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Students can't bully; coaches shouldn't either

What would you do if a teacher called your child names so offensive and degrading that the Reno Gazette-Journal won't publish them? What if your boss called you those names? Now what if a coach calls an athlete those names? Why is it coaches have a different set of standards and rules they get to go by? Why do coaches get a free pass to humiliate and bully our children?

In January, a lawsuit was filed by three high school boys claiming that they were bullied by their football coach, whose behavior in turn was supported by the school principal.

This coach's behavior is nothing new. We see it in sports everywhere.

We justify it by saying things like "It's just football talk." "It builds character." "It toughens them up for the real world." "All coaches talk like that." Sports psychologists have long known and studies have proven that yelling at athletes doesn't improve their performance, yet the bullying and abuse continues. We've become immune to it. We shrug it off.

Why do we accept this?

Fans at sporting events are expected to demonstrate good sportsmanship. The athletes themselves get disciplined or thrown out of the game if they exhibit poor sportsmanship. Yet the coaches continue to get free reign to treat the players however they want.

These boys have stood up for themselves and complained about a coach's abusive tactics. As a result, they suffered repercussions by being removed from the team. After filing the lawsuit, they have been called "p-----s," "snowflakes," and "pampered babies." People have sarcastically stated that they need "mommy and daddy to protect them" and are "lawsuit happy." People have insinuated they didn't ever learn that there are consequences for their actions; when do bullying coaches learn that there are consequences for their actions?

Unless people start standing up and saying we've had enough, it's not going to change. From the sounds of it, these boys did try to handle the situation themselves by addressing it with their coach. Then their parents attempted to address it. Only then did they resort to an attorney.

As a society, we change and evolve. Coaching needs to catch up with the times. No more of this "that's the way we've always done it." Teachers used to paddle or cane students for misbehavior. Fraternities used to initiate new members with hazing rituals such as physical abuse or severe alcohol intoxication. Oh sure, the old adage, "I lived through that and I turned out just fine." But that doesn't make these practices OK or right.

The bullying has to stop. Stop. Bullying tactics in coaching should be a thing of the past. These are our children. They deserve better.

Source: Reno Gazette-Journal

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FastSports Scheduled to Discontinue Service in 2018

FastSports has been operational since 1994 -- twenty-three years of providing information about clinics, tournaments, news, and commentary about fastpitch softball and youth sports in Minnesota and the surrounding States.

In early January 2017, FastSports suffered its worst outage and loss of data. A few years ago, it would have caused me to panic. I'm a "technology guy" and outages are not acceptable. This year... I cared that I had lost a small amount of data, but the downtime was just an annoyance. My wife noticed the difference in my attitude and asked, "What do you get out of running FastSports?"

That was a good question.

It's what I do. It's a job I do for the fastpitch community. It's appreciated. It's an expense. It's work. It's sometimes frustrating.

There has been growth in web sites and many sites offer tournament listings. Some offer a clearinghouse function for players looking for teams or teams looking for players. There are a lot of places to find the news about youth sports and fastpitch. FastSports has been unique, because it doesn't belong to a softball organization. It's been independent. I'm not aware of another site like it, but that doesn't mean that it's the best way to run a site either.

I've talked about shutting down FastSports in the past. I've been given suggestions to make it easier to run, which were appreciated. In turn, I've kept the site up.

My interest in keeping the site running continues to diminish. If you're a long time reader, you've seen it happening, with less innovation, fewer updates to the news, less discussion in the forum, etc. I still adore the kids that play the game, but my interest in keeping the site running as it is today, is about gone. So instead of being something I love doing, it's become a chore.

If you try to enter a tournament listing, you'll see that it's only accepting tournament dates through December 31, 2017. That's the end date. In a little less than a year, the site will change. The domain is not for sale, lease or rent. I'm keeping the domain. I don't know what it will become, but it's likely that it will not be dedicated to fastpitch information, like it is today. No looking back. I'm not turning FastSports down without a lot of contemplation and thought. It's the right time. 

Say "Hi" if you see me out wandering around at a tournament!

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Changes at USA Softball - Opportunities and Region Realignment

Welcome to the 2017 season of USA Softball! We are proud to enter into the 2017 season as USA Softball, and we want to thank you for participating in our great sport and for choosing to play, umpire or coach #USASoftball!

The 2017 season will bring some changes to USA Softball that will help further grow our sport and allow for more opportunities for athletes to play the game we all love! Beginning in 2017, a new code item will allow teams to play in a higher classification for both their level and age classification. For example, if you are a 12-Under Class B team, you will now have the opportunity to compete in 12-Under Class A, or 14-Under Class B, etc.  Also, athletes who have competed in any Junior Olympic (JO) Girls' Fast Pitch National Championship Finals will also be eligible as a pickup player in a higher National Championship Final.

For the first time in this history of our organization, coming soon, teams will have the opportunity to qualify for our Girls' Class C Fast Pitch Regional Championship Final for our 10-Under, 12-Under and 14-Under divisions and a Girls' 8-Under Fast Pitch Regional Championship Final. All teams within a Regional Championship Finals Region that are age eligible can qualify for these Regional Championship Finals through their Local Associations, and teams may play in the Championship of their choice.

Another change which will begin in the 2017 season is the realignment of the USA Softball regions from 15 to 10. This regional realignment better serves our teams and umpires, providing them with better opportunities to play, qualify and umpire within their respective regions.

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Who's to Blame for the Decline in Multi-Sport Athletes in Youth Sports?

"I want the multi-sport guy," Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney recently told the New York Times about the kind of kid he likes to recruit. "I just love that," said Swinney to writer Karen Crause. Afterall he was himself a three-sport athlete at Pelham High in Alabama and his Clemson roster is filled with multi-sport athletes.

I know my kids are supposed to play more than one sport. But would Dabo Swinney or anyone else mind telling me how?

There's nothing my husband, who played 18 years in the NHL, and I would love more than to see our children letter in three different high school sports that they love playing. Just like athletes used to be able to do back in our day. The problem is, in today's youth sports culture that reality doesn't exist anymore and we shouldn't blame the parents. Or all of us, anyway.

The problem is youth club coaches and high school coaches don't support multi-sport athletes. And the parents get stuck in the middle drinking their Kool-Aid. Doctors are against specializing in one sport, professional athletes advise against it and college coaches say they want to recruit multi-sport athletes, but if our child isn't allowed that opportunity, then what are we to do?

Our daughter has played club soccer since the league was open to her at 6 years old. This year she got moved down because "she does other things," an exact quote from her club team coach. AKA she plays 8 weeks of middle school basketball while on a club soccer team.

And the year before that she tried a season of lacrosse in conjunction with her soccer for a short time. Her coach at that time told us that she was going to need to be "more committed" if she was going to be a soccer player. The amazing thing is our 12-year-old maybe missed an hour or two of soccer practice a week to do these other sports. Just the fact that they viewed her as uncommitted because she wasn't solely playing soccer for 8 months straight is outrageous.

The family willing to juggle multi-sports for their child is actually more committed than the one sticking themselves and their child on the same field, with the same team all year round.

We've juggled hockey, baseball and basketball teams for two of our sons every year. Our sons wouldn't have been able to do this without the right coaches. Our freshmen sons have now had to make a choice in their athletics. The high school baseball coach told me at freshman orientation that he doesn't like his guys playing basketball. His reasoning is that the seasons collide a bit and he doesn't like what basketball does to their arm.

This is what our high school athletes are up against. Club organizations that don't allow their players to play on their high school sports teams. High school coaches who deter kids from playing another sport besides their own.

We encouraged our son to still try out for basketball if he really wanted to play. He's in the middle of that season now. My husband believes that a coach will take the best athletes for his team, end of story. We'll see. Other parents decided to heed the baseball coaches' advice and quit basketball altogether, even though their sons love playing both.

A high school coach should encourage and support each student athlete to be their best in whatever they choose to do. If they have a player who is capable of making two or three different school sports teams, why would they ever discourage that?

Please stop blaming the parents for this specialized sports craze and perhaps turn the conversation toward these coaches, teams and organizations that are hindering our children by not allowing them to be these multi-sport athletes everyone keeps telling us they should be.

Source: I Love to Watch You Play

Editors Notes:  I teach pitching.  I offer multiple opportunities each week, during the seasons I coach (which are the "off season" for softball) for athletes to come to lessons.  I do NOT want to distract from their other sports, but also feel that they need to put some time into this specialized skill if they are going to get better at it.  At the same time, I find myself going to "my pitchers" basketball and basketball games, ski races, etc.  I do want them to know that I am happy that they are participating in sports other than softball too!

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A Study on Praise and Mindsets

This can also be used in athletics as it has been in academics, to motivate the athlete to put more effort into thier sport / position and not be afraid to make mistakes.

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The Ostrich Effect: Why We Ignore Our Coaching Problem, and How to Fix It

"Come on, you pachyderms," boomed my first soccer coach, Tom Breit, with a big grin on his face. "Squash those bugs! Move your feet. Quicker, quicker! Come on O'Sullivan, is that as fast as you can go?"

Calling us baby elephants? Telling us to squish bugs? What was going on here?

We were 7-year-olds, learning to play soccer, working on our step overs and scissor moves. Coach Breit was getting us to really sell the move by stepping over the ball, and shifting our weight to that foot so we could plant and move in the opposite direction. But in our minds, we were baby elephants, trying to crush some bugs.

Coach Breit was my good friend Steve's dad, and I loved that man. His deep, booming voice. His genuine smile. And especially, how he greeted me everyday when I walked on the court: "Uncle John, how great to see you today. Ready to have some fun?"

Tom Breit taught me to play soccer, and taught me to play golf. He modeled for me how to love both the sports. It is no coincidence that nearly 40 years later, I am as passionate about both those games as I was as a kid. It's no coincidence that I am a coach. Why? Because I won the volunteer coach lottery.

In high school, college and professional sports, I was blessed to have some great coaches. Most importantly, though, between Coach Breit, my long time wrestling coach Bob Armstrong, my basketball coach Tom Hall, and others, I was fortunate that the first coach I had in every sport actually knew what he was doing. They had all played the game. They were all high school and middle school teachers. They understood kids, and they understood sports. Like I said, I won the lottery. Many others are not so lucky.

I believe that one of the main reasons we lose 70% of children to organized sports by the age of 13 is because many of those kids have a poor experience and drop out before they ever get to play under a properly trained coach. The number of kids who are coached by well-intentioned yet poorly prepared volunteer coaches – coaches whom are basically set up to fail by the organizations they coach for – has got to number in the millions. As my friend Dr. Jerry Lynch spoke about at our recent Way of Champions Coaching Conference, "The influence of a coach is NEVER NEUTRAL!"

Yet our leaders, coaching directors and administrators in the sporting world remain trapped by the ostrich effect. We talk about dropout rates, and poor sporting experiences, yet we bury our heads in the sand when it comes to seeing and acting upon the solution.

Here are two shocking statistics for you:

Research has shown that only 5% of children who play for a properly trained coach quit the next season, while 26% drop out after playing for inadequately trained coaches

(1). According to 2012 research, of the 6.5 million youth coaches in the US, only 19% had been trained in proper communication and motivation for the children they were coaching, and only 1 out of 3 was trained in the skills and techniques they were supposed to teach.

(2) The solution to curbing the youth sports dropout rate is an obvious one, yet it is willfully ignored by countless sports clubs, recreation departments, and schools throughout the land. It's even one of the 8 Plays the Aspen Institute has called for in its Project Play Initiative.

We must properly and continuously train each and every coach, regardless of level and status (volunteer or employee).

So many kids get a coach who treats 6 year olds like 16 year olds, because that is what he remembers from his high school days. They may get a coach who is told "just make it fun" since they are not taught how to run a practice or teach a skill. Fun is all fine and dandy, except when no learning takes place. Eventually, sport stops being fun when you do not develop the competence and confidence to compete.

This is especially true when it comes to volunteer coaches, perhaps our most important coaches of all, for they are usually the first point of contact for kids and sport. But we can fix this.

I do a lot of consulting and coaching education work with organizations that rely on volunteer coaches, and inevitably the following question comes up: "We need more people to volunteer to coach. Every season we worry that we will have enough coaches for all the teams. Any suggestions?"

My answer always shocks them. "Ask more from your coaches," I say.

Most people laugh and think I am joking. I am not. If you want to attract AND retain great volunteers, you must:

  • Pour knowledge into them.

  • Mandate coaching education.

  • Help them understand the ages and stages they are working with.

  • Train them again and again.

  • Provide learning opportunities for all levels of coaches.

Why? First of all, it is my opinion it is a moral imperative to do so. Coaching is a hard job, whether we work with 6-year-olds or 16-year-olds. Coaches work with kids, who can hang on every word. We work in public. We keep score. Games are emotional, kids and parents are emotional, and here is the kicker: They words we say, and the things we do, can stick with a kid for the rest of his or her life.

The influence of a coach is NEVER NEUTRAL! Shouldn't they be well trained?

Would you drop your kids off at a pool whose lifeguards did not know CPR or have any protocols or training in place for how to supervise the pool and keep it safe?

Would you leave them at a daycare facility that didn't train their teachers or do background checks to make sure your child is safe? Of course not, so why is the standard of care set so low for our kid's sports experiences?

This is in no way an attack on the wonderful men and women who do volunteer and dedicate their time to coach. This is a plea to help all of them out, to give them the training and tools to succeed. We owe it to them, and we owe it to the kids to do so.

Retention is not as hard as many organizations believe. They think that if they require more training, they will lose coaches. I ask "How do you know, have you ever mandated more training before?" In actuality, the opposite happens. When organizations require and provide low to no cost, easily accessible training for every coach, more coaches come back year after year, even after their kids stop playing!

Organizations such as Hockey Canada, USA Hockey and USA Rugby have mandated coaching certification, and provided low to no cost, easily accessible options. Yes, there was grumbling at first, (there is always grumbling with change) but today they have more coaching participation and retention than ever before. The quality of coaching has been raised, and education has become part of the culture. I get emails everyday from coaches who are reinvigorated after attending one of our coaching workshops, or reading a recommended book. More training lights the fire, and grows participation in the ranks!

The biggest problem I see is that far too many organizations suffer from the ostrich effect. They have their heads in the sand. Its easier to provide education based upon what they believe their least motivated coach will tolerate. They run the same tired pre-season meeting, or single, voluntary coaching clinic, hand out the same old PDF, and wash their hands of it. They say if we ask too much, no one will volunteer.

In Oregon, where I live, every coach in the state is mandated by state law to do 2 hours of education. . . on concussions. As a result, many organizations do not want to ask any more of their coaches (I have actually volunteered to do coaching education the last 2 years for my local parks department, and not once have they taken me up on it). I am not saying in any way, shape or form that concussion training is not important. What I am saying is this is woefully inadequate way to educate coaches. The percentage of children, especially young children, who suffer head trauma in youth sport is miniscule. The percentage of kids on a team who suffer from a woefully prepared and/or poorly behaved coach is 100%. Those kids will drop out at a rate that is five times higher than a trained coach. Where is the law preventing this?

Amongst every group of coaches there are passionate, eager learners. They will devour coaching 1.0, and are ready for 2.0 and 3.0. But it is nowhere to be found, and thus coaching becomes a volunteer job they struggle through, instead of a vocation they look forward to. Is it any wonder they don't come back the next year?

It's time, according to organizational consultant and youth sports expert Ruth Nicholson, to stop treating volunteers coaches as people who do a job, and treat them like volunteer employees. "In my experience," says Nicholson, "treating volunteers like valued employees results in greater effort and better job performance. By offering clear support, providing clear expectations, and asking for meaningful contributions, organizations discover that their volunteers are willing to give increased value to programs and invest more in organizational success."

Here are some additional low to no cost ideas for sports providers to provide their coaches:

  • Build an app with a season worth of age appropriate practice sessions for your coaches, teach them how to use it, and down the road add video showing them what the sessions look like

  • Sign up your coaches and pay a nominal fee for an app or digital database of practices provided by organizations such as the NSCAA, www.TheDrillBook.com, US Lacrosse and others

  • Have your high school coaches run a free clinic or two and make it mandatory to attend

  • Require your best, most experienced staff coaches spend time at the grassroots level working with the young kids in your program, and not just with the older kids. Countries that produce the best athletes per capita (Iceland, Finland, Sweden) have been doing this for a while and it pays dividends.

  • Set up a free email autoresponder such as Mail Chimp and each Monday it will automatically email your coaches 2 sessions for the week plus other tips and info

  • Partner with an organization such as the Changing the Game Project, Positive Coaching Alliance or Proactive Coaching that provides workshops, online materials and booklets for your coaches

  • Put together a library of books on coaching, not just technical but on leadership as well

  • In fact, lets jumpstart this. Why don't our national governing bodies such as US Soccer, USA Hockey and others provide no cost, entry level coaching education to all current high school and college age athletes? This is the next generation of coaches, so why not instill a foundation of what it means to coach, and an understanding of the need for being a lifelong learner in them? To me this is a no brainer.

It is time that our leadership on the local and national level stops ignoring our coaching problem. It is time we certify all coaches, in every sport, through low cost, easily accessible courses (check out this great article about the correlation between low cost coaching education and success in the soccer world). If we continue to rely on volunteer coaches at the grassroots level, we must raise the bar in terms of mandatory training. Yes, we will lose a few, but you would have lost them anyways. What you will get in return, according to those who have already raised the bar, are better coaches, and more of them.

And here is the best part: Coaches who have been well trained and provided with the tools to enjoy coaching more come back year after year, even after their kids move on. Over time you will build a stable of well-trained enthusiastic coaches. You will elevate your program, and improve the experience for kids.

Let's work together to end the youth sports coaching lottery, and provide every kid with a well trained coach from day one. Why?

Because the influence of a coach is NEVER neutral! It's up to us to ensure it is a positive one.

It's up to us to train every single coach, starting today!

Source: Changing the Game Project

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Parent Coaches: The Most Significant Influencers Of Our Children's Athletic Experiencesp>

As a culture, we place an incredible amount of importance on youth sports and the development of our children through sports. We want them to learn the many valuable life lessons that sports can teach us. We want them to be successful, and on the best teams. We hope for them to play in high school, college, or perhaps the pros.

As I examine our hopes and dreams as parents, and I consider the extent (or lack thereof) to which we prepare our parent coaches, it becomes amazingly clear that there is a tremendous gap between our expectations and the reality of what we are experiencing.

In every youth sport that I know, we ask parents to volunteer coach. Yet there seems to be this notion that parents are too busy to attend any kind of training program, so we send them out to work with our children totally unprepared. We have bolstered the mindset that if you have ever played sports, then you are qualified to coach kids. Sporting organizations have great websites that list seemingly appropriate ideals and values, but somewhere along the way, adherence to these philosophies gets lost in the process.

There are many skill sets that are necessary to being a good coach. Two of the most important are: the ability to advance athletes with their skills and understanding of the game; and the understanding of how to communicate and relate with your children athletes. Let's examine this for a moment.

At the youth level, probably the single most important concept is that we make it fun and create the environment that keeps kids excited and wanting more. Too often, we place a disproportionate amount of importance on results, and our (adult) efforts start to drive kids away from the game.

Most parents are comfortable in dealing with one or two of their own children. Some maybe not. Without a lot of experience, how comfortable do you think a parent is when given 10 kids to coach? Some questions worth considering are:

  • Are they well versed in age appropriate activities for the particular sport that they are coaching?

  • Do they know how to make it fun for a bunch of 4 or 5 year olds, or 8 and 10 year olds?

  • Do they have an appropriate understanding of "why" kids are playing?

  • Are they harboring their own personal agenda?

  • Do they understand the value of parity, or are they trying to form a team that will ensure success in the won-loss column?

My goal is to illustrate that we live in a time where we rely very heavily on our parent coaches to deliver, yet we do very little to prepare them for success. Don't get me wrong, there are some parent coaches out there that are absolute naturals....they're wonderful! But on the other hand, one of the complaints that I hear most is, "my son quit because his coach was a nightmare." What parent volunteer wants to hear himself/ herself described like that?

Every parent wants their child to play for a good coach. What I'm seeing, however, is that there are simply not enough good coaches to go around. So how do we solve this dilemma? We can start by driving parent coaches towards educational solutions that are easily accessible and effective. We also need parents to gain a more patient understanding of how the process works, and to encourage them to start working in a more supportive manner with their children's coaches.

One organization that I am aware of is doing a tremendous job in supporting families in youth sports. The Positive Coaching Alliance (www.positivecoach.org) has created the infrastructure to provide this needed support. This is an organization that is worth examining.

I firmly believe that parent coaches want to do a great job. We simply need to modify our mindset and begin to implement more rigid training programs for our youth coaches. Imagine, if a coach realized that an education program was available and would allow them to be a more successful parent coach....I think the lines would start to form.

- Steve Locker

Source: Locker Soccer

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The Day You Want To Quit Coaching, And Why You Shouldn't (Or Why You Should)

"I quit!"

"I'm done. Lemme out of here. Ain't going to do this no more." Ever felt that way?

Sure you have. If you've been coaching for longer than a swing of a bat, you've had those thoughts.

I've quit hundreds of times. Maybe thousands. I've lost track.

Disappointed?

Well, I didn't really quit. I thought about quitting. Processed it. Let it hang out in my psyche for a few hours. But then I filed the thought. Keep on coaching.

Except … there was this one time. That time, I actually quit coaching, for good.

Never, ever, was I going to coach again.

What is this crazy thing about coaching?

Why Coaches Quit

I know there is a lot of research on this. Matter of fact, there was a pretty good book written on this exact topic, Why Good Coaches Quit: And How You Can Stay In The Game. (It is on sale at Amazon for only $.01). But it was published in 1999, and things have changed since then.

The basic premise behind why coaches want to quit -- simply enough -- is that they don't want to coach anymore.

What drives a coach to think that? Well, I've seen many, many coaches quit. I think it has something to do with one of three things.

  1. Relationships (significant others, parents, immediate boss)

  2. Resources (pay, budget, equipment, players)

  3. Fear (safety & sanity)

There maybe other things bugging you, I'm just seeing these three as the big issues.

Why Coaches Shouldn't Quit

If you're thinking about quitting -- don't. That is, if you answer yes to both of these questions:

(A) Are you a good, caring coach? and
(B) Is the reason you want to quit fixable?

Let's start with B first. What's broken? Crazy parents? A significant other about to become a coaching widow? Funds drying up? Athletes giving up? If you can fix those issues, then don't quit -- as long as you answered yes to A.

Now for A. How do you know if you are a good, caring coach? Alumni tell you. Parents tell you. Athletes tell you. You tell yourself. Sports need good caring coaches. We need you.

Your Homework

So then, two yeses? Then don't quit.

I don't know.

I'm not trying to get you to quit. And I'm not trying to get you to stay. Maybe I'm writing this for myself. Why would you listen to me anyway? Listen to someone else …

If you've read to this point, then quitting might be an issue you could use more info about. I'm going to recommend The Dip by Seth Godin, a super duper smart guy. It's about quitting, and why you shouldn't, or why & when you should.

And if you're a podcast sort of person, Dan Benjamin has a great series called, unoddly enough, Quit.

Your choice, both very good.

Source:  Coaching Sports Today

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