Awesome display of sportsmanship!

I absolutely love stories like this. This young man understands the ‘Attitude’ part of Hustle & Attitude.

I would imagine the young man has had great adults involved in his youth sports career that helped foster in him the attitude of sportsmanship he displayed before the game. 

Miller Time! Excellent Book about Great Coaching Family

miller-time-book While on a campus visit with my son to the University of Dayton in January, I came across a book titled Miller Time – Coach John Miller’s Story.  I was drawn to the title recognizing that Archie Miller is the head coach of the University of Dayton men’s basketball team and his brother Sean Miller is the head coach of the University of Arizona men’s basketball team.  My son has been accepted to attend University of Dayton and I am a University of Arizona alum.  Reading the back cover and the foreward (by another successful college basketball coach – John Calipari), I learned the book is about John Miller, the coaching Millers’ father.

John Miller is himself a legendary high school basketball coach in western Pennsylvania.  Over 600 career wins; 4 Pennsylvania state championships; runner-up once; 8 Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League Championships; 17 section championships; a .700 career winning percentage; and a record 111 consecutive section wins from 1990-1999.

The book is the story of a coach whose dedication to and caring for young people has touched the lives of hundreds in Western Pennsylvania.  The accomplishments, both on and off the court, of Coach Miller’s former players are a testament to his philosophy and style being more about developing the whole person and not just the basketball player.

I read the book because of the connection of the two coaches – one at my son’s soon-to-be school and the other at my alma mater.  I also expected to find some nuggets with respect to my Hustle & Attitude youth coaching philosophy.  I was not disappointed.  Here are some excellent pieces of advice for youth sports coaches from Coach Miller:

  • HUSTLE – “No matter what you’re trying to do, you have to just keep working.  You just have to keep banging away.  If it’s meant to be, it’ll come.  I wish there was more to it than that [keeping a positive attitude and working hard], but there’s not.  That’s it”.
  • ATTITUDE – “You never whine about calls.  You never celebrate on the court.  And you retrieve the ball for the referee with respect even if he is the worst referee in the world.  You hold yourself responsible no matter what.  No excuses”.
  • ATTITUDE – “A great mental attitude will overcome physical ability”.
  • “My yearly objective was always to get the maximum out of the total squad”
  • “Try to stay away from talking about winning.  The emphasis should be on working hard every day”.

Miller has a video series and runs clinics called Drill for Skill.  The core values are:

  1. Every child is an athlete.  And every child can become a better athlete.
  2. Talent is never enough.  With few exceptions, the best players are the hardest workers.
  3. We are teachers.  And the court is our classroom.
  4. Relentless focus on the fundamentals is the pathway to mastery.
  5. We know we’re not important enough to change the world, but we’re important enough to change someone’s world.
  6. Our lives are a series of habits.  It’s important to develop good ones at an early age.
  7. Trust.  It’s everything.

These values are great advice for coaches at all levels.  And probably my favorite quote from the book:  “Emphasize enthusiasm, hustle, and having a class attitude on the floor”.  You can probably guess why.

5 Reasons for Equal Playing Time (Plus 1!)

I came across this blog post over on League Network about whether children should get equal playing time in youth sports.  I agree with all 5 reasons Erik offers – and more.  The Hustle & Attitude philosophy advocates for each child playing an equal amount and getting the opportunity to play multiple positions.

  1. As Erik suggests, equal playing time allows each child on the team to grow; the skilled and less skilled alike.  It was always my plan to make sure that each player was better by the end of the season.  This can only happen if the player gets a chance to improve, in practices and games.
  2. The point about the children recognizing preferential treatment is a good one.  In addition to that position, it has been my experience that, particularly in recreational leagues, rather than resenting the lack of playing time for themselves, the really skilled players actually root for the less skilled players to do well when they get in the game.  I’ll never forget the reaction on my team’s bench when one of our 9-year olds got his first hit in a baseball game…you’d have thought we just won the World Series!
  3. Along those lines, getting his chance to hit just like the rest of his teammates no doubt contributed to the confidence of the player in the example above.
  4. The issue of money is a fact.  I have written before that one of the key distinctions between a recreational league and a travel / select league is that the parents that pay for their child to play expect that their child will play.
  5. I am happy to be associated with two leagues that include equal playing time rules:  BCNaz Kidz Basketball and Flag Football Fanatics flag football.  Where it isn’t in the league rules, Hustle & Attitude coaches make sure it happens anyway.

And for the plus 1…how about because it’s the right thing to do?!?!  Erik doesn’t mention this, but I firmly believe that, for children in recreational sports, equal playing time should be the rule and not the exception for all the reasons he mentions in his post and because it’s simply what’s best for the young athletes.

Leave a comment or send me a note – I’d love to hear what you think.

The Future of Youth Football

I came across an article in the New York Times about USA Football experimenting with what they are calling ‘Modified Tackle’ football for youth.  Then again this morning, Nancy Armour wrote about it in the USA Today.  I think this is a great idea.  I have written extensively about youth football – Hustle & Attitude is about providing positive  youth sports experiences for kids; and this includes safety as the minimum requirement.  Where football is concerned, the question of safety has been paramount over the last 18-24 months.   What USA Football is proposing is a step towards making youth football safer – which will make for a more positive experience for children.

Here are my thoughts concerning the NYT article:

  • Is this a crisis situation for football?  Participation among 9-12 yr olds is down 20% since 2009…that’s 20% fewer future high school players.  Where do 99+% of NFL players come from?  College football.  Where do 99+% of college players come from?  High school football.  Make no mistake, if kids stop playing high school football, the NFL pipeline will dry up.  Particularly in light of safer (at least statistically) alternatives like lacrosse and soccer (especially with the new rule eliminating heading below the age of 10).
  • To me, the only criticism detractors can offer is something along the lines of ‘it’s not real football‘…OK, and?  My reaction is similar to my disbelief with baseball coaches who balk at the institution of pitch counts for high schoolers…seriously?!? With all the data we have; doesn’t it just make too much sense to err on the side of caution?
  • What an interesting dichotomy in the responses from the heads of USA Football and Pop Warner football.  I  agree with the director of USA Football that “this is the future of the game”.  And on the flip side…what a very short-sighted view on the part of the Executive Director of Pop Warner.  Seems to me; one of them gets it and one doesn’t.
  • The comparison to youth baseball is a solid one.  Armour emphasizes this point in her USA Today article.  Currently, youth football doesn’t have a similar progression from t-ball to coach pitch to regular baseball with the pitching mound and base path distance differences…yet.  Flag football and this ‘modified tackle’ format might be the beginnings of this.  Something like going from flag football to this new modified tackle to real tackle at high school sounds reasonable.  See my previous post about the idea of ‘hit counts’ for another corollary to youth baseball that could apply to youth football.
  • I really appreciate seeing a recommendation for the children to play multiple positions.  This is a cornerstone of the Hustle & Attitude philosophy.
  • I’m not sure what to make of Jon Gruden’s comments.  There are a lot of smart people out there suggesting kids shouldn’t play tackle football (at least until high school) – I like to think I am one of them.  I agree with Terry O’Neil that youth shouldn’t play tackle until high school.  However, I don’t think Gruden is using the term ‘genius’ in a complementary way.  I’ve heard him hype football as a great game and enthusiastically support the game on Monday Night Football, but his comments here feel like at worst, those of a corporate shill mouthing the words of the bosses who have a game to protect and sell or, at best unenlightened, ignorant, and/or generally dismissive of the current realities.

Finally, a note of concern from the article:  the national rollout is several years away?!?  What are we waiting for; another 20% of children to lose interest in football?  This is a necessary move in the right direction that should be implemented immediately.

6 Steps to Success for High School Student Athletes

6-steps-book-coverMy dad bought me a book about preparing high school athletes for success.  The book is called 6 Steps to Success for High School Student-Athletes and is written by Alonzo Barkley.  Barkley is a former college and professional basketball player that now coaches high school in Alabama.

Although my focus is on youth recreational sports – essentially for children younger than high school age, many of the recommendations Barkley makes in his book are still appropriate.  As a Christian myself, I also appreciate the value Barkley places on his faith in becoming a successful student athlete.  The 6 steps are:

  1. Placing God First
  2. Learning How to Respect Authority
  3. Competing Academically
  4. Falling in Love with the Sport
  5. How to Beware of Distractions from Destiny
  6. Handling Success When it Comes

Steps numbers 2, 4, and 6 are right in line with the Hustle & Attitude methodology.  Reading the book reminded me that, even though most youth recreational sports leagues aren’t directly associated with a school; the children that participate are still students and are therefore student-athletes.  I will write more in the future about my beliefs with respect to youth recreational sports and the young student-athlete.  Step 5 is probably more geared towards a high school athlete in terms of the types of distractions that might tempt a student-athlete.

I recommend this book for middle school and early high school athletes and the coaches and parents who mentor them.  There is practical and inspirational guidance that can help them all succeed in sports, academics, and more.



When should Children start playing tackle  football?

I just came across this article from the New York Daily News where the author suggests that children should wait until high school to play tackle football.

The article references a couple of recent events –  Bo Jackson saying he wouldn’t have played football if he knew about CTE and Mark Gastineau’s revelation that he is dealing with several neurological issues. 

I agree with the author’s recommendation. Flag football is an excellent alternative to tackle for children before high school.

Make the 1st Practice a Success

Check out this post from the good folks at GameChanger with a Blueprint for day one of practice.  Although the author is speaking specifically about baseball practice, there is good advice here for all sports.

  • I really like the recommendation to have one-on-one time with each child.  Get to know them as early as possible.  I’ll add do whatever you can to learn their names as fast as possible.
  • Whatever age the children are, setting expectations is important.  What do you want them to call you (I recommend somewhere around 10 or 11 years old they switch from Coach Chad to Coach Millette), what are your hustle and attitude expectations, what are your team rules, etc.
  • A note about the recommendation about where to put your lefties in baseball (the author states “if you have any left-handed throwers, first base would be a good place for them to start”.  As a father of a lefty baseball player, I held off on limiting him to first base in the infield as long as I could.  He even played catcher (that’s him below).  Sure, as the lefty player progresses through their baseball career, they will likely be limited, but why limit them any earlier than you have to?

Jacen Catching

  • And, I absolutely agree with the idea of a fun activity to end practice.  Try to make the activity a skills competition.  Emphasize that the way to win the competition is to do the skill correctly.  You won’t even need a prize, just the fact of a competition will bring the best out of the young athletes.






Should Every Kid Play?

Good words from Joe Ehrmann via the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA).

The Hustle & Attitude philosophy answers the questions he poses.  Every child plays; they play equal amounts; and they get to try every position.

9 Things No One Likes About Youth Sports

I couldn’t agree more about the things Janis Meredith highlights in the below post as being unfortunate in youth sports today.–-and-one-that-really-stinks

Coaches who follow the Hustle & Attitude philosophy keep the 1st, 4th, & 7th items from happenning and go a long way towards eliminating the other 6 as well.