Our son is just finishing up his junior season of varsity football. He has done pretty well in both football and academics and wants to play in college. Do you have an opinion on the agencies that you pay to scout colleges for you (i.e. National Collegiate Scouting Association, ncsasports.org)?
- Therese Shock, Frederick
DEAR THERESE -- I have to admit that this is a little out of my area of expertise.
As someone who skipped college to pursue a dream in baseball, you might want to take my opinion with a grain of salt.
It is wonderful that your son has the desire to go to college and play football. It seems to be just a matter of finding the right college match. The idea of an agency that provides specific help I think is a good thing, but as with any kind of services you seek, you should educate yourself as much as you can. Talk to your son's coach, think of other parents who were faced with a similar situation, tap into the resources of your son's high school or write to a former athlete who went to college and has an advice column. I'm kidding about the last part.
I've failed to reach out and find my own resources in time for this deadline, but I do have a thought (might be considered a shortcut of sorts). Why not use the power of the media to get a few opinions? I'd like to appeal to anyone out there who has gone through this type of experience and could offer some advice. Write back with your suggestions and I'll help spread the word through this column and online.
Can you recommend any type of drills for catchers to build up their arms to help with throws to second base, and to help strengthen legs for crouching for long periods of time?
- Mindy Houck, Pylesville
DEAR MINDY -- There are two factors that affect a catcher's ability to successfully throw out runners at second base. One involves arm strength and the other is his mechanics or footwork. Just as a pitcher develops his mechanics to maximize consistent velocity and control, a catcher needs to apply the proper mechanics. Pudge Rodriguez has a very powerful throwing arm, but so do a lot of other catchers. He separates himself from the rest of the catchers because he combines a great arm with great footwork. Your footwork will allow the body to assist the arm, putting you in a better position to make a more powerful throw.
There are limits to the strengthening of one's throwing arm. Dad used to say you can't teach velocity, but you can build up your own arm strength to reach your potential. Long toss is the best way to develop arm strength. It is simply a game of catch with a great distance in between. Playing catch is seen as a boring part of baseball; therefore, most players don't throw enough. Work on your specific throws from behind the plate but try long tossing two times a week for about 15 minutes. The arm gets stretched out and strengthened at the same time. For fun, play long toss on a football field and use the yard markers to help you keep track of your improved distances.
As for legs, there is a great exercise that wrestlers do. Just sit against the wall with no chair. Have your back flush against the wall and your knees bent as if you are sitting in a chair, this builds great strength in the thighs. I also had great success in doing step ups and running stairs with a weighted vest for leg strength. Don't forget about plyometrics to improve the explosiveness required for catchers to get out of their crouch more quickly.
How do you get kids to improve their eating habits? I have a 10-year-old boy who is undersized and underdeveloped for his age group, and I think part of the reason is his eating habits. He frequently eats very little and sometimes skips breakfast.
- Bill Eng, Homewood, Ill.
DEAR BILL -- The breakfast issue is a big issue for many parents, this one included. There is no easy answer. Sometimes a little education for your child goes a long way. What I did with Ryan was simply make the connection between his food and his energy to play sports.
Once he understood that food was actually fuel for his body and the concept of needing food in the morning to "jump start" his system, it was much less of a struggle. When he was much younger, I told him different foods were for different physical skills just to get him to try new things. I said anything green was for speed (he never said, "Well Dad you must not have had greens growing up"), orange foods were for good eyesight, and potatoes and milk were for power. Desperate measures for desperate times.
I would guess that kids in general develop their own eating likes and dislikes. My Rachel would try most any food and has developed good eating habits from the beginning. Ryan is a picky eater but is branching out much more now at age 12. We as parents probably worry way too much about our kids' eating. What it all comes down to is the consistency of the example you set with your own diet. If you value breakfast, they will too.
Have a question or issue arising from your involvement in youth sports? Send it by e-mail to email@example.com.