Dear Coach: I'm a high school freshman, and my hoops coach has asked me to play on an AAU team with kids who are two years older to prepare for varsity next year. I'm not crazy about the idea. Should I do it?
MOVING ON UP
Dear Moving: You'll have to make an age jump sometime, and sooner is better than later. "As a sophomore on the varsity next year, you'll be competing against players who are two years older anyway," says Rick Boyages, basketball coach at William & Mary. The age gap could make you feel frozen out at first, but a team environment—in which your game, not your circle of fiends, is the focus—can be a great bridge. "Being part of a new team means developing new relationships regardless of age, and playing with older teammates can be rewarding," says Boyages.
Dear Coach: My 10-year-old son is a Little League pitcher with good command but little speed. Is there a way to make his arm stronger?
Dear Pop: You've fallen victim to the myth that velocity is a product of arm strength alone. "Parents don't understand that speed comes from a combination of proper mechanics and core body strength," says former Red Sox pitcher Dick Mills, who runs the online clinic pitching.com. "Sixty percent of a pitcher's power comes from hip and trunk rotation." Have your son try a workout that includes multidirectional lunges for the lower body, medicine-ball work to improve torso rotation, and abdominal training. "Improve overall conditioning, and he'll throw harder without putting his arm at risk," says Mills.