Monthly Archives: November 2012

Nov 27

What Do Pro Sports and Youth Sports Have in Common? A Lot!

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

pic of Bill Walsh, 49ers coach

One of the great coaches of all time

There’s a new sports FM Sports Radio show in the Bay Area: 95.7 The Game. It’s actually changed my listening preferences. I’m listening to it about 50% of the time now.

I like the personalities and the banter. They discuss my favorite teams (SF Giants and 49ers) mostly. And they have a lot of interesting guests.

It’s funny but when they talk about coaching and athletes, so much of what they say about the pros are things that youth sports coaches, parents and kids deal with.

Things like “work ethic, sportsmanship, effort, competitiveness, physical skills, etc.” You would have thought that these things would have been taken care of a long time ago.

But successful pro and college teams are successful for the same reasons that youth sports teams are. The players are athletic. They play as a team. They work hard.

The teams that aren’t successful have the same reasons. Though at the pro level many of the players are athletes. But they haven’t learned how to be team players. They haven’t learned how to work hard. They haven’t learned to sacrifice for the team.

And it’s the same thing for the coaches. The best coaches at any level are teachers, students of learning and philosophers. Most are practical, tough and not dogmatic.

I don’t think that youth coaches should model themselves after the pro coaches (unless that’s the level they want to go to). But there is a lot to be learned from them.

And obviously, a lot to teach the kids.

Nov 26

Fun Game for Overweight Kids

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

image of a swimmer inside a large beach ball

Not such a practical way to use a beach ball

If your child is overweight, getting them to move is difficult. Getting them to enjoy moving can be even more difficult.

That’s one of the problems with our physical education programs. The kids that need it the most get left behind. They don’t have the athletic skills to move well and moving just plain hurts.

And team sports like soccer, basketball or football probably aren’t for them because they can’t keep up and don’t have the skills necessary to compete. And for football, their weight might even disqualify them from playing.

One sport which may be an exception is swimming. But many overweight kids are self-conscious of their size and appearance. Swimming in a skimpy bathing suit in front of others may take some convincing.

Tennis could work, though again it requires a great amount of moving skills. It ask requires good hand-eye coordination which many kids don’t have.

One activity which is fun and most kids can play is to use a beach ball. This can be done indoors or out if it’s not too windy. You can also use a balloon. Balloons will make the activity even easier.

Beach balls can be used for volleyball, tennis, and soccer. We’ve played all of the games indoors and had a great time (my seven year old and I). Beach balls move slowly and are less imposing than the real balls.

Besides getting kids to move beach balls also develop coordination and endurance. They are a great introduction to other sports but are fun in their own right.

If you’re looking to get your overweight child moving, get a beach ball and start to play for 15 minutes a day. Make up some games. Get fun competitive and have a great time!

Nov 25

Kids Fitness and the Movies

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

I’m a huge James Bond fan. Have been since 2nd grade.

And I love the new series. Daniel Craig is great in them and the writing and filming is sharp. I wish they would have a few more bond girls and more music, but those are minor complaints.

The newest movie, Skyfall, is about replacing the spys and the “boots on the ground” approach to a safer one. One with computers, drones and modern technology.

It reminds me of the state of kids fitness and health. Kids are playing video games, computers and looking at a screen all day. It gives them instant gratification with minimal effort.

The screen has replaced the dirty work of play. Kids no longer go outside, roll on the grass, play in the mud and wrestle around. Instead of going outside and running, they are told to sit in class, pay attention and learn.

In the movie, James Bond of course wins and the world knows how important 007 is to the safety of the world.

I hope kids fitness and health comes back. I hope getting outside and playing takes over the screen.

It’s going to take a while. The forces of darkness are strong and many. They are supported by the best marketing teams in the world. They know how to get kids (and adults) involved so that getting outside and enjoying the fresh air is less fun than sitting and watching a screen.

Me, I’m with James Bond.

See you outside.

Nov 25

Another Important Kids Fitness Lesson from the Movies

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Kids need to play and have fun for fitness

Jack Frost supports kids playing and having fun

I just got back from watching Rise of the Guardians today. It’s about how Jack Frost saves the world from the evil Boogie Man. And in it, it had an important message for kids fitness.

Overall, it wasn’t a bad movie. I rate my kids movies by if I fall asleep. I stayed awake the entire time. This means it’s pretty good. I wouldn’t go see it on a date night but with a kid, enjoyable.

Jack Frost has to learn to find is “core”. When he does, kids will be able to see him and he will know why he was chosen to be a Guardian.

It turns out that Jack’s core is to have fun. What a great concept.

Have fun and play.

Jack does this by providing snow days and plenty of snow to play in. But kids can have fun any and everywhere.

Fun and play is what make us human. It’s how we learn to interact with the world. It gets us physically active and provides a release from stress. It boosts the immune response and helps us physically, socially and emotionally.

I think I’m a bit like Jack Frost. Mischievous and playful. If I could provide a couple of days a week for kids to get outside and play. It wouldn’t be mandatory. It wouldn’t have to be.

So as parents, coaches and teachers I’m giving you the power of Jack Frost. Throw some snowballs, go sledding and just get goofy.

If your kids look at you funny, tell them Jack Frost made you.

Nov 25

Keep the Head on a Swivel for Youth Sports Vision

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

The more I coach and the more I work with special needs kids i think that sports vision is critical for success at youth sports. And beyond.

When I watch my freshman and sophomore water polo players, most have a very difficult time seeing what is around them. Now water polo does present some unique challenges but I think it’s the same for every sport.

Kids get focused on one aspect and then ignore everything else. Unfortunately, to be successful in basketball, baseball, lacrosse, football, hockey…any team sport, you need to be able to keep focused on multiple tasks. Or maybe you learn to transition from one task to another very quickly.

For my kids, if I told them to drive to the open spot, they would find the space in the pool and then swim to it. Whatever got in the way was of no consequence. They were told to do something and they were going to do it. Of course, the fact that they weren’t looking for the ball meant they couldn’t get the pass. Or the fact that we had lost the ball on a turn over and now it was time to swim back on defense was lost on them.

Whatever the sport your coaching or if you’re working with your son or daughter, then spend some time teaching them to turn their head and always be looking around. For example in soccer, have them practice looking in three or four directions before they run up to the ball for a kick.

As always keep drills simple and easy and then increase the complexity.


Nov 25

Categories of Strength for Kids

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Having kids be strong is important for their sports performance but also for their health. I don’t think anyone would argue that.

But what exactly is strength? How do you measure it? What exercises are best for developing it?

It’s a complicated question and one that would require a full book to cover completely. Maybe a series of books.

But for the average parent or youth coach, you don’t need to know everything in order to improve your team or child’s strength. Here are some areas that you should be concerned about.

  • Core strength
  • Upper body vs lower body
  • Push/pull strength
  • Power
  • Strength endurance
  • Maximum strength
  • Grip strength

Many adult programs attack each of these categories separately I think that is a mistake with kids. Young athletes and children should be always working on the entire strength spectrum.

Each workout have a few exercises and drills that focus on building strength. Mix it up, change it up and keep it challenging. Try to get two to four categories in each day or workout.

With adults, one of the concerns is over-training. With kids it’s not a problem; at least not typically. Kids are amazingly resilient at recovery.

With that said, you shouldn’t be giving them nothing but strength exercises either. Besides a poor use of time for sports improvement or working on other areas of fitness and fun, kids do get burnt out mentally.

Remember, always mix it up and keep it fun.

Nov 25

Parkour for kids and fun

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Last night I watched a hysterical clip from the Office about parkour.

For those who don’t know, parkour is a type of running where participants use their natural environment to create unique ways to get from point A to point B.

They use it a lot of the new James Bond movies. The athletes run, jump, somersault, hurdle, crawl and climb over/under/around and through whatever is in their way.

It is really quite crazy and exciting to watch. It takes an incredible amount of balance, strength, courage and endurance to do it. I try to use it with some of my special education students, though at much lower levels. I continuously look for natural barriers and obstacles in their environment (typically curbs) and have them master it.

In the clip, the whacky characters of The Office try to use the concept by scooting with chairs, walking over desks and other zany things.

I encourage you to look at the clip and then look at places you walk with your kids. There’s lots of natural things that can be used to improve strength, balance and cardio fitness. It makes walking a lot more fun and challenging than just walking.

It doesn’t have to be super crazy or difficult. Just enough out of the box to make it a bit more fun.

Your kids will have a lot more fun and so will you.

Try it out and let me know how it went.

Nov 24

Entertaining ways for kids fitness in an airport

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

We were stuck in the LA airport for over 2 hours. You can only eat, people watch and shop for so long. Eventually, you start to go crazy.

Especially, if you’re an active 7 year old.

Looking at all the overweight people, sitting and eating got me thinking about how we need to be more active. Instead of sitting down, we could be doing push-ups or squats or something (To be honest, the exercise I though of was handstand push-ups against a wall. I didn’t think it would be appropriate.)

But back to the kid. He’s starting to go crazy. So being a child movement and PE expert, I whipped out a trick.

It had to be challenging, fairly easy, and not too embarrassing (like hand stand push-ups). I figured if we could get ten minutes of activity it would be pretty good.

It turned out we got almost 20…doubling it.

What was this great activity? It was the old stand-by, “balance a book on your head and walk” trick.

We had a fairly heavy book and he placed it on his head and walked about fifteen feet. Or at least that was the goal. The first few times he could barely balance it. Eventually, he got good at balancing it and finally was able to walk the entire way.

It was very cute watching him and a few of the other passengers thought so too. I guess I could have gotten the whole section to practice it and made it a real event. But I decided not to.

Anyway, 20 minutes went by before he got bored and moved on to something else.

But the next time, you need a quick and simple activity for your kid be sure to remember this one.

Nov 24

Skating for Kids Fitness and Health

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

While in Nashville, we took the kids (4, 6, 7, 14) to an indoor skate park, called Rocketown. It was an interesting place. Lots of different ages, races and backgrounds using the facility. Everyone got along and we had a great time. I even got to play some ping pong. (won one, lost one).

I noticed a few things that were interesting. Most of the kids were very fit. Whether they were riding skateboards, using a scooter, blades, or biking they kids were lean and athletic.

You would consider skateboarding in a park would contribute to balance, but I was surprised at how fit they were. It goes to show that you don’t need to do a lot of cardio work to get in shape. Short intense bouts of exercise can be a great body conditioner.

Skateboarding isn’t for everyone. There is an element of risk and injury that a lot of sports don’t have. But it sure is fun. It made me wish I was 15 again and ready to hit the park.

The other issue I’d like to comment on is that the park is in a part of town that has a lot of inner city kids. And they were using the facility. Some were skating, some were playing ping pong and some were playing basketball. It was good to see that there was a place for these kids to go to and be safe and play.

Sometimes skateboarding gets a bad rap. But if your child is interested in it, I’d encourage them to do it. Be sure to use safety equipment and follow common sense. I’d also see about getting some lesson.

It made me motivated to get back on my longboard when we return to California. Cowabunga!

Nov 24

Airports are getting kid fitness friendly

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Thanksgiving weekend and I’m flying out to Nashville to be with family. It sucks that there’s not a direct flight from SF to Nashville. We almost missed our flight, thinking that a 6:45 AM flight wouldn’t be too crowded. Should have known. Any day during Thanksgiving is going to be crowded.

So we flew into the the LA airport and I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had a little section of the airport for kids. There was a little play park; trampoline, climbing apparatus and some balance stuff.

It wasn’t a lot but it was enough to keep kids busy and their parents appreciative of an opportunity to let the kids burn off steam.

There weren’t a ton of kids using it but it was definitely used.

We need to go out of our way to make more things fitness and play accessible for kids. Kids brains and bodies need physical play. The health benefits of the physical aspect are probably obvious by now.

But the brain needs physical play as well. Without the physical play it won’t grow and develop. It needs the physical movement to tie in the neurons for the intellectual and even emotional development.

Where ever you are or go with your kids, encourage them to move and be active. Their brains will appreciate it.