Who's In First League Management

The Top of the Standings

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dragged His Weary Carcass Up The Mountain


Some of the words people are saying about my New Years Eve snowshoe trip into the mountains. Eight of us will be traveling over ice and snow, above where trees can grow, to stay 2 nights in a yurt.

The forecasts call for temperatures in the high 20’s, but luckily for us, the yurts we are laying our heads down in have wood burning stoves that keep the place nice and toasty.

To prepare for this multi-mile hike, with all our food and supplies strapped to our back, I had to do some pretty extensive training.

During my workout I focused mainly on legs, core and upper body.

To get my legs in shape I tried to work on all the muscles groups in the lower region. Because the hike is very steep, leg work will come in especially handy. Squats, leg presses and lunges took up the majority of my time, but I also workout out my abductor and hip adductor muscle groups.

As we have already talked about, your core is essential in any activity. For this trip a solid core will help to withstand the weight of the pack as I sledge up the mountain. Having that stability will allow the other parts of my body to do their jobs, and won’t be relied upon more than necessary.

My upper body strength will be useful for some of the activities needed once we settle into the yurt. Carrying firewood from the shed to the yurt. Shoveling a path between the two yurts and the outhouse. Carving a path on the hillside for us to sled down. All these activities will require upper body strength and having a fitter upper torso will allow me to carry more, shovel faster and carve longer runs.

All in all this should be a very memorable trip, but since I have taken the necessary workout precautions, it will hopefully not be memorable for the wrong reasons.

Have a happy and safe new years! See you in 2009 and remember to keep sporting!
- Who’s In First

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

How Many Calories Will Santa Burn Tonight?

Happy holidays to all!

Santa is always portrayed as a rather plumb, jolly figure, but you always see him just before Christmas, and seldom after. It is possible then that Santa builds weight before his sleigh ride around the world so that he can endure his Christmas Eve voyage. Kinda like a bear gaining weight before hibernation, Santa needs a lot of weight to not only keep him warm as he travels around the globe, but also because he will be burning so much energy delivering presents.

Why do I think post-Christmas Eve Santa is a lot trimmer than pre-Christmas Eve Santa?

In a previous article we discussed the number of calories burned by walking up and down stairs. If you remember you burn approximately 0.11 calories going up stairs and 0.05 calories heading down.

Now according to Wikipedia there are 1.9 billion (1,900,000,000) Christians in the world. If you take the average of 4 people per household, that would equate to 475 million (475,000,000) Christian households worldwide. For argument’s sake let’s say that 1/4 of those households are 2 story and the other 3/4 are one story tall. That means that there are 118,750,000 two-story homes and 356,250,000 one-story tall homes.

The average flight of stairs is 16 per story and considering that Santa needs to go up to the roof and not just the top story, all two-story homes have the equivalent of 32 stairs and all one-story homes have the equivalent of 16 stairs.

Once inside, to get back out of the 118,750,000 two-story homes Santa would need to climb 3.8 billion (3,800,000,000) stairs. To get out of the one-story homes, Santa would also need to climb 5,700,000,000 (5.7 billion) stairs. Assuming he drops down the chimney, and doesn’t climb down, we will not need to factor in the trip into the house.

Therefore Santa is climbing up the equivalent of 9.5 billion (9,500,000,000) stairs. At 0.11 calories per stair, Santa is burning 1.045 billion (1,045,000,000) calories. This does not include any calories burned while flying his sled, getting in and out of the sleigh or carrying Tickle-Me-Elmos.

Since the average suggested consumption is 2000 calories per day, Santa burns enough calories for 522,500 days in one evening (and you thought your workout was strenuous!)

From this one can only assume that post-Christams Eve Santa is considerably skinnier than the Santa you see in shopping malls and photography stores.

Have any other ideas on Santa? Leave a comment below.

Keep sporting!
- Who’s In First

Monday, December 22, 2008

What To Eat On Gamedays

I was at the mega gym by my house on Saturday and had just gotten done doing bench press when two friends showed up. They were there to shoot hoops, so I decided to join them. Well anyone who has ever tried to shoot baskets after working out can attest that you are not at your best. The weights negatively affect your shot. You will have no arch on the ball. Your arms will not raise up and you won’t have a solid follow through on your shot. Basically, you will not be able to really play hoops after working out. Given a few hours for your muscles to recoup, you will be fine, but don’t plan on working out immediately prior to a game of basketball.

There are things you can do before your game, though, that will help you reach prime potential, especially eating.

Most experts recommend eating about 4 hours before your big game. This will give your body enough time to digest the food as to not give you cramps and not to make you feel stuffed. You should still watch the amount you eat, but given enough time you can generally take in what you want.

Professional athletes generally have a chef on hand to make them pre-game meals. The team usually gets together 4-5 hours before their game to fill up. So what do they eat?

Usually pro athletes stack up on carbs, vegetables and protein on game day. These foods are easy to digest and give the body lots of energy. Baked chicken, steamed veggies and pasta seem to be the athlete’s favorites. Not only good for you, but the right combination of essential nutrients to keep your body in motion for your game.

Athletes also take in lots of water, as they know they will be sweating buckets while playing. If you have an evening game, try taking in a glass of water every hour or two. This will prevent dehydration and the liquids will lube up your muscles to avoid cramping. You can drink until you feel full, but stop that practice an hour or two before the start of the game.

Now if you have a day job and an evening basketball game, you cannot always time your meals perfectly. In this case, eat the healthy lunch described above and try sampling on some toast or a bagel 3 or so hours before your game begins. This, again, will allow your body time to digest while at the same time giving you the strength you will need to play the whole game.

Try this for a game or two and see if you can notice an increase in your energy level, especially towards the end of the game.

What do you eat on game days? Leave a comment below.

Keep sporting!
- Who’s In First

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Detour: Bailouts for Pro Teams

Welcome again to the Friday Detour. The weekly entry that diverts away from recreational sports to discuss happenings in other areas of the sporting world.

Big news recently has been the bailouts of the Big Three automakers. It got me thinking about bailouts for professional teams. In each league what three teams are in the most need of a bailout of some sort?

Detroit Lions – Where have you gone Barry Sanders? Barry never won a Super Bowl, but he at least made watching the Lions game palpable. Not so much any more. The Detroit Lions are probably the biggest mockery in professional sports these days and are on the fast track to NFL immortality, a perfect 0-16 defeated season. Matt Millen may be the scapegoat in all this, and very well could be the reason for their ineptitude, but it takes an entire team effort to accomplish this feat. Just think, we go from 16-0 Patriots last year to a potential 0-16 Lions squad this year. We are witnessing history all over the board. And, yes, it is a coincidence that the automakers and Lions are all based out of Detroit.

Cincinnati Bengals - Where have you gone 2005? The Bengals were one of the hottest teams in 2005. They had a young, stud QB, talented receivers, a solid running game… but 3 years is a lifetime in the NFL. Their stud QB tore his ACL, their talented receivers like court rooms and name changes more than end zones, their running game is gone. The one-year blip that was 2005 is the Bengals sole winning season since 1990. 1 winning season in 18 seasons. Multiple #1 overall draft picks. 1 playoff appearance (2005). There is a reason they are affectionately referred to as the Bungals.

Oakland Raiders – Where have you gone Silver and Black? The once proud Raider nation, once famed for wearing silver and black face paint and shoulder pads with spikes, is now known for wearing brown bags over their heads to keep their identities a secret. The most intimidating team in the history of the NFL is now a shell of their former self. They used to march into stadiums with confidence and create fear in opposing fans. They now shuffle into stadium with heads hung low and create cheap tickets prices from scalpers. Part of the problem is Al Davis’ quick trigger finger. Since 2000, the Raiders have seen 6 head coaches roam the sidelines, and average of less than 2 years per head coach. The transition from one scheme to another and the rebuilding that needs to be done to perfect the new coaches ideas just cannot get done in two years or less.

Washington Nationals - Where have you gone farm system? The franchise, which resided in Montreal prior to its move to the Beltway in 2005, was a hot bed for up and coming prospects, but never capitalized on their talents. Pedro Martinez, Larry Walker, Randy Johnson, Vlad Guerrero, Andres Galarage, Andre Dawson… all of these All-Stars began their careers north of the border, but all made names for themselves in other uniforms. The Nationals/Expos franchise hasn’t tasted the playoffs since the 1981 season (although, to their credit they were leading the NL East in 1994 when the season was called due to a strike). With their move to a bigger market, and therefore more revenue to spend on players, you hear their names a lot in free agent talks, but big name players just don’t want to play for this franchise and opt to go to contenders instead.

Kansas City Royals – Where have you gone Dirk Denkinger? The year was 1985. The setting was Game 6 of the World Series. The teams were cross-state rivals. The call was horrible. The Royals won the 1985 World Series, thanks in large part to a terrible call by umpire Dirk Denkinger in Game 6 of the series, which the Royals won in 7. That was the last time the Royals tasted the postseason. The last time the Royals smelled the other side of .500 was the strike shortened 1994 season. Like many small market teams, the Royals may not be completely to blame, pure economics are, but that is why the Royals need the bailout.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Where have you gone Killer B’s? In the early 90’s the Pirates had one of the most dangerous line-ups in the NL. Bobbie Bonilla, Andy Van Slyke, some guy named Barry Bonds. This team was stacked from head to toe. But 1992 was a long time ago. Since the 1992 season the Pirates haven’t finished north of .500 and have 9 times been over 20 games out of the division lead. For a franchise that dates back to 1882 and has suited up names like Stargell, Clemente, Wagner, these guys need to bring th epride back to the Steel City.

New York Knicks – Where have you gone Walt Frazier? The largest TV market in the country, and the least desirable team to watch. Not fun for Knick fans. The New York Knicks, haven’t won a playoff series since the 1999-2000 season and haven’t been above .500 since the following year. In a sports were half of the teams make the playoffs, the Knicks haven’t even qualified since the 2003-2004 season. (In your best Stephen A. Smith voice, please scream) The New York Knickerbockers are a disgrace to the NBA.

Washington Wizards – Where have you gone Bernard King? Another Washington DC based team to make the list, the Washington franchise has but one playoff series win sine the 1981-1982 season. Their .461 lifetime winning percentage and .401 lifetime playoff winning percentage makes them eligible for a bailout. Their owner should mosey on down the street to the Capital and beg and plead with the Senators for extra players to help right this wrong.

Memphis Grizzlies – Since joining the league as the Vancouver Grizzlies in the 1995-1996 season, the Grizzlies have made the playoffs only 3 times, never even winning a game, much less a series. Their lifetime .329 winning percentage ranks them as one of the all time worst franchises in pro sports history.

There are others who need a bailout? Who is on the top of your list? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Keep sporting!
- Who’s In First

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sage Advice

Never one to be late, I arrived to the gym last night before my basketball game early to run on the treadmill and watch the final moments of the early games.

As I was standing in the gym by the door an elderly gentleman approached and asked if I knew who was playing in the games going on at the time. I told him who was on the court and he looked relieved, “Good, I can see my grandson play.”

I offered him a chair to sit on and he watched intently as the last few minutes of the game winded down. His grandson’s team was literally up by 50, so we had a chance to introduce ourselves and pass a few pleasantries back and forth.

As the final buzzer sounded, the old man hopped to his feet and motioned me closer. I hunched over a little to hear what he was going to say and he said to me:

“Let me give you a little life lesson. In sports and life there are two main things to remember: hustle and have fun. If you do both of those in sports and in life you will have succeeded.”

With that he shuffled out the door.

Sage advice from someone who has gained a life full of knowledge.

Keep sporting!
- Who’s In First

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Which Type of Rec Athlete Are You?

There is a reason we all play rec sports and those reason vary greatly, even amongst teammates. Which category do you fall under?

Al Bundy Athlete – Fans of Married With Children… will undoubtedly know that Al Bundy once scored 4 touchdowns in the 1966 city championship game for Polk High… and never let anyone forget the moment. The Al Bundy Athlete is the type that was the great high school athlete, but never did much, athletically, after graduation, however he will not let you forget his shinning times on the field or court.

Characteristics: You will know you are playing with or against the Al Bundy Athlete if they come to the first lower level softball game with eye black and baseball pants. Another warning sign is if you see a high school championship or team t-shirt on a guy past age 25.

Rudy Athlete – Most everyone should have seen the movie Rudy at least once in their life. It is about a kid who didn’t have the size or skills to play football, but through perseverance and tenacity he makes the Notre Dame football team as a walk-on and eventually gets into a game. The Rudy Athlete is similar in that they never had the skills or size to play on their high school team, but the Rudy Athlete comes out to play once a week and think they are the greatest athlete to ever grace the face of the earth.

Characteristics: If you see a guy trying to make Magic Johnson-esq passes, only to have them intercepted each time, you have yourself a Rudy Athlete.

Wooderson Athlete - Wooderson (played by a virtual unknown Matthew McConaughey) famously said in Dazed and Confused, “That's what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.” The Wooderson Athlete is similar in that they feel that playing rec sports keeps them younger. They may be getting older, but the competition stays the same age.

Characteristics: Grey hair coming out from their ball cap. Knee braces and orthopedic shoes. Using teenage slang.

Bo Jackson Athlete – Bo Jackson was an amazing athlete. Maybe one of the best of all time. Had it not been for a hip injury sustained on the football field, Bo would have gone down as one of the greatest of all times… in both baseball and football. While Bo was certainly better at football, winning the Heisman Trophy in 1985, Bo played baseball because he was too good not to. The Bo Jackson Athlete plays rec sports because he is too good not to be out there playing.

Characteristics: You can spot a Bo Jackson Athlete by the sheer power and skill they display. You will notice that they don’t look like they are hustling and may not leg out a routine single, but when they get a hold of the ball it will go a country mile.

Cyndi Lauper Athlete – The Cyndi Lauper Athlete is out there because they “just want to have fun.” They either like competing or like camaraderie of their teammates. Whatever the case, their athletic skills lie somewhere in the middle of the team, but their enthusiasm is unparalleled.

Characteristics: The Cyndi Lauper Athlete is always the loudest on the court, because they are having the most fun. They are also the guy who gets there first and leaves last. They are always meeting their teammates at each timeout or between innings.

Todd Marinovich Athlete – Sports Illustrated once ran a cover story on Marinovich entitled “Bred to Be A Superstar,” that discussed Todd’s fathers involvement in his sons football playing. From birth the elder Marinovich made sure Todd ate the right foods, worked out with the right trainers and practiced the right way. Essentially Todd was groomed to be the perfect QB. The Todd Marinovich Athlete is similar in that there is heavy parental involvement in their playing. Even as an adult, they are encouraged to play sports by their parents who feel that it is a good way for them to intermingle with others.

Characteristics: The Todd Marinovich Athlete is a little socially and athletically inept. They will usually be seen playing the worst positions and relied on the least during a game. In between innings or during timeouts you may see them chasing butterflies or picking up lady bugs… their interest just isn’t there. If you run into a Todd Marinovich Athlete, have a handkerchief handy, as y0u may encounter drool.

Eagles Athlete – The band The Eagles broke up and said they wouldn’t get back together until hell froze over… then miraculously they realized the monetary benefit of playing together and “got the band back together.” The Eagles Athlete is similar in that they are playing so that they can spend time with the buddies they grew up with. It may be that they are now married and/or have kids, and their weekly game is the one chance to hang out with their friends.

Characteristics: Wedding rings. Conversations revolving around onesies. Calling each other crude, vulgar and disrespectful nicknames they have been calling each other for eons.

Therein lies the real back story on why people play rec sports. When you first encounter a rec athlete, find out which category they fall into and proceed accordingly.

Is there another reason you play rec sports? Leave a comment below.

Keep sporting!
- Who’s In First

Monday, December 15, 2008

Basketball Training Tips

For most recreational athletes game day is generally the only time they get to play their sport during the week. Unlike organized school or pro sports, usually other commitments take precedence and practicing is not in the cards.

Athletes may shoot around or may play a pick up game here and there, but generally there isn’t time to practice with their team or even to hone their sports.

So for the buy basketball player, here are some easy drills you can do during basketball season to keep you in shape and ready for the next game. Mostly these are conditioning and strengthening routines, so they won’t necessarily help with that outside shot, but will make it so you are in better shape at the end of the game to steal that pass and take it coast to coast for an easy lay-up.

Shuffle Runs

The shuffle run is also called a “Suicide Run” in some parts of the country. Essentially what this will do is get your legs in shape for the constant starting and stopping and redirection of basketball.

Starting on the baseline of a basketball court, sprint to the free throw line, bend down to touch it and sprint back to the baseline. Bend down to touch the baseline and sprint to the half court line. Bend down to touch it and sprint back to the baseline, touching it. Sprint to the opposite free throw line, touch, sprint back. Finally sprint to the other baseline, touch, and sprint back. Rest for 2 to 3 minutes and repeat.

Keep in mind that you should not be stopping anytime during this drill.

Four Corner Drill

This one will help your defensive stamina. Starting on the corner of the baseline, sprint to the other baseline. Upon reaching the opposite corner, shuffle along the baseline to the other corner as you would do defensively. When you reach the corner, sprint to the opposite end and shuffle to the other corner. Rest for one minute and repeat. Try timing yourself and improve your time each round.

Jump Rope

Jumping rope is one of the best conditioning drills you can do to help your hoops game. After jumping rope for some time you will notice that you are jumping quicker off the ground and can grab more rebounds with your quickness.

Wall Passing

Wall passing will help your eye hand coordination and your passing ability. With a ball in your hand, stand facing a wall. As hard as you can throw the ball against the wall using a 2-hand chest pass. You will need to catch the ball on its rebound. As you get better at this drill, reduce the distance from the wall, making sure you throw the ball equally as hard each time.

Bench Jumping

Stand beside a bench sturdy enough to hold you weight that is about a foot off the ground. From a standing position jump onto the bench and then back down. Do this 10-15 before resting.

If practiced regularly, these tips will help you bounce higher and run faster at the end of your games, and could be the determining factor between winning and losing.

Keep sporting!
- Who’s In First

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Detour: They Walk on Water

Starting today every Friday we will take a little detour off the regular course of this blog to talk still talk about sports, but with a different twist. Instead of helping to get you to the top of the standings we will take a look at the world of sports, either what has happened in the last week, what is the big headline of the day or other lists, stats and information.

I was driving behind a car in Denver yesterday and it had a John Elway Autos decal on the back. Obviously the person had purchased the car from the dealership baring the Hall of Fame QBs name. It got me thinking that John Elway is easily the biggest sports personality in Denver’s history. Then I wondered who the biggest sports personalities in each of the 15 largest US cities were. Some cities have such an illustrious background that it was difficult to select just one, so in that case I chose a few. Below is a list of who I believe are the biggest former and current athletes in each of the top US cities (population numbers from Wikipedia):

New York City population 8,274,527

  • Current BMOC: Derek Jeter
  • Past BMOCs: Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio

Los Angeles population 3,834,340

  • Current BMOC: Kobe Bryant
  • Past BMOCs: Magic Johnson, Sandy Koufax, Tommy Lasorda, Jerry West

Chicago population 2,836,658

  • Current BMOC: Brian Urlacher
  • Past BMOCs: Michael Jordan, Ernie Banks, Bobby Hull, Walter Payton

Houston population 2,208,180

  • Current BMOC: Yao Ming
  • Past BMOCs: Hakeem Olajuwon, Nolan Ryan, Earl Campbell

Bay Area (San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland) combined population 2,106,364

  • Current BMOC: Tim Lincecum
  • Past BMOCs: Jeff Garcia, Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Bo Jackson, Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Bash Brothers, Howie Long

Phoenix population 1,552,259

  • Current BMOC: Shaquille O’Neal
  • Past BMOCs: Randy Johnson

Philadelphia population 1,449,634

  • Current BMOC: Ryan Howard
  • Past BMOCs: Allen Iverson, Charles Barkley, Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton

San Antonio population 1,328,984

  • Current BMOC: Tim Duncan
  • Past BMOCs: David Robinson

San Diego population 1,266,731

  • Current BMOC: LaDainian Tomlinson
  • Past BMOCs: Tony Gwynn

Dallas population 1,240,499

  • Current BMOC: Tony Romo
  • Past BMOCs: Troy Aikman, Emmit Smith, Dirk Nowtizki

Detroit population 916,952

  • Current BMOC: Nikolas Lindstrom
  • Past BMOCs: Isiah Thomas, Barry Sanders, Hank Greenberg, Steve Yzerman, Joe Louis

Jacksonville population 805,605

  • Current BMOC: Fred Taylor
  • Past BMOCs: Mark Brunell, Tony Boselli

Indianapolis population 1,328,984

  • Current BMOC: Peyton Manning
  • Past BMOCs: Reggie Miller

Columbus, OH population 747,755

  • Current BMOC: Jim Tressell
  • Past BMOCs: Eddie George, Archie Griffin

Austin population 743,074

  • Current BMOC: Colt McCoy
  • Past BMOCs: Vince Young, Rickey Williams

I know there are plenty I have missed, so please feel free to chime in in the comments section.

Keep sporting!
- Who’s In First

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Most Important Meal of the Day

We have all heard the old adage that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It is true that breakfast help to get sugar in your bloodstream and perks you up. Nutritionalists also say that eating 5 meals a day help to keep your body in shape, so eating a good breakfast not only gets you going, but also helps with your eating patterns.

A healthy breakfast can also help you when competing later in the day. Eating breakfast, a light mid-morning snack, a sensible lunch followed by a mid-afternoon snack can keep you energized for your athletic game later that night. It will especially help if won’t have an opportunity to much down dinner before the start of your game.

I hear you yelling now, “But it take a lot to make breakfast every morning, and I just don’t have the time!”

Well, here are a few simple breakfast ideas for those on the run:

1. Fruit smoothies – Easy, quick and nutritious. The simplest way to make a fruit smoothie is to put frozen fruit, yogurt and milk into a blender and whip it up. Prepare, mix and put it in your favorite to go cup and you have yourself a healthy breakfast in a matter of minutes. Fresh berries can be substituted for frozen, but I have found frozen berries to make a better, and cheaper, smoothie. Try different ingredients and amounts until you find the perfect mixture for you.

2. Yogurt – nothing is quicker than peeling a lid off a yogurt and running out the door. Buying in bulk saves money but the individual serving sizes are more convenient.

3. Cereal – … and fruity, sugary, marshmallowy kinds don’t count. Find a raisin bran or other high fiber cereal of your liking and pour your favorite milk over it and you are good to go. Not as portable as the others, but if you have a fridge accessible to you at work, you can buy milk and cereal and eat at your desk first thing in the morning. Try putting fresh fruit on top for more flavor and health benefits.

4. Toast or English muffin – Top your favorite starch with peanut butter, hummus or your favorite spread and hit the road running. Pair it with a handheld fruit (apple, orange, pear) and you have yourself a quick and easy start to the day.

5. Breakfast sandwich – If you have leftovers from the night before put it between two slices of bread and you have yourself a nice breakfast. Turkey, chicken and meat add protein to your sandwich.

6. “Diner Breakfast” – If time isn’t one fo your concerns then make yourself a full breakfast with eggs, toast and some protein. Try staying away from greasy or fattening foods like bacon and sausage everyday, but every once and a while allow yourself to indulge.

Regardless of how much time you have each morning to prepare and eat breakfast, make sure you allot those extra few minutes to having this essential meal. Even if it means hitting the snooze button one fewer times, your body will thank you, and so will your teammates when they see your improved performance.

Do you have a favorite quick breakfast idea? Tell us about it in the comments section.

Keep sporting!
- Who’s In First

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Leg Up on the Competition

Second workout with the trainer and I am so sore I can barely type this out, but as the trainer says, there is no gain from not finishing the set.

Last time I worked out with him we did a lot of measurements and weigh-ins that took away from the actual working out, so we really only had enough time to stretch. I thought today would be the same, so I actually got to the gym early and started doing my normal workout routine. Some chest, some arms, some legs and some cardio.

Well let me tell you, I won’t be doing any “pre-workout” prior to my next session, as today almost killed me.

What we did, though, is essential to every recreational athlete, namely we worked on the legs.

Legs are essential in almost every sport. In baseball/softball they let you drive through the strike zone and put more power on the ball. In basketball and volleyball strengthened legs allow you to jump higher and quicker, leading to rebound, spikes and blocks. In football powerful legs allow you to take down your opponent or, if on offense, to not be dragged down as easily. Regardless of your sport, a solid leg drive will make you better.

So what did we do?

1. Squats – Today we did front squats. These differ from the squats you are used to seeing since the barbell is in front of the body instead of behind the neck. The important part about this exercise is to make sure to keep your elbows up. Slouching elbows will make this drill less effective. We did 4 sets of 10, adding weight each time. Squats help your hamstrings, quads, gluteus maximums and calves.

2. Leg presses – Next were leg presses. Some call this a poor man’s squat, but its easy has its advantages. Because of its nature, this exercise wasn’t as difficult for me, and I seemed to have a lot more power in my legs than I thought after doing the squats. Like the squats, leg presses help to tone the hamstrings, quads, gluteus maximums and calves.

3. Calf raises – Still seated on the leg press machine, I moved my feet down so that only my toes and the ball of my feet were on the machine. I then proceeded to point my toes in order to work out the calves. This type of exercise is designed for more repetition and we did between 25 and 50 raises each set.

Since I only had a 30 minute session, we ended the leg portion of the workout right there, but if you are going to do a full leg workout, I would also recommend that you add in the following:
1. Leg curls
2. Leg extensions
3. Lunges

Keep Sporting!
- Who’s In First

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cutting a Friend, Co-Worker or Family Member From Your Team

Yesterday we discussed how to gain an advantage over a friend in the field of play. Today we will look at friendship a little differently.

Do you have a player on your team who just doesn't cut it that you want to get rid of? What if this person is a friend of yours? What if it is a boss? What if it is a family member?

How do you go about cutting someone, who you will see outside of the field or court, off a recreational sports team that you manage?

Maybe this person doesn't have the skill set to compete at the level of the rest of the team. Maybe their attitude toward competition negatively affects your team chemistry. Whatever the reasoning is, trying to get a friend, co-worker or family member off a team is not an easy task.

There are many ways you can go about letting the person know he/she should look for other leagues to join, but this article will only focus on the positive ways.

Before dumping anyone, give them an opportunity to improve. If the player knows that there is heat for them to step it up, go to the batting cages with them and work on their swing, or go to a gym and practice their shooting for extra practice. Whatever the sport is, allow them to improve in the area they are lagging behind. This will not only make them feel better about themselves, if they do improve, but will take the heat off of you to tell them you have gone in another direction.

Granted, this process may take a long time and may keep them on the team an extra season, while the rest of the team breathes down your neck, but in the end they may understand that they aren't competing at the level they need to be competing at and quit on their own accord.

If practice isn't the route you wish to take, or if it didn't work the way you had hoped, then an honest heart to heart talk would be the next option. Whether it is over a beer after a game, or on the phone during the off-season, a good talk will allow everything to be aired. They will know where you stand and you won't feel the guilt over having to cut athletic ties with them in the near future. If there is someone on the team who is closer to the player in question, and feels more comfortable discussing this with them, then deferring responsibility may be the best bet.

If nothing has changed and you still need to get them off the team, you will need to be blunt with them, all the while keeping in mind that this is only recreational athletic sports and those friendships, work relationships and family ties will be there long past your prime athletic ability. Be nice and civil and make sure everyone leaves on a good note.

Remember professional coaches and managers get paid millions of dollars to make sure they have the right team on the field. Their livelihood revolves around whom they keep and whom they cut. Yours does not. Keep what is most important in mind when making any of these decisions, and maybe losing a game or two, but retaining a friendship is the best option.

Keep sporting!
- Who’s In First

Monday, December 8, 2008

With A Little Help From My Friends

I have been battling a lingering cold/flu for the past week. It isn’t debilitating enough to take me out for the count, but is bad enough to make me not want to do anything.

The unfortunate part about the entire thing is that I had to skip my recreational basketball game last week, and I was playing against a team made up of friends of mine.

It is always fun to play against your friends, I even thinks it makes me play harder, in my attempt to one-up the guys I know.

According to the stats on Who’s In First, www.whosinfirst.com, my friend’s team should have destroyed us, and as it turns out they did. I kinda figured that might happen, but that didn’t keep me from wanting to drive on them and talk a little trash on the way back down the court.

As we all know, playing against friends is a lot different than playing against strangers. Whether it is in a recreational league, or in the backyard, playing against friends always seems to elevate your game just a little bit more, all while deflating you just a touch more when you lose.

So to give you an advantage against your friends, take the following pieces of advice:

  1. You know these guys – If you have played against, or with, your friends in the past you have an advantage of having a scouting report on them already. Do you know one of your friends can only drive with his right or cannot make a free throw on the basketball court? In softball do you know one of your friends couldn’t field a grounder if his life depended on it? Well, if you know these nuances about your friends, use them. Make him go to the left, or alter your batting stance to make sure the grounder goes right to him (and therefore between his legs).
  1. Talk trash – I am not endorsing trash talking, but with friends you can get away with more than you would be able to get away with people you just met. Casually slip in their girlfriends/wives names as they are shooting free throws. Remind them that they got caught doing something wrong when they were a kid. Anything to get under their skin, but without being TOO harsh. You want to obtain a competitive advantage, but don’t want to lose a friendship.
  1. Don’t let them forget – The other side of trash talking is talking yourself up. If you hit a 3 in their face or take them yard, don’t let them forget it. When you come up to bat the next time, kindly remind them where their last pitch went and step into the box like you mean it. They may not be intimidated, but you might get into their head just enough to gain an advantage.

Remember, at the end of your match you are still going to be their friend, win or lose, so don’t do anything to ruin that, but use your friendship as an advantage. A good way to ensure that it is all left on the court is to plan on going out for a burger or beer after the game. Planning this in advance will make it so that you will both be tied to the plans, regardless of the outcome.

If you have any other tips on using friendship to your advantage on the court or field tell us about it in the comments section.

Keep sporting!
- Who's In First

Friday, December 5, 2008


I have a new trainer at the mega-gym I go to and today was my first session with him. I have never used a trainer before, so this was something new to me. My ultimate goal is to tone up and slim down a little.

I was relieved that my body fat wasn’t in the dreaded “Unacceptable” range, but it could use some trimming.

Anyway, I was kind of nervous about keeping the appointment when I read my trainer’s credentials. He is a world champion martial artist, specializing in ju-jitsu. I was hesitant that if I couldn’t complete a routine that he would give me a roundhouse kick to my noggin. Luckily, he seems pretty peaceful, but I still wouldn’t want to meet him in a ring or dark alley.

So in this “get to know you” session we didn’t work out to the max. The first half of the session was used to get my measurements, weight and body fat.

We then headed out to do some core strengthening, which was definitely difficult.

For the last 10 minutes though he helped stretch me out, like you would see athlete doing before a game. Mainly it was stretching my legs out, and lemme tell you I feel like $1 million right now.

Stretching is great for the muscles and helps them to remain as flexible as they were intended to be. As you grow older, your muscles tighten and without stretching on a regular basis, they get used to the tightened position and you become less flexible.

Stretching helps you in many ways, and it is recommended that you stretch once a day. You can do so while sitting in front of your computer or TV. Anywhere you have enough room to completely stretch your legs and arms out is as good of a spot as you will find.

You can stretch in any order, but as you are stretching remember that the key is to stretch out the muscles, so don’t bob around, simply grab a hold of the body part you are stretching and hold for 5 to 10 seconds.

The following is what the trainer and I did, and is a good basis for any stretching routine.

· Neck – Grab a hold of your head and tilt it to one side until you feel resistance and hold for a 10 count then grab the other side and repeat. Remember, since the neck is an injure prone body part, don’t jerk or tug on the neck, simply grab your head and hold in place.

· Arms – Grab your elbow with your opposite arm and pull across your body. Again, hold for a 10 count, release and repeat on the other side. You can also grab your elbow above your head with the other arm and pull across the body. Again, hold, release, repeat on the other side.

· Legs – There are many muscles in the legs that need stretching, from the quads to the hamstrings to the calves. Stretch each one for a 10 count, and switch to the other side.

· Back – You can stretch your back by leaning backwards over your chair.

These are the basics of stretching, as always if something hurts then stop what you are doing right away. If the pain persists, see a doctor.

It is common knowledge to stretch before you participate in any sporting activity, but try and stretch before you leave the house in the morning and see how good you feel all day.

If you have any other stretching tips, leave a comment in the comments section.

Keep sporting!
- Who’s In First

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Pack Your Bag BEFORE You Need It

We’ve all been there… your alarm goes off and you hit snooze, only you think you have hit snooze when in reality you have turned the buzzer off for the day.

Slowly you open your eyes to check the clock and realize you have overslept. Frantically, you get out of bed and get yourself ready for work in record time.

But what about your rec basketball game tonight, right after work. You don’t have time to scramble around looking for all your gear, but luckily you had prepared the night before.

For reasons like these it is always a good idea to have all your sports gear in a general area and ready to go. For basketball you will probably want to know where the following are located, so in case your alarm doesn’t go off, or you snooze one too many times, you know where all your stuff is.

  1. Shoes. Obviously an important part of you basketball game are your shoes. If you have ever tried to play hoops in running or other shoes, you know how easy it is to sprain an ankle. Always have your shoes handy. If you are looking for the latest pair of shoes check out the sales at Footlocker.com where you can receive up 35% off basketball shoes
  2. Shorts. This may seem like another obvious, but the right pair of shorts are essential when playing hoops. When I was playing middle school basketball I came to practice one day wearing athletic shorts, and got pulled aside and told to wear a different pair the following practice. The issue? Pockets. Since the competitors of a basketball game are so close, there is a potential to get your hands caught in the pockets of someone’s shorts. So since that 7th grade practice I have always made sure that I have a durable, good pair of pocketless shorts for any type of sport where someone’s hands can get caught and wrist can get broken. If you need a new pair of shorts, check out the Champs Sports Nike Sale.
  3. Socks. With all the jumping in basketball, your feet take a lot of abuse, so you should protect them as well as you can. I always wear cushioned socks specially designed for basketball when playing to give my feet that extra layer of comfort. The socks are pricier than standard tube socks, but the relief on your feet is worth every penny.
  4. Ball. Even if your gym provides balls to shoot around with, they may not be in the best shape, so I always bring a ball with me when I go. If nothing else, it gives me the opportunity to shoot against the wall or warm up dribbling if the courts are taken and/or the balls are locked away. One important piece of advice is to clearly write your name on the ball in a permanent marker (Sharpies work the best). I played at a gym recently that only supplied the exact same type of ball I brought. Had my name not been imprinted on the ball, I would have lost it in the chaos. Another tip is to make sure that if you have an indoor ball, to only play with it inside and not scuff it up dribbling on concrete or gravel.
  5. Basketball pump. Speaking of basketballs, if you are carrying a basketball you might also want to bring a basketball pump. The basketball pump would always go wherever the basketball goes. If you have one handy then if your ball has deflated, or one of your teammates balls has, you can easily inflate it and get back to practicing your jumpers.
  6. Water. Whether you buy bottled water, or just bring a Nalgene, it has always been my experience that bringing your own is much easier than hitting up the water fountain. Think about when the halftime buzzer sounds and everyone rushes to the water fountain, you don’t really want to stand in that line, do you? Waiting for a drink while the other players slurp it up is never fun… plus the smell of the other guys. WHEW. Instead, if you have your own water handy, you will be just fine and hydrated. And if you keep if next to or behind the bench, you will have easy access as you sub out.
  7. Towel. When you leave the game, either as a sub or during a timeout, it is always nice to dry your face and arms. I always bring a towel with me to get the sweat out of my eyes and to generally dry off. You can decide on the size of the towel, but I have found that a hand towel is better and more convenient than a bath towel.
  8. Change of clothes. There is nothing I hate worse than putting on a sweatshirt over my sweaty t-shirt and hopping into the car to drive home. Your back feels icky pressed between your body and the seat…. That is why I always bring a dry t-shirt and an extra pair of socks with me to every game. Changing out of the sweaty ones and into dry ones feels like heaven some days, especially when the wind chill outside would freeze your sweaty shirt to your back.
  9. Ankle brace. A few years ago I landed on top of someone’s foot as I was coming down with a rebound. Not a fun time. It took my ankle a month or two to get better, but since that time I have laced up an ankle brace inside my shoe for that extra stability. Until you have a really bad ankle twist, this may not seem like an important item to have, but once you have felt that pain, and have not been able to walk for a week, you will understand.
  10. A bag. You would look like a wondering homeless person if you showed up to the gym holding all the above items in your hands. You need a good reliable bag to transport all this with you. Besides the convenience of the carrying all your stuff, the bag gives you a area to place your keys, wallet and cell phone.

This may seem like a long list, but most of these items are small enough that you won’t be hindered by their presence. And only a few of these things ever need washed, so essentially you can just leave your bag in your sports closet or by your back door when you get back from a game, and it will be ready in no time the next time your alarm fails to wake you.

If there are other articles you cannot play hoops without having tell us about it in the comments section.

Keep sporting!
- Who’s In First

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Working Out at Home

Here comes the winter…. and with it generally means winter pounds. Now it makes sense for outdoor creatures to gain pounds in the winter to keep warm, but there is no need for humans to do the same. Therefore, the winter time is the best time to work out in the comfort of your home.

During the summer months there are so many outdoor activities we undertake that help us keep our slender figures that generally go away in the winter. There are no more outdoor BBQs, which means less outdoor volleyball. Generally we are trying to run from one indoor setting, or our car, to cozy up next to a fire place. No more random meandering around malls or parks. Usually there are less hiking trips, unless you strap on some snowshoes.

So in order to combat the doldrums of winter, we need to make sure we stay in shape during the long, cold winter months.

The following are tips on what you can do during the winter months to keep those unwanted pounds off:

  1. Hit the treadmill. It is not everyone’s favorite apparatus, but a treadmill is an easy alternative to your daily jogs. If you have one in the basement, dust it off, power it up and go for a jog or walk. If you don’t own one, either look online to find a cheap one (CraigsList.org is a great place to find used treadmills) or go to a local retailer to find a new one.
  2. Get on your bike. If you own a bike trainer, plop your bike down on it and start peddling. This will get your heart rate moving and help you ward off those unwanted pounds. If your house allows for it, try and set it up near the TV, and peddle your way through your favorite one-hour TV show. As the credits roll you will have burned calories without even knowing it. If you are up for the challenge, try and peddle through an entire movie.
  3. Crunch your abs. As you are watching TV, lay on the floor or your couch and do simple ab crunches. You don’t need to go all the way up, like sit-ups your 5th grade gym teacher required you to do, just go up until your shoulder blades are off the ground, then come back down and repeat. In order to get the best results alternate between having your legs facing forward, off to the left and off to the right. Again, doing this while watching TV is a great way to get your The Office fix and tone your body at the same time. You can also purchase an Ab Wheel for under $10 from eSportsonline that will help to ensure you are not straining your neck or back.
  4. Climb your stairs. If you live in a house or apartment with stairs, use them… often. Climbing stairs is a great way to burn calories and tone your legs. According to an April 2002 article published in “Medicine & Scinece in Sports & Exercise”, you burn 0.11 calories per stair going up and 0.05 calories per stair going down. Multiply this by the number of stairs you are climbing and *poof* no more winter blubber. Adding to this, if you work in an office building try not taking the elevator up, but rather the stairs. Maybe you start off with going a few floors and work your way up to ascending the entire building. Whatever it takes, the rewards will pay off.
  5. Walk in warmth. If the treadmill isn’t for you, and you are looking to either power walk or just walk for fitness, then there might not be a better place o do so in the winter time than the mall. The spacious buildings are designed for pedestrian traffic and allow for extended walks in warmth. If you are walking the mall, and it has two or more stories, make sure to use the stairs to go up and down the flights of stairs. As discussed above you will only help yourself. Also, an added benefit of walking the mall is the chance to not only people watch but to see everything that the stores have to offer. But bare in mind, if you are going to stop in to look at that new shirt, do so after you are satisfied with your walk, not in the middle of your program.

These are simple things you can do at home or the office to help you get through the blahs of winter. Try them for a week and see how you feel.

If you have any other home work-out tips tell us about them in the comments section.

Keep sporting!

- Who’s In First

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

To the Core

Trying to work off the Thanksgiving weight, I headed to the local mega gym yesterday to participate in one of their mid-day group exercise programs.

Not surprisingly I found myself to be the only male in the room. 30 females and me. I would have loved those odds during my single day, but now it was just intimidating. Not because of the 30:1 ratio, but because these women knew what they were doing…. and this was my first time in this class.

We started off pretty slowly and I had a relived feeling that I wouldn’t get shown up by these workout pros.

But 10 minutes into it, the instructor picked up the pace and from then on I was toast. Lagging behind, not looking fluid, not knowing what I was doing. Had I been single, I would have struck out 30 times that day… I looked that bad and awkward.

I chose this workout not because of my yearning to look like an uncoordinated doofus, but because it was designed to strengthen my core and abs, and I figured that would be the best way to tighten the stomach after all that turkey and stuffing.

If you don’t know, the core is basically the chest and stomach areas, running the length of the torso and trunk, and a stable core provides a solid foundation for your everyday activities.

A solid core is essential for optimal performance in most sports. In football, you need a solid core to take the brunt of the physical toll. In baseball/softball, a solid core helps you drive the bat through the strike zone giving you more power. In other sports, a hardened core helps your agility and maneuverability.

Basically the core is the core of your being. Most people like working out their “show off” muscles, arms and chests, but a solid core will not only trim your waist line and make you look good, but will also help you outperform your opponents on the field of play.

If you have a stationary job, like sitting in front of a computer or at a desk all day, a great way to strengthen your core is to replace your chair with a stability ball. You can purchase a Body Ball Workout System from eSportsonline for next to nothing. Stability balls exercise several muscle groups at once and allow you to strengthen your core without having to leave your desk. I cannot think of any other exercises you can do while sitting at your desk without your work suffering.

As for my class, I ended up finishing the workout with my humility in check. While the ladies were doing the final set of push-ups, and I was curled up on the floor in a fetal position, I realized that while my core is essential peak performance, it may be easier to work it out on my own, build it up and then come back next month better prepared to represent an entire sex.

If you have any other workout tips tell us about them in the comments section.

Keep sporting!
- Who’s In First

Monday, December 1, 2008

Las Vegas... A Healthy (Walking) City

Here’s to hoping everyone had a fabulous Thanksgiving weekend!

I was in Las Vegas to celebrate a big birthday in our family and went a little overboard on the buffets (let’s just say the management at the Paris buffet hopes I never come back). Luckily enough though, for as much as Sin City is thought of as an unhealthy city full of all you can eat buffets, bars that never close and smoke filled casino halls, Vegas does offer a lot of health benefits.

One of the biggest health benefits is the enormity of the hotels. There are two reason’s I make this statement and both have to do with the amount of walking that goes on in the city.

The obvious one is that the casinos have strategically placed the elevators to the rooms and shops on the far side of the casino floor. They do this, obviously, to make you stop and throw a dollar or two into the slots, or to put a Benjamin Franklin on the roll of the dice. But there are benefits of this placement to you as well.

Because the hotel elevators and shops are not directly next to the door, you are forced to walk further in order to get to them. Likewise, on your way out, you must walk equally as far to get out of the hotel. The fact that these resources are not close forces you to walk further, thus getting more exercise.

If you are staying in the hotel, odds are that your room is not next to the elevator once you get off, which means more walking. So if you combine the walk to the elevators with the walk to your room, you are burning off a lot of calories.

The second benefit of the size of hotels is that you are probably not going to spend your entire vacation in a single hotel. If you are on the strip you will probably want to go sight-seeing. Maybe you want to see the shark tank at Mandalay Bay or the art exhibit at the Bellagio, or maybe you are going to catch a show at the Venetian. Whatever your reasoning, you will probably be heading outside.

Depending on which hotel you start from, and what your destination is, there is a good chance you may be taking a stroll on the strip to get from place to place. The fact that these hotels are enormous also gives you health benefits. Even if you are going next door, say from Ceasar’s Palace its neighbor to the North, The Mirage, you are probably going to walk ½ mile each way. Add in the return trip and all the walking while inside the casino and you are well over 1 mile.

Now… how many calories can you actually burn from all this walking?

Burned calories are based on two factors: your weight and your pace. The heavier you are and the faster your pace, the more calories you will burn while walking. Below is a chart with averages, based on a pace of 3 mph.

  • 130 to 140 pounds - 3.5 calories burned per minute
  • 145 to 155 pounds - 4.0 calories burned per minute
  • 160 to 170 pounds - 4.5 calories burned per minute
  • 175 to 185 pounds - 5.0 calories burned per minute
  • 190 to 200 pounds - 5.5 calories burned per minute

If you don’t fall within this chart you can add about .5 calories/minute for roughly every 10 pounds more or less than the chart above.

So, if you walk from Ceasar’s Palace to the Mirage and back, while stopping into the Forum Shops to see what the latest sales are, a 170 person can expect to burn in the neighbor hood of 270 calories. Plus, if you bet all your money on red, and it hits, you will burn more calories jumping.

So, while Vegas has a reputation for overindulgence, there are some built in benefits to taking a trip to the city. Just keep in mind, as you should wherever you are, that your best bet, health-wise, is to always choose the heal-toe express over driving or taking the bus. You may not know it, but shuffling along does your body good.

If you have any other ideas on how to use your surroundings to your advantage tell us about them in the comments section.

Keep sporting!
- Who’s In First

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sit On Your Couch, Improve Your Hoops Game - NBA Edition

Yesterday we took a look at what you can learn by watching the disciplined college kids play basketball. Today we will look at what you can learn from watching the pros slug up and down the court.

There are many difference between the NBA and NCAA basketball games, and the most apparent is the apparent selfish nature of most NBA players. These guys make big money and need to keep their stats up to ensue the dough keeps coming in. There are, however, examples from some of the greatest to play the game that you can learn from to improve your game.

1. The Larry Bird Lesson –"A winner is someone who recognizes his God-given talents, works his tail off to develop them into skills, and uses these skills to accomplish his goals."

Bird is probably one of the best examples of someone who looked honestly in the mirror, saw what talent he had and perfected it. Not blessed with the quickest feet or highest vertical, Bird honed the skills he was given to make himself one of the NBA’s all time greats. Bird realized early how to get open and nail a jumper, even though he often times had the other team’s best defender guarding him. The lesson you can learn is that if you cannot dunk, don’t try to, instead learn to get open and practice your jumpers. Your teammates will notice your skills and call on you at opportune times. To paraphrase this lesson, Bird also said, "First master the fundamentals."

2. The Dennis Rodman Lesson – “I want to do for rebounds what Michael Jordan did for dunks.”

Rodman wasn’t ever the tallest guy on the floor, measuring out at 6 ft 8 in, but what Rodman lacked in size he made up for in his ability to be in perfect position for every rebound. Although he was most noted for his outrageous hairstyles and multiple tattoos, Rodman NBA for a record 7 consecutive seasons. He perfected defensive positioning and had a knack for knowing exactly where a carom would come off. The take away from Rodman is that basketball isn’t just a game of who can jump the highest or shoot the furthest, but rather if you learn the intricacies of where to position your body for rebounds or to steal a pass or take a charge, then you will help your team in as big of a way as hitting the game winning 3 pointer.

3. The LeBron James Lesson - "Sometimes the coaches tell me to be selfish, but my game won’t let me be selfish."

Everyone in the world knows that LeBron can score every time he touches the ball. LeBron knows it, his coaches know it, the opposition knows it. What makes LeBron the payer he is, is that since everyone in the arena is expecting him to drive or pull up for the J, he has his eyes on the court surveying the D and his teammates to see where he can dish the ball when the opposition collapses. What makes LeBron the best player in the game isn’t his nearly 30 ppg average, but it is his 30 ppg average combines with his nearly 7 assists-per-game. Taking a chapter out of LeBron’s book, you can learn that being a team makes you the best on the floor, more so than just averaging the most points. Look for your teammates, not only will they appreciate it, but it will help you get past a defender who thinks you are going to dish the ball.

4. The Shaquille O’Neal Lesson - "Me shooting 40% at the foul line is just God's way to say nobody's perfect."

How would you feel to be the best player on your team, maybe your league and not be in there for the final few minutes of the game? This is what Shaq has suffered through the majority of his career. The best lesson you can learn from Shaq is to practice your free throws. If you cannot hit clutch free throws late in the game you probably won’t see the floor time as the game winds down. The opposition can spot quickly if you can hit free throws and will take advantage of deficiencies. If they know you cannot hit free throws and you have the ball as the game is coming to a close, they probably will try and get you on the line. If you can nail the free throws, you can seal the game with your shooting.

Some of the NBA greats above are long since retired, but you can still learn lessons derived from their playing days. You can also form your own lessons while watching some of the current crop of NBA superstars. Players like Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard also qualities about them that you can learn from to improve your game.

If you pay attention to other things while watching an NBA game, tell us about them in the comments section.

Keep sporting!
- Who’s In First

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sit On Your Couch, Improve Your Hoops Game

As your basketball season ramps up, you have a chance to get better by…. Sitting on your couch!

Not conventional advice, but if you happen to take in an NCAA basketball game, there is lots you can learn by watching college kids that can translate into your game.

Odds are that you don’t have the inside game of North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough nor the shooting ability of Davidson’s Stephen Curry (if you do, you may want to call up the local coach), but there is lots to learn from watching their games.

More so in college than the pros, you can see pure basketball fundamentals. College hoopsters aren’t yet millionaire athletes who do their own thing and think they are bigger than the game. They are generally a bunch of grounded, attentive young men and women who will be benched for under performance, or not following the rules their coach laid out.

So next time you watch your local or favorite (Go Mizzou!) college hoops program pay attention to the following fundamentals.

1. Box out – Get back to basics and box the guy you are guarding out. If he cannot get to the ball, and you can, you win. Don’t be afraid of contact, contrary to popular belief, basketball is a contact sports, so make sure your opponent cannot get to the ball.

2. Make the extra pass – Always be on the look out for your teammates. You might be have a slight opening to take a 3, but quickly look inside for your big man, who may be wide open for an easy lay up. Likewise, if you have been hitting shots all night, other defenders may collapse on you, leaving a guy open at the top of the key for a wide open J.

3. Pump fake – A simple pump fake will get your defender off the balls of his feet and will give you an opportunity to skate around him and either drive the lane or punch the ball out to an open teammate whose defender had to collapse to help on you.

4. Play tight D – In college you will see tight D the entire game (as opposed to only the final 3 minutes of a pro game). Lots of recreational basketball games are decided by 10 points or less, if you have stopped your opponents on multiple occasions with your stringent D then you have a better chance of winning than losing.

5. Look inside – There is a reason that big men lead the country in field-goal percentage each year, and that is because a 2 foot shot is easier to make than an 18 footer. If you can get the ball inside, either to one of your bigs, or a cutting guard, then you will have a better chance of making your shot.

6. Free throws – Games are won and lost at the free throw line. If you can hit 75% of your shots (not a terribly difficult task, unless you are Shaq) then you are in a good boat to win your game. If you hit the gym to shoot around, make sure to leave enough time to practice free throw shooting at the end of your shoot-around.

Basketball is not always just about who can jump the highest or run the fastest. If you go back to the fundamentals that you see each night in the college game, you will put your team in a position to win.

If you pay attention to other things while watching an college game, tell us about them in the comments section.

Keep sporting!

- Who’s In First

Friday, November 21, 2008

Advice For Youth Trying to Make a Team

Until a certain age, for most it is probably 6th or 7th grade, kids make any team they register for. Generally the parents create the teams to ensure parity or that siblings are on the same team, but for the most part there are no cuts to kids until they reach middle school.

So, tryouts can be a stressful time for many youth. They may not think they can make the team and consequently won’t try out. What if John Elway was too timid to try out for his middle school football team?

Below are some tips to help kids to be confident during their first tryouts. Pass the information along to anyone you know who is trying out for a team for the first time. The advice can also be used for adults interviewing for jobs, out on a first date or playing with a new recreational team.

1) Make a good first impression. The old adage “You never have a second chance to make a first impression” holds very true to trying out for a team. If the coach or manager sees you goofing off or not trying your hardest, that impression will stick with them for the rest of the season. The first practice is always a good time to go the extra mile and stay a little later, helping the coach clean up, or round up stray balls. If the coach sees your intangibles on the first day, then he will remember that when it comes time to selecting his team.

2) Come to practice prepared. Make sure you have the right equipment and the right apparel on when you get to practice, or at least before practice begins. Coaches will not like it if you arrive at the gym right as practice is set to begin and you still have on your jeans. Likewise, if you are trying out for a baseball or softball team, make sure you have a glove, or if you don’t own one, that you have arranged for the use of one by another teammate.

3) Give it your all. Don’t slack. Coaches can spot slackers a million miles away. Give it your all every practice, even if you are tired. Stay late or arrive early and talk to the coach about what you can do to be the best player you can be.

4) Be a team player. Unfortunately not everyone can start for every team. In basketball, only 5 people can play at a time. If you are not one of the five on the floor at a particular time, help out your teammates by cheering them on or giving them pointers. Make sure that they have a seat to sit on if they come out of the game. In practice, do the extra things that will benefit the team, even if it isn’t using your skill on the court.

5) Listen to your coaches. When your coach speaks, listen. If they are talking, don’t dribble a basketball or play toss with a baseball. Make sure you are paying attention to them at all times. And if they ask you to do something, do it. They have good reasons, and while it might not be apparent at the time, your hard work will pay off either with more playing time, or getting the opportunity to take the last shot.

6) Have Fun. This is the most important aspect. In whatever you do, make sure you have fun doing it. It is fun to win, but the camaraderie you build with teammates can last a lifetime. I would argue that everyone who reads this blog will not ever be paid to play a professional sport, so when it all comes down to it, you are playing to have fun, so always keep that in mind.

Hopefully these tips will give you a leg up on the competition and help you make the team. Remember, a positive attitude is the most important skill you can have.

If you have any other advice for youth trying out for a team, tell us in the comments section.

Keep sporting!

- Who’s In First