Monthly Archives: November 2013

Nov 27

Fun Contests for Youth Sport

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Scott Shea coaches for the Palo Alto Stanford Aquatic Team. Besides being an awesome coach, he’s also a friend of mine.

The 2013 Tour de SCRA winners!

Scott has had a lot of success coaching. The age-group program is one of the best in the country and they consistently send kids to Junior and Senior Nationals. And they place. Most of his group goes on to swim in college.

One thing Scott does is have a “Tour de SCRA” event once a year. He comes up with wacky and crazy things for his group to do. He then keeps score for each event. After 21 stages there is a winner with all the usual accolades. You can read about it all here.

Many of the events are swimming related; putting on all the equipment (fins, paddles, snorkel, buoy, kick board). Some of them are not.

One event is to see how far you can spit a goldfish. It’s pretty gross but very funny.

The team really gets into it. He keeps everything posted on his blog and the competition gets quite heated.

But realize that these are senior swimmers; fourteen to eighteen years old. They are talented and fast. And they work very hard.

By giving them an obscure way to compete it:

  • Helps them bond as a team,
  • Have a great time being silly,
  • Breaks up the monotony of swim practice,
  • Allows Scott to be creative,
  • By making it fun, it encourages them to like swimming and to keep swimming,
  • Establishes new team traditions.

Scott’s Tour de SCRA could easily be adapted for any sport and any age. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Make a big deal of it. Talk about it and publicize it. Take pictures and videos. Put it in the newsletter and web site..
  2. Have silly prizes for each stage.
  3. Come up with events that give everyone an equal chance or find a way to make it even and fair.
  4. Celebrate with a party afterwards.
  5. Some of the events should be related to the sport. Others should have absolutely nothing to do with the sport.
  6. Don’t be afraid of losing too much practice time. Make the event a priority.
  7. You don’t need 21 stages. Do it as a decathlon or heptathlon. You can always add or change events.

There’s two very important concepts that coaches should learn here.

One, find ways to keep practices fun, motivating, interesting and different. Kids will keep competing and playing the sport.

Two, there’s a lot of great coaching out there. Be looking for new ideas and tips from other youth sports teams. Borrow as much as you can.

Have a great Thanksgiving!


Nov 26

Twenty Things to Be Thankful About for Youth Coaches

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

image of Coach Ron Usher

Taking some time to be thankful

With Thanksgiving almost upon us, I thought I’d look at all the things youth sports coaches have to be thankful for.

After you read my list, feel free to add a few of your own.

  1. It’s a great job to be able to work with kids.
  2. Get to work outside.
  3. Typical attire is shorts, t-shirt, tennis shoes. Maybe a sweat shirt.
  4. Every day is different.
  5. You get to build something; a team, an adult, a business.
  6. Working with kids keeps you young.
  7. Your involvement with the sport gets to continue beyond your playing days.
  8. You can keep in contact with your former athletes beyond their playing years.
  9. Keeping kids healthy and fit is part of your job.
  10. Watching your team improve, mature and grow-up.
  11. Always learning something new about your team, the sport, the business, fitness.
  12. Get to witness the changing of the seasons.
  13. Watching sunsets and sunrises every day.
  14. Don’t have to grade papers.
  15. It’s a fairly low stress job.
  16. You get to have fun and play every day.
  17. It gives you an opportunity to be creative.
  18. You meet great people; kids, parents, fellow coaches.
  19. The profession is always evolving which means you always have to be learning.
  20. Competition, sport and play is just plain fun.

There’s my top twenty. If I think of a few more, I’ll post them. I’d love to hear yours.

Nov 25

Advanced Catching Skills for Kids

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

This is not me…but I wish it was!

I’ve been enjoying my son’s new found love for football. It reminds me of my youth.

One of my earliest memories is when I was four and played with some big kids on the block. They let me score a touchdown (though for years I thought it was my amazing skills).

I remember playing YMCA flag football when I was about 8. My dad got mad at me because I had my hands in my pockets. I think that was the moment he gave up on me as a football player.

In junior high, I intercepted a pass against a screen play and scored a touchdown.

All through upper elementary school, junior high and high school we played after school and on weekends. We played in the street and moved out of the way when cars came. We played down at the local schools to get covered with mud when it rained. At the beach, we would throw a football and try to impress the girls. Yup, lots of great memories.

So with his new found fascination it’s been great going to the local fields and throwing the ball. He doesn’t really understand the game (I’m not sure I did…though I think I did.) so I’m trying to teach him the skills, strategies and rules of the game.

Today, as we were throwing the ball around, I realized that he had a difficult time catching passes when moving. He’s got good hands if he’s standing still. He’s got pretty good hands if he’s running across the field. But downhill runs are very difficult for him.

So, using my advanced adapted pe and coaching skills, I came up with some simple progressions and drills. We didn’t spent a lot of time doing them…maybe ten or fifteen minutes but I did notice an improvement.

These are the catching drills we did.

  1. I had him stand facing away from me. Then he had to keep his feet pointed away and turn is body as I tossed the ball to him gently. We worked on both sides.
  2. We did the same drill but with the ball being tossed higher. I aimed for it being over his shoulder. I’m not sure how successful I was at hitting my target.
  3. Then I had him only turn his head and raise his arms. This was difficult for him.
  4. We did the same progressions but with him walking and jogging. The end result was that he was greatly improved at catching the ball over his shoulder. Not quite Jerry Rice but on the right path.

There’s more catching drills we will be doing. We’ve been working on routes which he doesn’t completely understand yet. I think a lot of the problem is he isn’t used to running at full speed. I also think he doesn’t know how to make his body change direction quickly.

I am sure these are common problems with kids. I think my friends and I got pretty good at these basic athletic skills because we played all the time. Because he doesn’t get out much with friends at home, I think he’s a little delayed at them.

We will keep working on them and more athletic skills. I really likes sports and wants to be good at them. But like most kids he needs support and instruction.

PS. There was a guy punting and doing field goals at the field. He was probably a semi-pro player working out.

He kicked the ball so high that it was amazing. I don’t know if at any point in my life, I would have been able to catch that ball.

It just goes to show you that there are always more difficult and challenging skills to learn.

Nov 24

Questions to Ask About Your Youth Fitness Program

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

What do you do for your team’s conditioning?

If you’re a youth coach of any sport team, you’re concerned about all aspects of your team’s fitness. How do you approach it?

Here are some questions you should be asking…

  • What fitness and conditioning areas are most important for the team’s success?
  • Where is the team behind?
  • How long is the season?
  • Do the kids do other sports?
  • What exercises should you focus on?
  • How much time do you have to work on fitness?
  • Do you isolate the fitness components from the instruction or combine them?
  • Should you do fitness/conditioning at the beginning or end of a practice?
  • What part of the season is it? Preseason, early, post season? Each one would have different requirements.
  • Are there injuries and over-use injuries the team has or is predisposed to getting?
  • What are the ages and developmental levels of your athletes?
  • What has worked in the past?
  • How hard do you make them work? How many days a week do they work hard vs easy days?
  • Is there any current research or ideas about fitness and conditioning that can be adapted to your program?
  • What are the components you should work on?
    • Lateral Speed
    • Agility
    • Straight ahead speed
    • Muscular endurance
    • Cardiovascular endurance
    • Reaction Time
    • Core Strength
    • Upper/Lower body strength
    • Injury prehab/rehab
    • Coordination
    • General Athletic Skills
    • Specific Sport Skills
    • Vision drills

That is one hell of a lot of areas to work on!

On top of that, you’ve got individual and team skills and tactics. Plus, you should throw in some social skills such as sportsmanship, team building, mental toughness and goal setting.

It’s a whole bunch of stuff to teach kids.

I don’t have the answers. I don’t think there’s a perfect way to do it. But I do have some tips to follow:

  1. Plan ahead. Answer as many of those questions above as you can.
  2. Experiment. Play around with them and see what happens.
  3. You don’t have to be perfect. Kids are remarkably resilient and many of the categories work together. Hit one and you’ll be getting to three or four more.
  4. Once you have your plan, stick with it. Make your changes at the beginning of the next season, not in the middle of this one.
  5. Remember you’re working with kids. They won’t work like adults, don’t develop like adults and have different needs than adults. The pro model can be learned from, but don’t keep the whole program.
  6. Fitness and conditioning is an integral part of a team and child’s development. It is not the only one. Don’t focus on fitness and conditioning and eliminate all the other crucial parts to your program.

What do you do for your team’s conditioning and training? It would be great to get different ideas from various sports and ages.


Nov 23

Athletic Skills and High School Football: A CCS High School Report

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Going through conditioning drills without instruction is not efficient.

Last night I went to my first high school football game in about 40 years. My Alma mater (Andrew Hill Falcons) qualified 8th in the CCS football championships.Their opponent was Saint Francis HS, a private school in Mountain View. Saint Francis was seeded number one.

Hill is from the Southeast portion of San Jose. It’s a low income neighborhood with a wide mix of ethnic students. Saint Francis is an upper income school and known for some excellent sports teams.

The game was not expected to be close…and it wasn’t. But what surprised me was the differences in the two teams:

  • Saint Francis had twice as many players. Andrew Hill had at least three players going both ways…and probably a lot more.
  • Saint Francis players were bigger. I assume this was because some of the Hill players were Freshman and Sophomores. Some of them looked pretty small.
  • Many of the Andrew Hill players were very heavy. Let’s be honest. They were fat. I realize size helps on the line…but these guys weren’t just big…they were overweight.
  • The Saint Francis players were better athletes. You could tell how the stood. You could tell by their ready positions. You could tell by their first steps. You could tell by their speed. You could tell by how they moved.

I’m sure some of the speed issues were because of the weight. You could see the Hill players coming to the line of scrimmage very slowly. You could see how they gave up on plays.

I don’t think it was a lack of effort, though you could tell by the body language that Hill was beaten.

One other thing that really surprised me was the lack of fans in the stadium. My memories of CCS Football was of packed fans from both sides. There were very few fans from either side at the game. The Valley is definitely changing.

My critique of the players fitness is nothing against them…or the coaches. They are boys who are learning and trying to improve as individuals and a team. I’m proud of them for going out for the team. I’m proud of them for putting it together to have one of their best seasons.

And I’m proud of them for just showing up. And they didn’t give up. At the half, Hill started with an onside kick which they recovered. They then proceeded to march down the field and score a touchdown.

But it does show how important being an athlete and having athletic skills are for success in youth sports. I wonder what the Hill coaches are doing to improve their teams fitness and athletic skills over the course of the year.

Nov 21

Kids Slower Than Their Parents: What Coaches Should Do

By RonUsher | Running faster for kids

These kids could use some running technique instruction.

In a new longitudinal study covering 28 countries, researchers found that kids are running slower than their parents.

About 90 seconds slower than in a mile run.

There’s obvious problems with this. A lot can be traced to overweight issues caused by poor diets and lack of exercise. And there’s obvious health problems caused by this.

But what about you as a soccer or basketball coach? Or any other youth sports coach. How does this affect you and your team?

I think that one of the reasons kids are slower is because they don’t move as much as we used to. And they don’t do it from an early age. It isn’t one year of inactivity. It’s the 8 previous years a nine year old didn’t move.

They don’t get the same physical benefits. Their muscles, bones and neuromuscular system doesn’t develop efficiently. Not only will they be slower…they won’t have the endurance.

Any coach who is working with young kids and athletes should be working on developing their running skills. You need to teach running technique as well as using training techniques that will affect their motor systems.

Teaching a few drills to work on posture, leg strike/recovery and rate will go a long way to making your team faster.

And doing short sprints at fast pace (80, 85, 90, 95%) will improve their conditioning.

Just thinking that playing during the game or practice and doing long runs will make them faster is a mistake.

I wrote an ebook that I’m giving away if you want more tips and techniques on how to teach running technique to your team.

It doesn’t have to be a long drawn out affair.

You don’t need to be an expert running or track coach.

You’ll see results quickly and it will improve all aspects of their game.

Send me an email or make a comment and I’ll send you the ebook. I’m in the process of rewriting it but it’s still a great little book.

Nov 20

Personal Trainer Wanted for Athletic Skills

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Hope to have a new pic up soon. (And not a selfie.)

I’m Coach Ron Usher and I need a personal trainer and/or coach to help me in this online business.

Right now, I’m mostly writing blogs (which is great for SEO) but soon I want to start making more products and increasing our markets.

I need help with someone who works with kids and maybe is looking to find more kids as clients. (I have no desire to do that).

Perhaps you’re looking to run some sports/fitness bootcamps for kids. It’s a great way to bring kids into your training business as well as make potentially a lot of money.

I don’t want to do that either.

If you want to have your own online business, make some products and do marketing, then we should work together. I’m more than willing to share. It’s tough in this Internet World and having a partner makes it much better.

Maybe even a couple of partners. There’s more than enough to go around.

If you’re really interested but don’t have experience with kids we can still work together. My background and passion is with kids and families but I’ve worked with adults and there’s a lot of ways we can work together.

So if you got here from my Craigslist ad, please leave a comment and your email and we can talk. Or if you just got here through an Internet search, let me know that too.

I’m in the South Bay, San Jose/Campbell area and preferably your within ten miles of here. If it gets too far away, it becomes difficult to collaborate. (You can tell I’m a teacher because I use “collaborate”.)

I wrote more about myself and this position. What I’m envisioning is that we work together for marketing and product development. We share the labor and the profit. (This is not a paid gig.) Check out my other blog post here:

At this point, I don’t think you would have to put any money into it. You would have to put your time and expertise.

Being up front, I’ve made a couple of hundred dollars online. I’ve spent a couple of thousand. It’s not easy. It always changes and there’s lots of ways to take your money.

I hope to hear from you soon. Respond through the CL ad or leave a comment here.

Let’s help kids and families get fit together…and make some money as well.

Coach Ron

Nov 19

Will My Kid Play High School Sports?

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

As a dad, one of my greatest pleasures was watching my son play high school water polo. I wish it had lasted forever.

Hopefully, this wasn’t taken when they were on the highway.

It didn’t…and it didn’t even end well. It was one of my most frustrating experiences too.

High school sports can be a great experience for kids and parents. For most kids it’s the end of their organized athletic career.

Sure, there are adult leagues and masters programs. And I wish there were more opportunities for more adults would play.

And there is Junior College sports teams. As a former community college coach, I think it’s a great alternative.

But what can you do to help your child play high school sports? They are extremely competitive and they do cut players. There’s no guarantee that your kid will play…or even make the team.

I spoke to one parent whose son was a pony league all-star. And yet his junior year in high school he couldn’t make the varsity baseball team. That’s some serious competition!

Here are the three keys to playing high school sports:

The Competitiveness of the School

A lot of the success of playing high school sports depends on what school you go to. Some schools are very competitive. Others are starving for athletes.

It doesn’t matter if the school is private or public. I know of extremely competitive schools in both categories in Cthe Bay Area. And the same goes on the other end.

So depending on the skills of your child, pick the appropriate school if you can.

The Sport Your Child Plays

Some sports are crazy difficult to play. Basketball  and baseball are always extremely competitive for the boys. And depending on the schools all the other sports can be as well. For the girls, softball and soccer stand out as extremely competitive to me.

Sports teams that are less popular tend to be easier to make. As a water polo coach we would take every athlete that tried out. Even if they could barely swim!

And some sports can take more numbers than others. Swimming, cross country and track and field usually field a lot of athletes. They are less likely to cut athletes.

Wrestling is another one. It’s not a huge youth sport and it’s very difficult. Not every kid is going to want to workout as hard as they do. And it’s only for boys. (OK, there are some female wrestlers but they are very rare.)

So, if your child isn’t able to play the sport they were raised on, try something else. The skills they learned playing youth sports will carry them well on to any sport they choose.

The Coach

The bottom line is that coaches play a big part in who gets to make the team and participate. Coaches that are focused mostly on winning and success on the field tend not to keep kids that can’t help them win. (Many college coaches are the same way, so be prepared if you’re thinking scholarships.)

Coaches that realize the importance of sport to the development and education of every child will typically find a place for almost every athlete.

We kept kids that could barely swim and had no chance of becoming successful water polo players. But they did improve, learned a lot and had fun. I am sure that they will remember their experience for their entire lives.

I think it was extremely worth while.


Remember when I said that my son’s high school experience didn’t end well. Maybe I was wrong.

Last night over dinner, he talked about how much he loved playing water polo. He talked about how he missed it.

I’m so glad. That was the best thing he could have said.

I hope your child gets to play high school sports.I hope they have an incredible time.

Nov 18

Mayo Clinic Get’s It Wrong

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Me, at two and half.

If you’re child is in youth sports or you’re a coach, you know how important it is for kids to be strong.

Besides improving their performance, being strong will also prevent injuries.

And being strong will also improve children’s developmental process. There are certain windows for growth and development in all areas of a child’s life. Neuromuscular, muscular and skeletal growth development is all improved when a child exercises. To not exercise and not get stronger misses out on important milestones.

I went and did a search on “Strength Training for Kids“. The number one site that came up was from the Mayo Clinic. You can read the article, but you probably know more than the person who wrote it. They certainly aren’t experts in kids fitness, development or strength training.

But there were a couple of things that were in the article that pisses me off. And the number one thing was the advice to not exercise if you’re not mature enough to follow directions and do it properly.

What the hell? I guess if you can’t exercise properly, you should just sit on the couch and play video games. God know you might get hurt if you do a push-up wrong.

To me, following directions and being safe is not running out into the street when cars are coming. It’s certainly not having to do an exercise perfect.

First, there is no perfect. Every body is different. Expert athletes are always looking for perfect their moves. And they are looking for new perfects.

There are probably 20 ways to do any exercise wrong and the vast majority are not going to hurt you. Doing a push-up with your head up, your elbows out and your back swayed is not going to hurt you. Doing fifty like that might…which is why you don’t make kids go to failure. But one or two…or twenty? No way.

Kids improve by doing. If they are over corrected and over instructed they hate it. Our bodies were made to learn, improve and grow and a lot of different ways. As they do more, they will be able to have better form. Their bodies will learn how to move correctly and safely on their own.

The second part that pisses me off is to “seek qualified instruction”. Now, I’m very qualified. I’d like to think of myself as an expert. But kids don’t need me to get stronger or do different types of strength training.

And if you’re a parent or coach, I’d be glad if you bought my ebook. Or sign-up for my newsletter. But you don’t NEED an expert.

What you need to do is get the kids outside and get them playing. Get them wrestling, climbing, running, jumping, swinging, and swimming. Get them moving.

The rest will take care of itself.

Coach Ron Usher writes about youth sports and coaching. He also writes about youth health, physical education and adapted physical education.

Nov 17

Do You Think Your Kid Is Going Pro?

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

But think of all the money they will make!

The other day I did a search of other blogs that are about youth sports. One of them that caught my eye was called, “Your Kid Is Not Going Pro”.

I clicked the link and I saw it hadn’t been updated in a couple of years. I then went to the next link. That too hadn’t been updated. It was a learning experience for me as I saw that a lot of people are interested in youth sports and that some big companies have bought out other companies for the blog.

Eventually, I found the author of the site alive, well, and blogging. And here is his blog about youth sports.

I love the title of the original blog and I see that Bob Cook is still following the theme. It’s amazing to me to see that some of his posts are getting over 2,000 views. That’s pretty impressive, even if it is hosted by Forbes.

Bob Cook is the author of the blog. He is a father, a youth coach and a writer. I don’t know if he’s a better father or coach than me, but he’s probably a better writer. He’s even written for Time magazine. I didn’t even know they had a section about youth sports.

He has an interesting and insightful view of youth sports issues. From reading some of his posts, I think we agree on a lot of issues. Most of his posts are about youth sports in the news. I try to focus more on youth sports, athletics, and how kids can be better athletes.

But there’s a lot of cross-over and I encourage you to read his blog.