Left-kicking daughter could benefit from soccer coach teaching her to use right foot


October 01, 2006|By CAL RIPKEN

MY 8-YEAR-OLD DAUGHter has played soccer for three seasons. She's right-handed in everything she does, but she prefers kicking with her left foot. That's been great up until now because her previous coaches have played her on the left side because everyone else kicks right-footed. When I mentioned this to her coach this year, instead of putting her on the left side, he's trying instead to teach her to kick right-footed. Should I talk to him about this, or just let him continue and see what happens?


DEAR BEN -- In most sports it is extremely beneficial to be able to use both sides of your body, whether that means your hands, arms or feet.

In any sport that presents situations in which a player is going to be defending you one-on-one, it is advantageous to be able to move in either direction comfortably. For sports in which shooting is involved, such as basketball, soccer and lacrosse, being able to use both hands equally well opens up better angles for beating the goaltender as well as for passing through the defense.

My guess is that since your daughter is right-handed in most things that she does, she likely will be able to kick the ball well with her right foot. It is important that she learn to use both feet if she is going to continue playing soccer as she gets older, so the fact that the coach is teaching her is definitely not a bad thing.

However, if your daughter doesn't experience some level of success on the field, there is a chance that she might get frustrated with the sport and stop playing.

So, I think that you owe it to her to have a conversation with the coach. Thank the coach for working on her weaker side, letting him know that you understand the benefits of her developing that skill, and if he might be able to let her play on her stronger side at least half of the time. Be professional and courteous and I'm sure that the situation will work out to everyone's benefit.

I spent $200 last year for a new bat for my 15-year-old son. Halfway through the season he stopped using it because his coach said the bat was dead. Now, of course, he wants a new bat. Can an aluminum bat go dead? And if so, how can you tell?

JANE GLEASON, Mansfield, Ohio DEAR JANE -- While I'm not an expert on aluminums, alloys and other composite materials, it seems logical that a bat could go dead as a result of metal stress accumulated over time.

However, I find it highly unlikely that a $200 bat, which should be of an extremely high quality, would go dead after being used by a 15-year-old for half a season. Just like anything else, bats can be defective. Most bats these days, especially the more expensive higher-quality models, have pretty good guarantees against defects.

Before you shell out another $200 or more for a new bat, I would send the bat back to the manufacturer and see if it offers to replace it. Most times the bat companies are more than happy to send out a new bat if there is any question as to the original bat's level of performance. If the company refuses or tells you that the bat is fine, then as a parent you have to decide what you think is best for your child.

I am a high school sophomore and play third, first and pitch. Can you recommend some good drills for me to keep in shape and keep my arm healthy this off-season?

JON WRIGHT, Pleasant Hill, Calif. DEAR JON -- It is important to remember that at some point during the year your arm needs to rest. This is especially true for someone who not only puts his arm through the wear and tear experienced by regular pitching, but also plays other positions on a regular basis.

A full season of pitching causes damage to an arm that requires recovery time.

It is best for young pitchers to take at least two full months off from throwing.

That rest time, known as "active rest," should include a mixture of distance running, sprinting, exercises to strengthen the legs, exercises to strengthen the core, flexibility work and rotator-cuff exercises.

After that, it is a good idea for pitchers to begin getting their arms in shape by playing catch and long tossing for several minutes a day. The duration and distance of the throwing can be increased on a weekly basis.

Pitchers also can work on various drills from shortened distances to help fine-tune their mechanics during this time. It is not until about eight weeks before the opening of practice that a pitcher should begin throwing seriously with a goal of being able to pitch two or three effective innings at full strength during the first week of practice.

A complete preseason throwing program and articles about pitching drills can be found among the archives for our Coach's Clipboard e-newsletter at ripkenbaseball.com.

Have a question or issue arising from your involvement in youth sports? Send it by e-mail to askcal@baltimoresun.com.

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