesn’t take talent to lead with passion, it takes heart!

Author: Lamar Hull is a former basketball player for Davidson College and was a great leader on the court because he put his teammates before himself. Because of Lamar’s leadership he was awarded a professional contract to play in Europe. You can follow Lamar @lamarhull20

The Main Point

There is some great advice in this post, especially for the player who is not the superstar talent on the team. Coaches, fans and teammates appreciate the less talented but scrappy kid who out hustles everyone on the court to get it done.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What do I need to know and do to play basketball in college?

BasketballHQ developed an infographic that will help answer the question - What do I need to know and do to play basketball in college?

The Main Point

It is not easy to get a scholarship or even play at the college level without a scholarship, so it pays to know what it takes. The infographic above gives you a pretty good perspective.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Youth Soccer: Horrible Egotistical Ref

It is so unfortunate when the outcome of a game is determined by questionable refs. It happened 3 times this weekend for my daughter's team. The refereeing in each game got progressively worse.

I am not one to complain about the refs, but I could not contain myself yesterday. I know that they are not professionals. I know that it is not easy to ref a game. I know that they take unnecessary abuse. Still, I needed to say something about the terrible refereeing at a tournament in Dayton, Ohio.

Game One:

Game one featured a disabled young man at center ref. I was happy to see this guy putting himself out there when some in his situation would shelter themselves away. I thought to myself, that no one was going to ridicule this young man. I was wrong. The head coach from the other team was riding him all game long. On one play, the right halfback from the opposing team kicked a long pass to a wide open right winger. The ball was kicked too hard and went out of bounds. The line judge and the ref called for our team to throw it in. The head coach of the other team screamed at the ref. He was explaining that it was their ball. I was shocked, as I was trying to figure out how he could think that at all. None of our players were near the passer nor near the winger to cause a deflection.  The ref made the mistake of approaching the opposing coach. They had a conversation and somehow the coach convinced the ref that it was their ball. The ref changed his call deep in our zone. This particular play did not impact the game, but other wishy washy no calls may have.

Game Two:

The line judge on the coaching side had a spring loaded arm. His flag kept going up non-stop. He called our team off sides 6 times in the first half. Three of the plays were legitimate offside, but three were not even close. An offensive player can move beyond the last defender after the ball is kicked. Our forwards know this and aggressively time their runs to get behind the defender when the ball is kicked. The line judge clearly did not know the rules because he called our girls off as soon as they gained position even though the ball was already in the air. The most painful offsides call came late in a 0-0 game. Our right halfback made a great run with the ball and connected on a hard shot. The goalie made a good save, but deflected it to our striker who buried it into then back of the net. The line judge called the striker offsides. She was not offsides at any point as she tailed the play and she was not involved in the play until the deflection. A player is only offsides if they are a material part of the play. We should have won 1-0.

Game Three:

I had to step in a coach because the head coach was as sick as can be the entire night before the game. As the girls were warming up the game, the ref approached me and introduced himself with a slight Irish accent. I was thrilled to hear the accent thinking that we finally have a ref who knows the game. He was fairly short man had a red beard and a reddish-greyish hair pulled back in a small ponytail. I thought to myself that he looked a bit like a leprechaun. This is going to be good luck.

The game started and within the first two minutes, the ref called a foul on our team, then another and another. In a closely contended game of two very equal teams who have played each other many, many time, we had 5 fouls and the opposing team had none. I yelled out to the ref that the fouls were 5-0 to give him a gentle reminder that he needed to call the game evenly. There were no fouls for 10 minutes. Then foul number 6 came right outside the box. When the whistle was blown, I thanked God, that he finally called one against the girl who was manhandling our player. I was wrong, he called the foul against our player. Our team formed a wall about 10 yards away, but the ref moved them back another 5 yards. He did not walk off the distance. He quickly blew the whistle and the ringer guest player from the other team buried the ball into the corner. It was 1-0. The ref was deciding the game.

Two minutes later, foul number 7 happened in the center of the field about 40 yards away. Again it was a questionable foul. We moved the defense up which forced the offense to move with us. The ringer guest player served up a high looping ball over the players and toward CC. CC had to made a quick decision. Run up and catch the ball in traffic before it bounced or wait on the line in front of a full size goal. She decided to run up a fraction too late. The ball bounced right in front of her and over her head. The score was 2-0. CC should have saved it, but again the ref was deciding the game.

Our girls did not give up. Our smallest player made a nice run into the box. She was met by the guest player, who throw her down like a rag doll. No foul. Our top scorer made a run 1v1 with the goalie, but before she could get a shot off she was tackled from behind. No yellow card, no foul, no penalty kick. "Play on" the ref said.

I was standing far from the girls on the bench talking with the other assistant coach when I made the comment that I think that the refs ponytail is a bit too tight. I only said that comment loud enough for my assistant to hear. I did not realize the line judge was listening in. He turned to me and said, "I think that your hat is too tight you f-ing prick." And he said it loud enough for the girls to hear it. The other assistant want crazy and yelled to the center ref to throw this bum out. He almost got a yellow card as I was trying to calm him down.

The final tally on fouls was 10-0. The final score was 3-0. The opposing team scored all three goals on penalty kick plays. This ref decided the game.

Two other things this egotistical ref did.

1) His whistle broke. So he stopped play and walked over to the side judge to get a replacement. Our assistant coach asked if he was going to add game time. The ref did not reply in words, but his actions said it all. He walked back into position at a snails pace. When he got to his position he waited a few seconds for dramatic effect then blew his new whistle.

2) At the end of the game, he gave a yellow card out to one of our players on a very questionable foul. He took about 2 minutes to book the player. He told the player that she was stupid for causing her team 2 minutes of time. He did not add any time onto the game.

The Main Point

I can deal with bad calls. I can deal with bad refs. I cannot deal with the inflated ego of a bias ref. It is a shame when the ref decides the outcome of a game played by teams that have worked so hard to prepare for a game.

We had 2 ties and a loss and did not advance. We would have advanced to the semi-finals even with the loss in the last game if the offsides goal counted in the second game.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Youth Soccer: Fighting for a Position

My daughter, CC, is in a fight for a starting position for the first time in her soccer career. She has been a standout soccer player since she was 6 years old. Recently, she was selected to the Ohio State Pool ODP team as a goalie after making it through 3 tryout phases. That does not seem to matter as the club season comes to an end.

During her 12 years, she has made every team she has ever tried out for and she always seems to be selected to play key positions. Outside of sports, she has been a star too. Life has been very easy for my little girl.

Has life been too easy? Would CC fold under pressure and quit or fight to overcome adversity when she needs to. I really had no idea, but I am in the process of finding out.

CC has been the starting goalie of her select team for 2 full years now. CC is very small compared to other players who have already matured. She is the smallest goalie in the top regional league in which she competes. The ODP trainers were not concerned about her size when they selected her for the state pool team, but I know that the coach of our team would like CC to play bigger. I read that as code for she would prefer a bigger goalie.

4 weeks ago, CC injured her shoulder in a game. CC thought it was a bruise. She complained about it hurting all week, but continued to practice and play. The pain did not subside, so we decided make an appointment to see an orthopedic doctor. CC did not want to go because she thought that they would shut her down for the last three weeks of the season. We did not want to risk a serious injury so we insisted.

CC was diagnosed with a slight shoulder separation and severe tendonitis. Surprisingly, the doctor told CC that she could continue to play out the remainder of the season if she could take the pain. He said there is no structural damage so the condition will not get any worse. He then told her that it won't get any better either until she rests it for 3 weeks and completes some physical therapy.

The following weekend, CC decided to rest for 2 games so that she could be ready for an important big game against the best team in the city the following Monday. Nothing was going to keep her out of that game, except rain which postponed the contest.

The coach called up the B team goalie, who is a big strong and athletic girl. The new goalie played well in the two games CC rested. After those games, the coach asked the B team goalie to join the team for the rest of the season. The coach wanted a backup just in case CC's shoulder acted up and she admitted to me that she wanted to test the new option out for next year and perhaps carry two goalies. CC was in a battle.

The Main Point

I talked to CC about the situation. I told her that it was actually a good situation. After I said that, she looked at me with a confused look. I told her that life has been too easy so far and it unrealistic to think that you will go through life without challenges. I told her that she had two choices, quit or fight for your position. I know that she has been considering concentrating on Volleyball, so I did not know what she would do. I was not going to force her to play if she did not have the heart for it. She sat in silence for a few minutes and then I asked her what she wanted to do. She said she is not giving up. We talked about what she needed to do to earn the respect of the coach again.

CC started an important game last Sunday. She played very well in the first half and made several key saves. She got some ice for her shoulder and prepared to sit on the bench for the last half, however, the coach sent CC out to start the second half. CC made this key save late in a 0-0 game on Sunday. The coach was pleased with CC. She came up big, she played big.

Kids learn more through adversity then they do through triumph.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Youth Hockey: Unbelievable Fight

You just have to watch it. You will not believe it. The fight between two Russian youth hockey teams (U12) was so big that the two refs could not do anything about it. Where were the coaches during this? The parents behind the glass just watched. No one in the stands seems overly concerned. Perhaps they were as stunned as I was just watching the video. I find this video a bit hard to believe.

The Main Point

How can you blame these kids when their adult role models do this all the time.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Youth Track: Religious Gesture Disqualifies Winning Team

A religious gesture to "God" disqualified a winning relay track team at a Texas high school recently. The track team from Columbus High School (the Mighty Cardinals) won the 4 X 100m relay by 7 meters. The anchor leg runner, Derrick Hayes, made a simple "finger point to the sky". It was an impulsive action from a kid who was raised to thank God. The God gesture was not excessive in any way, yet it disqualified the team. The track officials deemed the gesture as an example of “excessive celebration.” which are against the rules. The track team will now miss out on the chance to compete at State level.

The Main Point

The official would not admit that the religious aspect of the gesture is what caused the disqualification. From all of the accounts I read, the gesture was not excessive at all, so it begs the question of whether the religious aspect was the reason. Who knows what he or she was thinking.

If the religious aspect was the reason than this is just another example of the progressive movement away from God and religion. Ok all you God hating Atheists - make your vacuous comments.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Youth Sports: Hanging up the Spikes to Spike a Volleyball

My son, Nic, was born to play baseball. Or so I thought. He excelled at baseball at a young age.  Age 10 he played on a super elite team. That team went on to be finalist in the CABA World Series and Nic was named to the All Tournament Team. He could hit and he had a great arm. He set his dreams on playing in college and perhaps beyond.

I was amazed at how hard he could throw a baseball at that young age. It seemed unnatural. I guess it was because he broke his elbow at age 11 and his arm was never the same again.

At the end of the U15 season last year, his baseball team broke up. Tryouts for the 2013 season were held immediately after the 2012 season. Nic tried out for several elite teams, teams that were looking for 1 or 2 players to round out their rosters. I talked with many of the coaches. They loved Nic's speed, hitting mechanics, hustle and attitude, but they were concerned about his arm strength. Nic's arm was about dead after the long season and during tryouts. He did not make any elite teams. He was offered spots on lower level teams, but he did not want to do that. He knew his arm was always going to limit him. He decided to hang up the spikes. He felt like a dream died to him.

I convinced Nic to play volleyball, instead of baseball, in high school. I thought that volleyball would be the perfect game for his athletic ability. He will likely be tall, he can jump through the roof and he is very quick and athletic. It is also the perfect game for his temperament. It is sport where mistakes are not recorded. It is also a sport where the fans so close to the action and loud and he loves playing to a crowd.

The Main Point

When one door closes another one always opens. And you can walk through that opened door if you keep your head up.

Nic made his high school freshman team. He sat on the bench for the first 9 games. He was frustrated, but I told him to be patient. I reminded him that he is just learning the game. I told him to work hard in practice and before long he would be starting.

He got his chance in the 10th game. He has not sat out many points since. He loves his new sport.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Youth Basketball: Feel Good Story

My last post was about some poor sportsmanship from a dad. This story about good sportsmanship more than makes up for the poor actions of a mis-guided dad.

In this story, a high school senior with some developmental issues scores a basket at the buzzer and the assist came from an unlikely player.

The Main Point

This blog is about the good, the bad and the ugly. This is the good side of youth sports.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Youth Sports: Stupid Immature Parent

Crazy Youth Sports Parent Alert. You are not going to believe this one.

What do you think about the ACE cheer in girls volleyball?

If you have ever watched girls volleyball you know that, the players on the court form a circle and on girls on the bench stand up in a line and they all do a coordinated cheer after each service ACE. My daughter's team stomps their feet right, left, right three times while they spell out A-C-E. Then they lift their right leg, clap their hands under their leg and then immediately raise their hands upward while pointing their index finger.

I have to admit. The first time I witnessed the ACE cheer, I thought it was unsportsmanlike. I know that if a HS pitcher did a strike out cheer after each strike out, he would get a ball in the earhole during his next at bat. But after, seeing the cheer from almost every team, in every tournament, I now accept it as part of the game. I came to realize that the girls are celebrating an accomplishment, they are not celebrating the other team's failure.

Volleyball ACE Cheer
Last night, my daughter's CYO volleyball team was matched up against an inferior team who had a tremendous amount of trouble digging and passing serves. Our team is loaded with really strong servers who happen to hit the ball very hard and make the ball move side to side unexpectedly, much like a knuckleball in baseball.

In the first game, our girls recorded 13 aces and 13 cheers in a 15-2 rout. The line judge on our team's side of the court was the dad of one of the girls on the opposing team. His blood boiled with each cheer. After about 10 cheers, he had had enough and did his own cheer. He yelled out, "S-T-U-P-I-D Stupid."

What?!? That did not really just happen. What kind of example does that set for his girl, for any of the girls?

My wife, the assistant coach, confronted him immediately. She asked. "You didn't just call 6th grade girls stupid did you?" He gave her a mischievous smirk and said yeah. The head coach jumped up and had a few private words with this jerk. She let him know that they were not happy. My wife and the head coach decided against a request for a new judge because the game was so lopsided.

Later in the night, this jerk was watching one of our games against another team. He sat in the front row just a few feet from our servers. He was cheered several times M-I-S-S Miss. Unbelieveable.

The last game of the night, our team won 15-0 with 14 aces from our first server. The 7th ace, was a rocket that just cleared the net, then dove downward. The serve caught a girl right in the face and bloodied her nose. Our team did not cheer on that serve or any other one after that. There is a time to celebrate and a time to win quietly.

The Main Point

Don't be a jerk, especially at a Christian athletic event, because the dads in the stands who are far away from your antics might not be all knowing, but God is.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Youth Volleyball: 23 Things I learned at my First JO Tournament

My daughter recently gave up AAU basketball to concentrate on soccer and volleyball. So I went to our first Junior Olympic Volleyball Tournament this weekend. This is what I observed.

  1. JO Volleyball tournaments may only be one day events, but they are long and grueling - we arrived at 7am and left at 6pm. 
  2. Teams in a 12 team event are guaranteed 4 matches.
  3. Each game lasted about 20-30 minutes. (Blowout matches might last 40. Closely contested back and forth matches can last 90+ minutes)
  4. The teams warm up for about 30 minutes prior to each match - even if the team is competing in the 5th match of the day. This makes no sense to me. The 11 hour event could have been cut down considerably.
  5. Unlike, basketball or soccer, there is only one set game time. The first game of the day on each court is established then the preceding matches follow immediately after the match prior concludes. Some matches last 40 min and others last 90, so games times cannot be set. 
  6. Girls volleyball uniforms are ridiculously tight.
  7. Sadly, there are a lot of overweight 12 and 13 year old girls.
  8. The players are assigned to officiate the games they are not playing in. (They line judge, keep score and they work as the down ref.)
  9. The up ref (the one on the ladder) is a paid experienced ref.
  10. Considering that most of the officiating is done by the players, I am not sure why volleyball is so much more expensive than basketball and soccer.
  11. The young refs and line judges made a few mistakes, but all in all they did well for 12 year old kids. 
  12. Thankfully, the fans went easy on the young judges. Our parents were warned prior to the season.
  13. The first two games of a three game match are rally scored to 25.
  14. The third game of a three game match is played with standard scoring to 15. (Only the serving team can score.)
  15. You can missed the excitement of a nail biter third game if you think that it goes to 25. In the first match that went to three games, our team came back from a 11-14 deficit to win 16-14. I watched calmly thinking that we needed 9 more points.
  16. Playing time is not distributed equally. My daughter played in about 10.5 of the 12 games. One girl, who really struggles, only played in 5 games. Her parents were pissed.
  17. Volleyball parents are just like soccer, football, softball, baseball and basketball parents. They too complain about the coaches, the refs, the facilities, the length of the events, the playing time, etc.
  18. Spikes are exciting, but I think that back row digs are awesome and seem to get the loudest fan reaction.
  19. Some kids can pay attention on each and every play and some kids are in la la land on most plays. (The rule that a player must hit the ball before it hits the ground is lost on a quite a few of the girls.)
  20. Girls develop at different ages. Some of the 11-12 year old girls looked like they could be in 4th grade (my daughter) and others looked like they were juniors in high school.
  21. Youth sports facility food is terrible. (NO OUTSIDE FOOD PERMITTED)
  22. All the players of a team must stay even after the team is eliminated if a few of the girls are assigned to ref a later game. Our team made it to the final four this weekend. We met a strong team in the semi finals. We, of course, wanted to win, but if we had to lose, then we wanted to lose before the other semi-final loser lost. The last semi-final team to lose had to ref the finals.  Thankfully, we lost 2 minutes before the other semi-final team, so I was able to get home just in time for the kickoff of the Superbowl. The dads from the other losing team and the 2 finalist teams were not as lucky.
  23. The ball always finds the weakest player on the court.
The Main Point

Volleyball is fun to watch if the teams are good and the rallies are long. Volleyball is pure torture if a team is struggling. Our team did pretty well, but 12 games of volleyball over 11 hours is not for the weak.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Youth Soccer: How to Make an ODP team (Part 2)

If you do not think that your kid made a team after tryouts, do you prepare them for it? I did.

My daughter, CC, started the tryout process for the Ohio ODP team (Olympic Development Program) in November.

The process started with fall training / tryouts for the District 1 team. Ohio has three Districts. The initial District tryouts / training took place over two weekends in November (outdoors) and one weekend in December or January (indoors). 

The District 1, November tryouts were held from 9 to 11:45 am, in a town about 30 minutes from our house. 

My daughter, CC, and I showed up about 30 minutes early to sign in and get warmed up. I waited in a long line registration line while CC put her cleats and shin pads on. When I got to the front of the line, the admin volunteer told me that the player needs to sign in herself. She told me that they want self-sufficient, independent players. I retreated to my daughter's location and explained the situation. I was happy that overbearing parents would not be tolerated. It was a signal to me that talent would be the driver of the roster selections and perhaps politics would not be a factor.

CC eventually signed up and received a number to pin to her shirt. I helped her affixed the #161 to the back of her tee-shirt before she ran over to the goalie training / tryout field. 

She approached 24 goalies by my count. I was quickly assessed the competition and quickly noticed that every single one was bigger than CC. CC looked tiny but she has always been the smallest player her teams so it was not a surprise. Still, I began to get a bit concerned because some of the girls were considerably bigger. I turned to another dad and asked if all of these girls were 12 years old. He comforted me when he mentioned that there were 5 groups of girls vying to make 5 teams (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002). I quickly did the math and assumed that about 5 or 6 were in CC's 2000 age grop. CC told me later that, there were 11 goalies in the 2000 class hoping to make the district team and might be more because some teams had club matches that day.

There were 5 goalie trainers to manage the tryout. Each one carried a clipboard to collect notes on a player information chart. The trainers ran drills after drill and did so with intensity and purpose. They evaluated and taught at the same time. The girls worked hard for well over an hour. CC had experience with all of the drills, so she had no problems. I noticed that a few of the girls struggled with the fast pace of the drills. From a technical standpoint, I thought that CC did very well.

The field players went through similar paces on separate fields near by. From time to time, I roamed around to see CC's teammates.  Eventually, the goalies were told to join the field players for their age groups to tend goal for some shooting drills and small sided games. The goalies stood behind the goal and rotated in while the trainers with the clipboards kept watch.

The training schedule was repeated Saturday and Sunday for two weeks in November. During the last 5 minutes of the last November tryout, CC suffered a very severe ankle sprain. It happened so late, that she did not notify the trainers. I wrote about that story in an earlier post. As luck would have it, the next tryout was weeks away. CC wore a boot and was cleared to play again the week of the next tryout in December.

In December, the training / tryout moved indoors to a facility in Columbus, Ohio about 2 hours north from our home town. Both the Saturday and Sunday sessions were a bit shorter than the November sessions, but they were organized and conducted in a similar manner. CC and I drove up and back each day. I enjoyed the time in the car with my girl. CC's ankle was sore, but she hid it well from the trainer / evaluators.

After the final session in December, the coaching staff announced that the roster for the district teams would be selected on January 18th.

On the way home, I ask CC if she thought she did ok. She responded with a confident yes. I thought that she did well, but I was convinced that the coaching staff would overlook a goalie who was so small. I began to prepare CC for the inevitable. She has made every team that she has ever tried out for, so I wanted to prepare her.

The festival team was posted on the Ohio South Soccer website on Friday night at 9pm. On Saturday morning, I opened the website and looked for CC's name. As I expected it was not there. I looked for the names of other players that I knew. To my surprised, I did not recognize a single name. 

Then I realized I was looking at the wrong age group. I clicked on the 2000 team roster and started to see the names that I expected. Then I saw a name I did not expect to see. CC was listed. She had made it past the first phase. She will compete against the other two districts in what Ohio ODP calls the Festival Weekend. 

The Main Point

Do not prepare your kids for the worst before a tryout because that would introduce self-doubt. You can, however, prepare them for the disappointment after the tryout is complete, but expect the best to keep their confidence up. I did all of this except, I did not expect the best. CC surprised me yet again.



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