715

I saw the home run through my 10-year-old eyes.
The Record.
Hammering Hank.
I didn’t know of the bigotry.
I didn’t know of the hate.
I didn’t know of the threats.
I knew baseball.
I knew hitting.

I knew Henry Aaron,
my right-handed hitting hero.
I knew Carl Yastrzemski,
my left-handed hitting hero.
I didn’t see black and white.
I saw sweet, smooth swings.
I saw the ball popping off their bats
in the color of baseball, not skin.

In Atlanta, Georgia,
on an April evening,
I saw the ball fly over the fence.
The record fell.
715.
The Holy Grail of records,
the one which would never fall.
The Great Bambino.

Then the man with the brown sugar swing
ran around the bases.
Afraid for his life.
Afraid for his family.
Because he did what he loved to do,
the same thing I loved to do.
Hit a baseball,
and watch it fly.

April 8, 1974

aaron-hank-437-57-nbl

 

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Spring Into April Dollar Special

ATTENTION: Middle Graders! (And/or parents, teachers, and librarians of the aforementioned middle-grade-aged young persons.)

I invite you to my Spring Into April  Dollar Special which offers a fine eBook copy of THE YOUNGER DAYS for about a dollar, depending on which online store you wish to shop at.

I happen to highly value a dollar. Okay, okay…I’ll admit it, I’m a cheapskate by nature and by genetics. Still, I understand how important a dollar is.

To celebrate the value of a dollar and the most awesome, highly anticipated arrival of spring, my publisher is offering the eBook version of THE YOUNGER DAYS (in any format) for a single dollar this week, March 28 – April 4, 2014.

2014theyoungerdays

If you’re wondering why you should part ways with your dollar in exchange for THE YOUNGER DAYS…

10 Reasons to Spend a Dollar and Buy the Book

1. Win $$$, bling, cha-cha-ching.

  • Buy THE YOUNGER DAYS for around $1.00 (or if you have already bought/read the book) and then enter a super random drawing to win a $15 gift card to your choice of MuseItYoung bookstore or Amazon. Abiding by the code of honor, enter by sending me a short message of your purchase. You can enter with a comment on this blog, on my Facebook page, or send me a Twitter message (@coachhays64).

2. Enrich your springtime with outlaws, border ruffians, Spencer repeating rifles, and a fairly fierce set of meek, mild-mannered parents.

3. Justify not cleaning your room by reading the book while relaxing on the patio.

4. Take comfort in the fact that even in 1874, there were kids who thought they knew more than their parents.

5. Find out what a Bushwhacker is.

6. Can honestly tell your teacher you are “enriching your mind” and not playing games on your electronic device.

7. Redemption stories = Awesome sauce.

8. The Border War. Kansas vs. Missouri in a no-holds barred, drag down, knockout fight between neighbors who hate each other. Can you say “drama”?

9. Reading from a $1.00 book stays in your brain cells, eating from a $1.00 value menu stays in your adipose cells.

10. When done with the 78-page eBook you will: (choose one)

  1. … want more.
  2. …experience a tremendous satisfaction upon digesting a fine piece of middle grade historical fiction.
  3. …think this Hays guy is a putz.

So, if you have an extra dollar, I invite you to check out THE YOUNGER DAYS at one of these links:

MuseItUp Bookstore

https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore/index.php/now-available-in-ebook/the-younger-days-detail

Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007I7OY3W

Bookstrand

http://www.bookstrand.com/the-younger-days

Smashwords

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/148794

Don’t forget to enter the drawing for the $15 gift certificate by sending me a message and/or commenting on this blog, my Facebook page, or on Twitter (@coachhays64).

Thank you for your support.

Enjoy your spring!

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Scoring Position

Most people think this base,

Home Plate
is the most important base in baseball. Home plate is where you score the runs, isn’t it? So, it has the be the most important base on the field, right?
Wrong.
The most important base in baseball is this one,

Second BaseSecond base.
What?
Second base?
The one base, which doesn’t even rate high enough to get decorated base lines, is the most important?
Yes, it is.
Second base has another name in baseball–scoring position.

The key to successful defense is to keep runners out of scoring position; keeping the opponent from reaching second base. My philosophy has always been unless the outcome of the game is on the line, everyone on defense focuses on keeping the runners off second base. Give up a run, to save a bunch of runs later.

Pitchers need to throw strikes and avoid walks. They need to hold runners close on first base to make it difficult to steal second base. Catchers need to make it hard to steal second with quick, accurate throws and blocking balls in the dirt. All the other fielders need to communicate when the ball is in play and be intent on keeping runners out of scoring position.

The key to successful offense is to get runners into scoring position and beyond. Hustle ever batted ball to first base. Round the base hard with every single and look to take that extra base. Run the bases aggressive, but smart.

So, keep the most important base in your mind at all times when you play or coach this great game. The true battle in baseball is the battle for scoring position.

Take care of that lonely, unadorned base isolated in the middle of the infield; it’s critical for baseball success.

Good luck!

Play hard, play the right way, and have fun.

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Throw & Catch

Throwing and catching a baseball. It is about the most fundamental baseball skill there is. It is also probably one of the most ignored. It is one of my baseball coaching, check that, it’s one of my biggest, most grating-on-my-last-nerve, plain coaching any sport, pet peeves.

Baseball_Images_Free_63

Baseball is generally broken down into three major parts: Pitching, Fielding, and Batting. In case you didn’t notice, throwing and catching a baseball comprise two of those three major parts.

Pitching is throwing to a catcher, right? And fielding on defense is catching baseballs and throwing baseballs. Like I said, skills that encompasses 66.66% of the game.  In my opinion, being able to throw and catch a baseball are the most vital skills you can possess as a team, or as an individual.

Poor catching and throwing often means poor baseball skill, which often translates to poor quality of team. As a player, take pride in how your throw and catch a baseball. As a coach, take pride in how each player of your team throws and catches a baseball.

Nothing puts a burr in my backside faster than watching a baseball team warm up before a game and seeing the ball hit the grass more than it hits gloves. Nothing is more embarrassing as a coach, than to watch your team running around the outfield chasing baseballs in some sort of demented circus routine. I’ve pulled teams off the field in pregame and pre-practice before due to playing chase, instead of catch.

Learn to throw and learn to catch. Find help if you need it.

For the coaches, hold the line and be firm and consistent from day one. Demand that your team throws and catches a baseball appropriate to their level. The simplest, single thing you can do to make your baseball team more successful is to improve throwing and catching a baseball.

Here is my basic coaching and teaching plan:

Daily Throwing
Focus on every throw and catch.
Consistency – Hit your partner in the torso with every throw.
Mechanics:

  • 4 seam grip
  • Throwing Arm -Elbow above shoulder, wrist outside of elbow,  hand with ball pointing back.
  • Lead Arm - Shoulder and elbow pointing at target.
  • Front Foot - Slightly open with outside stepping to target

Throwing (5-6 throws from each distance)

  • 30 feet apart
  • 60 feet apart
  • 90 feet apart
  • 120 feet apart (Long Toss = Builds arm strength)
  • Sprint to 30 feet for 5 quick throws

Catching

  • Keep it simple with a soft glove to the ball. Go and get it.
  • Where you glove goes, your off hand follows.

Take pride in your throwing and catching skills. Work on it every day. Focus and concentrate when you play catch. Talk, joke, or have all the fun you want, but remember the focus needs to stay on throwing and catching the ball.

Never forget this: If you can effectively throw and catch a baseball, you will be competitive in every game.

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Cultivate Hope

Hope. It’s big. It’s one of those things that make us human, one of those things that drive us. Hope helps us get out of bed every day to face our challenges.

As a coach, the most important thing I can do for the kids in the program is to cultivate hope. I want to sow an environment with an expectation and a desire for a certain thing to happen, a goal to obtain, i.e. HOPE. Show up every day, to every practice, every meeting, every game dealing hope. Make this hope permeate everything we do as a team and as a program.

And this is not just important for coaches to deal in hope. It’s even more important for:

  • Teachers
  • Writers
  • Political leaders
  • Manager
  • Supervisors
  • CEO’s

Anybody who leads people needs to radiate hope. It doesn’t matter if you deal with one person or one hundred people, cultivate hope. It doesn’t even matter if you are just dealing with your own self, be hopeful.

I’ve seen hopeless. I’ve seen the hopelessness settle into a long losing streak or miserable season. I’ve seen the dull, lifeless eyes of hopelessness standing on a mid-afternoon street corner passing a bottle. The hopelessness which exists in poverty, substance abuse, mental abuse, and physical abuse.

The black cloud of hopelessness works to settle over our world on a daily basis. Hopelessness with the sole purpose to suck the life and energy from us. It is up to us as leaders to wage war on hopelessness by cultivating hope in everything we do.

Everyone, especially young people, need someone to believe they can do whatever task stands in front of them. They need hopeful eyes to help them see the person they can be. They need a ray of hope to help them fight the black clouds which follow them waiting for an open space to inhabit.

Hope is cheap.
Hope is infectious.
Hope is a super power.
Sow it, cultivate it, and spread it.

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Gladly Eat Crow

Dear Sports Parent,

Your kid will not turn pro. Your kid will be very fortunate to even get an opportunity to play in college.

The numbers do not lie.

  • Baseball: 11.6% of college players play professionally, 0.6% of high school players do.
  • Football: 1.7% of college players play professionally, 0.08% of high school players do.
  • Men’s basketball: 1.2% of college players play professionally, 0.03% of high school players do.

…And for women, the numbers are just as bad, or even worse.

  • Women’s basketball: 0.9% of college players play professionally, 0.03% of high school players do.

(Numbers from Business Insider. They note these numbers may be a little low since they include only professional opportunities in the United State, but as they say, “But either way, the chances are really, really small.)

I will gladly eat crow if your particular child overcomes the statistics. I will gladly celebrate a kid who has the drive and tenacity, perseverance and discipline, to do what it takes all day, every day to make the above scenarios come true.

Who wouldn’t want to see it?

No matter, follow this advice on being a sports parent Coach Paul Lane put into our team handbook for the football parents. He is a wise man.

  • Be your child’s biggest fan.
  • They don’t need you as a personal trainer.
  • They don’t need you as a personal coach.
  • They don’t need you as their agent.
  • They  need you to be their biggest fan.

Support.

Lift.

Drive.

Feed.

Care.

Do these things because they are your kid and they need your support. It needs to be all about them, not about you.

Show them the joy of playing sports.

Share with them the joy of sports.

Show them an appreciation for hard work.

Show them you appreciate their team work.

This parent/child relationship is the most important (and most undervalued) relationship in sports.

Be your kid’s biggest fan. Please.

sports parent list

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Fundamental Differences

One of the joys of being an athlete and a coach is striving for perfection in the fundamental skills of a sport. Technical proficiency was necessary for me to have success in baseball, football, basketball, track & field, and especially in strength & conditioning. Fundamental skill development was a focus of everything I did as a coach and as a player. Getting better every day was at the core of what we did; it was the core of our program philosophy.

Over the years, I found good things happen to those who consistently work to fundamentally improve. These athletes get better while others stagnate; they enjoy more success, and experience more satisfaction in their sport.

What may have been my most embarrassing moment as a coach was not a bad loss or getting ejected from a game (yes, it happened), it came from a TV news spot a local station did on our football team in the second year we coached. The station was doing a piece on the resurgence of the program and they did a few interviews, plus shot some video.

Everyone was excited to watch the actual newscast and I felt a jolt of pride when the story came on the TV. Good interviews, good background info, everything going smooth, and then the bottom dropped out.

They showed our dynamic warm-up routine and the kid closest to the camera, a lineman (which made it hurt even worse) was performing his high-knee skips like he was in the park on a Saturday afternoon carrying a picnic basket and singing “Skip to My Lou”. His technique was horrid and it was right there, in 240 lbs. of offensive lineman glory, skipping like a kindergartener across the TV screen.

I wanted to crawl under a rock and hide. It was my own fault as a coach for allowing this lapse of technique to occur. I decided then and there I needed to up my coaching game and teach/demand more from ALL the kids in the program. Fundamental skill development became a challenge I was not going to fail at again.

Do you know why they call the basic skill a fundamental? Fundamental means the most important part of something’s basic structure or function. The fundamentals form the foundation of the skill one wishes to excel at. There are fundamental skills in sports, science, welding, teaching, coaching, electrician, etc. In practically any field, one must learn and master the fundamentals in order to succeed.

Why are fundamentals so important?

Let’s say we’re building a wall, a solid, brick wall. The first step in building our wall is to prepare the ground to give us a flat, stable surface. Maybe we’ll even pour a concrete footing to give our wall the strongest foundation possible. Once this basic foundation level is set, we can add the best bricks or stones to the foundation and bind them into the others to solidify our base.

bricks

The base foundation is stable. Our fundamentals of our wall are solid, so as we add bricks to create the vertical wall it becomes a marvel of strength and can endure an attack or force.

Let’s say you’re in a hurry to build your brick wall. The ground you start with is slightly inclined, with clumps of grass and weeds covering the soft layer of earth. And, you’re going to use those dirt clods and mud pies the kids made this morning as your foundation layer. Now build your brick wall on top of this makeshift foundation.

Which of these walls would you rather have if you’re wearing your bright red jumpsuit and staring down a charging bull just stung by a bee in the pasture on the opposite side of your new wall?

That’s what training is; it is building your best possible wall out of your own body. Mastering the fundamental and techniques of your chosen endeavors is absolutely vital to maximize performance. In sport, the physical movement skills, the combination of strength, speed (quickness) and agility, are the fundamentals one must work to master.

It’s that time of the year where we see a lot of photos, videos, etc. on social media from high school kids participating in powerlifting meets. Often, I see these and cringe. Especially, the young freshmen and sophomore athletes exhibiting technical flaws which make the “Skip to My Lou” high-knee skips look like ballet. These kids, besides risking injury, are not developing the proper fundamental movements skills, the foundation of their wall is shaky, and without intense correction, they may never reach their full potential.

Young lifters should never be given the green light for weighted lifts without showing proficiency in the proper technique. Technique work is the foundation for results. These athletes are wasting precious time with each repetition they perform improperly. Good things will happen in the future if you train by the mantra: “Movement first, then weight.”

A large part of coaching is the development of the talent in your program. In my opinion, it is also one of the most neglected facets of coaching. Player development must be a priority, especially at the high school level where the talent pool consists of the athletes who walk through your door every day.

Teenagers rarely will do this on their own. They need guidance, they need a plan, and sometimes, they need a kick in the rear.

Guidance.

A Plan.

Motivation.

These three things separate the good programs and coaches from the bad.

I would like to ask all athletes, young and old, to remember the importance of doing things right and with fundamental soundness. Focus on technique first and foremost. If you find yourself needing help with technical development, ask for help or contact me and we can find the help you need.

Be safe.

Be strong.

Be your best.

 Hard Work is the Magic

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