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Jeff Farris

In a local parent's meeting, Julie Bell, CEO of The Mind of a Champion, provided some nice insights into how we deal with problems.

She calls it voluntary accountability. Basically, the issue is how we deal with mistakes. When we make them do we go to the coach (or our boss - for us parents) and ask for help and instruction? Or, do we try to hide or deny the mistake? With voluntary accountability, a player is the first to point out a mistake.

Julie also provided another thought for consideration: Do we focus on what we do right as much as what we focus on what we do wrong? In a game, if 95% of the time we play well, then why do we, after the game, spend 95% of the time talking about what we did wrong? Why don't the conversation percentages match the performance percentage?

Some useful starting points for conversation.

Thursday, January 20, 2011 @ 9:58 pm   302136 Views   Jeff Farris
Jeff Farris

Richard Senelick, M.D., a neurologist and Medical Director for Rehabilitation Institute of San Antonio provides some interesting medical and cultural insight into head injuries in kids. Recent research by the NFL into concussions and links to later-in-life disabilities is forcing a thorough rethinking of how we approach concussions in kids.

This is a must read for parents of kids in football and hockey!

Monday, September 06, 2010 @ 8:30 pm   302308 Views   Jeff Farris
Jeff Farris

Last summer, the state of Washington enacted a law that requires school districts and non-profits that use school facilities to adopt policies covering brain concussions. Named for Zackery Lystedt, a 13 year old, who suffered permanent brain damange and physical impairments after returning to a football game after being hit and suffering a brain concussion.

It is likely that over the next few years a majority of states will enact similar legislation. Many of the provisions are just common sense and were discussed in an earlier post on this site. Brain concussions happen more often in youth sports than most are aware. Hopefully, this law will make a lack of understanding about concussions a thing of the past.

Click here to learn more about the Lystedt law.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010 @ 7:12 am   304196 Views   Jeff Farris
Jeff Farris

Over the weekend, there was a great article in the New York Times about why kids participate in sports.

"Adults may lean toward turning children’s games into an approximation of professional sports. But ask young players what they want, and the answer can be disarmingly simple. More than training to be a Super Bowl star, more than even winning, youngsters play sports for fun — at least they do in Darien, Conn."

Read the full artilce at the New York Times

Wednesday, February 03, 2010 @ 6:56 am   305199 Views   Jeff Farris
Jeff Farris

A recent article in Sports Illustrated shows the problems that former athletes face. Just two quick facts from the story:

  • By the time they have been retired for two years, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce.
  • Within five years of retirement, an estimated 60% of former NBA players are broke.

This is not the happy ending most kids expect when they dream of a pro career.

Read more here

Thursday, March 26, 2009 @ 8:35 pm   303442 Views   Jeff Farris
Jeff Farris
Although a coach can have a tremendous amount of knowledge about his sport, the two most important considerations for a coach are:
  1. Can he teach what he knows?
  2. Can he motivate his players to do what he teaches?
According to the Wikipedia, "a teacher is a person who teaches; a person who guides, instructs, trains or helps another in the process of learning knowledge, understanding, behaviour or skills, including thinking skills." 

Although a coach may have tremendous skills from playing sports, their ultimate success will come more from their teaching skills. Coaches who want to be successful must complement their playing skills with the necessary teaching skills. Otherwise, a coach who knows everything about his sport will often find himself losing to coaches who know far less if he cannot teach what he knows.
Saturday, February 14, 2009 @ 9:28 am   303368 Views   Jeff Farris
Jeff Farris
This video that, the Positive Coaching Alliance, and Liberty Mutual put together on developing parent/coach relationships is a pretty good overview of how to work with kids in youth sports.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008 @ 4:20 am   304192 Views   Jeff Farris
Jeff Farris
“Self-discipline is a form of freedom. Freedom from laziness and lethargy, freedom from expectations and demands of others, freedom from weakness and fear — and doubt.” - H.A. Dorfman

From the book: The Mental ABC’s of Pitching
Tuesday, April 01, 2008 @ 4:34 am   302336 Views   Jeff Farris
Jeff Farris
Below is an excellent article written by Keith Andresen, Senior Director of Hockey Programs for the Dallas Stars Youth Program. While the article is intended for a hockey specific audience, it is clearly applicable to all audiences.

“Green” has become the catchword for any cause that helps our environment. Everyday people examine ways we can “green” our environment by conserving our natural resources and eliminating pollution through the use of “green” products such as hybrid cars. The hockey environment could use some “greening” as well. Our environment is the rink and I have noticed that our game is being polluted by poor attitudes and foul language at an alarming rate and it’s time we all take a step back to see what we can do to make our Hockey Environment “GREEN”.

Anyone who comes to the rink is part of the environment and that includes, players, coaches, officials, and fans. Each person brings an attitude to the rink, and that attitude will create his or her contribution to the environment. When that attitude is a combination of respect and tolerance the hockey environment is healthy and “green”. However when there’s a lack of tolerance and respect, the environment suffers.

Let’s start with the officials. There are good officials and bad officials and fortunately the vast majority are good. No official is perfect and, here’s a flash for you, they do make mistakes; however, I have never met an official that intentionally tries to make mistakes. That being said I have found that there are officials who feel it necessary to leave their imprint on each game they work. They come out onto the ice with a chip on their shoulder and they find it necessary to let everyone know that they are in charge without much regard for the game that is going on in front of them. I’m not sure what these guys are thinking but I suggest they take time out to smile and remember that they are not the game people came to see. These are the guys who refuse to talk to a coach or player, even when approached politely, to answer questions or discuss a call. These are the officials who need to figure out that they will call fewer penalties and receive far less criticism if they just lighten up and keep a polite and open attitude.

Some of you coaches need to look in the mirror as well. While officials make mistakes now and then, every call that goes against your team is not a reason to climb up on the bench and start yelling at the officials like they just cost you a chance for the Stanley Cup. I have seen mite squirt and peewee coaches this year yelling and screaming at teenage officials to the point where the officials were almost in tears. Players need to learn at a young age that life isn’t always fair and that sometimes, even when you do everything right, the breaks go against you. A coach who can deal with adversity and teach that lesson to his players is a coach that will have a team that can play through almost anything. If you have to talk to an official do it with respect. Don’t stand up on the bench or boards but down in the bench so you can look him in the eye. Call the official over quietly and you’ll find that he will be far more willing to listen to what you have to say. You may not change his mind but you will have shown the official that you’re a decent guy and you will probably get the benefit of the doubt on future calls.

Players can make a difference in the environment as well. While the game is fast and physical, every penalty against you is not a bad call. In fact I would say that 95% of all calls are pretty obvious. The players who understand this are the ones who skate to the penalty box without saying a word. They understand that when a penalty is called on them, good or bad, arguing will not change the call and only make the official less sympathetic when making decisions on future calls. You may not want to hear this but officials are human and while they are supposed to be impartial, players who constantly whine about calls are rarely given the benefit of the doubt. If you’re a player and you're penalized go to the box and focus on how you’re going to help your team when you get out. You can’t do anything about what’s already happened so don’t dwell on it.

For me the most annoying part of our environment is the fan that just can’t watch the game without being an idiot. Again these fans are in the minority, but it only takes one or two of these “yahoos” to ruin the fun for everyone else. This is youth hockey people -- you need to get a grip. If you want to be part of the action then get your coaching or officiating certification and get out there. Better yet, join an adult league and discover just how difficult it is to play a game on ice with 1/8-inch wide blades on your feet. You’ll quickly realize that it’s a different game “inside the glass” and that tolerance by the fans toward the players, coaches and officials will make you enjoy the game more. It will also make you more fun to be around and it will certainly make those folks around you happy.

If you see yourself in my article please take a moment to reflect on what’s important when working with kids. Whether you’re a player, coach, fan or official try to remember that everyone involved came to the rink that day to have fun. Winning is important but not at the expense of mutual respect for all people involved in the game. We all can make a difference and together we can make our environment “GREEN”.

Just a thought: As you prepare for the home stretch of the season don’t forget the FUN. At this point teams are now either contenders or pretenders but everyone needs to mix in an equal dose of FUN with HARD WORK, RESPECT and DISCIPLINE. When these “ingredients of success” are mixed together the final result will always be a great season regardless of the standings.
Keith Andresen
Senior Director, Hockey Programs
Sunday, January 27, 2008 @ 6:49 am   302506 Views   Jeff Farris
Jeff Farris
Here is a list of favorite sports quotes....

We didn't lose the game; we just ran out of time.
Vince Lombardi

If you can't accept losing, you can't win.
Vince Lombardi

Strength does not come from physical capacity, it comes from an indomitable will.
Mahatma Gandhi

Slump? I ain't in no slump. I just ain't hittin.
Yogi Berra

All I want out life, is that when I walk down the street folks will say, "There  goes the greatest hitter that ever lived."
Ted Williams

You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them.
Michael Jordan

Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.
John Wooden

I really lack the words to compliment myself today.
Alberto Tomba

How you respond to the challenge in the second half will determine what you become after the game, whether you are a winner or a loser.
Lou Holtz

My motto was always to keep swinging. Whether I was in a slump or feeling badly or
have trouble off the field, the only thing to do was keep swinging.
Hank Aaron

The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital.
Joe Paterno

We must either find a way or make one.

Perhaps the single most important element in mastering the techniques and tactics of racing is experience. But once you have the fundamentals, acquiring experience  is a matter of time.
Greg LeMond

To succeed, you need to find something to hold on to, something to motivate you, something to inspire you.
Tony Dorsett

Ask not what your teammates can do for you. Ask what you can do for your teammates.
Magic Johnson

Set your goals high and don't stop till you get there.
Bo Jackson

The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a man's determination.
Tommy Lasorda

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
Darrel Royal

If you believe it, the mind can achieve it.
Ronnie Lott

Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan.
Tom Landry

It is not necessarily the amount of time you spend at practice that counts; it's what you put into the practice.
Eric Lindros

The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.
Vidal Sassoon

The best and fastest way to learn a sport is to watch and imitate a champion.
Jean-Claude Killy

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear.
Mark Twain

Show me a guy who's afraid to look bad, and I'll show you a guy you can beat every time.
Lou Brock

The harder you work, the luckier you get.
Gary Player

You cannot be successful without passion. If you don’t love what you’re doing, if you don’t have passion for it - forget it. Do something else. You’ll be much more successful and you’ll lead a lot happier life.
Donald Trump

The minute you start talking about what you're going to do if you lose, you have lost.
George Schultz

The ones who want to achieve and win championships motivate themselves.
Mike Ditka

The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential... these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.
Eddie Robinson

There are some defeats more triumphant than victories.
Michel de Montaigne

I became an optimist when I discovered that I wasn't going to win any more games by being anything else.
Earl Weaver

There is no victory at bargain basement prices.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Triumph is just try with a little umph added.

It's not whether you get knocked down; it's whether you get up.
Vince Lombardi

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.
Theodore Roosevelt

Winners have simply formed the habit of doing things losers don't like to do.
Albert Gray

Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight - it's the size of the fight in the dog.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

All our dreams can come true...if we have the courage to pursue them.
Walt Disney
Monday, January 14, 2008 @ 1:45 pm   310405 Views   Jeff Farris
Jeff Farris
There are so many different things that coaches look for in building a team. Player skill is just one thing and sometimes not even the most important. Coaches evaluate players on a variety of other criteria including:
  • Team Skills - Does the player grasp the way teams work together to win games?

  • Relative Physical Development - Is the player physically larger or small than his teammates?

  • Leadership - In tough game situations, could the player step up as a role model for teammates?

  • Listening - Does the player pay attention and understand things quickly?

  • Personality - Does the player's personality fit with the other player's selected?

  • Mentoring Ability - How much can the player positively impact others on the team?

  • Positional Knowledge - How much does the player know about the playing the variety of situations faced in regular game?

  • Unselfishness - Does the player make plays for the benefit of the team or build individual stats?

  • Level of Effort - How hard does a player work during tryouts?

  • Familiarity - Does the coach have experience working with the player?

  • Family Involvement - Does the coach have good or bad experience working with a player's family?

  • Team Needs - How many players are needed for each position? Though last on the list, team needs are often the most important. Teams don't need five skilled catchers. So even though a player may be a great catcher, the chances of making a team are greatly diminished if the coach prefers another player for that limited need.

While a tryout may look like a skills contest, coaches can observe these factors by the way the skills are carried out. Most coaches believe that skill deficits are much easier to correct than the issues listed above. Coaches will gamble with lesser skilled players that present the best overall package.

Good coaches can make skilled players but only the players themselves (with the help of their parents) can make skilled teammates.
Thursday, July 19, 2007 @ 7:25 am   207767 Views   Jeff Farris
Jeff Farris
According to a recent article in Wired Magazine, Peter Vint, a researcher with the US Olympic Committee believes that athletic skills can be learned even to the Wayne Gretzky level of performance. Such talent has long been assumed to be innate. "Coaches tend to think you either have it or you don't," Vint says. But Vint rejects the notion that Gretzky-style magic is unteachable.

One thing the article fails to mention but that further supports the argument for training to a Gretzky level of performance is Gretzky's commitment to practice and his attitude towards it summed in these quotes:

"The only way a kid is going to practice is if it's total fun for him... and it was for me."

"I wasn't naturally gifted in terms of size and speed; everything I did in hockey I worked for, and that's the way I'll be as a coach."

Read the full article at:

Wednesday, June 06, 2007 @ 7:15 am   209000 Views   Jeff Farris
Jeff Farris
Parents and coaches work hard to keep their children and players safe and maximize everyone's enjoyment from the sport. However, parents and coaches often have limited experience with youth sports participation. Though they may have once been players themselves, the skills to be a good player and the skills to be a good youth sports parent or coach are quite different. It is a little like saying that because you can bake cookies you can run a bakery. Playing is about technical skills where as parenting and coaching are about educational skills.

This skill deficit is then compounded by turnover. Just about the time parents or coaches get good at their respective roles, the kids grow up and a new group of parents and coaches starts the process all over -- Not exactly a model for long term success. However, the business world provides a great role model for how to deal with these issues and run a successful youth sports organization - the franchise!

In a franchise system, a franchisor sets the standards and provides an operations manual that franchisees much follow exactly to make sure that their business succeeds. The operations manual has been perfected over many years and with the experience of many franchisees. Thus, the operations manual is a proven path to business success. New franchisees don't have to reinvent the wheel. They immediately start their business with all the skills of long term participants. New McDonald's run as smoothly as the oldest ones even though the manager and crew may have just started. Now, why not take this model to youth sports?

Creating a Youth Sports Franchise 

Organized youth sports can do more than just setup game and practice schedules. It can also set the the right physical and behavioral standards that ensure that kids can enjoy sports over their entire childhood. These standards are not just codes of conduct. These standards are very detailed plans for behavior, instruction and participation.

Little League Baseball has implemented one step towards this with its new pitching standards policy which is shown below. Similar standards can be created in a variety of sports. Instead of taking away creativity or flexibility from coaches, these standards give coaches the benefit of years of participation and the input from medical experts. In order to improve, youth sports needs to implement more of these standards to help everyone achieve their goals - better kids playing longer and healthier.

Little League Baseball Pitching Standards The table below gives an overview of the number of pitches that will be allowed per day for each age group during the regular season in 2007.

League Age Pitches allowed per day
17-18 105
13-16 95
11-12 85
10 and under 75

The rest periods required during the 2007 regular season are listed below.

Pitchers league ages 7 through 16 must adhere to the following rest requirements:
  • If a player pitches 61 or more pitches in a day, three (3) calendar days of rest must be observed.

  • If a player pitches 41 - 60 pitches in a day, two (2) calendar days of rest must be observed.

  • If a player pitches 21 - 40 pitches in a day, one (1) calendar day of rest must beobserved.

  • If a player pitches 1-20 pitches in a day, no calendar day of rest is required before pitching again.
Pitchers league age 17-18 must adhere to the following rest requirements:
  • If a player pitches 76 or more pitches in a day, three (3) calendar days of rest must be observed.

  • If a player pitches 51 - 75 pitches in a day, two (2) calendar days of rest must be observed.

  • If a player pitches 26 - 50 pitches in a day, one (1) calendar day of rest must beobserved.

  • If a player pitches 1-25 pitches in a day, no calendar day of rest is required before pitching again.
Source: Little League Online (
Tuesday, June 05, 2007 @ 4:47 am   208555 Views   Jeff Farris
Jeff Farris
Below is a response we received from the Dalton Georgia Parks and Recreation Department who recently used the Sports Esteem information in their parent orientation program. Please feel free to use the content on this site in your own parent program and please let us know the results.
The parent orientation classes using the Sports Esteem materials have gone very well. This is a first for the parents in Dalton. Over 500 parents registered on-line and around 400 have gone through the class. Many parents have commented that we need to make the class mandatory for every parent at Dalton Parks and Recreation Department.   

Thanks for all your information,

Mike Miller
Athletic Director
Dalton Parks & Recreation Department
Dalton, Georgia
Thursday, March 08, 2007 @ 9:58 am   207255 Views   Jeff Farris
Jeff Farris
This is a presentation written by Al Bloomer that provides information regarding various options available to a hockey player that has completed or is about to complete his/her high school education. For eligibility purposes, the NCAA expects the student-athlete to graduate from high school when they are 18 years of age. The expected graduation date is the NCAA eligibility bench mark.

From the author "I have been involved in hockey as a player, coach or administrator for over 50 years. For the last 20 years I have been directly involved with players between the ages of 15 and 20 years old. When it comes to choosing options for their hockey future, I am continually troubled by how poorly prepared and uninformed many players and their parents are. Answers can be found if you know where to look. The challenge is to be realistic about your hockey abilities and pro-active when planning your hockey future. As your skills develop to the higher  levels, you begin to think about your options. I believe parents and players should begin to think seriously about hockey opportunities when the player is 12 to 14 years old. This is not the forum to debate when a player's hockey potential can be evaluated or predicted. Although there may be optimism concerning potential when players are 12 and under, their potential cannot be realistically evaluated until they reach the age of maturity. All have dreams and expectations - but players and parents need to make informed and realistic decisions."

Some typical questions:

  • What are my hockey opportunities after high school?

  • How do I determine what is best for me?

  • What are some determining factors?

  • What are my chances?

  • How can I find out where I fit?

  • How and where do I get noticed?

  • How important are academics?

  • What role does my coach play?

  • Should I actively pursue opportunities or should I wait until opportunity knocks?


Download the attached file to read the presentation. Requires Adobe Acrobat reader.
Saturday, February 03, 2007 @ 5:24 am   206391 Views   Jeff Farris
Jeff Farris
Is this happening to your league?

Q. Our little legaue is down 50% over the last three years. Has anyone developed a survey to find out the underlying causes so that we can address them at the board?

A. There may be some general reasons why league participation is down, but generally the things that drive a league are the same things that drive local business - a quality product and good marketing. The Sports Esteem website ( can help you define the league guidelines for the way parents and coaches can work together to create a great experience for kids, then get the word out! Use the schools, churches and other community groups to let parents and kids know that a great experience is waiting for them with your league. Emphasize the fun, friendship, learning and the health benefits of participation.
Thursday, February 01, 2007 @ 3:02 am   205185 Views   Jeff Farris
Jeff Farris
Do you know some parents like this... 

MEDFORD, Mass. Peggy and Dave Finnerty admit they're hockey nuts, having spent countless hours carting their two sons to games at the break of dawn. "It's what we love to do," says Peggy, who sports a Boston Bruins scrunchy around her pony tail as she watches a practice at Anthony LoConte Rink in this blue-collar suburb.

Peggy is expecting, and the Finnertys are doing everything they can to make sure their newest child gets a head start in the highly competitive world of youth hockey. Every Tuesday and Thursday, Peggy straps on her pads and takes to the ice with other pregnant women in what is believed to be the world's first pre-natal hockey league.

Monday, January 22, 2007 @ 2:43 pm   206715 Views   Jeff Farris
Jeff Farris
A severely sprained wrist or a broken bone quickly earn a player a visit to a doctor for treatment. Yet the treatment of a concussion, a potentially much more severe injury, is often handled by a coach or parent without any medical knowledge. Much of this lies with the fact that sports related concussions are not uncommon and most players who suffer concussions are capable of resuming play within a few minutes of experiencing them. Pressure from coaches, parents or even from the player himself may dictate a quick return to the game.

But, new research is starting to show that just because players can resume playing after a concussion, doesn't mean they should.

What is a Concussion?
A concussion is an impact to the brain caused either by a blow to the head or the rapid movement of the head resulting in the brain hitting the inside of the skull. Symptoms of a concussion can include:
  • Headache
  • Vision disturbance
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of balance
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss (called amnesia)
  • Ringing ears
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Nausea
A severe concussion can include the following symptoms and are cause for a quick trip to the emergency room:
  • Stiff neck
  • Difficulty walking, speaking or using your arms
  • Severe headache
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Confusion that gets worse
  • Convulsions
  • Unusual sleepiness1
Fortunately, most mild concussions leave no lasting impact on a player and are treated with rest and headache remedies. However, repeated mild concussions or a single severe concussion may cause brain swelling and/or bleeding and threaten the life of the player.

Risks of Returning to Play
Dr. Michael Collins, a neuropsychologist and assistant director of the University of Pittsburgh Center for Sports Medicine's Concussion Program conducted a study of high school athletes and found that "prior concussions may indeed lower the threshold for subsequent concussion injury and increase symptom severity in even seemingly mild subsequent concussions".

A 17-year-old high school football player was tackled on the last day of the first half of a varsity game and struck his head on the ground. During half-time intermission, he told a teammate that he felt ill and had a headache; he did not tell his coach. He played again during the third quarter and received several routine blows to his helmet during blocks and tackles. He then collapsed on the field and was taken to a local hospital in a coma where he died a few days later.2 Accounts such as this are not limited to football. Almost every sport has a similar story.

Dr. David Kushner at the University of Miami School of Medicine recommends that athletes who have symptoms of concussion lasting more than 15 minutes or who have post-traumatic amnesia should not be permitted to resume sports participation for at least one week. No athlete should be permitted to return to play while signs or symptoms of a concussion are present. He also recommends an emergency department evaluation for any athlete who suffers loss of consciousness.3

Tuesday, December 12, 2006 @ 8:18 am   211020 Views   Jeff Farris
Jeff Farris

The website Dallas Stars Care ( features stories of professional hockey players talking about their youth sports experiences including:

Steve Ott

Philippe Boucher

Marty Turco

Visit the Dallas Stars Care website to read about these players and more.

Thursday, November 30, 2006 @ 10:07 am   206098 Views   Jeff Farris
Jeff Farris

From the NCAA website:

Student-Athletes Men's Basketball Women's Basketball Football Baseball Men's Ice Hockey Men's Soccer
High School Student-Athletes 549,500 456,900 983,600 455,300 29,900 321,400
High School Senior Student-Athletes 157,000 130,500 281,000 130,100 8,500 91,800
NCAA Student-Athletes 15,700 14,400 56,500 25,700 3,700 18,200
NCAA Freshman Roster Positions 4,500 4,100 16,200 7,300 1,100 5,200
NCAA Senior Student-Athletes 3,500 3,200 12,600 5,700 800 4,100
NCAA Student-Athletes Drafted 44 32 250 600 33 76
Percent High School to NCAA 2.9 3.1 5.8 5.6 12.9 5.7
Percent NCAA to Professional 1.3 1.0 2.0 10.5 4.1 1.9
Percent High School to Professional 0.03 0.02 0.09 0.5 0.4 0.08

Note: These percentages are based on estimated data and should be considered approximations of the actual percentages. Click here to view the methodology used to arrive at these estimates.

Friday, November 10, 2006 @ 4:46 am   206982 Views   Jeff Farris