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7 mistakes many athletes don’t recognize until they get older

Everyone makes mistakes, especially in sports. It’s how athletes respond to those misfires that helps them learn and grow.

Not all failures happen on the field, and sometimes, young athletes – especially those who shine during competition – have a difficult time identifying their flaws until much later in life when it’s too late. offered seven mistakes student-athletes can make but often don’t realize until their playing careers are over.

1. Only doing the minimum: Talent will win the day at the youngest levels, and many good athletes failed to become great because they didn’t work hard all the time at practice. As players get older and the talent evens out, this becomes even more apparent.

2. Taking downs off: Some wide receivers don’t block or finish their routes if the play goes to the other side of the field. Some running backs don’t execute their fakes if they aren’t getting the ball. This can’t happen. Teams find their most success only when all 11 players do their jobs all the time.

3. Focusing on numbers: There’s only one statistic that truly matters – wins. But there are athletes at every level who get caught up in personal numbers, even to the detriment of the team.

4. Trying to control everything: Whether yelling at referees or micromanaging teammates, athletes need to focus on their own play and leave the rest to the coaches.

5. Taking gambles: Whether it’s quarterbacks going for the long bomb over a checkdown, running backs losing yards by bouncing outside, or linebackers missing tackles for the big hit, players who make smart decisions best help their teams and find success comes more often.

6. Too much pride: Players need confidence, but they also must be coachable. When the play calls for someone to zig, they can’t zag, or the whole thing blows up.

7. Lack of commitment: We all need a life outside of football, but once an athlete signs up for the season, they must be all-in for practices and games.

Top 3 Tips to Save Big When the Season Starts

Sorry to be Captain Obvious, but youth sports are expensive. You’ve got to pay for registration fees, equipment, drinks, snacks—and don’t forget there’s always someone who insists on having only organic snacks. And these costs double or triple if you’ve got multiple kids on multiple teams!

Worry not! There are plenty of ways to mitigate youth sports expenses. Here are three ways you can save big this season (and hopefully many more after that!).

1. Volunteer Your Time

One of the easiest ways to save on team fees is to volunteer your time. For example, some teams waive fees for parents who help out when and where they can.

With a career, kids and everything else life throws at us, this might sound tough. However, oftentimes teams only look for a few hours of volunteer help every season.

Don’t forget to check other places you can save as well. For instance, many leagues will offer price breaks for early bird registration.

2. Buy Gently Used Equipment (And Maintain It Well)

Buying used can be huge for young athletes who don’t mind previously loved equipment. You’ll be surprised at the condition much of the gear is in. Young athletes often outgrow their old equipment before they’re able to use it for more than a season or two. This often leaves used goods almost like new!

Of course, with things like helmets (especially for football), you might want something relatively new. While there are often great deals for used sporting equipment, make sure to hand inspect any safety equipment you buy. Also, make sure your young athlete tries it on first.

Also, take care of your old equipment and it will take care of you! Instead of buying new when a piece of equipment seems worn out, see if you can fix it up. Getting a little extra life out of a pair of cleats can make a world of difference.

3. Buy in Bulk

Soccer Ball ParentsIf you must buy new equipment (some teams require this), consider partnering with other parents and buying in bulk. You’ll be pleased at the deep discounts you can receive by purchasing twenty new helmets instead of just one.

This is also true for snacks and drinks. Take a trip out to your local bulk retailer and grab cases of low-cost snacks and beverages instead of going to the grocery store. Alternatively, some dry goods can be purchased in bulk online for pennies on the dollar.

Yes, youth sports can get expensive. But they don’t have to be! Try these simple ways to save.

5 Time-Saving Tips for Busy Sports Parents

Busyness is the unavoidable byproduct of the youth sports lifestyle. For sports parents, time is a premium commodity.

If you’re looking for more hours in the day, I’m afraid you’re out of luck. However, here are some tips that can save you time as you parent your athlete.

Don’t Sweat Messes

Parents SidelineThis may not seem like a time-saving tip, but it is indirectly. If you can adapt this mindset, then letting go of a certain amount of order will allow you more time to enjoy your family. Many weekends, the vacuuming did not get done because I was off at another tournament. Many nights, the laundry was not folded as soon as it got out of the dryer. We survived.

Fix Meals Ahead of Time

Many websites can help with this. There are even companies who deliver the ingredients to prepare simple meals. Another option is to cook ahead of time and stick some meals in the freezer, then bring them out at a moment’s notice. If you are a very particular cook, you may have to compromise your standards, substituting efficiency for gourmet quality.

Wash Uniforms Immediately

After each game, wash your young athlete’s gear and set it aside for the next gameThis could save hours of anxiety from last-minute searches and this phrase: “Mom, I can’t find my jersey!”

Supply the Car

Have stadium seats in the car, always. Keep a first-aid kit and a bag with extras, like socks, deodorant, hair bands, even a pair of sports shoes. Because no matter how many times you tell your young athlete to put their shoes in their bag, they will still forget them one day.

Keep a Family Calendar

As soon as you get the season schedule, put it in your personal planner, then post it on the fridge or a family calendar. Highlight each child’s events in a different color. This helps cut down on scheduling conflicts. At the beginning of each week, sit down with your spouse or family and look over the schedule. Figure out where you might need to ask for carpooling help to practices or where you might need to leave work early to be at a game.

The best way to save time is to think and plan ahead. You may assume that you don’t have time every day or week to do that, but I think that you’ll find the few minutes spent in planning will save you much, much more in the end.

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

Pressure in Youth Sports: Protect Kids or Teach Them to Deal With It?

“C’mon, Mason, you can do it! One more strike, put him in the books!”

As these encouraging words resonate from the crowd, Mason receives the ball back from the catcher after throwing one in the dirt, allowing the runner to score from third—one ball, two strikes. He pauses to compose himself, taking a breath to relax his mind and loosen the muscles. He hears the crowd but they become mere background noise as he prepares to allow his body to act without his mind doing anything. The pitch is on the way—strike three!

masonpitching_webDoes it seem unrealistic for a 9-year-old kid to have this kind of mental control over his thoughts in the heat of competition? Along with proper mechanics, my student Mason has been taught a routine that helps him mentally prepare before every pitch. This routine keeps his mind “in the moment” instead of “in the crowd.”

You won’t see this kind of poise from a kid with little or no training. After throwing a wild pitch, you are more likely to see negative body language—looking into the crowd at his parents or rushing the next pitch hoping to get lucky. The truth is, in a competitive environment a trained pitcher merely feels challenged while an untrained pitcher feels pressured.

In youth sports, preparation equals fun.

Whatever the sport, teaching kids about basic mental preparation is crucial for managing pressure. It starts with taking a breath. Doing this consistently will focus the mind and loosen the muscles, allowing the body to effortlessly perform the mechanics unique to the sport. If taught along with basic physical technique, kids will learn it. It’s that simple.

The best time to learn how to manage pressure is when an athlete is young; the best time to teach it is at practice. When failure happens, be ready to give instruction.

What causes pressure? Along with a lack of training, unrealistic expectations from parents and coaches are a big cause. If these expectations are out of balance with the amount of training a young athlete has, there will be pressure, and it can be overwhelming.

masonandcoach_webAs parents, we purposely train our kids to listen to our voices at all times. Usually, this is a good thing, but it’s not particularly helpful when your child is trying to perform a difficult skill like hitting or pitching a baseball, so coaching from the stands should be avoided. Encouraging cheers from the crowd can also be distracting for some kids.

Cheering is a normal part of a competitive event; this will never change, nor should it have to. How a kid responds to the cheering, however, should be cause for reflection for parents. If a player feels pressure from normal cheering and failing because of it, it may mean that their parent’s expectations have been unrealistic the whole time, not just during today’s game. Just hearing their parent’s voice can rattle even the most talented kid if they’ve been constantly over-coached on results, and this is the problem, not the cheering. Instead of “C’mon, you can do it,” this player sub-consciously hears, “C’mon, you better do it!” Parent’s expectations are powerful! If they are unreasonably high, they can shatter confidence and ruin a young player’s competitive experience.

The key is to not add unnecessary pressure by over-coaching during competition. Once the game starts, an athlete’s training is what they can count on, not some anxiety-ridden parent or coach yelling, “Throw strikes!”

Pressures in professional sports and youth sports are similar, but when it comes to managing this pressure, the age and experience levels of the athletes makes the difference. Pressure is normal during competition, but an athlete needs to learn effective ways to cope with it or the pressure is likely to win the battle.

Chuck Schumacher is the author of “How to Play Baseball: A Parents Role in Their Child’s Journey,” available at (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

4 Truths About Your Child’s Long-Term Success in Youth Sports

If your child wants to play sports for more than just a season or two — whether it’s in high school or even in college — there are some things you and he or she must know.

The first step is to decide what “success” means to your child. Does it mean making the middle school team? Playing on high school varsity? Getting a college scholarship? When your child starts to get serious about playing sports—indicating their long-term plans—then this is an important conversation to have with them.

We asked my daughter what her goals for playing softball were when she was a freshman in high school. She’d loved the sport since she was seven and had not missed a season since then. “To play in college,” she replied. To which we answered that we would do everything we could to help her achieve that goal, but she would have to do all the work.

Watching her and our two other children, who also played their chosen sport in college, I saw very clearly these truths about our young athletes’ long-term success:

It’s important to have a plan.

Have your child state their goal, then coach them through ways to achieve it. If you let them be the author of a plan — with some input and wisdom from you and others they respect — they are much more likely to stick with the plan. A plan gives them something to work towards, hold them accountable, and keep them on track.

Your child must always stay coachable.

As soon as your young athlete becomes content with their performance, that’s where they will stay. True champions are always looking for ways to improve and they are eager to listen to coaches and even peers who offer value.

No athlete is perfect, however to truly succeed your child must learn to accept constructive criticism and work with coaches and peers they trust to provide valuable feedback.

Always keep this in mind: Success is earned.

Every successful business person or champion athlete will tell you that they worked very, very hard for their success. No one handed it to them. The champion will tell you about the hours and hours of practice and training, while the business guru will tell you about the long days and sleepless nights spent working and planning.

There’s no entitlement for true champions; they earn every success they have.

Remember to recognize and celebrate success.

Having a plan and working hard are needed, however the hard work can get old without rewards and celebrations.

When your child achieves a milestone, celebrate! When they work extra hard and show tenacity, find ways to reward them or ask them what they’d like for a reward.

Recognizing and honoring success will spur them on to new breakthroughs.

And let us never forget that woven throughout these four truths, is the important factor of FUN. Children must learn to love and enjoy the game in order to keep playing. As Dale Carnegie says, People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.

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

Guidelines To Reduce Overuse Injuries In Young Athletes

Dr. Neeru Jayanthi sees quite a few young athletes in the primary care and sports medicine clinics at Loyola University Health System and the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Surprised by the growing number of sports-related injuries he was treating, he organized a research project to track and document patterns in their occurrence.  Since its start in 2010, the study has enrolled 1,190 kids, ages 7 to 18, with the goal to follow them over three years of sports participation.  In his latest update, Dr. Jayanthi reported that kids from families who can afford private health insurance are much more likely to specialize in one sport and, as a result, suffer more serious overuse injuries than children on public health programs.

In previous research updates, the Loyola team has found some interesting twists in youth sports injuries. For those kids that spent more hours per week either practicing or competing in a single sport than their age, they were 70% more likely to pick up an overuse injury, like tennis elbow, stress fractures, youth pitching elbow, runner’s knee, Achilles tendinitis or shin splints.  So, if a 10 year old soccer player spent more than 10 hours per week on the field, their chance of injury jumped by over two-thirds.

At the recent American Medical Society for Sports Medicine Annual Meeting, Dr. Jayanthi reported that the athletes and their parents were surveyed on their socioeconomic status to look for differences across families.  Focusing on just one sport was much more common in families that had private health insurance, with 30% of those athletes specializing versus 18% of those with public insurance.  The data also showed that kids who were restricted to a single sport had about 2-3 hours less per week of unstructured play, whether that be just running around outside, pick-up games of any sport, bike-riding, etc.

Due to repetitive use of the same muscles, 13% of private insurance athletes suffered a serious overuse injury as compared to just 8% of public insurance kids.

“Intense specialization in one sport can cost thousands of dollars a year in equipment, fees, transportation, private lessons, etc.,” Dr. Jayanthi said. “Having the financial resources to afford such costs may provide increased opportunities for young athletes to participate in a single sport.”

His recommendations for parents to limit these injuries include:

  1. Increase the amount of unstructured free play.  Spend at least twice as many hours per week in free play than structured sports.
  2. Do not spend more hours per week than your age playing sports.
  3. Do not specialize in one sport before late adolescence.
  4. Do not constantly play competitive sports. Take at least 2-3 months off per year.
  5. Take at least one day off per week from sports training.

To help parents understand and manage their children’s sports schedules, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the National Athletic Trainers Association have created a campaign called Stop Sports Injuries.

“Kids often receive pressure from their parents or coaches to be the best in one given sport, when in reality participating in free play and a multitude of sports from an early age is the best strategy to create an outstanding athlete,” said William Levine, MD, Chair of the STOP Sports Injuries Advisory Committee.

By following these common sense guidelines, kids can still develop their skills in their favorite sports but also avoid time on the sidelines because of preventable injuries.

Energy Drinks May Give Kids Wings And Head Injuries

For over 10 years now, our kids have been encouraged to “unleash the beast” because their favorite energy drink will “give you wings.” Along with their slogans, these beverage companies have sponsored and promoted the meteoric rise of action sports competitions around the world, not to mention free-fall jumps from outer space. They’ve created a culture and attitude fueled by lots of caffeine and sugar.

For many kids, this has been the shot of courage and individuality that they were waiting for outside of the traditional sports scene. But this bold, adventure-seeking life has also raised the risk of injury as the promise of “wings” has not always agreed with the law of gravity.

In fact, researchers at the University of Toronto recently found that teenagers who suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the last 12 months were an astounding seven times more likely to drink at least five energy drinks per week than teens who had not had a serious head injury. Even more sobering was that kids with a reported TBI were twice as likely to have mixed an energy drink with alcohol than those that had no similar injury.

While once thought to be just a fad, the energy drink industry shows no signs of slowing down. While carbonated soda sales are flat, energy drinks keep flying high with sales up 11% last month over the previous year. Back in 1999, the world market for energy drinks was worth $3.8 billion but has since exploded to $27.5 billion in 2013.

Dr. Michael Cusimano, a neurosurgeon at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, led a research team to find any correlation between serious head injuries and energy drink consumption. No one had yet put the two together for analysis. He was surprised by the findings.

“We’ve found a link between increased brain injuries and the consumption of energy drinks or energy drinks mixed with alcohol,” said Dr. Cusimano. “This is significant because energy drinks have previously been associated with general injuries, but not specifically with TBI.”

The data for the study came from a huge survey from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health of over 10,000 students between the ages of 11 and 20, known as the 2013 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey. The kids took the anonymous survey in their classrooms and were told that a TBI was a head injury that caused them to lose consciousness for at least five minutes or be hospitalized for at least one night. Overall, 22.4% of the students reported at least one TBI.

The startling finding was the direct correlation between energy drinks and TBIs. The results did not say that kids were necessarily drinking at the time of their injury, just that those who regularly drank energy drinks were seven times more likely to also report a TBI than those who stayed away from those drinks.

The research has been published in PLOS ONE.

“It is particularly concerning to see that teens who report a recent TBI are also twice as likely to report consuming energy drinks mixed with alcohol,” said Dr. Robert Mann, senior scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto and also part of the research team. “While we cannot say this link is causal, it’s a behaviour that could cause further injury and so we should be looking at this relationship closely in future research.”

As the researchers concluded, they’re not sure what to make of this relationship but it was so overwhelming that they needed to report it and then design more research to find out more. Is it the caffeine boost that makes kids feel invincible or the fact that their favorite action sports hero promotes it or a combination of both? For now, it’s just something for parents to keep their eye on.


By Dan Peterson, TeamSnap’s Sports Science Expert

5 Tips on How to Build Team Chemistry

Recently, 2014 World Cup Golden Boot Award winner James Rodriguez ended an underwhelming three year spell with soccer club Real Madrid. Oddly enough, he immediately returned to his 2014 form after joining a new club called Bayern Munich.

Real Madrid and Bayern Munich might be the two biggest soccer clubs in the world right now. So why did Rodriguez play poorly for one and excellently for the other? The answer is team chemistry!

Team chemistry is vital. With it, teams prosper. Without it, teams fail to live up to expectations. As such, we’ve compiled our best tips for building the most vital ingredients to team success.

Spend Time Together Off the Field

Have you ever seen two teammates who always know where the other is on the field? That is the type of chemistry that is build through time spent together.

As a coach, you can build this team chemistry by encouraging your team to spend time together off of the field. Organizing meals after practice, planning movie nights and scheduling overnight trips to tournaments helps to build subtle connections that keep your players working together.

Find a Balance

While practice is the time to develop new skills, it should also be a time to develop team chemistry. Games like possession and small sided scrimmages help players not only learn to play at game speed, but also help to build relationships between teammates.

Encourage Team Unity

When players build chemistry, they expect each other to be on the same page. For example, if a through ball gets away and no one runs after it, it might seem like a poor pass. However, the passer might’ve expected a teammate to see the same opening they saw and make the run. As the coach it is important to not only recognize this change, but to encourage it. The more players play together, the more they’ll recognize these sorts of non-intuitive plays.

Foster Leadership

Soccer HeaderEvery team needs leaders. One way to find them is to appoint team captains. But captaincy isn’t about recognizing the best individual players. Rather, it is about rewarding those who help out the team on the field. This could be the central defender who keeps everyone’s head in the game, or the goalie who’s always the first to practice and the last to leave. Leadership isn’t about the individual; it’s about making those around you better.

Improve Communication

Communication is the backbone of any successful soccer team. From letting your teammates know whether or not they have a defender behind them to organizing the defense, a successful team needs players in constant communication. You can improve team communication simply by promoting its importance from the very first practice. It should be considered when choosing captains, since the coach shouldn’t need to constantly yell from the sideline.

The importance of team chemistry cannot be overstated. Use these guidelines for the coming season to get everyone on the same page!

From TeamSnap Community Blog writer Jack Ramos

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