Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Youth Volleyball: Why are Girl's Volleyball Shorts So Short? (Part 3)

What??? Beach Volleyball without Bikinis at the London 2012 Olympics. TV ratings must be down and NBC must be furious.

In my last post on this subject, I stated that my post called Youth Volleyball: Why are Girl's Volleyball Shorts so Short? has received the second most all time traffic on my site and it's the number 1 most commented on post on my site. The Olympics bring volleyball to the masses, so the Olympics have increased the number of visits to my site by people trying to figure out Why are women's volleyball shorts so short? Traffic to that post has tripled since the Olympic volleyball started.

Did anyone notice that Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh were wearing long sleeves and pants when cool London nights forced the teams to cover up

Did you know that bikinis are no longer required uniforms out of respect for the cultural beliefs of some participating countries.

When I first wrote about this subject, I was not advocating for longer shorts or berating shorter shorts, I was just curious about when, where and why the shorts came to be in women's volleyball. I concluded that tight spandex short shorts and the skimpy bikinis do have some function, but these uniforms have more to do with fashion and publicity. Or as the Australian Sport Commission calls it the Sexploitation of sports.

British star Denise Johns agrees with this point of view in a interview in the Sunday Times which was also quoted in the Huffington Post article called Olympic Volleyball Uniforms: Bikinis No Longer Required. 
 "The people who own the sport [the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball] want it to be sexy," Johns told the Sunday Times. "I used to play in shorts and a T-shirt and was reluctant to change. But if it gets volleyball attention, so be it."
The Main Point

More evidence that women's volleyball uniforms have more to do with form over function.

So I have a new question, why are men's divers swim shorts so butt-crack-showing short? I assume for the same reason - to attract an audience.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Youth Baseball: Rich Team with Poorly Behaved Parents

If you are a baseball coach, would you rather coach bunch of rich kids or poor kids? 

Before you answer - factor in whether you would rather coach a team with wealthy parents or low income parents.

Last week, I got the following note from a paid baseball coach for a U12 select team in a wealthy east coast town.

"I wanted to drop you a note and thank you for putting together the information on the Cooperstown Dreams Park. 
This is my first trip to Cooperstown that also coincides with my first job coaching at the 12U level after several years as a high school coach. 
I coach in a VERY wealthy east coast town where the talent does not always rise to the level of the parents expectations or perceptions. The expectations are high, because there is a misunderstanding that money spent should correlate to success on the field. 
I gained most of my coaching experience at a low-income high school within an impoverished town. Getting a well-paying baseball job was both a blessing and a curse. The money is good, but the talent isn't quite there in this town. The facilities are great, but the parents are very demanding.
When I coached high school, we were lucky to have one or two parents that came to every game. The parents for team I currently coach are hyper-involved. They not only do they come to every game and practice, but they also send emails and call regularly.  
Your comprehensive Cooperstown Dreams Park guide will practically ensure me a fantastic, well-prepared trip. This is very important, because if I'm NOT going to win many games, I have to be exceedingly organized and prepared in order to retain my employment. 
After I stumbled upon the Cooperstown information on your blog, I began reading some of the stuff on the rest of the site. I really enjoy reading the perspective of a pragmatic, involved parent who is sympathetic to the view point of a coach who is often placed in precarious situations. 
I look forward to reading more. Let me know if you ever need the opinion of a young, lower middle class paid coach in a very upper class town."

The Main Point

1. Un-involved parents make me sad.
2. Over-involved parents, the ones who complain to coaches all the time, make me mad.
3. Parent coaches often turn out bad.
4. My son's very talented team just that broke up because of points 2 and 3, so a paid coach without any family ties is what I wish my son's previous team had.

I am not sure rich or poor matters when it comes to youth sports parents. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly from both.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Youth Baseball: Nations Baseball Gets an F

How did the Nations Baseball World Series held in Pensacola, FL rate compared to other national tournaments?

Here is my report card on Nations Baseball U14 World Series Championship held in Pensacola, FL during the week of July 11 - 15, 2012.

My son has competed in the CABA World Series (U10 - Indianapolis, Indiana), the AAU National Championships (U11 - ESPN Disney Wide World of Sports, Orlando, Florida), Cooperstown Dreams Park (U12 - Cooperstown, NY), the Nations Baseball Premier National Championship (U13 - Gulfport, MS) and Nations Baseball World Series (U14 - Pensacola, FL). It is from this broad base of experience that I feel qualified to grade these events in comparison to each other.

Opening Ceremonies: The Nations Baseball World Series had an opening ceremony on Pensacola Beach the Wednesday before the start of action on Thursday. Our team did not participate for several reasons. 1) Many of the families stayed on Perdido Key far from Pensacola Beach. Few were motivated to get back into a car after recently driving 11 hours, 2) the 14 year old boys were not excited about the event, they wanted to stay on the beach instead and 3) There were only 4 teams in the tournament. What is festive and fun about that?
  • Nations Baseball Gulfport, MS - Grade B
  • CABA - Grade F (I don't remember any opening ceremonies)
  • AAU Disney Fields - Grade A (Disney performers entertained the players, siblings, parents and coaches.)
  • Cooperstown Dreams Park - Grade A (It was a bit long, but it was a festive start)
  • Nations Baseball, Penacola, FL - Grade NA
The Skills Competition: The Nations Baseball World Series had a skills challenge on the schedule when the team signed up for the tournament, but it was canceled. I believe that they canceled it because there were only 4 teams in the tournament. 
  • Nations Baseball Gulfport, MS - Grade B
  • CABA - Grade B
  • AAU Disney Fields - Grade F (I do not remember any skills competitions)
  • Cooperstown Dreams Park - Grade A (Exciting competitions played out in front of a packed stadium)
  • Nations Baseball, Penacola, FL - Grade F
The Fields: The Nations Baseball World Series was suppose to be held at University of West Florida, but was moved to Tate High School. We believe that the event was moved due to the lack of teams in the tournament. Only one field was needed for the entire tournament. 

Tate High School has a great field with a well manicured grass infield, a dirt mound, stadium seating and vast dimensions. The outfield grass was green, freshly cut and fast. The infield is made of a blood red dirt that looked great on the field, but terrible on soiled uniforms. The fences on the fields used for the U14 event were at least 9 feet high, 325 ft down the line and about 375 ft straight away. No home runs were hit during the tournament. 

We had a torrential rain Friday night and Saturday morning, the field was unable to recover quick enough to play any games on Saturday. This made Sunday was a long day of baseball. Fields at Cooperstown and Disney recover much more quickly. Luckily, our team was seeded #1 after pool play so we got bye on Sunday morning. 

Tate High School is where Don Sutton, Hall of Fame Pitcher, and Travis Fryman, Cleveland Indians third baseman, played ball. 

From a spectators standpoint, the Tate HS field had the qualities of a minor league stadium. There was ample seating behind home plate on concrete steps. The concrete was hard and absorbed the Florida sun, so it was hot. The stands did have a roof covering up some of the seats which did provide some protection after 11am.
  • Nations Baseball Gulfport, MS B+
  • CABA - C+ multiple municipal fields of varying quality.
  • AAU Disney Fields - A (Perfectly manicured fields configured identically. These fields can take on lots of rain and be playable in short order.)
  • Cooperstown Dreams Park - A+ (20 perfectly manicured fields configured identically with reachable fences. These fields can take on more rain than the Disney fields and be playable faster.)
  • Nations Baseball, Penacola, FL - Grade B (One great field)

The Concession Stand: Tate High School had a typical HS concession stand. The food was ok, the drinks were cold, the service was friendly and the prices were very cheap.
  • Nations Baseball Gulfport, MS - Grade F
  • CABA World Series - Grade B (Some venues were good, some not so good)
  • AAU Disney Fields - Grade B - (Too expensive)
  • Cooperstown Dreams Park  - Grade A+ (Good food, big variety, honest prices)
  • Nations Baseball, Penacola, FL - Grade B
Game Schedule: The games were not too early, nor too late. That was good. The tournament could create a schedule like this because there were only 4 teams in the tournament. Still, Nations Baseball gets an overwhelming F. The tournament started on Thursday and ended Sunday. Why? Why not start Wednesday or Tuesday. Most of the house / condo rentals in Pensacola were Saturday to Saturday. Most of the families came down on the Saturday before the tournament started a full 5 days before the games began. Many families had to check out of their condos on Saturday morning and find a hotel room for Saturday night. The tournament did not schedule a rain out contingency day, so the Saturday games and the scheduled Sunday games were played on Sunday. A lower seeded team could have played 5 games on Sunday if it played out that way. That is unacceptable because it puts young arms at risk.

Furthermore, the World Series happened to be on the biggest weekend of the year for Pensacola. The second weekend of July is the Blue Angels Air Show weekend. It is the most crowded weekend and therefore the most expensive weekend of the year. Nations Baseball missed a great opportunity to use the Blue Angles Air Show as a draw to the tournament. No the short sighted folks at Nations scheduled games during the Air Show each day, so our families paid the extra rent to go to Pensacola on the best weekend of the year, but could not enjoy the show. (NOTE: Folks that stayed on the Pensacola Beach side did get to see the Blue Angels practice. We stayed on the Perdido Key side of Pensacola so we did not see anything.) 

Nations Baseball should start the tournament on Monday and end it on Thursday. If it rains, Nations would have Friday to make up the games. Families than will have an opportunity to see the Air Show on Friday, Saturday and can then drive home on Sunday. News alert for Nations Baseball. People need to get back to work to pay for the rather vast expense of a baseball tournament. The championship game for this tournament ended on Sunday at 7pm. Many families had to drive through the night to get to work. 
  • Nations Baseball Gulfport, MS - Grade C
  • CABA World Series - Grade B
  • AAU Disney Fields - Grade B - (Many doubleheaders had large gaps of time between them)
  • Cooperstown Dreams Park  - Grade A+ (I am not sure how they coordinate all of the teams when it is not raining, but they manage the schedule beautifully when rain delays or cancels games too.)
  • Nations Baseball, Penacola, FL - Grade F
The Competition: Nations Baseball only attracted 4 total teams for the U14 tournament so they got an F. There were three very talented teams and one team that was rec level. Nations baseball was desperate for teams so they offered a local team a free entry. The local team had never played on 60/90 fields, so they took the free entry to prepare their kids for the upcoming season on the bigger fields.
  • Nations Baseball Gulfport, MS - Grade F
  • CABA - Grade A (International teams from Puerto Rico and Panama made the event special)
  • AAU Disney - Grade A  (Lots of quality teams competed in this event.)
  • Cooperstown Dreams Park  - Grade A+ (Each week for 13 weeks every summer, 100 plus teams compete. There is a wide range of competitive levels competing in this event. The top teams typically prevail, but the mid-range teams can advance far.)
  • Nations Baseball, Penacola, FL - Grade F
Click Read More for Umpire, Competition Format, Destination, Website, Tournament Committee grades

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Youth Soccer: How to Maintain Goalie Gloves

One of the worst smells in youth sports comes from soccer goalie gloves. Those small pair of gloves pack a powerful punch of aroma. They do not stink to the legendary smelly status of hockey equipment, but they can certainly make a car, locker, gym bag, garage, mudroom or bedroom smell petty bad.

Here are tips that I read about goalie gloves to improve performance of the gloves, help reduce the stink and prolong the life of the gloves.

1) Before each game and practice moisten the palm of the glove with water. The added moisture will make the glove more tactile and reduce the chances of cracking. It is also a good idea to moisten the palms again at the end of halftime.

2) After each game or practice allow the gloves to dry out completely in a well ventilated area to prevent dry rot. Opening the gloves helps dry out the gloves. One tip I read suggested putting the gloves over a discarded cardboard toilet paper towel roll. This will let the air flow into the glove to help dry the inside too and the cardboard will absorb some of the moisture. Do not put the gloves in a clothes drier, over a heating vent or in direct sunlight because quick drying can cause cracking.

3) Washing the gloves occasionally is recommended. Removing the dirt from the palm and fingers will increase the tactile performance of the glove and help prolong the life of the glove. Several of the goalie glove manufacturers sell mild, low foaming goalie glove wash. I have read that shampoo works just as well. Either way make sure you get the suds completely out. It is also recommended that you clean the velco strap by picking out the dirt and lint. After you clean the gloves, make sure that you allow them to dry out like in point 2.

4) Some goalies keep the little bag that the gloves came in. After the game or practice they put the gloves in the bag to keep the gloves away from dirty cleats, to keep the smelly gloves away from clothes and to keep the stench out of the car on the way home. When they get home, they take the gloves out and allow the gloves to dry out properly.

The Main Point

Following these procedures will prolong the life of the gloves, allow the gloves to work at peak performance and reduce the smell.

Will my daughter do any of this?

Maybe after the first game or practice.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Youth Soccer: Selecting Goalie Gloves

My daughter and I took our annual trip to the soccer specialty store to buy goalie gloves. This trip is  necessary every year because pre-teen girls grow out of gloves quickly, goalie gloves do not really last that long and old goalie gloves smell something awful.

My daughter is the full-time starting goalie for an outstanding U12 team. The team plays in a regional league and top tournaments. It's some serious soccer, so I wanted to get her some serious gloves. Before we went to the store, I learned the following about gloves.

Gloves are the single most important piece of equipment that a goalkeeper needs. Some rec level younger kids play without them, but serious goalies would never play do that.

So how do you select goalie gloves:

There are many factors to consider:

1) Level of play - How serious a goalie is your kid? If your kid is a full-time goalie playing against top talent, then invest in gloves that will protect him or her and give them the edge to make difficult saves. Spend between $50 to $150. If your kid is younger (U10 and under) or plays at a rec level or is a part-time goalie on a club team, find a decent pair of gloves for $20 to $30. I bought gloves at the lower end of the high quality spectrum for my U12 player.

2) Number of games - How many games will your kid be playing in the next year. The more expensive gloves will last longer than the cheaper gloves. So if your kid is playing 2-3 games per week year round, it might make more sense to purchase higher quality gloves. My daughter plays 60 games per year. I figured this warranted higher quality gloves.

3) Number of practices - If the team your kid plays on practices all the time and plays a lot of games, you might want to purchase high quality game gloves and lower quality practice gloves. My daughter will use her slightly worn and small gloves from last year for practice.

4) The size - Comfort is the most important factor. Find a glove that protects but does not restrict. Properly fitting gloves is key. Goalie gloves come in sizes 4 to 12. You can use trial and error to determine the correct size at a store, If you are buying on-line, you can measure the circumference of your palm just below the fingers, exclude your thumb. Add one 1" to the measurement and round up to the next whole number. That will give you your glove size. It is not a perfect system because some manufacturers gloves run small and others a little bigger. Regardless, goalkeeper gloves should be worn slightly big. The fingers should extend about a 1/4 to 1/2 inch over the tips of your fingers. My daughter bought size 7 gloves.

5) The Conditions - Gloves are made of various combinations of latex / foam / rubber. Some are made for all weather, some for wet weather and others for hard surface / turf. The softer gloves provide more grip and control but do not last as long. Less soft, more durable materials are for goalies who play on hard ground or turf. Note: the wet surface gloves are hot and slippery when used in dry weather. I also learned about under-glove gloves for keepers allergic to latex. My daughter selected an all weather glove. If she advances to HS or College, perhaps we would buy more than one pair of gloves so she can use the optimal glove for the conditions.

6) The Features - My daughter had her hand stepped on last year. She was not hurt, so she was convinced that the reinforced finger spines were the reason. She wanted gloves with finger spines again this year. Ventilation, range of motion, wrist closures, wrist protection options, color etc. are all personal preference features. My daughter did not like the color of the gloves she selected, but she chose comfort over color. 

7) The Comfort - The most important determining factor is comfort. That is why, I would rather purchase goalkeeper gloves in a specialty soccer store with a large selection. There are some great eretailer selling gloves if you like to shop on line - just make sure you pick a retailer with a customer-friendly return policy.

The Main Point

My daughter selected the Reusch Keon Plus Finger Support Goalkeeping glove. The cost was $54 + tax.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Youth Volleyball: Why are the girl's volleyball shorts so short? (Part 2)

On January 9th, 2011, in a post, I asked this question "Why are the girl's volleyball shorts so short?". That post is the second most visited post on my site almost every single day and now has over 33,000 pageviews. It is also the most commented on post on my site.

I asked the question after I saw daughter play her first parochial school 4th grade volleyball game. I wondered why the Catholic school would have such strict and modest uniform mandates for school, but allow shorts that Ke$ha might wear to the MTV awards show.

In that post, I determined that the short shorts are for fashion purposes only and have no competitive advantage. This point of view was argued by many volleyball players on my site, but I am still not buying it. If that were true, women basketball players and men volleyball players would wear them to.

Well here is more evidence. This year the NCAA debuted sand volleyball as a sport. Pepperdine was the inaugural champion after they beat Long Beach State in the 2012 AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball National Championship.

Pepperdine played in loose fitting gym shorts against Long Beach State who donned bikini style shorts. Watch Pepperdine dominate Long Beach State in this video.

The Main Point

I am not arguing for or against short shorts for college volleyball. Volleyball is a great game with or without the short shorts.  I am simply saying that Spandex short shorts do not provide a competitive advantage for volleyball inside a gym or out on a beach.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Gulf Coast Nations Baseball U14 World Series Review and Tips (Part 1)

When you are looking for a baseball tournament for your team you need to do your homework. Not all tournaments deliver the same experience or competition.

My son's travel baseball team was suppose to play in the CABA World Series in Nashville, Tennessee this week. Unfortunately, several of the players on the team had football conflicts, so the team decided to go to the Nations Baseball U14 Elite World Series in Penscola, Florida instead. The Nations tournament was scheduled one week earlier than the CABA World Series.

Last year the team competed in the U13 Nations Baseball Premiere World Series in Gulfport, Mississippi. I provided tips, tricks and commentary for that event in these posts called Youth Baseball: Nations Baseball National Championship. This was what I summarized about that 2011 tournament:
"The first ever Premier National Tournament was a great experience for my son, but it is not an premier event quite yet. I do have faith that Nations baseball will eventually get it right. This year (2011) they got the baseball facility right and the host city (Gulfport Mississippi) is great. They just need to attract more and better teams to justify the "National Championship" status."
So fast-forward to 2012. Did Nations Baseball listen?

The 2012 U14 CABA World Series, which dubs itself "the greatest show on dirt", attracted 31 teams from 15 States. In contrast, the Nations Baseball Tournament attracted 4 teams from 3 states. There were three very strong baseball teams competing in the event and one local team that got run ruled in every game. The local team had players on the team who had never played on a 90 foot diamond before. They were a nice bunch of kids, but they were totally out classed. I talked to one of the moms from that team who told me that Nations gave them a free spot so they took it for the experience of playing on the bigger fields.

The so called "World Series" was literally a round robin tournament between 3 teams. Not three teams from US, Japan and the Dominican Republic - no - three teams from Florida, Texas and Ohio. It turned out to be fantastic baseball with some outstanding pitching on a really cool field, but it did not live up to World Series or National Championship status again.

The Main Point

Last year, I had faith that Nations Baseball would eventually get it right. I lost that faith after hearing what the Nations Baseball Tournament Director had to say.

Here are the details of my conversation:

Ten families from Ohio each spent about $1700 on lodging, $500 in food and $340 in gas to participate in a tournament. The team paid a $700 tournament fee. The team spent about $26,000 in total to participate in the event. This is a lot of money for strapped families in this economy.

When we got to the stadium where the event was being held, Nations Baseball wanted another $25 per person for an entry fee ($7 per day per person or $25 for a 4 day event pass). My wife, my daughter and I went to the stadium to watch the action, so we were charged $75 to watch this four team - poor excuse for a tournament.

Gate fees are common at these tournaments, but you would think that because it was so poorly run they would give us a break. Many complained, so Nations made 8 and under free. My daughter is 11, so I paid the $75.

Several parents from our team approached the Nations Tournament Director to express their disappointment regarding the entry fee and the quality of the tournament that was promoted as a "World Series". First of all, the team felt lied to. One week prior to the event, Nations communicated that 6 teams were paid and two more would be confirmed before the event. Eight teams does not make a "World Series, but it is better than three elite teams and a rec team. He told the group that he could not help it that two teams backed out at the last minute to play in the USSSA tournament 16 miles away in Orange Beach Alabama. Upon hearing that, one of the parents concluded that it makes even more sense that Nations not charge us to get into this event since Nations collected money from teams not here and umpire expenses with fewer games played would be lower. The Nations representative said that he refunded the money to the teams that backed out.

What $#!@$#? - there is no penalty for pulling out of a tournament at the last minute. That is a big problem.

The Tournament Director then whined to the group that he has to charge the entry fee because the tournament has lots of expenses. The tournament consisted 5 age groups. There were tournaments for 6U (4 teams), 10U (6 teams), 11U (4 teams), 13U (6 teams) and 14U (4 teams) in the event. Each tournament had 12 slots available, so each and every age group had trouble attracting teams. This clearly suggests that Nations Baseball is having trouble competing in a very competitive category against CABA, USSSA and Ripken, etc.

I paid entry fee money and went into the stadium. Several of the parents refused to pay and just watched through the outfield fence.

I was up close to the action when my son's team won the event. It was not a hollow victory because the two other strong teams made the tournament very competitive, but we are not running around calling ourselves World Champs or even National Champs.

Finally, Pensacola is a great place for a tournament. In the next couple of posts, I will provide tips for baseball families regarding lodging, eating and having fun in the Pensacola area.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Youth Baseball: Are Private Lessons Worth the Money?

Are private lessons for pitching, hitting or fielding really worth the money?

When I was a young baseball player, my dad taught me how to hit, pitch and field. In the 70's, there was no thought about private training for baseball. My dad played baseball in college, so he was more knowledgeable that most dads. Still, he was not a technically sound instructor.

Kids of today, those filled with real potential and not, are turning to private instruction to get ahead or to simply keep up.

Jayson Stark, one of my favorite sports writers wrote a great piece on ESPN called The Age of the Pitcher - I found this section of the long post about the increase in number of hard-throwing pitchers most interesting.

In 2007, 11 pitchers averaged 95 miles per hour, in 2011, that number tripled to 35. How did this happen?

Jayson and baseball experts have the following theory. 

Think about that for a moment. Can that really be true -- that the number of smokeballers blowing 95 mph and up has tripled in five years? Even other pitchers have a hard time comprehending that phenomenon.
"I've never seen as many hard throwers on every single team as I do now," says Derek Lowe. "It seems like every team has three or four guys coming out of that bullpen throwing 95 miles an hour."
"When I first started doing this 25 years ago, if you saw a kid touch 90 (mph) at 17 years old, you were like, 'Oh my God,'" says the Indians' vice president of scouting operations, John Mirabelli. "That guy became an automatic prospect. Now, just about every guy (on a scouting director's radar) throws 90, and most of them throw 92. And you never saw amateur guys throwing in the upper 90s. Now you see it all the time. It's unbelievable."
But this word of caution: We can't be totally sure if those numbers are accurate. They might tell us more about how we measure velocity now than about the pitchers we're measuring. So we went about this another way: We asked scouting directors what they see when they show up at high school and college games.
Other scouting directors spun the same tales, over and over. And that tells us something: This is NOT a mirage.
So where is that velocity coming from? The theories go like this:
  • More long-tossing to build up arm strength. 
  • More and more kids seeking out personal pitching coaches, most of whom once played professional baseball, who are passing along advancements in throwing programs and better mechanics. 
  • An explosion in the use of personal trainers, even by teenagers.
  • Less abuse of young arms by coaches, thanks to new rules, pitch counts and workload limits.
The Main Point

When you combine talent, desire and proper instruction good results will follow no matter what you are doing, but it does not necessarily mean that your kid will advance. Spend your money on private lessons wisely and go into it with the proper perspective because chances of playing in college or the pros is remote at best. 

To me private lessons teach my kids one thing - if you want to advance at anything, be it sports or school or business, don't be afraid to ask experts for guidance. 



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