Can Anyone Become the Next Wayne Gretzky?

According to a recent article in Wired Magazine, Peter Vint, a researcher with the US Olympic Committee believes that athletic skills can be learned even to the Wayne Gretzky level of performance. Such talent has long been assumed to be innate. “Coaches tend to think you either have it or you don’t,” Vint says. But Vint rejects the notion that Gretzky-style magic is unteachable.

One thing the article fails to mention but that further supports the argument for training to a Gretzky level of performance is Gretzky’s commitment to practice and his attitude towards it summed in these quotes:

“The only way a kid is going to practice is if it’s total fun for him… and it was for me.”

“I wasn’t naturally gifted in terms of size and speed; everything I did in hockey I worked for, and that’s the way I’ll be as a coach.”

Read the full article at:

http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/magazine/15-06/ff_mindgames

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Why Not a Youth Sports Franchise?

Parents and coaches work hard to keep their children and players safe and maximize everyone’s enjoyment from the sport. However, parents and coaches often have limited experience with youth sports participation. Though they may have once been players themselves, the skills to be a good player and the skills to be a good youth sports parent or coach are quite different. It is a little like saying that because you can bake cookies you can run a bakery. Playing is about technical skills where as parenting and coaching are about educational skills.

This skill deficit is then compounded by turnover. Just about the time parents or coaches get good at their respective roles, the kids grow up and a new group of parents and coaches starts the process all over — Not exactly a model for long term success. However, the business world provides a great role model for how to deal with these issues and run a successful youth sports organization – the franchise!

In a franchise system, a franchisor sets the standards and provides an operations manual that franchisees much follow exactly to make sure that their business succeeds. The operations manual has been perfected over many years and with the experience of many franchisees. Thus, the operations manual is a proven path to business success. New franchisees don’t have to reinvent the wheel. They immediately start their business with all the skills of long term participants. New McDonald’s run as smoothly as the oldest ones even though the manager and crew may have just started. Now, why not take this model to youth sports?

Creating a Youth Sports Franchise 

Organized youth sports can do more than just setup game and practice schedules. It can also set the the right physical and behavioral standards that ensure that kids can enjoy sports over their entire childhood. These standards are not just codes of conduct. These standards are very detailed plans for behavior, instruction and participation.

Little League Baseball has implemented one step towards this with its new pitching standards policy which is shown below. Similar standards can be created in a variety of sports. Instead of taking away creativity or flexibility from coaches, these standards give coaches the benefit of years of participation and the input from medical experts. In order to improve, youth sports needs to implement more of these standards to help everyone achieve their goals – better kids playing longer and healthier.

Little League Baseball Pitching Standards The table below gives an overview of the number of pitches that will be allowed per day for each age group during the regular season in 2007.

League Age Pitches allowed per day
17-18 105
13-16 95
11-12 85
10 and under 75

The rest periods required during the 2007 regular season are listed below.

Pitchers league ages 7 through 16 must adhere to the following rest requirements:

  • If a player pitches 61 or more pitches in a day, three (3) calendar days of rest must be observed.
  • If a player pitches 41 – 60 pitches in a day, two (2) calendar days of rest must be observed.
  • If a player pitches 21 – 40 pitches in a day, one (1) calendar day of rest must beobserved.
  • If a player pitches 1-20 pitches in a day, no calendar day of rest is required before pitching again.

Pitchers league age 17-18 must adhere to the following rest requirements:

  • If a player pitches 76 or more pitches in a day, three (3) calendar days of rest must be observed.
  • If a player pitches 51 – 75 pitches in a day, two (2) calendar days of rest must be observed.
  • If a player pitches 26 – 50 pitches in a day, one (1) calendar day of rest must beobserved.
  • If a player pitches 1-25 pitches in a day, no calendar day of rest is required before pitching again.

Source: Little League Online (http://www.littleleague.org)