Monthly Archives: January 2016

How the right Lacrosse Equipment can help you Improve your Game

At any skill level from junior high school beginner through Major League Lacrosse (MLL) and National Lacrosse League (NLL), the right player equipment can help you improve your game. Five attributes in equipment—head shape, sidewall, center piece, stringing and handle weight—can amplify your existing skills and help you gain new ones.

Head Shape

By far the biggest impact on player performance from lacrosse equipment comes from the shape of the lacrosse stick head. Head width comes down to two opposing needs: Continue reading

Simple Tips to Improve Your Softball Hitting

Dog with Softball equipment-bat

Great athletes have a natural beauty and rhythm to their motion that makes everything they do seem effortless. The control they have over their game, like a good softball hitter with her softball gear, separates them from the average athlete. Softball hitting can be broken into six distinct steps, each one of which you can practice mindfully.

Box Position

Step into the batter’s box with your feet in line, greater than shoulder width. To give yourself more time to see the ball, stay toward the back of the box; to catch the ball before it breaks down or away, move up in the box.
Flex your knees, keep your elbows in, and ready yourself for the pitch. Generally, think fastball and adjust your bat speed down for other pitches, but be open to advice from your hitting coach or manager.

Grip

Grip the bat lightly to give your hands quick muscle movement. Start with the bat on the second joints of your fingers, curling your fingers around. Keep the bat handle out of the palms of your hands. Wrap your fingers of both hands around the bat and line up your second knuckles, eight in a row. If that is uncomfortable or feels unnatural, you can rotate your grip so the third knuckles of one hand align with the second knuckles of the other (a box grip).

Swing

The largest muscle groups in your body are in your legs, so use them to power the bat around and send the ball 300 feet. Push off with your legs to connect. Your legs, though, are the sturdy foundation for movements elsewhere:

  1. back foot turning
  2. hips rotating
  3. shoulders turning into the swing

If everything is moving into and through the swing, you should end up with your body loosely and comfortably twisted, watching the ball streak away with your feet still on the ground.

Contact

Contacting the ball with the bat differs by pitch:

  • Down the middle—make contact straight out from the leading hip
  • Inside pitch—must be hit more in front of the center of the body
  • Outside pitch—contact is made from the body’s center to the back hip

Contact should be level, so you are hitting the ball as close to its center as possible, even if your intention is to drive it up or down.

Follow-through

Follow-through means full arm extension, then continuing your swing around. Wrists roll and the swing ends with both hands near the front shoulder, your head aligned to your back shoulder (your chin is above the shoulder).

Attitude

Finding your comfort zone with hitting means practice and more practice. You are honing your swing and stance so that everything feels loose and easy as you step into the box.
Avoid over-thinking the whole choreography of hitting. By training repeatedly, you condition your muscles and gain instinctive proprioception (awareness of body position) so on game day you can step in, assume your proper stance, and swing away without consciously thinking about any of it.

Once you have matched the right softball equipment—helmet, gloves and bat—to the player, your bat becomes an extension of your body. For the finest in fastpitch bats and player equipment, step into Longstreth, and we will help you step into the batter’s box with confidence.

 

Buying Field Hockey Equipment – Tips for Beginners

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Field hockey is a fast-paced sport that provides great exercise, life lessons and team building for young athletes. Beginners’ field hockey equipment requirements do not have to bust the family budget, either, if parents keep in mind the difference between must-haves, should-haves and nice-to-haves.

Must-Have Field Hockey Equipment

For both boys and girls beginning in field hockey, every athlete must have three essential pieces of field hockey equipment: the hockey stick, mouthguard, and shinguards.

For what some parents may dismiss as a simple piece of wood, the stick has many variations:

  • Indoor sticks
  • Goalie sticks
  • Composite sticks
  • Wood sticks
  • Hook, maxi, midi and shorti heads

Starting out, players may not know what advantage a particular head shape has, so encourage your beginning athlete to keep her ears open, ask questions, and take the advice of more experienced players she trusts. Stick length is often more crucial for beginning players than the head shape. Height charts can help, but a player gets to feel comfortable with a specific length of field hockey stick, so you may not want to invest in a high-end stick as the first purchase.

The mouthguard is a requirement for player protection. Mouthguards and mouthguard cases are available in many styles. Common these days are mouthguards for wearers of braces, flavored mouthguards, and bulk-purchased disposable mouthguards to minimize germs.

Shinguards are the only other piece of required equipment in most regions. Protect your child and keep her enthusiasm for the game by preventing painful injuries to the shin bones. Just as with the mouthguard, this is not a place to skimp, since the shinguard may be the difference between a little discomfort during an intense game and sitting out the season with a broken shin.

Should-Have Field Hockey Equipment

Goggles are an optional piece of equipment that could save your child’s sight in the event of a bad encounter with an opponent’s stick. In addition to goggles, nose guards and full face masks are available, often in a selection of colors. Have your budding field hockey star try the goggles or masks on for a snug but comfortable fit, and to test forward and peripheral vision.

Remember not to over-equip your athlete with safety precautions that themselves pose a threat to other players. Some regulations in some regions permit only smooth face masks or tight-fitting plastic goggles, for example, to prevent the wire of a framed goggle or mask from injuring others.

Nice-to-Have Field Hockey Equipment

Two items are good for your new player to have, for increased field control and for comfort:

  • Turf shoes or cleats
  • Shin guard socks or rash guards

Turf shoes or molded cleats give your child a firm grip on the field, allowing for quick turns, stops and starts.
Shin guard socks are oversized, tall socks worn under the shin guards to prevent chaffing. Rash guards prevent shin guard rash from developing. Shin guard rash may be an allergic reaction to the material in shin guards, or it may be a natural result of heat, sweat and the friction your child’s skin encounters during an exciting field hockey game. The simple remedy is to prevent the opportunity for a shin guard to rub, by having your child wear rash guards.

For parents new to the game, Longstreth is here to help. Contact us today for answers to your questions regarding the right field hockey equipment or the right kind of balls to purchase to support your son or daughter in his or her dreams of field hockey glory. After all, every great player was a beginner at one time.

Essential Lacrosse Equipment for Beginners – what parents need to know

Your young daughter returns home from school to announce that she made the lacrosse team. Celebration is in order, and then reality sets in: what lacrosse player equipment does your budding star goalie, center or attack wing need? And then that other reality: what is all this going to cost?!?

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All Players

Every lacrosse player needs three pieces of lacrosse equipment:

  • stick
  • goggles
  • mouth     guard

These are mandatory pieces of lacrosse equipment; your beginning athlete cannot take the field without them. The goggles should meet the ASTM International standard for eye protectors for women’s lacrosse, F803. Goggles are available for eyeglass wearers, in wire frame styles and with full plastic lenses. Do not skimp on this vital piece of protective eyewear, because a lacrosse ball packs a mighty wallop.

Do not purchase lacrosse goggles without trying them on the player’s head. Adjust the fit with the straps; ensure comfort and visibility. Remind your young player to check peripheral as well as forward vision.

Mouth guards come in many styles, too:

  • Mouth     guards are available for girls wearing braces
  • Mouth     guards are available in flavors, so your dedicated daughter at first,     second or third home can still enjoy the wild tastes of spearmint, fruit     punch, blue raspberry, lemon lime or even bubble gum on the field
  • Lightweight,     open mouth guards that allow easy talking, breathing and drinking during     the game

The Stick

The stick (head, handle or complete stick) is perhaps the most personal piece of lacrosse equipment. Veteran players become very selective in choosing their sticks for the features they like best, but how do beginning players, with no experience, select their stick? Beginners will find a stick that has a flat scoop at the top to be easier for groundball pick-up; a wide face helps with catching.

In shopping for lacrosse equipment, how do you select the ideal length of a stick? You can buy a long stick and cut the handle to suit (that is legal, but remember, you can only cut a stick shorter, not longer). The stick’s overall length should be between 35.5 inches (minimum) and 43.25 inches at the most.

Beginners and younger players do well with shorter handles, which allows for greater handling control. Remember, though, opponents’ sticks may be longer, giving the opponent a stick advantage as well as the possible advantage of more playing experience against your beginner.

Optional Equipment

Most players purchase their own balls so they can practice stick handling skills on their own. Gloves are also advisable, especially if your daughter plays in a region of the country where lacrosse and cold weather go together. Goalies have additional lacrosse equipment: padding, protective gloves, special goalie sticks and helmets. it is also worth it to invest in quality cleats for lacrosse to improve her grip on the field.

Handy to Have

Beginners will generate muscle memory and improved game performance by practicing often and at regular intervals. This means practicing skills outside of formal team practices. Boost your young player’s confidence and possibly improve her game play by considering special individual practice tools.

One learning tool is the Cradle Baby, an inexpensive lacrosse-ball-on-a-band that attaches to the stick by a clove hitch and allows for cradling, ball control and stick work practice. It is not useful for catching and throwing, but can improve player wrist strength. It also helps teach cradling, fakes and switches.

Worth It

Paying for proper safety equipment, a quality beginner’s lacrosse stick and some supplemental equipment to help support your daughter’s efforts will cost no more, all together, than a decent set of golf clubs or a few nights’ stay at a hotel. Your investment returns to you in a more confident, more agile daughter.