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Good Coaching -- What Athletes Really Need from You

To truly build mental toughness in athletes and create a team of peak performers under pressure, you as the coach should....

CREATE A SAFE ENVIRONMENT for athletes to learn and excel! That is, TEACH them to use their mistakes to learn, rather then to FEAR MAKING THEM! Stay calm in the face of their failures and screw-ups and tell them what they need to do differently next time, not just what they did wrong. Do NOT tolerate jealousy, scapegoating, selfishness, BIG egos or any form of team-busting behaviors!

WALK THE TALK and directly model the behaviors you want to see in your players. MODEL good communication, calm under pressure, honesty, integrity, dedication, FAIRNESS and RESPECT for ALL PLAYERS and the pursuit of excellence!

BE POSITIVE and catch your athletes DOING THINGS RIGHT! Appropriately rewarding good effort/play with praise builds self-confidence, strengthens motivation and makes your athletes mentally tougher. Yelling at, demeaning, being excessively negative and/or embarrassing them does the EXACT OPPOSITE!

COACH your athletes, NOT the OUTCOME. Good coaching is ALL about athlete development, NOT winning! Build your athletes up, treat them as individuals, as a WHOLE person, NOT just an athletic performer. CARE about them and who they are. INSPIRE them because you have a critically important job: You are preparing the next generation to be leaders, teachers, coaches and peak performers.

The biggest compliment I hear athletes giving their great coaches long after they played for them is, "YOU inspired me, got me to believe in myself when I had lost all belief, and cared about me regardless of whether we won or lost!

Source: Competitive Advantage


Why I Don't Want My Kids to Play Team Sports

Way back in 1982, my brother signed up to play youth soccer.

It was my parents' idea. David was 12 at the time--painfully shy, socially awkward, owner of few friends. Mom and Dad thought joining a team might prove beneficial. So they enlisted him in the Mahopac Sports Association with hopes that the fresh air and the green grass and running and kicking and laughing would instill confidence and happiness.

I don't recall the name of David's team, but it featured red uniforms and was coached by a local dad who worked as a fireman. He was a loud, boisterous guy, not unlike many of the fathers I see alongside fields most weekends in my hometown of New Rochelle, N.Y.

Before every game, the coach would have all his players form a circle, put their hands inside and yell out, "Team!" Then, without fail, my brother walked to the bench, sat down and remained there--completely ignored--for three quarters. Immediately before the final period began, the coach would point to David and begrudgingly insert him at right fullback for the requisite minimum amount all kids must play. He made it painfully clear to the others that my brother was the weakest of weak links; that he was useless as a soccer player.

More than three decades removed, I detest that coach. I know his name, know his whereabouts, and often fantasize about running into him in a supermarket or coffee shop.

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FastSports Photography

Me: "You coached youth soccer back in the day, right?"

Him: "Sure did."

Me: "Do you remember the score of the third game of the 1982 season?"

Him: "What?"

Me: "How about the fifth game?"

Him: "Um ..."

Me: "The first game? The second?"

Him: "Huh?"

Me: "Right. Because in the name of winning a bunch of meaningless 12-year-old soccer games, you f--ing destroyed my older brother ..."

That experience--and those memories--didn't merely slice up David. They sliced me up, too, in a most unusual way for a guy who not only loves athletics, but who has made a career out of chronicling them.

Namely, thanks in large part to Mahopac and soccer and 1982, I do not want my children playing organized team sports.

I know ... I know. Team sports build character. Team sports teach youngsters how to win and lose. Team sports are all about camaraderie and togetherness and unity and ...


Perhaps, long ago, youth sports leagues offered universal positives. Nowadays, however, what I see are parents itching to land their kids far-off college scholarships; coaches thinking themselves the next Nick Saban and John Calipari; calls for year-round dedication; the hiring of private tutors to help 6-year-old Junior master the changeup. Rare are the times that I've attended a young sporting event without hearing at least one or two parents scream vulgarly at a pimply-faced teen referee, or mock the opposition, or demand more playing time for their tykes.

My son Emmett has actually participated in spring baseball the past three seasons. He's a solid hitter and an awful fielder, but he enjoys the game and digs the handshake line afterward. Late last summer, we received our first-ever a sign-up sheet for "Fall Ball."

"Fall Ball?" I asked another parent. "Why?"

"Because," he said, "it's a chance to focus more on the game."

I asked Emmett whether he'd like to play baseball in the fall and spring. He paused for 1/1,000 of a second. "Too much," he replied.

"Too much what?" I asked.

"Too much baseball," he said.

Now, come spring, Emmett will begin his inevitable decline. The "Fall Ball" kids will be far superior. The coaches will hand them the prime positions. My son will be placed in right field. He'll hit eighth. Maybe ninth. He'll grow frustrated, feel inferior, lose interest. It won't be as bad as 1982, but it'll seem familiar.

No, thank you. Not interested.

I want my kids to run track and cross country--where the ultimate goal is to accomplish your personal best. I want them to learn an instrument, to master a craft, to join the drama club. I want my son to be a "science nerd." I want my daughter to write poetry. I don't care if they win and I don't care if they lose, as long as they try and as long as they're happy. We place such an unhealthy emphasis in this country upon victory, without stopping to ponder the end game. Yes, medals are nice. Trophies, too. But, really, what's so important about being the best? Why are we so focused on the result, while forgetting the value of the journey? Why do we devote so much time turning our offspring into ... us?

Once, long ago, I was like the sports parents I now abhor. I needed to win--and anything short of that goal was a failure. I'd cry and mope and lock myself in my room. I'd promise myself the next time would be better--and, when it wasn't, I'd feel even worse. Then, one day more than a decade ago, I experienced an epiphany: While playing for Sports Illustrated's intramural basketball team in a competitive league, I scored two points, missed all my free throws and had an opposing forward repeatedly beat me to the rim. I felt like absolute crap--until I remembered that, when the game ended, we'd all go out to the neighborhood bar to talk and eat and drink the night away. It was what I loved most about sports--the unity and togetherness.

Inexplicably, from that point on I never again lived and died with my success in a sporting event. The thinking hasn't made me a better player (age damns us all), but it's allowed me to replace irrational competitiveness with contented bliss.

It's also allowed me to see the truth: That my children don't need the hostilities of organized youth athletics to make them whole.

If anything, they need to do without them.

Jeff Pearlman is the author of the coming book "Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s."

Source: Wall Street Journal


Top 25 Finalists for the 2014 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year announced

The Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America and USA Softball announced the Top 25 Finalists for the 2014 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, which will be announced at the opening of the 2014 NCAA Women's College World Series (WCWS) in Oklahoma City. This award, which is considered the most prestigious honor in Division I women's collegiate softball, is designed to recognize the outstanding athletic achievement by female players across the country.

Now in its 13th year, previous recipients of the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award are UCLA catcher Stacey Nuveman (2002), Texas pitcher Cat Osterman (2003, 2005 and 2006), Florida State pitcher Jessica Van der Linden (2004), Tennessee pitcher Monica Abbott (2007), Virginia Tech pitcher Angela Tincher (2008), Washington pitcher Danielle Lawrie (2009 and 2010), Stanford shortstop Ashley Hansen (2011), and Oklahoma pitcher Keilani Ricketts (2012 and 2013).

Click here for the complete list of the Top 25 Finalists for the 2014 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award.

This year's Top 25 is comprised of 12 seniors, 10 juniors and three sophomores. The student-athletes selected represent 16 NCAA Division I universities and five athletic conferences. Alabama, Arizona State, Florida State, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, South Alabama, Tennessee and Tulsa each have two players represented and Arizona, Baylor, Oklahoma, South Florida, Texas, UCLA and Western Illinois each have one member among the Top 25 Finalists.

Kaitlyn Richardson
Kaitlyn Richardson
Univ of Minnesota
Sara Moulton
Sara Moulton
Univ of Minnesota

Just prior to the start of post-season play, on May 7 the list will be narrowed to the Top 10 Finalists. The Top 3 Finalists will be announced May 21, while the winner of the 2014 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award will be revealed on May 27 prior to the start of the NCAA WCWS in Oklahoma City.

The USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award is voted on by coaching representatives from 11 Division I Conferences in the 15 ASA Regions, members of the media who consistently cover Division I Softball across the country as well as past winners of the award.

In addition to bestowing the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award, ASA/USA Softball is now in its 11th season of presenting the Softball Collegiate Top 25 Poll and the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Week, which are announced Tuesdays during the regular season.

Source: USA Softball

Editors Note:  Congratulations to Minnesota Gopher Players: Sara Moulton, pitcher (Eagan, MN) and Kaitlyn Richardson, Utility (Phoenix, AZ) for inclusion in the Top 25 Finalists!


Tori Workman earns WIAC pitcher of the week honors for second time

Tori Workman

UW-Stout pitcher Tori Workman (So, Prior Lake, Minn) went 2-1 on the week and was named as the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) pitcher of the week for the second time this season.

Workman appeared in all four games last weekend, starting two games. Workman threw a two-hit, 6-0, eight strikeout 6-0 shutout over UW-Stevens Point on April 5, then threw 2.2 innings of relief, allowing one hit, two stikeouts and no runs in a 5-1 second game win over the Pointers. She tossed a complete game, 2-1 loss against UW-Whitewater on April 6, scattering five hits, one earned run and striking out five. Workman come on in relief to earn a 6-4 win over the Warhawks in the second game, allowing no runs scored and scattered three hits, while striking out six. The win was Stout's first over the Warhawks since the 2005 season.

On the week, Workman posted an earned run average of 0.34 and pitched 20.2 innings, tossing 19.2 innings of scoreless ball. (She allowed two runs, one earned, in one inning vs. UW-Whitewater in game one). Workman recorded 21 strikeouts against three walks, scattered 11 hits, with only one extra base hit. Opponents batted .149 against her.

On the season, Workman is posting a 2.06 ERA, working 112.1 innings. She has 106 strikeouts and has given up 28 walks. She has made 20 appearances, 15 starts and 12 complete games. She has two shutouts.

Source: UW Stout Blue Devils

Editors Note:  Tori Workman was also selected UW Stout Athlete of the Week.


Prep softball: Five story lines for 2014

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FastSports Photography


When Elk River won the Class 3A title last year, 2013 became the ninth consecutive season with a different large-school champion. From the looks of things, 2014 will be much the same. The Elks have the talent to repeat but will have to replace a big bat in the graduated Kathi Opsahl. Lakeville North, with a pair of senior all-state selections in pitcher Michaela Zins and catcher Erika Rozell leading a veteran lineup, inherits the early-favorites role. Also with legitimate title hopes are Maple Grove, with superstar junior hurler Sydney Smith; Prior Lake, led by sophomore third baseman Justus Perry and senior catcher Kara Lattery; senior-dominated Shakopee and hot-hitting Orono.


From a recruiting standpoint, Minnesota has already established itself as a hotbed for girls' basketball and volleyball players. From all appearances, softball might be next. Maple Grove pitcher Sydney Smith committed to Louisiana State before her freshman year. Prior Lake sophomore Justus Perry recently changed her earlier commitment from perennial power Arizona State to Auburn. And Rosemount freshman pitcher Gabby Sprang has given a verbal commitment to 2013 NCAA Division I runner-up Tennessee.


For the second consecutive year, the lingering winter weather had teams going to great lengths to prepare for the season. Before Monday, most teams hadn't set foot outside except to shovel off fields, spending all their practice time in gyms, batting cages and softball domes. "We use this time to work on our fundamentals," Orono shortstop Rebekah Smith said. Concordia Academy coach Gina Tupper conceived a novel approach to avoid going stir crazy. "Our team will be doing a team-building event with an etiquette class," Tupper wrote in an e-mail. "Possible topics may include: Making a great first impression, apologizing, giving and receiving compliments, expressing gratitude, the art of a good two-way conversation, dining room dos and dont's and phone and techetiquette."


From 2008 through 2011, New Life Academy of Woodbury was dominant in Class 1A, winning four consecutive championships. The Eagles have since rebuilt, getting as far as the Class 1A title game in 2013 before losing to Blooming Prairie. Behind their junior battery of pitcher Valerie Hohol and catcher Malorie Giere, the Eagles are poised to soar back to the top.


Softball will expand to four classes beginning in the spring of 2016, the Minnesota State High School League voted in January. The breakdown will be similar to the four classes of basketball: The top 64 teams in enrollment will comprise Class 4A, with the next 64 largest making up Class 3A. The remainder of the teams will be split evenly to create Classes 2A and 1A. Expect growing pains as smaller programs scramble to develop a pitching pipeline. But overall the difference, at least at the top of each class, should be unnoticeable.

Source: Star Tribune


High school softball: Four from the HVL headed to Division I

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FastSports Photography

The matchups are rare, elite hitter against elite pitcher, but Jeff Fague has seen them often enough in recent seasons to know that there's a different feeling when they occur.

"Every player on the field knows it," said Fague, Kasson-Mantorville's fourth-year head softball coach. "The coaches will glance at each other and smile like 'this is going to be great,' and it doesn't matter who wins."

Sometimes it's been the elite pitcher -- K-M junior Maddie Damon, who is bound for Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.

Sometimes it's been the elite hitter-- Hayfield senior Dani Wagner, Byron junior Vanessa Anderson or Rochester Lourdes' Sam Macken, who graduated last spring.

"Dani gets the attitude like 'you're not going to get the best of me,'" Hayfield coach Jana Wagner, Dani's mom, said. "I'm sure that's how Maddie approaches it, too."

Macken, Wagner, Damon and Anderson all come from the same corner of the state and the same conference, the Hiawatha Valley League. All four were First Team or Second Team All-State selections last season and all four are bound for Division I colleges.

In Macken's case, she's already there.Macken, a middle infielder has played in 21 games so far this spring for the 27-4 University of Minnesota Gophers. She holds Lourdes season records for batting average (.595), hits (47) and fewest strikeouts (one).

"Sam always tried to make herself better by being a student of the game," said Becky Macken, Sam's mom and head coach at Lourdes. "She would study tendencies and know what pitch is coming.

"She would get to some balls not because she's the fastest, but because she knew percentage-wise, based on what pitch was coming and where it was located, where the ball was likely to end up."

Wagner, who hit .603 with 25 RBIs and 30 stolen bases last season, will join Macken at Minnesota next season.

Damon will likely pitch against them again in future seasons, as she'll head to Big Ten Conference rival Purdue in the fall of 2015. Anderson, a standout third baseman in Byron and a two-time All-State player, will head to North Dakota State University in 2015.

The quartet of Division I-bound players share one common trait that has led to their success, their coaches say: They've devoted themselves to the game in the offseason, playing club ball while giving up free time with friends and vacations with their families to play the sport they enjoy.

Wagner has played with the Mankato Peppers, Damon has played for the Twin Cities-based Minnesota Sting, Anderson has played with the Minnesota Danes (a team filled with many top players from southeastern Minnesota) and Macken played for the Minnesota Stars, based in Eagan.

"We have a great (youth) fastpitch association that has given a lot of girls an opportunity to play at a reasonable cost," Becky Macken said. "We get them started here and when their talent supercedes that program, they can go on to the Cities or other places and play club ball."

Macken, Damon, Anderson and Wagner have spent their summers facing the top competition from around the country.Area high school softball fans will get to see those high-end pitcher vs. hitter matchups for at least a couple more seasons.

"Those battles are always something to look forward to," Fague said. "That's what drives these girls to be great athletes. That's the kind of competition that makes them and this game great."

Source: Post Bulletin


Opinion Column: Why we play: The importance of participation
by Jeff McGonigal

Two of my favorite headlines over the past few years were, "Runner carries injured foe half-mile to help," and "Wrestler loses match but moves crowd with kind act." These headlines reflect the character that student athletes in Anoka-Hennepin Schools have developed thanks to parent and family involvement, and the positive role models, mentors and coaches that have played an inspirational role in their lives.

Anoka-Hennepin high schools offer comprehensive extracurricular and co-curricular programs for students including math teams, debate, drama, band, choir, clubs, and athletic teams -- to name a few. The school board supports these programs and makes participation a high priority.

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FastSports Photography

In many cases, students first become interested and begin participating and honing their skills and talents around these activities at a very young age. A child may have been enrolled in piano lessons at age six. Ice-skating and hockey practice may have started at age five. Each child has his or her own passion. Each family has a story to share about how their path and involvement in extra-curricular activities has shaped their children into who they are today.

Although students may not begin participating in competitive high school teams until grade nine, it's important to note that in the seven or eight years leading up to high school, students participate in various activities through community education, associations, clubs and other organizations. These opportunities are available to our children thanks to the dedicated individuals who often volunteer their skills, time and energy to manage and coordinate the classes, clinics, clubs, scout troops or recreational teams and leagues.

Parents and members of the community coach and mentor our children through these programs. Youth coaches have the unique opportunity to teach, shape and impact students positively. They may not realize it now, but these coaches are influential well into the future. Character is developed throughout a child's life and the experiences that children have early in their extra-curricular and academic career are critical. Students develop physical and mental skills that prepare them for conflicts and teamwork when competing in high school sports and later in life. While character is vitally important for the success of high school teams, it cannot be developed only in high school.

Realizing that many of us come together to impact and shape the character of our students at a young age, Anoka-Hennepin School District is teaming with the Anoka-Hennepin Education Foundation and the Minnesota State High School League to host an important coaching workshop, "Why We Play." High school and middle school coaching staff will participate, but I believe that it is important to extend the invitation to youth coaches from youth athletic associations and organizations in our community as well.

The free workshop is set for Monday, Apr. 14, 5:45-9 p.m. at Coon Rapids High School, 2340 Northdale Blvd., Coon Rapids.

Coaches may register to attend online through Anoka-Hennepin Community Education at

Participants will learn more about standards we hold for high school sports and student athletes of all ages, and techniques for helping children develop character skills that they can use in high school and beyond. We know that youth programs value sportsmanship and respect and we believe that all participants will take away helpful tips. If you are affiliated with a youth program located in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, please talk with your officers to ensure that your organization is represented in this workshop.

Anoka-Hennepin School District is and will continue to be a model for demonstrating character. The goals that we discuss at the Why We Play workshop are just one step in our efforts to work together to maintain that goal. Thank you to all of the dedicated parents, volunteers and community members that give their time, energy and support to children. Your reach is far greater than you may realize and we can't shape these young learners without your help.

Source: ABC Newspapers

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