The Sports Archives – Canoeing vs. Kayaking

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Kayaks typically involve double-bladed paddles — a notable difference from canoeing!

The increased frequency of hot, humid days during summertime often drives both competitive and recreational sport enthusiasts closer to water. Various different types of water sport exist, providing diversity in how athletes can continue celebrating their favorite water-bound activities. Some sports involve people occupying and traversing pools, lakes, or rivers themselves, while others may involve exterior devices or equipment: namely, boats! Two common boat-oriented sports which are popular both recreationally and competitively are canoeing and kayaking. Though both of these boat-based sports are alike in many ways, they also feature some differences that make them each unique. Here are some of the components of canoeing and kayaking that make them similar, as well as the facets upon which they diverge.

Similarities of Canoeing and Kayaking

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Though perhaps not as effective as a kayak in many ways, the canoe is nothing if not a work of majestic elegance.

            The most obvious similarities between these two sports lie in location and environment – both canoeing and kayaking involve a body of water, the use of a boat-like flotation mechanism, and a manually-operated propulsion device. The sport itself takes place typically in a river, lake, or stream. The handheld paddle is specifically-modeled to be held by the boat operator and differs in design from an oar because it is not connected to the boat. While the canoe and kayak (boat chasses after which each sport is respectively named) differ in details, both are similarly shaped overall and fulfill an identical purpose.

The sports themselves both feature a variety of formats, including marathons, races, and even camping. Canoeing or kayaking marathons are races that tend to focus on endurance and/or distance, while other races are known for their brief “sprints” across shorter areas. Canoe or kayak camping differs in that it is more often recreational than competitive, and is comparable to camping on land. Canoers and kayakers will load up supplies (often carried in the boat or on worn backpacks) and drift along the water for extended periods.

            Where They Differ

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Another depiction of the differences between kayaking (top boat and paddle) and canoeing (bottom).

Naturally, each sport would not exist in its own right if not for the discernible differences between them. Major differences come in the design of the equipment – each sport’s boat and paddle. Kayak boats are built to accommodate a sitting position unique from that of a canoe, which may even require passengers to kneel depending on its particular design. Additionally, canoeing almost always involves the usage of a single-bladed paddle, whereas kayaks are often accompanied by dual-bladed rowing devices.

Both canoes and kayaks are thousands of years old, but their origins differ slightly. The designs of canoe boats came in great variety and were developed exclusively by many different cultures – however, all of them featured a similar, elongated frame which tapered at the ends and opened up along the top. Perhaps the oldest known canoe in the world is the Pesse canoe, carbon-dated between 7000-8000 BCE. This ancient boat resides in a museum located in the Netherlands. The history of kayaks is very different. Originally created by the Inuit (indigenous peoples of arctic and polar regions) this “hunter boat” was purposed primarily for hunting and fishing, but as time passed, it accumulated popularity in European countries and is now known across the entire world!

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The Sports Archives – Competitive Swimming

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Swimming can be great fun, but there’s no denying that it tests human physical performance. The making of a sport was inevitable!

The seasonal heat that typically accompanies summer is sweeping the Northern Hemisphere, particularly regions close to the planet’s equator! In an effort to escape the scorching sun, many people will find themselves tucked away indoors with the air conditioning unit, but some may alternatively choose to swim! Swimming, as one may expect, is a recreational activity that involves one or more persons and a decently-sized body of water. Swimming is considered a fun, effective form of exercise and, in the case of hot days and months, is also an excellent way to stay cool! Still, while the activity is regarded as pure enjoyment for some, others may view it as a competitive outlet. In what capacity does competitive swimming exist, and how does it differ from regular swimming?

Swimming for Sport: Where did it Begin?

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Open water swimming is a great opportunity for competitors to see the sights. Of course, manmade pools are often more ideal for swimming in a competition environment.

            Traces of swimming can be found far back into ancient human history. Some of the earliest documented evidence of recreational swimming among people dates at around 2000 B.C., and the alleged first book on swimming, title “The Swimmer or A Dialogue on the Art of Swimming”, was written by a German professor named Nikolaus Wynmann. The early-mid 19th Century saw development of “sporty” swimming in England, where competitions centered on the activity began to gain traction and popularity among public swimming clubs. From there, the competitive athletic component of swimming only had room to spread and mature. Men’s swimming became a part of the modern Summer Olympics in 1896 when the first was held in Greece.

            Modern Competitive Swimming

            With the goal being to break pace and time records while trouncing opposing participants, technique is an important component in competitive swimming. Naturally, the surest way to achieve success is to manage one’s endurance and maximize speed when moving through the water. To train for swimming competitions, athletes tend to focus on high-stress physical and stamina training, gradually reducing workload as deadlines approach. To further improve hydrodynamic performance, professional swimmers also shave off excess body hair and shed as much dead skin as possible. This streamlines the body, making movement more efficient.

Competitive swimming is broken up into a variety of styles and formats. For example, in open water swimming, athletes compete in an open body of water like a lake. Swimming competitions may also take place in artificial or manmade water bodies – mainly laned pools. Competitive swimming also featured 4 major styles that have remained relatively consistent over the past few decades. These styles include the butterfly stroke, the breaststroke, the backstroke, and freestyle.

underwater photographs by Stephen Frink as courtesy for TouchTheWall.com, shot at Founder's Park swimming pool, Islamorada, Florida Keys.

Competitive swimming is celebrated worldwide, courtesy of international sporting competitions like the Olympics!

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The Sports Archives – Fencing: Dueling of the Modern Day

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Sword dueling certainly didn’t begin as a sport, but the elements of art, culture and circumstance it brings cannot be ignored.

A sport that involves 2 competitors du king it out with specially-designed swords? You may find yourself asking, “What does any of this have to do with fences?” Ironically, the answer is “practically nothing!” Fencing as a sport has existed for centuries, and is quite celebrated in many countries for its fusion of competitive spirit and physical artistry. Indeed, there is as much creative technique invested in successful fencing as there is fitness, endurance, and concentration. One unique facet of fencing that sets it apart from other sports is the uniqueness of each of its forms. The modern sport is commonly divided into 3 different genres, as well as the same number of competitive “categories”:

“Foil” Fencing

The foil sword is notable for its lightweight, flexible frame, consisting of a guard, grip, and a pronged, tapered-steel blade. The blade is specifically modeled to bend easily (this to prevent injury and the shaft breaking during play). The length of the foil hovers closely around 90 cm and the weight of it cannot exceed 500 grams. A key difference in all fencing weapons compared to real-life swords is the “button” that replaces the tip of the blade. Aside from the blade itself, the most prominent component of the foil is the button assembly. Foils are modeled in both electric and nonelectric varieties. A judge is necessary in distributing points during a nonelectric foil match, but with electric foils, the tip registers contact electronically and points are distributed based on the validity of the hit.

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Ever-improving technology, when combined with sports, can be either a hit or miss. Modern fencing is often heavily-assisted by technology, but this tends to enhance the experience of it as a sport.

Épée” – The French Sibling

French for “sword”, this weapon is the largest of the 3 fencing sword variants and also weighs the most. Notable differences from the foil (in both weapon design and game format) include the implementation of a stiffer blade design (though it remains flexible enough to preserve safety) that, unlike the rectangular foil and sabre, is triangularly cut. The bell guard of an épée is also more pronounced than its counterparts.

Contrary to other competitive categories, when épée fencing, the entire body of each player may be tagged fairly, including the limbs. The nature of this fencing genre lends it to be slightly more lax on aggressive play, as players are expected to work much more diligently in landing and avoiding hits. Indeed, épée fencing, in regulations and play, most closely resembles classical sword dueling of the 1800s.

Sabre – A Hybridization?

Sabre, or saber fencing involves slightly altered rules and another unique sword design. The blade of a sabre is relatable to an épée, although it is not as stiff.

The target area in sabre fencing is above the waist up, similar to foil fencing. However, instead of restricting legal hits to the torso only, sabre fencing usually permits strikes on the hands and head as well (though not hands). The most prominent difference in sabre fencing play deals with landing the hits themselves – firstly, it is noteworthy that the sword utilized has no button on its tip to track points from successful hits. Rather, the entire blade is valid for delivering strikes against players. Due to this exceptional mechanic, sabres that function electrically are preferable, and tracking hits is made easy by a current delivered from the sword through the opposing player’s fencing gear.

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A graphical overview of the differences in each fencing genre’s weapon design and valid target locations.

Historical Overview

It should come as no surprise that fencing began not as a sport, but as a military training exercise. In an era where swords dominated the battlefield as an effective weapon of choice, sparring between aspiring swordsmen was a crucial part of military training and skill development. Unassisted by fancy electrical equipment and specially designed weaponry, duelists would engage each other to refine their abilities and, with any luck, get an opportunity to test their mettle in the field.

Changing times aided fencing in its transition from applied combat to recreational/competitive sporting activity. Sword dueling moved from military environments to fencing schools and academies amid Europe in the 1700s. Across the next couple of centuries, techniques, rules, and other elements that pool into creating a wholesome sport began to manifest. Today, fencing is internationally renowned and celebrated as one of several combat-oriented competitive sporting activities.

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The Sports Archives – Sport Hunting

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In modern society, the validity and relevance of hunting, particularly for recreation or sport, is constantly questioned. Will changing times see it outlawed entirely, or will it endure as a testimony to human history?

Certainly not the least controversial sporting practice among humans, trophy hunting or hunting for sport is commonly defined as the stalking, trapping, and/or killing of wildlife by humans. It typically encompasses any predatory behaviors exhibited by humans towards wild animals and can be found in a variety of regions and environments. In the United States, sport hunting is regulated quite extensively by federal law, in the interest of properly protecting delicate species and habitats in the environment. These regulations and requirements tend to make game hunting fairly complicated, and the sport is complicated further by environmental and climate conditions. As a result, understanding the regulations and rules that accompany hunting is a key component of participating.

Unanimous Regulations? Not so much…

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Some hunters allow dogs to accompany them. Like any element of sport hunting, state law can be very strict and specific in regards to when dogs are permitted on a hunt, a fact that is, perhaps, frequently overlooked.

The rules and regulations that accompany sport hunting in the United States are exceptionally restrictive and difficult to narrow down. The fine details can vary from state to state, which makes knowing what is and isn’t allowed more of a ‘chore’ than with other sports. Some examples of the state rules include Oklahoma’s prohibition on computer-assisted hunting (the usage of software or remote firing mechanisms) and Arkansas’ law against “spotlighting” from a public urban location, with an exception when hunting bullfrogs or furbearers. As can be clearly seen from these 2 rules alone, the full content of a state’s hunting guide not only covers regional laws rather extensively, each also has room for variation.

Unfortunately, not every rule and law can be included here, but a firm understanding of those specific to one’s state is critical for any aspiring hunter. Fortunately, nearly all state hunting handbooks and guides can be found with a single web search. While federal regulation is still a burden in many areas, it is effective in making important information available online.

Hunting ‘Season’ – Open vs. Closed

While the specifics of each state’s hunting season are about as unique as the aforementioned regulations, the general concept of “hunting season” is cumulative. Not to be confused with seasons pertaining to climate or weather, hunting season is a period of the year in which the state makes it publically legal to hunt a specific species of animal. By extension, there exists the “open season” and “closed season”, respectively.

An open season, as one may expect, is a period where species hunting is allowed per state conservation law. The role of hunters is thereby to (lawfully and with reasonable discretion) partake in the season. A role less discussed but of unequivocal importance is that of each state’s fish and wildlife agencies, which must act as moderators to ensure the local environment and ecosystems remain intact. Open seasons are generally projected in advance and, as common sense would dictate, are projected during periods of maximum species’ population density.

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Sometimes, hunting, particularly sport or trophy hunting, can get out of hand and threaten an entire animal species. Hunting is not inconsequential! Regulation and discretion on the part of humanity is crucial.

A closed season, contrarily, is a time period in which hunting of a particular species is explicitly illegal. Closed seasons are instituted to protect vulnerable species or to halt destabilization of local ecological regions. Hunting a species during a closed season on that species is recognized as illegal hunting or, in other words, poaching. Knowledge of local species’ season schedules is tantamount to legal, tidy sport hunting practices.

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The Sports Archives – Best 10 CFB Coaches with Excellent NFL Talent Developing Skills

Nick Saban - Alabama

We cannot deny the importance and roles of coaches in developing talented players. NFL has shown us a lot of great players so far and will continue to bring in new talented players in future as well. There are some excellent CFB coaches who have played a huge role in preparing players for the NFL. It is a tough task for the coaches to find out a talent at college or university level and train them to compete vigorously in the NFL. However, a great coach has the skills to understand the players and they inspire, support, challenge and lead players by example. Here is a look at 10 CFB coaches who are most effective at developing NFL talents.

  1. Nick Saban (Alabama)

Nick Saban is an American football coach. He is the head football coach at the University of Alabama since the 2007 season. Saban is well-known for his recruiting skills and it is hard for others to beat him on draft day. He could produce many first-rounder picks over five straight drafts from 2010-2014 and 39 draft picks over the last five years makes him the best coach in the field.  None can deny his ability to develop talent and he has offered NFL plenty of talented players already including Rashad Johnson who is entering his eighth NFL season as a DB.

  1. Urban Meyer (Ohio State)

Urban Frank Meyer is an American college football coach. He is the head football coach at the Ohio State Buckeyes right now. Meyer is a giant when it comes to developing talents. Ohio State could introduce a lot of players in the NFL draft after Meyer appointed as head coach. Meyer has coached four OSU draft classes toting up 26 players.  Joe Haden, Percy Harvin, and Pouncey twins Mike and Maurkice are the products of Meyer.

  1. Jimbo Fisher (Florida State)

John James is an American college football coach and is the head coach at Florida State University now. Fisher has averaged a massive seven draft picks for every year over the last five years and seven were chosen in the first round as well. He is recognized for preparing players mentally and physically strong.

  1. Mark Dantonio (Michigan State)

Mark Dantonio is an American football coach and is the current head coach at Michigan State University. He could produce 19 draft picks over the last five years. He is celebrated for changing the mindset of players tremendously. DB Darqueze Dennard, DB Trae Waynes and OL Jack Conklin provide Dantonio a lively streak of first-round picks in three successive years.

  1. Bob Stoops (Oklahoma)

Bob Stoops is an American college football coach. He has been the head coach at the University of Oklahoma since 1999. He is identified for making players motivated and work harder. He has a record for first-round picks in a single draft, that is, four and his 28 players have been chosen over the past five years.

  1. Mark Richt (Miami Fl.)

Mark Allan Richt is an American football coach. He is the head coach at the University of Miami and was the head football coach at the University of Georgia. In 2013, he could make eight selections.  Richt had 27 players chosen from his former school over the previous five years.

  1. Dabo Swinney (Clemson)

Dabo Swinney is an American football college coach. He is currently the head coach at Clemson. Swinney’s tenure as head coach became fruitful this year as he could deliver nine draft picks. He could make at least one first-round pick every year since 2013 and his draft-pick total since 2012 is 27 players.

  1. Les Miles (LSU)

Leslie Edwin Miles is an American football coach. He is the head football coach at Louisiana State University (LSU) since January 2005. Miles has developed 13 first-round picks in his term and his best college quarterback was JaMarcus Russell. In 2013-2014 drafts, LSU could make 18 selections.

  1. Brian Kelly (Notre Dame)

Brian Keith Kelly is an American football coach. He is the head football coach at the University of Notre Dame since December 2009. Kelly deserves credit for preparing talents since he could make eight choices in the 2014 draft and seven this year. During his tenure, he’s turned out six first-round and six second-rounder picks. Kelly has produced 26 picks over the past five years.

  1. David Shaw (Stanford)

David Shaw is an American football coach. He is the current head coach of the Stanford Cardinal football team. He showed his talent developing skills in five Stanford draft classes and each of which resulted in no less than three selections. Shaw has 17 picks over the last three years thanks to his 10 years of NFL experience.

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The Sports Archives – Summer Heat: Keeping Cool and Safe

heat wave in the city and hand showing thermometer for high temperature

Watch out! Daytime temperatures can get pretty toasty during the summer season for some regions!

Summer is commonly marked as a season of outdoor fun, longer days, and a rise not only in recreational sporting activities, but temperatures as well! Humans are mammals, which means they regulate their own body temperatures pretty well, even in climates that could be considered colder or warmer than hospitable. However, even the most physically healthy human is vulnerable if exposed to extreme temperature conditions over prolonged periods of time, and around warmer regions of the Earth during summertime, heat-related illnesses can be a serious threat. What are heat-related illnesses, and why is awareness of them important, particularly in sports?

Dehydration: A Distinctive Lack of Water

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Sometimes, the heat and vigor of exercise can distract you from the amount of water your body is really using! Be careful: due to occurrences like voluntary dehydration, you may be losing body fluids. Always drink plenty of water when exercising, even if you don’t feel thirsty!

Up to 60% of the average human adult is comprised of water. It is a commonly-occurring liquid commonly considered by people as the healthiest drink available, and it is literally life-sustaining. Water is a vital component of human life, technically rivaling oxygen as the most important nutrient the body can receive, and its importance only increases in environments of strenuous physical activity (namely, sports)! Dehydration occurs when the body is not consuming as much water as it is using to power itself. Although it may take some time to fully manifest, if the body does not receive ample amounts of water in time, dehydration can be lethal. In hot environments, the body uses more water still to maintain individual cells and keep its overall temperature down.

In summary, dehydration is much less of a threat for people while in a temperate environment in a resting state. However, when exercising (particularly in hot environments) and playing strenuous sports, be sure to consume plenty of water to avoid dehydration!

Overheating: Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke

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Here are some of the differences in symptoms and solutions for Heat Exhaustion and/or Heatstroke. Know what you’re dealing with, and how to get help if needed!

Even a well-hydrated body is not guaranteed safe beneath the hot sun. Temperature regulation is an important component of sustained human life, but there is only so much the body can do if it is continuously exposed to high temperatures. Two of the most dangerous side-effects of excessive heat exposure or overheating are heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

Heat exhaustion often goes hand-in-hand with dehydration, and occurs when the body is exposed to high temperatures over a concentrated period of time. There are two major types of heat exhaustion; the first occurs when the body becomes depleted of water, while the second is related to salt deficiency. The most common cause of heat exhaustion (besides, naturally, the inhabitance of hot environments) is sweating, in which the body releases water and electrolytes to cool itself, but does not take in nutrients to replace what it has used.

Heatstroke is known to follow heat exhaustion if symptoms persist, and can cause much more damage if not dealt with immediately. Considered a medical emergency, heatstroke is marked by dramatically increased body temperature combined with a distinctive lack of sweating. If the person afflicted is not immediately cooled off and rehydrated, brain damage, organ failure, and even death will occur.

 

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The Sports Archives – The Strategy Driving Football Plays

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A graphical representation of a football play. Visual communication is often helpful in teaching and drilling plays.

Hectic, fast-paced, coarse…all words that could describe the flow of gameplay in American Football. There’s no denying the intensity behind this renowned sport, but a critical element of success that is easily and frequently overlooked is the logic and planning that contribute to a football team’s success on the field. Every play employed in a game of football is implemented with cunning and care, resulting in order and teamwork amid a scene otherwise populated by discourse. What’s the ‘scoop’ on these football plays? Can they make or break a team’s performance? Does a lot of work and effort go into offensive plays to yield more promising results?

            The General Properties of a Football Play

Formally, a ‘football play’ is initiated either with the offensive playing team’s quarterback or with a free kick. The play features a strategy from both teams, which, regardless of the more intricate details, generally involves either moving the football into scoring position (offense) or preventing ground from being gained by the offensive team (defense). A play is concluded when the player carrying the ball is grounded, unable to advance further, or steps out of bounds. The field is then “reset” so that another play may begin.

Football plays are made more intricate by the actions and decisions of the playing teams, each which may employ various movement tactics and deployment strategies to bend play into their favor. At the upper level, football is as intricate as a chess game, though on the field, it is carried out as a competition of physical endurance, awareness, and willpower.

            Offensive: Covering Greater Ground

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Offensive plays are all about moving the ball closer to scoring position. The methods for doing so are often left very open, so planning the ideal offensive is benefited by a flair of creativity!

Naturally, the team responsible for achieving victory in football is the offense. The offensive force of each football team is comprised of 11 players and an offensive play is spearheaded by the quarterback. Effectively the leader on the offensive, the quarterback is the player responsible for coordinating the rest of the team with the play given by coaches on the sidelines. However, the job of the quarterback does not end there! Immediately before the play is initiated, modifications to the offensive’s plan of attack may need to be made, depending on how the defending team has positioned its players to counter.

The play also begins with the quarterback, who receives the football via the “snap.” Subsequently, the quarterback will either pass off the football to a respective ball runner, run the ball down the field himself, or attempt a pass to another teammate by throwing the ball down the field.

While valid options for moving the football for the offensive may seem limited, other elements of each game will have an influence on what each offensive play entails. This can prove to be both advantageous for the offensive and detrimental. For example, running plays are, commonly less-attempted if the offensive is on a 3rd or 4th down, due to the perception that passing is more likely to yield results vital to progressing the game. Thus, while the defense and offense alike may have no foreknowledge of the next play the opposing team will execute, assumptions can be made and certain actions accounted for (on occasion, correctly!).

            Defensive: An ‘Impenetrable Wall’?

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In football, defending is much like plugging the holes in the hull of a boat — while no single solution will be perfect for every situation, predicting patterns in the offensive’s movement to ensure widest coverage is the key to success!

The role of the defending team in football, while drastically different, is nonetheless straightforward: don’t let the ball advance! As is common in strategy-oriented games, the defending team’s actions are primarily reactionary, which means that most of the decisions regarding defensive play will be focused on what the offensive might do.

In constructing the ideal defensive play, it is often a challenge to achieve a balance between making bold predictions and ‘playing it safe’. This is because, while a prediction may pay off magnificently if it is correct, it can be an enormous waste of resources on an individual play if it is wrong. Interestingly enough, while the energy and intensity of football may suggest a wall of fortuitous blockers is the key to stopping the offense dead in its tracks, the defense’s role actually consists of creating an intricate web of traps that covers as many angles as possible, slowing, stalling, and countering the offensive’s encroachment.

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