Coach James ~ Girls Play Ball!
What makes a good coach?
Passion - I grew up loving this game and am fortunate that I have been able to stay close to the game all my life. Knowing that I am able to help others improve their skill is incredibly rewarding for me. I love seeing the look on a player's face when they have those a-ha moments! Sharing the success after seeing the hard work and practice put in by the player is priceless!
Patience - I have the patience to work with players while they develop their skill. I have realistic expectations about player development and celebrate smaller improvements in their improvement. Patience is important because girls need to understand that it is acceptable to make mistakes.
Expectations - Although I want each player to play to their own potential, I also have realistic expectations about what they are capable of. May coaches will coach a team beyond their capability and expect the players to perform advanced plays during the game.
Coaching - I have found that rather than telling a player what they need to do to be more effective, drilling a player and demonstrating what needs to happen for an improved outcome is much more effective. Catching a pop fly is the best example I can provide for this approach. I can tell a player to get under a ball and catch it in front of their face. On the other hand, it is more effective to show a player the proper position through a drill. In the drill I use soft/squishy stress balls. At very close range I toss a ball in the air about 7 feet high. I tell the player to catch the ball with their forehead. In doing so, the player does not get hurt (safety first!) and finds their body and head in the proper position to catch a fly ball. After a several tosses, I take a few steps back and toss the ball higher, allowing the player more time to get under the ball. After a few reps of this drill, we do higher and farther pop flies with a tennis ball while incorporating proper use of the glove.
How is coaching girls different from coaching boys?
Girls are much more shy. Boys are usually eager to play and not afraid to go for it. Girls can be a bit timid and unsure of what to do at times. On game day, it is important to make the girls feel good and happy. If I can accomplish this, they tend to play better. In our pre-game warm ups, we always play music and try to keep things light so that the girls are loose and ready to play.
Why is it important for girls to play sports?
Sports not only address the obvious, teamwork and social skills, there are also so many life lessons paralleled in each season. Learning these lessons at a younger age helps prepare the young athletes for larger decisions in the future. In our post season meeting when we give out awards, I often share the life lesson we experienced and highlight how we were able to manage through it. Sports also gives a player confidence. When they are properly coached, prepared, and able to succeed their level of confidence soars.
How does playing sports empower young girls?
Softball, as with other sports, often requires faster decision making. In many instances, players are required to make split decisions during the game. Through positive reinforcement about the decision made, girls are empowered to think fast, make a decision, and react.
What role does discipline play in softball?
Discipline plays an important role in many aspects of the game. Softball is a game of failures so it is important that players remain as disciplined as possible to yield the best results. We often talk about controlling what we can control in the game. A player about to hit is a good example of how important it is to have discipline. Although we cannot control how fast the pitcher pitches, the spin she puts on the ball, or whether she pitches a strike or a ball - the batter has 100% control over whether she swings at a ball (non-strike) or a strike. Swinging at a ball (non-strike) only helps the pitcher. Instead, we want the batter to be disciplined enough to only swing at strikes as much as possible.
How do you handle overly competitive parents?
Managing these parents usually starts with the team meeting. In this meeting I set the expectation with players and parents. Although my expectation on the parent is to have them encourage, cheer, and support the players, I have seen some parents, harshly, yell what they think the player is doing wrong. Parents in this league, for the most part, aren't over the top. If the parent behavior is bad enough, I will speak with them after the game or during practice to remind them how much better their player will play with proper encouragement. Usually this is enough of a intervention and reality check for the parent.
How do girls handle the competition?
As a recreation league, we have players of all levels on each team. Generally speaking the newer players enjoy playing the game (win or lose) and socializing with their peers. In the younger divisions, many players just want to have fun. There are always those players much more serious about the game and want a higher level of competition. These players usually play at a higher level and are more proficient in the positions they play. It is very common for players in the league to take additional lessons in pitching, hitting, and/or with a catcher coach. When two competitive teams square off in a game, it is incredibly fun to watch and manage!
How do you handle the kid on the team that does not want to be there?
For the most part, players want to be on a team. Because we are a recreation league, nobody is required to play. If anything, some players are less interested. As an example, I was coaching a 7 year old player. When she was up to bat, she rarely watched the ball. During warm ups (prior to our next game), I asked her what she was thinking about when she tried to hit the ball. She replied, "Coach, I'm thinking about butterflies and selfies"! After sharing a good laugh I asked her how much bigger her smile will be after taking a selfie after hitting the ball. We don't always get the serious players but we have a fun time and hopefully make it a good enough experience for them to want to come back for more. Each player wants something out of the season - I try to identify it early and find a way to give it to them.
Describe a bad practice vs. a good practice.
To me a bad practice is one that doesn't engage the majority of the team. The worst practice I can think of is when the coach is pitching a ball to one batter and the rest of the team is in a defensive position waiting for the player to hit the ball to them. This approach takes too much time and focuses only on 1 player at a time. As a result, many players play in the dirt or with the grass and are not engaged with the practice.
A good practice begins with preparation and keep the girls moving. Because practices are only one hour, I usually have players work on 3 drills in 3 different parts of the field. Once a player is done with one station, they go to the next. Certainly there are times when we need more practices involving team work and everyone working together. You know practice is a good one when parents collectively cheer throughout the practice after players successfully complete the drills.
What are the pros and cons of coaching your daugher?
Pros: a) More 1 on 1 time to develop her skill in areas she needs practice. b) I know her strengths and areas in need of improvement. We can continue keeping her strengths strong and improving in other areas. c) I know how she thinks and how to coach her. With the wrong approach I know she will shut down. With the right approach she will run through a wall for you.
Cons: As her primary coach for several seasons, the lines between dad and coach tend to get muddy, at times. My daughter is a pleaser and I know that another coach will get more out of her. As her head coach for several seasons, there are times that she just sees me as Dad telling her what to do.
What do you tell the girls after a loss vs. a win?
I coach to the expectation - that we all play to our potential. I often say that the outcome of the game is determined by the team who collectively does the "4 goods" the best. The 4 goods are: good hitting, good pitching, good catching/fielding, and good throwing. The team that collectively does this the best usually gets the win. My message usually evolves throughout the season. In the first part of the season, we are all making adjustments (players and coaches) and learning the other teams. We identify what we did well and what we need to practice. As we progress through the season we start to evaluate how well we are progressing as a team toward playing to our potential. This coupled with a self evaluation of our performance vs the 4 goods usually helps us identify what we need to work on and what we could have done better during the game
After a win we take a similar approach to what we review after a loss. We evaluate our performance vs the 4 goods and celebrate the win. I also remind the team that just because we won that game, it doesn't mean that the other team can't come back to beat us the next time. If we continue to work hard and improve, our chances of success in the future increases.
What do you tell the girls every day?
100% Effort - I always ask my players to try their hardest at anything they do. If they give 100% effort, nobody can ask for anything more. This approach is effective for a team full of varying skill. I never expect a developing player to have the skill of an all star. Instead, I ask that all players play to their best capability. I always tell my team, "We practice like we play (in a game) and we play (in a game) like we practice!" This establishes the same expectation whether practicing or playing in a game. The players that can meet this expectation are much more equipped to make plays in a game because they are mentally and physically ready to react... because of of the amount of practice and preparation they have put in prior to game day
What is the key to coaching girls?
At the end of the day, the key to coaching girls is to make it fun. Whether it's giving award stickers for performance during a game or giving candy during practice for successfully completing a difficulty drill, girls like to smile and have fun. If I can make this happen during practices and games, the end result for the player is usually a positive one.
Learn more about James Ritchie.
Apprendre Le Français?
In the classroom with middle school French teacher, Martha Moore.
How do you approach teaching a language at the middle school level?
I teach the beginning level at USN, but try to immerse the students as much as possible. That means conversation in the target language every day, from day one. Vocabulary is taught with lots of miming, pointing, cognates and cues. I sort of keep chattering until a student understands what I'm saying and the translation goes on the board. For grammar, kids create their own grammar manuals with notes from the board. We do grammar in English. I've found that since kids quickly make connections to the "codes" of their native language, grammar seems to stick better when taught in English. It's helpful to point out where our grammar rules intersect with those of French and where they differ.
What are the pros and cons of immersion at a beginners level. Are you a believer in this method?
I am a believer, and I taught with full immersion (grammar and all) for about five years at my previous school. It helps kids get their ears tuned very quickly, and the "sink or swim" approach keeps them on their toes. They hear, speak, write...and hopefully start to think in the target language. The downside of the method for me was that I would lose a few kids. They just couldn't quite take the leap and needed more of an "easing in" to the language. Here, I like the balance of teaching grammar in English and just about everything else in French. When they leave middle school, they will enter French II, which is full immersion.
Which digital, audio programs do you recommend to help students practice at home?
Duolingo is great!! I also like a podcast called "One Thing in a French Day," and "News in Slow French" is helpful too. I also recommend putting on any French news or radio just to benefit from some passive-acquisition time. Oh, and watching shows in French that you've already watched in English, too (like Disney cartoons or "Caillou"--always a hit for some reason) can be fun.
How do you integrate the Common Core when teaching a Language.
Since my school is an independent school, we don't have any sort of mandate to integrate Common Core. I think a lot of what Common Core asks of students is addressed, but no one will be testing the kids to determine that.
Take me through a typical class period of French class.
"Bell Work" on the board as students come in (scrambled word, a sentence to translate, etc)
Chain Question: Usually this question uses vocabulary and grammar from current lesson (for example: "Est-ce que tu as un restaurant favori? Si oui, comment s'appelle le restaurant, et qu'est-ce qui vous me recommendez?" "Do you have a favorite restaurant? If you do, what is it called, and what do you recommend?); all students ask and answer this question in a chain around the room.
Check Homework: If it's a translation, all answers will go on board, and we'll check together; with translations kids write their own English sentence for the last number, and we do an around-the-room, on-the-spot translation.
Grammar Note or Vocabulary Practice: this could be a note written in the grammar comp book, a quick verb drill, or a brief translation task.
Partner Work: This is often a pair interview or the creation of a dialogue or description of some sort.
Sharing Out of Work: We come back together as a class and share what we've discovered through the interview or read our dialogues.
Closing Game: Sparkle is a big hit, as is Quizlet Live; we've started playing Taboo too, and Pictionary and Charades are old standbys.
For good reason, it is common for middle schoolers to take Spanish. Why study French?
French is spoken in North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia. There are over 220 million French speakers worldwide. French is one of the working languages of the United Nations, the Olympics, the European Union, and the Court of Justice of the European Union. Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world. The art, literature, fashion and FOOD are worth experiencing and enjoying "comme les français"!
Teens and Makeup
Makeup is fun and it can create a transformation that can bring confidence to the difficult time of growing up, but it can be applied sparingly. As an introduction to teens wearing makeup, I suggest starting with a tinted lip balm or gloss, and then something a little more, without looking so obvious. An easy next step might be a light coat of mascara or maybe just a touch of blush, bronzer or even just a shimmery highlight on the cheekbones for fun. These ideas are plenty to create a transformation.
If teens are experiencing skin breakouts, they will probably want to find a good foundation to cover their blemishes. Just that alone can really make a big difference and boost the confidence of a teenager going through hormone changes. For someone who doesn’t have anything to cover, they might choose just a little concealer under their eyes and on their eyelids to brighten their face.
I started dappling with wearing makeup when I was about 13 years old, and that was only eyeliner and mascara. Some are just dappling like I was. However, nowadays by the time kids are 13, some can not only do a full beauty makeup, but they’ve learned a lot of special effects makeup tricks, and face painting skills. How are they so skilled in these professional makeup artistry techniques? They learn from Youtube tutorials...of course!
Makeup can make a child look a lot older or more mature than they really are. I personally think kids should enjoy being a kid and looking like a kid as long as possible. They’ll have a lot of years as a grown up, and when that time comes, they’ll also have the maturity to make the decisions that come with being and looking like an adult.
It's More than Rock n' Roll.
Drummer, Angie Scarpa, empowering girls at
Rock N' Roll Camp for Girls.
Can you describe Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls and how you became involved as a drum instructor?
Rock Camp for Girls was founded as a girl's empowerment project, using music as a driving force to nurture self esteem and self expression. The staff (counselors, instructors and volunteers) is comprised solely of women, helping to improve the lives of girls. At the same time, the girls empowering each other.
I was encouraged to play music as a child and that was certainly not the norm for girls growing up in the 70’s and 80’s. Having been lucky enough to have that experience, I felt a sense of duty to give back to these girls. When I first joined camp as an instructor, I had just come off several years of volunteering as a crisis and suicide counselor for LGBT youth and that experience, although very rewarding, was very intense. I was looking for a different way to give of my time and girl’s camp seemed the perfect fit.
What is the process?
Each girl comes to camp having chosen a specific instrument or role in a band, (drummer, guitarist, singer, bassist, keys) and after some ice breakers and 'getting to know you' exercises, the girls break out into smaller groups representing their instrument and one by one they mix together until the bands are formed. Prior to camp, the staff ensures we have an equal number girls playing each instrument, that way we don't end up with too many guitarist or drummers etc.
The girls begin on a Monday and perform an original song, with a band, five days later. Some have never played before. Each day begins with morning assembly, which is a very similar to a typical summer camp experience. All the girls are together and are encouraged to participate while the counselors and instructors perform the camp theme song, lead activities like stretching and morning yoga/aerobics. They provide an inclusive and fun atmosphere.
After assembly the girls break out into groups based on their chosen instrument and attend instrument instruction class. On day one they are already playing. As instructors we devise simple exercises and instructions to get the girls playing right out of the box. We also are able to access the skill level of each girl and can provide one on one instruction during class as well as group activities. Having the girls playing and feeling confident through instrument instruction class preps them for band practice later that day.
In band practice the newly formed groups are assisted by a team of coaches who get the girls playing as a group, working together, writing and performing an original song, right from the start. These songs can be very simple or somewhat more involved depending on the band. There are no 'mistakes.' This is art and about expression. It isn’t about perfection. The instrument instructors also float between band practice rooms and provide one on one encouragement to their students, possibly to help them devise a drum/guitar part or to be there for support.
Why is this camp special?
The camp is about so much more than music. It fosters friendships, not only between the campers, but among the counselors and instructors as well. I feel the adults get just as much out of it as do the kids. Beyond music, we have classes in feminism, women in music, fanzine and third design, logos etc. Also, we have just developed a new course in film making where girls write, direct, produce and edit a music video while on campus.
What do the girls take away from this camp?
The girls leave wishing camp could go on and on. The same is true of the counselors, instructors and staff. We all share in a bonding experience that I have never seen anywhere else. The 'women only' space is very empowering for the girls as they get to see the adults on campus in roles that they may not see in their daily lives.
How does a girl qualify to attend this camp?
There are several criteria and each girl is asked to fill out a questionnaire, which asks about their lives, goals etc. The camp is a non profit and there are several girls who attend class for free or reduced tuition based on need.. .
Play and Learn!
Teacher, Brian King , Creates Learning Games for Students.
You Developed these games yourself. There is a wide variety and each game targets very specific skills. How did you teach yourself the code/language?
Honestly, I just used Google (over the course of several months). There are a lot sites and forums out there with tutorials and examples. I first learned to code in high school (back in the 90s), but that language (True Basic) did not allow for graphic or sound, so a good friend pointed me in the direction of Action Script 3 (the language I used to create the games).
What need did you fulfill by creating your own games that you did not find already on the internet?
I would get aggravated by “educational” gaming sites when not all the games were actually educational. Many of the sites I would tell my kids to go to, also contained games that were had not educational value whatsoever. I wanted to be able to tell my kids to go to a site and be assured that whatever they did would have value. It also makes some of the simpler parts of education more enjoyable when the kids are doing math while going on an adventure or flying a space ship. I get what I want (educational practice) they get what they want (games!).
What grade do you teach and how much time do you allow your students to play these games?
I currently teach 6th grade, but first started making games for the site in 2013 when I was a third grade teacher. We have a Smartboard in our rooms and I wanted the class to be able to play games during winter recess and start off each day with some fun practice or competition. I don’t have my 6th graders on the site as much as I did my 3rd graders, but they are permitted to use it when assignments are finished.
Which game is the most popular and why do you think it is successful?
Math Quest is by far the most popular game at RoomRecess.com, mainly because it’s an enormous adventure game that takes many days to complete. Because of this, users are permitted to create (free) accounts to save their progress. Basically, the player is attacked by cartoon-type monsters along their journey and can only attack the monster by completing math problems. The reading section at RoomRecess.com is also widely used, especially Radly the Readbot. When creating the games, I tried to cover core content areas.
What are the pros/cons of computer games in the classroom. How do you modify your classroom activities to deal with the cons?
“Gamification” (as experts are calling it) is great because it utilizes technology in a way that almost tricks students into learning their basic skills on their level and in their mode of learning. The only con I see at this time is when sites are not monitored for value or content. I see a lot of sites that are just fun and don’t contain a lot of good skills.
Are you teaching your students how to create games? How and when do you fit that into your teaching day.
I am not currently teaching students how to code, but I used to (back when I had more time). With RoomRecess.com I now have two jobs (teaching, of course, being my other), and I’m a husband and father of two. I hope to teach kids how to code again one day, but this level of coding (graphics, animation and sound) would probably be better suited either for older students or those that are motivated to put many hours into learning it.
What age range do these games target?
Currently I focus on K-6, but I do have a computer lab section with computer skills (such as keyboarding) that many high schools use.
Are these games playable on iPads, tablets and phones?
I currently only have about 6 or 7 apps on the App Store (one of them was created mostly by my class last year). Since the website is so widly use, I tend to focus on that. The games run on Adobe Flash so they will not work on Apple Devices without the assistance of Puffin Academy (a free app that plays Flash).
DOWN THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD
with D.J. ADAMSON
Tried and True,
The Wizard of Oz
A structural Literary Model.
**Since many of us have watched the movie The Wizard of Oz more than we have read L. Frank Baum books, I will reference the movie, not the book Also, don’t miss the contest at the end of this blog.
Story has structure no matter its genre. Its elements include: Setting, Character, Themes, Plot: Conflicts and Climax, and Denouement. Each of these creates a great story. Learning structure sets the foundation for the enjoyment of the reader, and more importantly, the reader comes away with having been enlightened. No story offers a greater example of this than The Wizard of Oz (W of Oz).
Inner Conflict: The themes presented by the characters create the inner conflicts. Dorothy needs to learn – Click, click—There Is No Place Like Home. ( We should all put on our ruby red slippers every day and give them a click or two. We can do it, anytime we want.)
If a writer has a solid concept of a story’s elements, putting them together is easier in story writing. The first of a story introduces the setting, characters and main protagonist’s problem. The second part provides the steps necessary for the main character to solve their problem and construct the themes. The third part pulls together the conflicts to a climax. There is no better way to learn how, than to read as much as possible, write as many stories as possible, and to watch the Wizard of Oz.
** Those who SUBSCRIBE and who answer the follow Wizard of Oz questions will be placed in a drawing for an autographed novel by D. J. Adamson and become a character in her next Lillian Dove Mystery, Let Go, set to release 2017
1.We are the _________________________________.
2.If I only had a ___________, a ______________, a _____________, a ________________.
(Deadline to sign-up and submit ~ 8/31/16. Winner announced 9/1/16.)