Category Archives: Football

Football specific issues that may be for both parents and players.

Football or No Football – That is the question!

The NFHS has instituted new rules for football for the 2014 season.  Many state associations have also added new rules.  And even state legislatures are limiting the amount of contact that teams can have in practice.  Here’s one example in Michigan as reported on ABC News.

Depending upon which side you lean toward, the new rules can be just about our Players collide during football game.children’s safety, or as some see it as the beginning of the end for contact sports in our schools.  Will high school football soon be a thing of the past?  Or is football too popular of a sport to legislate it away?  Where do we draw the line when it comes to our children’s safety?  When does it become an infringement on our freedom?

There are those who say we should do everything we can to make sure our kids are safe. But some people translate that into that our kids should NEVER get hurt or injured…something that is just not realistic in sports or in life.  Still others see this as another sideline to the national health care debate and whether or not the government can tell you what activities you can and cannot do.

We have all heard the stories and perhaps even know someone who has sustained a serious head injury playing football or other sports.  I once had a classmate who had a very promising future (He had been accepted to multiple Service Academies and had other scholarship offers as well,) until he had been speared covering an onside kick.  He went into a coma for months and even though he eventually recovered to a degree would never be the person he had been.  And yet we know others who have played football for many years and seemingly have never had a serious injury.

So again, where do we draw the line?  Where do you side when it comes to the subject of safety and contact sports?  This will be a topic for discussion on my new show, Healthy Kidz ‘n’ Sports.  So let you comments come forth.

One Place A Union Doesn’t Belong

Perhaps you’ve read some of the articles, or heard about this on the news:  In April, Northwestern University football players voted on whether or not to form a union.  Here’s a link to one of the articles.  There is a wide range of arguments and opinions on the NCAA and college sports in general.  I think a detailed poll would find that many people overlap in their opinions on the various issues.  I will outline what I perceive the main arguments to be and how I think they can be handled.

I am not a big union person.  Yes I grew up in Arizona but that only had a minor influence on my attitudes of unions.  My dad was in the plumbers union and he talked about the good the union had done.  I don’t believe unions are all bad but I have seen unions lie to their workers, just like they claim the big corporations do.  But this article is not about what I think of unions in general.  I am pro-Youth Sports, including college sports.  And I am in that group that believes that unionizing college sports would be the beginning of the end of college sports.  I’m sure you can imaging what that would mean for any levels below that.

I believe that the move to unionize college sports is rooted in two things, greed and misinformation.  Or perhaps more correctly, misperception.  Let’s look at the general topics and break down the arguments.  I do agree there are some things that can be done better.  But first let’s get back to the basics – a college football player, or a college player in any other sport is a STUDENT-ATHLETE.  And notice, the word STUDENT comes first.  Yes I know that most of an athlete’s time is spent being the athlete, to a degree.  But that doesn’t change who or what they are.  They are still STUDENT-ATHLETES.

Argument 1 – Pay for Student Athletes
HELLO – you already are being paid.  You are receiving tuition, books, and for some, room and board, thousands of dollars worth of EDUCATION.  You are getting your education paid for.  For many 100%, for many more, somewhat less.  But you are being paid to play your sport.  It is amazing to me that anytime you see this subject come up, how so many on the pay-for-play side overlook this important point, or they totally downplay it.

Several years ago, a girl who my daughter had played with and against in high school and travel ball, got a scholarship to a major D1 university.  Her dad shared with me how her scholarship was originally 49% which meant he had to pay about $12 grand a year if I remember right.  After her first week on campus, the coach called his daughter into her office and told her that he had more money and turned her scholarship into a full ride.  $25,000 or more (again, I don’t remember his exact figures) for playing softball.  Plus she now had the opportunity to get a college degree which we have all seen the studies that says that degree is worth thousands more in potential earnings over a lifetime.

Insurance for Student Athletes
I had never heard this until this last year, that there were examples of student athletes who had been injured playing who then had to rely on personal insurance to foot the bill.  I think this could be improved but it really isn’t any worse than when you played in high school.  In high school sports most schools now require that the student be covered on parents health insurance or purchase a supplemental policy through the school  (Usually very cheap, about $30.).  It is your choice to play sports.  You are not being forced to play (unless by your parents…lol.).  So just like if you choose to go sky diving, why should someone else be held responsible if you get hurt?   (“Well, the colleges make so much money”…..  uh huh.)  I do agree that college athletics is a bigger picture so from my limited knowledge (I don’t know how much the colleges actually do help out or pay), but I would not think it unreasonable that the colleges have a “supplemental” insurance that would add to the family’s personal insurance.

Students can’t work and are starving because they aren’t allowed to work.
My response when I hear this stuff starts with a B and an S.  For those of you younger than 30 that may not be aware, the reason the NCAA limits student athletes and does not allow them to work is a protection against the illegal recruiting activities that some schools did where players were paid for so-called “jobs” working for a booster’s company, yet never had to show up for work.  If you are a student athlete you have enough to do with your sports and your studies.  You don’t have time to work.  However, as far as lunch money, if you have received a scholarship so that your parents are not footing the bill for your education, do you really expect me to believe that Mom or Dad can’t send you a few hundred dollars a month for food or fun, after they are not having to shell out thousands for your education?  Sure, un huh.  Next.

“But the NCAA and the Universities are getting RICH off of college athletics.”
Perhaps you might want to look at the true financial reports of just about any school’s entire sports program.  Sure in many cases football and basketball bring in big money.  But that program also underwrites most of the rest of the athletic program at the school.  There are number of schools that don’t make very much money, even off of football.  And the MILLIONS of dollars a school gets for going to a bowl game????  How much are they keeping after they divide it up with the rest of the conference (yes, that’s right, the conferences and other schools in the conference share a portion of that money) and a few other places it may not mean as much as you think.  As far as the coaches who get the big bucks, many of them get the extra money from radio or tv programs, or other indirect pay. But even the ones that do get a big contract straight from the school, yes, that is another subject that goes under the topic of What Price Winning?

Lastly I will say this.  NCAA are you listening?  There is one area that I feel it would be appropriate to have some compensation for the STUDENT-ATHLETES.  If a school has one of those superstars, say like a Peyton Manning, or Reggie Bush, etc., and said school is selling shirts, uniforms, helmets, etc. with said superstar’s name on the product, I think a royalty should be set aside in an account.  And when said superstar GRADUATES from college with their degree, at that time they could receive a check for that royalty.  I think marketing a player’s name should entitle that player to some compensation if products are being sold.

College sports is one place a union doesn’t belong.  College sports is giving those players an opportunity to possibly step up and play pro some day.  An opportunity they would probably NOT get if they did not play that college sport.  They are receiving an education for FREE or for a greatly discounted price.  They are in essence being paid.  You know what has happened to many businesses over the years directly or indirectly because of unions.  If you like your college sports, then I think you should keep it one of the  places a union shouldn’t be in.

Coach Mike


Catching up….

Greetings Fans:

I am finally getting caught up on my “daily” chores.  You will see a number of posts today as I update the links and highlight past shows.  Here’s the link to the September 10th show with Los Angeles Times High School Sports Columnist Eric Sondheimer.  Be patient, we had a problem hooking up Eric’s call but we finally got him on.  We discuss Academic Probation, Transfers, and more CIF Sports, especially football.

Upcoming Shows include GOLF and SOFTBALL

Just a quick heads up.

I’ve been busy lining up some great shows for you.  This week it’s open conversation as I’ll be discussing a number of youth sports issues.  I hope you’ll join me by calling the show.  Do you have any pet peeves?  This is your chance to bring them to light on Kidz “n” Sports.

On August 13th I have a special guest on who teaches golf to young kids…at no charge.  On August 20th I’ll have a representative of ASA coming in which means we’ll be talking softball.  Who are these guests you might ask?  Sign up for my newsletter (see the button on the right), or you can wait until closer to showtime.

Teach first, win later….


Softball and Football – Those just starting and one who is finishing.

The next two weeks on Kidz “n” Sports look to be quite exciting, fun, and interesting.  We will be having one show with those who are just starting out in youth sports and one who has been coaching for a long time.

This coming Tuesday, July 23rd I will have as my guests the Norwalk Girls Softball 10u All Star softball team.  These young ladies have qualified to go to Nationals in Phoenix, Arizona and compete for the ASA National Championship in their division.

On Tuesday, July 30th, my guest will be Santa Margarita Catholic High School Head Football Coach Harry Welch.  Coach Welch is retiring following this season, his fourth at Santa Margarita and his 25th season as a high school head football coach here in Southern California.  He has guided three different high school teams to CIF Championships.

I promised you that I would bring some solid guests and deliver some good information and fun shows.  This is just the beginning.  Tell your friends about Kidz “n” Sports.

Finally – My Third Post on High School Tryouts

Well, that week went by pretty fast…..LOL.

I’ve finally gotten a chance to sit down and write my last blog in my series on high school tryouts.  As I had posted, our whole house was under the weather for a week or so and now that I’m in season I have seen time fly by way too fast.  But for those of you who are still with me, I present a synopsis of how I run my program and what I look for in tryouts.  Please remember, every program has differences and whether across the board or within one school’s programs, every tryout is different.

I’ve coached at a small private high school and at two larger public schools, counting my current position.  I’ve also coached one year of a JV program at a public school.  In my experience at my three varsity programs we often found ourselves needing bodies.  We would have anywhere from four to fourteen players tryout for the team.  These are new players, not the returning players.  And while I have cut a few players, I generally keep most of those coming out because of the low numbers.

I am quite sure there is probably not a coach alive that would not want to have skilled travel or club players on their team in any sport.  It not only leads to having a stronger team, but it is also easier on the coach in developing practice plans.  A coach can work on more advanced issues because he or she does not have to spend as much time teaching basic skills.  These players almost always have the basic skills down pat.  That doesn’t mean the coach can skip teaching basic skills.  It just means you do not have to spend as much time.

I remember after I had left the private school I coached at and was hired at Newport Harbor, a division one high school in the Sea View League, which at that time was arguably one of the toughest leagues in the U.S. as far as softball goes.  At one of the tournaments we were playing in, I ran into a coach that my teams had played against previously.  He asked me “So Mike, isn’t it nice to just be able to roll the ball out and let them play?”

Of course the answer is yes, if it were just that easy.

So what do I look for in tryouts and why did I cut the few players that I have cut?

First, I remember back to a philosophy I learned from the UCLA program originally although I’ve heard it repeated many times elsewhere.  There are only two things you can control in life, your attitude and your effort.  That is what I look for in my new players.  If there attitude is right and they are willing to give the effort, I am reluctant to cut those players, even when they are very raw and have a lot to learn.  That’s what coaching is about and that’s also what JV is for.  I have an excellent JV coach that is good about working with young players and teaching basic skills.  Obviously, if I had forty or fifty players trying out the young inexperienced players who have played little or no softball would probably not have a chance to make the team.  So far that hasn’t been the case.  What I have been blessed with are some remarkable young ladies who are willing to work hard and learn.  Sometimes these players only play one season.  Other times they have developed into pretty decent players, even if they were not super players that would go on to play in college.

I am willing to carry a slightly larger roster, say 15 or 16.  I am even willing to carry the limit of 20 players if I had that many while still leaving enough players for JV.  The reason I feel this way is that to me, playing high school sports is different than playing for a club or travel team for one big reason:  PRIDE!

Sure there is pride in winning a national title with your club or travel team.  But it is not the same as winning a league, city, or state championship with your high school team.  Most players will stay with a travel team for one or two years.  But you are at your high school for four years.  And there is something special about wearing your school colors, receiving your varsity letter, and representing your school before your friends.  I like to see as many players as possible have that opportunity as long as they are willing to work together and contribute as a team.  Talent is secondary to making the team.  Of course, I will put the best nine players on the field as the starting unit.

Most schools have students that through no fault of their own did not have the chance to play sports.  Kids are at the mercy of their parents.  Maybe they played at a middle school but just did not receive strong coaching.  And if the parents could not afford private lessons or club ball, is that the player’s fault?  It is easy to say that such a situation is not my problem.  My job is to put a competitive team on the field.  But especially if you don’t have large numbers trying out, if you want to build your program sometimes you have to be willing to take on a player who needs a lot of work but who has a great attitude and is willing to learn.

I am willing to teach first so I can win later.

I had asked for other coaches to share their philosophy with us so that you can see more examples.  I had a few tell me they would send something in but only one did.  Below is that coach’s story.

(I’ve received the following response from a JV coach, Patti Mascone)


In response to request for coaching philosophies, I am a JV softball coach at Atholton High School in Maryland, a medium-sized school in the suburbs known for academics.

The JV level offers a great opportunity for 9th and 10th graders who may not make the Varsity team (some don’t want to play Varsity because they may ride the bench). If we did not have JV, we would have to cut too many girls every year. I have to thank our county, Howard, and the high school, for instilling a lot of the fairness and communication into how our programs handle tryouts.

Of course, my tryout portion is based on those who have been “cut,” for lack of a better term, from Varsity, so that puts limits on what I am looking for. I can’t really pick kids to “pieces” of the puzzle, as that is more for the Varsity level. A JV coach needs kids who can play multiple positions and are overall players.

We have very few travel players in our district, so I spend a lot of time at JV level teaching the game to athletes who may not have had much softball experience. We are also instilling educational experiences to help the players in their future adult lives. So first, we have to look for athletes at JV level. For travel players that do come our way, we look for players who are good leaders, mentors, and teammates because of the variance in skill level. We have strict academic/homework requirements during the season, so we also want and have to take kids with good grades. I definitely read the honor rolls and ask the kids at tryouts to describe on paper their school activities and honors and what they would contribute to the team. I had one player who wrote such a great essay on her tryout sheet, I read it to the team as motivation.

I like to keep anywhere from 15-18 players, because at JV, we keep track of playing time and get everyone in. There are also injuries and other school activities to account for–we play three games a week once we get going (20 total). We have priority system so that kids can do both an activity (e.g., ROTC, band) and a sport to the satisfaction of all involved. However, academics and tutoring take precedence over softball in all cases.

It is imperative that a coach keep an objective grading sheet on each player at tryouts and that all prospects participate in the same drills. It is hugely beneficial to give the prospects a copy of a blank evaluation sheet or tell them what the categories of evaluation are prior to the start of tryouts. Of course, some things like “hitting form” will remain somewhat subjective, but by applying a number from a scale, the coach documents what the coach saw, which is better than writing “like her hitting form.” I also allow some time at the end of tryouts to redo a key skill evaluation or add one so that the kids know they were seen by me. (I typically ask the group what they want to show off.)

At the end of tryouts, each cut player is told why she is cut, in private. The player or parent of a cut JV player may discuss my evaluation and ask about evaluation criteria. The parent or player is not allowed to inquire, discuss, or know anything about the assessment of another player. I don’t and can’t discuss other individuals. I find that a total score keeps the decision and discussion more objective by allowing both a “points cut-off” and “highest point total.” Everyone is used to grading systems, so it works.

About 1/3 of the tryout score is based on sportsmanship, attitude, communication, and other teammate or team member qualities (such as the essay). This is so important. The coach also should NOT be fooled by first impressions. For example, I have timed how long it takes a fielder to make a play (and not just running), because some fielders who seem slow actually make quicker and more consistent defensive plays.

I also use the tryout sheet as a benchmark and go over this sheet with the player at the end of the season during individual evaluations; the player then knows what she needs to do to try and make Varsity the next year.

Because our system keeps all JV and V sports separate (they play at the exact same time), there is no concern about players going back and forth. You either play JV or Varsity. Of course, the Varsity coach can call you up, but once you go up, you stay up. This creates a lot more certainty for everyone involved.

(This is the coach’s personal philosophy and is not speaking as a representative of her school.)

I hope you can take something from our programs to help you in your own.  Or if you are a parent of a player trying to make a team, I hope these last three blogs have helped you understand the process a little better.  Next week I will talk about my policy for seniors.  Can a senior play on JV?  Or do you cut them if they’re not a varsity player?