Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Nutrition for Youth Ball Players

The postgame snack schedules are just about set now. Team Moms across the league probably know who is responsible for every game of the season. But take time to consider what types of food we should be giving out to our kids at the park.

Here is one article on nutrition for youth ball players. It lists five basic nutritional facts to teach our young athletes:

1. Protein allows the body to build muscle and enhance strength.
2. Carbohydrates provide energy. Complex carbohydrates are best for longer lasting energy.
3. Certain types of foods provide more protein.
4. Processed foods are generally less healthy than unprocessed, fresh foods.
5. Eating more, but smaller meals, is considered by many to be healthier.

Sometimes the right choices don't come in individual snack bags. And consider also how much energy is required to play a T-Ball game. Sometimes the calories after the game might outweigh the ones burned during the game.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Reflections on a Good Coach

Here's an article for my fellow coaches out there. Actor David Duchovny writes in the Wall Street Journal about how his high school basketball coach made a positive impact on his life. An excerpt:

"That is what a good coach does. He fills you with a belief that may or may not be justified. As you make the dangerous crossing from unproven belief to actual accomplishment, from potential to reality, a good coach holds your hand so expertly that you don't even know your hand is being held. I got better because Coach Byrnes told me I was already better. It was that simple—a magic trick."

Couldn't agree more. One of the best things we can do for young athletes is instill self confidence in them that they can draw from the rest of their lives.

How to Protect Pitchers from Injury

I came across an important article from last year by Eric Cressey: Understanding Elbow Pain - Part 4: Protecting Pitchers. Cressey is a expert in the field of physical training for amateur and professional athletes. He works with a lot of baseball players and knows what he's talking about. He has a useful blog that I read occasionally, which our high school pitchers might also be interested in.

The article is wordy, but here are essentially Cressey's four primary ways to protect pitchers at any level:

1. Good Mechanics. No two pitchers are alike, but there are certain angles and timing issues to avoid, which exert more stress on the elbow. Visit my Lessons page for additional info on learning proper mechanics at a young age.

2. Avoiding Overuse. This has been discussed by about everyone. See the post below.

3. Long Term Physical Preparation. I think flexibility is most important for youth pitchers, but strength training is beneficial as well.

4. Short Term Physical Preparation. Pitchers should warm up their bodies first, then their arms. And don't forget the stretching and cool down period afterwords.

There's much more in the article, including some good links in each section.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Five Ways to Prevent Overuse Injuries

Here is a link to a timely article at Mom's Team on how to prevent overuse injuries. According to the National Athletic Trainers Association, 50% of youth sports injuries are caused by overuse / repetitive stress. Their top five ways to prevent such injuries are:

1. Education and supervision;
2. Pre-participation physical exams;
3. Participation limits;
4. Training and conditioning; and
5. Delayed specialization.

Check out the article for all the details.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Specialization vs. Sampling

Here's a link to an article by Dr. Sharon Chirban, a psychology professor at Harvard Medical School, about the popular debate regarding what is better for youth athletes - specializing year-round in one sport at a young age, or sampling a variety of different sports. Chirban says it is healthier for kids to play different sports, both physically and mentally. The interesting thing about this debate is that we never seem to see the other side of the argument presented.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Get Behind That L-Screen - It Could Save Your Life

Please let this be a reminder, as we start the spring season, to use your L-screen, and use it well.

Vinny Ribar, a 15-year-old Freshman baseball player at Kiski Area High School near Pittsburgh suffered a serious injury on February 26th after being struck in the head by a line drive. He was using a protective L-screen in practice, but failed to stay completely behind it as the ball was approaching.

Ribar's story unfortunately does not stand alone as a wake up call to coaches everywhere. In case you need another example of how your life can be turned around forever with one pitch, I urge you to spend some time reading the story of former Sun Valley High School (Monroe, NC) coach Kenn Wright.

Ed Walton of Charlotte Country Day first alerted me to this years ago. Here's a link to Scott Fowler's series of Charlotte Observer articles called The Pitch, which tell of Wright's 1997 brain injury and the struggle for life that followed. In Wright's case, I believe it was the netting of his team's L-screen that had fallen into disrepair, allowing a 70 mph line drive to slip through and strike him directly in the forehead.

If you are going to be serving up batting practice to your players, even at the Little League level, please follow through and duck behind your L-screen. Check the netting for any holes or weak sections. Consider wearing a helmet. And don't let your youth players throw batting practice.

A couple of welts from Alfonso Fernandez in 2005 were a physical reminder for me. But bruises fade away with time. The story of Kenn Wright should never be forgotten.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Easton Unveils New Pitching Helmet

Easton-Bell Sports has introduced a prototype for a safety helmet to be worn by pitchers, and the company expects nationwide use of the product to begin in youth leagues by fall.

The product was unveiled and will be initially worn by Gunnar Sandberg, a Marin (CA) Catholic High School senior who was seriously injured by a line drive while pitching a year ago. Sandberg no longer pitches because of an arm injury, but he plans to wear the 5 1/2 ounce padded helmet while playing the field as a 1st Baseman this season.

Easton-Bell and the Sandberg family hope that widespread use of the new product catches on. Stephen Keener, president and CEO of Little League Baseball, Inc., says that he will support it. Easton is the official team equipment supplier for Little League, and the organization has been a leader in safety modifications throughout its history. So don't be surprised to see the pitching helmet on the field at some point over the years to come.

Ten Types of Youth Sports Parents

Don't shoot the messenger, but this is just funny:  Ten Types of Youth Sports Parents from Stats Dad. From the "Papa-razzi" (left) to the "Stop, Drop and Roll Parent".... you might find yourself on this list. Or perhaps you are a different breed.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

High School Girls Face Off on the Mound

When Marti Sementelli of Birmingham High School and Ghazaleh Sailors of San Marcos High School took to the hill in Van Nuys, CA, it was a landmark occasion for women's athletics - the first time two female pitchers had started a varsity high school baseball game.

Sementelli and Sailors are two of about a thousand girls playing high school baseball in America, a number that is growing each year. They met at the USA Baseball Training Complex in Cary, NC while playing on the National Women's Baseball Team, and decided to try to get their coaches to arrange the match up.

It happened on Saturday, with Sementelli getting a complete game victory. But the experience was a win for both, and delivered another strong message that girls can play baseball too.