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Quality At-Bats with USD Coach Brad Marcelino

Quality At-Bats with USD Coach Brad Marcelino

As the Assistant Baseball Coach at the University of San Diego and a longtime director of youth baseball development, Brad Marcelino is making his mark on both the Southern California and national baseball scenes.

This spring is Marcelino’s sixth season with the 19th ranked Toreros, where he serves as the Hitting Coach, Outfield Coach, and Base Running Coach. From 2013 through 2015, Marcelino coached three consecutive first round MLB Draft picks – including Chicago Cubs All-Star and World Series Champion Kris Bryant.

This past summer, Marcelino was also selected to coach the USA Baseball 14-Under Southwest Region team in the National Teams Identification Series (NTIS) in Cary, NC. Marcelino has been heavily involved in youth development and is the founder of the North County (San Diego) Mavericks high school/college development program, which focuses on development of academics, character, and baseball skills.

Blast Baseball recently sat down with Marcelino to talk about training and how to improve the mental and physical skills necessary for hitters to have quality at-bats.

A MENTAL EDGE

Marcelino’s training methods emphasize developing and fine-tuning a player’s mental approach to the game. Since so much of a player’s performance on the field and in the batter’s box involves extreme focus and discipline, this emphasis helps lay the groundwork for success.

“We talk a lot about the mental side of the game, having a mental edge and performing at the time when it matters most,” said Marcelino. “That’s one of the big things that we do, and I think it really takes our players to the next level.”

Marcelino used his former college pupil, current World Series Hero & NL MVP Kris Bryant, as an example of mental preparation translating to big-time success on the field and at the plate.

“Kris Bryant, and some of these other guys who have been high-round draft picks, they really buy into the mental game,” said Marcelino. “At USD, that consists of visualization for the first 10 minutes of practice, where we take our players through certain aspects of practice and their performance, and just their life. They’re much more productive at practice after we take the time to do that.”

MIND OVER BATTING AVERAGE

Marcelino believes that while starting each practice with mental preparation and visualization is important, so is being willing to accept failure – at least by the conventional measure of success vs. failure, a hitter’s batting average. Baseball is not an easy sport. Understanding and accepting that it’s hard to get hits at any level of the game is key to a strong mental approach.

“We stress from day one that we’re detached from any batting average,” said Marcelino. “You have to understand that you can do everything right in a batter’s box, and on that day, your average could go down. Getting that ingrained into the hitters early, when they first arrive, is huge. You can’t base your success on average. You have to base your success on quality at-bats, which is a big deal for us.”

Just as Marcelino stresses to his hitters not to get caught up in batting averages, he cautions them not to fall prey to the concept of “being in a slump” when a hitter is not putting together quality at-bats.

“I’m the hitting coach, so obviously I hate that term,” said Marcelino. “We make adjustments and we figure out ways to fix things individually, because there’s certain keys to their individual swing that maybe can get them feeling better. A ‘slump’ is when they’re chasing hits. They’re not controlling what they can control. We have four cornerstones that we build for them when they walk to the plate. We want them to control those parts of the game. If they do that and they’re more stable in their thought process, in their preparation, in their visualization before practice or before the game – then the ‘slump’ goes away.”

AN INDIVIDUAL TOUCH

Pairing that strong mental approach with smart adjustments at the plate is where a hitter can find true success – and start to rack up both quality at-bats and hits.

For Marcelino, this is where Blast Baseball 360 plays a role in preparing hitters for success at the plate. He recognizes that hitting is in many ways individualistic – and Blast can help each hitter build and improve their individual swing.

“There are certain checkpoints that have to happen within your swing, and that’s known, but you have your own individual signature on how you hit.”

“We’re trying to teach guys how to hit, not just how to swing,” said Marcelino. “That’s why I think Blast Motion is so important. You can tell a kid something in so many ways, but now with technology and the way it works, the instant feedback that Blast gives is what I’m most excited about.”

The cutting-edge and easy-to-use technology helps provide that individual attention and touch, according to Marcelino.

“We’ve been doing some one-on-one work with the guys,” recalled Marcelino. “So we put their cell phone on the tripod, and they go into their Blast Baseball 360 app, get into the video recording and we record five or six swings, and we play it back and break it down.”

“It’s great because you tell them one thing as far as their hand path or the bat path and figure out how to fix their launch angle by getting down on their legs more and things like that. But then when you show them and then you record it again and they see the result – that’s when you can connect the feeling with what they actually did and that objective feedback. Each guy has something that is going to click different for him. So, each of our guys has an individual hitting plan, which incorporates Blast.”

IMPROVEMENT STARTS WITH MEASUREMENT

Marcelino added that he has even developed his own leaderboard, which he calls the Quality At-Bat World Series. In his eyes, this is more important that leading the team in batting average.

The next step for Marcelino and his coaches is to begin incorporating more and more data from Blast Baseball 360 into these advanced statistics for his leaderboard.

“We’re going to look at their Blast numbers,” explained Marcelino. “We’ll look at what we want from each of them individually – from their target bat path to their target energy transfer to their target swing speed and exit velo. With all the numbers that Blast provides, we know they’re taking a good swing when those are consistent. That’s what we want, number one. We want them to step in with a clear mind and get their best swing on. That’s where Blast makes on impact with our players.”

For updates on the Toreros season, follow them on Twitter @USDbaseball

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The Next Generation of Blast Baseball 360

At Blast, we know the daily drive to improve starts with the right tools. We recently launched the next generation Blast Baseball 360 app (available in the App Store and Google Play), giving players and coaches a new toolkit to train smarter and get better.

The update brings a very different look and feel to the app. Our own Armando Santana, Director of Product Management, and Julia Putzeys, Product Manager, provide an in-depth look at the new features and functionalities, along with the inspiration behind the update.

Experience the Difference

After extensive research, feedback, and testing to see what players and coaches wanted out of Baseball 360, our team found several ways to improve the overall experience.

“We have an amazing technology in our sensor, and it’s something that’s super valuable to the people who are using it to train and be better in their sport,”said Putzeys. “But really, that’s not helpful to them unless they have an app that goes with it that is just as great. It needs to be easy to use and perfectly showcase all the functionality the sensor has, and we think that’s what we’re bringing to our customers with the new generation of our app.”

From a fresh new user interface to enhanced ease-of-use to smarter, faster technology, the update was designed with coaches and hitters in mind, for a quicker path to improvement.

“With our new Baseball 360 app, you’re going to see some general improvements of the interface,” explained Santana. “You’re going to be able to find things easier. You’re going to be able to see where your swings are, where your videos are, where your metrics are, and how you’re progressing. The overall flow fits with the way you’re going to be able to digest this information and train faster.”

From research and development to planning and implementation, many people and perspectives were involved in the new Blast Baseball 360 app.

“Early on, we spent a lot of time talking to our users and our ambassadors,” said Santana. “We have designers on staff who really take that feedback in, and we have these collaborative design sessions. We whiteboard ideas. We work together, then we work with engineering, who is coming up with solutions to those problems that our customers are sharing. They’re figuring out ways we can make this app faster, sync with the cloud, and provide video capabilities that are differentiating features in our Baseball 360 app.”

Users Played a Big Role

In addition to our in-house team, our loyal user base, along with our valued Blast Coaches played an important role in the introduction of this next phase of Baseball 360 technology.

“Our users give us feedback on a daily-basis about how they’re experiencing the product, what they like about it, and also what they don’t like about it,” explained Putzeys. “So we really take that to heart and work with our users. We get feedback from all different kinds of channels – through our customer support team and on the app stores. We also bring a lot of users and ambassadors into our lab and we work with them on the product, and we come up with ideas from there and ways that it can improve based on how they use it.”

“We started with the customer first, and we realized that we needed to build something that worked the way they work,” added Santana. “So we spent a lot of time talking to our ambassadors and pro users, and really understanding how they’re using Blast Baseball today.”

Two Audiences, One Solution

When designing and implementing this update, it was important to keep two distinct audiences in mind:

Baseball and softball hitters of all levels. And their coaches and coaching academies. In the end, we came up with one solution to meet the needs of both groups.

“We’re targeting two different people,” explained Putzeys. “The first is a player that just wants to get better. So we want to provide them with all the tools they need to train on their own, including drills, ideas, and content from our ambassadors to help them get better, then teach them how to use the Blast sensor and our application to train on their own.

“But we’re also targeting coaches who have a team of players that may be using a sensor that they share among them – or each player on the team might have a sensor and the coach is running a practice while using our solution with all of their team members. It’s a very different use case, but I think a lot of times they’re looking for the same results. So, we focused on those main users and optimize a solution that would work for both of them.”

“We wanted to build this app for anybody who wants to improve their swing,” added Santana, who is also an active coach himself. “So the Baseball 360 app needs to be really easy to use, whether it’s the youth coach who is just learning about Blast Baseball and really want to improve a youth player, all the way up to the pro player who’s really trying to take their game to the next level. And it needs to satisfy everybody in between.”

A Bold New UI

A big part of meeting those needs lay in developing an intuitive new user interface – or UI, for short. This revamped UI needed to be not only easier to use, but more enjoyable to interact with.

“We have this amazing solution and we want to have an app that really helps our users use our sensor,” said Putzeys. “We want our app to be fun to use and easy to use, where it makes someone want to pick it up every day and train with it. We want to provide new content for our users and we want to provide an ultimate training experience.”

Training Center + Blast Connect

One of the major improvements is the development of the Training Center, an online and in-app repository for videos and other content that focuses on training and interactive drills. Some of those drills are even offered by luminaries like Blast Baseball Athlete, and Houstons Astros shortstop, Carlos Correa.

The Training Center resides in the main bottom navigation of the new Blast Baseball 360 app – making it easily accessible from anywhere in the app.

“We’ve gotten some feedback on our new training center, which provides something that users have really been asking for,” explained Putzeys. “It’s a place to learn how to get better, and also learn how to use our sensor and integrate it into their training and really get the most out of it. This way, they can make sure they’re using the sensor the way it should be used, and improving on all the metrics we measure. It outlines each metric, along with ways to improve on each.”

This new focus on content-rich training is also fully integrated into Blast Connect, to create the total improvement solution.

“If you’re using the full solution, you get all your workouts and practices from your coach, you can access them on your mobile phone, and you can complete the workouts and practices while you’re on the go” said Putzeys.

“With the new Blast Baseball 360 app, coaches and academies can expect some improvements on how we have integrated with Blast Connect,” said Santana. “Coaches can capture swings and videos and sync that to the cloud, then they can go to Blast Connect and really analyze that information. One of our goals with this new app is to empower athletes to improve and just work smarter. And as they work smarter, they are going to master the game and ultimately enjoy the game more.”

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Tees and Tots: How Kids Can Benefit From Playing Golf

kids golf

Golf is picking up in popularity with America’s youth these days, and it couldn’t come at a better time. With childhood obesity rates skyrocketing in recent years, there’s no time like the present to get kids out of the house and moving around. However, there are many advantages to the early adoption of golf, in addition to the physical benefits, that are valuable for our youths. Along with requiring children to adhere to proper etiquette and follow rules, golf provides many other social, physical, and emotional benefits as well.

Social Benefits

Golfing has always been a social sport, and that benefit is not reserved for the adults who enjoy the game. With a relatively low barrier to entry, individuals of any age can step onto a course and play, making it a sport well-suited to demographic diversity that can introduce children to a gamut of social interactions. Golf also offers a perfect venue for positive parent/child interactions. It can be a great way to encourage quality time and bonding between a parent and child, which can set the stage for a lasting relationship.

This sport also requires that children mind their manners and conduct themselves respectfully while on the course. In addition to etiquette, golf helps children learn to problem solve, use numbers, and be confident in their abilities while also improving on their weaknesses.

Physical Benefits

In a world of technology, it’s easy for children to stop playing outside and start spending more and more time indoors, in front of screens. This can make it challenging for parents who are trying to get their kids to participate in more physical activities. Golf can provide an alternate means of enjoyment outside of the realm of video games. And because it’s open to all skill levels, it has the benefit of being an easy choice for children that might otherwise shy away from sports. As a non-contact and low-impact sport, it doesn’t require a child to be the strongest, fastest, or biggest in order to be successful or enjoy themselves.

Emotional Benefits

Children require development of their emotional fitness just as much as those physical and social counterparts. Golf helps develop the youth’s emotional health by encouraging self-improvement and challenging them to persevere through frustrations. It requires players to self-analyze, practice, and accept encouragement and constructive critique from coaches and peers. With both achievements and disappointments on the horizon, little players must learn to sustain a positive outlook, learn from their mistakes, and “shake it off” when they fall short so that past faults do not affect current performance or future results.

Because golf is a game of self-improvement, it requires the player to focus on their performance, and it eliminates the opportunity to easily ascribe shortfalls to team members. This can help instill autonomy and responsibility, and nurture the self-confidence that is so vital to living a long and happy life.

Golf is a great way to encourage the home-bound child to get out and spend a day in nature having some good old-fashioned fun on the green, and it can offer many lessons to today’s youth. Several parallels can be drawn between this game and the challenges and successes inherent in society. Golf requires the child to practice emotional management, positivity, proper planning, clear focus, good social skills, and perseverance. It also helps them assess both the task at hand as well as the bigger picture. As children learn how to conduct themselves properly while they are on the course, they are also learning how to become happy, healthy, successful members of society.

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The Effects of Sports on Relationships

sports

It may sound a little surprising to hear that participating in sports can be a great relationship-builder – after all, aren’t many sports created around the idea of fierce competition and rivalry? Yet studies have shown that people who grew up playing sports have more finely developed social skills than those who did not, in part due to the self-esteem boosts created by participation and feeling like part of a team. Whether you’re on the winning side or the side that’s just happy to be there, there are many positive benefits to playing sports – especially when it comes to developing lasting relationships with others.

Building Better Relationships Through Sport

Many of us had the experience of playing sports as children. Whether in a recreational league or something more professional, there’s a reason why sports are recommended for kids and teens: because they help one feel as though they’re a part of something. There’s a sense of belonging that comes with playing sports as part of a team, as well as a significant boost in self-esteem. It’s where many important social skills are learned, including acceptance of others, support of our peers, and the value of competition.

In a study of high school senior students involved in sports, a whitepaper by the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that shy students in particular were able to improve their social skills through sports, stating that:

“In terms of the effect of sport participation on shyness, a longitudinal study with measurement at baseline and one year later found that sport was positively associated with positive adjustment (e.g. social skills and self-esteem) and that sport played a uniquely protective role for shy children, with shy children who participated in sport over time reporting significant decreases in anxiety.”

Sports bringing shy children out of their shells may sound surprising, but being part of a team can help introverted people learn how to develop relationships in a beneficial environment.

The whitepaper also makes a point towards physical fitness as being a building block for social skills and the ability to create strong relationships: “For example, there are relationships between physical fitness and mental state; and interpersonal relationships may satisfy needs for belongingness and, as such, influence psychological health. Another example is resilience, whereby psychological health may influence an individual’s capacity to engage in interpersonal relationships.” So not only are sports good for physical fitness, but they also increase a person’s emotional fitness when it comes to relating to others.

How to Make Sports More Social

Long after the developmental stage has passed, sports can continue to act as a positive outlet for people to bond with their peers through teamwork and friendly competition. Whether you know your teammates before you sign up or you use sports leagues to meet new people, even something as simple as a recreational league can have a big impact on your interpersonal relationship skills. For those who might be introverted or susceptible to depression, being a part of a sports team can help provide motivation for getting out of the house and being active, as well as giving a person a sense of self-worth – after all, other people are counting on them to be there.

Sports can also help build relationships with family, whether it’s encouraging your siblings to join a rec league with you, playing tennis with your spouse, or simply throwing a baseball with your child. Working together as a team can put new perspectives and value on familial relationships, plus it’s a good way to air out any potential grievances or simply talk things out while tossing around a football. Playing sports for fun – or for lighthearted bragging rights – ought to be a part of every family get-together, since they encourage the participation of everyone and make all members feel as though they have a part to play.

Lastly, since much of the world is focused on online relationships and social networks, why not incorporate this into your athletics? These days, technology is available to let you record and share your sports performance metrics and highlight reels across social platforms, which means that you can get instant feedback and encouragement from your friends online. Even if you’re working out alone, you’re still able to use sports to build relationships through social media – you can have a “virtual” team on your side.

Conclusion

Rather than promoting a “one versus all” mentality, sports can actually have a hugely beneficial effect on building and maintaining good interpersonal relationships. Whether it’s through meeting new people as rec league teammates, bringing family and friends together to play a pickup game, or using your athletic performance tracker to connect with an online community, sports can be a building block for healthy, long-lasting relationships.

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Evolution of Sport: Skateboarding

skateboarding

No longer the realm of slackers and young kids, skateboarding has evolved into an industry full of complicated tricks and techniques, high-profile tournaments, celebrity athletes, and a much-deserved spot as one of the most recognized and celebrated sports in the United States today. But where did it all begin, and how did it go from being a hobby of surfers to an extreme sport? Skateboarding has had a fascinating journey from underground counterculture sport to a billion-dollar industry – let’s take a look at the timeline that took skateboarding from then until now.

1950s

This was the earliest known advent of what we would recognize as traditional skateboarding, beginning in California, where surfers invented a plank on wheels to simulate surfing on land. According to Wikipedia, the first skateboards were originally manufactured for surfers to use when they weren’t in the water. Crafted out of square wooden boards with a set of skate wheels from roller skates, Wikipedia notes that “skateboarding was originally denoted ‘sidewalk surfing’ and early skaters emulated surfing style and maneuvers, and performed barefoot.”

1960s

Skateboarding began to take off in Southern California, with manufacturing companies popping up to specifically create skate decks and hold competitions. A timeline in Skateboarding Magazine pegs 1963 as the year that the sport’s popularity soared: “Companies such as Jack’s, Hobie, and Makaha started having real competitions consisting of Downhill Slalom and Freestyle where skaters like Torger Johnson, Woody Woodward and Danny Berer paved the way for future skaters.” Clay wheels were also introduced in this decade, but this invention may have actually contributed to skateboarding’s decline in the latter half of the 1960s – they weren’t particularly safe, and injuries increased.

1970s

It took a new type of wheel to bring skateboarding back into the spotlight. With the invention of polyurethane wheels, created by Frank Nasworthy, skateboarding once again became popular – not to mention a lot smoother thanks to the new wheels. In 1975, a massive skateboarding tournament – the Del Mar National Championships – was held, birthing the Santa Monica legends known as the Zephyr skate team, later dubbed the “Z-Boys.” These twelve skaters (notable names include Tony Alva, Jay Adams, and Stacy Peralta) would influence the style and techniques of skateboarders for years to come, and the Del Mar National Championships would bring about a new era of skateboarding tournaments with cash prizes.

1980s

Now that the standard skate deck was established – with the additional option of larger, softer polyurethane wheels – focus was shifted to the types of ramps available, and the various tricks that could be performed on them. The construction of vertical ramps or “vert ramps” led to Alan Gelfand’s creation of the no-hands aerial – better known as the ollie – followed by the grabbed aerial, invented by George Orton and Tony Alva. “While this wave of skateboarding was sparked by commercialized vert ramp skating, a majority of people who skateboarded during this period didn’t ride vert ramps,” says the Wikipedia entry. Skateboarding Magazine chalks this up to the fact that many skaters couldn’t afford the lumber to create ramps, but “they saw the whole world as [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][their] skatepark and took to the streets. During this time many new board shapes took form allowing for skaters to overcome obstacles otherwise impossible.”

1990s

Street skateboarding rose to prominence in the 90s, causing yet another shift in wheel technology – this time back to smaller, harder polyurethane wheels. “The wheel sizes are relatively small so that the boards are lighter, and the wheels’ inertia is overcome quicker, thus making tricks more manageable,” explains Wikipedia. This was also the time that skateboarding began to intertwine with punk music and culture, and in 1995, ESPN held the inaugural – and extremely successful – X-Games. Skateboarding’s evolution into an extreme sport had begun. (Not coincidentally, it was in 1999 that Tony Hawk landed the “900,” a trick involving completing two-and-a-half mid-air revolutions).

2000s-Present Day

Due to the mainstream success of skateboarding as an extreme sport, more and more people of all ages have begun to take up skateboarding as a hobby and an athletic pursuit. Skateboarding Magazine credits this to the fact that “pros make real money. Wining events can bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars. Kids are realizing that you don’t have to become a doctor or lawyer to make a buck.” Now that skateparks have begun to be incorporated into city landscapes, there are more places than ever to practice. Plus, digital technology is making it easier than ever to record skateboarding tricks. Products like Blast Action Replay make it easy for skaters to play back recorded highlight reels of their tricks with overlaid metrics. This gives them the opportunity to analyze their movements and discover technical improvements they can make, as well as share their footage via social media through the Blast app.

Conclusion

It may have taken a half-century, but skateboarding has proven that it’s more than just a passing fad. As one of America’s favorite extreme sports, the tricks have become more impressive, the famous names have become well-known, and the championship prizes have become even bigger. It’s no wonder that skateboarding remains both a popular pastime and a potential athletic career choice.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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What’s in Store for the 50th Anniversary of Football’s Biggest Weekend

football

It’s the event that football fans wait for all year: the final game of the season, and one of the most extravagant sports matches you’ll ever see. In between the epic halftime show, the tailgating, and the expensive commercials throughout the television broadcast, there’s actually a football game that takes place, and it’s for one of the most hyped trophies in sports. But even if you know nothing about the rules of American football, there’s still plenty to enjoy about this storied weekend.

This year is an extra special occurrence: It’s the 50th anniversary of football’s biggest Sunday, and neither athletes nor advertisers are going to let the golden anniversary slide by without making an occasion out of it. Let’s take a look at some of the current plans for events and celebration:

Who’s Playing the Game

The Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos are going head to head this weekend to see who will take home the championship. (If you’re looking to dabble in putting some money down on a favorite team, you won’t be alone – this is the biggest event for sports betting, bar none. There are even prop bets on the anthem singer forgetting words!) It’s a guarantee that fans on both sides will be out in full force to support their teams in hopes that their pick will be lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Who’s Performing the Halftime Show

Rumors had been swirling across the Internet for months about who would be named to headline – generally considered a rather prestigious honor. “In late November, 2015, reports surfaced stating that “multiple acts” would perform during the halftime show,” says Wikipedia. “On December 3, the league confirmed that the show would be headlined by the British rock group Coldplay.” Later, it was also confirmed that previous halftime acts Beyoncé and Bruno Mars would be making return appearances to perform. Even though some hardcore sports fans may use halftime to go refill their bowls of snacks, there’s still a large contingent of people who tune in simply to watch their favorite bands on one of television’s biggest stages.

When and Where It’s Taking Place

This year’s event is happening on Sunday February 7th, marking the end of the 2015-16 football season. As always, the championship game takes place on neutral ground – that is, a football stadium that isn’t home turf for either team, just to remove any notion of home crowd favoritism. For 2016, the event is being held at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California – the first time the big game has been played in California since 1985, according to Wikipedia. But even before kickoff, there are numerous events taking place in and around Santa Clara and San Francisco to celebrate the sport. “More than 1 million people are expected to attend the festivities in San Francisco,” says Wikipedia, and “in addition, there are $2 million worth of other ancillary events, including a week-long event at the Santa Clara Convention Center, a beer, wine and food festival at Bellomy Field at Santa Clara University, and a pep rally.” No matter where it takes place, football’s prime matchup is always big business, bringing in tons of revenue for its host city’s establishments.

Why It’s the Biggest Event in Advertising

It goes without saying that football is the sport that brings in the most advertising revenue in the United States. Many other television programs that go up against football programs find that their ratings on that night drop instantly, simply because everybody in America is tuned in to the game. And there’s no Sunday in the year quite like the one where the big game falls – advertisers are more than willing to drop big bucks for 30-second ads to air during the event.

Noting the approximated 114.4 million viewers who tuned in to last year’s showdown, an article at Fortune states that although last year’s base price for ads was $4.5 million, this year it’s gone up 11% to $5 million. “Between 2005 and 2014, the price of a 30-spot has increased 75%, generating a total of $2.19 billion in sales,” the article reports. Combine these legendary big-budget ads (many of which are exclusive to the American broadcast) with the colorful halftime show, and the actual football game itself is almost eclipsed by comparison.

Conclusion

Whether you’re getting ready to paint your face with your team’s colors or you’re excited to witness the new commercials the moment they air, there’s no doubt that this event will be huge for sports fans and pop culture aficionados alike. Just be sure to stock up on guacamole, and maybe grab a football so you can have a quick game of catch in between plays.

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Benefits of Recreational Sports on Adults

As children and teenagers, many of us had the experience of participating in recreational sports leagues including baseball, softball and basketball. Not only were they a good place to bond with our friends (and make new ones), they also got us moving and helped foster a competitive – and cooperative – spirit. Yet as adults, a lot of people don’t tend to consider sports as a feasible hobby; between work hours and family activities, there just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day. However, recreational sports have multiple benefits for adults, just as they do for kids and teens – in fact, adults are likely much more in need of the physical and psychological boosts that playing rec league sports can provide.

golf

Not convinced? Then let’s examine some of the rewards that come with playing recreational sports as an adult – you’ll be signing up at your local community center and investing in an athletic performance enhancer in no time.

The physical benefits

Adults are told by everyone from the media to doctors to family members that being active is important, and they’re correct. Making sure you get in at least half an hour of exercise every day can help you feel more energized, lower your blood pressure, and strengthen your bones and muscles, according to the Heart Foundation of Australia. Not only that, but getting in some physical exercise can go a long way towards stress management, which is vital in this day and age. So what better place to reap all these benefits than in a recreational sports league?

Rec leagues are the perfect solution for anyone who loves the competitive nature and team environment of sports. You’ll get in your regular exercise, plus you’ll be able to have fun doing it – as well as getting out and being social with a bunch of likeminded peers. It can be the perfect stress buster at the end of a long work day, as well as good motivation to get out and get moving – even if you don’t want to. You won’t want to let your team down, right?

The psychological bonuses

As mentioned briefly above, it’s not just the physical aspect of recreational sports that can benefit adults – it also comes on the mental and psychological sides. Aside from being a stress reliever, playing a sport as part of a team – whether just for fun or on a competitive level – can do wonders for one’s mental health and self-esteem. An article from the Bennington Banner notes that “though research shows that fitness results vary by individual, there are valid socio-emotional health benefits to participating in group or team athletics, in either a competitive or recreational setting.” The article goes on to discuss how important goal-setting is for adults, as well as the motivation that comes when you feel obligated to show up and be part of a team. Having a scheduled practice, it says, is also good for simply getting people out of the house and being social, which can be a struggle if a person is susceptible to depression, isolating behavior, or loneliness. Being a part of a rec league can potentially give that person the motivation and drive to get out and be around other people, as well as a boost in self-esteem and confidence.

At the heart of it, recreational sports are really about creating a social atmosphere in a friendly, physical environment. If you’re looking to take your recreational sport league team to the next level, you can consider team-building bonuses like group jerseys or t-shirts, special equipment, or even athletic performance trackers to monitor each individual’s progress and identify their metrics. Being able to see your progress via data as you improve at a sport can be an extra motivator to help you stick with it, plus it’s always rewarding to see how well you performed – and you can even set a higher goal for next time.

Conclusion

Although playing recreational sports may have fallen by the wayside as we’ve grown up, it’s just as rewarding – maybe even more so – to play them as adults. Given that they grant everything from our recommended daily exercise, to a chance to socialize, to a renewed sense of goal-setting and competition, rec leagues ought to be seriously considered by all adults looking for a place to blow off some steam and have fun.

Do you play in a recreational league? Tell us about it in the comments.

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Redefining the “Active Mind”: The Effects of Sport on Mental Health

Playing sports and exercising provides improvement in mental, social, and physical health. The physical aspects — lower levels of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and so on — have all been known for some time.  What more and more researchers are realizing is that sports and fitness activities also improve people’s social connections, self-esteem, and mental outlook. By creating an exercise plan and adhering to it, people can see improvements in mood and social relationships. To fully appreciate how exercise can improve mental health, it is important to look at the social and personal aspects, the actual body changes, and the ways you can measure progress.

basketball hoop

The Mental and Physical Effects of Exercise

Exercising is one way to enhance social connections. Playing team sports provides an outlet to meet others and gain a network of supportive individuals. Positive social relationships allow for mutual support and encouragement, a sense of identity, and information to help with overcoming obstacles. In some cases, sports can be used to create social bonds that allow for reintegration into society, such as with veterans returning from combat or people who have survived disasters and epidemics. Strong social connections are also established via friendly competition, shared accomplishments, and more through the use of wearable tech and motion sensors that offer exact metrics and easy sharing abilities.

Physical activity also allows for a greater sense of ability and capability in everyday life. By practicing a skill and gaining instant feedback, or improving on pinpointed aspects of a game, such as running faster or having more stamina, people feel a sense of mastery and accomplishment. This sense of accomplishment as the result of work allows for a greater sense of self-esteem and self-regard. There has also been evidence of exercise creating better overall moods. Research suggests that physical activity allows for a more relaxed state of mind, higher levels of concentration, and better organization of tasks.  Much of the science behind these findings focuses on the hormones and endorphins that are released during physical activity.

Speaking of Endorphins, What Are They and How Do They Work?

Throughout the day, your body releases chemicals and hormones. These chemicals impact how your body operates by finding their specific place in the body to send a message. To illustrate this, think of putting a plug into a socket to turn on a lamp. There is a lot left to learn about these chemicals, what they are and how they work, but researchers have found there are two main body chemicals that play into exercise and mood simultaneously: cortisol and endorphins.

Cortisol is a chemical your body produces during stressful times. This chemical activates the “fight or flight” response in the face of emotional or physical dangers. During this process, the body also dampens the activity of certain systems, such as the reproductive and digestive systems, to concentrate energy on preparing to either fight or escape danger. It is important to remember that our bodies need cortisol — it’s what helps us stay alert throughout the day — but too much cortisol can cause health issues such as weight gain, high blood pressure, and fatigue.

Endorphins are chemicals that interact with your body’s neurons and impact how the neurons relay messages to the other cells in your body. One of the main functions of endorphins is to block pain receptors. Instead of feeling as much of the pain, your body floods the system with endorphins to ease pain. This happens with several activities in addition to exercise, such as eating spicy food or giving a big presentation. Endorphins released by physical activity also use up excess cortisol, which prevents many of the negative side effects.

Tracking Performance to Improve Mental Health

Tracking physical performance is a great tool to use while embarking on an athletics and fitness course. There are a few ways in which this happens. Fitness, motion, and performance data allows for a more real sense of accomplishment and a measure of how well fitness and exercise are working together. With instant feedback on areas for improvement when working on skill development, our sense of defeat is short-lived, as we have actionable insights to make the appropriate changes.

As stated above, developing a sense of accomplishment is one of the best ways to enhance self-esteem. By measuring performance and progress, you can compare recent results to previous results to see how much you have learned and gained from the experience. Many people are intimidated by fitness programs, especially after being sedentary for a long period of time. Using fitness tracking and motion sensors allows for tangible progress measurement — increasing motivation. Additionally, programs such as the Couch to 5K break up people’s fitness goals into smaller pieces, making the process seem less daunting.

By tracking health data, people can track other factors in their fitness program as well. Food diaries are important for many people, especially as some foods cause certain mood changes that others do not. Additionally, tracking mood allows people to measure how their moods are changing as a result of exercise. By tracking food intake, exercise progress, and mood changes, people are able to achieve a whole picture of how they are learning and growing as a person.

Conclusion

Joining sports teams and forming relationships through fitness and athletics is a great way to address mental health concerns, as is working out alone and tracking your progress. The benefits of sport and exercise touch almost every area of our lives, and our mind is no exception.

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Active-ly Avoid Sports Injuries E-Book

Even if you’re an experienced athlete, you are not immune to sports injuries. While you may feel as though you’re invincible when you’re hitting a big slam dunk or scoring a hole-in-one, everyone can be vulnerable to immediate or long-term damage to muscles, tendons, and joints.

The human body is capable of fantastic feats of athleticism, but over time it wears down, causing numerous issues for active individuals and athletes. Muscle tears, sprains, and strains are unfortunately common, and if you push yourself beyond your limits, you could cause irreparable harm to vital limbs. You wouldn’t want to forsake your athletic prowess because of an easily avoided injury. The key is to know how to identify where things could go wrong, and correct improper movements before it’s too late.

In this e-book, we examine four popular sports to see where the root of their most common athletic injuries lie, how to treat them, and what can be done to help prevent them.

Click the image below to view the e-book.actively ebook

Download the e-book by clicking on the image above.

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Sculpting the Spike: How to Improve Your Volleyball Performance

Ready, set, spike. You have the basics down, but when you’re passionate about your game, a basic understanding of the fundamentals isn’t going to cut it. You want to be quick. You want to be strong. And with the right practice techniques, your team can improve their serves and master their spikes. Get started with these tips for improving your volleyball game.

volleyball performance

Hit the Weight Room

Most volleyball teams do a lot of running, and they diligently practice their techniques, but few make it to the weight room. While practicing your serves and your spikes will definitely help you improve your technique, it’s also vital that you build up your strength to get more power. Many of the moves in volleyball involve the arms and shoulders, so don’t ignore the importance of a strong and flexible upper body.

Need a workout plan? Stack.com shares a regimen that will get your body in shape for better serves.

Engage in Team Building Exercises

Your team members may be some of the strongest, quickest volleyball players around, but if they don’t work effectively as a whole, your performance on the court is going to suffer. Where many teams focus on the physical aspects of the game, you can improve your overall team performance by spending a bit of time on the mental elements. Not only should team members feel comfortable around each other, but they should know each other well enough to work as one during the game.

You can start with team-building and communication games, but there are other, sometimes better ways to build a cohesive team. Some suggestions include:

  1. Switch up the players’ positions during practice. Not only will teammates get more experience in different roles, but they will learn to develop better communication skills, having played the game from a new point of view.
  2. Meet up outside of practice in a non-competitive environment, such as a get-together at a teammate’s house.
  3. Take time to encourage team members to share their feelings when the team experiences conflict and negativity.

Turn to Technology

When you and your team are in shape and devoted to practice, yet still missing something in your technique, turn to technology. Use your iPhone camera to videotape your practices and games to help you see where you and your teammates can improve on form, placement, speed etc. Team up your iPhone camera with a quality application like Blast Athletic Performance to automatically create video highlight reels – no editing required – that can also be seen in slow motion with captured performance metrics right on the video. Using wearable tech can give you individual analytics that will help guide your training and improve your performance.

Don’t Stop When the Season is Over

Volleyball season doesn’t last long, but for many volleyball players, the season is all they have until next year. Afterward, they’ll take a break, which means that next year, they’ll have to work harder to get back up to where they were at the end of the last season.

You can put yourself ahead of the competition by staying in the game year-round. Not only will it keep you strong and agile, but with more practice, you’ll have more time devoted to improving your skills. Chances are you can find a summer league in your area, which will help you hone your skills before the season starts. During the winter and spring, consider meeting up with friends or team members once a week or so for a scrimmage.

Like any sport, you can improve your volleyball game through more practice. However, practice should be about more than just staying in shape, it should be about targeting specific areas for improvement and making the right adjustments. Talk with your team about where you can improve as a whole, and outline goals for each team member so you can hone in on individual performance that will lead to success for the entire team.