Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Youth Sports: Too Costly?

During my interview with Mark Hyman, professional journalist and blogger (Youth Sport Parents), I was asked, Is the cost of youth sports a problem? 

As I stated in the post Youth Sport Fanatics Nature or Nurture, we are a sports crazy family. As such, we prioritize spending on youth sports over other expenditures. Some families have vacation homes and boats. Some families go on extravagant vacations. We do not because of the time and money we invest in youth sports. Of course some families can't afford youth sports let alone vacation homes and boats and vacations. So the question remains Is the cost of youth sports a problem? 

I struggled with this question. I think that sports should be available to all kids of all socio- economic levels and it is for those who look. The bottom-line is that it costs money to run a league or a sports facility. The field / court / ice fees, referee / umpire fees, uniforms, insurance costs, etc, all add up. Luckily there are numerous fundraising options and great programs supported by philanthropic organizations. The Boys and Girls Clubs of America's has programs supported by Major League Baseball like Wanna Play, Jr. RBI, RBI. The Cincinnati Reds have the Reds Community fund that improve lives through the tradition of the Reds and baseball. I am sure most MLB teams have similar organizations. YMCA offers youth sports programs for athletes of households of all incomes.

There are also great sports equipment and uniform donation programs like Pitchinforbaseball and US Soccer Federation's Passback to help communities in need. Finally, many town and school leagues offer financial assistance for players in need.

Lots of coaches will reach into their own pockets to help a family in need. When I was coaching my older son's select soccer team, I recruited a talented kid who I had coached in rec ball. His mom was flattered but declined because they did not have the money. I sent a note to the other parents and asked if they would mind if we added a kid to the roster at a cost that matched recreational soccer. All agreed without exception. I paid for his uniform. My actions are played out in lots of communities every season.

The Main Point

Sports cost money to run, but through volunteerism, fundraising and reaching out to established organizations that provide help or equipment the costs do not have to be a deterrent to participation.  

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Youth Basketball: When Sports and Family Schedules Conflict

What do you do when sports schedules conflicts with family schedules?

We teach our kids about commitment to a team. They know that when they sign up for a sport that they are making a commitment to be there for their teammates and coach. We also teach our kids about commitment to family. We stress how important it is to be there for each other. We especially value the time our kids get with their grandparents.

This Thanksgiving weekend we were conflicted.

We had planned to go to Iowa to visit family (my in-laws) for Thanksgiving, but my daughter's AAU basketball team scheduled a Thanksgiving Tournament. This is how we handled it.

1) My wife and I sat down and talked about it. We decided that our daughter, CC, should not miss her first tournament with her new team and coach.
2) We then decided to invite the in-laws from Iowa to visit, eat turkey and watch the basketball tournament. The in-laws declined because they had made a commitment to other family members.
3) We then invited my dad to fly up from Florida to spend time with us. He accepted.

The Main Point

It is difficult to teach the value of keeping commitments when two commitments conflict. The best thing to do is talk about the conflicts openly with all involved and problem solve together.

Games 167 - 172

We had heard that my daughter's team was going to be one of the best 4th grade teams in the area but that was pure conjecture until this Thanksgiving weekend tournament began. 

Tuesday night - CC's team won the first tournament game 44-1. CC had 4 points, 5 steals and 4 assists.
Wednesday night - CC's team won 36-6. CC had a pair of free throws and played outstanding defense.
Thursday - CC got sick. She threw up for 20 straight hours from 3am to 1pm. She was too sick to come downstairs for Thanksgiving. She did not eat the entire day.
Friday - CC woke up and asked me if we had mash potatoes and gravy leftovers. She wanted some for breakfast. By 12 noon she wanted to go watch her brother practice and perhaps shoot on an empty court. She shot baskets for 1 hour. 
Friday night - CC team won 36-6 again. CC had 4 points and played defense with vigor. The team also started a 5th grade Thanksgiving Tournament. The team won that game 16-14. CC had a critical steal and assist but was pushed around by the bigger and faster 5th grade girls. We were amazed that she was standing after being so sick.
Saturday - CC's team won the Championship. CC started the game. In the first minute of play, she had two steals and two fast-break layups to give her team a 4-0 lead. The team did not look back and won the game 44-8. In the fifth grade tournament, the girls lost a physical game. They battled and took the lead late in the game, but could not hold off the bigger and stronger team.
Sunday - CC's team won the first game 40-6 and advanced to the finals. CC was hurt in the first game. As she was scrambling for a loose ball, she was basically tackled by a 5th grade girl who easily weighed her 3X. The foul was not malicious. This girl was so big that she could not control her body. CC's team lost in the finals. CC played about 1 minute but was still feeling pain in her left forearm.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Youth Soccer: Coaches Should Follow A Lesson Plan

Good soccer coaches develop age appropriate lesson plans to help developing soccer players progress.

Age 5
Age 7
Age 9
I found a blog that has age appropriate lesson plans. Check it out at Youth Soccer Lesson Plans.

The Main Point

The best coaches are the ones who are the most prepared and run a very organized practice. Most recreational and select teams practice 2 days per week for about 1.5 hours per day. Make the most of the three hours and the kids will benefit greatly.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Youth Baseball: Select Baseball Costs Uniformly High?

During my interview with Mark Hyman, professional journalist and blogger (Youth Sports Parents), we talked about the cost of youth sports. Mark was looking for interesting or questionable costs associated with youth sports? I told him about the uniforms that my son donned as a 10 year old baseball player.

The U10 team Nic played on had four different color hats (cardinal, blue, gold and white), two different color pants (white and grey), three different jerseys (cardinal, blue and gold), two vest options (white and grey),  and two stirrup sock options (blue and cardinal). The jerseys were worn under the vests or without the vests. All of the uniform parts were designed to work with all the others. If my math is correct, there were 144 possible combinations. This includes wearing white pants with grey vests and vice versa which you would not expect, but the team actually wore these hideous combination once or twice. The team only played 50 games that year, so I figured that 144 uniform combinations would satisfy the questionable cost category.

Grey Pants / Cardinal Jersey
White Pants / Blue Jersey
White Pants / Gold Jersey
Grey Pants / Grey Vest
White Pants / White Vest
Cardinal Hat
White Hat
Gold Hat 
Blue Hat
Blue Stirrups
Cardinal Stirrups
The Main Point

Some teams get a bit carried away with uniforms and spirit wear. This can unnecessarily drive up the cost of youth sports for parents.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Youth Sports Fanatics by Nature or Nurture?

I was recently interviewed via phone by Mark Hyman, professional journalist and blogger (Youth Sports Blog) about youth sports. He asked me fairly basic questions. The questions were not difficult to answer, but they made me stop and think and think. I will post about some of my answers over the next couple of days.

One thought provoking question was Why do we invest so much time and money in youth sports? After the call, I wondered if the real question was - Why would you subject your kids to this hectic schedule? Is it for you or them? Let's face it, if you read this blog we're nuts. But why are we nuts? was the thought provoking question that I wanted to answer for myself. I thought about it all last night and could not wait to write it down.

As I answered Mark's question, I am sure that I rambled on before I articulated the pure and simple answer which is - we're a sports family. My wife and I come from sports families. We love sports and either by nature or nurture our kids love sports too. None of us can get enough of it.

My wife and I do not have grand illusions of our kids playing pro sports or even getting college scholarships. My kid's 529s are at the ready. We would love it if our kids had a chance to play in high school because my wife and I both have fond memories of HS sports. My kids are considering HS programs with very competitive athletics, as such, playing HS sports is not a given. So as long as they have the desire to play sports, we will invest the time, energy and money to help them advance as far as they want to go.

As a kid, I played sports non-stop year round. I played organized soccer, baseball, lacrosse, tennis and basketball. I got consumed in the sports season that I was in. If it was baseball season, my friends and I played baseball (or some form of it) day and night. If we were not playing in an organized league, we were playing pick-up baseball games or stickball or whiffle ball. When it rained we played ruler ball. Ruler ball was a form of baseball played in a basement on rainy days. A 12 in. ruler was the bat and wadded up tin foil was the ball. We played baseball in one form or another non-stop and never once thought about pitch counts.

During basketball season, if I was not playing on an organized team, my friends and I (or my dad and I) would play at a park or on driveway somewhere. We played pick up games, from 5V5 full court to 1V1 half court, it all depended on how many kids we could find to play on any given day. Additionally, we played horse, pig, 5-3-1 and Around-the-World all day long and at night under spot lights. In the winter, we would shovel snow off the driveway to play.

When I wasn't playing sports I was watching sports on TV or live at a stadium. In other words, I had no time for Boy Scouts or Indian Guides and that was just fine with me.

My dad
I was probably obsessed with sports because my dad was. My dad was a tremendous athlete. Much better than I was. At 6ft 5in, he was bigger, faster and more athletic than me. Heck he was bigger, faster and could jump higher than most people of is era. He played 3 sports in college (baseball, basketball and golf). He was simply good at every sport he picked up and loved nothing more than to teach me how to play each game to my potential.

JJ's Great Grandmother
My wife was a multi-sport athlete as a kid. She played boys baseball, basketball, volleyball, softball, golf and also participated in track and field (hurdles and high jump). She played softball in college. Athletics were ingrained in her by her family. Get this, her great grandmother, played college basketball at Waldorf College in Iowa from 1913-1916 not too long after the first ever women's college basketball game was played. Her grandfather and mother's first date was a tennis match. Her grandmother beat her grandfather.

I wouldn't be married to my wife if not for sports. 

The Cincinnati Sports and Social Club formed the year I moved to Cincinnati in the early nineties. The club was based on a simple principle, co-ed sports for young adults followed by co-ed drinking at a sponsor bar.

The first year of the club, I played volleyball against my wife. The next season I recruited her to play on my team. Together, we won the Cincinnati Sport and Social Club Volleyball Championship several years in a row. We traveled to places like Atlanta, Orlando and Phoenix to represent the Cincinnati Club at the Sport and Social Clubs National Finals. We also won a softball city title and countless floor hockey city titles. We did not stop playing when we had kids either. We would bring a playpen and put it in the corner of a gym or the end of a dugout and play sports 3 or 4 days a week year round. We did this until our kids schedules precluded this.

The Main Point

I guess my kids are sports fanatics because they come from a long line of sports fanatics. We are motivated by the love of sports pure and simple. It's a passion. We do not see sports as a path to stardom and money. It's about lifelong enjoyment.

Before you jump to any conclusions. Academics come before sports in our family.  Thankfully, my two young, over-scheduled athletes are great students. Perhaps, they got that from me. I brought my competitive nature to school. I graduated number 5 in my engineering college and earned an Ivy League MBA. Like athletics, we will invest the time, energy and money to help our kids advance as far as they want to go in school too.

Finally to answer the question, Is this for us (parents) or for them (kids)? Just yesterday, my daughter asked me if she could join the Girl Scouts. I said, "Sure honey but you will probably need to cut back on your sports schedule to do Girl Scouts." Without hesitation she said, "Oh - no way dad, forget it." And that was that. Like father, like daughter.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Youth Baseball: New Age Groups for AAU

As my son gets older each year, the youth baseball experience changes and we change with it.

2 years old to 12 years old

Have you ever noticed that as young athletes get older each year their friends seem to drop off. They drop off to concentrate on another sport that they may be better at, but most drop off because they have finally come to the conclusion that they are just not that good vis-a-vis the others still playing the game, so it is not as fun.

Have you ever wondered what percentage of 12 year old baseball players still play by the time they reach the high school age level?

According to AAU data, only 30%.

This limited number of players 15 years old and older poses a problem. There are simply not enough players to fill out a competitive roster in four age groups (15U, 16U, 17U and 18/19U). As such, coaches for the older levels reach down to younger age talent. According a review of rosters at the AAU National Championships in 2010 the 16U teams only consisted of 57% of 16-year-olds. The rest of the roster consisted of 15-year-olds (37%), 14-year-olds (2%), and 13-year-olds (4%). Similarly, in the 18U/19U Nationals, only 59% of the players were actually 18U or 19U. The roster also had 17-year-olds (24%), 16-year-olds (12%), 15-year-olds (3%), and 14-year-olds (1%). There was was even one 13-year-old player playing at this age level.

To solve this problem, the Baseball Sport Committee announced the establishment of two divisions. The Upperclassmen division and the Underclassmen division.


Underclassmen includes any player who is born on or after May 1, 1993 and is not a Senior (graduating class of 2011 or previous). 

Upperclassmen are those players who were born on or after May 1, 1991 and a member of the graduating class of 2011 or previous. 

Underclassmen may play on an Upperclassmen team, but Upperclassmen may not play on an Underclassmen team.

The Main Point

I think that this is a very smart move. It will allow teams to remain intact. Our family experienced the dynamics of this situation in soccer. As my son got older, he struggled to find a soccer club / team each year. He would tryout for the team he played on the previous year only to find out at the tryouts or shortly after that there were not enough players to keep the team viable. The team would fold and then we would burn up the phone lines trying to find a team. My baseball player has not reached that age level so we have not experienced this in baseball yet, but I am sure that the rule change by the AAU will help. I applaud the AAU for making this change.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Youth Sports: I Used to Wear Soccer Shin Pads to Church

Today is Sunday. The day you are supposed to go to church, think about God, reflect on the week and rest. When I was a young kid, this was not hard to do because there was not really much that you could do on Sundays. Most stores were closed and most youth sporting events avoided Sunday games and practices. 

As I got older, however, youth sports started to impinge on the Holy day. Baseball started having some games late in the day on Sundays. We used to go to the last mass at 11:30 AM every week. Going to the last mass was not a issue because games would never start before 2 PM. Eventually, the schedule started featuring 1 PM games.  To make these games, I would have to go to church in my baseball uniform and leave immediately after we took communion.

I remember feeling a bit weird not wearing nice pants and shoes to church at first, but eventually, it felt quite liberating. I had a dark blue polyester shirt with bright white lettering across my chest that screamed White Sox. Needless to say, I stuck out in church when I wore it. It made a huge statement. My message to the congregation and the priest -- Hey Father, we don't care about your silly "do nothing on Sunday" rules. I was never quite comfortable with the statement I was making. Over time, I remember going to church in my soccer uniform, shin pads and all. I guess I wore the shin pads to protect myself from the wrath of the Lord.

Nowadays, every store is open except Chick-fil-A and sports teams do not even hesitate to schedule games and practices on Sundays, and that includes mornings. Today we have an optional futsal (an indoor form of soccer) scrimmage at 9AM and an optional baseball practice at 10AM. When futsal league play starts, it will not be as optional and when winter baseball training officially starts in January, that will not be as optional either. Today we are taking the option and will not go. Both of my athletes do, however, have basketball practices later in the day.

The Main Point

Taking Back Sundays is a grass-roots initiative of parents collectively reclaiming Sunday as a sports-free day. They have a pledge that they want all of us Crazy Youth Sports Parents to take. While I admire the tenets of the movement, our family will not be taking the pledge because we could never honor it. We do still, however, honor God in our way. Judge us if you like. 

The organization behind Taking Back Sundays is concerned about over-scheduled kids and under-connected families. The organization believes that over-scheduled kids miss out on essential family time, especially meal time. My kids are most definitely over-scheduled, but I think that youth sports brings our family together. While we do not eat together at home often, we regularly go out to eat after games as a family. 

Youth Basketball: The Last Second Shot

If competition makes a player better and stronger, then my daughter CC improved yesterday. 

Game 162

My daughter's school basketball team made it to the final four with a decisive win on Friday night. Yesterday, they competed against an undefeated team for the right to go to the CYO City Championship finals. My daughter, CC, and her teammates played their hearts out in a game dominated by defense. 

CC's team fell behind 8 to 2. Scoring was difficult for both teams, but CC's team battled back. CC hit a nice 15 foot baseline jump shot over a defender to make it 8-5 late in the game (Pictured). 

She also made a key play with less than a minute left. The star of the other team was stole a pass and broke for the basket on a fastbreak. A fastbreak that would have put the game out of reach. CC ran full speed to foul the girl. It was an aggressive foul and both girls went to the ground hard. (The girl she fouled is her AAU teammate.) Luckily, it was not a shooting foul and our team stole the resulting inbounds pass. 

The two teams traded important possessions that could have decided the game, but no shots found the bottom of the net. With less than 10 seconds left, CC's best friend took the ball into the lane and was fouled. Unfortunately, she missed the first shot of a 1 and 1 that would have tied the game at 8-8 with 3 seconds left. CC's team would get another chance to win as the rebound off of the missed free throw went out off of the other team. 

A play was devised to get CC the final shot.  CC got free on the baseline. She received the pass. The defender popped out to defend the shot.  With .5 seconds left, CC was able to get the shot off, but it was blocked as the defender hammered CC. (The girl who fouled her was another of her AAU teammates.) Both girls went to the ground tangled up.  Unbelievably, the refs did not call a foul and our team lost 8-7. 

Our coach questioned the ref after the game. He asked if the time expired before the shot and foul. The ref said no. He then asked the ref why he did not call a foul. The ref told our coach that the defender went straight up. Oh well.

After the game, I wondered that if the foul had been called if CC would have been nervous. She told me,  "no way Dad and I would have made the shots."

The Main Point 

Games like this build character. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Youth Basketball: Coach Spanks Team Into Shape

Crazy Youth Sports Coach Series

This blog chronicles the good, the bad and the ugly of youth sports. Today, I guess is ugly day with my last post about sports hazing and this story about coach from Jackson, Mississippi. The coach of Murrah High School, Marlon Dorsey whipped his players with a heavy weightlifting belt for not executing plays correctly. Get this! The coach was brazen enough to spank his players while parents were in the gym watching.

The dad featured on the video below was in the gym when this incident happened. He was supposedly outraged but did nothing. I guess he didn't do anything immediately because it was not his kid who was getting abused. This dad would later find out that his kid had once been a victim too. According to the story, most of the kids were victims of this abuse over the course of the season and nobody said a word to their parents or school officials. They all feared losing playing time or getting kicked off the team.

Well, now there is video of the abuse and everyone is talking and wanting their slice of the litigation pie.

The Main Point

A coach physically abusing young athletes is sad. A black coach in Mississippi whipping black kids is even sadder. To me, however, the saddest part of the story is the dad who watched and said nothing and did nothing for several days. I can only guess that playing time for his kid was more important than respect for his kid.

This is especially sad to me because I can blame myself for the same thing. I know that I have hesitated approaching a coach who I thought was being disrespectful to my son (verbally not physically). Instead, I basically told my son, "you will encounter other A-hole coaches throughout your career and when you do you will be prepared.... You cannot quit, you just have to persevere....we will find you a better team and coach next year." I eventually had enough with my son's coach and confronted him, but only after bitting my lip for way too long. I finally realized that there was a difference between a tough a-hole coach and a disrespectful a-hole coach. I do not need my kids to be coddled, but I need the coach to respect them. It would be great if they respected them as players and people, but at the very least they need to respect them as people.

Youth Sports: Hazing Needs to Stop

One of the uglier sides of youth sports is hazing. Many think that hazing is nothing more than harmless pranks perpetrated by upperclassmen / women college students against pledges at fraternities and sororities. If you do some research you will easily discover that hazing is a very prevalent ritual around sports teams. It happens in the pros, college and middle and high schools sports too. Sometimes these rituals are condoned by the coaches. Some are funny and seemingly and sometimes these acts lead to serious injuries (physical and mental) and death. So this is a very topic.

We were reminded of the seriousness of this topic again yesterday. In the wealthy suburb of Carmel, Indiana, a former high school basketball player took a plea deal in a hazing incident that happened about a year ago. Four former members of Carmel High's varsity basketball team were indicted by a grand jury for hazing and/or sodomizing school mates. 

The details of the story can be found following these links and watching the video below:

Indiana High School Students Indicted for Hazing
Indiana Hazing Scandal Proves High School Students are Still Obnoxious

Additional information on Hazing

Hazing is not just a college problem anymore

The Main Point

I do not care if a lot of hazing is easily dismissed as good old fashion fun, I am totally against making people do anything against their will no manner how silly or seemingly harmless the act or prank is. All to often hazing crosses the line with excessive drinking, nudity or sexual abuse. If you do not believe me, check out this list of worldwide hazing incidences. Pure and simple, hazing violates human dignity. 

It is crucial that parents know how prevalent it is and advocate for anti-hazing education, laws and enforcement of laws especially middle and high schools when kids have enough to worry about.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Youth Sports: I'm Done with Fundraising

Are you tired of fundraising for sports, schools, bands or other youth activities?

Fall baseball just ended and spring training is months away, but I just went to a kick off meeting for the 2011 Baseball season. The coaching staff talked to the parents about their coaching philosophy, the anticipated game schedule, winter training, team fees and possible fundraising options.
Select baseball fees are typically well over $1,000 and this year was no different. This sum covers league fees, field fees, insurance, uniforms, baseballs, umpires, tournament entry fees, etc. Some teams also charge for professional coaches too. This can easily double the cost.
Needless to say this is a large amount of money especially in this economy. With fees this high, teams often turn to fundraisers to offset the price to parents. I'm tired of fundraising. And thankfully, most of parents on our team didn't want anything to do with fundraising. Our kids have been playing baseball for 7 years now and we have all been there and done that.  I would rather just pay the fee directly to the team or school. It is just more efficient.

Here's why? My son calls my sister and sells her $15 worth of magazines. My sister then puts her daughter on the phone and sells me a $15 dollar raffle ticket to win a car. My sister will get the magazines in the mail. She will remove them from the mail box, put on them on the coffee table and eventually put in them recycle bin without ever reading a single word in them. I, of course, will not win a car in the raffle. My son's team gets $3 from the magazine sale and my niece's team gets $5. My sister and I will spend $30 and only $8 of it will help the teams. This process wastes time and money in my opinion. And I am done with it.

The baseball coaching staff gave parents the option to secure sponsorship money to offset their own personal fees. This is great because those who do the work will reap the rewards.
The Main Point

I am tired of buying and selling wrapping paper, magazines, mulch, raffle tickets, cookie dough, cookies, candles, candy, popcorn and car wash gift certificates, etc. I know how much youth activities are so I’ll provide financial support but I do not want to be a sales rep. I do not have time to help my child promote a fundraiser. I’m too reluctant to asked my friends and relatives for more money especially when I know that the school or team only gets a small portion of the money while the fundraising company gets the rest. And finally, I do not want my kids going door to door it's just too dangerous. I'm done with fundraising.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Youth Sports: Do You Think Obama Played Competitive Youth Sports?

I have several posts throughout Statsdad.com declaring that participating in competitive youth sports prepares children for life. Notice, I didn't say mere participation in sports prepares kids for life. It's competition that inspires one to overcome and achieve. Competition is vital for growth and development. 

Notice too, I did not say anything about winning. Life lessons are learned through winning and losing. Preparing to win is what is important.

Finally, I do concede that there are many benefits to playing sport just for fun. And even in competitive sports "fun" is a key element for success. You have to like what you are doing to succeed.

This same principle applies to young artists and musicians and actors and writers and students. The world is a competitive place for everyone not just athletes. It's a fact, the world typically rewards those who are better or work harder or both. This is a good thing. This dynamic pushes people to work harder to achieve goals. The opposite is communism and we all know how successful that was. 

There's a great post that echoes these thoughts on PajamasMedia called It's how you play the game: The Fate of Western Civilization and Grade School Soccer. A shout out to the always interesting blog Your Kid's Not Going Pro for the link. The article made me wonder if Obama ever played competitive sports growing up?

The Main Point


No Save - Goal
Don't stress winning, stress preparing to win, stress hard work and hustle. Winning will likely follow. Your kids are going to win and they are going to lose. They are going to make saves and give up goals. They will get hits and strike out. They will make teams and they will to get cut from teams. They will start and they will sit the bench. Regardless, if they work hard then they are going to grow during the process and they will be prepared for life.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Youth Soccer: Must Win Game

Are there really any must win, do or die games in youth sports? Must win or what? Of course in the grand scheme of life no game is really that important. Save for the 1980 USA Hockey team win over the USSR that lifted a nation and other games in history that garnered a higher importance for reasons beyond the game itself.

My daughter, CC, played in what was deemed a must win game by the coaches and the way too serious parents (like me).

My 10 year old daughter's team plays in the Elite Division (highest division) of the metro area soccer league. Their league record before Sunday's pivotal game stood at 2-2-3. They won or tied 5 of the 7 games, yet they were in danger of being dropped from the Elite division.

After each season is complete, the bottom two teams an upper division move down and the top two teams from the next lower division move up. This fall, the Elite division featured the best nine teams in the tri-state region. After the season, the Elite division is being reduced to eight teams. So for this year only, the bottom 3 teams of the Elite division will move down to the Premier division and the top two teams from the Premier division will move up.

My daughter's team needed to win to guarantee a spot in the Elite division. Staying in the highest division will guarantee that they will play against the best talent in league play. The top division teams are also the teams that garner limited spots in the top divisions of soccer tournaments. So a drop in division can significantly reduce the level of competition for an entire season. This is important because the girls on this soccer team are serious about soccer and they want to play against the best so that they can continue to advance as players.

Game 160

Rough Game
The coaching staff found out right before the game that they did not have to win to stay in. Apparently, the team that could have jumped over our team in the standings with a win, lost the day before. The coaching staff did not inform our kids of this and used the threat of moving down a division as motivation.

Our team ended up winning the rough game 1-0 to end up the season tied for 4th place and a mere two points out of second place. CC's foot is finally healed and she played very well. She had a terrific shot on goal that the goalie made an outstanding split second reaction save on.

The Main Point

In youth sports at the end of the day the result of the game really does not matter, but we all know that it feels like it does. This feeling weighs on the minds of young kids who only think about the present. This feeling weighs on the minds of the crazy youth sports parents who only think of the future, future positions on a competitive high school team or perhaps a future scholarship to college. So in a sense, there are must win games in youth sports. And I think that that is a good thing. These games prepare our kids for the future. Not so much for future games, but for life. The world is a very competitive place.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Youth Football: Trick Play

The Driscoll Middle School football team of Corpus Christi, TX became a YouTube sensation when they pulled a trick play in a league title game.

The play has raised lots of questions. Was the play legal and if it was legal was it ethical? Let's debate.

Was it legal? I am not sure what rules govern middle school football in Texas, but I know that Texas High Schools follow NCAA Football rules. The relevant rules of snapping a ball are listed below.

Rule 2-23 / Definitions FR-55 SECTION 23. 
Snapping the Ball ARTICLE 1. 
a. Legally snapping the ball (a snap) is handing or passing it backward from its position on the ground with a quick and continuous motion of the hand or hands, the ball actually leaving the hand or hands in this motion (Rule 4-1-4). 
b.The snap starts when the ball is moved legally and ends when the ball leaves the snapper’s hands (A.R. 7-1-5-I-II). 
d.While resting on the ground and before the snap, the long axis of the ball must be at right angles to the scrimmage line (Rule 7-1-3-a-1). 
e.Unless moved in a backward direction, the movement of the ball does not start a legal snap. It is not a legal snap if the ball is first moved forward or lifted. 
g.The snap need not be between the snapper’s legs; but to be legal, it must be a quick and continuous backward motion. 

Notice that in clause (g), the snap does NOT need to go between the legs. There were many uninformed people commenting on YouTube and blogs that not snapping the ball between the legs made the play illegal. I would contest that clause (e) was violated and should have resulted in a 5 yard penalty against the offensive team. The ball is clearly lifted upward before it is moved backward. An initial backwards motion would have caused the defensive line to react.

Was it ethical?

Cindy Boren of the Washington Post equated the play to the famed fumblerooski play. In that play the ball was legally snapped and the quarterback fumbled the ball on purpose for a lineman to pick up. They did this play at great risk of losing the fumble. She also equates the play to Statue of Liberty play which is no more than a play action pass play. These plays were deceptive, but did not cross the line of fair sportsmanship.

I think that the Driscoll play crossed the line of fair and decent play. 

The Main Point

Pull this play on the college or Pro level and I say great, but on the middle school level this was a bit bush league.

My son's baseball team used to practice a fake pick off play where the pitcher would spin and then fake a throw to second base. The two infielders and the centerfielder would act as if that the ball was errantly thrown into outfield. This deception would confuse the runner who would sometimes run to third only to be thrown out rather easily by the pitcher who still had the ball. One day, my son's team pull this play off in a game and fooled a 10 year old runner. I heard a parent from the other team say something very poignant to our coach, "Hey coach, I thought you and your organization played with class...until today. Are you proud you tricked a 10 year old kid?"

I agree, these plays are legal but when conducted against young kids they are a bit classless.

The Driscoll play may have been legal if the refs deemed that the ball moved backwards before it moved upwards and the fake pick off play is legal, but coaches do you really want to win that way? I guess so.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Youth Basketball: You Play Like A Girl

From time to time and all to often, I hear dads tell their sons that they play like a girl. I assume that these dads have never watched woman play sports, but I can tell you there are some really tough girls in the youth sports world.

Last night, I watched one of the most exciting and physical youth basketball games I have ever seen. And believe it or not it was between two 4th grade girls teams vying for a win in a quarter-final game of the city championship. Both teams wanted to win badly and they went full speed at each other for the entire 20 minutes of playing time. I was keeping score and the ref came up to me during a time-out. He said, 'This is intense. I thought that this was going to be an easy game to ref.... I never would have guessed that I would be berated by the fans of 10 year old girls..... These girls are playing some good basketball,  I could call a foul on every play."

Game 161

My daughter's team fell behind early and limped into half-time down 17-6. The opponent had a very athletic and tall center who dominated the boards. The opponent also played a 2-2-1 trapping defense on a really small court which gave our point guards fits. My daughter, CC, was one of those two point guards who struggled to find passing lanes the way our offense typically runs.

The coaching staff made some half-time adjustments on offense and defense. Remarkably, the defense was able to hold the historically high scoring opponent to 1 point in the second half. The coaching staff also moved a player up to the high post and CC started passing over the 2 front defenders.

This opened up the offense which generated 13 points in the second half. CC's team won 19-18 on a steal and a layup with 4 seconds left. CC hit a critical 15 foot jumper late in the game to put her team in position to win. I was never so proud as a parent. The basket was great, but it was the will to win and the tough play that I was so proud of.

The Main Point

Girls are tough and that toughness starts when they are young.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Youth Soccer: Winter Training

This is a note from my daughter's soccer coach regarding winter training. 

Dear Team,
 I am sending this out to clear up some questions.  I have been getting notes from confused parents on what to do over the winter months if anything.
In this day and age we cannot stress enough how important it is to continue to train as much as possible at these younger ages. (The kids are 10 years old). These younger ages are when the kids develop the necessary skills (technical skills ) needed to play at a high level when they are older.
Right now with our age groups the girls are focusing on ball control and individual ball skills (Basically the proper techniques needed to play the game at the next level) which includes High school.  
As you have all seen this year the U10 age group has already started to be introduced to the tactical side of the game, which is includes roles and positioning on the field , how to make runs , etc . We only train 3 hours per week, so as we start to focus on the team (tactical) there is not much time to spend on the individual player (tecnhical).
The foundation must be built at these younger ages or your kid will only go so far before they hit a wall. All of our players are very talented and capable of playing at a high level as they get older.
I know for some, this is all new and are not sure what direction to go. I have been in this for a long time now. I can tell you that players are made! They just don’t wake up one day as a great soccer player. It takes a long term investment and you will see the rewards.
So hopefully that helps everyone understand how they can help their children be better at this sport , it is the training that will get them there.

The Main Point

The best players play the game year round. If your kid wants to play soccer in high school then they will need to play year round. Why because that's what all the other players vying for those few high school roster spots are doing.

One caveat. I think that kids should play multiple sports at a young age. Lessons learned on a basketball court can help on a soccer field. Endurance gained on a soccer court will help a volleyball player. Muscles developed playing volleyball can help on a basketball court.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Youth Football: Undefeated Team Banned from Playoffs

Fox News reported that a Seladia, Missouri 5th grade football team was banned from the playoffs for being too good.

Crazy Youth Sports Parents Series

The Outlaws, 6-0 team, dominated the recreational league and were looking forward to winning a championship. The other teams in the recreational league decided that they could not compete with the Outlaws, so convinced the league officials to give the Outlaws an honorary championship and ban them from the playoffs.

I am scratching my head trying to figure out who wins in this situation.

Let's say that the Outlaws followed the rules of the recreational league and recruited players in a manner that was ethical, (Some are questioning the make-up of the team.) who wins?

The innocent Outlaw 10 year old players lose out on a memorable experience. The Outlaw players learned that no matter how hard you work some regulator can take it away. They could be demotivated from working hard in the future. The players on the eventual championship team lose because they received a tainted trophy they did not earn. These players learned that they do not need to work hard to reap rewards. They could be demotivated from working hard in the future. The league officials lose too. They lost credibility because they handled the situation so poorly.

Let's say that the Outlaws did not follow the rules of the recreational league and stacked the team, who wins and loses here. Again, nobody wins and everyone loses. The coaching staff loses credibility for breaking the rules. The league officials lose credibility for not policing the situation from the very beginning. The innocent 10 year old Outlaw players lose because they are looked upon by other teams as cheaters. The other league players lose because they did not get a chance to compete on an even playing field for a chance to experience a memorable achievement.

The Main Point

When coaches do not follow the rules everyone loses. When league officials make up rules so that little Johnny does not get his feeling hurt when he loses, everyone loses.

Parents, your kids are going to lose sometimes get over it. Your kids will actually grow from the experience. Coaches you will be always be a loser if you cheat to win. League officials be proactive and try to mitigate bad situations and don't be influenced by over sensitive parents.



Related Posts with Thumbnails