Balancing opportunities in life, sports can lead to difficult decisions

ASK CAL

Youth Sports

April 01, 2007|By CAL RIPKEN JR.

DEAR CAL -- My son is a junior in high school and the starting point guard for the varsity basketball team. Last October, the coach told him he should not join the team if he signed up for a school-sponsored trip to Spain scheduled for late February. The coach's reasoning was that there would be other players who would be more dedicated to being at every game who deserved the opportunity. My son opted to go to Spain. The athletic director, principal and vice principal were asked to deal with the situation and find a compromise, but they chose not to interfere. What do you think about this?

Cathy Daeda, New Berline, Wis.

DEAR CATHY -- I'm assuming that because your son opted to go to Spain, he can't play on the team. That seems a bit extreme, because I'm a big advocate of life experiences.

Certainly if he wanted to be a pro basketball player the way I wanted to be a pro baseball player, and he was in a position as a junior or senior in high school to know that he had a realistic chance to play professionally, then the choice becomes a little bit harder.

The possibility of losing a potential scholarship offer also would make the decision more difficult.

If he has value to the team and has been the starting point guard for a long time, a compromise should have been considered. It's difficult for me to comment specifically, because there could be more to the story than what I know.

Generally speaking, I'm a big advocate of life opportunities as well as sporting opportunities. If this decision involves a potential professional or college opportunity that might be on the line, then there are other things to consider.

But if this is about a normal opportunity to play high school basketball, after which his basketball career most likely will be over, then life decisions such as the one to go to Spain are more meaningful.

You go to school to learn a lot of things that prepare you for the rest of your life. Through school, we are afforded the opportunity to learn so much more than just basketball and what is printed in textbooks.

This is an opportunity for your son to learn, which he has every right to pursue. Based on what I know, there seems to have been an opportunity for a win-win here, and I'm not sure why a solution couldn't be reached.

DEAR CAL -- My 8-year-old son has poor throwing mechanics. He doesn't stay on top of the ball or make accurate throws. Are there any good drills to help? Jim Trader, Swansboro, N.C.

DEAR JIM -- Throwing is a difficult skill to master. In fact, it is one of the biggest problem areas we see in our camps.

The most common mistakes young players make are not taking the ball out of the glove so that the hand is on top of the ball, dropping the elbow below the shoulder at the release point and not taking the front shoulder and front foot toward the target (opening up too much or stepping away from the target).

When playing catch with your son, see if he takes the ball straight from his glove to a point behind him that is near or at his shoulder immediately. If he just takes the ball straight back, you might want to help elongate the throwing motion. By doing that, many of his throwing problems might take care of themselves.

This can be accomplished by having him take the ball out of the glove, then down, out and up (in a circular motion) so that the fingers are on top of the ball as it points directly behind him.

For the best results when throwing, the hand goes from being on top of the ball to behind the ball as the release point is approached. It is at this point that the elbow should be above the shoulder, with the front shoulder pointing directly toward the target.

If your son is not keeping his hand above the ball, have him exaggerate this circular motion out of the glove (have him brush his hand against his side as he takes the ball down to ensure the circle) and then stop him at the point where his hand should be on top of the ball. If it's not, go back and correct him.

Do this several times until he starts to get the feel for it. Be careful when doing this, though. By stopping him, you want him to get the feel for the proper throwing motion and see what you are talking about firsthand. However, to throw properly with the greatest velocity and accuracy, the throwing motion should be continuous. Make sure he isn't stopping every time he throws the ball when you are not working on his mechanics.

If your son still struggles with these concepts, you can have him throw from one knee with the glove-side knee up to concentrate strictly on the circular motion, keeping the hand above the ball until it is about to be released and keeping the elbow above the shoulder.

If the elbow drops below the shoulder at the release point, place a batting tee on his throwing side that is set at a height about equal to his shoulder level and make sure that his elbow does not hit the tee as he releases the ball.

These little drills, if done often enough, should train his body to throw the ball properly in practice and game situations.

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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