Jeff Farris
By Nancy Churnin / Reprinted with Permission of the Dallas Morning News

Gail Gross, a Houston radio talk-show host who has worked as an educator and is an authority on child development, says the best thing she ever did as coach of her daughter's basketball team was to walk away when asked.

"I was the worst coach who ever lived," Dr. Gross says cheerfully. "I'm right-side dominant and have poor vision. I dreaded every game because I was such a failure."

But her memories of that time are happy because of the good communication she had with her daughter. She took the job at her daughter's request when no one else wanted it. She left it to a replacement when her daughter told her, halfway through the season: "Mom, you're right. This isn't your sport. Thank you for your support, but you don't have to do this anymore."

Dr. Gross and other experts offer these coaching tips for parents:

  1. Ask permission: The first question to ask is whether your child wants you to coach, says Jim Thompson, the author of The Double-Goal Coach: (Quill, $13.95). Mr. Thompson founded the Positive Coaching Alliance (www, a nonprofit organization based at Stanford University. He says you need to know if your child wants to come on board as your partner in the experience. If not, there's very little chance it will work out.

  2. Set up cues: Anticipate moments of conflict, such as how your child will feel when you praise a teammate, or she doesn't get the position she wants, advises Dr. Gross. Ask your child to help you come up with signals, such as a hand sign, to remind her of your agreement not to get upset or act out about disappointments or frustrations.

  3. Help kids see you as coach: It can be confusing to distinguish between the roles of parent and coach. For younger children, it may even help if you literally put on a different hat for coaching to help the child with the transition, says Dr. Ken Christian, a New York-based psychologist, author and organizational consultant.

  4. Get your head together: You have to get your own feelings about your child in order before you take on a coaching job, says Dr. Christian."It's like being therapist to your own child," he says. "Sometimes you are looking in your child to find the thing you like in yourself. When you don't see it, you have to let go and let them be who they are. You have to be Buddha-like."

  5. Teach life lessons: John Bates' son, Nehemiah, complained when his father pulled him off the field to give equal time to a player who didn't perform as well as he did. Quietly, at home, his father would talk to the 5-year-old about how all team members get an equal chance to play even if they have different talents. "He finally got it toward the end."

  6. Ask lots of questions: Telling children what to do never works as well as asking them, says Mr. Thompson. For example, a coach can say, "I have a suggestion for making you a better hitter. Would you like to hear it?" Most of the time a kid will say yes. Then you can make the criticism into an "if and then" statement, as in "If you bend your knees more, then you may get more power." And if the kid is not open to hearing your suggestion, then say, "OK, no problem" and walk away. Chances are he will come back the next day and ask what you were going to tell him.

  7. Listen: When your child complains, don't defend yourself or your position, says Dr. Gross. Let him say what he feels. Then say what you feel.

  8. Be fair: The biggest complaint coaches' kids have is that their parents favor them or are too hard on them. One dad, Tim O'Brien of Pittsburgh, calls the All-Star games "Dad-ball" because the teams are always stacked with the coaches' kids, whether they are deserving or not. Frank Martin, founder and director of Kids Sports Network, says he can always tell the coach's kid because the coach is paying the most attention to him - often by yelling.

  9. Reward good behavior: Ignore bad behavior whenever possible, says Mr. Thompson. Instead of lashing out at the one kid who is not paying attention, Mr. Thompson suggests focusing on one who is, as in saying, "Hey, Ryan, I really appreciate how you're in the ready position."

  10. Model good behavior: If you want your child to keep his temper, keep your temper. Be generous with praise and use mistakes as teaching opportunities, says Mr. Thompson.

  11. Try not to embarrass: Coaching is a very public form of parenting. And it's hard, at times, not to worry about how the behavior of your child reflects on you. Remind yourself that your child is not you, says Dr. Gross. Try to either ignore bad behavior or pull the child aside. Defer as much discussion as you can to the ride home. If problems persist, you may want to enlist assistant coaches or other parents to help and ask them to take over more of the interaction with your child.

  12. Busy work is good: It doesn't hurt to give them an alternative to (literally) climbing the walls while they're waiting for their turn. Pastor Bates entertained the kids on the bench by giving them clipboards and having them take notes on the game for him.

Know when to fold 'em:
Youth sports couldn't exist without the parents who generously donate their time. But if it just isn't working for you and your child, find a replacement and find another way to contribute.

Printed in the Dallas Morning News Tuesday, August 26, 2003
Jeff Farris
Dr. Daniel Perkins, associate professor at Penn State University, has put together three bulletins that help educate everyone on youth sports.

Sports can be a fun and engaging way for children and youth to learn some important lessons about life. Studies suggest that participation in sports can be very beneficial, fostering responsible social behaviors, greater academic success, and an appreciation of personal health and fitness. Participating on a team also can give children or youth an important sense of belonging.

The atmosphere set by organizations, parents, and coaches is a major factor in determining whether or not youth will have a positive experience in a sports program. A "win-at-all-costs" atmosphere can be harmful to a developing youth.

Few children possess the talent to play competitive sports at the highest level and most will not grow up to be professional athletes. Therefore, in this series, we take the perspective that the primary goals of youth sports are to foster the development of general physical competence and to promote physical activity, fun, life skills, sportsmanship, and good health. Sports that foster personal competence help youth develop their abilities to do life planning, to be self-reliant, and to seek the resources of others when needed.

Download the bulletins below.

Jeff Farris
An Easy Way to Turn Digital Photos into Music Videos

Youth sports require a great deal of time and often money. So what do parents get for their time and dollar investment? If done right, a better kid and some great memories. With the chance of sports scholarships extremely slim ($72 in academic scholarships are available for every $1 in sports scholarships), life lessons and lifetime memories become the priorities in all youth sporting activities. To capture those memories in the "old" days, parents would take pictures of their child and request multiple prints. But, the "new" way is digital. Digital cameras now outsell film cameras and Kodak has announced that they will quit selling film cameras in the United States.

An Overview of Plus! Photo Story LE

Digital photos open up many new ways to create, share and present youth sports memories. One of the more interesting is based on Microsoft's Windows XP. It is a free Microsoft product called Plus! Photo Story LE. Photo Story takes a batch of photos, allows you to add voice narration or a music soundtrack and then turns it all into a video which automatically includes panning and zooming to give the video a very professional look. If you have the photos and the music, the whole process can take just a few minutes.

Photo Story is wizard based which means that it asks a series of questions and prompts the user through each step of the process. Users answer the following questions:

  • Which pictures?

  • What narration do you want?

  • What should the story be titled?

  • What music should play in the background?

  • How long should each picture be displayed?

  • Do you want the large or small version (determines video and audio quality)?

When complete, Photo Story generates the video file. Photo Story handles most of the details automatically and often requires little tweaking. Users can also create titles and other graphics using any popular graphic editing program and then easily add these custom titles to the beginning or ending of the video. Photo Story requires Windows XP to create videos and Windows Media Player Version 9 to view them. A microphone is required to add narration.

Advanced Version Available
Microsoft also offers an upgraded version of Photo Story in its Plus! Digital Media Edition product. This version of Photo Story adds these features:

  • Support for higher quality formats

  • A larger number of photos in the video

  • Support for Video CDs

  • Advanced control over individual photos

  • Project saving for later editing

To create Video CDs you will also need a recordable CD-ROM drive. These disks can be played in many of the newer home DVD players. Not all home DVD players support the VCD format, but when it works, this option lets others watch the video without using a computer.

Don't Forget the Film (Memory Card)!

Great memories are an important part of the youth sports experience. Photo Story is only one way to present them. When parents focus on building great memories they are less likely to get side tracked from the bigger goal of building better kids. Parents should keep in mind that many things that may seem important during or right after a game will not stand the test of time. A lack of hustle or a bad play won't seem as important five years out. However, a child's enjoyment that comes from being with friends and supportive family can build confidence and esteem that does last throughout a lifetime.
Jeff Farris
Things happen too fast during a game for one player to keep it all straight without the help of teammates. Good player-to-player communication is a key requirement for a winning team. Good times for players to communicate are when they are:
  • Able to help a teammate make a play
  • Open for a pass
  • Going to a new location
  • Being crowded by a teammate
  • Need help from teammates.
Good communications help other players know what to expect and allow the team to work together. Good communications are always spoken with words to prevent confusion with players on opposing teams.
Jeff Farris
In the popular card game Yu-Gi-Oh, the goal is to create a deck of cards that allows the deck owner to defeat opponents in a card game duel. Though you seldom find coaches playing Yu-Gi-Oh, you do see them struggle trying to defeat their archenemy - time.

There is seldom enough time in a single practice or enough practices in a season to cover all the material coaches want to review with their teams. Organizing practices before the start of a season gives coaches the best chance of getting the most out of their limited time. Here is one organizing method that coaches may find helpful:

  • Pick a limited number of standard drills that will be required for the season.

  • Identify activities that the kids will enjoy (such as scrimmages, relay races, etc.)

  • Name each drill and activity with something fun and easy for the kids to remember.

  • Place each skills drill on a white index card with its name and time requirements.

  • Place each fun activity on a colored index card with its name and time requirements.

  • Before each practice, pick two colored cards (for the front and back of the practice deck) and then enough white skills drills to fill the time between.

  • At practice, as each drill is used for the first time, teach the kids the drill and the drill's name.
    As the season progress, kids will remember drill details by name, which will save practice time by reducing the time needed for explanation. Practice plans become easy to create by just rearranging or rebuilding the practice deck. More importantly, by starting and ending the practice deck with a colored card, coaches remember to keep fun as a key part of their practices.

As in Yu-Gi-Oh, building the right deck helps coaches overcome their opponent (time). As coaches refine their deck with new or better drills, it is conceivable that coaches could even "trade" their cards with other coaches so that everyone can win.
Jeff Farris
In a previous issue of this newsletter, we identified nine symptoms of youth sports burnout and some simple ways to combat it. If left untreated, burnout in young athletes can lead to a variety of problems including:

  • Poor performance at school

  • Negative attitudes toward parents

  • Complete loss of interest in sports

  • Poor health

High school athletes who have their driver's license also face the risk of an accident caused by fatigue. This problem has become serious enough that the National Institute of Health now actively sponsors programs aimed at educating parents and kids about the dangers caused by a lack of sleep.

Burnout is the body's way of saying "slow down." Kids do not often recognize burnout, so it is up to parents to help them address it. When parents see their child struggling with burnout, they need to take immediate action. Waiting until the end of the season or after the next set of games can only make the problem worse and potentially dangerous.
Jeff Farris
Physical conditioning away from sports is an important part of skills development. Without physical conditioning, the body lacks the ability to make challenging plays. To get in shape for sports requires a variety of exercises to improve these areas:

  • Stamina - The body's ability to work hard over time. Exercises such as jogging and sprinting help build stamina.

  • Strength - The body's ability to exert effort. Exercises such as push-ups, chin-ups and leg lifts help build strength.

  • Quickness - The ability of the body to move rapidly. Jumping, bounding and skipping rope help build quickness.

  • Agility - The ability to start, stop and change direction quickly. Running obstacle courses and zig-zag running help build agility.

There is not a single exercise that covers all these needs. Athletes need to do a variety of exercises throughout the week to give their bodies the ability to perform better at practices and games.
Jeff Farris
For most coaches, winning is always one of the goals of every game and a win by one point or by ten points counts the same in the record books. However, if a team wins by more than a few scores, a coach has often missed an opportunity to help the team grow even more.

Youth games are team practices as well as competitive tests. When coaches have a game comfortably in hand, they should start thinking about the other things that players can learn in the time remaining. In these situations, coaches can improve team skills by setting certain rules for the remainder of the game, such as asking players to:

  • Play different positions.

  • Pass more between players to set up better shots.

  • Implement new defensive or offensive strategies.

  • Attempt more challenging shots or plays.

When winning is almost certain, coaches can use the time remaining to help their team gain skills and the right kind of confidence. To keep things the same and run up the score can give players a false confidence in advance of the next game against a tougher opponent.
Jeff Farris
For parents sending their child to a summer sport camp, it is never too early to start planning. Many popular camps fill quickly - sometimes within hours of starting enrollment. For camps with a sports emphasis, the usual summer camp questions apply, such as: activities, staffing, safety, references and schedule. However, sport camps add extra questions to the mix, such as:

  • Does your child want to go? Will he or she still want to go in the summer after completing the next season?

  • Will camp provide your child enough time to recharge between seasons?

  • Is the purpose of the camp fun, work or both? Is your child in agreement with this goal?

  • Is the camp fee viewed as an investment in skills or in memories?

While a good sport camp can improve a child's skills for the fall, it is unlikely that a single camp will make dramatic improvements. Years later, the primary benefit of the camp will be the good memories of attendance.

When considering which sport camp to attend, parents may also want to consider these alternatives:

  • Consider a camp in a sport other than your child's primary sport.

  • Consider a camp in another state and integrate attendance with a family vacation.

  • Consider summer recreational league play.

  • Consider using the camp money on private lessons.

  • Do nothing. Use the time to recharge and do other family activities.

There are a large number of sport camps to appeal to almost every need. By ensuring that fun and future memories are a large part of selection process, parents can continue to keep their child playing longer and better in youth sports.
Jeff Farris
Both in professional and youth games, some players are simply not playing their best. Not every player gives his/her best performance in every game or in every moment of a game. For those players trying their hardest, watching other players not making the same effort can be extremely frustrating. When this occurs, these players can respond by:
  • Slowing down to match lessor efforts
  • Playing at the same intensity
  • Playing at a higher level to try to compensate
Players can always find an excuse to work less hard. However, players who can continue to play their best or raise their level of play, even when others are not, are learning how to become champions.