At some point, your son or daughter may approach you and tell you that they want to try out for the travel team. This is normal. Kids who love the sport will eventually be interested in playing at a higher level.
Travel teams practice more hours and play more games per week. And they do this by traveling outside the immediate area of competition, taking them to other towns and other states.
As a parent, it’s natural to have some hesitations and concerns about whether or not your child should try out for a travel team. For one, the level of competition is much higher. Also, your kid may be away from home more nights, especially if they are playing out of state. And you will worry if they are ready emotionally.
Here are some things to consider when deciding if your child is travel team ready:
Your child shows interest
Your kid may already feel that they are ready for the next level. Your young athlete’s desire for the game will be the biggest factor that will help them cope with the level of competition and the added pressures that come with playing on a travel team.
Explain to them the level of commitment it will require and how a huge chunk of their free time will go into practices and games. If they insist that they can handle it, this shows passion for the game.
Their coach recognizes your kid’s potential
Youth sports coaches have the ability to see athletic potential while you may only be able to see how your kid plays now. Your child’s coach can recognize if your kid picks up new skills quickly. They’ll also know if your child has the discipline and drive that it takes so that they don’t easily burn-out or give up.
Your child’s coach will also be the most honest with you if they feel your kid has the skill level it takes. A good coach notices raw talent, and they will advise you if it would be best to keep your kid at the level they are at now to allow them to grow.
Your child is doing well academically
If your kid is already struggling with their studies while playing at their current level, then they’ll likely do even worse if they participate on the travel team level. Travel teams devote more time to practices and games which means less time for other activities.
They want to join the travel team for the right reasons
Ask your child why they want to join the travel team. If they say that they are bored playing at their level now, it may be because they don’t feel challenged enough. And it they’re not challenged enough, this could mean that they’re ready to play at the next level of competition.
Unfortunately, some kids feel pressured to play at the next level by their peers. Maybe they have friends who already play on a travel team and have shared their experiences with them. They may also be pushing themselves too hard.
You have time to decide. Observe your child over the next few weeks. Analyze their behavior at games or their attitude as they leave for practice. It’s a good way for you to gauge just how much they still love the game.
Did you know that watching professional athletes playing your sport is great mental training for you? And did you know that even the pros watch other pros?
When you love the game and are committed to your craft as an athlete, you’ll naturally want to see how the elite perform. It’s not only inspiring, but it’s educational. Coaches have their teams watch videos of professional athletes all the time as their athletes can take away many valuable lessons from watching how the best of the best perform their craft.
It’s vital for young athletes to watch pro games. All athletes of any sport can learn a lot from watching people who do it professionally.
Watching professional athletes play connects us to the point that we almost feel like we are actually playing in the game. You begin to imagine yourself in the player’s shoes. According to Dr. Jesse Hanson, clinical director of the Helix Healthcare Group, ““This phenomenon allows a feeling of connection, and community without verbal communication or the need to directly talk to the pro athlete who just won the World Series with a grand slam.”
Studies have observed that when we witness a familiar action, our mirror neurons activate allowing us to immediately understand the action, its goal, and the emotions associated with it.
Watching your favorite pro athletes play builds confidence. When a young athlete watches their idol play, they start to memorize that athlete’s signature moves. The athlete begins to not only fantasize about moving like their favorite player, but they start to actually practice those moves in the hopes that they can be as fast, as agile, as skilled.
Confidence is essential in sports. And when an athlete sees their favorite professional athletes perform these moves, they know that it is possible and something that they can attain if the practice enough.
But beyond the confidence that watching pro athletes play brings, there’s plenty to learn from watching pro games. It puts the young athletes in a state of mind for competition.
Watching sports regularly stimulates the different areas of the brain, improving neurological function. In fact, a 2008 study revealed that being an athlete or a fan improves language skills. When it comes to discussing sports, parts of the brain that are used while playing sports are also being used to understand sports language.
All sports require reaction, planning, and strategy. Our thinking and visualizing abilities are given a boost when we watch a game. So even when we’re not actively playing in the game we are watching, our brain is.
Studies suggest that stretching before exercise reduces your risk of injury, thus improving your performance. It has also revealed that warming and stretching can help you prevent post-game aches and pains.
Some sports activities demand more flexibility than others; gymnastics is one of them. However, because your joint’s ability to move through its full range of motion proves to be beneficial for every sport, improving your flexibility is essential to sports performance.
Different types of stretches
The static stretch is stretching a muscle to the point that you feel mild discomfort and holding that position for at least 30 seconds or longer.
The dynamic stretch requires performing gentle repetitive movements. Arm swings are a type of dynamic stretch where one gradually increases the range of motion of the movement but never exceeding the normal range of motion.
Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF)
The PNF methods vary, but it typically involves holding a stretch while contracting and relaxing the muscle.
Ballistic or bouncing stretches
This type of stretch involves performing bouncing or jerking movements to increase range of motion.
Most athletes are most familiar with static stretching. But because different sports have different demands and require distinct ranges of motion, there are particular stretches that athletes can do depending on the sport they play. The following stretches will target the muscles that will be used most during the game:
In basketball, you use your upper body muscles the most to shoot the ball, provide strength to rebound and absorb contact. The core muscles have to work to keep your spine stable as you perform twisting movements that occur when catching the ball of throwing. The shoulders, chest, triceps, and biceps are all muscle areas that need a good stretch before the game:
- Put one arm behind your head touching the back of your shoulder
- Use your other arm to push the bent arm down and stretch
- Repeat with the other arm.
- Lie on your back with your legs flat on the floor
- Hold your right leg at the knee
- Slowly bring to your chest
- Keep the other leg straight
- Feel the stretch
- Lower the leg
- Repeat with the other leg
Football and Soccer
Football and soccer require power and strength in nearly every muscle throughout the body. For both sports, the lower muscles are involved in activities like running and jumping.
Here is a good lower body stretch:
- Start with a straight back and your arms at your sides
- Lift your right foot off the ground
- Squat back and down while standing on your left leg
- Lift your right knee to your chest
- Grab below the knee with your hands
- Pull your right knee as close as you can to your chest while contracting your left glute
- Step forward
- Repeat on the other side
Continue alternating sides and moving forward for the prescribed number of reps
Remember to keep your chest up. Don’t let your knee slide during the squat.
- Lie on your back
- Lift one leg towards your chest
- Cross your opposite leg (your foot should touch a little above the knee of your non-crossed leg)
- Pull your non-crossed leg towards your chest
- Reverse and repeat
- Stand on one leg
- Pull the other foot up behind your bottom
- Keep your knees together
- Push your hips forwards to increase the stretch
- Hold for between 10 and 30 seconds
Baseball and Softball
The key baseball muscles quads, hamstrings, forearms, chest, shoulders, and back. You can perform any of the already mentioned stretches. But here’s another you’ll be glad you did, especially if you plan on stealing any bases.
- Stand with your legs wide apart
- Shift your weight to the left
- Allow your left knee to bend until it is over your left foot
- You will feel the stretch in your right groin
- Keep your feet on the ground facing forward
- Hold for 20-30 seconds
- Repeat the stretch on the opposite side
A crucial part of being a coach is motivating and encouraging your players. You do this at practices and even more on game day.
Your pre-game speech is your opportunity to get your team switched on and game-ready. It’s the time to get them fired up and excited for the game ahead. It’s filled with optimism about having the opportunity to show off their skill and everything they’ve worked so hard for during practice.
But what about half-time?
However the first half of the game goes, the team deserves a rousing speech that will keep them inspired. It’s a time when the coach can help the players remain focused and shake off complacency.
How can you keep your team’s spirits up and ready to face the second half with positivity, confidence, and passion? How can you deliver a motivational halftime speech?
Be confident. Whether your team is ahead or behind, they need to remain confident. If they are leading, remind them not to be too overconfident.
Over-confidence may cause some players to relax and act indestructible. They start to ease up and think that they’ve “got this in the bag.” As their coach, praise them for how far they’ve come but also set their expectations that much can still happen in the final half.
If your team is behind, they’ll be feeling low. Halftime is the chance for you to boost their confidence. Remind them there is still an entire second half left and many teams can come from behind to win it at the end.
Be passionate. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions. Your enthusiasm will be infectious, and the team will feel inspired and motivated. By keeping them pumped up, their disappointment in the first half is lifted, and they start to look forward to the second half.
Be specific. To be most helpful, talk to the young athletes about things you may have noticed during the first half. Give credit Praise the individual performances so that they know you noticed their efforts. Instead, of pointing out poor performance, quickly address each player and tell them what they should be doing more of.
End strong. Finish your speech with as much passion and enthusiasm as when you started. It may sound cliché, but there’s nothing wrong with quoting a great athlete or legendary coach. Gather your team in a circle for an exhilarating team chant that will fire up your team as they head back to the court or field.
“Losers quit when they’re tired. Winners quit when they’ve won.”
What does team culture mean? How can coaches build and maintain it?
Team culture is what defines the team’s identity. To identify what your team culture is, you need to know what you stand for. And to determine that, you as a coach need to be proactive about having the discussion with your team about what your team believes are the characteristics that will lead them to success.
However, your team culture’s should go beyond what they believe it takes to win. It’s their expression of their beliefs, attitudes, and values about competition. If your team culture focuses on sportsmanship, it will help keep them grounded or their egos in check. And if your team is ever in conflict, they can rely on the team culture to put things into perspective.
You can let your team culture develop naturally, as your team members start to build a bond. At some point, they start to feel a sense of ownership for the culture they’ve created for themselves.
Unfortunately, there is a downside to giving athletes, particularly young ones, too much freedom. Their preconceived notions or win-at-all-costs attitude they may have already had before they joined your team may cloud their judgment. Or they may start to break off into small groups, as teams commonly do. As you lose team cohesion, you may start to lose control.
This can happen at the youth league level when young athletes still need the guidance of an experienced coach. Remember, that positive team cultures are focused on accountability, work ethic, and discipline. And as the coach, you can discuss these values to your team.
Take the leadership role and guide your team to a culture that is positive and proactive. Start by teaching your young athletes about the following characteristics:
Discipline and Work Ethic
Athletes need to understand the value of why rules are enforced and expectations are set. It’s for their own safety and growth. Respect for the rules combined with their work ethics ensures that the team will behave morally and properly. It will set their expectations that their misbehaviors or lack of respect will have consequences. Let them recognize the being disciplined and working hard has its rewards.
Every team has their star players. There will always be one or two team members who stand out. The worst thing that a coach can do is glorify and focus entirely on individual performances. To promote team culture, you need to encourage teamwork. Value the roles each member of the team plays. Help them recognize their individual efforts are about servicing the team as a whole.
Teach your athletes that they’re bound to make mistakes and fail. What’s important is that they take ownership of them and learn from it. And to teach accountability, you need to model it. You need to be prepared to admit to your team when you’ve made a mistake or an error in judgment. They will respect you more for it.