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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The Best Healthy Snacks for Kids & Young Athletes

If you want your kids to get out there and play their best, they need the proper fuel. Watch this video and get the lowdown on exactly what they need with Andrea Benton, a mom of two boys from Raisingboys.TV, and Nadia Vidas, a registered dietitian.

If you need snack ideas, this is the video for you. We all know that kids can be picky about their foods, especially when it comes to the essential ones. Hey, if we had to choose between lettuce and ice cream, we would choose ice cream, too!

But not all healthy snacks for kids need to taste bland. Make sure to mix things up. Try combining some of the less exciting options (stuff like carrots, crackers or nuts), with some options kids might get a little more excited about (pasta, cheese or fruits). And of course, a glass of milk with any of those snacks is the bee’s knees.

Another great thing about these foods is how easy they are to put together. We know that when it’s early in the morning before a game, you don’t have time to come up with an extravagant dish. No sweat! A balanced, healthy pre-game snack doesn’t need to be huge, and it doesn’t need to take hours to prepare. The snack recipes in this video are easy to prepare and easy on the wallet, while still being nutritious. It’s a win-win-win.

One important detail to keep in mind is how much time you’re giving your young athlete to digest before a game. For the best results, eating 1-2 hours prior to game time is the way to go. Some kids might even need a little more time or a little less––it varies from athlete to athlete. A good way to determine how much time your young athlete needs is to test it out at practice. Vary pregame snack times, then ask your young athlete when they felt better.

And now for some snack foods to avoid: fatty, sugary and caffeine-packed products. They’re definitely not good after-school snacks or really for any time of day. Steer clear! These foods tend to cause temporary spikes in blood sugar. Of course, what goes up must come down, and blood sugar is no exception; your young athlete’s levels will plummet once the game begins. So your young athlete might start off feeling great, but once you get to half time, they’re out of energy. Don’t let it happen!

Looking to play sports in your college years?

The advantages of competing in college sports are both immediate and lifelong. Participating in college sports provides opportunities to learn, compete and succeed. Student-athletes receive top-notch academic support, quality medical care and regular access to outstanding coaching, facilities and equipment. Student-athletes as a group graduate at higher rates than their peers in the general student body and feel better prepared for life after college.

Learn more about the three divisions

College-bound student-athletes preparing to enroll in a Division I or Division II school need to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center to ensure they have met amateurism standards and are academically prepared for college coursework.

Are you ready to play college sports? Download this brochure to find out.

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

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.”

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!

How to Break out of a Slump

Ever heard of a slump? It’s a blanket term to describe an unexplained (and hopefully temporary) decline in athletic performance.

The question is, why do slumps happen? And, better yet, how do we help our young athletes overcome them?

Spotting a Slump

Multiple SportsThe first step in spotting a slump is determining a young athlete’s average performance level. For statistically-oriented sports like baseball and basketball, this can be measured by tracking stats over time. If there’s a noticeable dip in important stats, you might have a slump.

But just checking the numbers isn’t enough. Why? Because no one is perfect all the time. No matter how good an athlete is, they’re going to have a bad game now and then. Therefore, a superficial look at the causes of the decline should be done. If there is no obvious cause for the drop in performance, it might be a slump.

What Causes a Slump?

There are three major causes of slumps for many young athletes. They are:

  1. Physical issues – These difficulties include fatigue, minor injuries and lingering illness.
  2. Changes in an equipment – This could include things like losing string tension on a tennis racket or basketball shoes wearing out. Even a slight change in equipment may alter technique, thereby hurting performance.
  3. Psychological factors – For example, a particularly poor performance may reduce confidence and increase anxiety, which could lead to a prolonged drop in performance.

How Can We Prevent Slumps?

The best way to reduce the likelihood of a slump is for athletes to listen to their bodies. They need to acknowledge when they’re too tired or don’t feel well enough to play. When they do so, it’s up to us to act immediately. Simply put, young athletes need to work hard and rest hard.   

youth footballThe best way to prevent technologically-related performance slumps is to maintain equipment at its high performance level. For example, tennis rackets should be restrung before their tension changes. Or, if a young basketball player needs new shoes, they should be replaced immediately.

This best way to cure a psychological slump is to set a series of specified goals. As with all goals, these should be specific, realistic and measurable. After all, if your young athlete decides he or she wants to score 100 points in a game this season, it’s likely that they’ll never reach that goal. And if they don’t reach their goal, they might feel even worse about themselves.

By following these recommendations, it will be possible for athletes to minimize the number of slumps they fall into during the competitive season. In addition, for those slumps that do arise, coaches and athletes will have the knowledge and skills to fix them in the shortest, most effective way.

 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. If you want to become mentally stronger in your sport, get Jim’s Prime Sport: Psychology of Champion Athletes e-book for free.

Santa Breakfast

A special THANK YOU to the Knights of Columbus for the wonderful breakfast. Since partnering with them the AABC has reached many of the families in our Church and enlightened them to our mission.

I’d like to personally thank all the volunteers and coordinators of this wonderful event. The Santa Breakfast is a special event for us.

Thank You so much and Happy Holidays!

Lisa Piatek

AABC President

Buffalo Wild Wings

A huge THANK YOU to family and friends who participated in the BW3 AABC Fundraiser! We earned nearly $300 for our student athletes.