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.

Introducing the Redesigned Roster Card

When we first built TeamSnap we wanted to give our customers the flexibility to keep track of all the information associated with a player—not just their own phone number and email address, but also the phone numbers and emails for mom, dad, and any number of family members. This flexibility has always made TeamSnap the best way for teams and teammates to stay connected.

This flexibility, however, sometimes made it confusing to know whose contact information belonged to whom. For instance, on a youth team, it could be tricky to figure out if the main phone number listed with a player belonged to that player or one of their parents.

So today we’re proud to introduce our redesigned roster card, which makes it much clearer whose contact information belongs to whom. It’s available now on our web app, and in our latest iOS and Android releases.

Before

After

The new roster card separates personal information about a player (name, jersey number, birthdate, etc) from contact information. You’ll never wonder again if that email address or phone number belongs to the player or their parent, and you can still add unlimited contacts and family members, just like before. We’ve also made it clearer how to add additional family members.

Important: Because we preserved all of your existing data and moved it into this new layout, it’s possible that the rearranged roster card may now appear to show some duplicate or mislabeled information. Simply take a moment to adjust anything to your liking – you’ll only have to do this once.

It’s also important to note that all of your privacy settings remain unchanged. Anything that was previously marked private is still private.

We hope you find this new roster card easier to understand, smoother to use, and still as flexible as the old layout. Check out this support article for a more in-depth look at the new roster card.

Andrew Berkowitz is TeamSnap’s chief creative officer. He also works in product, business development, marketing and strategy. In his spare time, Andrew teaches, performs and directs improvisational comedy with ComedySportz.

Parents’ Actions Impact Coaches’ Decisions

It started with me asking, “which one is your son?” and ended sometime later having uttered five sentences, at most. By then I was well versed on how incredibly gifted his son was, every team and coach his son had played for, and how every one of them had mishandled him. Even if I discounted everything by half, his son had played for six different clubs. The kid was 11 years old.

Baseball PitcherAll I kept thinking was the kid would never play on a team I coached. I could envision the countless phone calls and meetings with his father regarding his son. Imagine the litany of questions he would ask: Where he was playing? Where is he batting? Why isn’t he playing first base? I could picture the disdain coming from the sideline whenever the kid didn’t bat in his father’s preferred spot. If none of the other umpteen coaches had handled the kid to the father’s liking, what would make me the lucky one? Nothing. It’s a shame too. The kid was a good ball player.

Whether we like it or not, our actions and demeanor as parents of young athletes have as much impact on coaches’ decisions as our children’s abilities. Here are three reasons why:

No one likes one and done

Persistent team hopping is usually a sign the parent has inflated ideas about their kid’s ability. The parent is chasing some imaginary “golden” ticket to the pros and will never be satisfied with any coach or any program. As a coach, I’m not interested in one and done. A lot of time, effort and money goes into working with a player. The reward is seeing that player develop over time. It is a much harder investment to make when you know the kid will not be playing with you for long. And unless this kid is pitching, playing shortstop and batting third, he definitely won’t be because his parents will be shopping for a new team.   

It trickles down

Players pick up on the vibe when the parents deride the coach or the team. We are teaching them by example that this is an appropriate way to behave and they project it back. 

A parent on one of my 9U teams was overheard on multiple occasions saying his son should be pitching, that he was as good as our number one pitcher. The player didn’t pitch more because he had a 40% strike ratio and walked 13 batters and hit another three over the two and two-thirds innings I had him pitch. After the season, the player asked his close friend who was better, him or another player on the team? When he received an answer he didn’t like, the player, who was one most well-mannered kids I have ever coached, called his friend an offensive name. He then went on to say he was the best pitcher on the team and should have pitched in all our games. Where did that come from?   Throwing Technique

When a parent tells me how every team has mistreated his kid, I worry that player is going to be a prima donna. Is he going to take instruction or think he knows better than everyone because all he’s heard at home is how great he is and how wrong his coach is? Is he going to mope on the bench and blame his teammates when things don’t go his way or he when isn’t playing his preferred position, or is he going to accept it and work harder?

A toxic sideline

In a previous post, I wrote about a coach’s responsibility to create a successful environment for the parents of their players. I am a big proponent of taking the time to listen to and address any concerns parents may have. But the concerns of a parent who believes their child is better than everyone else can never be addressed satisfactorily. That can turn the sideline, a delicate ecosystem to begin with, toxic.

At the high school level, the effects can be career threatening for a coach. This past August, a high school coach was sued for not playing a kid. The movie Trophy Kids, a worthwhile watch about over-the-top sports parents, ends with the true story of a tenured basketball coach’s firing after a group of disgruntled parents lobbied for his dismissal. These are just two examples of what is at stake. At younger ages, it can be a constant distraction (or worse) for both the coach and the team.

As much as coaches want good players on their team, they also want to be able to focus on player and team development. That is harder to do when being forced to deal with the drama of parents who have unrealistic expectations. And no coach wants drama. 

Brian Sieger is a father of two, husband, volunteer baseball coach and author of the blog 8U Travel

Communication in Coaching

Coaching is all about improvement. If you want to help your players get better, it’s important to always improve your coaching skills, too. That’s why we’re thrilled to bring you these communication tips from the Hardwood Hustle podcast. Check out some of our favorites:

Basketball HuddleTip No. 1: “It’s so easy to stay on the surface level with people, but try to make an effort to go deeper with your communication. Get to someone’s background, their goals and passions, because being able to connect on a deep level with someone allows for some of the best communication possible.”

Tip No. 2: “Make sure you are always communicating in your audience’s language. You may need to get right to the point or even slow down, or dive deeply into the ‘why’ behind what you are communicating. Take time to understand their language, and you will be better able to communicate your message.”

Tip No. 3: “Knowledge and communication go hand in hand. Great leaders are always learning, and the more you know about something the better you are able to communicate effectively in that area.”

Tip No. 4: “Take the approach of less is more. Coaches can be guilty of over-communicating in practice, giving our players so many things to work on at once that they have a hard accomplishing any of it. Simplify your communication in practice and try to keep main points to three or less, and see if your players are better able to focus and achieve the main goals for that day’s practice.”rp_Soccer-Coach_web.jpg

Tip No. 5: “As you prepare to have any difficult conversations with your team, you must approach the situation with a perfect balance of grace and truth. All ‘truth’ may create some tension and a defensive player. All ‘grace’ may lead to a player feeling better but without the actual issue being addressed. Before you address the player, think about how you can blend and balance grace and truth to have the most productive conversation possible.”

Coaches Spotlight

What is the hardest thing about coaching your sport?

⚾️ There are so many “rules” in baseball that I always have to remind myself that not all of the kids know the rules and the game itself. While that is challenging from a coaching aspect, it is also rewarding when you are able to teach these kids the game. Seeing someone who hasn’t played before or doesn’t understand the game “get it” as the season goes on is really satisfying as a coach.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not coaching?

⚾️ I like to watch a lot of sports on TV or in person. I also like to travel and take vacations, play catch with my kids & go out to dinner with my wife.

What is your favorite book or movie and why?

⚾️ I really liked the book “To Kill a Mockingbird” because it is one of the classics. I liked the movie version as well. To me, the story teaches the lesson that you never really know who a person is or what a person is like unless you walk in their shoes. I am also a Star Wars nerd, so any Star Wars movie is my favorite, and I can pretty much quote all of them. I’ve been hooked since I saw the original movie in the theater in 1977. It’s neat to see that my kids enjoy Star Wars now as well.

Do you have any words of advice for the athletes at ABVM?

⚾️ I would say that even if you are unsure of playing a sport, try it! Athletics is a great way to get exercise, to learn something new, and to be a part of a team. Winning is always great, but playing the right way, learning, supporting your teammates, and most of all having FUN is what it’s all about.

Thank you Tim for your dedication & time to the student athletes at ABVM!

Coaches Spotlight

COACHES SPOTLIGHT ~ Gary Balcolm

🏐 Long time ABVM parent & volleyball coach Gary Balcolm knows all too well what it takes for ABVM student athletes to be successful.  When asked what the hardest thing about coaching is, he says “Waiting to see the girls do what you know they are capable of doing. When it happens though it is the most rewarding thing of all”. He enjoys camping with his family and doing photography.  He mostly takes senior pictures, but also does sports and family pictures too. Gary enjoys reading & says his favorite book is “The Firm” by John Grisham, “Because it is written so well, that your heart races as if you were the character in the book.  It is as good, if not better than the movie”.

🏐 His advice to the younger ABVM athletes …. “It is great to be an athlete at ABVM because you learn the basics of the sport, but you also learn team work and leadership skills. Leadership skills are shown when some of the more seasoned players are assisting the players who are just learning some of the skills. I love to ask the girls that have gone through the programs outside of ABVM to show what they have learned with the other girls. It is even more rewarding to see the girls use what they have just learned and be successful at it.

The Power of Postive Coaching

Imagine you’re coaching a big soccer game, against an undefeated team that has beaten your team in all your previous matches. Your 11-year-olds are playing well and are ahead. Then, in the closing minutes, the official makes a bad call that goes against you and, because of it, you lose. After the game, the parents of your players scream at the official. The kids are disappointed, looking up at you. What do you do?

Or you’re coaching tee-ball and one of your 5-year-old players has failed to get a hit so far. Now, he’s up again in a crucial situation and is nervous. All eyes are on him. His first swing misses high. The second misses low and knocks the ball off the tee. You call him over to offer some help. What do you say?

Or you’re a parent and your 14-year-old daughter has just come off the basketball court. In the final seconds of the game, with her team behind by a point, she was fouled and awarded two free throws. What do you say if she missed both of them and her team lost? What if she triumphed? (Tune in on Wednesday for the answers!)

Coaches can be enormously influential in the lives of children. If you ask a random group of adults to recall something of significance that happened in their fourth or fifth grade classroom, many will draw a blank. But ask about a sports memory from childhood and you’re likely to hear about a game winning hit, or a dropped pass, that, decades later, can still elicit emotion. The meaning that coaches or parents help young people derive from such moments can shape their lives.

But today’s youth coaches often struggle to provide sound, evidence-based, and age-appropriate guidance to players. Part of the problem is that of the 2.5 million American adults who serve as volunteer coaches for youth sports less than 10 percent receive any formal training. Most become coaches because their kid is on the team ― and they basically improvise. I did this in soccer and, through my over-eagerness, almost destroyed my then-6-year-old son’s delight for the game.

But a bigger problem is that youth sports has come to emulate the win-at-all-costs ethos of professional sports. While youth and professional sports look alike, adults often forget that they are fundamentally different enterprises. Professional sports is an entertainment business. Youth sports is supposed to be about education and human development.

That’s why it is so disturbing that, over the past two decades, researchers have found that poor sportsmanship and acts of aggression have become common in youth sports settings. Cheatinghas also become more accepted. Coaches give their stars the most play. Parents and fans boo opponents or harangue officials (mimicking professional events). They put pressure on children to perform well, with hopes for scholarships or fulfilling their own childhood dreams. Probably the most serious indictment of the system is that the vast majority of youths ― some 70 to 80 percent ― drop out of sports shortly after middle school. For many, sports become too competitive and selective. In short, they stop being fun.

May’s Coaches Spotlight

Longtime parishioner & aunt of ABVM student athlete Emma Simmons 😊, Molly Burns, has volunteered much time, talent & knowledge to coaching ABVM girls Volleyball. Sometimes calling herself the Bobby Knight of grade school volleyball, she likes to win…But gets frustrated when the points don’t go her teams way! She reminds herself that the girls have to learn the fundamentals of the sport first. Pointing out that many players have never even held a volleyball before the first practice, so watching them get their serves over or win a point after a good rally proves better than winning.

 

Molly loves watching her nieces & nephews in their activities like sports, plays or concerts. She travels a lot for work so she enjoys any activities that keep her in the “mitten” like concerts, dinner with family & friends and riding her bike on the White Pine Trail. Molly loves to laugh and appreciates people with a great sense of humor and wit. Comedy & romantic comedy are her favorite types of movies. She enjoys reading. On her plane rides while traveling for work she gets book ideas from friends on “Goodreads”.

 

Words of advice she has for the athletes at ABVM …..”You don’t have to be the best athlete, but you have to try your hardest. Be on time. Run all the way to the line. Play until the whistle. Cheer for your teammates. Help your opponents up if they fall. Hustle on and off the court. Respect your coaches, teammates, opponents and the officials. And most importantly, laugh and have fun!!” Spoken like a true coach Molly!

 

Thank you for your commitment & passion for ABVM athletics! You rule!