Monday, January 29, 2007

The Opposite End of the Spectrum

Describing the Process of Player Development

In the last few years, Michael Lewis's book Moneyball has received a lot of attention because of the Oakland Athletics successful run through the competition with a medium sized payroll. Oakland's scouting techniques have been hailed as an effective way of evaluating talent throughout the amateur ranks. Many business professionals have looked at Moneyball as a guide to set up productive company employee models.

One book, published in 2005, has been overlooked in the wake of Moneyball. Authored by Bill Shanks, Scout's Honor, is a rebuttal to the opinions and techniques expressed in Moneyball. Mr. Shanks takes readers through the Atlanta Braves Player Scouting and Development System. He describes how the Braves draft players and provides insights to what the organization concentrates on when looking to select an amateur player. The book actually takes the reader through a few case studies that follow players all the way through to the Major Leagues.

As a coach, both books are an awesome resource for building a program. I look at both of these books as an approach to strategizing the game. Moneyball is an offensive approach, while Scout's Honor is a pitching/defense approach. When put together, it can be a dangerous combination. High school coaches have an opportunity to play both sides of this debate. By incorporating a offensive philosophy that produces walks and high on-base percentages fulfills that Moneyball criteria. This approach led to an abundance of opportunity to scoring runs.

On the defensive side, if you practice the development of pitchers, like the Braves model, games could be won or lost on the mound. Atlanta’s developmental philosophies hinged on getting young players innings, no matter what projection they labeled the player as starter, reliever, or closer. Furthermore, Atlanta’s pitchers trained under Leo Mazone’s belief in throwing during the off-season for an extended period. He believes that the more a player throws the baseball the better pitcher they will become.

In conclusion, both books give coaches an avenue to improve their team on a yearly basis. I think by reading Scout's Honor I have expanded my knowledge on player development in the amateur setting by giving players the innings needed to improve. Also, looking a players from a "make up" aspect instead of a "production" aspect. One outcome of reading this book might be that a player's make up leads to their production. Whatever the differences between each selection, both are worth the time to consume the information.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Where has it all Gone?

Is Sportsmanship Dead?

Like our society, sportsmanship has really changed over the last 20 years. Today, high school athletes have many different factors that affect the way they look at treating opponents, officials, and team members. These new variables have led athletes down a dangerous path toward negativity and unconstructiveness. Not only does this develop a sense of pessimism toward athletics, but overall bad feelings about today’s younger athletes.

Advanced technology was helped shaped the way athletes treat each other. The Internet has played a large role in how students communicate. Now, chat rooms and websites offer high school students a chance to interact with one another. When used appropriately, these can be very productive in helping students develop relationships. Often, this is not a popular approach in using updated technology. Instead, many high school athletes tend to visit websites that allow negative information to be posted by members of the site. Usually, these sites do not require members to use their real names. So, athletes have a free rein to banter back and forth with absolutely no accountability for their words. Frequently, this practice has resulted in verbal or physical altercations on and off the playing field.

Parenting attitudes and actions have helped instigate increased bad behavior of high school athletes. Being a poor role model is one way parents have assisted in the influx of negative sportsmanship. For example, during a 2004 high school basketball game in Pennsylvania where a parent body slammed a referee for ejecting his wife from the game for using obscenities. These kinds of incidents have helped high school athletes view violence as an acceptable reaction to unfavorable outcomes. Behavior like this has been highly publicized in the media, causing many organizations to become advocates for better parent behavior. In fact, the International Institute of Sports for the last 16 years has promoted a National Sportsmanship Day. Many famous athletes have jumped on board like Lance Armstrong, Chris Spielman, and Jennie Finch.

Practicing a team concept is another element of sportsmanship that has deteriorated in high school athletics. Today’s players seem to have a very selfish outlook on athletic involvement. This type of attitude has trickled down from professional players through the college ranks. Now, today’s best players often find themselves on the worst teams because their attitude is not conducive with creating a winning environment. This trend provides evidence that often players put their individual wants against vital team needs. In previous athletic environments this type of attitude was not accepted in sports.

In conclusion, today’s athletes must fight off many distractions to practice proper sportsmanship. Athletes may even face peer pressure from teammates not to be a good sport during and after competition. To help remediate this increasing problem, coaches must provide proper instruction on the importance of good sportsmanship. Also, they must send a clear message that bad sportsmanship will not be tolerated within their athletic problem. By using this deterrent, coaches can hedge off embarrassing behavior of athletes in practice and game situations.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Trying to Change Pitching

The above address is an article that outlines the teachings of Dr. Mike Marshall. It is a interesting read about pitching and mechanical flaws that the "traditional" pitching motion produces. Marshall has a training camp in Flordia for pitchers that want a chance to pitch pain free, improving pitch velocity and breaking ball command. Enjoy!!!!!!!!!!

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