Sunday, October 31, 2010

Youth Basketball: AAU A Whole New Level

Do you think that your young athlete is one of the best players in his or her age group? She or he might be, but you need to find the best competition to really know. 

We experienced a dose of reality yesterday. 

My daughter, CC, had her first AAU basketball game. CC's new team was invited to play in a pre-season game against another local AAU team. Although, CC's team has not yet started practice, the coach thought it would be a good idea to get a sneak-peek at the kind of team she has this year. Last year, the team dominated the 3rd grade level, so they decided to play up in the 5th grade division this year. In 3rd grade, my daughter was leading her recreational basketball team to the town championship. That was last March and that seems so long ago.

My daughter was nervous in the morning. She did not really want to go. This is not unusual for her as she enters a new situation with teammates she does not yet know, but we knew once she stepped on the court she would be fine. 

We got to the facility early because my daughter wanted to watch the B team play. We agreed because we thought it would help her understand that she is good enough to play AAU ball. 

We watched and noticed that the game was being played at a much higher level than the games my daughter typically plays. The level was higher because all the players on the court could play as opposed to just two or three on any given team. We realized that CC could compete. My daughter relaxed and enjoyed the game.

As we watched the B team game, the A team girls from both teams started showing up. We noticed that they were much taller than the B team. My daughter stands as at 4 foot 7 inches tall (slightly above the 50th percentile for a 10 year old girl). There were 4 girls on the two A teams who were off the charts tall. My daughter plays at the highest level of soccer in the area and while she is not the biggest girl on the field, she is far from the smallest, so this was not expected.

The visual evidence

Normal Sized Competitor

Off the Charts Tall Competitors

My daughter admitted to being a bit intimidated while she sat on the bench and awaited her time to play. I was proud of her. She did not back down even though she was getting knocked around. She did not play with her normal confidence. She was more than willing to immediately give up the ball to a teammate when she got it. On her school team, she typcially controls the ball and shoots or distributes with confidence. 

The Main Point

My daughter wanted to tryout for this top AAU team. She made it. During this first game, she looked over-matched. This can go two ways; 1) She can get better and better by playing with and against the best competition in the area or 2) she can lose her confidence and never want to play again. My wife and I will manage this very carefully.

Game 159

CC's AAU team lost big. 36-6. CC had a rebound and a nice jump shot. She also got knocked around and had two turnovers.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Youth Sports: How Do Single Parents Do It? (Two)

Several weeks ago, my wife was away on a women's religious retreat so I was solo and managed a very hectic schedule that included

Friday - Golf match and basketball tryout for my son and soccer practice for my daughter.
Saturday - Basketball game, soccer game and select basketball tryouts for my daughter and basketball tryouts and baseball game for my son.
Sunday - Basketball game and soccer game for my daughter. My son, thankfully, had the day off.

Ten athletic events.

Crazy Youth Parents Series

It was pay back time this past weekend because I was away. Here is the schedule that my wife had to manage.

Friday - Soccer practice for my daughter
Saturday - Two soccer tournament games in Dayton and one basketball game in Cincinnati for my daughter, a basketball practice for my son. My wife and daughter also went to a parent meeting for my daughter's new AAU basketball team. 
Sunday - Two soccer tournament games in Dayton and one basketball game and volleyball tryouts in Cincinnati for my daughter. My daughter did not go to the volleyball tryouts due to the soccer tournament, but my wife is the volleyball coach so she needed to go to evaluate players. 

Ten athletic events.

The Main Point

My wife now agrees that being a single parent of athletes is nearly impossible. 

Games 153 - 157

My wife had a great weekend. She saw a four wins in soccer as my daughter's team won the Haunted Classic. She saw a unexpected loss in a basketball tournament semi-final. This actually worked out well, because my daughter would have missed the championship game of the basketball tournament to play in the soccer tournament. My wife scrambled to get to a regular season basketball game after my daughter's team on the soccer tournament and had to do the trophy ceremony and championship team picture. My daughter, CC, missed the first quarter, but jumped right in when she arrived and had a good game. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Youth Football: Special Moment for a Kid with Cerebral Palsy

This blog is dedicated to the good, the bad and the ugly of youth sports. There are also special moments that you see on rare occasions. I guess that's what makes them special.

I recently wrote a post about the ref who put a down syndrome 4th grade girl on the free throw line for a non-shooting foul that she herself committed against her opponent. It was a bad call for a good reason. She did not make either of the two shots, but it was certainly a special moment for her and all who witnessed it.

Another special moment happened recently on a football field in Manila, Arkansas. Dylan Galloway, a senior who is confined to a wheelchair with cerebral palsy, scored a touchdown.

The Manila coach devised a play for Dylan. He then called the coach of his opponent, the top ranked Rivercrest Colts, and shared his plan. The Rivercrest coach agreed to the play if they could find a perfect time to run it.

With time running out in the lopsided game, Dylan Galloway put on a helmet, took his position as tailback, received the hand-off, rolled left behind his offensive line and cut across the goal line for the team’s only score of the night.

The Main Point

In youth sports, fans see triumph and tears, phenomenal plays and fear. The also see domination and doubt. Sometimes the action is exciting and other times boring. They will see coaches compliment, cheer and chide players. They will see refs make good calls and bad calls while they are getting called names from one side or the other or both. They will see good sportsmanship and bad. And sometimes, just sometimes fans see something, feel something, experience something special. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Youth Golf: City Championship

It takes lots of skill and a little luck to win a golf match. It takes passion to win a championship. Passion is what motivates an athlete to work hard between matches. Some kids have the dedication to succeed in sports and others don't.

Game 149

The nine golfers on my son's golf team have the passion and drive to succeed at golf. As a result, they won the Cincinnati City Championship by 33 strokes.

To make this very talented team, my son played 37 straight days. He then competed in a two day tournament tryout and qualified 3rd overall. He took one day off. Then he played 14 straight days before the first matches and the beginning of school. In total he played 52 of 53 days. I am sure that he has played or practiced 75 of the past 105 days. He certainly has the passion and work ethic needed to succeed. During this time, his ranking in Call of Duty plummeted from among the world's best. He lost his passion for video games, thankfully.

My son, Nic, played football for his school team and won two Cincinnati City championships (3rd grade and 4th grade). After his second year of football he decided that he did not have the passion to play the sport anymore so he did not sign up for football as a 5th grader. He went back to soccer and had a good time but did not have the passion for soccer. He contemplated going back to football, but his school established its first ever golf team when he was in 6th grade. He decided to tryout for golf. He made the inaugural team and has never looked back.

The Main Point

Kid needs self motivation, passion, to succeed at a sport. In other words, they need to love what they are doing to do it to their highest potential. Are your kids playing a sport they love or are they playing a sport you love?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Youth Basketball: 10-10-10

Before the game last night, I told my daughter that it was 10-10-10 (Oct. 10th, 2010) and it would be great if she scored 10 points in her basketball game.

Game 146

She scored 8 points, grabbed 8 rebounds and had 8 steals, 2 days, 2 months and 2 years too late. Ironically enough, her team won 22-2.

The Main Point

None really. I like numbers.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Youth Baseball: Confidence is Everything

Some coaches are masters at building confidence. Some coaches are not. Nic now has a coach who builds confidence.

Games 147 and 148

Last night, Nic went 5 for 6 during a doubleheader with 2 doubles, 3 singles, 3 RBIs and 3 Runs scored. One of his best games of a long baseball year. Nic seems to be regaining his old form with his new team. Two teammates from Nic's former team have joined him on his current team. The three of them combined for 11 hits in 13 ABs with 2 walks and a hit-by-pitch. I could tell that all three were having fun and playing free and easy.

The Main Point

Thanks to his old coach he knows what to do, but his confidence was so low he couldn't do what he had to do well with any consistency. When you combine a high baseball IQ, with skills and confidence success will follow. At the end of the regular season, I could not wait for the season to end. Now I cannot wait for the new spring season to start.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Youth Basketball: Teammates Facing Teammates

Hot dog gets an early lesson to leave the mustard at home.

My daughter is the point guard for her 4th grade school team. Sometimes she likes to dribble with the ball out in front of her in taunting manner. She wants the defender to reach for the ball. When the defender reaches for the ball she does a crossover dribble and beats the defender to the left. It works quite often.

Game 146

On Friday night, CC baited her defender but the defender was very quick and took the ball from her. This happened two times in a row. I yelled to CC that this girl is too good. Protect the ball and stop fooling around!

This was an important game. First place was on the line and CC's new select basketball coach came to watch her newest players. (CC and CC's best friend Rachel both made the select team)

CC was matched up against a really tough guard #25 and Rachel was matched up against a really strong post player #10. CC and Rachel led their team in scoring with 6 points each. #25 and #10 from the other team also led their team in scoring.

CC's team lost. The big difference in the game was that CC's team had 10 players and the other team only had 8. All the players must play 50% of the game, so CC and Rachel could only play 2 quarters each. The other team had 8 players. #25 and #10 played the entire game and the other 6 players played the required 2 quarters. Without Rachel and CC on the floor to slow down #25 and #10, CC's team could not keep up.

After the game, I introduced my wife to CC's new coach. I told the coach that I was impressed that she came out to see CC and Rachel. She told me that she also came to see #25 and #10 who are going to be CC's teammates on her new select team.

The Main Point

Never underestimate your opponent.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Youth Basketball: Trying Out for a Select Team

I have given advice on how to make select teams. I have given advice on how to make a travel or select baseball team and on how to make a select or travel soccer team. Much of the advice for making a soccer team is valid for basketball. I have listed the relevant points below, see the soccer advice post for the details.

1) Get to the tryout early and show off your skills. 
2) Wear something that will standout in a crowd.
3) Stand out with individual moves.

4) Take advantage of water breaks to stand out during the tryouts. 
5) Make sure your kid works very hard when the evaluators are looking and conserves energy when they are not. 
6) Introduce yourself to the head evaluator after the tryout. 

7) Go to all the tryouts even if they say only one is required.

My daughter wanted to play for one of the top select basketball programs in the metro area. Her best friend played for the organization in the winter of 09/10 and was trying out again. The tryouts were scheduled for September 25th and Oct 2nd. 

My daughter, CC, violated rule #7 above. She could not go to the first tryout because she had 10 girls scheduled to celebrate her birthday with her on that date at that time. Her best friend went to the tryout and showed up at the party late. This obviously was not an ideal situation. It demonstrated a lack of commitment and limited the amount of looks my daughter would get.

We planned to go to the second tryout on October 2 at 5:30. Unfortunately, CC had a soccer game scheduled from 4:30 to 5:30 in the next state over. The soccer field was 45 minutes from the tryout gym. CC wanted to skip the soccer game, but I told her that that was not an option. She made a commitment to her soccer team and she needed to honor it. CC scored a goal and her team won 3-2 against the top team in the league, so it was a good decision.

I had called the coach of the basketball team to explain our predicament. I asked her if it would be possible to hold a private tryout. The coach informed me that about 30 very talented girls were participating in the tryout process and she believed that she would be able to form a solid team from this group. The short answer, no. She did ask me about my daughter. I told her which teams she played on and described her style of play. CC had played against the coach's team during summer league. The coach told me that she knew exactly who my daughter was and encouraged me to get my daughter to the last 30 minutes of the final tryout. 

Luckily, rain poured down on the soccer field and the refs decided to start the game early and reduce the amount of time between halves. As a result, the game ended fifteen minutes earlier than projected and we were able to make the last 50 minutes of the basketball tryout. Still a violation of rule #1 but better than we had expected.

I guess that is all CC needed to impress the coaching staff because she got an offer to play on the team the very next night. My daughter was thrilled. 

Her new basketball team is a year round commitment, winter, spring and summer with lots of travel. Before we accepted the offer, we made our daughter choose between select basketball and softball. (She will continue to play select soccer.) He understood that she would need to drop softball to play basketball on this team. It was an easy decision. She wants to hoop it up all year round now.

The Main Point

I believe that the advice I give to parents to help their kids standout at tryouts is valid, but at the end of the day, talent is what will separate your kid from the others. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Youth Sports: How Do Single Parents Do It?

My wife was away on a women's religious retreat so I was riding solo this past weekend. This would not be a problem normally, but my two athlete's had a very busy schedule.

Crazy Youth Parents Series

Here is the crazy schedule that I managed this weekend.

Friday - Golf match and basketball tryout for my son and soccer practice for my daughter.
Saturday - Basketball game, soccer game and select basketball tryouts for my daughter and basketball tryouts and baseball game for my son.
Sunday - Basketball game and soccer game for my daughter. My son, thankfully, had the day off.

Ten athletic events in three days for two kids with one parent. I know parents who have 5 or 6 very active kids. I know single working parents who somehow keep up with today's young athletes. I applaud you both.

The Main Point

Being parents of athletes is not easy. Being a single parent of athletes is nearly impossible. The responsibilities are seemingly endless. This past weekend I did the following tasks to prepare my kids for the weekend of sports. I washed uniforms, tied shoes, searched for and found missing equipment, practiced with the kids in the yard, shopped for new basketball shoes, arranged for rides, drove teammates home, went online to download directions, drove 250 miles, cooked meals, prepared water bottles, watched games, practices and tryouts, encouraged my kids, talked to coaches, consoled and cheered for my kids. To handle a schedule like this you need to be prepared and you need help. I made a chart of all the activities and I worked deals with other parents to carpool.

I had a great weekend. I saw a win and a tie in soccer against some really tough competition, I saw a heartbreaking loss in a basketball tournament final and a blowout win, and both my kids made the select teams that they tried out for.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Youth Sports: Being an Individual on a Team

The definition for uniform is having one form. This seems to be an issue for my kids who like to stand out for some reason. Both my son and my daugther tend to find a small way to set themselves apart. 

For example, In baseball, my son often wears one pant leg up and one down. Last week, I had to talk him out of buying bright yellow basketball shoes for his black and red team. He eventually bought black Adidas Adizero Basketball shoes. These shoes come in three options - all black, black / red and black / green. Despite playing for a black and red team, he opted the the black and green. He said, "dad the black is for the uniform and the green stripe that doesn't match is for my personality."

My daughter is no different. She decided to put on a pair of crazy socks for one game. She wore one all red sock and one black and white striped sock. 

Her coach thought it was a hoot, so he bought the entire team crazy socks. He placed 10 completely different pairs of socks with red, black, white or grey in a bag and had each girl reached in a picked out two mismatched socks. He even wore a pair of crazy socks himself. My daughter was proud that she started this. I wonder if she likes being a trendsetter more than standing out. Time will tell.

The Main Point

Kids can be individuals while being a good teammate.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Youth Basketball: Bad Call for a Good Reason

Sometimes I wonder why I write this blog, but on Saturday I was reminded why by a beautiful event. A good ref made a terrible call for a good reason.

My daughter, CC, had a basketball game today. The championship game of a CYO tournament for 4th grade girls. We got to the gym early hoping to warm up, but the 5th grade girls semi-final game was in progress. I looked up at the scoreboard to see how much time was remaining. Ugh, I thought to myself. The game was only in the 2nd quarter. A bright orange team from a parish about 10 miles away was playing the 5th grade team from my daughter's school. The orange team was winning decisively.

My daughter spotted some friends and took off. With nothing better to do, I watched the action on the court and I am glad I did.

You could tell that the orange team was well coached because the ball was moving around so effectively. Every girl knew where to go and knew almost instinctively where help was if needed. It was so fluid. It so was beautiful.

There was one girl on the court donned in orange and thick glasses who was following the beautiful flow of the game, but she was a few steps behind everyone else. She always knew where to go, but she was just a little slow to get there. Her teammates would always patiently wait for her to get into position. They would pass the ball to her on occasion even though they probably knew that there might be better options. The girl donned in orange with think glasses was behind, but not left behind.

As the game progressed, the black team from my daughter's school chipped away at the lead and made a game of it. Still the coach of the orange team did not make any adjustments to the line-up late in the game. He trusted his talented guards to control the final few minutes and protect the lead. He trusted the girl in orange with think glasses to get into the right position.

With 7 seconds on the clock, the orange team held a 7 point lead. The speedy guard from the white team had the ball and was cutting across the court from left to right. The girl with the think glasses was cutting across the court right to left. She was concentrating so hard on getting into position that she did not know where the ball was. The two girls collided.

It was an obvious foul on the girl in orange. She was not trying to defend, she was just desperately trying to get to her position as coached which she eventually did and stood there as if nothing had happened.

The ref reached for his whistle. He hesitated. He looked up at the clock. 3 seconds left. He looked at the foul situation. Few fouls had been called so neither team was in the bonus. He then blew the whistle.

He turned toward the scoring table and yelled, "Foul on white #10" It was a bad call for a good reason. Although it was not a shooting foul, he put the girl in orange on the line to shoot free throws.

No one complained. Six girls jogged to the basket and lined up white, orange, white on either side of the lane. Two girls in orange and one in white took their positions at the top of the key. The girl with the thick glasses wearing bright orange stood dutifully in her defensive position on the wing. The position she was so desperately trying to get to when the play started.

The tall skinny ref with grey hair walked over to her and bent down. He said something to her. He handed her the ball and walked her to the line. The girl knew what to do and did not hesitate at all. The ball flew through the air on a beautiful arc with the school's Prayer for Athletes blue banner hanging in the background.

You could feel all nine girls on the court, the six or so girls on the both benches, the coaches from both teams, the two supposedly impartial refs and the one hundred plus fans praying for the ball to go in.

The ball bounced off the back of the rim.

A teammate rebounded the ball and gave it to the ref. The ref bounced it to the girl on the line. Again, without even a moment of hesitation, she launched the ball up toward the hoop. Again the ball had a beautiful arc, but again the ball bounced off the back of the rim. She was a little too close or a little too strong. A loud AHH came from the fans, the players, the coaches and the refs.

After the game, I wanted to shake the hand of this great ref. I approached him hand extended and told him that he made a great call. He smiled proudly. He told me how he hesitated in making the call. He told me that he was concerned that someone would get mad. Then he told me that his daughter has down syndrome too.

My daughter's team took the court.

My daughter's team played in the finals of a CYO tournament against the other team from her school. CC's team dominated the game and outshot the other team 34 to 12, but the ball would not fall in the hoop for her team. The game turned out to be a defensive low scoring game. The lead changed back and forth all game.

With 7 seconds on the clock, a play was called to free up CC for a final winning shot. Her best friend got her the ball and CC did a nice cross over dribble move to the left. A pick worked perfectly to free CC up for a shot. She pulled up for a 10 foot jumper.

The ball went on a beautiful arc toward the hoop. The blue Athletes Prayer banner hung in the background.

Let competition make me strong, but never hostile.

The ball hit the back of the rim and bounced up.

If I know victory allow me to be happy. 

The ball hit the front of the rim and bounced up.

If I am denied keep me from envy.

The ball fell to the side and CC's team lost.

The Main Point

The second line of the Prayer for Athletes says, Help me learn something that matters once the game is over. I did thanks to a ref who made a bad call for a good reason. The prayer concludes with If through athletics I set an example, let it be a good one, Amen.
 Ref, sir, you set a good example. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Youth Football: Parents Brawl

CBS news reported an ugly scene on a pee-wee football field in Texas. 

Crazy Youth Sports Parents Series

During a Pee-Wee football game in Texas, coaches and parents fought on the field and the sidelines as horrified young athletes watched. Passions run deep in youth sports in America and this is a prime example of how passion for sports leads to pathetic behavior.

The Main Point

In this video-cam in hand world, it is not a good idea to get into a fight at a youth sports event. The fight was appalling, but what I found most shocking is that no one faces any criminal consequences. Not even the guy in orange above who sucker punched the guy in blue. If America wants these things to stop prosecute the meatheads who fight at youth sports events. They have no gun and no drug zones around schools. They should create no fighting zones around youth sports facilities.



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