Sunday, May 29, 2011

Youth Sports: Holiday Weekends

When I was a kid youth sports leagues did not schedule games on holiday weekends. (Or at least the leagues that I played in.)

Holiday weekends were reserved for family events. And if you grew up in New Jersey, that meant going to the shore. I spent every holiday weekend in Ocean City, New Jersey with my family. Those weekends were so memorable.

Every morning, my dad would go out an buy raisin sticky buns from Dot's Bakery. We would eat the pastries while they were still gooey and warm. We would then get our bathing suits on and run out to the shed to grab our pails, shovels, beach games and beach chairs. We would hit the beach beach at 10:30. Once we got to the beach, the competitions would begin. We would compete all day long at games like horse shoes, hand ball, paddleball or whiffle ball.

Ocean City Beach
At night, we would go to the boardwalk. We would go on the rides at Wonderland Pier, grab a slice of pizza at Prep's, and eat Johnson's famous carmel popcorn. Once we were full of great food, the night competitions would begin. We would have a family skeeball tournament and crown a putt-putt golf champion.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Youth Soccer: Goalie Facing an Opponent 1v1

As a dad of a soccer goalie, the 1V1 situation is the most exciting and the scariest. Scary because the goalie has to sacrifice their body to protect the goal for the team.

My daughter, CC, is particularly good at this. During the Final Four game of the Ohio State cup, CC made a great save and I caught it with my Nikon (below). The pictures prompted me to research and write this post about the 1V1 situation.

Top 15 things soccer goalies need to remember in a 1V1 situation
Read the situation - attacker breaking through

  1. The shooter has the advantage over you. 
  2. You need to leave the goal line. 
  3. If you sit back and wait, the striker will have the luxury of choosing the optimum time to shoot.
  4. Conversely, if you come out aggressively, the shooter will be forced to shoot under duress. This makes mistakes more likely.
  5. If the you sit back and wait, the striker will have more goal area to shoot at.
  6. Converstly, if you come out aggressively, you will cut down the angle and reduce the amount of exposed goal area.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Youth Sports: The Confidence of a Daughter and Awe of a Father

Have you ever just looked at your young athlete from afar in awe?

Sometimes my daughter catches me in a trance like state staring at her and she will ask "What?" I simply reply, "you amaze me".

I am amazed by her athletic talent, but I am in awe of her confidence.

I watch her in wonder as she plays sports, or sings in the car, or does her homework without asking for help. I marvel at how easily she makes friends or the comfort she exhibits while conversing with adults. As I watch, I wonder where she gets all of her confidence and I secretly wish I had as much confidence as she.

Where does one get confidence

Did my wife and I give her that confidence or is that the confidence that all children (who just don't know any better yet) possess? Were we all born with unbridled and unwavering confidence before the reality of life gave us periodic episodes of self-doubt? I can't remember ever being as confident as my daughter, but maybe I did have it at one time.

But then again, maybe you are not born with confidence after all. Maybe confidence is developed through achievement. At 10 years old, my daughter has accomplished so much athletically, socially and academically.  She is a straight A student. She has countless friends. She plays point guard on perhaps the best 4th grade basketball team in OH. She plays goalie on one of the best soccer teams in OH (Final 4 in State Cup this year).

If success leads to confidence, where does success come from?

Famed Football Coach, Lou Holtz said that "Ability is what you are capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it."

Monday, May 16, 2011

Youth Soccer: The Pressure of a PK Shootout

There are youth sports administrators who take scoring out of games so that little Johnny or Suzie will not get his or her feelings hurt. These are the same types of people who would arrange 10 chairs in a circle for 10 kids playing musical chairs. When the music stops all the kids would have a nice comfortable place to sit and no one would get their feelings hurt by being left out.

These mamby pamby administrators would have a coronary watching a penalty kick shoot out to decide a U10 girls State Cup Soccer game.

A penalty kick shoot out is soccer's version of musical chairs.

Waiting for the ref to blow the whistle for the PK
My daughter's team was seeded 6th in the Ohio State Cup. They met their arch rival and undefeated
premier league champions, the Lightning, in the elite eight. Our team got off to a fantastic start scoring two quick goals. The Lightning did not panic and eventually tied the game on a low rocket shot through traffic that took our goalie, my daughter, by surprise. My daughter made up for it with about 1 minute left in the game when she thwarted a 1v1 by aggressively coming out and deflecting a shot wide which forced overtime.


Overtime in the State Cup consists of two 10 minute periods. At the end of these two periods the two teams remained tied at 2-2. The game would be decided on penalty kicks.

Penalty Kicks

When the two overtime periods end in a tie, the game is decided by penalty kicks. This is how it works:

  1. The players on the field at the end of the overtime are the ones eligible for the shoot out, so the coach must make sure his top shooters and goalie are on the field. 
  2. At the end of the game, the players on the field cannot leave the field. This rule is in place so that the ref can ensure that the players on the field at the end are the ones participating in the shootout.
  3. The coaches submited their shooting order to the ref. Each list consists of 5 shooters.
  4. A coin flip determined who shoots first, the opposing team elected to go first.
  5. The fans on the sidelines moved closer to the goal chosen for the shootout.
  6. Goalie one (my daughter in this case) took her spot on the line between the pipes.
  7. All passersby stopped to watch. You could hear a pin drop.
  8. Goalie two was instructed to stand next to the corner flag on the sideline (not the end line)
  9. The ref instructed the goalies that they must stand on the line until the ball is kicked.
  10. The ref pointed to the position on the field where the kick should be placed - usually it is marked with a line. The field my daughter was playing on did not have a line.
  11. The shooter placed the ball on the ground making sure it is sitting up and not in a hole.
  12. The ref blew the whistle.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Youth Sports: US Youth Sports Parents The World's Worst

We're the worst!#@!
I was surprised, but not really, when I read that US youth sports parents ranked the worst in terms of sideline behavior in a well written post on the blog Ask Coach Wolff by Doug Abrams called If Parents and Coaches Were Angels

Reuters News and Ipsos conducted a 22 nation poll that ranked parents in the USA as the world's worst behaved at youth sporting events.

Percentage of people who reported that they had attended youth sports contests and witnessed parents being verbally or physically abusive toward coaches or officials: 
#1 USA (60%)
#2 India (59%)
Suck it India USA is #1
#3 Italy (55%)
#4 Argentina (54%)
#5 Canada (53%)
The Main Point
60% really. It has to be much higher than that. The only way it could be 60% is if 40% of the people who attend youth sporting events in America with any regularity are deaf and blind. 
I'm considered a calm person and I've barked at incompetent refs, annoying coaches and my kids on occasion. Almost every game I watch I see one of the behaviors listed below. The other polls Doug Abrams quotes show the numbers much higher.

Here are all the scenarios - lets to see if my kids and I have witnessed the following behaviors:
√ Youth athletes watched parents yelling at children
√ Youth athletes had watched coaches yelling at officials or children

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Youth Sports : How to Save Money

Karen Datko, a writer for MSN Money, recently quoted this site in an article called The High cost of Youths Sports. MSN Money also linked to a post that I wrote for called How to Save Money on Youth Sports.

The Main Point

As of today the 131 day for the year, we have spent $4750 dollars on youth sports ($36/day). We use a some of the tips that I outlined in the links above to save money, else the total would be higher. I thought that I would share my learnings with you.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Youth Baseball: Metal or Molded Plastic Cleats What to do? (Part 2)

On January 3rd, I wrote a post questioning metal cleats for 13 year old baseball players. I enumerated the risks involved.
Injury Risk Number Two - Getting Cleated by your opponent - One of the most common "metal cleat injuries" occurs when a base runner slides into a base and spikes the fielder. As the runner slides the cleats are exposed toward the fielder's glove, leg or foot. Of course a runner sliding head first can get his hand stepped on by a fielder with metal cleats.
During the first game of the doubleheader on Saturday, my son Nic was diving back into first base when the first baseman stepped on his hand. The metal cleat lacerated the webbing between his pinkie and ring finger and cut the fleshy part of the side of the hand above the pinkie.

Nic was playing catcher in the game so the coach used a courtesy runner to allow Nic to go to the dugout without officially leaving the game. In the dugout, the team mom cleaned up the wounds and determined that the cuts would not need stitches. His hand was swollen and he had trouble closing his hand at first, but he had time to ice it before his next at bat. I was making plans in my mind to go to the urgent care to get the hand x-rayed,  while his coach was trying to figure out how to adjust his defensive game plan. Nic's turn to bat came up and he was determined to give it a go. Nic hit a double over the right fielders head. We all figured he was going to be ok. He also played the second game of the doubleheader and had 2 more hit.

At night, we watched Celtics Rajon Rando dislocate his elbow, go into the locker room for treatment and then return to lead the Celtic's in a win over the Lebron James, Dwayne Wade Heat. 

The Main Point

I still question whether the extra traction worth it. My son thinks that it is worth it for the cool factor alone. He loves his Nike Swingman cleats. 

And he got a big smile on his face when I compared his situation to the Rondo injury and return.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Youth Baseball: Rare night Second Base

Note to coaches. Don't tell a young kid that he cannot do something or will never be something. Especially when the kid is only 12 years old.

My son had been the primary catcher for his previous team. He played off and on in right field too, but wanted to play infield (2nd base) on occasion. He wanted to become more versatile for high school.

I told my son to approach the coach and ask him if he could get a chance to play 2nd base in practices with a chance to earn some playing time in games. His ex-coach, chuckled at him and said, "Nic your not an infielder" and turned away. My son walked away without comment, but was absolutely furious. He was close to tears telling me the story in the car ride home from the practice. I wanted to approach the coach and plead my son's case, not for playing time but for respect and a chance. My son forbade me. I told my son to hang in there that this was our last year with this coach.

This season, my son is on a new team with a new coach. He has been playing second or catcher all year long.  Tonight he was at second base and had a terrific game, a once in a lifetime type of game.

My son made 12 of the 27 outs at second base. He fielded 8 grounders to get 8 force outs at first base. He also caught 2 pop ups and 2 line drives, one of which was spectacular and turned out to be a game saving grab.

He did not make a single error. In fact, he has only made one error at second base all year long.

The Main Point

Coaches, I am going to state the obvious. Kids change continuously. Their bodies, their confidence level, their attitude and their courage can and will all change year after year, maybe even month after month. As such, don't pigeon hole a kid into a position or prevent a kid from practicing a position he wants to learn. Who knows maybe he will be spectacular at a position.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Youth Baseball: A Return to the Mound After an Injury

My son, Nic, has had arm problems off and on during his baseball career. (Read Elbow Injury) Last year was a particularly frustrating year for my son. Toward the end of the season, a doctor shut him down. An MRI revealed no structural damage, but a physical test revealed that his shoulder was very weak and was causing elbow issues. After a long rest period and physical therapy with trainers, my son started going to the gym and lifting with me. He was able to play fall ball, but limited the amount of throwing he did. During winter training, he work with a baseball coach to rework his throwing motion to correct some bad habits that could be contributing to the injuries.

Nic has continued to work hard with the coach and in the gym. His arms are stronger than they have ever been and his mechanics are sound. He is throwing essentially pain free this season and returned to the mound for the first time in over a year on Sunday.

Getting the ball on the bump again

First pitch

First Pitch

First Pitch
Come backer 1-3 to end the scoreless first inning on the mound

The Main Point

Don't let arm injuries derail your son or daughter's career. Be smart. When pain persists get a doctors opinion. If the doctor recommends rest and / or therapy, follow the advice. After the doctor supervised therapy, continue strengthening the arm on your own. And don't forget the most important avoiding injury by using the proper mechanics. Get a coach to evaluate your son / daughter's throwing motion. and have them correct any mechanical issues that may be putting the young arm at risk.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Youth Basketball: The climb to an AAU National Championship (Part 5)

Looking ahead to an AAU D1 title
My daughter, CC and her team are making a run at a AAU Division I National Championship. I am following the process through this series of blog posts.

District Championships

The Ohio District for Girl's AAU Basketball held a D1 District Championship Tournament this past weekend. As discussed in the AAU Tournament Qualify Process post, the D1 District Championships have two purposes;
  1. For the teams that have ALREADY qualified for the Division I National Championship by winning a D1 Super Regional, the D1 District Championship tournament helps to establish a teams ranking in the national tourney.
  2. For teams that have NOT ALREADY qualified for the AAU D1 National Tourney, placing high or winning the D1 District Championship will both qualify a team for the Division I National Championship and rank them. (The number of teams in the District tournament determines the number of invitations given - see the qualifying process post for details)
My daughter's team had already won a Super Regional so they wanted to win the Districts to secure the best ranking possible in the AAU Division I National Championship tournament in August.

Like in the Ohio Super Regional, only 3 teams signed up for the District tournament, so only one invitation to the Division I National Tournament would be awarded afterwards. Our team already qualified for the Division I National Tournament so our objective was to do well to increase our ranking for the National Tournament. My daughter's team did do well, they won the Ohio Districts.

Ohio AAU Districts Trophy Ceremony
Since we had already qualified, the second place team qualifies for the Nationals. The second place team always gives us a challenge so they deserve to go too.

The Main Point

The climb to an AAU National Championship has been a great experience for our daughter. Her confidence and her contributions to the team have increased each and every week. She was the leading scorer in the District finals and I could not be more proud.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Youth Sports: Gambling

This website covers the good, the bad and the ugly of youth sports. It doesn't get any uglier than the criminal element gambling on youth sports, paying pee wee players to perform or throw a game and the intimidation of those who don't.

ESPN Outside the Lines did a 7 month investigation of gambling on youth football in South Florida. Check it out.

The Main Point

Yelling at refs, conspiring against coaches, players or coaches cheating during a game, parents or coaches encouraging violence on the field, confidence killing coaches, parents drinking excessively at youth sports games, etc. are all ugly elements of youth sports that I have witnessed. Gambling, drug money and intimidation takes the ugliness to another level. I was shocked by the story at first, but I am not sure why. The ugliness I see is from middle to upper class people who typically have strong family units and quality education. The families depicted in this ESPN OTL story do not have it as easy.



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