Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Youth Baseball: Cooperstown Dreams Park Tips and Tricks (Part 10 Series Recap)

I have written 10 posts over the last couple of weeks with tips and tricks to make the most of the Cooperstown Dreams Park experience. I have created some quick links below to help you find the info you need. I would also appreciate any comments or additional tips that you have to help the readers of this blog. Thanks

Here is the list to help you find the information you are looking for:

1) Tips for the drive to Cooperstown
2) Tips for lodging, restaurants and golf
3) Tips for registration night and trading pins
4) Tips for the Opening Ceremonies
5) Tips for fans for game days
6) Tips for coaches on how to manage parents during the tournament week
7) Tips for coaches and parents on what to bring to Cooperstown Dreams Park
8) Tips other places to eat
9) Tips to get DreamsParkTV up and running so people who couldn't make the trip can watch the action.
10) Tips from a player to other players on what to bring

Additional tips
11) More Tips for coaches -  from a coach
12) Tips for coaches - special competition rule you need to know

The Main Point

It is a great experience. These tips will help you enjoy it even more. Enjoy your trip and good luck.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Youth Baseball: Cooperstown Dreams Park Tips and Tricks (Part 10)

Tips for players from a player

Baseball Equipment: 

Here a Top 20 list of baseball equipment things you will need for Cooperstown Dreams Park.

1) Fielders Glove(s) - If you play more than one position like catcher or first base make sure you have all of your gloves. Note to kids flying to Cooperstown: I would pull your glove(s) out of your baseball equipment bag and carry it on the plane. If the baggage is lost, you could borrow a bat without much concern, but you would not want to play without your trusty glove.
2) Bat - If you are flying you will not be able to carry your bat on the plan you will need to check it.
3) Cup
4) Sliding pants - bring several pairs
5) White baseball pants - no pin stripes. No side piping. The pants must be all white. Bring at least two pairs.
6) Cleats. (Note if it rains it would be nice to have a back up pair, but not necessary. My cleats were wet the entire week)
7) Batting gloves if you use them.
8) Baseball belt - Red or Blue would look best. 
9) Batting helmet
10) Fielding helmet if your team uses them
11) Catching gear - chest protector
12) Catching gear - shin pads
13) Catching gear - helmet
14) Extra pair of shoe laces - mine broke in a game recently (not in Cooperstown).
15) Eye black if you use it
16) Sunglasses if you use them
17) Sports Necklaces - they say you cannot wear them, but many kids do.
18) Water cooler bottle
19) Case of Bottled Water
20) Your confidence


Here a Top 10 list of entertainment things you will need for Cooperstown Dreams Park. There's lots of down time. You'll need to bring some form of entertainment.

1) IPod - don't forget the charger and headphones.
2) PSP or similar hand held gaming system (with games). Don't forget the charger.
3) Books if you can read with lots of distractions
4) Playing cards 
5) Your team pins
6) Team towel to collect pins on
7) A list of all the teams to reference when you are collecting team pins.
8) A vinyl bag to carry all your pins and the towel. Our team bought vinyl backpack bags with our team logo on it. Side note: You will be amazed how heavy all the collected pins will be.
9) Money for the arcade, concession stands, team trip to Cooperstown and the Cooperstown Dreams Park Store.
10) Cell phone - My cell phone broke right before I was leaving for Cooperstown. There were lots of times that I wanted my cell phone to contact my parents but could not. (From StatsDad: There were lots of times I wanted to contact my son but could not.)

For the Barracks

Here is a Top 25 list of things you will need for Cooperstown Dreams Park barracks. 

Put your name on everything.

1) Sheets for a twin size bed
2) Pillow and Pillow case
3) Sleeping bag
4) A clip on fan
5) An extension cord

Friday, June 25, 2010

Youth Baseball: Catching Every Pitch Counts with Runners On

Catching is a demanding position. At this point in the season with 50 games in the books catchers are sore, bruised and tired.

Game 87

I noticed the other day that my son was starting to feel the effects of catching so many innings. I noticed that he was taking pitches off.

When a runner is on base. The catcher needs to be in position 2, the ready position. The catcher's butt is slightly up, weight on balls of feet and the throwing hand is behind the mitt for a quick transfer.

The other day, it was hot and I could tell my son was tired. When a runner would get on base, he would assume the proper position as seen above. But I noticed that when a runner did not run early in the count my son would assume the kid was not running at all and he would revert to the more comfortable position 1, the relaxed position (below).

As soon as he did this, the runners would take off and steal the base. A sign of a well coached team.

I talked to my son about this after the game. I asked him if he was tired. He said that he was. I said regardless, you cannot take any pitches off when there were runners on. Your team is counting on you. He said that he did not realize he was doing that.

"Well" I said, "this is a good learning experience. Take this knowledge an improve as a catcher and use this knowledge to become a better base runner too. Watch the catcher. Take advantage of the tired or lazy ones. You will find that they give you lots of information about the pitch location and speed and if they are poised to throw quickly or not.

The Main Point

Catchers cannot take any pitches off.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Youth Baseball: Cooperstown Dreams Park Tips and Tricks (Part 9)

Tips for Parents and Grandparents 

If you simply cannot go to Cooperstown Dreams Park to see your son or grandson play then you can watch some of the games on DreamsParkTV (WebTV).

There are 22 fields at Cooperstown Dreams Park. Currently, fields 1-10 have cameras set up directly behind home plate to capture the action. You can watch live or recorded games from the CooperstownDreamsPark.com website. How cool is that.

My dad, who was disappointed that he could not go and see the action, was thrilled to discover that he could watch some of the games live.

Unfortunately, I didn't know about the DreamsParkTV coverage prior to my visit to Cooperstown. I actually found out about this feature 15 minutes before our first game on Monday. I immediately called my mother and father and my wife called her parents too. While it is really easy to do, none of them could figure it out in time to watch the game. It caused them great frustration. It also caused lots of calls back and forth during the game which is not what I really wanted to concentrate on at the time.

Avoid the frustration. Help the fans of your son get set up on DreamsParkTV prior to your trip.

Tips to set up DreamsPark TV

1) Go to CooperstownDreamsPark.com and CLICK ON Click here to enter the site

(Don't judge Cooperstown Dreams Park from their website. I am in the business and I can tell you that this website does a poor job representing the high quality of the park and the experience. From a navigation standpoint it is one of the worst websites I have used but once you know where things are it works.)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Youth Baseball: Cooperstown Dreams Park Tips and Tricks (Part 8)

Tips for Parents

Your kids are getting three meals per day in the barracks, but you need to find places for you other family members to eat.

We grilled out at the lake house a few nights, but we also found some great places to eat.

For lunch or for take out, I would strongly recommend Dimaggio's which is directly across the street from the Cooperstown Dreams Park. They are famous for hot dogs, but I think that their pulled pork sandwich is the best I have ever had. They also have great french fries. My wife got a huge salad with chicken that was also very good.

One day we went to Cooperstown with a large group. We spoke with a women at the information booth and asked her were a large group could meet with lunch. She recommended several places like Sal's Pizza, but that was crowded. We ended up going to the Tunnicliff. This restaurant is in the basement of the Tunnicliff Inn. There is nothing special about the place, but the food was pretty good and the Yuengling beer was cold.

Other places to consider.

Youth Baseball: Cooperstown Dreams Park Tips and Tricks (Part 7)

Tips for coaches

1) The biggest complaint that I heard from the coaches was back pain. The bunks are not comfortable for full grown men and there is no place to sit. There is a lot of down time, take a comfortable sports chair with you so you can take a load off.  Many of the coaches had collapsible sports chairs and sat outside of the heat and smell of the barracks.

2) The water in the dugouts does not taste very good. We went to the Price Chopper to buy bottled water for the team several times during the week. Some teams required each player to bring one case of water. They stacked them up in the corner of the barracks. Water is the only food / drink item that you can bring into the complex. Players can buy sports drinks and soda at the concession stand in the barracks area.

3) Bring a few bottles of Febreze Sport to eliminate sports and other odors. It really works. Make all the boys spray their sleeping bags, linens, towels every morning before you leave the barracks for the games and their sports bags every night after the games.

Tips for Parents

1) Bring an umbrella and put it in the trunk of your car. The Cooperstown Dreams Park store has umbrellas, but if it rains there is a run on the store for ponchos and umbrellas. The store sold out of rain gear by the second day of our tournament week.

2) Bring jackets. Cooperstown Dreams Park in in the mountains of upstate New York. During the early weeks of competition it gets chilly at night and when it's cloudy and rainy.
3) You do not need chairs. Each field has a fan boxes up the right and left field lines. The fan boxes have plenty of green plastic chairs.

4) The fan box has a covered area if you need relief from the sun, but I would recommend that you bring suntan lotion.

4) No food is allowed on the campus. Bring cash for the concession stands. There is a concession stand in each field area. The food is very good and affordable.

5) Make sure you son has a cell phone for the week. My son lost his cell phone prior to the tournament. The players are locked behind a metal fence with lots of security. Only coaches and players are allowed in this area after the initial camper drop off time. We wanted to get reports from our son but could not because he did not have a cell phone. It was somewhat frustrating.

6) Make sure you son has a clip on fan.

The Main Point

Be prepared so that you can enjoy the experience.

Youth Baseball: Cooperstown Dreams Park Tips and Tricks (Part 6)

The Cooperstown Dream Park Tournament is a special experience for the kids, the coaches and the umpires. It is also a memorable experience for the parents. Hopefully, a good experience.

Tip for Coaches

Coaches. I think that it would be a good idea to have a meeting with the parents to set expectations. There are some special rules in the Cooperstown Dreams Park Tournament that the parents should know. One such rule concerns the EH (Extra Hitter).
Extra Hitter (EH) - (coach's discretion: 0, 1 or 2) - If using an extra hitter(s), you may use one or two players. The extra hitter(s) MUST hit in the TENTH and ELEVENTH POSITION and CANNOT enter the game defensively to play a position. Only one (1) player may occupy each EH position per game. You may remove your EH(s) for the duration of the game at any time, without penalty. You must notify the plate umpire prior to removal. Extra Hitters must be announced prior to the start of the game; no mid-game entry is permitted.
Our coach made it known to the team that every kid would play EH at least once during the tournament and would sit out one of the six pool play games. My son told me this prior to the first game so I knew what to expect. The unexpected fuels emotions of parents.

Tip for Parents

This is a memorable experience. If your son is batting last when he usually bats up in the order do not be alarmed. Try to contain your emotions in the stands so that you are not the one who is remembered.

The Main Point

Coaches should set expectations with the kids and the parents. Parents don't be the reason that the experience is memorable.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Youth Baseball: Challenging the Official Scorer - No hitter or Not.

In the second game of the Cooperstown Dreams Park tournament, the pitcher for our team pitched a no-hitter. We were the home team, so I was the official scorer for the game.

Game 79

In the 4th inning, our pitcher walked a batter then gave up what looked like a hit when an Illinois player ripped a line drive to left field. The left fielder charged it and quickly threw the ball to second base. The base runner was forced out nullifying the hit.

Crazy Youth Parents Series

After the game, I was telling the parents that our pitcher threw a no-hitter. To my surprise, I was immediately challenged on this by a family friend fan who also keeps a score book. She keeps the book to keep herself in the game and to provide a keepsake for her friend's son.

She claimed that there was hit. I asked her if she was referring to the line drive to the outfield that resulted in a force at second. She said yes. I informed her that that was recorded as a fielders choice. She argued that the fielder had no choice. I agreed but the batter essentially produced an out so it is not considered a hit.

She actually got frustrated with me.

She is right that it does not fit the definition of a fielder's choice, but it does not fit the definition of a hit either. Official scorers call this a Fielder's Choice because there is no other term to use for this situation.

From the Baseball Official Rules on MLB.com

Under Rule 10.05 (b) The official scorer shall not credit a base hit when a:

(1) runner is forced out by a batted ball, or would have been forced out except for
a fielding error;

The Main Point

Travel youth baseball tournaments produce lots of drama.  Regardless of the motive, before you challenge the official scorer, know the rules.

Youth Baseball: Cooperstown Dreams Park Tips and Tricks (Part 5)

Let the games begin.

The fields at Cooperstown Dreams Park are amazing. It rained and rained all day Saturday forcing the postponement of the Opening Ceremonies and the skills events until Sunday am. On Sunday, the fields were immaculate despite 2+ inches of rain on Saturday. The fields drain very well and the Cooperstown Dreams Park ground crew work very hard to get all 22 fields ready for play. We heard that the Jun 5th tournament week had heavy rains every day, but every inning of every game was played. Some of those games were played at 3am.

Game 78

The frustration about the parking and the rain delays was behind us as our team took the field. As the kids took the field you could feel the magic of Cooperstown Dreams Park. Win or lose you just knew that it was going to be a great experience.

During my son's first at bat, he hit a home run over the fence. He did not see his first home run several weeks ago, because he was hustling, but he saw this one. He was so excited that he tripped over first base.

There is nothing more magical than a team celebration at home plate after a home run.

Prior to the game, I was in the gift shop looking at the tee shirts with "I hit a home run at Cooperstown Dreams Park" and "My son hit a home run at Cooperstown Dreams Park" and "My brother hit a home run at Cooperstown Dreams Park" and "My grandson hit a home run at Cooperstown Dreams Park"

I was hoping that I would be able to buy them all. After the game I did.

Game Watching Tip

You do not need chairs. Each mini-stadium has a fan area with plastic chairs. Bring an umbrella and a jacket. Lot so people were unprepared for the cool weather and rain. Finally, bring an SLR camera with a telephoto lens. We have a 5 year old Nikon D70s. We set it to the sports mode and multiple exposures and just hold down the button when the action is happening. We delete most of the pictures, but we always seem to capture pure baseball moments like the ones above.

The Main Point

If you are trying to decide whether you should go to Cooperstown Dreams Park or not. I would suggest that you do. It is a very memorable experience. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Youth Baseball: Cooperstown Dreams Park Tips and Tricks (Part 4)

The parent orientation, opening ceremonies and the skills competition are on Saturday at 4:30 if the weather cooperates. I played golf with three other dads on Saturday morning and planned to go to the park at 4:15. We made it to the park in plenty of time to see the opening ceremonies but we had to park in lot C-9, just about the furthest point from the Little Majors Stadium where the festivities are held. The distance away from the stadium was not the issue. The main problem is that Lot C-9 put is at the end of the line to get out of the park when the festivities were over. It took us over 1 hour to get out of the park. We had been trapped in that parking lot for a total of 4 hours over the course of the first two days. Ugh.

The Opening Ceremonies were entertaining. The founder of the Park gives an uplifting speech and you get to see you son for the first time when each team is announced and paraded around the stadium.

I have to admit, I had some tears in my eyes when John Fogerty's Centerfield was played. That is the song we played over and over as my son was in the hospital following major heart surgery when he was 4 days old.

We then watched the skills competition. There are 4 events.

1. Around the horn plus - a timed event. Each team puts 9 players on the field and they need to throw the ball around the horn, the outfield and then home.
2. King of Swat - A home run contest. (One kid is selected from each team.)

Youth Baseball: Cooperstown Dreams Park Tips and Tricks (Part 3)

We checked our son into the park at 7:00 pm on Friday night. Unknowing that that was the worst possible time to check in.

We stopped to get my son a quick bit to eat prior to the registration because we did not know what kind of food options would be available on the first night. Lucky we did. The Dreams Park people do a lot things right, but managing the check in process and the flow of traffic in and out of the park is not one of them.

There is only one way in and out for safety reasons, but this makes for a traffic nightmare at times. 

We arrived at 7:00 and then sat in a parking lot for 3 hours. This is a great time for the players to trade pins with their competitors, but it is a long and boring period of time for the siblings.

Crazy Youth Parent Series

As you enter the park you are herded into one of ten rows of cars. The staff will release each row as room in the barracks area allows. We arrived at 7pm and were put into row 10. From our car, we could see each row be released. Once a row was released it was immediately filled again. When row nine was released we headed for our cars. After about 2 hours we got the green light. As we were passing row one, a parent mom jumped out and stopped the car in front of us and waved row one to proceed. Four cars from row one cut in line before the row 10 people who had waited 2 hours realized what was happening and forced pass the crazy mom. Some choice words were said to the mom from the car in front of us. She replied that row one had been waiting 30 minutes. She obviously did not realize how the queue worked. The additional four cars meant that our car missed our window to get into the barracks area. That cost us an additional 45 minutes. I secretly hope that this women gets hit with a foul ball.

Registration Tip

Early Check in Friday Night or Regular Check in Saturday. You have two choices.

Youth Baseball: Cooperstown Dreams Park Tips and Tricks (Part 2)

We drove the remaining seven hours in our Honda Odyssey making three stops. One stop at a Subway to eat fresh, one stop to get drinks and gas and a 10 minute bathroom break at a rest stop. It was at this last stop that we saw this sign that just makes you wonder.

Lodging Tip

We rented a house on Goodyear Lake which is about 10 miles or so south of the Cooperstown Dreams Park. The house we rented is called Blue Spruce. This is a great house to rent if you are renting with another family as we did, or if you have a large contingent of youth baseball family fans with you.

The house has four bedrooms and two family rooms. If you are sharing with another family, one family could stay upstairs and the other down stairs. We decided to put the kids upstairs and the adults downstairs so we could put the kids to bed at a decent time.

At night, there is not a whole lot for kids to do, so a video game console is a must. We made the family room with the foosball table a kids hang out video game room.  The kitchen area is spacious and can handle large groups. We had a nice cookout (grill provided) and were able to accommodate our families and a few guests with no problem.

The house has a hot tub which is nice. We sat in the hot tub looking up at an unbelievable amount of stars while drinking Yuengling beer, my favorite. The house has a nice landing area on the lake from which to fish. FYI - NY state is cash poor so we heard that they strictly enforce fishing licenses. There are two kayaks in the garage to used.

Here is a list of the other homes rented by the family members of our players. Several of the parties rented on the North and South Lake Shore Drive on Goodyear Lake all within walking distance of each other. That made for some spontaneous parties and good times.

Wagon Wheel Cottage    252 & 254 Lake Shore Dr. Maryland, NY 12116 - Tiny house on Goodyear lake directly across the street from Blue Spuce, the house we stayed in. If Blue Spruce is not big enough for your party rent this house too. I believe it was only $600 per week. This house is not have direct access to the lake.

Here are 5 Other Houses to Consider

Lakefront Cottage 181 Lakeshore Drive North Maryland, NY - I did not hear much about this house, but it is on Goodyear Lake.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Youth Baseball: Cooperstown Dreams Park Tips and Tricks (Part 1)

My son's baseball team won a tournament last year that earned them an invitation to Cooperstown Dreams park. My son will be competing against 98 other teams from all over the country. The tournament runs from June 13th to June 17th.

We drove about 700 miles from Ohio. It was a beautiful drive through the mountains. We left at 10pm on Thursday night and drove part of the way.

We did not leave until 10pm because my daughter CC played in her first summer league basketball game. We contemplated skipping the game to get an earlier jump on the trip, but she was already sacrificing two softball games so we delayed our trip. We are so glad that we did.

Game 78

CC played point guard for her new team. The team had neither played nor practiced together so we were not sure what the result would be. CC's team was playing a team that has been together since first grade and were suppose to be quite good. CC's team got down 10 to 0 in the first 4 minutes of play and it looked like it was going to be a blow out. Eventually, CC's team caught fire and actually scored 21 straight points. CC controlled the game from the point and scored 6 points. CC's team lost with on a layout with 25 seconds left. It was exciting and well worth it.

We drove 4 hours north after the basketball game. At 2 am in the morning. We pulled into a La Quinta just south of Cleveland. I have never stayed at a La Quinta before. We got a 2 room (2 queens and a pullout full) and 2 bathrooms for $89 plus taxes. What a great deal for a family of five. I will be looking for La Quinta on our road trips in the future.


My wife had packed a separate bag with all of our toiletries and extra cloths for all of use so we did not have to unpack the entire car at 2 am. This was very helpful

The Main Point

Sports trips are a family event. Siblings of the participating athlete make sacrifices. My older son is away from his girlfriend for a week and my daughter is missing 2 softball games. My wife and I will make sure that we do things that our other two kids will enjoy and remember. We know that our son will have a baseball memory for a lifetime.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Youth Softball: That is so Bush

Crazy Youth Parents Series

At the end of the prepubescent girls softball game last night, one of the dad fans supporting our team yelled out the idiom, "That's so bush league" in a joking manner.  He said it with a smile on his face and he ONLY said it loud enough for the parents of our team to hear. Although the comment was sparked by the actions of the opposing coach, the opposing coach did not hear the comment as intended.

The Situation

My 9 year old daughter, CC, plays in a softball league with rules that keep the baserunners from advancing willy nilly.  Runners are restricted from advancing home on pass balls and wild pitches. They are even restricted from taking extra bases on overthrows from the catcher trying to throw out a base stealer. 

On the rare occasion when a ball is put into play with a hit, baserunners can advance at will but there is an unwritten rule that most coaches follow that restrict base runners from running to force extra throws and therefore errors. As such, coaches typically do not allow runners to advance extra bases on overthrow errors. This silent code keeps the game in check. Umpires, however, will automatically advance runners one base on overthrows that go out of bounds.

Game 77 

Last night, in the bottom of the last inning with two outs and the game knotted at 6, the third base coach from the opposing team encouraged his base runner to score the winning run from first base on an overthrow. It was not illegal, but it violated the unwritten code of ethics and was therefore deemed bush. Hence the comment said in jest.

One of the moms from our team did not know what bush league meant and I could tell that she was appalled. I can only assume that she immediately jumped to the slang definition of bush (female pubic hair) and thought it was a derogatory comment about woman's sports.

I quickly informed her that bush-league is a baseball term from the early 1900's that means amateurish, unsophisticated or unprofessional. I gave the example that a bush-league pitcher is a second rate player. I could see the relief on her face.

According to the Eytmology Online Dictionary, The term "bush" refers to the country or land away from the city. Major League teams played in big cities and minor league teams play in the country so the term was applied to baseball. The term was not a put down in the beginning, but since minor leaguers are not as polished as major leaguers the idiom eventually became a put down to mean amateurish or unprofessional.

The Main Point

Coaches you can play to win, but follow all the written and unwritten rules while you are coaching else you will be called bush.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Youth Baseball: Wanted a MLB Pitcher to Wear a Helmet on the Mound

I have written several posts regarding head injuries to pitchers and in each post I have strongly advised parents to insist on protective head gear for their young pitchers.

According to insurance statistics, on average one baseball player out of 50,000 suffers a significant injury to head or face. Here is a link to a must read article on Yahoo.com, called Pitcher head injuries to trigger cry for protection, which explores head injuries of baseball pitchers and use of protective head gear. It suggests that a movement has been started and manufactures of protective equipment are trying to develop products that will gain acceptance.

What the movement needs is a Major League Baseball pitcher to don a helmet on the mound. Youth baseball, HS and College pitchers know that protective helmets will help protect them, but they will not wear them because they look dorky.

The Yahoo.com article suggests that MLB players wearing protective head gear is unthinkable
Doing so is unthinkable in the pro ranks but is slowly gaining acceptance at the grass-roots level. 
Why is it unthinkable? Troy Tulowitzki is growing a mullet to raise money for a Children's Hospital and Special Olympics. What is more uncool, a mullet on a MLB All Star shortstop or a protective helmet on a pitcher?

The Main Point 

We need a successful MLB player with some name recognition to don a helmet on the mound and make a statement to all little league players that safety is paramount.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Youth Baseball: Not a Perfect Game, but a Perfect Teaching Moment

Armando Galarraga was a surprise Rookie of the Year candidate in 2008 posting a 13-7 record with a 3.73 ERA. His career started out just perfectly.

Galarraga's star faded after a disappointing 2009 sophomore campaign, when Galarraga fell to 6-10 with a 5.64 ERA. In March, Galarraga was relegated to the Tiger's minors after a disappointing spring training.

Galarraga was recently promoted to the Tiger's starting rotation again. Yesterday, he took the mound and was absolutely perfect. Unfortunately umpire Jim Joyce was not. On what should have been the last play of a perfect game, Jim Joyce wrongly called the 27th hitter safe at first. The perfect game was erased from the record books. Although there have been two perfect games pitched this year, there have only been 20 perfect games in the entire history of Major League Baseball, so Jim Joyce's blown call was historic.

Did Armando Galarraga get upset, yell and cry about the injustice? Did he pick up the first base bag and throw it like the childish Lou Piniella? Did he spit in the face of the umpire like Roberto Alomar? No, he smiled in disbelief and went back to the mound and recorded the final out.

Jim Joyce, who looks like a steal worker, cried as he apologized to Galarraga, to the Tiger fans and to the game he loves, baseball.

Today, the day after the blown call, Jim Joyce took the field and the Tiger fans were gracious. Armando Galarraga took the line-up card to Jim Joyce and shook his hand. Jim had tears in his eyes again. All was forgiven. All was forgotten, expect how Galarraga and Joyce handled the unfortunate situation perfectly.

The Main Point

The non-perfect game was more perfect than a perfect game. It provided the perfect teaching moment for dads, moms and coaches alike. The are ups and downs in baseball as Gallaraga's short career illustrates, but Gallaraga did not take an up moment, winning a game with a 1 hitter, and make it into a down moment. And in the process he gained the respect of baseball fans world wide, more so than if he had pitched a perfect game. His star has never been brighter.

Craig Heimbuch wrote a convincing post on the teaching moment Galarraga gave the baseball world on ManoftheHouse.com

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Youth Soccer: Coaching

In my last post, I discussed the drama surrounding my daughter's select soccer tryouts. A new "paid" coach was assigned to the elite team and some really strong talent showed up to the tryouts. The parents of the incumbent players knew that there were bound to be changes. What we did not expect was a decision by one of the star players to move to another team. This star player is the daughter of the "dad" coach. Therefore the team has a coaching vacancy.

When I found out about the spot, I sent an email to the Director of Coaching for the club. I volunteered for the "dad" team manager / coach position. I had volunteered for the position last year, but the position was already filled.

I have coached my daughter since she was 5 and I really missed coaching her this year. After a year off from coaching, I am ready for the X's and O's, the bus driving, the shoe tying and picking up the tab at the local Whippy Dip.

I ran across a post on Manofthehouse.com called Balancing Coaching that provides insights into volunteer dad coaches. The post explores the over-zealous coach and the coach by default. And it reminded me of all the extra things coaches do. Here is an excerpt.
Also, keep in mind that coaching usually winds up costing a few bucks. Whether it’s a cooler of lemonade, a new pitching rubber or a pair of cleats for the kid who couldn’t afford them, coaches often find themselves investing more than time and energy in their team. And there’s always that huge pizza parlor tab after your team has stomped on the windpipes of the Young’s Florist Daffodils.

The Main Point

I miss coaching. I hope that the new "paid" coach wants and needs my help. I am over zealous about the opportunity to coach the elite team, but I do not have an over zealous coaching style.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Youth Soccer: Select Soccer Tryout Drama

Select soccer for U9 girls can be very competitive. Too competitive if you ask me and I am not talking about the games. I am taking about the competition for a roster spot on the team.

Here's the situation regarding my daughter's team.

CC's team plays in the highest division of the metro area league and in the highest division of tournaments too. They finished in the middle of the league standings and have won several tournaments. The team is not a powerhouse, but they are very good.

There are nine hardworking girls on the team. (U9 girls compete in 6V6 games in this area.) Each girl on the team has strengths and weaknesses, but each player contributes to the team. In a recent tournament, all nine girls scored. There is a ranking of players / talent, but the difference between the 4th best girl and the 9th best girl is small. CC is one of the leading scorers on the team despite playing lots of minutes in goal, so I figured she had a good chance to make the team.

The best part about the team is that all the girls are friends and the parents have become friends too.

Tryouts for the team were held last week even though the season has not ended. The team is scheduled to play in a season ending tournament next weekend. Prior to the tryouts, the coach led the parents to believe that the team would most likely remain intact, but made it clear that the elite team is reserved for the very best players available.

My daughter went to the first tryout date without me. I went to see my son play in a baseball game instead of going to the tryout. I did not think that my daughter would need moral support at the "predetermined" tryout.

When she got home she told me some startling news. 1) the paid coach / trainer she loves was being replaced, 2) the new coach / trainer is running the tryouts and 3) the new coach trainer personally brought four very talent girls to the tryouts. It was very clear to me that nine incumbent players were vying for five slots. Friends became competitors and teammates became opponents. My daughter and I talked about the situation and the options.

I decided to go to the second soccer tryout date and use my knowledge of the process to help my daughter get noticed by the new coach. Read Youth Soccer: Tips and Tricks to Make a Select Soccer Team. I also wanted to meet the new coach and decide if he was the right coach for my daughter. I figured that my daughter has talent so she always has options.

After the tryout, I talked to the trainer / coach and I liked what I was hearing. He is passionate about soccer. He holds several coaching licenses. He has an unbelievable track record of winning, but player development is his objective. I also liked his strategic game plan better than the one that was currently being employed. As I was talking to the trainer after the tryout, CC was juggling a soccer ball in close proximity. The coach noticed. The plan was working.

We followed all the tips and tricks and CC was given an offer. We accepted the position today. My daughter will miss her old trainer and she will miss the teammates who will undoubtably be cut. (The list has not been made official.)

The Main Point

There is always a political undercurrent associated with the highest levels of select sports. You and your kids really have to have the stomach for it and you need to be prepared for anything.  More importantly, you need to prepare your kid for anything.

When I found out about the unexpected competitive situation, I explained to my daughter that there was a chance that she could be cut. I told her that she would have several choices if she was cut from the elite team. 1) She could take a position on the B team with some of her old teammates or 2) tryout for another elite club team.

As I was explaining the situation, she got up from the table and left the room. I was bewildered by this sudden move. A few minutes later, CC called me into our computer room. She had a website up on the screen. She said, "Look Dad, the Lightning have a tryout next week." She is a self driven competitor.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Youth Soccer: Tips and Tricks to Make a Select Soccer Team

Here are some tips and tricks to get your kid noticed during a select soccer tryout.

When my daughter was ready to play select soccer at U9, I used my knowledge of the process to help her get noticed. This is what I did. Perhaps it will help you position your kid for selection on a top team.

Prior to the tryout, I did some homework to figure out what the team had and what they needed. The team that my daughter was trying out for was very, very good. They finished in the middle of the U8 Elite Division and won a major U8 tournament. The team had 10 girls on roster, but the "paid" coach wanted to cut to 9 players. I found out that the team was going to cut the 10th ranked player who struggled at the highest competition level and wanted to upgrade the 9th ranked girl if talent was available. I also found out that 50 girls were expected to compete for the coveted spot.

Well how do you get noticed when there are 50 girls trying out for one position.

Obviously, your kid needs to have skills to compete. He or she will not make a top team by fooling the evaluators. Here is how I helped my highly skilled daughter standout.

1) Get to the tryout early and show off.
The evaluators will likely be setting up the field. Have your kid shoot, do individual moves around you,  juggle etc. This will allow your kid to get a sneak peek look. Showing up early demonstrates commitment and enthusiasm.

2) Wear something that will standout in a crowd. Have your kid wear a neon colored soccer shirt or crazy socks or anything that will be noticeable and unique. My daughter wore the black and white striped jersey of the Italia Serie A team, Siena.

3) If the tryout is conducted over multiple days, make sure your kid wears the same outfit both days (wash it of course). This is especially important if they did well at the first tryout.

4) Stand out with individual moves. Assuming your kid knows how to do individual moves like scissors or a Maradona spin move, he or she should use them during the tryout drills and scrimmages. It's the easiest way to stand out. My daughter did a Maradona spin move in the first 10 minutes of her elite team tryout. Immediately after the move, the head evaluator went up to her to get her name. Within 10 minutes, every evaluator was calling her by her name. The Maradona move is so easy to do, my daughter has been using it in games since she was five. This video shows you how to do it.

5) Take advantage of water breaks to stand out during the tryouts. When a water break is called have your kid get off the field quickly and drink plenty of liquids. After they are fully hydrated, make sure your kid is the first one back on the field. My daughter went to the middle of the field and juggled while others took their time resting. She looked enthusiastic and energetic while others looked tired.

6) Make sure your kid works very hard when the evaluators are looking and conserves energy when they are not. Often there is a main field where the head evaluator spends most of the time and several side fields to keep kids busy. It's important not to waste energy on the side fields if evaluators are not watching. Your child needs the energy to out-hustle everyone on the main evaluation field.

7) Your kid should avoid playing goalie in tryouts unless they are trying out for goalie. The trainer / evaluator will often ask for volunteers to jump into the goal during tryouts. Time in goal for non-goalies is wasted time. Time not being evaluated on field for their strengths. I have noticed that many kids volunteer because they are tired and need a rest. If there is a choice between jumping in goal and sitting out, then they should jump in goal and show as much athleticism as possible.

8) Introduce yourself to the head evaluator after the tryout. Tell the evaluator your name and your kid's name. Point your kid out. Typically tryouts are at the end of the spring season (late May or early June) ask the evaluator to recommend a summer camp. This shows commitment and passion for the game. Many of the evaluator / trainers have their own summer training camps. Let them plug their camp. Give them contact info so that they can send you an email with the info. Sometimes a little thing like this will put a kid over the top.

9) Go to all the tryouts even if they say only one is required. Many teams hold tryouts over several days. If you really want to make a team, I would suggest that you go to all the tryouts. The more looks you can get the better especially if your son or daughter has talent to show off.

The Main Point

Making a select team takes standout skills, the confidence to use those skills while trying out, the energy to showcase the skills, the ability to standout in a crowd and a demonstrated passion of the sport. Good luck.



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