Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Growing Up and Away From Sports

There comes a time when one realizes his or her sports career is coming to an end. It is a depressing time. It was for me.

My youth sports career was limited by my lack of focus. I played soccer and basketball and baseball and tennis and golf. I did not play any of these sports at a high level. I didn't even know that there were higher levels above town leagues. And I guess my parents were not too eager to find out about them either.

In 9th grade, my best days of baseball were behind me and I had fallen behind in soccer to players who knew that there was another level. Additionally, I was not tall enough for basketball and did not have the great ball handling skills to make it as a guard. At the time, there were no HS golf teams, so playing competitively did not cross my mind. That left tennis. I was really good at tennis, but it was not my passion. I decided to tryout for the tennis team. My high school was highly ranked, so I knew that it was not going to be an easy team to make. My dad belonged to a tennis club, so we played a couple of times a week in the mornings to prepare. He also invested in some lessons for me. When tryouts came around, I thought that I was ready. Unfortunately, the coaching staff did not. Very few freshman made the team and I was not one of the chosen few.

I immediately called the baseball coach and asked if it was to late to tryout for the baseball team. He allowed me to join in the later rounds of the tryouts, but I realized he was not paying any attention to me. When he posted the cut list, I saw my name. I wallowed in self-pity for the entire season. It was the first season that I did not have a sport to play. I didn't even pick up a racquet that season to play for fun. In fact, I never picked up a racquet to play competitively ever again.

Luckily, there was a new sport emerging, lacrosse. Few kids had played the sport growing up so I was not too far behind. My lax friends encouraged me to play. I picked up the game very quickly and found my passion. I made the JV team and eventually played on the varsity team. The game made me much much tougher. The game made me much more fit. And most importantly, the game gave me confidence and not just on the lax field. If I had all of these qualities before, I could have made the squads in any of the other sports I had played previously.

My son is going through a similar cycle and this fall is the first fall that he did not have fall ball baseball or golf or basketball. He was the last freshman cut from the golf team despite playing well. His baseball team broke up so he tried out for 4 club teams. He did not make any of the teams, his lingering arm problems finally caught up to him.

He felt the same way I did when I was in 9th grade.

The Main Point

I gave up on tennis after my setback, I will not let Nic give up on golf. Looking back, he wished that he had dropped baseball before last year to concentrate on golf. His friends that made their teams had played all spring and summer long to prepare for golf, Nic only played the three weeks between the end of baseball and the golf tryouts.

Then this fall he did what I did. He found a new sport. He found boys volleyball. He joined a pre-season club team and learned the game. He fell in love with it. He signed up for tryouts for the club season, but a stress fracture in his back have derailed those plans for now. Hopefully he can get back to playing so he can prepare for the HS season.

Regardless, there comes a time when competitive sports stop and real life begins. Luckily, real life includes intramural sports and co-ed adult leagues.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

I swear I didn't make my daughter play injured.

I do not miss many games at all. I am lucky to have a job that I can manage my own schedule fairly easily.

I do not miss my kid's games because I do not want to miss the action. I want to be there when my daughter sinks a three at the buzzer or when my son makes a birdie on 18 to win a tournament. I want to see their faces when it happens. I want them to see my proud reactions too. I also want to be there just in case something happens. If they get injured, I want to be there to help comfort them. We all know that injuries are a part of youth sports. It is just a question of when, where and how bad.

I missed a game on Sunday.

I dropped CC off at soccer tryouts for the Ohio South Olympic Development Program. I normally stay to watch, but I had to leave to get to the Cincinnati Bengals / NY Giants game. 

I'm a huge Giants fan, so my wife bought me the NFL tickets for my birthday. What she did not know when she made the purchase in September was that my daughter would be competing in the finals of the 6th grade CYO Girl's Basketball Cincinnati Division I Championship. When I realized the conflict, I did not want go to the football game. I would much rather watch my daughter play. I contemplated not going to the NFL game, but the tickets were very expensive. I could have sold the tickets on StubHub, but it was going to be my wife's and son's first NFL game. They were very excited to go. I was torn, but had to go to the Giants game.

During soccer tryouts, CC got hurt in a freak accident. She was on the sidelines next to the goal awaiting her chance to get into the game. The coaching staff was rotating three goalies in each goal. CC was stretching and talking to the other goalie while the other girls on the field were showcasing their skills for the evaluators. CC was not really paying attention to the game. 

A striker in the game took aim at the goal and fired a really hard shot. The ball missed the goal and hit the very top of CC's foot. She was relaxed and not expecting the impact, so her  ankle snapped back. It hurt a lot, but CC did not want anyone to know. ODP Goalies need to be tough. 

She hopped up to walk it off and get the ball that ended up 20 yards behind her. She was trying desperately not limp. Just as she retrieved the ball, the tryout ended. Luckily, she did have to get back in the goal with a bum ankle. 

After the training session was complete, she found her club teammates and her ride home.  She arrived home to an empty house. She iced her ankle which was now really swollen. She then found an ankle brace, tied it on tight and awaited her ride to basketball. She was not going to miss the Championship basketball game. 

A basketball teammate picked her up and took her to the game. She participated in warm ups trying not to limp. She did not want the coaches to bench her. She ended up playing the entire first quarter and the first half of the second quarter before she got a break. During her down time at he end of the second quarter and half time, the ankle swelled more. She tried to play in the third quarter, but could not play at her normal frenzied pace. She sat out the rest of the game unable to take another step. 

CC's team went on to win the Cincinnati City Championship and ended the season undefeated with a 26-0 record.

We arrived after the game. As soon as she saw us, she started to cry. We knew she was hurt because we got a text telling us that she sprained her ankle. We were not expecting it to be too bad. We took her sock and shoe off. It did not look very good at all. 

This morning, she could not walk. We took her for an X-ray. The X-ray was negative. The doctor was concerned about the ligaments on the top of her foot, so he gave her a boot to wear for a week. We will go for a follow-up next week.

The Main Point

Some parents push their kids to play even when they are hurting. Some kids push themselves.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Youth Soccer: How to Make an ODP Team

I'm back after a short vacation from blogging. Work has been very busy so I needed to take a hiatus.

Last year, my daughter, CC, was planning on participating in ODP (Olympic Development Program). I described the ODP program and process in a detailed post at that time. When sign ups came around last year, however, CC decided to pass. She who was burned out from all the sports she was playing and wanted a break.

One of her goalie friends did not skip the program, made the district team and got to go a regional overnight camp. My daughter was very happy for her friend and secretly wished that she had gone on the journey with her. When sign ups came around this year she did not hesitate to signup.

The process started with fall training / tryouts. The tryouts / training take place over two weekends in November (outdoors) and two weekends in December (indoors). The first weekend is complete. Prior to the first session, CC was a bit nervous. I reminded her that the trainer she loves would be there and that her friend would be there to. She was not nervous about trying out, she just wanted a friend to be there.

When she showed up there were 24 goalies vying to make 5 teams (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002). My daughter is a 2000. By the way, ODP in Ohio goes by calendar year, not school year to determine the rosters. Unfortunately, there were 11 girls in the 2000 class vying for the district team and CC was by far the smallest.

CC has come to expect being the smallest player, so she did not hesitate at all. Luckily, she was very comfortable and familiar with the drills because her club trainer was also the ODP trainer too.

The sessions consisted of 1 hour of training / instruction and 45 minutes of scrimmages with the other 2000 team players who are competing to be field players.

CC is number 161 to the far right

The Main Point

CC is small (11 percentile of weight and 40% percentile), but she is in the upper percentile for confidence and guts per pound. I am very proud of her. CC is not expecting to make the team this year, she is participating in the tryouts / training to get experience and get some additional training.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Youth Sports: How to Get Great Action Photos

Do you want clean, crisp action shots with little or no blur in both indoor and outdoor settings like the images below?

First of all great shots start with the right equipment. Here is the camera that we use and I recommend.

Get a Nikon D7000 camera. It has a terrific processor, an expanded ISO range and shoots 6 images per second. You will pay a bit more for the 6 shots per second, but it is well worth it. The rapid shooting is important because it increases the chances of stopping the action at the right exact moment. My old camera, the Nikon D70s, only did 3 shots per second. I rarely got the exact moment that I wanted like the ball jumping off the bat or the soccer ball suspended right in front of the goalies awaiting hands. Bonus: The camera also takes great HD movies, so there is no need to carry a separate movie camera.

Here is the lens we use for indoor low light action shots to prevent motion blur. 

If your kid plays indoor sports like volleyball, basketball or hockey, and you want great picture you will need to invest in a good lens. I recommend the Tamron AF 70-200mm f/2.8 lens for indoor lower light action shots. You need an low f/stop (2.8 or lower) to eliminate the blur. Be prepared, to get a low f/stop you need to pay some money. This lens is $670. Tamron is a lower cost option than the Nikon lens which costs almost 2X. It was a smart buy and a great value. This lens works great outdoors too.

Here is the lens we use for well lit outdoor action shots

The Nikon 70-300 f/4 - 5.6 is ideal for action shots in higher light situations. We use this lens for our outdoor shots during soccer and baseball games. We like the added zoom that a 300mm lens gives. Soccer, lacrosse and football fields are long, so you will want the extra zoom that a 300mm lens gives. On bright days we do not need the f/2.8 lens, so we opt for longer lens with the higher f/4. By the way, a 300mm lens with a f/2.8 would be $5,000 (see link below). It is much cheaper to get the two lenses I recommend here than to invest in one $5000 lens, but knock yourself out if you do not want to deal with two lenses.

Here is the lens I use for close up shots.

We also use the f/3.5 18-105mm lens that came with the camera. We use the shorter lens to get close up shots. NOTE: It is tough to get the end of tournament team trophy shot with a telephoto lens because all of the other parents with point and shoot cameras get up close. You will not be able to get close with the longer lens, so you will have to wait until everyone is done and hope that the team stays still while the parents clear the way for your shot. As soon as the game is over, we switch to the shorter lens.

The Main Point

The money I spent on a great camera was worth every dollar. You cannot put a price tag on memories we captured. Buy the camera and the best lens or lenses to fit your needs and you will not regret it. I promise.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Nike FuelBand is perfect for inactive kids and parents

My kids gave me a Nike Fuel Band for my birthday. Well, that is not completely true.

My cash-strapped kids recommended it. My wife actually gave me a Nike FuelBand, but she put the kid's name on the box.

When I opened the gift, there were two Nike FuelBands in it. A M/L for me and a S for my wife. His and hers matching Nike FuelBands.

So if you think about it, I technically, I gave myself two Nike FuelBands for my birthday. It was a great birthday....for my wife.

Actually, it was a great deal for me, a dad who works on a computer for hours and hours a day, then goes home to write, read and explore on the computer at night. I was getting lazy. Days would go by that I did basically nothing active. Now I have a device that keeps me aware of my laziness or lack there of.

I am a stats guy. I love numbers. I love goals. So this was the perfect present for me. The wristband uses accelerometers to calculate my activity in 3 ways; 1) steps taken, 2) calories burned through activities, and 3) Nike Fuel points. Nike Fuel is a universal number that takes into account the steps and calories burned with the gender, age, weight and height of the Nike Fuelband wearer. Nike Fuel points are suppose to be an apples to apples number that people of all ages and shapes can compare. All of this data is easily attained with a few pushes of a rubber button on the band. did a nice job of reviewing the Nike Fuel Band in March 2012. The reviewer was not overly impressed with the accuracy of the device, but applauded the utility and cool factor. I really don't care if the number of steps I take in a day are off or the calories burned are inaccurate, but I thrilled to know how active I am.

Check out the two charts below.

Sept 14, I played golf with my bother-in-law. Lots of walking and moving. I burned over 5000 Nike Fuel points.

Sept 25, I had a very busy day at work (on a computer) and then had to meet my wife at my son's high school for an event. Lots of sitting.

At 9pm, neither my wife nor I had reached our set goals, so we went for a fast-paced walk in the neighborhood to get into the green (the goal area).

The Main Point

A recent study indicates that the young people of today may be the first generation NOT to live as many years as their parents.

Technology, mainly computers and video games, is the culprit for the inactivity. The inactivity is causing the life-shortening health problems. Well, technology can also be the solution. Get your inactive, technology loving kids a Nike FuelBand.

If your kids are watching too much TV and playing video games all day long, then strap a Nike FuelBand around their pudgy wrist and give them a goal.

If they make their goal, the following day they can watch TV and play Mortal Kombat or Club Penguin. If they do not reach their daily goal, then they can't. It's a pretty simple concept.

My kids are very active, so they do not need a Nike Fuelband, but I can attest that it is working for me and my wife.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Youth Sports: Preventing Sexual Abuse

The best thing that you can do as a youth sports parent is to make your kid feel comfortable talking to you about anything. The second best thing to do is ask questions and listen attentively to what is said and perhaps not said.

Here are two situations where I talked with my daughter, listen attentively and helped her out of an uncomfortable situation.

2nd Grade YMCA Basketball
In second grade, my daughter was on a YMCA basketball team made up of boys and girls. The head coach was the grandfather of one of the kids on the team. The coach was over-qualified to be a coach of 2nd graders. He had coached at every level including college. He was a terrific coach and guy.

After the first practice, the coach came up to me and asked if CC was my daughter. I said yes with pride. He went on to tell me how impressed he was with her ability to listen and learn at such a young age. He was also impressed with her determination and athleticism. He gave me his card and told me to call him when she is ready for AAU basketball. On the way home, I told my daughter. She was beaming with pride herself.

The next practice, the coach used CC for all the teaching demonstrations. He constantly called her out to demonstrate a technique or where to be on the court for certain situations. It was second grade level coaching, nothing lofty, but it was quality coaching. Again, I watch with pride as my daughter performed all of the tasks for the coach.

The next week, my daughter did not want to go to practice. She wanted to quit. I asked her why, but she just said she did not like it anymore. I gave her the standard speech about finishing what you start. I knew she loved the sport, so I asked her more questions. I thought that I was going to hear that one of the boys was bullying her. That was not it. I thought that maybe one of the girls on the team was mean to her. That was not it. Finally, with tears in her eyes, she told me that she did not like the coach. I was surprised. I asked why. She finally told me that he touches her too much.

Well, I was at every practice and my daughter was never ever out of my site, so I know that nothing inappropriate happened. She went on to tell me that when she is in front of the team demonstrating plays, the coach pushes her and pulls her. As I thought it was nothing inappropriate, but it did make her feel uncomfortable.

Before the next practice, I spoke to the coach. The coach changed his style and my daughter went on to love basketball and the coach.

Fours years later with a different basketball coach, my daughter started complaining about the same thing. This time I was a bit more concerned because we leave our daughter with the coach. I asked my daughter very specific questions. Again, nothing inappropriate happened. My daughter just does not like to be pushed and pulled.

Again. I spoke with the coach and told him to simply, tell my daughter where he wants her to be and she will move to that spot.  I went on to tell him that she does not liked to be pushed or pulled. The coach was apologetic and the situation was resolved.

The Main Point

Talk to your kids about proper and improper touching. Make sure that they know that they should talk to you if they get into situations that make them uncomfortable.

Furthermore, make sure that the team has a "Coach and Player are never alone" rule. It protects the kid from potential abuse and it protects the coach from potential false allegations.

This post was prompted by a article called Preventing Sexual Abuse in Youth Sports. also has some great content to help parents protect their young athletes from predators.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Youth Football: $60 Million High School Stadium

Football is big in Ohio, but not as big as it is in Texas.

Check out the new $60M stadium at Allen High School in Allen, Texas, a suburb of Dallas.

This $60,000,000 stadium seats 18,000 people, has a three-tiered press box, and a huge 26 ft by 44 ft jumbotron. I'm sure Jerry Jones was impressed with this until he heard that Carthage HS spent $750,000 on a 1,200 sq foot scoreboard. Find more details about the new Allen High School Stadium here.

The Main Point

While the Chicago school teachers strike is front page news, Allen Texas is unveiling a new $60 Million high school football stadium.


I am sure this extravagant use of money for a high school football stadium is upsetting many many people. I can practically hear arguments, "that money should have gone into general education."

Here is my take on it.

This country has poured millions and millions of dollars down a rat hole for the sake of education and our schools on a whole have not improved, in fact they have declined. Money is not the problem with our schools it is the approach we take to education. 

Regardless, this stadium was paid for by a bond referendum voted on by the citizens of the community.

What is a bond referendum?

A bond referendum puts the sale of bonds to generate revenue up for vote. If approved the money generated from the bonds can be used for acquiring, building, enlarging, or improving buildings or school grounds, or for any other use of the public schools within a district. The bonds are generally issued for a 20-year period and are repaid with property tax revenue. Investors buy the bonds and expect a return on their money. That money is used for the improvements, in this case a stadium. The bond holders are repaid with the increased property tax money approved through public vote.

So, no general education money was used. No teachers salaries were cut or raises denied because of this expense. 

The crazy youth sports community of Allen, Texas loves high school football. They had an old stadium that was too small to meet the demand. The fine people of Allen, Tx wanted this stadium, they voted for it and they figured out a way to pay for it. From all accounts I have read, Allen High School is a great school and offers much more than just football. They have a high graduation rate, a top drama / performing arts program and the largest HS marching band in the country. They are doing things right.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Youth Baseball: Pitchers Should Wear Helmets

Oakland A's pitcher Brandon McCarthy was hit in the head by a line drive. The blow to the head instantly dropped him to the ground. He was able to get up and walk off the field, but he suffered a epidural hemorrhage, a brain contusion and a fracture skull that required a two hour surgery.

Brandon McCarthy was lucky, he was released from the hospital today.

There have been kids that were not so lucky. Seemingly, every year kids die.  I have written about this subject several times in the past.

Here is the deal. It is quite simple. The powers that control little league baseball have already mandated BBCOR bats to protect pitchers. Now they need to mandate helmets for pitchers.

All pitchers should wear helmets. I wish MLB would mandate it. The MLB makes first base coaches wear helmets, so it can be done. MLB should decree it to protect big league players. More importantly, the MLB should decree it to set an example for little league, HS, College and minor league players.

At the very least, I would love to see a prominent MLB pitcher wear a helmet to show kids that it is not uncool.


The Main Point

Parents do not need to wait until the MLB mandates the use of helmets. They should talk to their kid's coach and make it a requirement for pitching. My son didn't pitch much, but when he did, he wore a helmet. When my son was younger, his coach made everyone wear them. His coach did this because one of his players almost died from a line drive to the head. Almost 5 years later, that player still struggles with the debilitating affects of the injury. My son knows the kid very well, so it does not take any effort to get my son to wear a helmet when he is pitching.

Buy a helmet from the link below.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Youth Sports: Is God In or Out?

In Bremen, Georgia, local high school football fans would not be bullied by a Wisconsin-based Atheist group who filed a lawsuit to stop the pre-game prayer. The cash strapped school district could not fight the lawsuit, so they reluctantly agreed to ban the pre-game prayer. They are not the first school that had to succumb. The Bremen fans of both God and high school football, would not tolerate this, so together they stood up unified and said the Lord's Prayer before the start of the game anyway. The full story can be found on High School Football Fans Won't Fumble the Pre-game Prayer.

The Main Point

In Bremen, Geogria it looks like God is in, however God is under assault in this country. This was very evident at the Democratic National Convention this week.

This week,  a short 291 miles northeast of Bremen, Georgia, the Democrats gathered in North Carolina for their national convention. During the week, the Democratic platform was released. There were two very significant positions in the platform that created a swarm of negative publicity. Originally, the democrats omitted God from of the platform, a first, and changed their stance on Israel. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who has never been a close friend to the truth, call it a "technical error". Whether it was pure ideology, a technical error or lack of leadership, the platform pissed off Jews and Christians alike. It's not a good idea to piss off large groups of people before an election, so the Democrats changed the platform to include God and revert to their original position on Israel.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, this change required a vote of delegates to approve the amendments. The vote was very telling. The vote was an embarrassment to the democrats.

The shortsighted Democrats put themselves in a lose-lose situation. If they did not amend the platform, they would lose support from both Jews and Christians. If they voted on each amendment separately, they likely would have passed the God addition, but lost on the Israel situation. They need to Jewish vote especially in Florida, so the tied the two together hoped for the best.


There is an assault on religion in our country by radicals. A country without a religious core is doomed to fail. Thank God for the people of Bremen who stood up to the godless radicals. Thank God for the Democrats who stood up to party's radical element.  Now we need all Americans who believe in God to all stand up in unity to save this country just like the fine folks of Bremen, Ga.

Sorry for the political nature of this post, but I when I saw the Bremen high school prayer protest story after watching God be denied three times before the rooster crowed, I could not remain silent.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Youth Volleyball: Take your kid to the AVP

Hurricane Isaac was suppose to wash out Labor Day weekend in Cincinnati, so I did not make plans to play golf.

I expected to awake to rain on Saturday morning, but the skies were clear. I turned on the news to see the weather forecast and it showed that the chances of rain were low. After the weather forecast, I saw a news clip featuring the AVP event happening in Cincinnati. It looked like fun. I decided that a day with my little girl at the AVP would be better than another frustrating round of golf. At 9am, I awoke my daughter, CC, and asked her if she would be interested in going to see the AVP right after her basketball practice. She was excited to go.

The event started at 8am and was scheduled to run until 8pm. $15 general admission tickets to get into the park were sold throughout the day, so we did not need to be there at any particular time. We headed to Washington Park in downtown Cincinnati at 12:30.

I was concerned about parking with our late arrival, but we were able to park right next to the venue. I was worried that we would have to wait in a long line to buy tickets, but we walked right up and bought them with ease. We was concerned that we would not get good seats, but we walked into the stadium and sat in the fourth row during a game starring Kerri Walsh.

After the game, CC, was able to get Kerri Walsh's autograph. She also got an autograph from Kerri's new partner, Nicole Branagh. Misty May retired after the Olympics.

After Walsh and Branagh won their match, CC and I went to court 2 to watch the USA Olympic Silver Medal winners, April Ross and Jen Kessy, play a match. Court two was surrounded by bleachers no more impressive that you would find at a local little league baseball game. I would say that 100 people max were watching some of the best volleyball you can find anywhere. After the match, which Ross-Kessy won, CC got both of their autographs.

CC with Nicole Branagh

CC with Kerri Walsh

CC with Kerri Walsh

Jen Kessy Jump Serve

CC getting Jen Kessy and April Ross' autograph

AVP Volleyball in Cincinnati's Washington Park
The Main Point

Take your aspiring volleyball player to see an AVP event. You get to see great athletes compete up close and personal for $15. If you get there at 8am and stay the entire day, that is $1.25 per hour. That is a great deal.

It was a memorable day for me and my daughter, CC.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Youth Golf: When Good is not Good Enough to Make the Cut

Every week in the PGA, the pros compete on Thursday and Friday for a chance to play for money during the weekend. The cut is typically established as the top 70 players. Sometimes a 10 stroke rule is applied and the tournament will take the top 70 players plus anyone else within 10 strokes of the leader. That seems easy compared to making my son's high school team.

My son, a freshman, competed for a spot on his high school team the first week of August. He was trying to make the JV team. The HS has two teams, JV and varsity. Each team has 12 golfers. The golf team has 24 total players for a school that enrolls 800 students. Needless to say it was very competitive. At the golf informational meeting prior to tryouts, the golfers were told that if they shot an 85, they would likely make the cut.

As soon as baseball ended in late July, my son, Nic, started practicing golf. He played at least 27 holes per day for 15 days. When the tryouts came around he was fairly confident that he could shoot 85. He was ready. I, on the other hand, was not mentally prepared for it. It would be one of the first pivotal youth sports events that I would not be able to watch. I would not be there to give him a supportive look. I would not be there to cheer him on or encourage him to keep his head up. He was on his own and I felt a deep void during the hours he was on the course.

The tryout consisted of three 18 hole rounds - Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The tryouts started August 6th at noon. My wife drove my son to the course. I think that she was more nervous than my son was. She watched him hook his first shot into the woods and walk off down a hill and out of sight. She would call me 5 hours later from a position high above the par 5 18th green. She gave me the play by play as he approached and tried to read his demeanor.

That conversation went something like this:
"He hit a drive down the middle. It was a good drive, but he is walking to the ball with his head down low. Oh this does not look good. 
He hit his drive the furthest, so he will have to wait. 
He just hit his second shot. He is in the fairway in good position. I can't tell his demeanor. 
OK he is approaching his ball.... He's hitting... the ball is high in the air... it looks good...oh no, it's short of the green and rolling down a big hill. Ugh. 
Wait! He's walking up with a big smile. Oh, maybe he is doing ok. 
It is his turn again. He hit it up, it's on the green. stop, stop, stop... it just rolled off the green.  He is in the rough behind the green. He is sitting 4. He will need to chip in for a par. 
He chipped on. He has a 15 foot putt.
Long putt. It looks good. It stopped right next to the hole. He just tapped it in for a 7. 
He is smiling. Is that a smile of relief. Or do you think he did ok?"
Despite the 7 on the 18th, my son shot an 86. He was made the cut established at 100 for the first day.

On day two he had an 8am tee time. I drove Nic to the driving range at our club at 6:30 am. It was still relatively dark. The range was not open yet, but the night before, Nic hid about 40 range balls in some tall grass so that he could warm up prior to the tryout. The second day was more of the same. He shot an 85. I felt the void again until he called me with his score. I was so proud. The cut for day two was set at 90. He made the cut again and was thrilled.

One more day and all he needed to do was shoot an 84 to secure his goal of getting an 85 average over the tryout. As he approached the 18th green, my wife called me to give me the play by play. He played the hole well. My wife described his big trademark smile as he tapped in a putt for par. He shot an 83.

He was the first group off, so he had to wait and wait for the official results. Once everyone was done, the coaches called the players over. The coach gave out 8 spots. 4 freshman and 4 sophomores and he cut 6 players. My son was not on either list. The coach then explained that 2 freshman and 2 sophomores are on the bubble. That meant the he had to wait until the varsity team established their team before he could lock up the final spots. He explained if the varsity team dropped down 4 players, the 4 bubble guys would be cut. If 3 players dropped down, then the 4 players would compete in a 9 hole shootout on Friday for the final spot. And so on.

The varsity did drop down 3 players, so my son had to compete for the final spot. He was deflated because all of the scores from the previous 3 days carried forward. He had the 2nd best score of the 4 remaining bubble players, but he was 9 strokes behind one of the sophomores.

He arrived on Friday with nothing to lose. He had played conservatively on the tight course all week.  He rarely hit his driver, which he can hit 300+ yards, thinking he could make 85 without it. On the final Friday, he pulled out the big stick and went for it. He played some holes well, but got into trouble on others and could not make up the ground. He was cut and he was devastated.

The Main Point

While Nic was playing baseball all spring and early summer, the kids who made the team had been playing golf.  It is just too difficult to make a competitive team in a big school when you are not dedicated to the sport. Nic has decided that he is going to give up on baseball and concentrate on golf.

He is a good baseball player, but he probably has a better chance of succeeding at golf. The perennial state-championship baseball team at his school is ultra competitive too.

Well, the good thing about golf is that the score determines who makes the team, not politics.

I am proud of my son. He handed the pressure very well. He set a goal and met it, unfortunately it was not quite good enough this year. Next year will be different.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Youth Socccer: Can't Save Them All (Wordless Wed)

The ball needs to get through seven other players (8v8 game) before it gets to me. I'm not alone.
                                                                                                       -  CC

Left wing crosses the ball across the top of the box
 to the center-midfielder.  The center-midfielder
rips a low hard shot destined for the back of the net.
CC reacts like a cat and deflects the ball wide of the post.
She come up big again in this close contest.
Despite a great effort, the shut out and the game
 were lost in the final minute.
The Main Point

Goalies need to be tough physically and mentally.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Youth Sports: Dad, I don't want to play in college.

I started Stats Dad to chronicle my kids youth sports adventures, the ups and the downs, the wins and the loses, the tears and the fears, the hard work and fun, the cheers and the jeers, and the joys and the frustrations. My family has experienced the full spectrum many times over.

Well, my family is not unique. There are many families doing what we do, feeling what we feel, etc. So it is time to open up the platform for others to share their stories.

I have invited Mike Ewing, a dad, an ex-collage baseball player, a baseball coach and the creator to share his sports dad story on StatsDad. 

I am glad that I did, because Mike's daughter, Ansley, taught me something that I needed to know as my pre-teen girl athlete advances is sports. Enjoy.

Youth Sports Parent Spotlight Series - Mike Ewing
Ever since I was young, sports have been a large part of my life. My athletic career got off the ground when I was 8 in Little League. I was horrible that first year, but we won first place and I was hooked. I ended up improving enough at baseball to earn a college scholarship and I even played for a few years after college. I was forced to hang up the spikes due to injury but at that time, my children, Ansley and Conner, were starting their careers. This filled the void. 
Ansley, is my oldest, started out in gymnastics at 3. Soccer came along at 4 and softball at age 5. She gave up on gymnastics and softball after 2 years. She started playing basketball at 9 and that lasted a couple of years. She eventually discovered volleyball at age 12.

Conner started soccer and baseball at 4. He excelled at both and couldn’t get enough. He played baseball and soccer in the spring, summer, and fall, and basketball in the winter. Football eventually entered the mix when he got older. Football became an on-again off-again love affair, but baseball always consumed him. He played year round on as many as four teams in a season. 
By the time Ansley reached high school, she had become a very good volleyball player. She played club volleyball in the spring and high school volleyball in the fall. She traveled all over the southeast and midwest. She excelled and started getting noticed by some college coaches. We were excited since she was playing a tall girls sport at only 5’ 1”. Ansley got her first offers during her junior year from smaller DII and DIII schools. Of course she dreamed of a big DI school, but at 5’1” even as a libero, the chances were remote. 
The possibility of being a dad of a college athlete made me think about my parents when I played college baseball. I remember how proud they seemed to be. I couldn’t wait to feel that same sense of pride with my kids. 
I would have to put off that feeling for a while because I was hit with this BOMB. At the beginning of her senior year of high school, Ansley decided she did not want to play in college. At first I couldn’t understand how anyone would not want to be a college athlete. I would not have been able to attend college at all if I had not had a baseball scholarship. She had decided that she just wanted to be a student. She had missed out on a lot in high school. She had missed the prom her freshman, sophomore, and junior years because of volleyball tournaments. She had tournaments the day of the homecoming dances as well. She was able to attend those, but didn’t have time for dinner, pictures, etc. 
Luckily, we can afford to send her to school. I grew to support her choice. College is more than just going to class and studying. There is a lot to learn and do outside of the classroom. I hope she gets to do some things I didn’t have time to do in college. 
Life is a bit less complicated for us now. Conner is just now starting his sophomore year of high school. The hard part is going to be figuring out what to do with all of our free time. After years of driving in separate directions, my wife and I might actually have a free weekend or two with no ballgames or practices and we will have to learn how to watch games together. In three more years we may really be bored. 
Over all of the seasons, my wife and I put thousands of miles on our vehicles and spent who knows how much money. We wouldn’t trade it for the world. We have great kids and great students (the number one priority for our kids), who excel at athletics. We couldn’t have been prouder of our kids.

The Main Point 

Mike opened my eyes. He reminded me that short girls can excel at tall girl sports. My girl, CC, is 40th percentile for height and 12th percentile in weight for her age, but she plays at the 99th percentile of heart and hustle. I assume his daughter, Ansley, was the same way.

More importantly, Ansley also taught me that there is so much more to life for young athletic girls than sports. My daughter misses sleepovers and parties to go to soccer and basketball tournaments all the time. As youth sport parents, we might think that these things are trivial compared to the next big game. Maybe, just maybe they are not so trivial. Sports burn out is a reality.

When the choice come up for my girl to either play in a college showcase tournament or go to prom, I will help her make the right choice for her. I'll encourage her to go to the prom. Well, she can go as long as she is home at a reasonable time and her dress is not too short. :)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Youth Sports: Parents Suck (Part 2)

Crazy Youth Sports Parents and Coaches Series

In the last post, I suggested that parents should limit their role in youth sports to sperm and egg donors, check writers, schedulers and bus drivers. My rant was about the parent-led drama-filled story about my daughter's AAU spring / summer basketball season.

U15 Nations Baseball World Series Champ
Thanks to another group of parents, my son's spring / summer baseball team was a debacle too. Don't get me wrong, the action on the field was great. The boys all liked each other and played hard. They struggled to get wins early in the season, but came on very strong at the end of the season and won the Nations Baseball World Series in Pensacola, Florida.

The parents are the ones who made the season quite miserable. Parent coaches sparked discontent among many of the other parents. Youth sports parents with competing interests and goals often leads to no good.

The team was originally billed as a professionally coached team. They had a hitting coach, a pitching coach, an ex-minor league catcher to coach catching and all baseball fundamentals. The two parent coaches on the staff both had roles one the team too. They were tasked with the administration work and management of the games and practices when the professional coaches were not around.

One of the reasons my son picked the team was because he made an instant connection with the hitting coach at tryouts. Sadly, my son never saw that hitting coach again after the tryouts due to personal reasons and conflicts.

The pitching coach, a former minor league player and son of one of the dad coaches, was / is terrific. He could teach and had a great rapport with the kids. The only issue with him was that he was not a regular sideline coach. He was primarily available in the winter, but not very much during the regular season. This was not an issue for my son because he does not pitch, but the other very talented pitchers on the team could have benefited from more pitching instruction.

The "ex-minor league catcher" coach was terrific coach too. He's a young, energetic and credible. The kids loved him. The problem, he coached high school baseball and was not available until the later half of the first season. And by the second season, he was not available at all due to a work / grad school conflict.

That left two dad coaches. Another dad, also joined the staff to help out. So essentially, we had an elite team with three parent coaches. This is not unheard of, most of the teams had dad coaches too, but it did not seem to work in this case.

Many of the parents did not like how their kids were being played (positions, batting order, playing time, etc.) vis-a-vis the coaches kids, actually one of the kids in particular. The anger and resentment boiled up and up as the season went on. The bickering and complaining got louder and louder as the season went on. The calls to the coaches to complain became more and more frequent. I buried my head in the stats book and tried to steer clear of it as best I could, but it was pervasive among the dads and the moms. I have learned over the years that complaining does not work. It actually makes you feel worse about the situation and yourself.

In Pensacola, Florida, the the last pitch was thrown and the kids collected their championship trophies. Five minutes later, all of the families jumped in their cars for an 11 hour drive, and the majority of the team would never play together again. It didn't matter that the kids really enjoyed playing together.

The Main Point

If your son plays baseball at a high level, get him on a team with a professionally paid coach who calls the shots, makes the line up and assigns positions based on merit. And have your son work hard to earn his spot. And finally, during the season don't complain and make the season miserable for everyone else.

Trust me at the end of the day, talent will eventually win out. It always does.

The parents on this team were fun to be around when baseball was not the topic. I will actually miss hanging out with them. I have learned that many parents make a lot of emotionally based mistakes with their first young athletes. I was one of these complaining parents with my first kid and a little with my second kid earlier in his career. Overtime, I figured out that complaining was counter-productive and stressful. The parents from this baseball team will figure it out too. I wish them and their kids well.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Youth Sports: Parents Suck (Part One)

Crazy Youth Sports Parents Series

Youth sports would be so much better if parents limited their role to sperm and egg donors, sports financiers, secretaries, and taxi drivers. They can be fans, but they need to stand far away from coaches, umpires, refs, league volunteers, etc.

A few of the parents for the teams my kids played on this spring ruined the year with their complaining, bickering, scheming and undermining behavior.

Last year, my daughter's AAU basketball team was #1 in Ohio and finished #9 in the nation, but this year was filled with controversy from the beginning. Prior to this season, one of the team's best players left the team. She left to find a better technical and tactical coach, one that matched her skills and style. This made sense to me because the girl is a special talent. I was sad to see the girl go, but I understood the situation. My family wished her and her family well. I cannot wait to watch her play in college in 8 years.

With the departure of this key player, our team was not as dominate as it once was. Regardless, the team was still very strong. They won a 6th grade league as 5th graders and qualified for AAU Nationals Division I. The girl who left joined a new team, a team that became the dominate force in the state. The new team beat our team by 17 and went on to finish 5th in the country.

A few of the parents on our team could not handle being knocked down. As a result, they gave the coach a hard time. They called team meetings. They cajoled other parents on the team to join their fight. The next thing I know, I was in a meeting voting on a suggestion to skip the AAU Nationals. The group did not want their kids to be embarrassed at Nationals.

The Main Point

To me avoiding failure is just as damaging to a young girl's psyche as failing. What does avoiding failure teach a kid?

Were the parents worried about the fragile egos of their kids or their own egos?

I voted to go because 11 year old girls who compete in any tournament - win or lose - remember running in the halls of the hotel, racing up and down elevators, jumping on beds, swimming in the hotel pool and laughing with good buddies as much as the basketball.

I was in the minority. We did not go to Nationals.

Despite my displeasure at the situation, I was not overly vocal. My daughter played both AAU Basketball and travel soccer. She had to put soccer ahead of basketball because she was the starting goalie on her travel soccer team. As a result, she missed quite a few basketball games. My daughter was not a starter on the basketball team. One of the parents, called my daughter out for her lack of commitment in one of the meetings I missed. We made a decision to play multiple sports because our daughter is too young to specialize so I accept the criticism but if we had to do it all again, we would do the same.

I am not sure if it is connected to the situation, but my daughter has decided to give up AAU basketball and concentrate on travel soccer and school volleyball and basketball. Last year, she was thinking about giving up soccer to concentrate on basketball. Funny how things can change so quickly.

Parents, if you do not like a team situation don't be a cancer. Simply leave the team at the end of the season and find a better situation for your kid.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Youth Soccer: Refs, Rules, Smart Players and Fools

One of my readers asked this question about the US vs Canada Women's Olympic soccer game.

"Just wondering if you would write a post on the debatable calls made by the ref in the Canada v US semi final? Being a ref myself I obviously don't want to hear her [the ref] bashed, but being a Canadian it was obviously very hard to watch. If you purposely avoided this iffy topic sorry, but I would appreciate your thoughts."

My daughter played her season opening tournament this past weekend. The first game was an 8-0 blowout. My daughter, the team's goalie, touched the ball once the entire game. The second game was a 4-0 win. Again, my daughter was not challenged. The third game was a different story. Every ball in this game was contested and both goalies were tested. The girls from both teams were working hard because the winner would advance to the championship bracket and the loser would go home.

Direct Kick Deflected Over the Cross Bar
My daughter made save after save including a save off a direct kick right outside the box. The questionable penalty was called at the top of the box on a 50/50 ball. Luckily, my daughter was able to knock the ball over the cross bar.

Late in the second half with our team winning 1-0, the opposing center midfielder ripped a low hard shot from outside the box. One of our defenders put her hands up to defend herself and knocked the ball down. The defenders hand was extended, but the ref did not make the handball call.

I whispered to the head coach, "If our defender were Canadian, the ref would have blown the whistle." The coach gave me a knowing smile.

I watched every US women's soccer game with great interest and national pride until the ref called the Canadian goalie for holding the ball too long. It is a penalty that is rarely called. At the time, I thought it was a ridiculous call, especially at that point in the game because the call determined the outcome. (The resulting indirect penalty kick led to the somewhat questionable hand ball call in the box. That handball penalty led to the game tying PK goal by Abby Wambach.) The Canadian women would have won that game and advanced to the gold medal game against  Japan, if the ref had kept her whistle silent.

I hate when a ref's call determines the outcome of a game, but many non-calls determine outcomes too. The bottomline is that refs need to enforce the rules to protect the players and the integrity of the game.

The ref in the US vs Canada semi-final London 2012 Olympic games made a call at the end of the game that was technically correct, but rarely enforced. The rule in question governs how long a goalie can hold the ball. According to the official rules, goalies can hold the ball up to 6 seconds before they need distribute it. Many goalies, including Hope Solo, hold the ball for way longer than 6 seconds. The Canadian goalie held the ball over 16 seconds several times before in the game and according to reports had been warned by the sideline ref and the head ref. She foolishly risked a penalty to shave off a few precious seconds.

What the goalie did not know was that Abby Wambach was in the refs ear. Everytime the goalie made a save late in the game, she would go close to the ref and count out - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - etc. seconds to highlight how long the goalie held the ball. Amy Wambach was smart. She knew the ref could not blantanlty ignore the infraction because it's a rule for a reason.

The Main Point

Good soccer players play with their head. Abby Wambach uses her head to score goals better than anyone I have ever seen play the game. What I didn't know about Abby Wambach is that she uses her brains too. The Canadian goalie did not use hers and cost her team a chance for a gold medal.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed watching the US Women get World Cup revenge over the team from Japan, the calls against Canada, although technically correct, tarnished the gold medals of the US women for me.

Suggested Rule Change

If the 6 second rule is going to be enforced it should be enforced all the time not arbitrarily. In basketball a player has 10 seconds to get the ball across the half court line. This rule is in place so a player cannot delay the game in the back court. When a player has the ball in the back court,  the ref moves his / her hand back and forth to count seconds. Once the ref gets to 10 seconds the ball is turned over to the other team. Soccer should adopt this same approach. The ref should use a visual clue and call it at 6 seconds every time the goalie holds the ball too long. And I think that the other team should get the ball on a throw in instead of a indirect kick from outside the 18. That would keep the game moving and fair.

Finally, a good lesson for young players - Know the rules and use them to your advantage.

Side Note: Many youth soccer teams are instructed to kick the ball as far out of bounds as possible when the team is winning the game and time is running out. There are no ball boys / girls so lots of time is consumed when this happens.



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