Some Travel Softball Facts

Softball for Girls shares some advice and wisdom from softball veterans for the neophytes.  It’s an opportunity to hear what the “tried and true” players and parents have gathered through their softball years of experience:

  • be aware that a lot of younger players will outgrow the sport by the time they reach highschool, so be mindful of your expectations and your expenses
  • some game days are just not going work at all for the team, that’s just the reality of sports
  • sometimes when things don’t work on a team and you switch to another team, and the same things happen, you may want to take a look in the mirror
  • most coaches are working their hardest for a team’s success and sometimes the coach may not be the best, but that’s a good life lesson to learn
  • not every player is an elite player, play for the love of softball
  • keep the 24 hour rule in your forefront and work on waiting 24 hours before you address a situation

Just some things to think about.  Mostly, remember that softball is fun.


For details:  10 Travel Softball Truths

Check out:  Future Stars Softball Camps

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Horse Training Tips from a Rodeo Champion

Horse Network shares tips from Clay Smith, a 25-year-old cowboy from Broken Bow, Oklahoma, who holds four-time National Finals Rodeo (NFR) qualifier and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PCRA) 2018 World Champion header.  No matter what your equine passion is tips on how to be a better rider and how best to work with your horse is always helpful:

  • Horses need physical  and mental breaks – practice is important however, both you and your horse need to find time to escape the rigors of a schedule and find time to have an enjoyable relaxing ride.  Both of you need a break once in a while.
  • Expose your horse often and early to uncontrollable events that happen at equine events.   When you know what triggers nerves, you can help them overcome their triggers.
  • Sometimes no matter what you do, you just don’t get the recognition.  Give yourself ten minutes to be frustrated and upset.  Then figure out the misstep, refocus, and get right back in the ring – wiser from having learnt from your disappointment.


For details:  We May Ride in Different Saddles But We All Mount From the Same Side

Check out:  Future Stars Horseback Riding Camps

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Horseback Riders, What’s in a Tack Trunk?

Ellen Brunelle shared with SmartPak some of her tools of the trade that she has in her tack trunk.  Ellen has had her own horse since she was 13.  And her current, best equine friend, Nemo is a 14-year-old Morgan gelding. Ellen and Nemo spend time together having fun at jumpers, trail riding, hunter paces, and dressage.

Having owned horses for many years of her life, Ellen has acquired quite a lot of tack and horse care supplies.  Here are some of the things that she has in her tack trunk that might be of use to you and your best equine friend:

1. Vetrolin Shine – Ellen uses this daily when grooming.  Ellen finger picks instead of using a brush and finds this product loosens tangles and adds shine to hair and coat.

2. EquiFit Clean Balm – Ellen uses this product for superficial wounds and finds it helpful with tick bites.  It is easy to use and designed to kill fungi, viruses, and bacteria.

3. Sore No-More Classic Liniment – Ellen rides Nemo 5 days a week and notices that sometimes he has sacroiliac joint pant (SI) and stifle soreness.  Together with an exercise program designed to strengthen these areas, Ellen applies this liniment after rides.  It seems to help Nemo’s muscles and soft tissue to relax and recover.

4. Woof Wear Sport Brushing Boots – Ellen uses this leg protection for Nemo every day whether they are doing flat work,  jumping, or trail riding.  They are well-made, durable, and they don’t absorb water.

And here is Nemo’s favorite, SmartCookies.  Fun treats that don’t have added sugar and come in different flavors.


For more details: Peek in My Tack Trunk: Ellen B.

Check out:  Future Stars Horseback Riding Camp

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Parents, On Edge at Swim Meets?

Is it the sweaty palms, or a slight impatience that gives away that you are feeling nervous before a child’s swim meet?  Not uncommon, but important to remember that how you respond to pressure may also affect your child’s emotions as well.  A tense child will more than likely not swim as well their counterpart who is relaxed and having fun.  Swim Swam shares some parental tips for staying cool:

  • Maintain perspective – remember each race is an experience for growth, you are the parent be supportive and offer encouragement and let coach coach.
  • Breathe – be mindful of your breathing, it helps.  You can even find an app to help with it.
  • Cheer – cheering the team on can be helpful.  Swing into the fun of things.
  • Walk – walk around during warm-ups, this will help free your mind.
  • Focus only on what you can control – don’t worry about the things that you cannot change and focus on what you can
  • Be in the moment – enjoy the moment that you are in, don’t think about past events or what can happen in the future.

What has worked for you?


For details: 6 Parent Tips About Nerves at Meets

Check out:  Future Stars Swim Camps

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Swimmers, Are You Incorporating Swim-Specific Strength Based Training?

Over the years, multiple studies reveal that proper strength and conditioning boosts the potential for increased performance in sports.  Swimmers, you know strength based training is great for all athletes in every sport, but did you realize that there are techniques for swim-specific strength based training?  Here are some of the the benefits of strength based training for swimmers that Swim Swam shared:

  • helps to prevent injuries –  a good strength training program is good for “fortifying the skeletomuscular system by increasing it’s resiliency to imposed demand will greatly affect the body’s ability to prevent injury before it happens.”
  • improves reaction time and coordination – having a good dryland program is good for “increasing the general coordination and overall functionality of their body.  Not only does acclimating an athletes overall body awareness help them in other aspects of life but will increase their central nervous system’s ability to adapt and learn new techniques in the water essentially making them a better swimmer.”
  • better starts and finishes –  a solid strength training component for swimmers reinforces the “ability to produce enough power to extend your entry point into the water and be quick in and out of the first turn, which is hugely dependent on your overall mobility and strength. Increased strength and power will improve upon those few variables (reaction/coordination).”


For more details and videos:  The 5 Benefits of Swim-Specific Strength Based Training

Check out:  Future Stars Swimming Camps

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Should Young Tennis Players Be Strength Training?

Scott Riewald, of Active kids, weighs in on strength training for youthful tennis players.  Tennis games are faster and players are hitting the ball harder from everywhere on the court.  Coaches, parents and players are adding strength and conditioning programming as part of their tennis training.  However, there are a lot of questions about starting this kind of programming with young children and here are some of them:

What are the goals/ benefits of strength training?

  • Strength training for tennis can help to prevent injury and enhance on-court performance.  Certain exercises can strengthen the muscles of the rotator cuff to maintain a proper strength balance in the shoulder.
  • Goal of strength training for young kids should be to increase muscular endurance.
  • Switching the goal of strength training to increasing maximal strength should happen only after a player goes through puberty.

Is strength training safe for young players?

  • Realisticially, it is important to accept that injuries may occur with strength training. Keep in mind that almost all physical activities or exercise has some level of injury risk.  Professionals agree that the youth strength training can be safe and effective with competent coaching that includes proper supervision and demonstrations of the proper form.

Isn’t there a risk that growth plates will be damaged?

  • “The fact is that no growth plate fractures have been documented in athletes who engage in a resistance-training program that follows the two guidelines listed above.  “To minimize the risk of injury to growth plates, it is recommended that, “players do not lift heavy weight over their heads or attempt to lift extremely heavy weights. Growth plate injuries should be taken seriously because they can happen. However, with proper care the risk can be almost eliminated.”

What exercises are appropriate for young players?

  • Body weight exercises that use the athlete’s own body weight as the resistance such as  push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups (crunches, bicycles, etc), “supermans”, body weight lunges and squats, and step-ups.
  • Using stretch tubing to perform shoulder internal and external rotation exercises to train the muscles that make up the rotator cuff and rowing exercises to train the scapular muscles that also control shoulder movement.

What are some other factors to consider when looking at a strength training program?

  • Emotional and physical maturity of the child.
  • Is the equipment to be used sized appropriately for the child?
  • Are the trainers appropriately trained to responsibly and safely work with your child to ensure injury-free strength training that meets the individual needs of the player and their sport of choice?

Always remember to consult with your child’s personal health care professional before you make any decisions to enroll your child in a physical training program.


For more details: Strength Training for Young Tennis Players

Check out:  Future Stars Tennis Camps

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Making Tennis Fun for All Levels

Most everyone who plays tennis, enjoys it and loves it, so much so that tennis is a sport that appeals to all ages.  People of all levels and ages populate tennis courts all over the world.  Tennis is fun.  When you throw the word lesson after the word tennis, does it sound onerous?  Well if it does,  Avery Shackelford of mytennislessons.com has ideas to emphasize the fun in learning tennis at different levels. Here are some of them:

For beginners:

  1. Repeating fundamentals and setting goals is important for beginners.  One good drill is have two players on opposite sides hit the ball back and forth as many times as possible. Have them set a goal to hit five, 10 or 20 shots in a row and increase their goal as they meet their target.
  2. Tennis is about knowing your fundamentals but fitness is a vital part as well.  Here’s a cardio drill to work on, “one person stands between the baseline and service line, racket in hand. The person on the opposite side of the net does not have a racket, but hand feeds the ball to the other player. The player with the racket then hits the ball over the net and the feeder tries to catch it in the air or on the first bounce. After the ball is retrieved, both people sprint up to the net and switch racket and ball, then backpedal to their starting positions. Repeat the drill several times and include a point-keeping system for balls caught.”

Intemediate level:

  1. Live ball drills are challenging and develops the ability to plan points and mentally prepare for competitive play.  Keeping score at this level draws out the competitive spirit.
  2. Serving is one of the toughest components of the game and it’s importance can not be ignored.  A drill that helps emphasize the importance of serving is allowing each player only one serve.  One chance at a serve quickly reveals the value of a good serve and emphasizes the importance of focusing on consistency and control.

Advanced Players:

  1. Improve your aim.  Create a smaller court and play a point game in which the only part of the court that’s in is the doubles alley.   Have both players start on the deuce or ad side of the court so that they’re practicing down-the-line shots. Switch sides for every round. To make it more challenging have players  stand crosscourt from each other.
  2. One player is only allowed to hit down the line and the other is only allowed to hit crosscourt. Switch roles after each game.  Shot placement, ability to control the ball, and footwork are at the core of this drill.


For more details: 14 Ideas to Make Tennis Lessons Fun at Any Level

Check out:  Future Stars Tennis Camps

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Another Way to Wear a Baseball Glove?

Rob Tong of Youth Baseball Edge, shares what come as a suprise to him – another way to wear a baseball glove.  Well, there was one variation, putting your hand in the glove and either leaving the index finger out of the glove or putting it all the way in.

Rob noticed that most pro-baseball players do not slide their hands all the way in to a glove, rather they leave the palms of their hand outside of the glove, that’s right outside of the glove.  Rob shares images of players like Cubs SS Addison Russell, Tigers’ second baseman Ian Kinsler and Giants’ second baseman Joe Panik,to name a few.  Even catchers and pitchers seem to wear their gloves that same way with the palms outside of the glove.

Here are some reasons why they wear them the way the do:

  • creates a smoother hinge action with the glove
  • makes the glove an extension of fingers
  • it helps to create an air pocket so balls sting less

In order to regain control of the glove fingers, players:

  • put both their pinky finger and ring finger into the pinky slot of the glove
  • put their middle finger into the ring finger slot of the glove
  • put their index finger in the middle finger slot of the glove

Consequently, the index finger slot is empty, anyway most players who put their entire hand in their glove, typically leave their index finger out of the glove.

How is this applied in younger players?  With youth players the dilemma lies in that their fingers are more often than not shorter than adult players,though they may fit into adult size gloves.  Rob suggests that, “youth players who are comfortable catching balls to give this method a try”.  If they are unable to open and close their glove comfortably, the wait it out until they can. If they are able, you should consider switching over to this method.  Each player is unique and there is no age or grade level that this change can be implemented, but rather use an individualized evaluation.

For images, greater details and comments:  Pro Tip: An Advanced Way To Wear A Baseball Glove

Check out:  Future Stars Baseball Camps

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Understanding Injury Precautions During Growth Spurts

Dr. Dev Mishra of Soccer America shares, “A recently published scientific study following young male soccer players at an elite Dutch soccer academy shows that the injury risk is quite high.”  “In this well-conducted study the researchers found a substantially higher injury burden in the U-16 (48%), U-15 (28%), and U-17 (21%) age groups compared to the mean. The six months following peak height velocity were identified as the riskiest time period.  Peak height velocity (PHV) is defined as the moment of the largest increase in body height, and happens during puberty. It’s been suspected that a decrease in flexibility during the growth spurt may result in increased vulnerability to injury.”

Dr. Mishra shared that even though the study was only on male soccer players, it was a reasonable assumption “that most young male and female athletes in multiple sports would experience similar risks in the six months following their peak growth spurt.”

Therefore, parents and coaches of U-15 through U-17 players should be acutely aware of the risks and take extra precautions to lower the risk of injuries.   Most acute injuries are quite impossible to avert but there is the possibility to impact reducing overuse injuries.   Here are some things to do:

  • Pay close attention to training loads and work on keeping reasonable levels
  • Be vigilant about recognzing injury and do not hesitate to remove an athlete from play.
  • Consult a qualified professional to determine a player’s readiness to return to play
  • Removing a player early from the game may substantially reduce the number of days out


Read for important details: Teenage growth spurt: A risky time for soccer injury

Check out:  Future Stars Soccer Camp

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Tips to Help Manage Multiple Soccer Players in the Family

Youth Soccer shares some tips from a Michigan family that has 3 soccer players and another child with their own calendar of activities.  How full is that schedule and how do they manage to get everyone to practices, games and tournaments?  Organization is key as is building relationships with other soccer parents to set-up reliable car pools.  Here are some of the organization tips that the family uses:

  • create a calendar that houses each child’s schedule
  • connect with other parents and come up with a sustainable, comprehensive car pool plan
  • use a color code to represent each child
  • link the calendar to your phones and make sure you have reminder alerts
  • update the calendar regularly for changes

When going on longer road trips:

  • bring a canopy and lawn chairs
  • fill your cooler with drinks and food
  • have a good first aid kit

As with most sports, parental time and committment is a given.  Make the most of this family time, as we all know, children grow up quickly.

For more details: How to Balance a Family of Three Soccer Players

Check out:  Future Stars Soccer Camps

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