The Fallacy of Wins and Losses in Youth Sports

Note: Originally published in the January/February 2011 issue of Los Angeles Sports & Fitness.

In a recent youth football championship game, one team trailed 6-0 when the coach ordered a trick play that is now a youtube sensation. After a penalty, he called out loudly that the defense had been off-side, and the official forgot to walk off the five yards. He yelled at his center to move the ball forward. The center stood up and handed the ball over his shoulder to the quarterback, which is a legal maneuver. The quarterback started to walk off the five yards and then sprinted past the unassuming defenders for the game-tying touchdown. […]

Jiujitsu and Specificity of Language

Note: This article originally appeared in Hard2Guard Player Development Newsletter 5.2.

I took an introductory jiujitsu class this week. Jiujitsu is unlike anything that I have done previously. However, the initial learning curve was made steeper because of unspecific language. Several times, my more experienced partner or the instructor said “put this leg there” or “that arm there.” As a novice trying to imitate an expert’s one or two demonstrations to get a position, the unspecific language made the learning more complex. Which leg is “that one,” my right or my left? When an athlete is confused, “that” or “this” does not simplify the action. When instructing, coaches should use language that is as accurate and specific as possible. […]

Kung Fu Panda Delivers “The Secret”

Note: This originally appeared in the Hard2Guard Player Development Newsletter 5.1. To read the entire newsletter, go here.

I watched Kung Fu Panda and could not help but think that it was an allegory about coaching today’s generation of children. The panda is chosen as the warrior even though he is fat and out of shape. He has to prove himself to his teacher before he can read the scroll that contains the hidden powers. When he finally reads the scroll, it is a mirror. At first, he is disappointed, as there is no way that he can defeat the more powerful enemy. He feels that it was a mistake that he was chosen. However, he realizes: The secret is that there is no secret. […]

Lateral Movement – Mirror Drill

Coaches always want better ways to teach defense. To me, the Mirror Defense Drill is the best drill because it trains lateral movement and reactivity. In the drill below, the strength coaches demonstrate lateral movement with a rear-foot push-off as opposed to the basketball-specific step-slide. For lateral quickness, this is the best movement pattern to teach. Many basketball coaches are stuck in the old dogma and are unwilling to accept a rear-foot push-off or a crossover step because they teach defense in slow motion and from a static position.


Coaching the Individual Player in Team Sports

In You Haven’t Taught until They Have Learned, Swen Nater’s book about John Wooden’s coaching style, he emphasizes Wooden’s individual approach to each player. In The Fighter’s Mind, Sam Sheridan interviews wrestling great Dan Gable, and Gable emphasizes the same individualized approach. Sheridan interviews former All-American wrestler and current University of Iowa coach Tom Brands:


What’s the objective of youth basketball leagues?

On the Forum, there is a discussion of 1st and 2nd grade basketball leagues. Personally, I find no reason for 1st and 2nd graders to play organized basketball and suggest martial arts, gymnastics, swimming and/or soccer as sports which provide a better initial sporting experience.

However, if one runs a league for 1st and 2nd graders or puts his son or daughter into such a league, what’s the objective? Why play? […]

How to Prevent and Rehab an Ankle Sprain

During my first practice in Ireland, I asked a player when he had hurt his right ankle. The player was amazed. “How did you know? It’s been over six months. It’s fine now.”

Ankle injuries are the most common sports injuries, especially for basketball players. Ankle flexibility is important to the health of a basketball player. […]