Monthly Archives: February 2013

Feb 26

What Youth Sports Coaches Can Learn From the Ultimate Fighter

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

image of ultimate fighters

Not what you’d consider child friendly, but there’s a lot to learn about coaching and athletics from the Ultimate Fighter.

One of my favorite TV shows is the Ultimate Fighter. Its one of my guilty pleasures.

I’m not a fan of reality TV but this one keeps me interested. Plus, I guess I like to watch big knuckleheads in great shape beat the tar out of each other.

Over the last couple of years, I haven’t been impressed with the quality of coaching.

They don’t show a lot of what goes on but the typical coach/athlete conversation would go something like this:

Coach: Go punch
Athlete: OK
Coach: Punch harder
Athlete: OK

It wasn’t great coaching or even motivating.

But this year is different. The two coaches, Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen are smart and articulate. I really like the advice that Sonnen gave his athlete.

In the second fight, he was talking to his fighter about fear. And it wasn’t just advice about the fear of getting hurt.

It was about the fear of not being good enough. Not being worthy.

The advice was that everyone has it. Everyone. And you don’t fight your way through it. You acknowledge it and then keep training. Keep fighting. Keep going.

It was great advice. It was honest and heartfelt. And I believe it was the truth.

All our athletes have fear. From the littlest U6 to our elite U20’s. Whatever sport; swimming, soccer, football, volleyball, all athletes feel fear. We wonder if we are good enough.

As a coach and teacher, talk to your athletes honestly and openly. Let them know that they will experience it. And to keep striving through.

BTW, at the end of the fight, his fighter had an amazing knockout with a brutal spinning back kick to the head of his opponent.

Like I said, it’s a fun but brutal sport to watch. The girlfriend hates it…but it’s on tonight and I can’t wait to watch.

Feb 02

Motor Learning and Youth Coaching

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Image of soccer athlete kicking ball

Soccer requires both power and accuracy.

Motor Learning and Development was one of my favorite classes in college. It was a tough one with a lot of memorizing stuff. I liked the labs though. And one of the things that stuck with me is how we learn power first and then accuracy.

In almost any youth sport, there are skills that require both accuracy and power.

Soccer: Kicking the ball far vs kicking the ball in the goal.

Football: Throwing the ball for distance vs throwing the ball to the receiver.

Swimming: Pull as strong as possible or just focus on technique.

Baseball: Throwing for power or throwing for a strike.

Whatever the sport, coaches have to make decisions on what to focus on. Motor Learning shows us that there is one clear winner on which to focus first:


Its not even close. If a child develops power first, they can learn accuracy. If they learn to be accurate, they will not develop the power.

This can make it tough if the success of your team depends on sharp, precise passing or control. Like most teams do.

So what you should you do?

After a warm-up, I would work on the motion for power and distance and not worry about how on target the kids are.

image of kid throwing a ball

Develop power before accuracy.

And even though form for most movements is critical, I think for the muscles to develop the power they need, emphasize just doing it as fast and as hard as possible.

Then at the end of practice spend some time working on the accuracy.

One nice thing about this tactic is that kids love going hard. And if they aren’t under any pressure to make precise throws then its even more fun.

I did this with my JV water polo team this year and was very happy with the results. As a rule, most of my players can’t throw. And when they are in 9 feet of water and seconds from drowning, they throw even worse.

We spent 10 minutes every day throwing a polo ball on land as far as we could. Then when they were in the water, we would start off with ten minutes of throwing for distance across the pool. After that, we would go into passing and shooting drills.

I felt that once we started the throwing on the ball on land it carried over better than anything else we had done in the water.

Give it a try, Coaches. Let me know what you think.

Feb 02

Animal PE Games for Preschool and Early Elementary Kids

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Image of elephant balancing on a ball

Try this without the ball first.

I get to see a lot of early elementary classes as I drive from school to school. I admire the teachers who have a job that is similar to herding cats. The kids are fidgety and active. They have a difficult time sitting still, no less learning to read or write.

A lot of the teachers try to add PE to the curriculum. When I watch them, its obvious that they are not comfortable teaching PE or having kids move around. They spend so many hours trying to keep the kids under control, that to have them be running around seems like a recipe for disaster.

And yet, but giving the kids controlled movement activities, they will actually do better in class. They will be able to concentrate and focus longer. They will get along better with their peers.

So in an effort to help all of you teachers out there I’m going to have some blog posts about activities for Preschool and Early Elementary students. Of course, they are adaptable for Special Education classes and maybe even Upper Elementary.

The first one is to pick an animal and have the kids behave like one. Let’s pick an elephant and see what types of movements we can get. Do each one for 20 to 30 seconds.

1. Move like an elephant’s trunk. Students put hands together and swing them from side to side. They can pretend to throw dirt on their back or pick leaves off a tree.

2. Put an imaginary log in your tusks and move it or give it to other students. Hold the arms out in front of their bodies like tusks.

3. Walk like an elephant. On hands and feet, move the right side forward, then the left.

4. Make big ears and flap them like an elephant.

5. Make a line like a heard of elephants.

6. As the kids to come up with things elephants do and invent their own movements.

As you can see there are countless variations they can do. The kids will laugh, have fun and build critical gross motor skills. They will gain strength, coordination as well.

Afterwards, it is easy to tie on other skills such as writing or drawing to bring the lesson to a close.

Have fun and let me know how things worked for you out in the jungle!