Team Management and Culture Resources

 The Devil is in the Details

The Devil is in the Details

FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster

In June 2013, I made my managerial debut, skippering our rookie-level Gulf Coast League Red Sox. Prior to that point in my coaching career, managing wasn’t something that was truly on my radar; I had just completed my first year with the organization as an A-ball hitting coach, a job that I really enjoyed in an area of the game that I fully expected to progress in. When the opportunity to manage was presented to me, it was a chance to have more of a leadership role and one that offered me a great way to grow both personally and professionally with the responsibility of coaching more players, and in a bigger picture.

Hindsight 20/20, when it came to actually being prepared to do the job I had just been promoted to do, I didn’t have any idea what I was doing. While I am sure there is a handbook on how to manage a baseball team, much of learning how to best navigate through a season comes from trial and error more than anything else. Like most, I did the job the only way I knew how at the time and did it to the best of my ability. At various points of the season, I mishandled everything from game strategy, to discipline, to communication, to schedule logistics, and probably a lot in between.

But there was one thing I didn’t mess up: a very detailed approach to teach the game where EVERYTHING mattered. At one point during that summer, a player lamented to a coach on our staff his frustration. “Fenster is on us about every little thing,” he said. “Why can’t he just let us play?” Looking back, that may be one of the best compliments I have ever received as a coach.

For the last two and a half years, the following tweet has been pinned to my profile on Twitter: “Hate that coach who works you too hard, always on your case? Wait until you play for a coach who doesn’t care. You’ll realize how lucky you were.”

Those 140 characters are at the core of who I am as a coach, thanks entirely to the influence that Fred Hill, the coach I played for and coached with at Rutgers, had on me; it was the foundation of who he was as a coach. I have always held my players to a higher standard than they hold themselves to because that’s exactly what Coach Hill did for me .

As a player, I learned the hard way how valuable this approach was for my own personal development. About ten games into my freshman season, we were getting crushed by UCF, in large part because of what seemed like 15 pull-side hits down the left-field line. While playing shortstop, Coach Hill put the responsibility on me to tell our third baseman when off-speed pitches were coming. I didn’t relay one all game. And got completely ripped for it after the game in front of half the team. I was literally in tears, ready to transfer.

When we got back to the hotel, he called me into his room. It was there where he said this: “I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but the reason I am riding you so hard is because I think you have a chance to be a great player for us. You shouldn’t be upset when I get on you; you should get worried, when I’m not.” From that day forward, I was completely transformed in my ability to handle criticism, no matter how loud that message was communicated.

Over the years, I’ve had many conversations with my own players similar to that one Coach Hill had with me back in the spring of 1997.

Thanks to the many coaches that I’ve have the privilege of playing for or coaching with, I’ve come to realize that a team will always, in some way, shape, or form, take on the personality of its coaching staff. That goes not only for the positive elements but also just as much for the negative aspects as well. Our teams have always had a good sense of being aware of the countless little things that take place over the course of a game because we make them a consistent part of what we teach. There is no doubt that many players don’t necessarily like a coaching staff that consistently gets on them about not doing some of these little things right. The devil may very well be in the details, but that devil wins a ton of games.

Darren Fenster is currently the Minor League Outfield and Baserunning Coordinator for the Boston Red Sox. Previously, Fenster was the Manager of the Portland Sea Dogs, the Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. A former player in the Kansas City Royals minor league system, Fenster joined the Red Sox organization in 2012 after filling various roles on the Rutgers University Baseball staff, where he was a two-time All-American for the Scarlet Knights. Fenster is also Founder and CEO of Coaching Your Kids, LLC, and can be found on Twitter @CoachYourKids.

 Soundtracks, Part I

Soundtracks, Part I

Coaching Absolutes
By: Dave Turgeon

A couple of years back, I used to do a segment with staff called “Soundtracks.” Before diving into it I would always talk about what a soundtrack is. Most of us have heard of them and been impacted by them when watching a movie. Some of us (myself included) have been moved to purchase the soundtrack of a movie. Soundtracks, the music of a movie, evoke and stir emotions and amplify a scene in some way. For example, most of us remember the opening scene from “Jaws” where the young woman goes for a swim and some music begins to play that makes us all feel the impending doom to come. And it did. Another example of a soundtrack that brings about some emotions is from the classic movie called “Rocky.” The scene starts with Rocky doing his road work (running) and ends with him running up the stairs to a song called “Gonna Fly Now.” It absolutely is an inspiring scene that was brought to life from that iconic song.

There are endless examples of how you can later hear that song and it brings you back to that scene and stirs your emotions again. To show how this works I would take a movie clip and show it to my staff and include the music as it was shown in the theatres. The room would always make comments about the scenes and how it made them feel because they remembered them so well. I would then take the same scene but change the music that was being played. The “Jaws” scene and that dramatic background music was replaced with the song “Don’t Worry Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin. It changed things. You just do not feel like a shark attack is coming when that tune is playing. You actually relax and smile. The Rocky scene and its inspiring track was replaced by “The Lazy Song” by Bruno Mars. It also changed things. Rocky looked like he wasn’t quite as fast and you definitely were not inspired. Soundtracks play a huge role in evoking emotions and impacting our thoughts.

Just as movies have soundtracks, we also have our own personal soundtrack. When someone walks in a room you can usually feel where they are at by their energy, body language and facial expression. Whether we realize this or not, our soundtrack is playing when we enter a room or walk down the street or engage with others. This is about self-awareness and the impact our soundtracks have on players and our personal lives.

The Soundtrack Game 

After rolling through the clips and having the coaches draw the connection to themselves, we would write everyone’s name on a piece of paper and put it in a hat where everyone picked a name to which they were assigned. The assignment was to then write down a song or songs that represented that coach’s soundtrack. I did not limit the number of songs because some folks are more complex than others. Obviously, this was fun, and the coaches got into it. Occasionally though, there was someone who was surprised by the song or songs picked for them. It generated some real uncomfortable conversations at times, but at the same time very productive one-on-one sidebars where we got feedback on our soundtrack.

After this self-awareness exercise we connected it to our coaching and leading. To be an effective coach, having command of our soundtrack is critical. Further, having command of many songs of your soundtrack will allow you to reach more players. When I say command, I am talking about having your self-awareness get to a point where you can adjust the song and volume of that song in order to connect and reach who is in front of you.

As a coach, there are two huge questions we must continually ask:
Which song does the individual need?
What song does the collective group need?

Transitioning from song to song and adjusting your volume along the way is what good coaching looks like. It is seamless and constant.

Turgeon is the Coordinator of Instruction for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Turgeon played in the New York Yankees farm system from 1987-1990 under Stump Merrill and Buck Showalter after being drafted out of Davidson College. Before playing for the Baltimore Orioles’ AAA affiliate in 1998 he spent eight years playing abroad. From 2000-2001 Turgeon began coaching in the Cleveland Indians organization before entering the college ranks where he coached with Boston College, the University of Connecticut, Duke University and Virginia Tech. Turgeon was also the Bench Coach for the 2019 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team. 

 How to Celebrate Wins When One Kid Isn't Winning

How to Celebrate Wins When One Kid Isn't Winning

Helping your athlete prioritize progress

A young athlete’s teammates, siblings, coaches, and teachers can leave a lasting impression, but parents have the greatest impact on how a child feels about his or her performance in sport, says Joel Fish, PhD, sports psychologist and author of 101 Ways to Be a Terrific Sports Parent. 

When you have two or more children in sports, it can be a challenge to give each one the same level of positive attention — especially when one seems to be winning all the time, while the other is struggling. Fish shares advice on how to find the right balance between celebrating success and prioritizing progress rather than just winning. 

 Praise Effort Not Results  

It’s natural to be excited about a win, and there’s nothing wrong with celebrating it, says Fish. “But focus more on your core values versus results: make sure you’re praising other successes, like developing new skills or putting in a strong effort. You have a great opportunity to teach children multiple goals — there are other ways to define success that aren’t results-driven.” 

This applies to both your winning child and the one who’s struggling in sport — it’s a great way to give both children equal amounts of praise and attention. 

 Check Your Reaction  

Understanding how important your reaction is, and becoming aware of it, can go a long way towards promoting good behaviors on your part. 

“You have an immediate emotional reaction when a child wins, or when one loses,” Fish says. “That’s the main issue — and if you can pay attention to how you’re feeling and reacting, what your reaction is to success or failure, then you’re better able to manage those feelings and give a more value-driven response." 

Make Sure Everyone Gets What They Need  

It can be a challenge to manage a budding career for a highly talented young athlete while making sure that his or her siblings are still thriving as well. Some sports, like figure skating, involve immense amounts of travel and even potential relocation, and Fish notes that it’s important to take your other children into account in those times. 

That may mean a larger family discussion about moving to a different city, or, on a smaller scale, simply making sure that your other children also have activities that they’re passionate about, even if they aren’t getting the same kind of results. 

 Consider Shifting Focus  

“If your child who is struggling or not having success in sport still enjoys being on the team and having fun, that’s great,” says Fish. “But remember, that child can also consider exploring other sports if he or she isn’t having fun. Parents get stuck trying to channel kids into one certain sport but there’s a huge range of activities for kids to get involved in. I’ve seen kids go from team sports to something like cycling and really flourish, so you may want to try other sports and keep in mind that what one of your children likes, the other may not.” 

 Be Mindful of the Winning Child  

You may think that the biggest challenge is making sure that the athletes who aren’t winning don’t suffer from a lack of self-esteem because of their talented sibling, but the child who’s winning deals with immense pressures as well. 

Even though your focus should be on effort, give praise when either your athletes achieve something great – like a win. A win is still a win, and your athlete should be recognized for the hard work they contributed to achieve that. 


“There’s a lot more prestige connected to winning now, compared to 30 years ago when the mentality was more centered around the motto, ‘it’s not about if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game,’” says Fish. Today, the landscape has shifted for how parents view youth sports. Winning has meaning to it. So, when one sibling wins, and another doesn’t, that’s a challenge for parents in a way that it never was before. 

Excitement around a win and disappointment around a loss for your kids are both completely normal feelings, says Fish. Just remember that as a parent, it’s your job to also make sure that your child doesn’t feel as though your love and approval is conditional on their results in sport. 

TrueSport®, a movement powered by the experience and values of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, champions the positive values and life lessons learned through youth sport. TrueSport® inspires athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators to change the culture of youth sport through active engagement and thoughtful curriculum based on cornerstone lessons of sportsmanship, character-building, and clean and healthy performance, by creating leaders across communities through sport.

 How to Hydrate Your Athlete If They Don't Like Water

How To Hydrate Your Athletes If They Don't Like Water

Keeping your athlete hydrated

If you have a picky athlete who doesn’t love the taste of water, or just one who’s constantly on the go and bad at remembering to regularly sip from a water bottle, it can be tricky to make sure that he or she is staying consistently and properly hydrated.  

Brianna Elliott, MS, RD, LD, shares a few tips for getting young athletes to consume more water throughout the day—even if they claim to ‘hate’ water.  

Pick a Fun Bottle 

Sometimes, all it takes to turn your athlete into a great water-drinker is providing the right vessel. "Young athletes should have a reusable water bottle with them throughout the day, even on days when they don’t have practice or an event,” says Elliott.  

Simply finding a bottle that can easily fit in a backpack or gym bag, that won’t spill if it’s tipped over, and that looks cool can make a big difference in how much your child is drinking. There are thousands to choose from, so let your athlete pick a new favorite. 

Make Water More Interesting 

"Add flavor to water. Keep it simple by adding some fresh lemon juice, or flavor it up further by adding frozen fruits,” says Elliott.  

"Berries are a delicious option. Fresh cucumber and mint can also be added to water for a refreshing flavor.” Allowing kids to pick their own flavor additions can make creating the perfect water combination more fun.  

Find Out What They Hate 

In addition to adding flavor, you might have success by simply experimenting with temperature. “Many young athletes are turned off by room temperature water,” says Elliott.  

"Kids might prefer ice cold water. In this case, a pitcher or cooler of ice-cold water should always be readily available to encourage them to drink whenever possible. In the case that kids prefer hot water, having tea or hot lemon water available will do the trick." 

Add Carbonation

Sometimes, a little fizz can go a long way. “I recommend providing beverages with similar tastes to favorites, but that don’t have added sugars, so a carbonated beverage like La Croix instead of soda,” says Elliott. "And if that’s not quite sweet enough, adding a little bit of stevia or honey can add a more natural sweetness, which you can slowly decrease over time.” 

Dial Back Soda and Juice 

Technically, drinking soda or juice is hydrating, but it’s not optimal from a nutrition standpoint. But cutting it out entirely can lead to less overall hydration, so it’s important to shift to healthier options slowly.  

“For kids, it’s better to wean them off soda or juice. If a child is used to drinking something, it’s hard to cut it out cold-turkey,” says Elliot. To do this, water down sugar-sweetened beverages. "Half water, half juice is great,” she says. If your child is a soda fanatic, you could consider adding carbonated water to a normal soda to cut sweetness but not the carbonation.  

Alternatively, if the half-and-half taste isn’t cutting it, compromise. “If a child is unwilling to give up soda or juice, I tell them to have at least half a cup of water before drinking the sweet beverage so that they aren’t thirsty when drinking the soda,” she says. "It helps them drink less and not drink soda due to thirst.” 

Add Water-Packed Foods 

"Eat water-rich foods throughout the day, such as fruits and veggies,” says Elliott. "Berries, watermelon, mangoes, cucumber, carrots, celery, apples, and cauliflower are examples of water-rich produce. Parents should aim to keep these foods convenient at home, so their kids are more likely to snack on them. Additionally, fresh fruits and veggies should be emphasized as snacks at practices, rather than salty snacks that can be dehydrating." 

Make It a Game 

Create a reward system for good hydration and make a game out of your athlete's drinking. “Come up with a way for your athlete to track his or her water intake,” says Elliott. "Each day that they meet their needs they get a reward. Hydration tracking apps are a great way to do this and can make staying hydrated more fun.”  


Remember, if you’re telling your athlete that he or she needs to drink enough water, you should be drinking enough water as well!  

Make sure you’re not sipping a soda instead of your water bottle when you show up at practices, and if you’re pushing water-filled fruit and vegetable snacks on your child, you should be eating them too. 

TrueSport®, a movement powered by the experience and values of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, champions the positive values and life lessons learned through youth sport. TrueSport® inspires athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators to change the culture of youth sport through active engagement and thoughtful curriculum based on cornerstone lessons of sportsmanship, character-building, and clean and healthy performance, by creating leaders across communities through sport.

 The Many Opening Days of the Season

The Many Opening Days of the Season

FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster

February is finally upon us which means only one thing: BASEBALL IS BACK! The crack of the bat, the smell of the grass, and the thud of the glove fill our senses with excitement as our favorite Major League clubs open Spring Training , while the college programs that we follow begin their competitive seasons. Every player, coach, and fan on the diamond lives by the optimistic mantra that hope truly does spring eternal. With everything in front of us, there is no better time of year on the baseball calendar.

For the many different levels of the game, seasons vary both in length and focus. Tee-ballers and Little Leaguers are just learning the basics of the game and are hopefully having a blast in the process. For high school players, most have taken their game up the ranks and play on a more serious note with aspirations of playing in college or professionally , while competing with friends for local supremacy. In college, student-athletes are balancing academics and baseball in an environment where players are expected to work to get better in order to help their school win.

On the professional level, over the course of the long, seven-month season, we have found value in breaking the year up into different segments that allow our individual players and collective teams to take stake in where they are, how they’ve gotten there, and what the plan will be moving forward.

At the start of Spring Training, all of our players and staff meet together prior to getting going on the field to go over a lot of the basics that will rule the next month and a half of our days in camp. Things like getting treatment in the training room, working out in the weight room, keeping the clubhouse clean, and a multitude of other quick topics are discussed to get everyone on the same page. But the underlying theme when we begin to talk about the upcoming season is opportunity. Every single day is a chance to get better; a chance to make a club; a chance to be that much more prepared for the beginning of the season come April. With that constant message to our players, year in and year out, our Spring Trainings are incredibly productive and we feel like we are in a great position to start the year off on a very positive note because of how well they took advantage of their own individual opportunities.

Come the start of the regular season, everyone is chomping at the bit to be off and running. But before that official Opening Day hits, each team will gather as a group to refocus on the new job at hand. The theme now turns to the standard that we will challenge our players to live up to each and every day of the season. Players will be expected to go about their business in a professional manner regardless of the results from the night before. They will learn how to control what they can control and work like the professionals they are with the goal of getting something out of every practice repetition. When they do those things on a daily basis, the reward of the game each night will become that much more satisfying knowing that they are getting better each day, while developing into productive team players along the way.

The Major League season is 162 games. For our Minor Leaguers, a full schedule includes 140 contests. Both seasons offer a halfway point that gives us another break to introduce a new point of emphasis: to press the reset button. Time and time again, we see players sprint out of the gate like gangbusters and perform at an impressive level for the first couple months of the season. But by the end of the year, the total body of work has fallen back to an average year at best. They tried to ride the wave all the way to the finish, and unfortunately failed to do so. On the flipside, we also often see players who struggle early on, but find a way to finish the year on an upswing because they were able to move on from a tough start to the year. Mentally resetting the year gives players a clean slate, and teams a re-centered focus on what they need to do to be successful. Good or bad, the reset opens up the window for them to keep things going in the right direction, or to start anew and get that bad taste out of their mouths.

There are few things more exciting than playing meaningful games down the stretch with a chance to win a ring in the postseason. And with the start of the playoffs comes another new Opening Day of sorts where only one thing matters: winning. Still to this day, the majority of my favorite memories over the course of my 35-plus years in the game revolve around winning championships. There is something to be said about investing so much time with a group of people to go after something bigger than ourselves. And when everything comes together from everyone pulling the rope in the same direction, there is such a lasting impression that very few things in life can compare.

In the marathon that is the baseball season, it is very easy to hit a wall at various mile-markers along the way. But when players and teams create their own Opening Days throughout the year, a newfound energy and focus can take over when otherwise there might be a lull going through the grind. Regardless of how you divide up your months on the diamond, challenge yourself to approach every day like Opening Day.

Darren Fenster is currently the Minor League Outfield and Baserunning Coordinator for the Boston Red Sox. Previously, Fenster was the Manager of the Portland Sea Dogs, the Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. A former player in the Kansas City Royals minor league system, Fenster joined the Red Sox organization in 2012 after filling various roles on the Rutgers University Baseball staff, where he was a two-time All-American for the Scarlet Knights. Fenster is also Founder and CEO of Coaching Your Kids, LLC, and can be found on Twitter @CoachYourKids.