By Shelley Whitaker, A-Game Sports Softball Instructor

Excellence is not derived from an act, but a habit. And a habit is developed from repetitive practice. Therefore, the best players practice the basic skills of their game every day. The best way to accomplish daily glove work is through the following sequence of “partner dailies.”

Line one person up on the first base line and have a partner stand about 8 feet in front of them with the ball. On the coach’s command of “down,” the player on the line assumes the infield fielding position (feet a little wider then shoulder-width apart, knees bent, weight on the balls of the feet, glove out in front).

  1. “Roll ’em” – the player with the ball rolls a slow grounder to the player on the line in the center of their body. The fielder uses good fielding technique (glove fingers out creating a triangle between their feet and glove, looking the ball into the glove, covering the ball with the throwing hand while staying low) and then flips the ball back to the partner. This continues for 10 rolls with the fielder staying “down” the entire time.
  2. “Go” – The player with the ball tosses a one hopper (using an underhand toss about 10 inches in front of the fielder) to the center of the fielder’s body. The fielder fields the ball using good technique and flips the ball back to their partner. (Repeat 10 times)
  3. “Toss ’em” – The player with the ball tosses a one hopper to the fielder’s glove side. The fielder fields it and flips it back to the tosser. (Repeat 10 times then do the same to the fielder’s backhand 10 times)
  4. “Back it Up” – The player with the ball moves back to a distance of about 40 feet. On “go” the tosser throws a slow roller toward the fielder. The fielder must charge the ball hard, field it and give an easy flip back to the tosser. (Repeat 10 times)
  5. “Pop Up” – At the same 40’ distance, the tosser throws a pop up to the fielder. The fielder moves under the ball, turns their body sideways so the glove shoulder is pointing back at the target, catches the ball on their glove shoulder and makes a good throw back to the tosser’s chest.

The focus of these drills is fundamentals – technique over speed. The fielder and partner switch after each portion of the sequence. Remember, repetition builds confidence and confidence is the key to success!

By Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD

Fat has gotten a really bad reputation over the years. Back in the 90’s, people were scared of fats, and many food companies thought that they could make a food healthier by removing the fat. Remember all those fat-free snacks that filled supermarket shelves? In place of the fat would be extra added sugar, which is actually much worse for you. Luckily, those days are long gone, and we now know that certain types of fat are actually vital and beneficial to your health.

What does fat do?

Fat is your body’s storage and protection mechanism. A long time ago, our ancestors would go long periods of time without eating, and they had fat stored up to provide energy during these times without food. Fat was good in times of desperation because it contains the most calories of the macronutrients—9 calories per gram versus 4 calories per gram in carbohydrates and protein. Fat also acts as protection for the major organs, such as the kidneys, heart and liver. Lastly, certain vitamins (A,D, E and K) are fat-soluble, meaning that fat is necessary to absorb these nutrients. Yet, too much fat can clog arteries and cause serious health problems. Where is the happy medium? The answer lies in the type of fat you consume.

What are the different types of fat?

  • Saturated fats, aka the “bad” fats, are mostly found in animal sources like meat, eggs, cheese, butter, and milk. Saturated fat is also prevalent in many desserts, such as cupcakes, pastries, donuts and candy. Too much saturated fat can cause health problems, such as high cholesterol and heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 5-6% of calories come from saturated fat.
  • Unsaturated fats, aka the “good” fats, are made up of several types of fats, including omega 3’s and omega 6’s. The omegas are essential fatty acids, meaning that the body does not make them and needs them for survival. Therefore, it’s essential that we eat these types of fat. “Good” fats are usually found in plant sources, such as avocados, nuts, soy beans, flax seeds, oils, and fatty fish.

The only difference between saturated fat and unsaturated fat is the structure of the molecule. One type of fat has more chemical bonds than the other.

Fat and the athlete

So, if fats are high in calories, why feed them to a child athlete that needs to be quick and lean? Well, omega-3 and omega 6 fats have been linked to many beneficial health responses. Many studies have found that a diet rich in “good” fats can enhance brain function, may lower “bad” (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides, and can actually reduce the risk of developing serious diseases like heart disease and cancer. While these risks are not often at the top of a child’s mind, it’s important to establish healthy eating habits with young athletes. With proper nutrition knowledge, they can grow up to be their healthiest selves and play to the best of their ability.

But, during sports seasons, when should children be eating these “good” fats? Fats take a long time to digest and are, therefore, an inefficient energy source. It’s important to eat fats 3-4 hours before a practice or game and pair them with other nutrients, like carbs and protein. For example, a turkey (protein) sandwich on whole wheat bread (carbs) with avocado (“good” fats) or a side of nuts (“good” fats) is a great option for your child’s lunchbox if they have a practice or game later in the day. Your child will have 3-4 hours to digest and will reap the many benefits from these healthy fats.

The bottom line. There is such a thing as a “good” fat, and it’s a vital part of every diet. Yet, like all other nutrients, they should be eaten in moderation. Generally, most people don’t eat enough essential fats, so there’s no need to shy away from fish, nuts, avocados and oils.

To add more “good” fat to your diet, try making these easy Cinnamon Roasted Almonds.

Recipe and photo courtesy of Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, Nutrition à la Natalie

Makes 4 snack servings


1 cup raw whole almonds
½ tablespoon agave
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon salt
cooking spray or drizzle of Canola oil


1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) Place almonds in a mixing bowl.  Drizzle agave or honey over the almonds.  Use a spatula to stir and coat the almonds with agave.

3) Mix in cinnamon and salt and stir with a spatula.  Try to make sure the almonds are evenly coated.

4 Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray, or drizzle with canola oil (spread oil over pan with paper towel).  Spread almonds evenly on the pan.

5) Bake for 10 minutes.

6) While still warm, taste the almonds and add a sprinkle of cinnamon if desired.  Let cool, and enjoy!

Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian, specializing in sports nutrition and adolescent nutrition education. She’s excited to spread the message of healthy eating and “food as fuel” at A-Game Sports. To find out more about our Nutritionist or to schedule an appointment for you or your child, visit our nutrition counseling page.

By Dom Darcangelo

Being a great lacrosse player stems from mastering the face-off. This boils down to three key points: hand position, body position, and being aware of your surroundings. A-Game Sports lacrosse coach Dom Darcangelo weighs in on these points and provides practice suggestions for each.

Hand Position: One of the most important factors in getting set is keeping your hands light. A face-off pro keeps their hands light while pulling their center of gravity forward, ready to pounce as soon as the whistle is blown. While keeping it light, you also want to be powerful by driving your back hand forward as you roll your top hand through the plastic of the stick. Pushing your back hand forward will manipulate the plastic of the head to pinch and squeeze over the ball.

Practice: Over-and-Backs

Get in your stance over the ball and drive the head of your stick on the front and back side of the ball without touching the rubber. 15 seconds on, 15 seconds off. Repeat for 5 sets.

Body Position: Body positioning starts from the time you enter the face-off X. Setup is a matter of preference. I personally found that the one-knee-down position worked best for my game. I have also seen more upright stances and condensed positioning. Choose whatever stance makes you the lightest and fastest. Make sure your center of gravity is slightly forward and anticipating the whistle.

Practice: Drive your body and hands over the ball. Get down in your stance and drive you back hand over the ball. 10 Reps. Rest for 30 seconds. Repeat for 5 sets.

Awareness of Your Surroundings: Recently, picking your head up and looking around for an open target to roll the ball out towards has been marked as illegal. Face-off specialists are now working within their limits to more accurately locate their teammates while scraping on the ground. A strong key to success is determining prior positioning of your wingmen. Communicate about where you would like to place the ball when you make the win, prior to getting out on the field. Go in with a plan that can give your squad the best advantage.

Tip: Determine how long a wingman will take to enter the center of the field. Try to manipulate play until your support arrives, and attempt to get the ball to a similar location on every draw.

Above all else, always remember to work hard!

Make sure to check out our lacrosse Instagram page: @A_Game_Lax914

By Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD

Sugar is a baffling topic for many parents. You know that your young athletes need extra energy for their sport, but you may not know where sugar hides in food and how much sugar is too much. The A-Game Sports Nutritionist is here to unravel the sugar mystery so you can have healthy, happy athletes.

There are two different types of sugar: “natural sugar” and “added sugar”. Natural sugar is naturally found in foods like fruits, vegetables, dairy and grains. Added sugar refers to sugar that is added to food for taste. Unfortunately, the food label does not specify if a sugar is natural or added, so one has to be a bit of a sugar detective. To find added sugar, inspect the ingredient list. Look for sugar’s aliases, such as high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, honey, raw sugar, malt syrup, rice syrup, molasses, fruit juice concentrate, brown sugar, evaporated cane juice, agave nectar, cane sugar, crystalline fructose, beet sugar, coconut sugar and caramel. If you see these ingredients, you know that sugar has been added to the food.

As you might expect, added sugar is found in many processed foods, like cookies, candy, ice cream and sodas. It’s also in many packaged foods that kids like to eat before a practice or game. Whereas natural sugar foods provide long lasting energy during exercise, these processed foods provide short bursts of energy followed by a crash. For example, eating sugary foods before a basketball game will cause an inevitable energy crash in the 2nd or 3rd quarter. And, any A-Game Sports coach will tell you that basketball games are won by the team whose players still have their legs in the 4th quarter. That’s why it’s extremely important to recognize foods with added sugar and make healthier natural sugar swaps.

Where does sugar hide?

Cereals: Have you ever looked at the nutrition label of Raisin Bran? A 1-cup serving contains 18 grams or 4.5 teaspoons of sugar, and most kids probably eat double that before a big game! Cereal is a huge staple among kids, and, there are much less sugary but tasty brands. Barbara’s Puffins has only 5 grams of sugar (or 1 teaspoon) in ¾ cup. Kix or Cheerios are even better options with only 1 gram of sugar in ¾ cup.

Granola and granola bars: Most parents think that granola bars are healthy snacks for their kids, but they often contain tons of honey and syrup. Nature Valley Granola bars have 11 grams or 3 teaspoons of added sugar per pack. As a healthier alternative, make your own trail mix by mixing together a ¼ cup of low-salt nuts, raisins, and ¼ cup of pretzels. This will satisfy your child’s pre-game hunger without weighing them down.

Fruit snacks: Although they are called “fruit” snacks, these gummies have almost no trace of fruit in them. A tiny bag of Welch’s fruit snacks contains 11 grams or 3 teaspoons of sugar. The healthier alternative is (obviously) fresh fruit. Apples and oranges are great fruits to send with your kids to school or summer camp. They are high in nutrients and they also have a high water content, which is great for hydration!

Yogurt: Yogurt is a great source of pre-workout fuel because it contains both healthy carbs (in lactose) and protein. However, “fruited” yogurt is packed with added sugar. A 5- ounce container of fruited yogurt contains ~14 grams or 3.5 teaspoons of added sugar. A better alternative is plain Greek yogurt with chopped bananas and raisins.

Soda/Fruit juice: It’s no secret that soda is packed with sugar, but did you know that fruit juice is very similar? A small Capri Sun has 20 grams or 5 teaspoons of added sugar! Fill your child’s water bottle with water! Not only will it cut out unnecessary sugar, but it will keep them hydrated throughout the day.

You may be thinking, “Doesn’t my kid need extra calories because of all the running around?” Yes, they do, but they don’t need extra sugar. Providing extra calories from foods that contain natural sugar also provides many other beneficial nutrients to the diet, such as fiber, protein, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, calcium, Vitamin A, potassium, and iron. These nutrients are extremely important for your child’s growth and development and will only enhance their endurance and stamina in their sport. In contrast, eating a diet high in added sugar has been linked to frequent cavities, overweight and obesity and the development of serious diseases, such as Diabetes. When choosing a food with sugar, ask yourself if it came from mother nature. If the answer is yes, you can bet it’s the right choice!

Meet the A-Game Nutritionist! Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian, specializing in sports nutrition and adolescent nutrition education. She’s excited to spread the message of healthy eating and “food as fuel” at A-Game Sports. To find out more about our Nutritionist or to schedule an appointment for you or your child, visit our nutrition counseling page.

A-Game Sports has just completed its first summer baseball camp program and the results have been nothing short of amazing. For six months this summer, kids ages 7-14 took to the field at New Rochelle’s beautiful City Park Field for six hours a day where they received valuable instruction on the game of baseball and attended a professional baseball game each week. Kids from many different backgrounds came together on one field and developed lasting friendships through a shared interest in the sport.

What makes this story even more unique is how the camp came together. Coaches Darin Feldman and Kevin Plein share a love for sports, and in particular, the game of baseball. They love it so much that they gave up their finance office jobs to start A-Game Sports, a youth sports training and recreation company in southern Westchester dedicated to athletic and academic achievement. The summer baseball camp, A-GAME’s first foray into youth sports programming. was set up to provide kids an opportunity to play and learn baseball while also placing an emphasis on the importance of education.

Not everyone can afford to send their child to camp for up to six weeks, but A-Game Sports did not want anyone left out of an opportunity because of financial hardships. Darin and Kevin visited area schools and churches to raise awareness of the camp’s scholarship program that would allow families that may not have the funds, to send their child with good grades and upstanding character traits to camp for free. Through the help of large corporations and local businesses that have provided camper sponsorships, Darin and Kevin have been able to include kids that would otherwise be unable to attend. In total, A-GAME SPORTS was able to award sixty five weeks of free camp which was given and allocated to fifteen terrific kids. This special offer by A-Game Sports led to a moment that the kids attending the camp will remember for the rest of their lives.

To start the 5th week of the camp, it seemed like another typical hot August Monday. The campers were all checked in and began their daily activities of warm-ups and group stations to work on fielding drills and skill development. After some workouts, the campers were all called in to the center of the diamond. In their travels between area churches, Darin and Kevin spoke with the congregation at Refuge of Hope in New Rochelle. The pastor at Refuge of Hope is Clara Rivera, the wife of legendary New York Yankees pitcher, Mariano Rivera. The two coaches explained the camp and opportunity that A-Game Sports was offering and encouraged families to apply for the scholarship. The philosophy that Darin and Kevin were bringing to their camp caught the attention of Rivera, who is a strong advocate of youth education and fitness.

On that 5th Monday of the A-Game Sports camp, Mariano Rivera decided he would visit City Park field to instill some of his knowledge of the game on the campers. After a brief address to the group, Rivera worked with kids or two hours on their throwing, pitching and fielding techniques. Imagine a World Series champion and baseball legend known around the world strolling onto a baseball field in New Rochelle to teach children about footwork and how to position your throwing arm when you are 7 to 14 years old? It is a memory not soon to be forgotten by the A-Games Sports campers or coaches. Rivera explained why he supports what A-Game Sports is doing for the kids in his church and in the New Rochelle area, “You’re taking [the kids] away from the streets and giving them good exercise and learning the game of baseball… they come to do the sport, yes, but you’re motivated for school.” It is the philosophy that A-Game Sports was built on and will continue to practice as it moves forward.

Baseball has been declared America’s pastime – filled with history, crowded with controversy and packed with statistics that the gurus have memorized and could spit out at a moment’s notice when called upon. The A-Game Sports team was lucky enough to have a chance to speak with one of the local baseball gurus in author Erik Sherman.

Sherman is a local boy, born and raised in the New York area, and influenced by the storied histories of the local ball clubs. His passion for baseball from a very young age developed into a career covering sports and he is now the author of multiple biographies for some of baseball’s most well known names.

Working with Some of the Biggest Names in Baseball

Sherman described his experiences working with Glenn Burke, Steve Blass and Mookie Wilson as a thrill and admitted it felt surreal. He portrayed each of his subjects as just like anybody else. “They’re still immensely popular and maintain a strong bond with their fans, but they’re just like any other person,” he said.

The success of Sherman’s work has landed him multiple opportunities and while Sherman has collaborated with players who have some of the more interesting stories in baseball, he doesn’t always get to write with every ballplayer he approaches. Some, while believing he would do a good job, are either not ready or wish to keep their lives private.

He is currently working on another book regarding the ’86 Mets, but could not disclose the details. When asked if there is someone who he admires and would like to work with, Sherman’s immediate response was “Hank Aaron.” Aaron has a book about his life and career, but Sherman said another possible angle could be something that shares what Aaron thinks of today’s game.

Good and Bad Guys

Aside from his own work, Erik Sherman is filled with knowledge and opinions of the current landscape of baseball. A-Game Sports took the opportunity to get his opinion on some hot topics currently surrounding baseball.

In the New York area, a lot of media coverage has surrounded the final season of Derek Jeter and Sherman believes it is rightfully so. When asked who he thinks is currently having the biggest positive impact on baseball, he praised Jeter. “He’s a bachelor who has been in New York for 20 years and has somehow maintained a squeaky clean history.” Sherman also acknowledged the media’s tendency to twist a person’s words, but somehow Jeter has not mis-stepped. He is such a good face for baseball that even some of Sherman’s rival Red Sox fans have said they admire the Yankee captain.

When asked who is having the biggest negative impact on baseball, Sherman defaulted to Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez because of their recent troubles with PED use. Sherman sees Rodriguez as someone who exemplified the American dream. He loved baseball growing up and was involved in the boys club in Miami where he would play for hours before his single mother would pick him up late after working. Sherman called it unfortunate that Rodriguez dragged things on with the PED use. Despite the attention that Rodriguez received however, Sherman believes Ryan Braun’s actions were arguably worse. Although it did not get covered as much by the media, Braun failed an earlier PED test and blamed a tester for mishandling the tests and the tester lost his job for it. His actions having such a serious impact on someone else’s life, Sherman argued, make it worse.

PEDs and a Decline in Baseball

While on the topic of steroid use among professional baseball players, we wondered if perhaps there has been a decline in the quality of baseball since Major League Baseball and government officials decided to crack down on the use of performance enhancing drugs. Sherman’s opinion was yes. He backed it up with the decline in power numbers, but said there are reasons steroids were used and the governing bodies decided not to do anything. One reason was that baseball needed to bring back fans after the strike in the mid-90s and high scores with lots of home runs were a good way to do it. Another reason Sherman cited for the decline in quality is the number of strikeouts. He does not credit this to an increase in pitching talent, but rather a new frame of thinking by players that it is OK to strikeout and it is seen with a major increase in the amount of strikeouts.

As a result of the steroid use though, we wondered if it is affecting the popularity of the sport among youths and Sherman provided us with an answer that made it clear he believes it has. “There is no sport where the record book is more hallowed.” He explained when he was growing up he knew the numbers and what they meant. Off the top of his head, Sherman threw out some numbers and their meanings in the record books. But he blamed the steroid era for wreaking havoc on the record books and players getting ridiculous numbers that no one ever thought could be reached. Despite his apparent disdain for the use of steroids in baseball however, Sherman said he believes the bigger issue that needs to be addressed to reinvigorate the sport is the length of games. They are now low-scoring affairs with multiple pitching changes, longer time between innings and pitchers and batters taking longer time between pitches. The result, Sherman pointed out, is that basketball has now passed baseball in popularity among people under 24 years old.

We decided to challenge Sherman for a reason why the positive feelings towards baseball as America’s pastime have waned over the years. We asked if it could be blamed on players leaving their ball clubs for other teams so they could get the long-term, big money deals. Sherman’s thought is that this is bad for teams in the league more than it is for the actual sport. The result of these deals is that teams are handcuffed with a player for extended years as they get older and have passed their prime. Although there is no salary cap, there is a luxury tax and when teams sign players for these huge contracts, they must pay a large luxury tax.

If it is not the big contracts, maybe it is the decrease in the number of U.S. born players who are in the league. Sherman was skeptical of this reason as well. He reasoned with us to ask any Pittsburgh Pirates fan who their favorite player was and most would say Roberto Clemente. The same could be said for Sammy Sosa in Chicago or Mariano Rivera in New York.

Tommy John Surgery and the Youth Game

We were curious about Sherman’s take on the recent influx of Tommy John surgery that has been undergone by professional players and how it has affected youth players. His response indicated that he has a real strong feeling towards this issue as well. “It’s a disgrace. It sends the wrong message to kids when players like Matt Harvey, who is two years into his career, gets the surgery and is out for a year. But then these guys come back better than ever.” Sherman said the trend is finding its way to the high school level as well and he finds it remarkable that some kids are already undergoing the surgery at such an early stage in their careers. He referred to a conversation he had while working with Mookie Wilson and Wilson believes that there should be more of an emphasis on learning the correct way to throw so young people are not injuring themselves by throwing too many balls the wrong way.

Sherman believes that a stronger emphasis must be placed on injuries and teaching correct techniques by the people who are in charge of overseeing and teaching kids to play the sport the correct way. Club teams can play as many as four games in a single weekend. “There are some coaches,” Sherman said “who treat every game as if it’s game seven of the World Series.” This has affected the game, but Sherman was sure to point out that there have been improvements at the youth level. He is in total agreement with the implementation of pitch counts among youths recently after previously seeing some high school players throw over 100 pitches in a single game.

Some Final Advice

Erik Sherman’s knowledge of the game of baseball is enough to impress anyone, especially a casual baseball fan. His clear passion for the game is seen in his writing and when he talks about the sport. At the end of our interview, he left us with one very important piece of advice to pass along. “If you have a passion, don’t ever give it up. Do it because you love it.” Take it from the man who has been doing what he loves his entire life.

To find out more about Erik Sherman, visit


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Welcome to the A-Game Sports blog where you’ll find the latest news, advice and important tips from our staffers.  We are super excited to kick off our camp this summer at a state of the art field in New Rochelle, New York.  Take a look…

Kids will be playing on this field of dreams this summer

An inside view of Flowers Park field in New Rochelle, NY

And now, take a look at the A-Games Sports Team…

The A-Game Sports Team (l to r. Tyler Rodriguez, Jose Reyes, Kevin Plein, Darin Feldman, Taylor Gregory)

Kids working on their A-Game…

Kids having fun at Flowers Park Field

Meet the A-Game Sports wives…

Meet the A-Game Sports Wives (Beth Feldman & Jill Plein)

More fun to come in the weeks ahead including great advice for parents and kids from our baseball camp director, Jose Reyes!