Should we fix unusual technique?

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, January/February 2017.

When we watch children play sports, we see errors. Their skill performance differs from our mental models, which tend to be based on our own experiences or our images of expert performers. When we see a young basketball player with an awkward-looking shot or a baseball player with a funky delivery on the pitching mound, we see mistakes and a need to correct. […]

Antifragile children and super champions

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, November/December 2016.

Inside the former middle school turned community center in East Babylon on Long Island, aspiring basketball players train under the tutelage of Jerry Powell in a sweltering gym built decades ago. Stuffed into this small rectangular space, 30-40 players go through drills for 90 minutes at a time as parents line the sideline in folding metal chairs.  […]

Parenting from the stands

Originally published by Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, September/October 2016.

Toward the end of an u14 girls’ soccer game, a father yelled to his daughter, “Don’t forget to have fun.” The comment stood out because it was the first positive comment from a parent during the entire game. I turned to another player standing near me, and asked, “How are you supposed to have fun when you are yelled at constantly?” She rolled her eyes and said, “Tell me about it.”  […]

Learning to relax to improve sports performance

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, May/June 2016

Coaches constantly encourage athletes to relax (often by yelling, which seems contradictory), but rarely does a coach explain or demonstrate relaxation or a process to relax. Encouraging players to relax becomes a throw away; something that everyone says, and everyone assumes the other person understands, but which has virtually no practical meaning.  […]

Grittier athletes more likely to succeed

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, March/April 2016.

After the annual NCAA football signing day, NFL.com wrote that 57.3% of the 288 Rivals.com five-star prospects between 2002-11 went un-drafted by the NFL. Five-star prospects are the elite 18-year-old football players; NFL draft picks are the elite 21 or 22-year-old football players. Only 40% of those who are considered elite at 18 years old remain elite three to four years later, despite five-star prospects generally playing for more prominent football programs with more prominent coaches, bigger budgets, better facilities, and better competition, advantages that should widen the gap between the elite and non-elite rather than shrinking this gap. […]

Searching for elite athletic talent

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, January/February 2016.

During a recent u14 girls soccer game, I watched the younger brothers play 3v3 tackle football between the fields. The parents were invested in the soccer game, and they never bothered the boys who ranged from 8 to 12 years old. The pickup football game was more interesting. There were no parents shouting directions or intervening when there was an argument or an injury. The boys figured it out on their own.  […]

Self-discovery in youth sports development

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, November/December 2015.

During my junior year of college, I assisted with a girls’ basketball team in the HoopMasters AAU program. After several months, a mother asked if I would work with her daughter on her shooting. She offered to pay me.  […]

Movers to athletes to specialists

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, October 2015.

As their 13-year-old daughters played in their first soccer game of the spring season, the mothers discussed their dedication to their children, and their children’s dedication to the game. One mother spoke about her older daughter, a high-school sophomore, who missed the fall soccer season because of knee surgery. This caught my attention, and I scanned the field: Four of the 22 players – 12 and 13 years old – on the field wore bulky knee braces indicative of some form of injury.  […]

Flow, Learning, and Youth Sports

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, September 2014.

During the summer when I was in middle school, I walked to a halfcourt gym near my house and played basketball for as long as there were other children to play against. On some days, when the competition was good, I would play for three to four hours without realizing it, my only sense of time coming from my grumbling stomach as lunch time approached and passed. During these games, I played against a wide spectrum of different players; playing against older and bigger players forced me to learn new shots, similar to those that the San Antonio Spurs Tony Parker uses around the basket. Playing against smaller players forced me to work on my quickness to protect the ball. When I was the best player there, I would challenge younger children and play with a disadvantage, playing one against two or shooting only shots outside the key. […]

A Game Plan to Prevent Knee Injuries

Originally published by Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, January/February 2015

The post on the local prep sports message board started innocently with a poster offering his condolences to a young high-school basketball player who tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in a spring league game. The thread continued with overwhelmingly positive messages, encouraging the player that she will return like nothing had happened, and she will have time to earn her college scholarship that appeared likely. Though the messages were supportive and positive, they were equally disheartening. […]