15 life lessons to take away from football

While I had my share of injuries in a decade of playing football, nearly all came during my college years, when the speed and intensity ticked up quite a few notches.

And I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything in the world.

I played football from the time I was 12 years old until I was 22. I earned a full scholarship to play safety at Charleston Southern University, and was fortunate enough to have my education – a bachelor’s degree and the better part of an MBA – paid for because of my physical abilities.

The lessons I learned from football are priceless. They’ve helped me in my post-football career (yes, there’s life after football). I learned how to tackle people and catch a leather ball, but more importantly, how to lead others and the value of practice. I learned life skills that many of my peers are still trying to figure out at 30 years old.

I was given an unfair advantage because of the time I spent playing football. Not only did I have a support group of peers who looked out for me, I was blessed with a number of mentors who cared about me and wanted me to succeed.

The media endlessly talks about the risks of football and the danger of collisions. What’s often overlooked are the benefits that come from the game. The life lessons that young men learn while they play it are priceless.

Here are 15 things football taught me that I use every day:

1. How to compete: There are two types of competition: competition with others, and yourself. Football teaches both. When you face an opponent, you have to study film (research) and think critically about how to beat them (game theory), come up with a game plan (planning), and make that plan come to life (execution).

Individually, you must improve your body to become a better player. If you don’t learn to compete with yourself and improve every day, you’ll be the weakest link in the chain. That in itself is pressure enough to improve.

 

2. How to be disciplined: From the schemes our coaches drew up, to early-morning workouts, to the focus required to keep my grades above a certain level, I needed discipline for every aspect of the sport. By the time I finished football, I had no choice but to understand discipline and enforce it throughout the rest of my life.

3. How to work (really) hard: 99.9 percent of resumes say “hard-working” somewhere on them. Think about your workplace. Are 99.9 percent of your coworkers hard-working? Probably not. This isn’t to say sports are the only way to learn hard work, but it’s a great start. In football, you can earn a name for yourself by outworking your teammates. It’s an unfair advantage that’s accessible to everyone by changing attitude.

4. How to lead: Leadership is a billion-dollar industry. Managers pay for leadership training, and they pay to learn how to lead themselves. Coaches lead teams, but only to a certain extent. Go to any high school football stadium on a Friday night, and you’ll see more than a few leaders who encourage their teammates when the score isn’t in their favor. Leadership is learned in many ways, and in football, it’s learned early.

5. How to follow: With the apparent lack of respect for others we see in the news, this is extremely important. Before you can lead, you have to know how to follow. Study how other leaders do it, how they inspire others and motivate the people around them, and when to stand up for something and when to let the coach do their job. Leadership is rare, but everyone needs to know how and when to follow.

 

6. How to be accountable: Individuals don’t win football games. Teams do. To be on a team, you must learn to be accountable to the people around you. We had a “one fail, all fail” policy on one of my teams. If one person was late, the whole defense was punished. In life, if you don’t carry your weight, your whole organization can potentially be punished.

7. How to push others: During fall conditioning, when I was exhausted and wanted to collapse, I figured out how to get through the discomfort. I turned my focus to others and encouraged them. Americans spend billions each year on self-help books, seminars and courses. People search for something or someone to help motivate them. Through sport, we can mold future generations to know how to help each other.

8. The value of practice: Football requires practice. We lift weights, watch film, run sprints and practice until our legs wobble. And because of that practice, we improve. Many people have goals in life but don’t know how to reach them. They search for quick answers on the internet and try to avoid the part where they pay their dues. Football taught me how to put in the time and learn to improve skills incrementally.

 

9. How to sacrifice: I didn’t have a typical college experience. Many of my mornings started at 4:55 a.m., and I was pouring sweat before regular students rolled out of bed. In high school, I sacrificed extra time with friends and family because I wanted to get to the next level, and that goal required extra workouts. I learned to sacrifice that “normal” experience for something great, a chance to play college football. Just 6.5 percent of high school football players go on to play in collegeand I was one of them. That honor was bestowed on me because I was willing to sacrifice.

10. How to accomplish something bigger: When players showed up for preseason camp in August, we had to leave our egos at home. In order to accomplish something larger than ourselves, we had to submit to the goals of the team. If every player had a different agenda, we would’ve gone all different directions. But when we had one mindset, we accomplished tremendous feats.

11. To control what I can control: Injuries are a part of sports. Football is no exception. Through my injuries, I realized I could handle adversity one of three ways: I could be bitter, I could quit or I could make the best of my situation. I saw some players quit after injuries, most of whom regretted their decision. I saw others carry a negative attitude wherever they went, like a ball and chain slowing them down. And then I saw an upperclassman play his senior year with a broken hand and enjoy every minute of it. He told me, “There’s no use in complaining. It won’t change my situation. All I can do is strap up and play the next play.” That stuck.

12. How to stand for something: By working out, running sprints and watching film, we become committed to our team. We take pride in what the decal on our helmet stands for. We care about the people we sweat with, and we listen to the coaches who lead us. By playing football, we learn what it means to make an unwavering commitment to something.

 

13. There are no shortcuts: As part of a growing program, we had a new strength coach each year. Each brought his own style and workout preferences. As budgets improved, the school paid more qualified coaches. Each brought better technique and more effective training. One thing remained: If we didn’t hit the weight room and work hard during the offseason, we wouldn’t win games. There are better ways of doing things, but there are no shortcuts.

14. How to finish something you start: I was benched for the first time in my career during my junior year. I was distraught and angry, but didn’t allow myself to be beat by those feelings. I knew being benched was merely an obstacle I had to overcome – no different than an opponent taking the lead in the fourth quarter. I recommitted myself to my passion and started every game as a senior while being elected captain by my peers.

15. How to be selfless: Every player has their own unique talents. Some are blessed with speed, some agility, others with strength. The list goes on. I was a smart player who knew how to play multiple positions. Because of this, I was able to move around when other players were injured. I played three different positions during the course of my career because that’s where my team needed me. Had I chosen to be selfish, I could’ve hurt the team.

Mike McCann played football at Charleston Southern University from 2004-08. He published a book about his time at CSU, the lessons he learned and the incredible true story of the 2005 team. Learn more about it at Believe EG21: Play Like There Is No Tomorrow.” Mike is an author, entrepreneur, football coach and philanthropist who resides in Charleston, South Carolina. 

Why Isn’t Enough Focus Given to Mental Toughness in Youth Sports?

Which is more important for a young athlete: The body, or the mind?

Baseball PlayerWhenever I ask this question to coaches and athletes, most tell me that the mental side of sports is just as important, if not more important, than the physical side. The funny thing is, when I ask those same coaches and athletes how much time they devote to mental preparation, they invariably say something to the effect of, “Not much at all.”

Why is that? Let’s start by considering what makes physical training effective, then let’s compare that to the use of mental training in sports today. Three key elements come to mind.

  1. Physical Training is Consistent – Exercise doesn’t work if you only do it every few weeks. Likewise, no one improves if they only practice once a month. Improvement can only be attained through consistency. Day in and day out, week in and week out, and month in and month out, athletes pour their time and effort into physical training.
  2. Physical Training is Structured – When young athletes participate in competitive events, they don’t just do whatever they feel like doing to improve. Rather, they follow a technical progression based on their level of development. Even the strongest five year-old probably can’t hit one over the fence. But once that same player grows older, his or her skills progress to a point where that’s at least possible.
  3. Physical Training is Comprehensive – Physical and technical training don’t just touch on a few areas. Rather, they are comprehensive, aimed at ensuring that every players develops to the best of their ability. For example, physical conditioning programs include strength, agility, stamina and flexibility. Technical progressions include stance, balance, upper-body position, footwork and much more.

Basketball TeamUsing these three criteria—a comprehensive, structured and consistent program—it’s pretty obvious that the mental side of sports isn’t getting the attention it is due. Based on my experience and feedback I have gotten from athletes, coaches and parents around the country, most exposure that most U.S. athletes have to sport psychology lacks these three criteria. And therein lies the problem.

Therefore, we should take a page out of physical training’s book. When we talk about mental toughness training, we should make sure it is consistent, structured and comprehensive. Only then will sports psychology, at long last, stand as equal partners with physical conditioning and technical training.

Dr. Jim Taylor is an internationally recognized authority on the psychology of performance in business, sport, and parenting. Dr. Taylor has been a consultant for the United States and Japanese Ski Teams, the United States Tennis Association, and USA Triathlon, and has worked with professional and world-class athletes in tennis, skiing, cycling, triathlon, track and field, swimming, football, golf, baseball, and many other sports. See more of his blogs at www.drjimtaylor.com.

Balance: The Foundation of Success

The 2017 World Series was balanced. The Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers were neck and neck in every game, making for a very exciting series to watch and learn from. But if one team had totally outmatched the other, we wouldn’t be calling it one of the best World Series ever. It was as if both teams made each other better by continually raising the bar.

That’s what competition is all about: two equally matched teams, each tipping the balance in their favor—if only by one run.

But balance isn’t just physical; it’s a way of living one’s life. Striking a healthy balance in youth sports has much to do with perspective and good judgement. When my son was six, his baseball team won every game with scores like 20 to one and 30 to three. Because this rec team was unfairly stacked with the most talented athletes, there was absolutely no competition; any type of learning life lessons from failure was unfortunately put off until a later date. And how do you think the inexperienced six-year-old kids on the other teams felt? In this unbalanced situation, created by adults with poor judgement and lack of perspective, nobody won.

When winning is over-emphasized in youth sports, imbalance is usually the result.

In youth sports, there are often two philosophies when it comes to winning: winning is unimportant or winning is the only thing. Neither of these extremes represents a balanced approach. Winning is important, because without the desire to win, it’s no longer sport and any opportunity to learn life lessons through competition will be lost. But when a coach’s sole desire is winning, kids are the losers. Overtraining, playing too many games and pressure to perform beyond their ability results in burnout and over-use injuries.

The rising popularity of travel teams has produced many unbalanced situations. They are not all created equal so research is important. When managed responsibly, however, they can be a good venue for kids whose interest level matches the commitment. Being on a travel team is not an automatic stepping stone to the future. If you think it is, you may be disappointed. There must be a proper balance of playing time and personal training on skill development for progress to happen, whether playing travel ball or not.

The only stepping stone to something bigger lies within one’s self. There must be a self-motivating notion that drives a player forward, no matter what.

Physical Balance:

Mastering one’s physical balance is the first step in developing athleticism. In martial arts, the code of karate states: “A person’s unbalance is the same as a weight.” Trying to execute a difficult athletic movement without a solid foundation of balance will be futile as the body fights to overcome unwanted movement or weight. Whether it’s a boxer delivering a punch or a baseball player swinging a bat, it’s all about focusing all of your energy into the movement in the most efficient way possible.

When the body is unbalanced, this does not happen. The nervous system must recruit muscles to try to regain balance, leaving less energy to put into the ball, resulting in a weaker hit, for example.

Mental Balance:

When a hitter steps into the batter’s box, or a basketball player steps up to the free throw line, their mental approach will prove to be the difference maker between success and failure. At this moment, an over-competitive mind will cause an out of control body and mechanics will suffer. When mental stimulation is balanced, previous physical training will manifest itself to the highest degree possible. Achieving mental balance starts with taking a breath before every pitch, free throw, serve or swing.

Whether it’s an entertaining World Series or our kids seeking joy in playing sports, balance is needed for good outcomes to become possible. For kids, a balanced approach to their sports experience is crucial whether it’s to avoid overuse injuries and burnout, or to avoid laziness by thinking others will make them great by creating unrealistic opportunities for them.

Chuck Schumacher is the author of “How to Play Baseball: A Parents Role in Their Child’s Journey,” available at www.chuckschumacher.com (signed copy) or Amazon. Chuck has 20 years experience as a youth baseball coach and 40 years experience in martial arts. In 2006, he opened Chuck’s Gym in Franklin, Tenn., where he teaches baseball and Okinawan karate. You can contact Chuck at chucksgym@comcast.net.

Bringing Best Practices from the Classroom to the Ballfields

Here in the United States, we have 150 years of research in the field of education, however hardly any of it is being applied to youth sports. But why? Young athletes are students of the game, while coaches become their educators. Oftentimes, parents have the same high expectations for their kids in school as they do on the ballfields. At iSport360 we believe in applying best practices from the classroom to the ballfields, courts or rinks and we’re providing coaches, parents and kids the tools to do it.

Back-to-School Night – for Coaches and Parents

The beginning of the school year always starts with Back-to-School Night, the perfect opportunity for a teacher to set expectations, an agenda and the tone for the year. I like to use the same strategy with the teams I coach. Before each season, I typically get the team parents together to set the tone and talk about goals for the kids. I always emphasize skill development; however, I also remind parents that encouraging life skills, fun and a love of the game are equally important.

I also set the important expectations that parents should not coach from the sidelines. It’s not that I’m a control freak. Countless studies have taught us all the reasons why kids benefit when their parents stay quiet on the sidelines. (More on this topic in another article.) The most important point is to use a “Back-to-School Night” to get coach and parents on the same page.

Parent-Teacher Conferences – at the Ballfields

Every school holds periodic parent-teacher conferences so teachers can share feedback and get parents to help in areas where their kids need it most. Since most school districts now have an online parent portal, there’s no excuse for parents and teachers to not be on the same page. If parents and teachers are collaborating to accelerate student achievement, why are we not applying this in youth sports?

Parent-coach conferences do happen at the ballfields; however, they are usually of the “unscheduled” variety where a heated parent confronts a coach to find out why their kid didn’t get more playing time or didn’t make the travel team. Coaches HATE this. So, let’s apply what we know works in the classroom. Proactive player feedback and regular coach communication would do wonders for coaches and parents, as well as helping to avoid the dreaded coach-parent arguments. And with all of the great youth sports software coming to market, we now have “parent portals” for youth sports. TeamSnap is the leading platform for managing communication, rosters, schedules and more! iSport360 is the first-ever platform for coaches and parents to share objective player feedback. 

Report Cards – for Youth Athletes

Could you imagine if your child’s school told you they would no longer be sharing report cards, test scores or quiz scores with you? Would you ever accept that? Then why do we pay thousands of dollars for our kids’ youth sports programs and accept coaches that do not provide objective assessments and feedback? I’m not suggesting the goal of assessments should be a college scholarship for our kids, but rather to obtain feedback in order to know where we can help our kids build their skills.

Core Standards – in Sports

Every state in the US subscribes to federal or local education standards to ensure that students are on a path to success. In fact, educators are trained to tie their curriculum, tests and quizzes directly to the core standards. Why then don’t we have core standards in youth sports? Wouldn’t it help to have some guidelines that are specific to sport, age and gender to help us guide our kids? Today, every coach and trainer in the US is teaching to a different set of skills that he/she has in their head. Certainly when they are assessing players at tryouts, they are not using any consistent, objective, transparent standards. It’s no wonder tryout season is the most terrifying time of year for the kids and their parents.

Ian Goldberg is the Founder and CEO of iSport360, an early stage SportsTech company that is helping youth sport coaches and parents share objective player feedback. He is a thought leader and fervent believer in the power of ongoing feedback and how it can improve the youth sports experience for coaches, parents and kids. Try the iSport360 app here, the first-ever mobile app for coaches and parents to share objective feedback on their players.

7 Core Values of Youth Sports

Sometimes it’s necessary for coaches to go back to the basics when teaching skills in youth sports. This is how you throw. This is the best hitting technique. This is how to do a lay-up.

I think it’s time for us to go back to the basics in youth sports by naming the core values of what parents and coaches should really be doing in the world of competition. These are the basics that we must remember, the core values that should guide the youth sports journey.

Youth PitchersCore Value #1 Youth sports is not an end, but a means to an end.

It is a golden opportunity to teach character that will impact young athletes for life.

Core Value #2 Youth sports should always be fun.

There will be hard work too, of course, but kids must enjoy it or they will not keep playing. Kids can learn many good things while having fun.

Core Value #3 Youth athletes are better together.

Teamwork will always make each individual player better.

Core Value #4 Youth sports should raise humble leaders.

Leaders that are worth following are those who are servant leaders. They support everyone on the team and are not consumed with themselves.

Core Value #5 Youth athletes should be better people after the experience.

Better athletes, more skilled, a better understanding of the game—yes to all of those. But also better human beings who’ve learned to have compassion, be patient and work hard.

Core Value #6 Youth sports is for everyone.

Regardless of race, economic status, or ability, if a  child wants to play, then let’s find a way for that happen!

Core Value #7 Youth sports is for the kids, not the adults.

Parents and coaches must keep their egos, private ambitions and issues out of youth sports. Let the kids play!

Wishing you a great year of youth sports in 2018 with these core values at the foundation of all you do!

Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach’s wife, writes a sports parenting blog called jbmthinks.com. Her new book, 11 Habits for Happy and Positive Sports Parents, is on Amazon.

Wall Ball

Setup:

For this youth basketball drill divide your team into two teams and put them on opposite baselines. Give each player a number.

Execution:

Place a basketball in the middle of the court and call out a number. The player with that number on each side runs to get the ball.

The player that gets the basketball is on offense and tries to score, the player who does not get the ball must try and stop the offensive player from scoring.

Players on the baseline cannot defend the basket, but if the ball comes to them, they can pass it back to their player to keep it in play. Play until one person scores.

Variations:

  • Call out more than one number as the game progresses.
  • Call out shirt colors, hair color, sneaker color, etc.

Dribbling for Beginners

The first drill you do at your first practice… Each player begins with a ball and works in one spot before moving with the dribble.

Pitter-Patter: Have players practice batting the ball in the air from hand to hand using only the tips of their fingers. As they get better at this, have them change elevation of the ball relative to their bodies.

Around the waist: Have the players warp the ball around their waist from one hand to the other. Then change direction and have them try without looking down at the ball.

Figure 8: With their legs shoulder width apart, have the players move the ball in a figure 8 pattern around their legs. They are not yet dribbling the ball, just moving it between their legs without it hitting the ground.

Dribble in place: Show the players the TRIPLE THREAT position – knees slightly bent, back straight, feet forward and shoulder width apart, head up. Have the players dribble in place without moving or losing the ball. Emphasize keeping their heads up and looking at you and using the fingertips. Switch hands.

After a break, move on to these movement drills:

Right/Left Hand dribble: Have the players dribble with one hand all the way across the court. Switch hands and dribble with the other hand all the way back. To encourage them to keep their heads up, hold a number of fingers above your head and have them call out how many they see.

Crossover Dribble: Have players dribble to free throw line with one hand, then switch to dribble with their other hand to the free throw line, then switch back to the next free throw line, then again at the far free throw line to the end.

Change of Pace: Have the players dribble at normal speed, blow the whistle once to dribble on the run, two whistle toots returns to normal pace.

Double Ball Dribble: Have players dribble two balls at the same time all the way down and back.


This practice plan was put together with the assistance of YMBA Basketball Coaches Guide.

Hip Swivel Throwing Drill

Use this drill to get loose before a game or practice and improve your hip torque while throwing the football

Sport Physical Form 2017

The most frequently requested and downloaded form is the Student-Athlete Physical Exam / Medical History Form.

There is a new physical form available this year. Please make every effort to fill these out before the season begins.  You can download your form below by clicking on the link.

Sport Physical Form

Tips to stay safe

Baseball is a relatively low-impact sport that can still cause a broad range of injuries if players aren’t carefully prepared. From pulled muscles in the arms to head injuries, players are at risk every time they take to the field. However, it is possible to protect yourself from the dangers of the game by taking a few necessary precautions.

The following five tips are the best ways to stay safe at a baseball game. Many of them may seem like they are little more than common sense, but they are so common for a reason: they work. Make sure to follow this advice when you take to the field to stay happy, healthy, and able to play baseball another day.

Baseball Player1. Always Wear Your Protective Gear

When it comes time to play a pickup game, it’s easy just to ignore your safety gear and jump out on the field. This move is a grave mistake. Safety equipment is designed to protect you against the serious concerns that can occur on the baseball field. Without it, you open yourself to any number of minor or severe issues.

For example, if you don’t wear a helmet when you bat, you run the risk of a huge hit on the head that could knock you unconscious. Even worse, it could cause brain damage or possibly death. Other pieces of safety equipment, like knee pads, are an important way of protecting your legs from serious injury.

2. Take a Break When You’re Tired

Everybody wants to be the hero when they’re out on the field. Pushing yourself a little harder than necessary is part of the fun of playing sports. However, there is a chance you could push yourself just a little too far for your good. For example, pitching an excessive number of innings could put a severe strain on your arm.

That stress could cause serious problems, such as pulled muscles, that could become even more severe later on down the road. Taking a rest when you feel tired is not a shameful thing to do. In fact, it can be an important way of avoiding overworking your body, your muscles, and causing bad issues that would never have occurred otherwise.

3. Always Warm Up Before You Play

Warming up your muscles and lungs before you play baseball is one of the most significant ways of avoiding injury. Sure, it can feel redundant to throw the ball around on the field for 15 minutes before playing. However, it can get your muscles working in a relaxed manner and prepare them for the more challenging experiences that lay ahead.

Warm ups to consider include light jogs, throwing drills, batting practice, stretches, and even sprints. Working your lungs and your body will not only protect you from injury but get your blood flowing. This increased blood flow will boost your level of energy naturally and give you more strength. It will also make more blood available if you do get injured, helping your wounds heal more quickly.

4. Avoid Excessive Contact

While baseball is not a contact sport, there are instances when it may be unavoidable. For example, you may hit slightly into basemen when running or even collide with a teammate when trying to field a ball. These instances may seem comical to those who are watching the game, but they can lead to injuries as severe as concussions when they do occur.

Baseball in GrassYou should also just accept the tag out at home base if the catcher has the ball. Running into the catcher, or even through them, could injure both you and that player. It is also typically frowned upon or even illegal in most leagues. Try to slide around them when at all possible, but if you’re out dead to rights, just accept the tag and avoid the injury.

Another way to prevent contact injuries is to stop sliding when it isn’t necessary. Yes, sliding is a lot of fun and even dramatic, but there’s no need to slide into the home base if you’re in no danger of being thrown out. Sliding can cause a lot of impact on the body when done too often. It can cause scrapes, strains, and even sprains. So keep on your feet unless you can’t avoid it.

5. Stretch Before Playing

Baseball players should perform a series of simple exercises to protect their body from injury while on the field. Just a few of these stretches include:

  1. Sleeper Stretch – This stretch consists of moving the shoulders and arms in gentle ways to decrease the potential strain on the arms and keep the player from getting injured.
  2. Serratus Slide – Performing this stretch consists of rotating the shoulder blades up and down, in simple circles, as a way of decreasing tension.
  3. Rotation Hip Stretch – Bend your knees forward at 90 degrees, spread your feet as far apart as is comfortable, and touch your toes to complete this stretch.
  4. Pec corner Stretch – Press your throwing shoulder against the corner of a wall and turn your body and head away from the wall as far as you can.

By performing these simple warm-up exercises, the baseball player can prevent serious injuries and keep themselves in great shape. They are also a good way to directly work the body and prepare for the hard experience that lay ahead.

Be safe out there!