Thursday, May 31, 2012

Youth Sports: Coach, Your Players Are Hydrated Are You?

This past weekend, my daughter's team competed in an elite regional tournament. The temperature was 94 degrees and very sunny.

This is what we did to keep the athletes cool and hydrated

  1.  We packed a cooler with 12 white towels soaked in ice and water. One towel for each girl to put on her head or neck to keep cool.
  2. We packed ample amounts of ice water and Gatorade. 
  3. We set up a tent on the side lines for the players to sit under.
  4. The tournament mandated water breaks at the 15 minute mark of each half.
  5. We immediately got out of the sun between games - my daughter and I went to see the Avengers in a cool cinema between games on Sunday.
The kids went 4-1 in the tournament. They lost in the finals 1-0 against the best team in Ohio. The steps we took to keep them cool and hydrated worked and allowed us to compete.

But what about the coaches? Did we stay hydrated? Apparently not.

The Main Point

Coaches, you need to stay as hydrated as your players. If not you can end up like me.

On the way home from the finals on Monday, while driving 65 MPH on the highway, I started to blackout. Luckily, I was able to move off the highway and remain conscious. I stayed as calm as I could as I instructed my daughter on how to use On-Star to call for help if I should pass out. I then instructed her to climbed in the back of the car to get me a cold wet white towel and some water. The water and the cool town made me feel better. Soon, I felt good enough to continue driving, but I did not want to risk it so we pulled off on the very next exit to get some water and food.

I felt good as we left the restaurant. We started to drive home and as soon as I reached cruising speed, I started to feel really dizzy again. I pulled over again. Once I again I took a cool towel and more water. I then started feeling better again, but was not confident that I could drive my daughter home safely. I did feel good enough to drive to a hospital that happened to be on the very next exit. I drove there and checked myself in.

I learned a valuable lesson even though we are not running around, coaches need hydration too. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Youth Sports: It's Not About You Dad

This past memorial day weekend, my daughter's U11 soccer team advanced to the finals of the Warrior Classic, an elite regional soccer tournament held in Dayton.

The pre-game line-up before the finals
The team has played well all season, but has made fatal flaws in games that have resulted in more losses than wins. The team finally put it all together in this tournament, including a big win over the best team in Ohio during pool play. Unfortunately, our team lost in the finals to the same team 1-0. Regardless, my daughter's team earned a lot of respect and walked away with some hardware.

CC with 2nd place hardware
That is not the story. This is a Crazy Youth Sports Parents Series Story

One of CC's teammate did not participate in this wonderful experience. She did not participate because her dad made the decision to quit the team prior to the tournament.

Here is how it went down:

Memorial Day Weekend is a big soccer tournament weekend. Our U11 Elite team was playing in Dayton. The U12 Elite team was playing in Columbus.

A dad on our team has a daughter on both teams, so to keep the family together for the holiday weekend and reduce the number of hotel rooms needed, he asked the U12 coach if his younger daughter could play up.

The U12 coach called our coach to ask permission to take the player. Our coach approved the move.

Our coach then called up another defender from the B team, a defender who he has wanted to call up for awhile now. He saw this as a great opportunity to see how this B team defender would play at the highest level prior to tryouts coming up.

The U12 coach then decided that he did not want to add the younger player to his tournament roster.

The dad then called our coach to inform him that his daughter would be coming to the U11 tournament. The coach informed the dad that he has already registered for the tournament with the B player on the roster. He said that she could come to the tournament, but expect reduced playing time.

The dad was not happy with this situation, became irate and decided to quit.

The Main Point

Unfortunately, this is not a unique situation. Many parents over-react when they feel that their kid is being wronged.

Who loses in situations like this?

The girl, who is a great kid. She didn't play soccer all weekend long and missed a chance to win a trophy.

The girl's teammates who missed playing with their friend.

The dad, who is a great guy and probably feels sick about the situation. I have never gone to this extreme, but I have approached coaches and regretted it. I don't do that anymore.

Tip - Let the season play out and then make a rational decision for your kid.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Youth Sports: Family Separated on Holiday Weekend

When I was a kid, a holiday weekend meant a trip to the Jersey shore with the entire family. Soccer was a fall sport, basketball was a winter sport and baseball leagues would take a break for the long weekend.

Fast forward 35-40 years and soccer is a year round sport, basketball is a year round sport and baseball plays 70 games from March 15 to July 31 instead of 18 games. And of course none of the sports gives a rats ass about your family vacation plans.

This weekend I am in Dayton, Ohio with my daughter, CC, who is playing in an elite soccer tournament. My wife is with our son, Nic, in Cleveland, Ohio, 3 hours away. Nic is playing in a top regional baseball tournament.

Is this situation good or bad for the family? What do you think?

The Main Point

Personally, I do not mind going to a tournament on a holiday weekend. I actually enjoy them. I would much rather enjoy the long weekend with my entire family together, but these weekends do give my wife and I a chance to connect with our kids individually on a much deeper level.

Last night, my daughter and I went out to dinner at Franco's Italiano Restorante, a must stop when you are in Dayton. We both got two big bowls of pasta and talked about the two big wins the team had earlier in the day. The second win of the day against the best team in the state was especially fun to reminisce about. CC had a terrific two games in goal. She made four spectacular saves. She even had an assist on a long punt over the defense.

Give the Assist to the Goalie

Gave Saving Dive
Thanks to iphones, my wife and I traded updates and pictures. My son went 3 for 3 and threw a guy out at the plate from second base. I enjoyed the chats with my son as he recounted the highlights after the game too.

It is not ideal, but it will be a memorable weekend for my family even though we are not all together. Thanks to technology we can stay connected.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Youth Sports: How the Bad Economy is Keeping Kids off the Field (Part 1)

I keep a log of how much we spend on youth sports. The $10,000 per year amount has been the subject of a book, Time Magazine, the New York Times and the Huffington Post. I was not featured in these publications because I am unique, no I was featured because I represent the reality of a lot of middle and upper income households. The economy has changed my spending habits on many things, but not youth sports.

The economy is a real issue for many youth sports parents and kids are paying the price by sitting the seasons out. Over the next couple of posts I am going to study this situation to start a conversation.

Schools used to be the main source of "free" sports for kids, however, schools with budget woes are dropping sports or starting "pay-for-play" programs to subsidize the costs not covered by tax dollars. According to the Unversity of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll,  61% of kids are paying to play school sports with an average fee of $93. Some are paying upwards to $150 per sports season. The average cost for each kid to play is $381.

This trend is negatively impacts lower income families. 19% of kids in households making less than $60,000 saw their participation decrease, while only 5% of households making more than $60,000 said participation decreased.

The Main Point

As Republican Speaker of the House Boehner (against raising the debt ceiling) and President Obama (for raising the debt ceiling) debate the national debt crisis, there is a lot of rhetoric about the national debt problem is going to be falling on the backs of our children.

 "The fact that we are here today to debate raising America 's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the US Government cannot pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies. Increasing America 's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that, "the buck stops here.' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better."

Guess what fellas, it all ready is.

By the way - the quote above was spoken by Senator Barack H. Obama in 2006. He needs to take his own advice.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Youth Baseball: Get Your Swing Analyzed by a Pro at ExtraInnings

My son has spent a lot of time with a baseball hitting instructor, but many kids do not have access to this type of training nor the resources to pay upwards to $60 per hour. These kids rely on good old dad to teach them the finer points of hitting a baseball, which happens to be one of the hardest things to do in the world of sports. Dad might have played in HS or college and have a clue, but most dads do not have a trained eye.

Well as they say - there is an app for that.

Now there an app that helps a dad or a trainer analyze a baseball swing. The app has all kinds of teaching ad features to help a young hitter better understand his or her swing.

You can down load that app on your mobile device. Search for ExtraInnings on your App Store or Itunes. The app is only $4.99.

Now here is the cool part. Once you download the app, you upload a video of your kid and send the video to a professional at ExtraInnings for an expert analysis. In a day or two you get the analysis of your kid's swing. For a limited time, this service is included in the cost of the app. That is a tremendous value.

Here is the analysis of my son's swing by Dana D'Agostino. His analysis is very similar to the feedback my son gets from his hitting trainer.

Visit to learn more about this app. ExtraInnings is a company that specializes in baseball and softball instruction and training. They have 40 or so outlets. 

Full disclosure. I was given the app for free, but was not paid for my endorsement.

The Main Point

Hitting a baseball is perhaps the hardest thing to do in sports. A short quick and repeatable swing is the key to success. In order to develop a short quick swing, a kid needs to understand the mechanics of the swing. This is one of the best and perhaps the most inexpensive way to get this type of analysis.

I am a huge fan of this service. If you have a trainer - have your instructor use the app to show you what he or she is trying to explain to you. You can also get your baseball / softball coach to use the app to analyze your swing.

If you don't have an instructor and your coach is as clueless as your dad, upload your swing into the app and get it analyzed by a pro. The first analysis is currently included in the app, subsequent expert analyses will only cost about $15.

The app cannot fully replace live iterative instruction, but it will help your kid better understand what he or she needs to do to be successful.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Youth Sports: Should Boys be Allowed to Play on Girls Teams?

In the past, I have tried to answer the question should girls be allowed to play on boys teams?

I determined that the answer to that question was a resounding maybe. 

The question came up when my daughter, CC, tried out for a boys basketball team in 2nd grade. She wanted to play basketball, but there were no 2nd grade girls teams. She made the team and did fairly well. She was not the best on the team, but she was not the worst by far. The team had an outstanding former NBA coach, Ronnie Grandison, so she learned a lot. The following season, CC played with girls. The experience helped set her apart from other girls.

I concluded that girls should be allowed to play on boys teams if they can 1) compete safely against the boys, 2) grow in confidence and self-esteem, 3) improve their skills from the experience and 4) have fun. 

This is especially true if the girl does not have an opportunity to play the sport in a girls league. Chelsea is a standout baseball player in Florida. She proves the point that girls should be allowed to play on boys teams.

It's when a girl wants to wrestle that the once easy conclusion gets a bit grey. 

Last year, an Iowa wrestling standout, Joel Northrup, denied himself a chance at an Iowa State wrestling title by refusing to wrestle Cassy Herkelmen. He refused on religious grounds.
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Cassy, however, wrestling is a combat sport and it can get violent at times. As a matter of conscience and my faith I do not believe that it is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner."
The wrestling situation is very complex. I could be persuaded by both sides of the argument, but in this very close contact and often violent sport, I personally think that girls should have their own competitions. 

So what happens when I boy wants to play on a girls team. A boy, named Keeling Pilaro from Southampton, NY, grew up in Ireland where field hockey is both a mens and women's sport. When he he moved to the US, he wanted to continue playing the sport he loves. There was one major problem, however, field hockey in the US is a girls sport. He pursued it anyway and was allowed to play at first, but he dominated so much that they eventually banned him from playing. The kid is hardly an imposing figure at 4 foot 8 inches and 82 pounds for varsity high school player, so safety was not the issue. It was because he was dominant due to his training.

Chelsea Baker is dominant too thanks to a knuckleball that she learned to throw. Should she be banned?

The Main Point

Can the girls argue for equality and fairness at the same time deny a boy a chance to play a sport he loves but has no opportunity to play here in the US?

Title IX is suppose to be an anti-discrimination law. 
"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance,"
Does it not work both ways?

Let's be honest. Title IX is an anti-discrimination law for women. As a dad of an athletic girl, I applaud Title IX because it will provide my daughter equal access to scholarships. training and equipment as boys. As a dad of an athletic boy, I question Title IX. I see how men's programs have been cut in the name of equality. The law is clearly not perfect.

In the case of Keeling Pilaro, I determined that the answer to that question is a resounding maybe. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Youth Sports: Two Sport Athlete Overcommitted (Part 4)

In the previous three posts, I have questioned whether it is fair for a young athlete to commit to two different teams in the same season? Is it fair to the respective coaches, fair to both sets of teammates, fair to all of the parents who spend a lot of money to put their kid on a top team with high expectations?

I talked to two people who have experienced the two sport situation. After my conversations, I started asking a new question.

Is it fair that a talented young athlete has to commit to one sport over another before he / she knows his / her full potential / passion in any given sport?

The other day, I was at an orthopedic doctor getting a mysterious bump on my shin looked at. (It turned out to be nothing.) Prior to seeing the doctor, a young assistant came into the room to take down some information. While she was asking me questions like when the lump appeared and what medications do I take and am I allergic to anything etc. She also asked me if I had kids, which led to a conversation about youth sports. She was dressed in sweats and looked very athletic, so I asked her if she was an athlete. She said that she had played basketball for a small division 3 college in Ohio. I asked her if she played any other sports growing up. She mentioned that she played club soccer and AAU basketball. Wow, just like my daughter, CC.

So I asked her the burning question - how did you play both? She said,
"You daughter is going to get lots of pressure to specialize from coaches, single sport teammates and parents of teammates. My advice is don't do specialize for as long as you can. My soccer training helped me become a better basketball player and my basketball training helped me become a better soccer player. And, I did not know which sport that I wanted to pursue in college until 9th grade. Play both as long as you can."
I also called a friend of mine to dig a bit deeper into the subject. My friend has two very athletic daughters. The oldest is playing volleyball in college. The youngest just signed a letter of intent to play soccer in college. Both played high level club basketball and volleyball through 8th grade.

Here is what he said after I told him about the pressure we were getting lately:
Wow this sounds so familiar as we had to do this for both of our girls.    

Kate and Shea played both club volleyball and club soccer up to 8th grade (soccer and Volleyball are the same season in High school and club).  Both also played CYO volleyball and basketball.

My recommendation is to keep CC into as many sports as she want to be in and as you can manage.  I think this gives them a feel for what they want to do and they do not get burned out to early on one sport.   As they get closer to high school, girls start to level out

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Youth Sports: Two Sport Athletes Overcommitted (Part 3)

Is it fair to commit to two different teams in the same season? Fair to the respective coaches, fair to both sets of teammates, fair to other parents who spend a lot of money to be on a team with high expectations?

In this series of posts, I am thinking out loud regarding the topic of specialization in one sport. I am trying to determine 1) if an youth athlete can do two sports and be respectful to coaches and teammates, 2) the best age to specialize and 3) the best way to manage a two sport schedule until the athlete reaches that recommended age for specialization.

In the previous post, the coach of my daughter's AAU team questioned our commitment to the team in a respectful email after we informed her that we would miss an out-of-town tournament next week to play soccer.

Here is my response to the coach.

Dear Coach, 
CC is overcommitted and I would like to apologize to you, the assistant coaches, the other players and their parents. We are truly sorry for the distraction this is causing

CC loves basketball - She is committed to getting better at basketball - believe me - she shoots for hours and hours in our backyard. She truly wants to be able to help the team with her outside shots. 

She also loves soccer. She plays on a top team in the highest select league. She is THE goalie for the team. In a surprising move before this season started, the soccer coach cut the other goalie for the team. He wanted to keep an extra forward. As a result, CC is vitally important to the success of her soccer team.

Last year with all the rain - most of the weekend soccer games were canceled and replayed during the week. As a result, we did not miss a single basketball game - all 49 or so games. We got lucky and a little over confident that we could really do it again. This year - no rain and lots of conflicts. And lots and lots of heartache for CC. If the soccer team had another goalie - she could balance her commitment more toward basketball - but she can't. 

My wife and I are conflicted - CC loves sports and wants to compete every day. We don't want her to specialize at this young age. CC does not want to specialize yet either, not until she knows how tall / big / fast she is going to be and what sport will provide the best opportunity for her to standout in high school and potentially college. We hate that a 11 year old girl



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