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.



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