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 What Does Your Team Need From You…Right Now?
(6/18/2021)
 
 
   

What Does Your Team Need From You…Right Now?


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


In the 2004 American League Championship Series between the Red Sox and Yankees, Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield was slated to start Game Four. Those plans quickly changed when New York took a 10-6 lead in the 4th inning. Sox starter Bronson Arroyo was knocked out of the game after just two innings. Two relievers didn’t fare much better over the next couple of frames, and it looked like Boston was about to use every single body in their bullpen. That didn’t happen because of Wakefield, who selflessly gave up his start in order to take a chunk of the middle innings of the game.

The Yankees wound up winning the game 19-8, and Wakefield gave up five runs in his three-plus innings of work; not exactly an outing to write home about. But when he volunteered to work out of the pen in what turned out to be a blowout loss for the Red Sox, Wakefield essentially saved his team’s bullpen, allowing closer Keith Foulke and high leverage relievers Mike Timlin and Alan Embree to be fresh for the next night. And that may very well have been one of the biggest reasons why the Sox were able to turn the series around and make their historic comeback after being down three games to none.

What Tim Wakefield did in Game Three of the 2004 ALCS was exactly what his club needed him to do at that very moment.

I doubt a pitcher out there today dreams of being a middle reliever in a lopsided loss; most see themselves being on the mound for the final out of a thrilling win. Position players don’t envision themselves getting mop-up at-bats in a blowout; they picture the game-winning hit or the game-saving play. By all means, players should be working towards and thinking about their ultimate goals. But the reality is that the game needs players for every single moment, regardless of whether it is good or bad, game-changing or not, from the very first pitch of the game to the last. All of those moments should be approached with the same focus and drive as if they were going to be the most important play of the game, even if they weren’t.

The game today has become so individualized where coaches have the ability now more than ever to cater their approach to help maximize each player’s ability to the fullest. Players are more talented than ever in large part because of that specialized means of training. In the process of doing so, what has gotten lost for many is where that player may fit in the grand scheme of a season or a specific moment of the game.

At the end of the day, the entire purpose of all of the blood, sweat, and tears that players invest in their careers is to do their part to help their team win; that is, after all, the point of the game. Sometimes, that will call for a strikeout on the mound or an extra-base hit in the box. But more times than not, the game doesn’t need the player to be the hero; it simply requires them to do what is needed at that moment to keep things moving towards a win. It may mean doing something that won’t get a headline, like limiting damage as a middle reliever or having a productive ground out that moves a runner as a hitter.

There’s a reason why Major League teams have 26 guys on the roster. There’s a reason why colleges are able to carry 35 players in their programs. It’s not to have an entire club full of stars, but rather an entire team ready, willing, and able to do the specific job that the game needs them to do—nothing more, nothing less.


Darren Fenster is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, and 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.


 Injuries in Youth Players
(6/14/2021)
 
 
   

Injuries in Youth Players


Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard


Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopaedic Surgeon at Duke University, discusses common injuries, how to recognize their risk factors, and how to prevent them to keep you healthy and on the field. Learn more in today's #DiamondDoc. To have your questions answered by Dr. Richard, submit them using #USABMailbag on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.


Marc Richard, MD, is an Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Duke University, specializing in elbow, wrist and hand injuries. Dr. Richard’s research evaluates the clinical outcomes of fractures of the upper extremity, with a particular interest in wrist and elbow fractures and improving ways to treat elbow arthritis in young patients. He also has a clinical and research interest in adolescent elbow throwing injuries.


 5 Activities to Build Resilience in Youth Athletes
(6/9/2021)
 
 
   

5 Activities to Build Resilience in Youth Athletes


Simple steps to help your athletes become more resilient


One of the many outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic was that young athletes had to become resilient. No matter how much we may want to shield children from the harsh realities of cancelled seasons, lockdowns, and quarantines, every child experienced some kind of loss or hardship during the pandemic. But board-certified family physician and TrueSport Expert Deborah Gilboa, MD, explains that we can use these difficult moments as a learning opportunity to help our athletes become better prepared for inevitable challenges later in life.

This is a set of skills, Gilboa explains, as resilience is not simply a character trait. It can be nurtured and developed. Here, she discusses the five ways she wants coaches to approach building resilience on their team.

1. Building connections
Strong connections strengthen resilience because they diminish a person’s feelings of isolation. Fostering connections can be as simple as starting every practice with a question, whether that be a sport-specific one about the day’s practice goals or a sillier one like the last snack each person made for themselves. “Ask team leaders for ideas about icebreakers and ways to build better connections on the team,” Gilboa suggests.

“You can also have athletes divide into practice teams using things like sock color or their preferred house at Hogwarts! This way, they start to see what they have in common with each other. Then, turn it into an exercise that will improve the team dynamic: Have each person on the team ask a question to the group about something related to the sport, like how to improve a flip turn in swimming." Asking for advice helps build strong connections between teammates and shows that even the star player on the team has things they want to improve upon.

2. Managing discomfort
“Nobody grows when they're comfortable,” Gilboa explains. "Managing discomfort is crucial to becoming more resilient, because if you cannot handle being uncomfortable, you can't go through the steps required to experience a change and get to your goal. You get stuck.”

As a coach, you can grow in this arena by taking a step back and allowing students to deal with discomfort. You can still show empathy—no one likes running laps because they’re late—but don’t let athletes skip the hard things. Gilboa adds that you can turn this into a team discussion: ask athletes how they can help teammates manage their discomfort? How can they help teammates when they're sitting on the sidelines or can’t compete? How can they help when a teammate feels embarrassed about their performance?

When a situation is tough for the team, Gilboa says that part of managing discomfort is allowing people to express their feelings. “For example, if your team needs to run laps for some reason, I would tell them that they have 60 seconds to complain about it as loudly as they want, and then they need to get over it. And after that 60 seconds, they all need to find one positive about the situation—even if that positive is just that they’re suffering together."

3. Setting goals
To build resilience, Gilboa recommends having every member of the team first identify their ‘why’ behind playing. “We want to intentionally focus on the fact that every activity we undertake has a purpose,” she explains. Goals can also be small, daily objectives: Each practice, start by laying out the goals for the day and how those practice goals will eventually help lead to achieving bigger goals down the road. This helps athletes continue to come back to their ‘why’ and can help them push through tough practices because they have a good reason to do so.

4. Identifying options
“Unfortunately, we all tend to go with the first solution to a problem that we think of,” Gilboa says. "In general, we don't list a bunch of options before we decide what we're going to do. Being resilient means pausing and thinking about all your options and potential outcomes. That way, if one option fails, you know you have alternatives to try next—that makes it easier to persevere or show resilience.”

As a coach, whenever possible, let your team work together to identify different options, whether that’s making a plan for game day or picking what drills to do during a practice. And after a game, identify potential options you could take towards making improvements.

5. Taking action
While thinking through options is critical, action is a key final step in practicing resilience. “A lot of young athletes get stuck in option overload or decision paralysis,” Gilboa says. "And you can't be resilient if you can't move. So, you have to pick something and try it. It may not work, but then you can move on to the next option.”

Coaches can facilitate action by putting athletes in decision-making positions. Make sure every athlete on the team is tasked with choosing and leading actions, such as choosing stretches for warmup, picking drills, or leading the team through cooldown. Gilboa notes that it’s important for all kids to have a turn at making decisions, rather than leaving it to the loudest or strongest kids on the team.

Takeaway
Developing resilience in the athletes on your team is critical, but it doesn’t have to be hard. Follow these five simple steps to help your athletes become more resilient.


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.


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