Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Stand Up for Yourself in Pickup Games

   When playing pickup, you will face a few players who view playing sports from a very simple perspective: Winners win—Losers lose. To these players, winning is everything. Their self-esteem is directly tied to achieving that goal. These players will use gamesmanship, mental warfare, and other questionable tactics to try and secure victory. They may bend the rules or make “bad calls” to gain advantage.

For instance, in a game of pickup basketball, you might cleanly block our opponent’s shot. But he or she counters your good defensive play by saying that you committed a foul. Likewise, when you steal the ball, this type of player will call “foul”—even though there was little or no body contact. You can also expect this opponent to claim that “they never touched the ball” in a situation where they slightly deflect the ball out-of-bounds.

Though everyone makes the occasional bad call (and sometimes gets caught defending it), you need to watch for the opponent who regularly does so. Against these players you need to decide how to handle their behavior.

What You Should Do

If you’re a beginner or new to a group, you may want to take it slow at first. Your opponent may have special standing within the group and you may be viewed as an outsider. In these situations, consider questioning the call once. Do so without emotion. Force your opponent to make a statement defending his or her call. This puts your opponent on notice that you will not passively accept every bad call.

Even when you’re familiar with other players, you may decide it’s simply not worth the emotional effort to argue a call. You may not want to push the issue beyond a couple of comments.

But understand that there’s a risk to not challenging others who repeatedly manipulate the situation to their advantage. You lose respect.

Your teammates expect you to stand up for yourself and your calls. They expect you to speak up when you’re fouled. When you don’t, you give your opponent and his or her team an advantage. Since your teammates want to win, you will lose their respect should you continually back down.

You also lose respect from your opponent. Against players who often make self-serving bad calls, you must meet them head-on. Otherwise, you’ll keep getting run over. Much like confronting a bully, you need to stand your ground. It’s not fun arguing. It ruins the flow of the game. But once your opponent realizes you’re not going to easily give in, his or her behavior often changes (at least for that game). Your battle with your opponent returns to one of pure competition.

Do you have any suggestions on how to handle these types of situations?

Copyright © 2012 Jeffrey S. Rhoads. All Rights Reserved

If you enjoyed this article, you may like my book:
The Joy of Youth Sports: Creating the best youth sports experience for your child (Amazon $8.95)

(Kindle Edition $2.99)


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Review Key Points of a Game with Your Players

   Each game, win or loss, brings with it both positive and negative moments. Inspired individual performances, outstanding team play, exemplary effort, missed opportunities, careless mistakes, lackadaisical play, and moments of good and bad judgment are examples of player performance and game elements that you can either praise or criticize.

It’s important to address these points while they are still fresh in players’ minds. But how do you go about doing so?

What to Say After the Game

After your game, gather the team together and highlight any positive points. At this time, you may also want to briefly address your primary concern—but be aware of post-game emotions and how your message may affect certain players. Always try to follow any criticism with praise. Many of your players may already be disappointed with their performance.

At younger ages, try to spread your praise to cover each member of your team. For the weakest players, pick out their contributions (no matter how small) and compliment them. In basketball, for example, I might point out how a screen helped another player score. For another kid, I might mention an excellent rebound. Many times you can simply compliment weak offensive players for their good defense.

Lastly, position your next team practice as an opportunity to overcome the more obvious problems that hurt your team’s performance. Provide hope. You want to instill the belief that the team and each of its members are improving. That practices and work is leading to better play, and ideally victory.

Analyzing a Loss

Good coaches, even at the youth level, will find it difficult to immediately let go of a loss. This is normal and an indication that you care, are competitive, and want to improve your players’ performance and opportunity to succeed. The loss represents a problem that you need to solve.

Typically, you will go through an analytical process to better understand your team’s performance. What key breakdowns and failures contributed to the loss? What good points can you further strengthen? You should find your mind weighing the individual player performances, the effectiveness of your team strategies and game plan, the missed opportunities in certain game situations, and the corrective actions that you need to take before your next game. Let it all roll around inside you for a while.

The Next Practice

Before your next practice, pull together all of the key positives and negatives in your mind, and determine what areas that you should address in the upcoming practice. Write down a practice schedule that includes drills or other activities that will help correct the noted deficiencies.

After your practice’s initial warm-up, whether you won or lost the prior game, pull your players together and again highlight the game’s key points. Congratulate your players for their positive plays and together analyze the problem areas. For the latter, ask leading questions (see Teach Like That Famous Greek Guy). Give them a chance to respond and try to elaborate on their good answers. Firmly state the corrective actions that you believe are required. At this point, begin the drills and other activities that directly relate to your talking points.

Always understand the cause-and-effect relationship for key events that occurred in the prior game. Discuss these, along with the lessons learned, with your players and implement corrective actions in the next practice.

Copyright © 2012 Jeffrey S. Rhoads. All Rights Reserved

If you enjoyed this article, you may like my book:
The Joy of Youth Sports: Creating the best youth sports experience for your child (Amazon $8.95)

(Kindle Edition $2.99)


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sports Gear: Sometimes it’s Worth the Extra Spend, Sometimes it’s Not.

   Our guest post this month features an article by Mindy Tan, Marketing Manager for Epic Sports, an online provider of sports gear. Mindy gives an inside look at buying sports gear—what determines quality and price, and how parents can make the right buying decision.

Price is a monetary value assigned to products for sale that most generally is decided by, or at the very minimum discussed with, the marketing department. It is not a reflection of the true quality of a product (or the lack thereof). That being said, a company cannot price products lower than the cost of manufacturing and pushing them through the distribution channel. A higher price can actually equate to higher quality.

So, when it comes to sports gear, how can you decide when it is worth the extra money to purchase the name brand?

There is no single universal answer because every person has different needs from their products. Though we may all use the gear for the same purpose, we need to consider other aspects of our personal sports experience that will have an impact on the worth of the gear.

  1. Endurance: If you can see yourself keeping the particular piece of sports gear until it has exceeded its life, you may be willing to invest in a higher quality, and thus longer lasting product. If you plan to outgrow or upgrade the product in the near future, you might not need a product that provides this longevity.

  2. Agility: Are you flexible with features or are you set on having some specific feature? A lower priced product might not come with all the features that you are looking for.

  3. Strength: What is the strength of your relationship with the sport? Are you likely to change sports or lose interest? Are you invested on a personal level or just recreationally involved? A young player or a recreational player doesn’t need the best equipment in existence to see if he/she likes the game. Unless there is a high affinity, most sports gear purchases can be negotiated to a minimum.

  4. Training: Heavy use can create the need for a more durable product, regardless of how long you plan to own the product.

Spare No Expense to Get What You Need

Because of the inherent danger involved with participating in certain sports, especially contact sports, there are some products that require a high quality product. Purchases of helmets and other safety gear should be made with care. This is an area where the amount of research a manufacturer puts into the design and development of its products is in direct relation to the quality of the product and the amount of money you should be willing to spend. Pay attention to independent studies and ratings on safety gear as well. More so than anything else, the quality of the manufacturing research, materials and process should determine this purchase— not price.

Footwear is another area in which there are specific criteria that one should consider prior to purchase. Knowing what type of foot the player has (flat, normal or with a pronounced arch) will help you identify which shoe is right for you. Comfort, durability, performance and stability are important factors, though if you will soon outgrow them, durability may not be an issue. Stability is a very important safety aspect. Whether name brand or private label, be sure that your athletic shoes offer stability so as to reduce your chance of injury.

Some Private Label or Generic Brands Provide Quality at a Better Price

There are lots of reasons a quality product can be priced low. Some manufacturers price their products low simply because that is the pricing strategy that their marketing department and/or founders wanted to go with. Many companies start small with a founder who just wanted to provide quality products that people can afford.

How can you determine which low cost products are of high quality and which are not?

  1. Read the fine print: Many times the difference between two products lies more in the extras that are provided for the more expensive version. For example, higher priced products tend to come with a manufacturer’s warranty that covers products for anywhere from one to five years after purchase. The cost of providing this warranty raises the cost of the products. Read the product description and contact the retailer and/or the manufacturer of the product with any questions you have regarding materials, manufacturing processes, and quality. Retailers who offer multiple brands have less incentive to deceive consumers on which is a higher quality —either way, they have another product for you. Manufacturers, on the other hand, might be a little biased.

  2. Experiment: Unless you don’t ever plan on purchasing the same type of product again, you may benefit from trial and error. By experimenting with purchasing products that are lower priced, you can see which ones are of adequate quality. Don’t want to take the chance? Read user reviews from a variety of sources. Don’t use advice from blogs or YouTube video reviews because many blog owners receive free products in exchange for an “honest” review. Instead, search reviews on the products at verified purchaser review websites.

  3. Determine if you are getting a good deal: It is possible to get good value on an expensive product. Consider the example of a football helmet. You are willing to spend $200 on a helmet because it could save a player from concussion and serious damage to the brain. The price of this product might be considered high (after all you could get a less expensive helmet from a company that has done less research) but the value you receive is high. Sometimes spending more equates to a better overall value—better than you would get from a "value" priced product.
So, in order to determine where you can save money and where you should spend more, you really have to rely on what is important to you in each individual product. You can then decide how much each of the product's features are worth to you and make the right purchase.

Written by Mindy Tan, Marketing Manager, EpicSports.com

If you enjoyed this article, you may like my book:
The Joy of Youth Sports: Creating the best youth sports experience for your child (Amazon $8.95)

(Kindle Edition $2.99)


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Trust Your Skills (Don't Think Too Much)

   As you progress in your sport, you will receive instruction from many sources including your parents, coaches, other players, videos, and books. To learn a new skill (or correct one that is deficient), you need to understand the fundamental movements that comprise the skill and how these movements flow together in a coordinated sequence. You will need to initially think about the skill, break it down, and analyze your execution of it.

When you’re competing, however, it’s essential that you trust the skills that you have learned and practiced. As the Nike motto says, you need to “Just Do It!”

Imagery Instead of Thinking

You cannot think about how you will execute a skill during a game. If you do, you obstruct the subconscious body-mind connection that you've developed through hours of practice. This will slow reaction time and often destroy the natural flow needed to properly execute a skill. Likewise, observing yourself (as if you were a third person watching you) will also hurt your ability to perform well.

Confidence and positive imagery is instead the key to success. You must know that the ball will go in, and see it doing so in your mind’s eye. See yourself executing each skill with perfect form—without thinking through every step. Live in the moment of these images—picture your success.

For example, broad or triple jumpers in track need to get their approach’s steps down properly to achieve the longest jump. The last step should ideally land immediately before the far edge of the takeoff board. By repeating successful approaches and takeoffs in practice, the mechanics of this skill are ingrained within a jumper. Thinking about how this is done during a track meet will only inhibit the body’s ability to do what it has been trained to do. Instead, a jumper needs to cast away any doubts about footwork and envision a perfect approach, takeoff, jump, and final result.

When I played basketball in high school and college, I always approached the free throw line thinking that these “gimme” points were mine and envisioned the ball going through the hoop. Once I had begun the initial movement of my shooting motion, I would clear my mind, focus on the target, and let the hours of practice take over.

Use Trigger Movements

To let “muscle memory” take over, incorporate trigger movements at the beginning of the skill. In golf, this might be a simple “waggle” of the club’s head before beginning your back-swing. For a basketball free throw, you might bounce the basketball four times to engage your body and then exhale immediately before beginning the actual shooting motion. Whatever your routine, do it the same way every time.

Practice your skills to the point that you don’t need to think about how you perform them. Trust your skills and play your game with confidence knowing that your body will follow your mind’s eye to the result you see and desire.

Copyright © 2012 Jeffrey S. Rhoads. All Rights Reserved

If you enjoyed this article, you may like my book:
The Joy of Youth Sports: Creating the best youth sports experience for your child (Amazon $8.95)

(Kindle Edition $2.99)


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

No Sleepovers the Night Before a Game

   Earlier this year, one of my players showed up late for an 11:00 AM game, arriving just before its start. As I briefly talked to him about the importance of arriving in time for warm-ups, I noticed that his eyes were glazed and his hair ruffled with a large cowlick jutting upwards.

Throughout the game, the boy played with little energy and seemed to have difficulty concentrating. Afterwards, I talked with his parents and mentioned my observation to which they casually responded, “Oh, he was at a sleepover last night.”

Kids love sleepovers. They’re a fun, exciting experience where young boys and girls get to watch movies, play games, eat junk food, and stay up late. Sleepovers are also an opportunity for kids to learn more about themselves and their friends, talking into the night exploring topics that are new and exciting. These shared, communal experiences are part of growing up.

But I think most of us still remember how we usually felt after a sleepover when we were young. And as a parent, I would expect you’re familiar with the tired, grouchy child that often shows up on your doorstep the next day.

If your child is listless and tired, he or she is unlikely to play well. Not only will your child play poorly, but in team sports, your child’s performance may also hurt the team’s success. Your role is to help your child understand his or her responsibilities and that meeting this responsibility sometimes requires sacrifice. Explain to your child why sleepovers are a bad idea the night before a game. A coach expects that your child will properly prepare for a game—and that includes getting enough sleep the night before.

Copyright © 2012 Jeffrey S. Rhoads. All Rights Reserved

If you enjoyed this article, you may like my book:
The Joy of Youth Sports: Creating the best youth sports experience for your child (Amazon $8.95)

(Kindle Edition $2.99)