The equipment that accompanies sports such as baseball and softball has come a long way since the first mitts were made of flesh-colored padding with the fingers cut out.
But with technological sophistication comes confusion: How do you know which glove to get? Does a $300 bat really make a difference? And just how do you find the ideal equipment for your son or daughter without taking out a second mortgage on your home?
This Women���s College World Series will be a refreshing change of pace. Only two programs in the eight-team field at the WCWS this year have won NCAA titles since the championship began in 1982.
The teams still standing are: Arizona, Texas A&M, Northwestern, Washington, DePaul, Arizona State, Tennessee and Baylor. Arizona, the defending NCAA champions, is historically the most dominant team as they have won seven titles, including five trophies in the 1990s. Baylor, on the other hand, will step onto the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City for the first time in program history.
Surprisingly, for the first time in the 26-year history of the WCWS, a team from California did not advance to the eight-team field. However, this will be the first time two teams from the Chicago area (Northwestern and DePaul) will be making the trip to Oklahoma City. The two squads have combined for nine WCWS appearances -- never at the same time.
Tennessee senior Monica Abbott is a player to keep your eye on as she tries to surpass the Division I single-season strikeout record of 663 set by Southern Miss��� Courtney Blades in 2000. Abbott needs just 14 K���s to accomplish the task and add it to the long list of records she holds, including career wins, shutouts, and games played.
This year���s WCWS is shaping up to be an interesting one. Stay tuned for further news and commentary on this exciting tournament.
Divison I softball* playoff format has the Sweet 16 teams meet in best-of-three super regionals. Those super regionals begin today. The eight survivors advance to the women's College World Series, which starts May 31, in Oklahoma City.
I read something a couple weeks ago that made me happy: ESPN and ESPN2 will have more NCAA softball championship coverage this year than ever before. They���ve covered three regional games already from the UCLA site, and will air every game of the women's College World Series game.
Softball may have gotten the boot as an Olympic sport, but it is certainly thriving here in the U.S. Gone are the days of waiting until midnight or later to watch a tape delay of a handful of College World Series games. I look forward to catching as many games as I can. As of now I���m rooting for the other Chicago teams: Northwestern and DePaul (which, I have to sneak in here, my alma mater defeated this year.)
While growing up, I was a faithful subscriber to Sports Illustrated for Kids. One of my favorite parts of the magazine was a section titled, ���You Make the Call.��� There were three situations every issue that tested your knowledge on the rules of various sports.
Here is a Little League situation that I came across today. You make the call:
Runners on first and third, one out. Batter hits a fly ball to centerfield which is caught. Runner on first left when the batter hit the ball and before he could return, is doubled at first. Runner on third crosses plate before out is made at first. Does the run score?
Veteran 41-year-old striker Romario scored the 1,000th goal of his 23-year career last weekend in the second round of the Brazilian national championship.
One thousand goals scored. That���s amazing, even if Romario does count goals scored in training games and unofficial matches against small clubs towards the 1,000 goal tally. However, his tally reportedly had to be revised several times because he initially counted goals scored in matches that never happened and in games that ended 0-0. That���s bogus.
Three other players have scored 1,000 goals, the most notable being Pele. According to FIFA, Pel�� ended his career with a total of 1,281 goals in 1,363 matches, with his 1,000th goal scored when he was 29 years old. That���s what I���m talking about. Pele surpassed the thousand-goal mark by far and in 12 less years���without padding his own stats. Pele is still, in my opinion, the greatest player to have ever played the game.
On another note, while many Americans will be tuning into the American Idol finale tonight to find out if Jordin or Blake is going to win the competition (Jordin has my vote), there is another major event that I will be tuning into. Today held the biggest event on the European soccer calendar and I, along with many other soccer fans in the U.S. will be watching a replay of Liverpool versus AC Milan in the final of the Champions League. I���m a Liverpool fan so I���m hoping to see a repeat of the 2005 final, which Liverpool won on penalties after dramatically coming back from a 3-0 deficit.
Eric Josephs is the captain of Teaneck High School���s tennis team and has helped revitalize a tennis program that was in danger of not fielding a varsity squad. He is the only senior on a team of mostly beginners.
He also has his own way of honoring his late grandparents who had big roles in his life. Read more about how he remembers the days when they went to all his tennis matches, baseball, basketball and soccer games, and thanks them for always being there.
Ahhhh. Spring is in the air and so is baseball season! Is your child ready for the upcoming season? What about you? Are you ready for all the wins and losses, and the hits, runs and errors?
Almost every season, kids, coaches and even parents are faced with the same dilemma--youth baseball during the summer is supposed to be fun, but more often than not it just turns out being frustrating.
It seems most kids don���t get the proper coaching they need on how to deal with making errors ��� especially during a game when it feels like the pressure can be hotter than ever?
To help out with the upcoming baseball season, David Kloser, author of ���Stepping Up to the Plate: Inspiring Interviews with Major Leaguers ��� 2nd Inning" suggests five simple things kids can do when errors occur and make this season more enjoyable for them as well as coaches and parents.[ |http://www.SteppingUpToThePlate.com]
I���ve read Into Thin Air and watched most of the Discovery Channel���s series, Everest: Beyond the Limit and am having a hard time envisioning how one could summit that mountain while carrying and maintaining the Olympic torch. I think it would be fair to say that the people involved in that book and the television show struggled enough without having to worry about a perpetually burning flame. The torch will be specifically designed to burn at high altitudes, but even given that, I will be very interested to see how it unfolds.
In response to Trish's post, the New York City Council banned metal bats in high school baseball
because of a belief that such bats increase the risk of injury. The
decision to change the rules for one geographical location has
potential repercussions that may provide an unfair advantage to
athletes elsewhere who aren���t forced to use wooden bats. It is paramount that consistency is restored throughout the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFSH) in order to preserve the integrity of the sport.
In the endurance-sports world, competitors abide by the many rules and regulations set forth and enforced by larger governing bodies. The International Cycling Union (UCI), which sets industry standards governing the rules for competitive cycling,
enforces a rule relevant to the metal-versus-wooden bat debate. The UCI
does not have rules for which materials may be used for bicycles
because there is minimum mass limit of no less than 6.8 kg (~15 lbs).
With a baseline rule established for weight, a rider with greater
financial resources will not have a significant advantage over a rider
with inferior sponsorship. Thus the focus shifts to the individual
rider���s level of fitness, skill and team strategy.
In baseball, the NFSH has an equivalent role to the UCI. And similar
to bikes, bats have design restrictions too. In high school baseball in
the United States, the bat is not allowed to be more than 2 5/8
inches in diameter and 42 inches in length. The difference between
inches of length and ounces of weight must be no greater than 3. An
example of this is that a 34-inch bat must weigh at least 31 ounces.
With these restrictions in place, there is predictability in
performance allowing athletes to showcase their skills on a level
playing field. Thus, the high school athlete that has what it takes
will stand out to scouts and be recruited to play at the
college level. It has already been determined, by the recent court
ruling, that metal and composite bats produce faster, harder and longer
hits than wooden bats. If New York or only a few places ban metal bats,
then these players will be at a disadvantage. The resulting discrepancy
in performance across the nation will skew statistics and the integrity
of the sport will be diminished. There must be a uniform ruling -- if
this is going to happen in New York, it must also hold true for all of
Baseball* and softball season is in full swing and one of the hottest topics this year is the metal-versus-wood bat debate. I thought it was the end of the road for the debate a couple weeks ago when the New York City council overrode a mayoral veto of the bill
to ban metal bats. However, the debate is far from over. In fact, it is moving from the field into the courtroom.
Sporting goods companies and organizations that sponsor high school baseball nationwide filed a lawsuit against New York City and its decision to ban metal baseball bats in high school games.
Proponents of the new law say metal bats increase the risk of injury because they cause balls to move faster and don���t allow young players enough time to react. An example of this that is often cited is when a 12-year-old boy in New Jersey went into cardiac arrest after he was struck in the chest by a ball. But an American Legion Baseball study in 2005 found no substantial scientific proof that wooden bats are safer than metal bats.
The Associated Press reported that, ���The lawsuit says New York City's law would harm high school players, coaches, schools and bat manufacturers because it would increase costs for players and teams and would make high school baseball less enjoyable and less competitive.��� It also contends that the law is unconstitutional because it discriminates against the use of metal and nonwood composite bats without any rational basis.
I can���t make myself believe that a baseball reacts the same off a wooden bat as it does off a metal one. Perhaps a different study would produce varying results. But even if it didn���t ��� what���s the harm in changing over to wooden bats all the way up? It is how the game was originally designed to be played. It has a pure quality about it. If it does happen to be safer for youth athletes, it���s a win-win situation.
The 2007 World League annual volleyball tournament is coming to the United States. Along its three-week world tour, it will be making stops in Green Bay, Portland and Chicago.
Created in 1990, the World League is the longest and richest of all the international events organized by the FIVB. In 2006, $20 million in prize money was distributed among 16 participating teams from five continents.
The World League was created to promote volleyball by establishing a competition that would appeal to audiences all over the world. International competitions involving top volleyball teams (i.e., the Olympic Games, the World Championship) take place in four-year cycles, and were usually confined to a host city or nation. Conversely, the World League was designed to be played on a one-year basis, with a system of rotating cities that allowed every team to host a number of matches in the preliminary round.
Historically, Italy has been the dominant team in the World League, winning the gold eight times -- the most of any country. I became a big volleyball fan in college while following Loyola University���s nationally ranked men���s team, so I���m very excited to be able to check out the U.S. men���s national team compete against Italy, the second-ranked team in the world.
(Jon Doyle is a former NCAA All-American baseball player who now works as a strength and conditioning specialist. His web site, www.milliondollarhitter.com, continues to be the worldwide leader in developing hitting techniques for all ages.)
From Muhammad Ali to Yogi Berra, the sports world has no shortage of great quotes, both inspiring and funny. Here are two of my favorites:
���Friendships born on the field of athletic strife are the real gold of competition. Awards become corroded, friends gather no dust.��� ��� Jesse Owens
"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well." ��� Olympic Creed
I like both quotes because they give perspective to the fact that while sports are an important part of life they are not the only important part.
According to Sports Illustrated, flag football is the fastest growing girls' high school sport in Florida. That���s incredible. I didn���t even know that flag football was a sanctioned high school sport in any state. Florida is one of only two states, along with Alaska, in which it is played at that level.
Sports Illustrated reported that in 1998, the first year Florida began tracking flag football participation, 17 schools fielded girls' teams. Five years later the Florida High School Athletic Association recognized flag football as an interscholastic sport and began holding a state championship; now more than 4,000 girls at 146 schools participate.
Flag football is, indeed, growing rapidly. So much so that it may be thinning the field of athletes for traditional spring sports such as softball and track. Now if I could relive my high school years, I would never choose to play flag football over softball. Ever. But I can understand how the girls��� track team would be susceptible to losing the most athletes to flag football. I would much rather run a fly pattern and catch a football than run open 400s all day.
Bowl Championship Series* officials concluded three days of meetings last week with no major changes being made to the system used to crown a college football champion.
Among the wide range of BCS issues that were discussed included the standings and automatic qualification standards. The commissioners from the 11 major conferences and Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White decided to continue with the current system as-is.
There has been a cry to only make conference champs eligible to play for the national championship as well as to change the rule allowing a maximum of two teams per conference in the five big-money bowl games. There was reportedly no support to revise the current BCS system.
Last season, the BCS produced another controversial championship game. When the final BCS standings were released, Ohio State and an was left behind with no chance to have a crack at the title. The debate over whether the Gators or Wolverines should've played the Buckeyes raged for weeks and stirred up much discussion on improving the BCS system.
Historically, sports have shown us that the best team the entire season through doesn���t always have what it takes to win when it counts. It just doesn���t seem to be a fair assessment, especially when people use the argument that a playoff system will never be implemented because of all the revenue that would be lost on bowl games. The thought of compromising crowning an NCAA football champion that is truly the best because of moneythat shifting the game around for the sake of entertainment instead of in an effort to uphold the integrity of the game and collegiate sports is even an optionmakes me sick.
Softball* season seemed never ending when in the middle of an eight-game stretch in the span of a week or less. However, it never failed to go by in the blink of an eye. Now that I take in the sport of softball via box scores and the occasional home game, this first season of being in the stands instead of on the field flew by. Certain players and teams have made the most of it ��� Tennessee���s Monica Abbott is one of them.
Abbott became the NCAA's career strikeouts leader Sunday, overtaking Olympian and former Texas star, Cat Osterman. Abbott tied Osterman last weekend at 2,265 strikeouts. She struck out 11 in a doubleheader Sunday against Alabama, giving her the all-division NCAA record of 2,276.
Abbott broke Osterman's record in a 9-2 win in the first game of the doubleheader, victories that helped Tennessee earn its first Southeastern Conference regular-season title.
I know and have seen elite softball pitchers toss a lot of innings during their collegiate careers, but 2,276 strikeouts? That���s just plain absurdity.
The senior from Salinas, Calif., also broke the NCAA career victory record this season in March when she won her 152nd game, passing the mark set by Southern Mississippi's Courtney Blades in 2000. With a 40-2 record this season, Abbott has 179 victories.
Congratulations to Monica on a phenomenal career at Tennessee.
After a tremendous showing at the NFL combine, Whitworth College tight end Michael Allan has transformed himself from little-known Division III athlete into a viable NFL prospect. Active.com spoke with him to get his thoughts on life at a small college and what it's like to read your own player profile on ESPN.
Mel Kiper gave you some love last night on SportsCenter as a high-value pick in the draft. That must have been pretty cool.
Yeah I saw that. My buddy called me from Spokane and told me to turn it on. Not often you hear your name on SportsCenter.
How does a kid who didn't make his high school all-star team turn into a possible first- day NFL draft pick?
(Laughs) I don't know. A lot of it is physical maturation. I was kind of an awkward athlete coming out of high school. Six-four, 190 and running a five-flat (40-yard dash). I grew into my body halfway through college. I always knew how to play the game. Once my body matured I was able to do it cleanly.
The Chicago Urban Initiative Little League Committee (CUILLC) and the Chicago Bandits of the National Professional Fastpitch Softball League have forged a partnership aimed at bringing the benefits of Little League Softball to the children of Chicago.
In Chicago, five local Little Leagues have coordinated their efforts to form the CUILLC intent on providing awareness, education and opportunity through affiliation in the Little League Softball program. The Bandits franchise has also recognized this working partnership will offer possibilities for growth in Little League Softball participation on the south side of Chicago and throughout the Chicagoland area.
Among the immediate benefits for local leagues will be the coordination of fund-raising projects designed to draw focus to their Little League programs, equipment acquisition, capital improvement cash grants, field improvement and renovation, access to Little League education and training programs, advocacy, and networking, all while creating interest among potential Little League softball players.
My college softball team worked in cooperation with the Chicago Bandits for a fund-raiser and I know a few of the Bandits players from playing ball with or against them. They are an all-around impressive organization, on and off the field. I���m excited about the prospect of softball participation on the south side of Chicago being on the rise soon.
Beginning Aug. 1, Division I coaches will no longer be able to send text messages to their top recruits. The Division I Board of Directors approved a proposal that prevents coaches from text messaging prospective student-athletes.
The Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee urged the removal of text messaging as a recruiting tool, and the Board of Directors cited that position as the top reason it approved the proposal eliminating all forms of electronic communication except e-mail and faxes.
Student-athletes called text messaging intrusive and said it was overused, convincing board members that text messaging and other electronic forms of communication are inappropriate forms of contact between a coach and a prospect.
I don���t think there���s much of a question that text messaging is an invasive form of recruiting, and student-athletes had voiced their displeasure about receiving dozens of the messages each day, many during school hours and at their own expense. It is definitely time to draw the line somewhere.
This is one of the best posts I���ve ever read on our message boards and wanted to share it with as many people as possible. A good reminder to keep a reasonable perspective, especially regarding your child���s mistakes both in sports and in general:
There is something in our nature that makes us strive for perfection, some more than others. Our children are our creations, and we want them to be perfect. But remember, there was only one perfect child and he had perfect parents.
We also want to protect them. We want them to not suffer the hurts and pains we felt growing up - the strikeouts, the errors, the dropped passes, the missed steps in the dance recital, the transposing of the i and e in the spelling bee.
Plus, too often, we think that the mistakes they make are somewhat a reflection on our inability to parent. So we only see the good, or if something is so egregious, we look automatically to find an excuse for what happen (a bad hop, a bad call, the floor was slippery, the teacher is too tough, etc.). In that way, we believe it's not our parenting skills that are questioned but just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Recognizing that we 1) don't have perfect children, 2) their mistakes don't reflect negatively on our ability to parent, and 3) a mistake is an opportunity to grow and learn will heighten our ability to look at our child's accomplishments in unbiased eyes.
I just recently spent two weeks at a famous children's hospital with a two-week old granddaughter on a respirator for most of that time. Thankfully, I was able to spend her first Easter with her last month as a healthy, striving 3 1/2 month old child. But next to us in the waiting room, for two weeks before and at least two weeks after, were the parents of a 15 year-old girl basketball player. On a Thursday, she started coughing. On Friday, she ran fever and Mom called the doctor. On Monday, she was in a coma with staph pneumonia. About six weeks later, without ever regaining consciousness, they were planning her funeral. Don't you know they would love to see her miss one more free throw or get called for walking?
Hitting* is more than smashing the ball; it's approaching an at-bat with an understanding of the game situation -- and what a hitter's specific role should be. Here are three areas any hitter can focus on to prepare successfully at the plate and become more valuable to their team.
Study the pitcher to gain an edge:
Anything you can pick up about the pitcher prior to going into the box can help give you an advantage. Ask yourself the following questions: Does she always throw the first pitch as a strike? What pitch does she like to throw when she's ahead in the count? Does she move the ball mostly in and out, or up and down? What's her "bread and butter" pitch? Does she have a tendency to throw inside or outside? Up in the zone or down in the zone? Does she tip off any of her pitches by how she delivers or prepares to deliver?
Some pitchers look at the location of where they'll throw their pitch after picking up the signal from the catcher. If you can pick up the movement of their eyes from the catcher's signal to their target, you may be able to tell where the pitch will be thrown.