Friday, May 18, 2012

Good glovework is key for successful first baseman

Fielding ground balls is hard enough as it is, but even on the most cared-for baseball fields, a tricky hop can make an infielder look foolish. In addition to having the right baseball gloves, players should be sure to work at improving their reaction time during practice.

Baseball coaches can help their players by encouraging them to play pepper before baseball practice and games. It's a simple, fun baseball drill that simply has one fielder and one batter feed the ball back and forth to each other. The hitter should just bunt the balls back to the fielder, who must make a clean play in order to make a good throw back to the batter.

These drills are great for teaching fielders to stay down on the ball and use both hands, but that's not always possible for first basemen who regularly need to fully extend their body in order to make a play on bad throws while keeping one foot on the bag. More so than any position other than the catcher, first basemen need to have specially designed baseball gloves to make those tough plays.

If players are looking to use the best first baseman's glove on the market, they would be wise to find out which glove the best first basemen in the world use. Worn by the likes of Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols, the Rawlings Heart of the Hide Classic First Base Glove would be just what they're looking for.

The glove has specially designed webbing that's laced for optimum flexibility, an important feature for scooping up bad throws from across the infield. The great thing about Rawlings Heart of the Hide gloves is how soft and easy to break in they are. There's nothing more frustrating than not being able to use a new glove during a game for a while because it's too stiff. Despite their softness, these gloves are strong and very durable.

High school basketball coaches taking scouting to a new level

The use of detailed statistics to analyze athletes was made popular recently after audiences flooded theaters to see the movie "Moneyball." The film was based on the Michael Lewis book that explored how the Oakland Athletics transcended Major League Baseball scouting by using a complicated system of statistical analysis called sabermetrics.

This data isn't just readily available to any team though. With a combination of technology and innovative baseball minds, the A's and other MLB teams compile their own advanced scouting reports of their opponents, their players and others that they may be interested in signing or trading for. This type of analysis would seem to be incredibly pricey, and consequently, only collected and utilized by professional organizations.

That isn't the case anymore, however, with as many as 475 high schools across the United States taking advantage of a new scouting platform that is accessible from iPads, according to the Wall Street Journal. One coach that has actively utilized the service is Keith Guy, head basketball coach of the Muskegon Heights Tigers.

While he was on the sidelines for the Michigan high-school basketball playoffs last month, Guy used his Apple tablet to get detailed information about his opponent's shot location and scoring pace, as well as his team's efficiency when certain players were on the court and how well they performed from different locations.

The program was designed by Vasu Kulkarni, who combined his passion for computers and basketball to make a high level of scouting easy and relatively affordable. Teams send game films to Kulkarni's company, which then extracts data and puts it together for the iPad software.

While this type of analysis may benefit teams at most levels, that much detail might be overdoing it. It is important, however, that every team is equipped with a basketball coaches board and other basketball coaching aids.

Coaches can turn to for more basketball drills and plays that can help their team.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

With spring sports concluding, soccer players should start preparing for the fall

Though spring athletes are definitely ready for a break as their seasons come to an end, the fall sports season is just around the corner. That's why it's important not to forget how their last season ended.

While that means there's room to improve after a disappointing year for some, the teams that were successful shouldn't forget how they got there. But as seniors are already getting fitted for their caps and gowns, underclassmen need to be reminded that their teams will need new leaders to step up and make a difference next fall.

If a team played poorly last year, there's obvious pressure to perform better, but for others like the Peabody High School girls soccer team, next year's squad will have a tough act to follow.

In 2011, the girls headed into the Massachusetts Division 1 state championship game with a 21-0-2 record. Both teams were scoreless until there was only 3:26 left in the game, when Peabody senior Katie Brunelle broke the tie with a the goal that ended up being the difference, finalizing an undefeated season and locking down the state title.

"It was kind of a special bus ride [home after the game] because we were just thinking about the season and were like, 'Wow, we made history,'" Peabody junior Hayley Dowd told the source.

Dowd and other underclassmen on the team have big shoes to fill next fall, and now is the time for them to get ready. Whether that means hitting the gym or using practice soccer goals at their homes, they must start preparing to make a difference as soon as possible.