Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Youth Soccer: Is Heading A Soccer Ball Safe?

A new study suggests that heading a soccer ball might not be safe after all.

A friend of my was playing goalie in a friendly pick up game. The field was filled with both US and foreign born ex-college players ages 25 to 45. During a game one Sunday, a powerful midfielder ripped a shot. My friend went to save the ball and the bone in his arm snapped through his skin proving that a soccer ball can cause damage.

So why doesn't a headed soccer ball cause brain injuries?

I know that ball contracts on impact to mitigate the force, but still, a professional soccer player can kick a soccer ball up to 80 mph.

How can that not cause brian damage?

This is a question that I have thought about often, but not enough to look for an answer because I considered that soccer has been played for years and years all over the world and brain injuries from a headed ball have never been a major concern. I would consider the world-wide history of soccer a big long conclusive test. If there were a problem with heading, then FIFA, SAY and any other organizing soccer body would have outlawed heading. So I just blindly assumed that heading a soccer ball was safe even if it did not make intuitive sense. Of course, the game is not without head injures, but soccer head injuries seemed to be confined to heads hitting heads, heads hitting goal posts and heads hitting the grounds.

Well, a new study suggests that heading a soccer ball may cause brain function issues. The study was presented at the Radiological Society of North America today. The study suggests that repeated heading is the issue, not the force of a single impact. Again, it makes intuitive sense to me, but then again, I look back on the long history of soccer wonder why issues have not surfaced prior to this study. I guess a lot of research needs to be done before there will be conclusive report.

The Main Point

So I conclude that if you put modern medical equipment to the test you can detect changes in the brain from repeated heading. If you put history to the test you can conclude that the changes detected from the modern equipment must not be consequential.

Heading is a vitally important part of the game on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. The best advice I can give a soccer mom or dad is to make sure that your kid's coach is teaching the proper technique at age 10 and up.

I do not think that players under 10 years old need to be heading a soccer ball. I say this not because it is conclusively proven to be dangerous to developing brains, but because players of this age do not know the proper technique. This can cause injuries. Kids this age often close their eyes and let the ball hit them on the top of the head (not the forehead where the most protective bones are). This does not feel very good and fear develops. This fear from poor initial technique will undermine the confidence needed to properly execute a header when they get older. Besides, young players 10 and under have so many things to master first.

Click here for the proper technique for heading a soccer ball

My son was a terrific player in the air. In soccer terms that means he was a very good at heading a ball. He attacked the ball.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Youth Baseball: Planning for Cooperstown Dreams Park

The Cooperstown Dreams Park baseball week is a very special event for 12 year old baseball players and their families. It's well worth the time, effort and money. The tournaments happen in the summer but the planning happens in the winter. 

Here are some of the things you should be doing in the winter to prepare for an awesome baseball experience for your team and your kid in the summer.

Stage 1 (Complete in November or December. January at the latest.)

1.       Parents - Get lodging booked for all parties who are not staying in the barracks. This includes parents, siblings, grandparents, etc. Players are not technically required to stay in the barracks. If your kid is considering not staying in the barrack for what is essentially a 5 day sleepover with friends, I would definitely re-think that because it is a memorable team building experience.

Here is link to housing options.  and Many families double or triple up in one house to save on costs. That is what I did. Some families they prefer to be by themselves.  Some families chose to stay in the hotels listed as well, but they are much more expensive on a nightly basis. I recently heard that a house called the Federal House right across the street from the park is nice and sleeps 14 people. Here is a list of Cooperstown house options that my team used. 

You want to look for housing now because they options are fairly limited. Start early and get the house that best fits your needs.

2.       Coaches / Parents - Make sure each player has an original birth certificate.

Players will not be eligible to play if they do not have an original birth certificate. So, it is a good idea to look for the original birth certificate in the Stage 1 period just in case you can’t find it. If you cannot find it, here is a website called VitalChek where they can order an authorized birth certificate that Cooperstown Dreams Park will accept.

3. Coaches - You need to start looking for an umpire.

Each team must supply a umpire for the week. From what I understand it is an honor to be selected and they make a few bucks. Normal pay for the ump is anywhere from $500-$800.00. Umpires stay in the barrack for free.

The Main Point

Wintertime is the time to start planning for Cooperstown. Stage 2 post, Things to do in Feb / March to follow shortly. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Youth Sports: Coaching Lessons Taught By Toddlers?

I have a confession. I was a terrible coach for my first son. I was too competitive and uptight. Over time, I learned from my mistakes. I learned how to coach in a much more positive way. I learned from trainers. I learned from reading books and websites. But most importantly, I learned from the verbal and non verbal feedback I was getting from the kids. So when, Alan Stein approached me with an idea for a post "Coaching Lessons Taught By Toddlers", I was thrilled to include it on StatsDad.

Alan Stein is a social media influencer and the owner of Stronger Team. He is the Strength & Conditioning Coach for the DeMatha Catholic High School basketball program, and a performance consultant for Nike Basketball. Alan brings a wealth of valuable experience to his training arsenal after years of extensive work with elite high school, college, and NBA players. 

More importantly, Alan Stein is a father of twin boys. And those two boys have made Alan a better coach. 

Alan Stein - Strength & Conditioning Coach
I am the proud father of 20 month old twin boys, Luke & Jack (aka The Born Backcourt).  Being a father has brought more joy than I could have ever imagined.  It has also made me a better coach.

How has being the father of toddlers made me a better coach?  Simple – my sons, as young as they are, embody several qualities necessary to being a successful coach – and they remind me of these things every day:

1.   Toddlers are Persistent: they never quit. Ever. When they want something… to be fed, to be changed, or to have a new toy… they do not stop until they get what they want.   And they are relentless when learning a new skill (like walking, holding utensils, etc.).  They spend hours and hours practicing until they master it.

      How persistent are you as a coach? How relentless are you in your own development?

2.   Toddlers are Communicators: they speak their minds freely. Granted, it’s in the form of crying, grunting, laughing, and Gibberish... but they do communicate. And they are attentive listeners.  When Mickey Mouse or the Wiggles are talking, trust me, they are listening!

How effective is your communication with your players? How about with your assistants?

3.   Toddlers are Enthusiastic: they have a passion for everything they do! When they are happy, they bounce around and their faces light up the room. When they aren’t, they flail their limbs and scream like wild hyenas. But they put their heart and soul into every aspect of their lives.

How much enthusiasm do you have for coaching? Do you raise the level of those around you?

4.   Toddlers crave Structure: they are on a schedule.  They go to sleep at the same time every night, get up at the same time every day, and eat (and nap) at routine times.  They are very consistent.

      Do you have a daily routine? Do your practices have structure or are they haphazard?

5.   Toddlers are Uninhibited: they don’t care about looking cool. In fact, they don’t even know what cool is. They will (literally) crap their pants and just keep on

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Youth Sports: A Plane Crash is a Good Excuse to Miss a Game

Do you go to all of your kids youth sports games? (Please let me know in the comments)

I faithfully and happily go to about 95% of all of my kids games. I do have to miss a few games on occasion. Sometimes I will miss my daughter play a game because my son is playing a game at the same time (or vice versa). Sometimes I miss a game because my wife and I are taking our annual trip together. We travel a week in February from Sunday to Friday to minimize the number of games missed. And sometimes my work interferes with a game. Luckily, I have pretty good control of my schedule so I can avoid conflicts most of the time.

There are some parents who missed most of their kids games. And there are situations where you only see the mom at games but never the dad. The reverse is true too. The reasons, good and bad, vary from work conflicts (including military deployments) to marital issues to lack of interest. And there are parents who go to most of the games but complain about what a waste of time it is the entire time.

For those of you who miss games you could actually make, this short video of a man who survived the plane crash of USAir 1549 better know as the Miracle on the Hudson may change your attitude about going to your kid's games.

The Main Point

This video should inspire everyone to cherish every at bat in little league baseball, every snap in pee-wee football, every tip off in AAU basketball and every minute of a 0-0 youth soccer game.

Time with our children goes by so quickly. Last night, my fifth grade daughter wanted to go to the regional finals of the Ohio State High School Football Championship because all of her friends (boys and girls) were going. Although we did not know any kids playing in the game, we decided to go to the campus of The University of Cincinnati to watch.

High school football is a big deal in Ohio. The stadium was crowded and electric. We had a good time, however sitting amid a sea of high school kids made me realize the my youngest will not be young very long. Soon she will be in high school and more interested in boys than her dad. Actually that's already happening. My son watched the game with his buddies far from my wife and me on the other side of the large stadium. We met up after the game and we walked side by side through campus to the parking garage. Every time I look at him lately he seems to have grown and matured more. At that moment, I realized I will dropping him off at college in 4 short years.

At the game last night, I peeked into the future and it made me bit sad. During the game, I remembered the video above that I just saw this week and it reminded me cherish every moment I have with my kids now. But I did not really need the reminder, I all ready do and I hope you do too.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Youth Baseball: Budget Planning for a Select Season

How much does it cost to run a select (travel) baseball team?

This is the time of year that an organzied select baseball coach will put together a budget for the spring season. If you are a coach, this post will help you think about your budget.

This budget is based on a 12 player team with a 65 game schedule.


Hats (2 colors)                                 24                        $15                   $ 360
Socks (2 pairs Home and Away)     48                        $  4                   $ 192
Jerseys (Home and Away)              24                        $40                   $ 960
Jerseys (Coaches)                           6                         $40                   $ 240
Pull Overs (Players & Coaches)     30                         $20                   $ 600
Pants (Home and Away)                24                         $30                   $ 720
Helmets (Batting)                           12                         $25                   $ 300
Helmets* (Pitching)                        12                        $25                    $ 300
Equip Bag (Reg)                            10                         $40                   $ 400
Equip Bag (Catchers)                      2                          $55                   $ 110
Equip Bag (Team)                           2                          $55                   $ 110
Shipping                                                                                               $ 225
Sub Total                                                                                           $ 4,517

* Highly Recommended


Game Balls (Dozen)                     6                             $40                   $ 240
Practice Balls (Bucket)                 1                            $100                   $ 100
Scorebooks                                   3                          $  10                   $   30
Medical Bag                                 1                           $ 200                  $ 200
Other Gear (L Screen, etc)           1                          $ 300                  $ 300
Sub Total                                                                                             $ 870

Field / Facility Rentals     

Winter Indoor                               1                          $1000                $1,000
Home Games                              15                         $    45                $  675
Practice Field                                1                         $  500                 $  500
Sub Total                                                                                           $1,175

Assumes 15 home games. Tournament game field fees are included in the tournament fees.

Umpire Fees

Assignment Fee                           1                          $   25                 $     25
Scheduling Fee                            1                          $ 100                 $   100
Game Fees*                                25                         $    55                $1,375
Sub Total                                                                                           $1,500

* Umpire Fees for regular season games only. Tournament game umpire fees are included in the tournament fees. 

Tournaments / League / Admin

Season Tournaments                     8                          $500                $4,000
League Tournament                      1                          $500                 $   500
State Tournament                          1                          $750                $   750
National Tournament                    1                          $750                 $   750
Team Sanction Fee                       1                          $  50                $     50
Insurance                                      1                          $ 100                $   100
League Fees                                 1                          $ 500               $   500
Misc (Admin, party, etc.)             1                          $ 500                 $   500
Sub Total                                                                                           $7,150

Grand Total                                                                                     $15,212

Cost Per Player                                                                                  $1,267

The Main Point

A well thought-out budget in the pre-season helps a coach avoid surprise charges during the season and allows the players' parents to budget their money for this somewhat expensive sport.

Note - this budget was built for 12 players - Communicate to the parents that if someone decides to quit and not pay - the other players will need to pick up the difference. As a coach you do not want to get caught making up for short falls in the budget. Believe me it happens all the time. It is better to ask for more money upfront from each player and then refund it, then it is to end up short. For the budget above, I would charge each player a flat $1,350.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Youth Sports: How to Start A Youth Sports Blog (Part 3)

In Part 1 of the series, I encouraged you to determined if you really had the motivation and passion to start a Youth Sports Blog.

In Part 2, you learned how to set up a blog and perhaps you started to write.

In Part 3, you will learn how to build credibility and organic traffic (Traffic via search and referrals).

1. Create blog roll on your site.

You'll want to join the conversation about youth sports to increase awareness of your site and build your authority. So you need to find conversations to join.

The first step is to find likeminded blogs. You can find blogs by 1) searching blog aggregator sites, like All Top or, 2) doing a Google Blog Search or 3) reviewing the blog rolls of sites you admire. A blog roll is a list of blog links on a blog. These are blogs the blogger likes to follow.

The second step is create your own blog roll.  It's easy to add a blog roll to your Blogger blog. Go to your layout options and select add a gadget. Then select Blog List. Follow the instructions to add the URLs of all of the blogs that you identified in step 1. For Wordpress blog roll instructions follow this link.

Every time you add a blog to your list, you are essentially giving a vote of respect to the blogger you admire with a link. Bloggers like links because each link to a site is tells search engines that this blog has interesting content that people like. The number of links to a site is an important ranking element for search algorithms. When you give a blogger a link, they will often show you some link love by adding you to their blog list.

2. Join the conversation

Go to the sites on your blog roll and comment on their posts. Let these bloggers know that you are a new voice. They will  notice your post and check out your link. If they like your content and see that you gave them some link love on your blog roll, they might add you to their blog roll. Again, you'll want the inbound links for SEO (Search) and exposure to the blogger's audience.

3. Keep the conversation going

Look at the comments on your site often. Acknowledge the comments and continue the conversation by adding a comment of your own in response. People love to be heard and acknowledged.  If the comment was not posted anonymously, check out the person who made the comment by following the link on the comment. Chances are that that person has a blog too. Go to their site, read it, comment on it and add it to your blog roll if you like it.

4. Use keywords

You will want to start showing up in SERP (Search Engine Results Pages) for your chosen topic. For example, if your topic is Youth Hockey - you will want to put those words in most of your posts.

Look at your analytics and check out which key words people are searching to find you. I once wrote a

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Youth Basketball: Learn From Jimmer Fredette

I watched my son's 8th grade team scrimmage last night. Everyone on his team was throwing up threes. Everyone, whether they were good at it or not. The other team worked the ball around, inside and out and beat them easily. The winning team opted for easy inside shots and only used open threes strategically to keep the defense honest.

The three point shot is a strategic shot. Jimmer Fredette is a three point sharpshooter, but there's so much more to his game.

Koran Godwin, author of Everyone Hates A Ball Hog But They All Love A Scorer and editor of Jumpstarthoops/Blog breaks down Jimmer Fredette's multi-faceted game. This is a must watch for any youth basketball player and coach.

As soon as I saw this video I sent the link to my son and daughter to study. My daughter, CC, especially loved it because she is known for her outside shooting.

CC shot a very respectable 7 for 19 (37%) from three point range during her 5th grade CYO season. What's remarkable about that is very few other players in the entire league even attempted a 3 pointer during the year. (Except for end of half or end of game desperation shots.) I saw at most 3 or 4 shots from other players the entire season. And what's even more remarkable is that my daughter is tiny. She weighs a mere 70 pounds. But when it comes to shooting, technique is more important than strength.

At the end of the season, CC was given the "Sharpshooter" award printed on a certificate. When she received the award, she smiled and commented, "Wow - that is the same award my AAU coach gave me after the 4th grade AAU season." She can shoot but there is much more to her game.

At what age should the three point shot come into play?

It all depends on the percentages. There's a reason 7 foot tall Shaq doesn't

Monday, November 7, 2011

Youth Sports: The Coach Gift

I received a special end of season gift for coaching. What coach gifts have you received or given?

I had the absolute honor of coaching my daughter's basketball team this fall. The experience to be with my daughter and her friends was gift enough for me, but the team gave me a post season gift anyway.

The team mom, who coordinated volunteers for games, communicated schedules and organized parties, coordinated the end of season coaches gifts. And she did a nice job all year and her choice of gift was great.

The team gave me and the head coach each a personalized, hand-painted tub filled with a mini-basketball hoop, popcorn, peanuts, a photo album and the kicker - 8 bottles of Yeungling Lager. The names of each player are painted on the tub. A lot of thought and effort and maybe cost went into this gift.

Coach's Gift
The Main Point

Gift cards to restaurants are nice, but this was a special gift.

What coach gifts have you received or given? Share the good, the bad and the ridiculous.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Youth Basketball: The Flu Game

On June 10, 1997, Michael Jordan woke up with a stomach virus. He was so sick that he couldn't even sit up. The Chicago Bulls trainer informed Phil Jackson, the head coach, that there is no way that Jordan would play the next night. Jackson started to prepare a game plan that did not include his star player for Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals.

The Bulls were playing the Jazz, who had won the previous two games to tie the series at 2 games apiece. The Jazz had all the momentum going into the crucial swing game. The Bulls did not want to go to Utah, where the Jazz were so tough to beat, needing to win the final two games of the series to secure a championship.

On June 11, the competitor, Jordan climbed out of bed late in the afternoon and made his way to the Delta Centre. He arrived just before the tip-off. Jordan stepped onto the court visibly weak and slow. The Jazz, with the superstar combination of John Stockton and Karl Malone took advantage and jumped out to a 16 point lead early in the first half. 

But the competitor found a way to endure 44 minutes of play and put up a stat line of 38 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 1 block before he collapsed into Scottie Pippen's arms victorious.

On Tuesday, my daughter awoke sick with the flu after a night of trick-or-treating. She missed school Tueday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday, she went to school but threw up and was sent home. She lost 5 pounds during the week. At 71 pounds, she did not have 5 pounds to lose.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Youth Sports: The Sins of Steroid Use in My Backyard

We all think that the use of steroids is confined to professional sports stars who are looking for an extra edge and a big money contract. Well, think again. Professional sports stars are starting to clean up their acts thanks to mandatory testing, but maybe your local high school star has not.

This week, in a small town 15 miles from my house, a decade long steroid distribution ring was broken up by the local police. The steroids were being sold to high school kids who worked out at the Countryside YMCA in Lebanon, Ohio. If it can happen in this quaint town, it can happen anywhere. This hits close to home for me because my kids have competed in that Y many times. (Note this YMCA was not involved in the ring. In fact they helped put a stop to these drug dealers.)

The performance enhancing drugs were imported from China and processed in Tennessee. 32 people, (actually lets call the what they are) 32 drug dealers have been indicted for drug trafficking and possession. This was a big operation and impacted many people over a 10 year period.

Here is my list of seven things at play here:

1) Greed - People so hungry for money that they would jeopardize the future of a young kid.
2) Envy - Steroid users envy those who are bigger, stronger and faster, so they cheat to compete.
3) Pride -  That desire to be more important or attractive than others. An excessive love of self.



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