Archive for March, 2011

Baseball/Softball: Breaking In Your New Baseball Glove

It’s springtime and that means loads of BBQs and pick-up baseball games! Whether you’re replacing an old glove or this is your first in a long time, you’ll need to break your glove in to give it that well worn feel. I remember this process quite well from my own Little League days. That stiff glove… straight from the store was nearly impossible to use at first. But once you got it just right, there was nothing better!

Quite honestly, the best way to break in a new glove is to use it. This can take more time than you have or want, so you can quicken the process with some tried and true methods. You’re likely to get a number of different methods depending on who you ask. It’s always best to follow the manufacturer’s suggested method since glove leather can vary widely.

First things first… When buying a new glove, remember that fit is of the utmost importance. Like shoes, you want the glove to fit properly right from the start. Don’t choose a glove hoping it will stretch.

There are many ways to break in your new glove. Most are very similar and involve some sort of oil or cream. Depending on your preference, you can use shaving cream (foam, not gel), vaseline, mink oil or saddle soap. Sporting goods stores also carry a variety of specially made glove oils, but the other products listed here work as well. These solutions soften the leather to the more pliable state most players like. Avoid anything that contains silicone as this will cause the leather to dry out and will shorten the glove’s lifespan.

Use the oil or cream sparingly though. You should only use enough product to create a light film on the glove…. Use too much and you’ll just have a mess on your hands. Using your fingers, get a small amount and wipe it around around the entire surface of the glove. Add a little extra to the glove area where it bends.

Now you’ll need to create a pocket in the glove. Simply place a baseball in the glove where the ball should be caught. Wrap the glove with a rubberband, shoelace or long piece of string. This will allow the pocket to take the shape of the ball. Keep the glove wrapped for 1 -2 days. After the specified amount of time, unwrap the glove and bend it to ensure that it is properly softened and to work it in a bit more. Throw the ball into the center of the glove’s pocket several times. You can also beat the glove (but be careful not to smash your fingers). Re-wrap the glove and store it overnight. Your glove should be ready to use in the morning.

Please note: While some swear by the “heating” method… I would avoid this at all cost. Common sense tells you that when you heat leather… even for 20 minutes, it’s bound to dry out.

There are no rules as to how soft or stiff your glove should be. Just get it to your comfortable spot and you’ll be happy.

Now get out there and PLAY BALL!

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Baseball: Preventing Injury to a Pitching Arm

Preventing injury should always be on the mind of the pitcher and coaching staff. Pitching is stressful to the arm and the human arm is not designed to withstand long periods of such tremendous stress. That goes without saying. Without proper training and care, a pitcher can so easily injure or even permanently damage their arm. And once an injury occurs, proper attention is key to keeping the injury from turning into something more serious.

Over-exertion often leads to strain and injury. While most Little Leagues have rules regarding the number of innings a pitcher can throw, this is not necessarily the best way to determine over-exertion since innings can vary in length and intensity. An inning that drags out for 25-30 pitches will have an exertion level much higher than one in which less than 10 pitches are thrown. Obvious, right? Right. So, it stands to reason that pitch count is a better indication of exertion level than actual innings. Keep the pitch count low, or trade out the pitcher if the inning proves to be too long.

Between innings, pitchers need to keep their arm warm since the arm temperature can cool down rapidly. “Warming up” is not just a saying. The muscles loosen during the warm-up process, but should be done slowly. Pitchers should keep a jacket on between innings (even during summer months) to keep the muscles from contracting during the cooling effect and to lessen the soreness felt the next day. Just remember… proper care means less risk of injury.

As soon as the pitcher leaves the mound, have a coach, trainer or another player stretch his arms and legs to prevent the joints from tightening up. Requiring your pitcher to do wind sprints at the end of an inning is a great idea as it will also increase blood flow to the exerted muscles.

Keep in mind that care for the arm does not stop once the game is over. Now the cool down process is necessary to stop the micro-bleeding in the muscle tissue. Keep an ice pack handy and apply to the shoulder area for about twenty minutes. Be sure to use a thin towel between the arm and the ice pack to prevent over-freezing.

Diet is also key! A pitcher should eat a high protein/high carb meal about 1 to 2 hours after pitching to replenish the energy lost during the game and to feed those tired muscles.

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Baseball: New Approved Youth Bats Receive Waivers to Moratorium

Approved bats at Homerunmonkey.com:
Easton Omen XLB LNC1XL (-12) Youth Baseball Bat

Easton Omen XLB LNC2XL (-10) Youth Baseball Bat


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Testing Results on 2 1/4 Inch Composite Bats Results in Waivers of Moratorium

The first test result has been received at Little League International regarding composite-barreled bats for use in the Little League (Majors) Division and below. Little League has created a list for those bats that receive waivers of the moratorium that was enacted on Dec. 30, 2010.

Little League International’s moratorium on the use of composite bats extends to all of its baseball divisions, including the Little League (Majors) division.

Information on the composite baseball bats that have received waivers of the moratorium for the Little League (Majors) Baseball Division and below can be found here (The list will be updated as more information comes into Little League):
Approved Composite Bats – (2 1/4 inch barrels)

Information on the composite baseball bats that have received waivers of the moratorium for the Junior, Senior, and Big League Baseball Divisions of Little League can be found here:
Approved Composite Bats – (2 5/8 inch barrels)

By definition, a moratorium is: An authorized delay or stopping of some specified activity. As applied by Little League International, the moratorium disallows the use of all baseball bats constructed with composite material in its barrel unless a specific model shows in laboratory testing that it will not exceed the standard that is printed on the bat, after the bat is broken in.

There is a process through which manufacturers can submit individual models for a possible waiver if they wish to seek it. Individual bat models are tested at an independent laboratory, and the results are conveyed to the manufacturer. If the manufacturer provides the results to Little League, and the bat passes the test, it will be noted on one of the two lists noted above.

Wooden and aluminum metal/alloy bats are not subject to the moratorium. Bats that have only a metal or alloy barrel (and no other material, unless it is in the end cap of the bat), and if it meets the other standards (length, diameter, etc. for the respective division in which it is used) are not subject to the moratorium, regardless of the composition of the handle or the transition to the barrel.

A listing of licensed, non-wood/non-composite baseball bats for use in the Little League (Majors) Division and below can be found here (This list also may be updated frequently):
2011 Licensed Non-Wood/Non-Composite Bats.

Because of the moratorium, several common questions have arisen. We have addressed the most common questions in a Frequently-Asked Questions page here: Update Regarding Composite Bats

If you have further questions, we encourage you to sign on to the Little League’s Facebook page. At that page, over the past few days, Little League International staff has answered hundreds of questions regarding the moratorium.

Little League International first placed the moratorium on composite bats in the Junior, Senior, and Big League Baseball Divisions of Little League. Subsequent to that moratorium, scientific research that began on October 18, 2010, showed the need for the same moratorium on composite-barreled bats with 2 1/4 inch barrels as well. Starting in September, and throughout the following weeks, this information was conveyed multiple times to every local Little League, every district, to the media, on Facebook, on the Little League web site, and to more than 250,000 parents who had signed up to receive updates from Little League International.

View the original announcement regarding the moratorium, enacted on September 1, 2010.

The moratorium on composite bats, which now applies to all baseball divisions of Little League, does not apply to any softball divisions of Little League.

Source: Little League Online

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Hockey: Suiting Up For The First Time

New players to the game of hockey inevitably face the task of putting on all their gear for the first time. While getting dressed in all that gear seems like a daunting task, it’s really not as difficult as it sounds. New players may want to practice a few times at home until they feel comfortable.

Remember that all your gear is adjustable. If it doesn’t fit quite right the first time, try adjusting them until you find the right fit.

Here is a step by step guide to putting on hockey equipment:
1. Put on your undergarments. These can be compression shorts or jock shorts. Jock Shorts have a pocket for a cup and velcro tabs on the front and back of each leg to attach your hockey socks to. Jock shorts can be worn over compression pants. Some compression shorts also have a cup pocket with the velcro tabs.

2. Step into your athletic cup by putting both feet through the elastic waistband. Secure the garter belt around your waist, making sure that it fits snugly and comfortably around the groin area but is not too tight.

3. Put on your Hockey Pants/Girdle. Tighten your pants with the belt so that the pants fit comfortably but provide for adequate flexibility. If they are still too loose, you can use a pair of suspenders to keep them up.

4. Put on your shin guards (these will go under your hockey socks). Make sure that you leave enough space near your ankles for your skates. Some shin-guards have straps that can be tightened. Others need to be secured with hockey socks.

5. Hockey Socks are long cotton socks that are open on the top and the bottom. Your hockey socks go over your shin pads and attach to your garter belt.

6. Put on your skates and tie them very tight without cutting off circulation to your feet. The bottom of your knee pad should come just to the tongue of your skate. Tape everything in place.

7. Shoulder Pads go over the compression shirt or t-shirt. Slip your head through the middle hole and put your arms through the arm bands underneath the shoulder plate. Tighten the straps until the shoulder pads are secure but allow adequate range of motion.

8. Elbow Pads go over your long sleeve compression shirt. The joint of your elbow should rest squarely in the cup of the elbow pads. Adjust the staps so the pads fit tight but are still be comfortable.

9. Neck Guard fits around the neck to protect against sharp skate blades. Most models fasten in the back with an adjustable closure.

10. Finally, put on your jersey, helmet, and gloves. Put the mouth guard in and you are ready to play!

After practice or games, be sure to remove the gear in the opposite order you put things on. Everything will then go back in the bag in the order you need them next time.

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Sports Nutrition:
Fueling Your Little Athlete

All too often, we complain about how inactive this generation has become. With all the technological options keeping so many occupied, it’s refreshing to still see so many kids at the local baseball field, hockey rink, gymnasium or swimming pool. These parents have done a great thing by keeping their kids active!

Right after sign ups, parents scramble around for the proper equipment… which, of course is necessary to keep them safe. So, we’ve addressed the outside… let’s work to get the inside healthy! It’s a well known fact that athletes require a special diet to fuel their activity. Much like a car, our bodies cannot run without the proper fuel. What your athlete eats is probably the single most import factor on their performance.

So while you may not want to go to the extreme of hiring a nutritionist like professional athletes do, we have some tips to keep players fueled up and ready to go!

Please note: Endurance training (multiple daily workouts) may mean that you will require slightly more servings of certain foods than is generally recommended.

So what exactly SHOULD their diet be?
1. Carbohydrates
Carbs have taken quite the hit lately with numberous dieticians warning of their weight gaining potential. But in the world of sports, carbohydrates are essential for maintaining a high energy level. Carbohydrates are the first energy source the body uses to exercise. When carbohydrate intake gets too low, your muscles run out of fuel and our body starts to use fat and protein.

Since most sports feature short bursts of intense effort followe by rest, it is imperative that you keep your body fueled up. Pasta, rice, whole grains (as in breads and cereals), fruit and vegetables and even milk products are all great sources of carbohydrates. During a busy and rigorous training schedule, you should keep carbohydrates to snack on before, during and after exercise.

a. Before exercise, your meal/snack should be a combination of high carbohydrate and low glycemic index (half a lightly buttered bagel, fruit smoothie, yogurt with oatmeal). Carbs give you a nice energy boost and delay fatigue.
b. During your workout, carbohydrates help to maintain blood sugar to fuel your muscles. Be sure to choose snacks that consist mostly of carbohydrates, some protein and little fat. This combination is commonly found in energy bars, dried fruit or a peanut butter sandwich (jelly’s fine to add). You will want to replenish your carbohydrates about every 90 minutes or so to maintain energy levels.
c. Carbohydrates aid in the repair of tissue will make all the difference for ending an active day on a healthy, positive note. Your recovery snack options can include trail mix, sports bars, and yogurt. Just be sure that the amount of carbs in your snack are higher than normal.

2. Protein
Protein is probably the most highly sought out dietary supplement. With protein powders and shakes, the protein intake from and athlete’s regular and supplemented diet is quite elevated from the average person. In general, your normal intake should be sufficient to meet your needs and you want to be careful to ensure that protein isn’t replacing carbohydrates in your diet since carbs are more helpful than protein in boosting your energy.

3. Hydration
Even slight dehydration can affect how well you perform. Athletes in particular need to be drinking at least 5 ounces of water or sports drinks every 15-20 minutes. Keep in mind that children are at a greater risk of becoming dehydrated than adults. And most importantly, if you are thirsty, you’re already severly dehydrated! Athletes should be drinking before, during and after a game or workout.

While water is the best thirst quencher and cure for dehydration, kids tend to resist drinking the flavorless liquid. If your child shies away from drinking water, you need to be sure that you have plenty of sports drinks handy. Either way, it’s important that you avoid dehydration. The damage is more than just being thirsty.

4. Food Choices
Competitions and tournaments, primarily those you travel to, often result in quick meals at restaurants… primarily fast food. If the right choices are made, this is generally not a problem.

Attending competitions and tournaments often means that you are eating out in restaurants… primarily fast food. But even fast food restaurants can a good part of an athlete’s nutrition… if the right choices are made. Here are a few tips when eating out:
a. Avoid breading and deep-fried foods. Pizza is ok in moderation, but fatty meat toppings should be avoided.
b. Be careful of what is on top: Dressings and condiments (especially mayonnaise and “special” sauces) are usually what make your meal an unhealthy choice. These sauces add calories and fat without any health benefit whatsoever.
c. Some smart choices: Baked potatoes instead of french fries, vegetable pizza over meat lover’s, broth-based soups (like chicken noodle) instead of cream or cheese based soups.
d. Snacks should also be high in carbohydrates, but low in fat. Pretzels, trail mix, rice cakes, cereal bars, fruit and yogurt are a few good choices.

Whether your child is participating in a championship hockey, baseball or lacrosse game, a big swim meet or pick up game of soccer at the local park, good nutrition can make a difference. Children in general need the right fuel for their growth and development, but an athlete needs to take extra care to keep them healthy and to help them to be the best they can be in their chosen sport. What an athlete eats and drinks can have a huge effect on his or her performance. Encourage your child to be active and to eat like an athlete.

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Which Type of Coach Are You?

Coaching a junior league team is a special type of journey that few actually get the pleasure of experiencing. The role involves incredible responsibility and will have a far-reaching impact on the lives of your players. Your approach can help the kids develop a passion for the game or can stifle their desire to ever play the game again.

Which Type of Coach Are You?

The Leader
The Leader is the type of coach that the kids respond to because they command trust and respect. This type of coach sets the example from the beginning and continues to set the pace and tone of games and practices in a positive and upbeat manner. The Leader Coach uses a sound knowledge of the game and skillful persuasion to help the players master the game and have fun at the same time. The Leader never passes up an opportunity to reinforce learning with real-game experience and always adheres to the same rules he/she expects of the players.

The Motivator
The Motivator knows more than just the rules of the game… This type of coach also knows how to communicate with players in a way that gets results. The goal of the Motivator is to guide, inspire and empower the young player to realize and develop his/her full potential. A successful motivator shows a positive attitude and enthusiasm for the game and the players.

Getting the kids to believe in themselves is much easier for some coaches than others. Motivation may mean keeping the practice fun, fresh and challenging. When motivating a player, stress performance goals… not outcome goals. The Motivator stresses that while you can’t control what your opponent does or the outcome of every match, the purpose is to play their best and have fun doing it. Like the Leader, this type of coach shows respect and encourages players to remain positive regardless of the outcome.

The Dictator
The Dictator is a dangerous type of coach. The kids respond, but it’s usually out of fear. This type of coach may very well have a sound knowledge of the game, but there is no persuasion and no room for opinions. Even the best coach can’t control the actions of all players in the game, but the Dictator sure does give it a try.

The Confrontationalist
The Confrontationalist is rare (luckily). This type of coach goes beyond the polite disagreements that are typical in any sporting event. With little to no regard for the example being set, the Confrontationalist will argue, bully and scream his way into the spotlight and onto the bad side of most who are unlucky enough to witness his/her tirades. A general lack of communication skills and anger management pit the Confrontationalist against the umpire/ref, the other coaches and at times, even the children trying to play the game.

Pick your style and have fun
A great coach is not easy to find and requires a very unique set of talents and skills. Organized sports are great for boosting self-esteem, developing teamwork skills, establishing rules and roles, and (of course) providing fun and entertainment. Most coaches are fantastic and the experience is memorable in a good way. Remember that the players are learning and your role is to guide them to victory… not necessarily on the scoreboard, but most definitely in experience.

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Hockey: Finding the Right Hockey Stick Flex For You

So what is a hockey stick flex anyway?
A flex is a measure of how flexible or how stiff a hockey stick is when force is applied to it. Since the flex rating indicates how many pounds of force it takes to flex the stick one inch, you should know that some sticks are significantly easier to bend than others. Finding the right flex is somewhat of a preference based on skill level. The appropriate flex varies among players, so you’ll want to try out different options.

The higher the flex, the stiffer the stick. The stiffer the stick, the more power you will have behind your shot. Keep in mind that if a stick is so stiff that you cannot flex it properly with your shooting motion, then your effectiveness will be limited.

How does flex impact play?
Essentially, when a player takes a shot, the stick bends a bit to turn the hockey stick into a spring of sorts. When the stick unbends, the “spring” is released and the energy accelerates the puck. You want a stick that offers resistance while still allowing you to flex the stick easily.

What flex is right for me?
Ideally, the flex should be approximately one half of your body weight. Players over 150 pounds should use a stick with at least 75 flex. Obviously, this is just a guideline and your own comfort and ability to use the stick effectively should dictate the flex you use. Players with above average strength for their size should consider a stiffer stick while new players may want to go down a level. An average flex is 85.

If you are able to test the stick in a Pro Shop, use your normal hand position on the stick and hold the stick with the blade on the floor. Hold your top hand stationary and push down and forward with your lower hand. You should be able to flex the stick about an inch without using all your effort. If you are unable to flex the stick this much, then the flex is too high.

Women and smaller players tend to benefit from an intermediate stick. Intermediate sticks are similar in size to senior sticks but have a lighter flex.

The most common stick flexes are:
Youth: 40 flex
Junior: 50 flex
Intermediate: 60-75 flex
Regular: 85 flex
Stiff: 100 flex
Extra stiff: 110 flex

Remember that finding the right stick is a personal choice. Guidelines are just that… guidelines. Be sure to try different styles until you find one that fits your playing style and level of play.

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