Monday, October 31, 2011

The Origin of American Football

Contributed by Mark Tolley.
Associate Director, USA Sport Group.

Thanks to the dominating presence of media technology in today's society, finding current coverage of our favorite sports can be as simple as fumbling with a remote control or clicking a bookmark in our web browser. Developments in technology over the past couple of decades mean we have unlimited and instantaneous access to score lines, rankings, highlights and controversies in whatever sport we've chosen as our own. Even in the office, coffee break visionaries tell us of the 'up and coming' generation of young athletes; destined to be the gleaming smile of sports performance drinks of the future... but how many of you sports fans out there have taken the time to really appreciate where it all started, the humble beginnings... the origin of your sport?

American Football

Ok, so some of us may have heard of Walter Camp the 'father of football', in 1879 this guy introduced aspects of the sport which are still relevant to today's modern professional game; the line of scrimmage, down rules, etc.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Top Moments of Sportsmanship

Contributed by Simon March.
Director, USA Sport Group.

In an increasingly competitive environment, it is easy to forget the backbone of any great athlete: sportsmanship.

Regardless of the type of sport, ability level of the player or level of competition, if the next generation of superstars could follow the example set by the athletes below, sport would be a much better place for it.

Golf: Adam Van Houten
Adam Van Houten, a student at Mount Gilead High School in central Ohio, had just won the state golf championship. It appeared he’d won by a comfortable seven-stroke margin, but Van Houten noticed a mistake on his scorecard. His playing partner had accidentally given him a five on the 10th hole instead of a six. Since Van Houten signed his scorecard before he’d even noticed the mistake, as per golf rules, he had two choices. He could ignore the mistake and win the state championship or report the mistake. He reported the violation to tournament officials and was disqualified from the competition.

Soccer: Paolo Di Canio
The Premier League game entered injury time with the score tied at one. Everton keeper Paul Gerrard went down with an injury, but West Ham played on. A cross found Paolo Di Canio, open net in front of him, Gerrard on the ground to his side. Instead of tapping into the empty goal, Di Canio picked up the ball and signaled the medical staff onto the field.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

School's Out Mini Camps November 10-11

The US Sports Institute provide School's Out Mini Camps on school holidays throughout the year.  We have already held hugely successful Columbus Day camps on October 10 and our next camps are set to run on November 10 & 11 as all the teachers will be at the NJEA Convention!

Mini Camps are condensed versions of our most popular summer camps and inlcude:
  • Multi Sport
  • Soccer Squirts
  • NetBursting Soccer
  • World Cup Soccer

School's Out Mini Camps are being held across New Jersey for ages 3-14 depending on the camp.  Camps are usually half-day camps and range in cost from $35-$75.

For more information and to search for a camp near you, click here.

Soccer programs are staffed by our sister company, United Soccer Academy.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Globe Trotting: Cricket

Contributed by Emma Booth.
Regional Director, USA Sport Group.

The US Sports Institute offers many sports in their programs, from flag football to lacrosse and basketball, but how much do you know about different sports from across the globe? Each week we will be introducing you to a new sport. This week... Cricket!

Cricket was first played way back in the 16th century in England and is now played across many countries in many continents including Australia, Holland and Bangladesh. To learn the rules of cricket, I’ll be honest, you’d be here all day, but the general idea of the game is; if you score more runs than the other team, you win! There are 11 players on each team, one fielding and one batting; but only two batters are actually on the pitch at any one time. The fielding team’s job is to try and take wickets (get the batters out) and once they’ve done this, the teams swap over so the fielding team gets their chance to bat. There are many types of cricket matches, of various lengths; some can last as long as 5 days, but even then the game can end as a tie!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Women's Rugby in America

Contributed by Annabel Sergeant.
Area Manager, USA Sport Group.
Scotland Rugby International.

As the worldwide leaders in sport and with a reputation for breeding world class athletes, it is no surprise that rugby in the USA is becoming an ever more popular sport. In particular, women’s rugby is rapidly developing in the States and throughout the rest of the world.

In the history of women’s rugby there has been six World Cups, of which only the last four have been officially sanctioned by the International Rugby Board (IRB). The Eagles (USA Women’s National Team) won the first ever Women’s World Cup in 1991, England won in 1994 and the latest four have been won by the New Zealand Black Ferns. The tournament has grown considerably in the past fifteen years although television audiences and event attendance still remain relatively low, especially in comparison to other women's world cup events. The recent 2010 Women's Rugby World Cup games were broadcasted on Sky Sports in the United Kingdom, which has remarkably helped to develop the growth of women’s rugby in the UK.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Globe Trotting: Rugby

Contributed by Emma Booth.
Regional Director, USA Sport Group.

The US Sports Institute offers many sports in their programs from flag football to lacrosse and basketball, but how much do you know about different sports from across the globe? Each week we will be introducing you to a new sport. This week... Rugby Union!

Rugby Union is a game of crunching tackles and try scoring. It is similar to American football, however the ball must only be passed backwards and there are less stoppages as play flows until the ball goes out of bounds or a penalty is conceded. A rugby team has 15 players and will mainly consist of “forwards”, though confusingly they play in defense, and “backs” who actually play offense. It is the players on the wing whose job it is finish off moves and score the tries as they are commonly very quick and able to dodge out of the way of oncoming tackles.

The seventh Rugby World Cup has been playing out in New Zealand over the past few weeks and out of the 20 teams that competed in this year’s World Cup only two remain. They are France and New Zealand who will meet each other in the final this Sunday 23 October. New Zealand have the home advantage, and are favorites in this match up, however France, although inconsistent during the tournament, may well spring a surprise.

Englishman Johnny Wilkinson holds the record for most number of points in World Cup history, a total of 277. New Zealand talisman Jonah Lomu holds the record for most number of tries in a World Cup at 15. And Jason Leonard of England has played in 22 Rugby World Cup matches over the course of his career.

For more information on the Rugby World Cup, visit

The US Sports Institute offers rugby as a sport specific camp, or part of their famous multi sport camps. To have a go at rugby, please visit and sign up today!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tennis: Competitive Training

There are many benefits to adding a competitive component to your tennis training regimen. The most beneficial aspect of competitive tennis is the instant feedback that you or a coach can develop from observing your match play. You and your coach will be able to make adjustments that can help improve your game almost immediately.

Another great aspect of competitive play is gaining exposure to the many different playing styles that exist in tennis. Some players may be powerful baseliners who choose not to approach the net. Some other players may use the "pusher" tactic, which allows them to play extremely efficient defense and essentially wait for you to miss your shot. Once a player gains experience against these different styles they can learn how to counteract them. In some instances you may even decide to adopt one of those styles. For example, if you are at 15-15 in a service game you may decide to use the "serve and volley" tactic. Doing so may throw your opponent off guard and give you an easy attempt at gaining a point.

There is no doubt that competitive play can enhance anyone's tennis game. However it is very important to train your mental game as well as your technical game. A nice exercise to keep your mind focused throughout a match is to follow the "five second rule". The "five second rule" allows a player five seconds to spend thinking about the previous point. Once those five seconds pass your entire focus is turned towards the next point. As tennis players there is nothing we can do to change what happened in the past. We can only look forward and try to capitalize on the present.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Why Should My Family Get Active? Part 2

Back to Part 1

Children aged 5-7 are beginning to develop fine motor skills, and there is no better way to accomplish that than through sport. The hand-eye coordination required to hit a baseball or a tennis backhand could give your children an advantage over children who are not active. Along with further developing their motor skills, children aged 5-7 begin to develop self-control and self-esteem. Find activities that your children can succeed at and concentrate on those. If hand-eye coordination is a strong suit, sports such as baseball and tennis are great. The key is to develop a sense of competency and success. A failed attempt here and there is also a good learning lesson which can contribute to the development of their self-control and not being a "sore loser". As you’re having fun playing together, you’ll help your child develop some very important traits.

Children who are a bit older, aged 8-12, can handle a challenge. Don’t be afraid to test their abilities. At this age, children are starting to develop perseverance and determination that can help them overcome difficult tasks. These characteristics will be helpful at school and later in life. Don’t be surprised to see a competitive streak develop, as well. They may challenge you to a game of one-on-one basketball or to see who can throw a football further; this is a good sign that they’re developing a sense of self and want to begin testing themselves. It seems to go against your job as a parent, but don’t always let them win. Again, they need to learn to be a gracious loser and there should be no shame in losing to Mom or Dad. The games and activities will become more vigorous as they get closer to adolescence, but keep at it!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Why Should My Family Get Active? Part 1

We all have plenty of excuses for not being active as a family. Parents work long hours. Kids are busy with homework or extracurricular activities. Sports equipment can cost a lot of money, especially when shopping for an entire family. All of these reasons are valid, however, we have to conquer our barriers and get active. Being active with your family is a great way to get in shape and be healthier, but more importantly it’s key to the growth and development of your children.

Today in America, we are facing an epidemic of childhood and adolescent obesity. According to a study done by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 2007-2008, an estimated 17% of children aged 2-19 are obese. That number has significantly increased since a similar study completed in 1980.

The easiest way to curb the uptick in unhealthiness begins at home. Habits and behaviors regarding diet and exercise are generally learned at home and should be reinforced by parents. Simple changes in diet, such as eating more produce and cutting out heavily processed foods could help. Another simple way to instill a healthy lifestyle in your children is to get active and stay active during their childhood.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tennis: Serve Like A Pro

Each tennis player has their own unique service motion. At the core of everybody's individual tennis serve, these keys should form the fundamental foundation:

  • One fluid motion.
  • Strike the ball at the apex of the toss.
  • Keep tossing arm up as long as possible.
  • Watch your racket contact the ball.
  • Utilize a full follow through.

As they say, "practice with a purpose". What I mean by this is you should evaluate each practice serve after you hit them. Think about the list above and try to figure out what pieces may have been missing in each practice serve or what you may be able to improve on next time. Once you hit a perfect serve and you know each of the fundamentals were included, all you have to do is repeat it!

After you master these fundamentals in regards to your serve, you will find that you can apply them to many other parts of your game as well, including your ground strokes.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Sports Nutrition

Contributed by Martin Punt.
Regional Director, USA Sport Group.

Nowadays, nutrition is a hot topic in both sports and everyday life. It must be emphasized that the weight of an athlete is not an important factor in their performance.  Instead of concentrating on reaching an ideal weight, it is wiser to emphasize on adopting healthy eating habits.

Athletes burn a lot of calories but fat should still be minimized in the athlete's diet, mainly because it is not an efficient provider of energy.  Although there is a lot of energy stored in fat, in long duration sports, the body fuels itself mainly from glycogen (found in carbohydrates).

Complex carbohydrates fuel the body most efficiently in prolonged physical activities, such as soccer or tennis. As with other aerobic sports, the ideal meal for an endurance athlete should be rich in carbohydrates.  Before games or important events, it is recommended to increase carb intake and decrease proteins.  Flour and starch-based foods are a good source of complex carbs.
Examples: bread, potatoes, pasta, cereal, low-fat dairy products.

Proteins are essential for the regeneration of muscles and tissue.  It is important to regularly integrate protein into meals, but the amount must be kept in small portions.  No more than 10% of all calories in your diet should come from protein.  As mentioned above, carbs are the primary source of energy for the body in endurance sports, whereas protein is used for cell replenishment.  Pregame meals should not contain much protein.
Examples: meat, eggs, nuts.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Worst Ever Soccer Misses!

Everyone loves it when a player misses an open goal... except when it's your own team.  Fernando Torres' howler against Manchester United last week prompted us to find the worst ever misses.  We've compiled a list of our top 10 but we need a winner!

Click here to watch the clips and vote!

Unlucky, Fernando.