Monthly Archives: January 2014

Jan 22

How to Entertain Your Team and Get Them Engaged. Part 1

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Goofing around is what makes sports fun for kids

Goofing around is what makes sports fun for kids

Let’s face it, swimming can be a pretty damn boring sport. You look at the bottom of the pool, staring at a line as your body screams in pain. I’m not sure how come kids do it.

But they do it in droves. You would think kids would quit after the first day but they don’t. They keep coming back.

As a youth sport coach, what do you do to keep your team entertained and to keep coming back? I watch the flag football league. There’s 200 eight and nine year old kids playing. But there’s probably only 80 ten and eleven year old kids.


One of the reasons is the coaches aren’t trying to entertain the kids. I don’t think they really care if the kids come back to the sport. They want success for the season. The want the kids to improve. They want them to learn. But they aren’t thinking about it like a business and getting the kids to return.

That’s one advantage that swimming has over a lot of sports. Most of the coaches are paid professionals. The health of the team depends on keeping kids on the team. If a coach isn’t fun and isn’t good, then families leave the team.

A fun coach is worth their weight in gold to a team, especially for the younger kids.

Think of your practices not just as practices but as opportunities for kids to have fun and be entertained. You’ll find them more engaged, learning faster, making better friends, and having more fun.

There’s lots of ways you can do it. To get your cerebral cortex going, read this article for personal trainers. Their livelihood depends on client retention.

Tomorrow, I’ll post some ideas for you to consider and try.

Coach Ron Usher

PS. This is true for PE teachers as well!

Jan 21

My Son’s Favorite Part of Playing Football

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Perhaps it is the clothes

Perhaps it is the clothes

Most kids like to play and they like playing sports. I think we know that.

I’m not sure we always know what the reason is.

Yesterday afternoon I was driving my eight year old son home from school. He’s a quiet kid so when he talks I try to pay attention and listen. I figure it’s pretty important.

He told me he really liked playing football on Sunday. He said it was really fun.

Of course, my next question was, “What was your favorite part?”

The answer I got pretty much surprised me. I thought it would be something like…

  • I liked playing with the kids
  • Scoring a touchdown
  • Making that interception
  • Having mom watch me
  • Running around
  • Learning how to hike
  • Playing with the kids after practice

Nope. Not one of those.

It was, “I liked getting the jersey.”

And the next part was even better.

“I really liked that it had numbers on it. And I got number 17 the same as Philip Rivers.”

Followed by, “And the color is cool because it matches my cleats.”

As a coach, a parent, and an organizer of many youth programs, I never thought that the equipment we used was much of an enticement for kids.

I’m going to have to rethink this.

Maybe it’s just my kid. He is quite the slave to fashion. And he is a gear nut. But still I think there’s more to it than I would ever suspect.

So it brings us to some considerations for coaches, parents and those who are setting up youth sport programs:

1. What do you do for your team’s equipment?

2. What do the kids really like?

3. What can you do to provide more equipment or team apparel to keep them engaged?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and creative ideas on this. Because I think it goes to more than just eight year-old boys.



Jan 20

A Dumb Strength Exercise for Youth Sports

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

This is one of the dumbest exercises I have seen a youth sport team do.

It won’t hurt the kids but it sure is a waste of time.

Yesterday, I was at my son’s 8/9 year old football practice. There were a lot of kids, a lot of moms and dads coaching and getting the kids going. The kids were having a blast.

I’m pretty sure that most of the coaches are just dad’s who are helping out. Some of them know a lot more about football than I do. There are some good drills set up and a lot of introductory plays for the kids to get.

There isn’t much time till the first games. In fact, only one week.

A lot of the teams do some form of running (more on that later). But I saw some teams doing the “Arms around in circles” drill.

arm circles

These are really dumb for youth athletes to do.

Why? Probably because it’s what they did in school (I know I did a lot of them). Also, there’s some soreness and pain that goes with the exercise. A lot of people equate that with getting in shape.

So there were three teams I saw spinning their arms in circles…forward, backward, big and small. Complete waste of time.

Push-ups are better. Want to work the shoulder muscles (deltoids)? Then have them take a push-up position, get their hips up as high as possible. And then bring their head down to the ground.

Besides working the shoulders it works the back and legs. It integrates all the muscles of the body working together.

And it doesn’t look as ridiculous.

Here’s an image of the starting position. Have your athletes do these instead.

Starting position for deltoid push-ups

Starting position for deltoid push-ups

Jan 18

Coach Gets Hurt Coaching and Sues. What Do You Think?

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

A new dangerous weapon

A new dangerous weapon

A little league coach is suing his team. Or at least he was. Someone threw a baseball helmet in the air and it hit his leg.

He got hurt, missed a lot of work and is suing for $500,000. The injury was a torn Achilles tendon which is no laughing matter. Besides the wackiness of it, this brings up some important points that I can relate to.

First and maybe most important is the risk factors of sports. The kids who play are at risk for injury. The coaches who are on the field are at risk for injury. The parents watching are at risk.

Everyone is at risk for injury. At any time and at any place. Everyone should know this and be aware of it. Coaches should explain the risks involved in the activity to the athletes and the kids. I know I did.

Perhaps the coach should have filled one of these out.

Perhaps the coach should have filled one of these out.

I once saw a catastrophic injury to a 16 year old swimmer who hit his head at the bottom of the pool. I always made sure that my team knew the risks of diving into the pool. I also made sure they knew the risks inherent in any activity around the pool.

Or course, I took as many precautions as I could to minimize, reduce and eliminate them too.

Now, is a flying helmet an intentional or even common source of injury? Probably not.

Second important point is the injury itself. I’ve had a torn Achilles and I doubt if the helmet actually caused the injury.

When mine hit, I was playing basketball with two fourteen year old girls. We were just goofing around and BAM it felt like someone shot me in the calf. I even turned around to look (after I feel to the ground), to see who had shot me. I also thought it might have been a tennis ball from a nearby court.

The coach is of the same age and size I was. These injuries are pretty common and they result from lack of activity, lack of flexibility, improper warm-up and probably a genetic leaning to getting them. They are not caused by a helmet hitting the calf.

The final point is a little obscure but it goes with coaching. In an episode of Paper Chase, the law students are asked to find out the results of a local case. The students search the law library and come up with a solution. Their tough teacher, played by John Houseman, says that the law books are wrong and challenges to the students to dig deeper.

Eventually, the protagonist figures out that he should ask the plaintiff himself. He thus finds out the complete story.

The point here is that there are always two sides to every story. And probably many multiples of two sides to every story. To get the complete truth of a story or a problem is probably impossible.

Keep an open mind when dealing with your team, people and stories you read on the Internet.

Have fun, be safe and don’t go throwing helmets!




Jan 17

Burpees to Develop Strength, Coordination, Endurance for Youth Sports

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Burpees are one of the best ways for kids to get fit for youth sports. They are a great conditioning exercise for all ages and abilities of kids. It’s funny though, I see few soccer, football or baseball teams doing them. And I never see middle school PE teachers doing them (or having their students do them).

Basic 4 count burpee. Add a push-up to make it 6.

Basic 4 count burpee. Add a push-up to make it 6.

I used to have my swim team do them and I thought they were  a great dry-land exercise. They worked a lot of core strength, explosive jumping and I could even have them work on their streamlines on the jump. Burpees are a very efficient and effective exercise.

But they can get a bit boring. So to keep things moving and to keep the kids engaged in what they are doing throw in some different types of them. Besides the mental benefits, it will work different parts of the body.

And whatever the sport your coaching, they can be adapted to be more specific for your sport. For instance:

  • soccer players perform dribbling with the ball or another ball skill,
  • basketball players practice dribbling while doing them,
  • football players use a football to practice tucking the ball and dropping,
  • all players can pass and catch back and forth, which every kid needs more practice at.

Here are some variations to try. All start from a standing position.

  1.  Eight count Burpee: 1) Drop. 2)Kick legs back. 3) Open legs wide. 4) Bring legs together. 5) down push-up 6) up push-up 7) Tuck legs in 8) Stand.
  2. Catch the ball Burpee: 1) Four count burpee (no push-up) 2) Hold on to a ball while doing the drill 3) When standing toss the ball in the air and catch it.
  3. Rolling Burpee: 1) Drop 2) Perform a back roll till feet touch ground 3) Roll forward till prone 4) Perform a push-up 5) Tuck knees up 5) Stand
  4. Jumping Burpee: 1) Jump to the left on one then perform six count burpee 2) Repeat to other side.
  5. One arm Burpee: 1) Place only one arm on the ground. Have football players hold a football with the other.
  6. One leg Burpee: 1) Use only one leg. Hold the other one up.

There are tons of others. I have about ten more that I think are very worthwhile. But be creative and experiment. You can use them every day but don’t do too many or go till the kids are exhausted.

As with all conditioning drills, keep it fun, light and challenging.

Here is one web site that shows some videos and images of burpees.

And here is one more burpee site. She’s pretty good at them!

Best of luck and let me know how it goes!

Jan 16

Twenty Drills to Improve Strength in Youth Athletes Using a Bench

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Typical youth sports team needing athletic skills

Typical youth sports team needing athletic skills

It doesn’t matter what sport you’re coaching or your kid is playing. They need help.

If they didn’t you probably wouldn’t be here looking.

Kids need lots of athletic skills help these days in a lot of areas. One of the areas they need it most is in strength. There’s a lot of books out there that show you how weight lifting exercises. Some of them even show pictures of Nautilus equipment.

Where, when and how much would that cost for your typical youth soccer, football or baseball team? And it probably isn’t even ideal.

Most weight equipment takes instruction, supervision and concentration. Does your typical 9 or 10 year old have that? I don’t think so.

The best exercises to use for kids are body-weight exercises. They work the whole body, they are functional and can be fun. But sometimes coaches and kids get bored with them.

So here is a fun way to use a common piece of equipment that most fields have hanging around. You can get a lot of kids using them at once so it’s efficient. Give some of them a try and see how it works for you.

  1. Push-ups with hands on the bench
  2. Push-ups with feet on the bench
  3. Clap push-ups with hands on the bench
  4. Alternating step-ups
  5. One leg squat with foot on the bench
  6. Side to side, stepping over the bench. Alternating feet on bench
  7. Side hurdle over bench. No foot touches the bench
  8. Run and hurdle over the bench
  9. Stand on bench, jump down and jump as quickly as possible up (plyometric drill)
  10. Sit on bench and perform V-up sit-ups.
  11. Bulgarian squat on bench. Rear foot on bench and squat down on lead leg
  12. Jump over bench
  13. Superman plank. Hold bench with both hands. Walk feet back as far as possible and hold.
  14. Bear walk length of bench with both hands and feet on bench
  15. Hurdler jumps. Both hands on bench. Swing both legs back and forth over bench
  16. Reverse push-up. Go under bench and grab. Experiment with different grip positions
  17. Mountain Climbers using bench. Works on running technique as well as core/leg strength
  18. Leg raises. Lay on back and put both feet on the bench. Alternate lifting legs up
  19. V-sit leg scissors.
  20. Isometric dead lift. Grab bench and try to lift it. Use good technique with knees bent/back straight.

There you have it. I have more bench drills that work on balance and running technique as well. I’m going to be putting them into a ebook form soon. But for now, I think this will give most coaches and PE teachers some new ideas to try.

Let me know how they worked.


Jan 15

Do You Use Equipment for Your Practices? Ideas to Think About

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Probably not efficient use of equipment for most teams.

Probably not efficient use of equipment for most teams.

I’ve never been a big fan of equipment as a coach or teacher. Here is why:

1. It takes up a lot of space. I live in a small apartment and don’t have any place to conveniently store it. My schools don’t have anywhere for me to store it. And I hate filling up my car with stuff. It already has way to much sport and APE equipment already.

2. It’s expensive. While I do get a budget to get enough equipment for all the kids in a class gets crazy expensive. There never seems to be enough money as it is.

3. It’s a pain to put away. I know…the kids should do it. But it’s tough to get it out to the field. And after practice they are usually gone with their parents faster than New York minute.

But recently, I’ve been thinking about using more equipment. I’m not sure where I’m going to store it but there are some great games and activities that teams and classes can do with equipment.

With that said, I’ve got three criteria that the equipment I use has to have.


There’s a ton of ways to use a bench. I’ve come up with at least 30!

1. Is it on the field already? Benches, bleachers, curbs, lines on a field…all can be used to supplement a practice or a class. Look around with a creative eye.

2. Do I need one piece of equipment for every kid or can I share? If I need thirty Hula Hoops that can be difficult to purchase, carry and store. But if six kids can share then I only need five (I’m good with math!). The more ways they can share a piece of equipment the better.

3. Is it fairly lightweight and store-able? It will take up less room in my car, in my apartment and less trips getting it out to the field. Bulky, heavy stuff isn’t fun to carry.

4. Is it well made and how long will it last? That’s one of the problems with using noodles. They can be a blast and give a boost of creative play experience to a team or class but they fall apart and don’t last long. (Some of my special needs students love to bite them and tear pieces off).

5. Can I use it for multiple uses and activities. One specialized piece of equipment might not be worth it. But if something can be used for a lot of activities then it’s more likely to be a good purchase.

6. Is it possible to make it? Or can the kids make it? PVC pipe is cheap and easy to use. There’s lots of ways that it can be used to build PE and sports equipment. It might be a lot cheaper than buying.

jump rope7. Can the kids use this at home? Jump ropes come immediately to mind as something that can be used on the field and at home.

8. Are there multiple benefits from using the equipment. For instance, jump ropes build endurance and coordination.


There’s my top eight thoughts about what equipment to buy and use. I’ll be staying with this thread for a while so stay tuned.