Thursday, June 30, 2011

What to Look For in a Youth Sports Camp

I read an article today in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette about a local baseball camp and Jerry Matulevic, the man who runs it. Unlike camps run primarily to make money, this one seems to get it right. The story is heartwarming and well worth reading. Here's the link:

30 years of fond memories from the Jerry Matulevic Championship Baseball Camp

Mr. Matulevic, a former high school baseball coach, knows that kids enjoy a successful experience in youths sports when they're taught the fundamentals in a positive, enthusiastic environment. With a mastery of a sport's fundamental skills, a child gains confidence and self-reliance, gateways to success.

The article and testaments from former camp attendees all suggest that Mr. Matulevic is the real deal—an authentic teacher who wants only to see his students become better baseball players and people. If you're considering sending your child off to camp this summer, try to find a camp that embodies the same principles as Jerry's. Forget the star players, T-shirts, and extras. Find a camp that focuses on teaching, rather than simply playing games.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Avoid Taking Credit for Your Players' Success

There are games in which coaching makes a real difference. Besides providing leadership and strategic direction, a coach sometimes makes crucial tactical decisions during the game. Diagramming an excellent play during a timeout may even result in a memorable, last-second victory when your players execute the plan to perfection.

But despite your contribution, it’s usually a mistake for you to take any direct credit for your team’s success. Your players will begin to question your motivation and integrity—especially if you preach a team-first philosophy.

I made this blunder once in a middle school basketball tournament game. With a couple of seconds remaining on the clock, down by one point, I called a timeout. We were directly under the opponent’s basket so I called our “Box” out-of-bounds play. Normally, the two forwards located on the blocks screen for the guards positioned at the foul line. The guards then dive towards the basket looking to receive the inbounds pass.

The other team had seen this simple play a number of times. To possibly catch our opponent off-guard, I told my best forward on the ball side to take two steps toward the guard at the foul line, and then sharply reverse direction and cut back toward the ball.

Andrew perfectly executed the play, received the ball and scored a layup as the buzzer sounded. My players ran over to the bench, screaming, yelling, and jumping on each other in celebration. I congratulated Andrew and then, in an instant of self indulgence, said, “I’m going to take some credit for that win!”

I recall Andrew smiling at me, but there was also a curious, questioning look on his face. Andrew was a great, warm-hearted kid who, in his modesty, let my imperfect moment pass without comment.

Let the glory go to your players and quietly enjoy the personal satisfaction of knowing that you made an excellent game-time decision.