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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, new, and commentary about fastpitch softball and youth sports in Minnesota and the surrounding States.

In early January 2018, 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!


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.


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!


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.


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,, 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


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 ( 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


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.


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


Damage Caused by Verbal Abuse

I wanted to open this article with another story. One of those attention grabbing, tell all, stuff of nightmares stories that I've told before.

One about the coach who called a 10 year old boy stupid. Or the one about the coach who screamed at a high school player in front of a sideline full of college scouts to get her head out of her [you know what] or she could spend the game on the bench. Oh, how about the one where a coach stood over a group of nine-year old girls as they sat on the ground crying and called them donkeys. When a parent intervened, he said "bullying builds character".

That was a good one. So is the story about the coach who kept calling a team of fourteen-year old girls by female body parts all season. All. Season. Relentlessly.

I could have started with any one of those stories to show the kind of verbal bullying that goes on in youth soccer. I could have provided all the gory details, in flowery description, to really drive home the pain. To get your eyes to well up, to have your heart pound a bit, and your ire start to rise. I could have pulled those heart strings so you would finally believe me. So you would realize how bad it is out there.

Sadly, I can't. Not because I am afraid. Trust me, I'm not afraid of someone who gets his or her power from picking on children. No one is afraid of a coward like that.

No. I can't because you know the stories. I can't because you see them every weekend, on every field, across every city.

I can't because you have worse stories. The last time I posted an article about the dangers of bully coaches, I heard more stories than I can recall. Stories that made my skin crawl. Stories that made me cry. Stories that made my stories sound like fairy tales. There are some bad coaches out there.

I can't because you know these coaches. They still coach. No matter how many TEDx talks are given about these coaches, or radio show appearances, or articles written, or speeches delivered at conferences pleading for the youth sport world to stop these coaches, they coaches still coach.

I can't because we will all show our shock and outrage at this epidemic and then write our check to the large soccer machines that turn out coaches like that with the snake oil promise of scholarships, national teams, and pro contracts. Those machines Defend coaches like that. Promote coaches like that so they can work with more of our children.

I can't because the bully story hangover will wear off after a few days and we will all return to allowing it to continue by the weekend.

Don't believe me? I challenge you. I challenge you to go to a large tournament and spend the day. Walk around from game to game. See as many games, at all ages that you can. I bet you can't go one day at a tournament without finding one of these coaches.

But…it's okay. He gets results. He is making our kids mentally tough. He is only doing what his coach did and what his coach's coach did. It's just words.

By Tuesday our outrage will subside but the damage to our children is done. I am not talking about a crying child who needs a shoulder. Or a softening youth who need "safe spaces". I am not talking about hurt feelings or wounded egos.

That's what the knee jerk reaction is to articles like this. First outrage. Then outpouring of similar stories. Then someone defends the actions. Then the rationalization that it builds character, the justification that it was done to us by our coaches, the assumption it is making our children weak and non-competitive if we are too soft…and the cycle starts anew.

STOP. Stop making this about challenging a status quo, or arguing about results and think for a moment about the one group that is always forgotten in our adult debates. I call out a bully coach, he gets his hackles up and fights back, more adults jump on either side of the debate and we all start slinging dirt until we get tired, bored, or distracted and move on but the one group who lives with this -- the group who actually incur damages -- are forgotten. Children.

Your child suffers when we allow this to happen. Real suffering. Research-backed, medically-proven, scientifically-relevant damage. Research done by experts in their field that proves actual damage happens. Damage beyond hurt feelings. Your child suffers potentially long-term, possibly irreversible damage when coaches verbally bully them.

The kind of damage that is as bad as physical damage. Research shows verbal abuse is no different from physical abuse in certain areas of the brain. Research shows what we call the status quo, makes 'em tougher, gets results, just a coach being a coach is harming your child. You would NEVER allow someone to hurt your child in any other arena of our life. You should NOT allow someone to harm you child in sports.

I want to remind you that while the bully coach may have played soccer. May know the game. May have even played at the highest levels, he or she did not go to school to study the craft. Did not take a class to learn how to speak to a child or understand development cycles in youth sports. They may tell you to ignore guys like me because they know soccer and how to pay it better. Do they know children and how to educate them better?

It makes sense to use former players. I am one of those former player turned coaches. We played it a long time. We know nuances, we have a level of understanding of what it takes to learn the game and play it. We have "institutional memory" as players.

That does not make us experts at working with your child. That's like going to a heart attack patient to get your cardiac advice. He experienced it, so he must know how to help me. Who care about the doctor with the degree and decades of research.

So check out the research and remember while the bully coaches were playing sports, these academics were doing the actual research. They know the extent of the damage. You can decide for yourself if this is just another "bleeding heart", "soft", "child coddling" article.

What kind of damage does verbal bullying do? (This is just a sampling. The research is still pouring in on the topic).

Brain-Based Damage

Brain Scarring -- Mark Waldman has done research on MRIs of children's brains. A side by side comparison of the brains of chronic verbal abuse shows physical scarring similar to brains of children living in chronic physical abuse homes.

Corpus Callosum damage -- Martin Teicher's research has shown damage to Corpus Callosum in the brains of verbally abused children. This leads to memory issues, lapses in concentration and attention, and a reduction in creativity. Let me get this straight: we are pushing for more creative children but the bully coaching is counterproductive to that? Maybe us "have more fun" coaches have the puzzle solved.

Weaker new brain cells -- Daniel Petersen (Chicago Medical School)has found that though brain cells continue to regenerate at a normal rate in verbally abused brain those new cells are often weaker and die more easily. Words kill brain cells. Sticks and stones seem far less powerful than words now.

Thinner Myelin Sheaths -- Research done by Tracy Vaillancourt showed the myelin sheaths around the neurons of verbally abused brains are thinner. The myelin sheath insulates the connection, like electrical insulation allowing neurons to fire faster and more efficiently. Imagine a frayed wire versus a well insulated wire. Which one do you want transmitting the electric in your house? Also, if you subscribe Daniel Coyle's work (I do) this is how talent is built. Coaches like John Wooden and Itzhak Perlman knew to create skill they needed specific, focused, mastery-based practice to build thick myelin sheaths. The thicker the sheath the better a neuron fired, and the better it transmitted, the more skillful a person was. Oh. The. Irony. We yell at our children during skill-building sessions to be more skilled and all we are doing is destroying the very mechanism that "builds" the skill.

Reduced Gray Matter -- Research by Radua has shown verbal abuse causes reduced gray matter. This alters brain structure and reduces information processing capabilities in the brain. You want problem-solvers? Stop yelling at them while they are trying to solve the problems. It reduces their ability to solve the problem.

Introduction of toxins -- Here is a picture…imagine the brain being bathed in toxins. Research from many sources shows bullying elicits a response in the amygdala where the stress reaction occurs. A stress reaction will cause an increase in stress hormones. Stress hormones serve a purpose but in large, and frequent doses on a developing brain they can be dangerous to growth. Yelling bathes the brain in toxins. I'll just leave that here to sink in for a bit. Bathed. In. Toxins.

Psycho-Social Damage

Drug risk factors -- Rockefeller University released neurological research that indicated chronic verbal abuse causes a deep enough stress reaction it can be a risk factor for drug abuse. There are deleterious effects on the hippocampus from exposed chronic verbal abuse that can reduce its ability to regulate chemical dependency. Sifting through the research, the basic finding was verbally abused children have a higher susceptibility to drug abuse because a weakened drug regulation system.

Mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and even psychosis -- Let's stay with Rockefeller for a bit and discuss the rest of their findings, Their research on the effects of verbal abuse of the brain also revealed that adults who were subjected to chronic verbal abuse were at risk for these psychiatric issues, at a much earlier age, and were less likely to respond well to treatment. Have a read for yourself on whether "words can really hurt you"

Learned helplessness and reduced self-esteem -- We all know the research on dogs and electric shock. Shock the bottom cage the first few times and the dog jumps to avoid it. After continued exposure to the shock, the dog gives up and lies down anyway, taking the full brunt of the shock. The phenomenon is called "learned helplessness". Scream at our kids enough and they may just lie down and take it for the rest of their lives. This is the opposite of persistence. Not to mention the reduction in self-esteem? Who could possibly believe in herself when her coach keeps calling her a failure, a donkey, an idiot? Way to go coach. Way to pass that on to the next generation. But, hey, you won the game, so collect your bonus.

Competitiveness -- Increased stress reactions reduce learning behaviors, increase fear responses which in turn reduce a child's desire to "try new things", destroy a growth mindsets, and reduce competitive nature of children. I once had a bully coach accuse me of being the reason our children are weak competitors because I "make them soft with your coddling words". Well, the research shows bully behavior is really what "makes our kids weak".

The above mentioned research indicated stress reactions. Stress reactions, especially frequent and powerful ones, cause psychological damage. Children who are verbally abused tend to be more prone to depression, anxiety, apathy, and panic attacks. No wonder our current generation of children are more stressed out than ever. We have them playing 12 hours a day, 300 days a year in a potentially verbally abusive environment. I'd be depressed if I had to listen to someone scream at me and call me names 5 days a week all year long.

Systemic Physical Damage

Weakened immune system -- Research shows higher and longer lasting levels of cortisol in the body, which is released during high stress reactions to verbal abuse, can lower the immune system's effectiveness. My son used to always complain he was sick and didn't want to go to practice and games (a clear sign something may be awry). Maybe he wasn't always making it up and the coach he had that season was actually making him sick. (That particular coach no longer works in youth soccer for a reason).

Damage to connective tissue -- Higher Cortisol also damages connective matter in the body (tissue, joints, cartilage), thereby increasing risk of injury. So words can also "break bones"?

Obesity -- Guess who also showed chronic verbal abuse in children leads to more prevalence of childhood and adult obesity. Yes, Rockefeller University. This current generation of children is at risk of dying 5 years younger than we will die. For the first time in history, a generation has a lifespan shorter than the previous generation! Obesity plays a big role in this and many are working to reverse this. What good is it to make our children more active if the people controlling the activity are also causing potential obesity via stress and abuse? -- I get it. I am sounding a big alarm here. I am rocking the boat and making you feel a bit uncomfortable. I am also going extreme on you. Shock and awe. Shock, awe, and outrage. I am at a loss for ways to get people to take notice. To stop defending it, celebrating it, or ignoring it. I am at a loss for getting people to say "enough is enough".

I don't care what you say about us to other clubs or if this prevents my child from having a right to his 1% chance of getting a college scholarship. Long term health and happiness is far more important.

Not all children will suffer the above damages but they are possible. Not all coaches are verbally abusive, but they are out there, every weekend, doing their thing and we seem to stand by and say nothing. Is it worth the risk to keep your kid with a verbally abusive coach for that scholarship, that competitive advantage, that spot on the elite team?

Is it really worth the wins and resume building and ladder climbing to know you got to the top of the ladder by being the verbally abusive coach? You are a big dog now, but you laid waste to an entire generation of youth athletes. Hollow win, my friend. Hollow win.

Maybe your kid will turn out just fine. Our parents smoked all the time around our generation. Many of them smoked in the car, with the windows up, because none of us knew the damage it could cause. Did it affect us all? Maybe. I am "so far, so good". Would I take the same risk with my kids? Not. A. Chance. Now we know the risk and I don't feel like gambling with my child.

So, you know the risk of verbal abuse…ready to gamble or ready to take a stand for better way of coaching?

Source: Soccer Nation


No longer just a park, North Mankato rebranding Caswell sports complex

The city of North Mankato is expanding its thinking on sports.

City officials are touting the success of Caswell Park's sports complex, which hosted more than just softball tournaments this year. North Mankato drew participants -- and dollars -- for more sports events than ever before.

As a result, the city is rebranding Caswell Park as Caswell Sports.

"It's just putting it all under one umbrella now," said Caswell Sports Director Phil Tostenson.

Tostenson and city officials reviewed Caswell's year for the North Mankato City Council during its meeting Monday.

Caswell Park, as well as Caswell North Soccer Complex, drew 66,000 people this year, up from 40,000 in 2014. Those people spent an estimated $7.5 million locally on hotels, restaurants, gas, shopping and groceries as well, up from an estimated $5 million in 2015.

This year's events include the U.S. Youth Soccer Minnesota State Cup, the North American Fastpitch Association World Series, and various competitions, triathlons and 5K races.

"We're really identifying what it really is," City Administrator John Harrenstein said. "This is not linked to one single sport. This is a multi-faceted sports facility that has grown into a recreational support management service for a variety of events."

Caswell drew increased concession and beer sales this year as well -- an estimated $106,000 in revenue, up from about $80,000 last year. Yet the city also contributed about $93,000 in tax levy funding toward Caswell events, up from about $49,000 in 2015.

City officials are confident they'll reduce levy funding toward the park in future years as Caswell grows, however. They project concession sales to stay at about $100,000 a year over the next few years, though the city is also considering a food and beverage tax to help offset costs. Harrenstein told the council city officials would consult with local businesses before crafting a tax proposal.

Not everyone on the council was excited by the news, however. Council member Kim Spears pointed out the complex's projected economic impact are based on formulas that don't necessarily translate into increased dollars for local businesses. He also worried the complex wouldn't cover increased staffing and maintenance costs in the future.

"The benefits in these reports are rather overstated, and I believe that some costs are not accounted for," he said. "So in the evaluation of this information, I think that should be taken into account."


John Tschida Inducted into NFCA Hall of Fame

It's another hall of fame for University of St. Thomas softball coach John Tschida, who was inducted into the National Fastpitch Coaches Hall of Fame in New Orleans last weekend.

Tschida, 48, who several years ago declined a coaching offer from the Gophers, is about to begin his 18th season at St. Thomas.

Reasons for his success: "Obviously, you have to have good players. I've never seen a donkey win the Kentucky Derby. We've had unbelievable players and good kids who want to learn and get better."

Source: Pioneer Press


Aurora Illlinois area lands 2 major softball tourneys

The Aurora area will play host to two major women's fast-pitch softball tournaments in 2017.

On Thursday, the Aurora Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and the recently-formed Aurora Area Sports Alliance announced the United States Specialty Sports Association, or USSSA, will hold its National Championship Great Lakes Fast-Pitch Girls Softball 14U open and 18U class "B" team tournaments July 18-22, 2017, at the Stuart Sports Complex, Griffin Drive and Route 30, in Montgomery.

Awarding these tournaments to the Aurora area is the result of months of planning between the Visitors Bureau and the Fox Valley Park District, officials said.

"When I came into Aurora's pitch meeting to host these tournaments, I didn't know what to expect," said Ed White, assistant state director for USSSA Illinois. "I have to say I was blown away by what they proposed."

Perry Clark, USSSA Illinois state director, said the Aurora area was chosen ahead of three other Chicago suburbs to host these tournaments.

"Stuart Sports Complex is a welcome change of scenery for us, and the Aurora area provides many family-friendly sites and attractions that players and their families can enjoy when the kids aren't playing," said Clark. "We look forward to a successful, lasting partnership with the Aurora area and the Fox Valley Park District."

Cort Carlson, the Aurora Visitors Bureau director, said landing these kinds of tournaments is why the bureau, the Park District and other area agencies formed the new Aurora Area Sports Alliance.

"The economic impact of sports tourism is huge, and we have just started to scratch the surface," Carlson said. "We're honored that USSSA has chosen the Aurora area and Stuart Sports Complex as a home for tournament play."

USSSA anticipates more than 2,000 people will attend the tournaments, with an anticipated economic impact of $1.8 million spent locally.

The tournament will use a five-game guarantee format, and teams will then be seeded into pools based on current USSSA rankings.

For information visit

The United States Specialty Sports Association is a non-profit sports governing body that sanctions, creates, and promotes a variety of sports including softball, baseball, and basketball across the United States, Puerto Rico, various U.S. military bases and Canada, with a membership of more than 3.7 million.

Source: Chicago Tribune


New Loyola softball coach Schroeder seizes opportunity

Rob Schroeder knows a pretty good opportunity when he sees one.

When head softball coach Kari Koester let Mankato Loyola know she would not be returning for the spring season, Schroeder didn't have to think very long about applying for the job. The Crusaders were coming off a third-place finish in the Class A state tournament and have almost everybody back, including their two starting pitchers.

A short time later, Schroeder, 47, was announced as the new coach. Now, according to him, the fun begins.

 "It's a new challenge for me and I like challenges," Schroeder said. "I've been playing fastpitch for 30 years and I did some coaching back in the day. This seemed like a good time to get back into it."

Schroeder's daughter Megan is a former standout for the Crusaders so the new coach is familiar with the program. His oldest daughter, Karina, is a senior on the Minnesota State women's basketball team.

Schroeder plans to start from scratch with his coaching staff and hopes to install a time-honored fastpitch philosophy.

"The goal is to be fundamentally sound on defense," he said. "On offense we want to bunt and run and steal. We want to play aggressively."

Former coach Koester knew her time with the Loyola program was coming to an end, mostly because of her three daughters in grades 5-and-under. She thought she might be able to squeeze out one more season but when daycare issues didn't work out she decided to step aside.

"I knew that, at the most, I was only going to be there one more season and when the daycare thing popped up I thought now was the time," Koester said. "By leaving a year early the new coach is going to have a good group of seniors to work with."

Among those seniors are five-year starting shortstop Rae Dose and starting pitcher/outfielder Kayla Gross. The duo has been instrumental in the team's success in recent years.

Loyola activities director John Landkamer believes Schroeder is the right fit for the job.

"Rob has a long history with fastpitch and he knows our program pretty well from watching his daughter player here," Landkamer said. "I think he's going to continue the great tradition of softball at Loyola."

Source: Mankato Free Press