Blog

 Seeing the Stolen Base Signs
(9/16/2021)
 
 
   

Seeing the Stolen Base Signs


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


From Dave Roberts in the 2004 American League Championship Series to Willie Mays Hayes in the movie Major League, the stolen base has long been one of the more exciting plays in baseball, a potential momentum shifter with every 90’ in the game.

As the game has changed in recent years, so has the stolen base and the propensity for teams to use it as a weapon. Gone are the days of players like Rickey Henderson or Vince Coleman stealing over 100 bases in a single season. The idea behind the stolen base to get into scoring position has been negated a bit by the argument that- in this offensive era of doing damage at the plate- the runner is already in scoring position at first, able to score on an extra-base hit.

Regardless of the climate for stolen bases in Major League Baseball, there will always be an appropriate time and place to look for bags at every level of the game. And it’s being aware of those times within the situation and the accompanying signs from the game that are indicators of whether or not you can steal. With the underlying baserunning idea that every 90’ is 90’ closer to scoring a run; that run which may be the game-winner; that game, maybe the World Series clincher; your players’ ability to steal a base might just be the difference between you winning a title or watching your opponent celebrate one right in front of you.

Every game for a manager or a baserunner with a green light, the question looms: what is the appropriate time and/or situation to attempt a stolen base? While every coach may have their unique philosophy on the stolen base, one thing that is likely universal for all is picking a time and/or situation when they think the runner has a good chance of being safe. With that in mind, here are a few ways to steal bags against some different signs of the game:

STEALING AGAINST THE STOPWATCH
The oldest bag in the book. Take the pitcher’s time to the plate (anything 1.3 seconds and lower is considered quick), add the catcher’s pop time to second base (2.0 and below is very good), and you have their combo time. To get an idea if that combo is suitable for the steal, you can get your runner’s steal time in practice, starting from their lead and stopping on their slide into the base. If that time is quicker than the pitcher/catcher combo time, that’s a good opportunity to be safe.

STEALING AGAINST THE CATCHER
Some catchers struggle to make a strong and accurate throw to second. In the current age of one-knee stances, other catchers don’t put themselves in a good position to throw when runners go. By paying attention to the catcher from the dugout, you may be well prepared to steal a base by the time you get to first, regardless of how quick or slow the pitcher may be to the plate.

STEALING AGAINST THE COUNT
Pitchers are creatures of habit, and catchers can become pretty routine in their game-calling as well. A pitcher often tries to put away every hitter with the same pitch in the same count, or their catchers call for that same pitch accordingly. When a pitcher’s kill pitch is an off-speed pitch down and out of the zone, that makes for a great pitch to run on because of the difficulty of simply catching the ball for the catcher.

STEALING AGAINST THE HOLD OR LOOK
Pitchers are creatures of habit not only with the way they sequence their pitch arsenal against opposing hitters but also how they control the running game. A great jump by the baserunner makes it that much harder for the catcher to throw that runner out, no matter how quick a pitcher is to the plate. So if before delivering a pitch, a pitcher consistently comes set for two seconds every time or only looks once when that runner is on second base, that consistency enables a baserunner to get that great jump that usually results in a stolen base.

Creating an edge on the bases often comes from using the eyes in the dugout. In many cases, when players and coaches pay attention to the nuanced details of the game, those game-changing stolen bases start well before a runner even gets on base. It’s not only a matter of players wanting to steal; it’s as much a matter of them seeing the signs within the game that tell them when it will be appropriate to do so.


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.


 4 Questions to Counter Negative Behaviors
(9/8/2021)
 
 
   

4 Questions to Counter Negative Behaviors


The best questions to ask when your athlete is having a tough time


As a coach for young athletes, whether they're in elementary school or high school, you're going to deal with the emotional rollercoasters that young people experience. A fight with a friend over the weekend can translate to feelings of despair on game day, and stress over a championship game can leave an athlete feeling paralyzed. But as a coach, you can teach your athletes how to examine their feelings and move on from negative moments.

"Coaches care about athletes, which means we tend to give them reassurance when they have a negative thought," says TrueSport Expert Kevin Chapman, PhD, clinical psychologist and founder of The Kentucky Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders. "That works for maybe 30 minutes, but it's ultimately going to backfire because now you have to keep reassuring them. The way to get out of that is to teach an athlete to think flexibly by asking the right questions."

According to Chapman, "The whole point of these questions is to get the athlete to look objectively at situations and not rely on emotional experiences. As the coach, you know the answers to the questions that you're asking, but it's going to be much better for the athlete if they work it out for themselves rather than you spoon-feeding them the answer.”

Here, Chapman offers some of the best questions to ask when your athlete is having a tough time or a negative moment on or off the field. And remember, these are also questions that you can teach athletes to ask themselves so that they learn how to question their behaviors and solve problems for themselves.

QUESTION: What's the evidence that this thought is true?
"This is one of my favorite questions to start with," says Chapman. "If a kid were to say, 'I know we're going to get blown out at the next game,' I would ask, 'Well, what's the evidence that this thought is true?'”

“He might answer something like, 'They beat us by about 20 in the last game.' Now we're starting to think evidence, not emotion."

QUESTION: What's happened in the past? Could there be another explanation?
"To change an athlete’s thought process, we’re asking evidence-based questions, not emotion-based questions," Chapman says. Your job here is to take the emotion out of the equation and force your athlete to come at a question logically, looking at only objective facts. Often, athletes will realize that their emotional argument isn't based in logic, which allows them to change their conclusion.

QUESTION: Does blank have to mean blank?
Being flexible is being able to generate other possible outcomes that are based on evidence, which means being able to say, "It could be ______. But then again, it could be ______." For example, getting beat in the last game sounds like a pretty good argument for getting beat this time. But follow that up with these questions: 'Does them beating us by 20 mean that they will automatically beat us by 20 again?'

Are you 100 percent sure that this outcome will occur? Are you certain that this thought is true?

In math class, students are told that they need to show their work on a test to get full credit. Make them do the same as athletes: What is the incontrovertible evidence that this is going to be the outcome?

QUESTION: What's the worst that can happen? Can you cope with that?
It sounds counter-intuitive to force an athlete to go even deeper into a negative thought. But leading the athlete through the worst-case scenario often helps them understand that the 'worst case' really isn't so bad. "This one is what I call the catastrophizing question," Chapman says. "Because catastrophizing is thinking the worst. It's actually great to make an athlete think through the worst thing that can happen. Once they decide what that is, ask: ‘Can you cope with that?’ The answer is almost always yes."

The easiest example is a playoff game. The worst thing that could happen is the team could lose because of a fumble made by the athlete. But can the athlete survive that? Of course. He won't be kicked off the team, his teammates will understand, and his coach will support him.

Takeaway
Many coaches wonder how to help their athletes overcome negative thoughts that impact performance and enjoyment of the sport. Use these questions to help your athletes change a negative thought process in their sport and beyond.


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.


 What's the Call? Appeal Plays
(9/1/2021)
 
   

Appeal Plays


What's the Call
Presented with Umpires Media


A homerun is hit in a tied game in the bottom of the ninth. The runner cuts across the diamond thinking they automatically won the game. The opposing manager appeals. Is the game over?

For more What's the Call videos, click here.  

Umpires Media is a leading provider of video-based sports rules explanations, maker of the world’s first digital baseball rulebook and the Baseball Rules Explorer.


 How to Help Athletes Have Difficult Conversations
(8/25/2021)
 
   

How to Help Athletes Have Difficult Conversations


How to use a form of nonviolent communication


Whether you're a child or an adult, a coach or a parent, a teammate or a team leader, difficult conversations are never easy. Having frank discussions that feel confrontational can be intimidating and emotionally taxing at any age, but fortunately, there are ways to improve your athlete's ability to handle difficult conversations with teammates, coaches, and parents. And this won't just improve their ability to communicate with their team now—this is a skill that will help them navigate life.

Here, Nadia Kyba, MSW, TrueSport Expert and President of Now What Facilitation, explains how to use a form of nonviolent communication when beginning a tough conversation, as well as how to practice it in a low-stress setting.

Be okay with emotion
The most important lesson to teach a young athlete is that it's okay to feel emotional when approaching a hard conversation, whether it's asking the coach how to get more playing time, or asking a teammate why she won't pass the ball during games. "People often avoid having hard conversations because they're afraid that they'll get emotional—start crying—during them," Kyba says. "But that's okay. And if you take the time to prepare and have a bit of a script, maybe even practice having the conversation out loud to yourself or a trusted adult, then it's going to be easier to do it. I try to get people to prepare ahead of time when possible, and then invite the other person to have the talk at a set time rather than just getting into it."

Think before you start
On the note of preparation, Kyba is a firm believer in scripting out what you want to say and knowing what you want to get out of the confrontation. The worst kind of difficult conversation is when both parties leave feeling as though they weren't understood and their needs weren't met. "Whenever you're feeling like you're about to have, or need to have, some kind of confrontation, the best thing to do is to step back and pause," says Kyba. Think about the conversation you hope to have. What are the facts that you're bringing in? Are there any assumptions that you're making that may not be true? What exactly is the problem that you want solved? Taking five minutes to journal through these questions can make the conversation much clearer, which means it's much more likely to get resolved in a way that benefits both parties.

Set the stage
For a young athlete, setting the stage for a conversation may mean setting a time to speak with the coach during his or her office hours, texting a teammate to see if they can talk before or after practice, or even leaving a note for a parent asking for a parent/child meeting in the evening. Having a face-to-face discussion is ideal, Kyba says, but video chat or phone will work if in-person meetings are impossible right now. She recommends avoiding text or email to have a tough conversation though, since tone of voice is critical. "If you're nervous about crying, then try having your talk on the phone—plus, that way you can have your notes in front of you," she points out.

Follow the script
Kyba recommends using this five-step approach to a difficult conversation. Of course, not every person will be on the same page, but having this script worked out in your head or on paper before beginning the conversation can be extremely helpful.

1. Acknowledge: "Thank you for taking the time to talk to me."
First, thank the person and acknowledge them for being willing to have this conversation, Kyba says. This helps establish a positive space for the discussion and emphasizes the desire to have a conversation, not a fight.

2. Describe: "In the game yesterday, I was open a lot, but I noticed that you never passed me the ball."
Without adding any emotion or feelings, explain what you want to discuss. Use facts and keep it as simple as possible.

3. Feeling: "I felt overlooked."
Now, you can explain how the incident made you feel, but beware of using a feeling to create a fact. For instance, saying, "I feel like you don't like me," or "I feel like you think I'm a bad player," isn't about your emotion. This part of the script should only focus on your internal emotion, not attaching blame. More specifically, try to avoid saying "I feel like," since that often adds an external element to your feeling instead of describing an internal emotion. For the person you're having the conversation with, this will feel less like a personal attack.

4. Need: "I need to understand if there was some reason you weren't passing me the ball."
Difficult conversations often go poorly when the person initiating the discussion doesn't actually know what they need in order to resolve the problem, so before you start speaking, make sure you know what you really want. "What do you need in order to feel better about the situation?" asks Kyba. Often, the answer is more complicated than you might initially think. In this example, for instance, the immediate assumption would be that the person starting the conversation wants the ball to be passed to her. But really, what she needs is the reason the ball wasn't getting passed in the first place. Did her teammate simply not notice her, or is there a social dynamic at play, or was another player just within closer passing distance?

5. Request: "Could you let me know what your thinking was during the game?"
After you've stated your need, it's important to break down your need into a request that the other person can respond to. Again, people often skip this step and leave a conversation unfulfilled because they couldn’t articulate what the other person can do to meet their specific need. "In this case, you're not trying to change what happens in the next game yet, you're just trying to gather the facts and information from this last game and understand why the ball wasn't passed to you," says Kyba. Then, you have the information to either continue the conversation or make an action plan for the next game.

Your conversation may be concluded at this point. If you haven't come to a good understanding or found a solution, you can begin the process again. This is just a starting point, says Kyba. Thank the other person for taking the time to listen to you and try describing what you think the response to your request was, and how you feel about it.

Practice, practice, practice
Don't wait for a problem before teaching your athletes about this script! Parents and coaches can benefit from roleplaying a few difficult conversations with their young athletes. "You can role play some silly scenarios and let athletes work out their scripts, which feels like fun, but they do learn to be more prepared for when they need to have real conversations," Kyba says. "The more you get used to using this script, the easier it is to have a difficult conversation that ends with both parties feeling heard."

Takeaway
Having difficult conversations is never easy, but it is important for young athletes to learn this skill, as it offers benefits in both sport and life. These tips will help parents and coaches prepare their athletes to have difficult conversations and find effective resolutions.


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.


 Double Play Attempt
(8/22/2021)
 
   

Double Play Attempt


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow breaks down a double play attempt.


Tom Succow is currently the assistant coach at Yavapai College in Prescott, Arizona. In 2017, Succow retired as the Head Baseball Coach at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, Arizona, after 42 years at the helm. Succow accumulated over 700 wins during his tenure, as well as a state championship in 2006 and three state runner-up honors in 1982, 2007 and 2012. Succow is a four-time USA Baseball coaching alum, including an assistant coaching position with the 2003 16U National Team, which won the gold medal in the International Baseball Federation AA World Youth Championships in Taiwan. Succow was honored by the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) as National Coach of the Year in 2007 and is a member of four Halls of Fames, being inducted into the Arizona Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2003, the Brophy Hall of Fame in 2007, the National High School Baseball Coaches Association (BCA) Hall of Fame in 2013, and the Arizona High School Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame in 2016.


 The Uncommon Bond of Common Purpose
(8/26/2021)
 
   

The Uncommon Bond of Common Purpose


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


This was different.

It was transformational.

Three letters, a flag, and a goal changed everything.

U.S.A.

The first time you see those three letters across your chest, you realize the magnitude. That flag takes on greater significance as a unifying symbol and constant reminder of who and what we were representing. When you hear the National Anthem, it hits you; the song isn’t being played for the game; it’s being played for your team. And it gives you chills every single time.

The United States Olympic Baseball Team was unlike any team I have ever been a part of because we truly had one common purpose: an Olympic Gold medal. That was it. That was it for me and everyone else; that gold medal was the only thing on our minds and the only thing we cared about. For 24 players, six coaches, and the other ten or so support staffers, this common purpose amongst every single member of our baseball delegation gave us an uncommon bond that is near impossible to find in the world today. How many times have you ever been a part of something where you could feel that every single person was genuinely on the same page, indisputably pulling the rope in the same direction? Uncommon indeed…

Of the six nations competing for gold, we were the only team who didn’t have our names on the back of our jerseys. Those three letters on the front were all we needed to say exactly who we were. We were not 24 different players, six individual coaches, and some random USA Baseball personnel. We were all on the same team: Team USA.

-----

In this age of individuality where people are encouraged to have their own voice and motivated to build their own brand, never before has it been more challenging to get a group of individuals to think beyond themselves for the greater collective good. But that’s what we did. And we did it by beginning with only the end in mind, nudged with a handful of symbolic reminders along the way.

On our very first call together as a coaching staff months before the Olympics and the qualifying tournament, manager Mike Scioscia talked about the gold medal and tattooed that image into our minds as our ultimate goal. We hadn’t even punched our ticket to Tokyo at that point, yet that was the vision. In our first meeting in Florida with our group looking to qualify, the message was about earning the opportunity to win gold. At our first gathering as a team, that same message was crystal clear: we were going to Tokyo to win an Olympic gold medal, and within our club, we weren’t scared to talk about it. When your leader believes in something so strongly and communicates it so consistently, a funny thing happens- everyone else starts believing it too.

In subsequent team get-togethers, we were taught things like appropriate decorum when standing for our opponent’s anthem compared to ours, and the meaning behind the backward flag, how it marked going into battle. Martin Dempsey, the retired Army General who served as the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discussed his life experiences in the military and left us with an incredible perspective about teamwork and how our collective result would depend on our individual actions. In a ceremony before an exhibition game before leaving for Tokyo, members of the North Carolina National Guard presented every member of our traveling party with a flag patch… THEIR flag patch, pulled right off of their uniforms. Those patches- with that backward flag- accompanied us overseas with one always attached to each game’s lineup to keep front and center who exactly we were playing for. Outfielder Tyler Austin bought belts for the entire team. I know what you’re thinking; a belt isn’t that big of a deal. But when that belt has a gold buckle, all of a sudden, we were reminded of our goal every time we put our pants on. During workouts or in batting practice, before that last double-play ground ball or in that final round of batting practice, you’d often hear “for gold” right before that play or pitch.

Everything was for gold. And everyone was for gold. A medal, a flag, and three letters. That’s what made our team go.

Societal norms today have become more individualized than ever, and the landscape of sports is no different. High school athletes showcase themselves in hopes of catching the eye of a college recruiter. College baseball players often have one eye on their team and the other on getting drafted. Minor Leaguers are not playing for that Carolina League ring as much as they are playing to move up to the next level and the level after that, eventually reaching their pinnacle of the Major Leagues. And Big Leaguers? Some might just be playing simply to stay there, while others may very well be playing for their next big contract. At just about every rung of the athletic ladder, there is almost always that next rung to reach for, often reaching an individual free-for-all.

For our club at the Olympics, our ladder only had one rung, and we were hand and step reaching for it together.

-----

Going back to our first days together in late May to our last in the gold medal game, there wasn’t a single thing that we did that was individually driven; everything was about our team and that medal. But if there were ever an appropriate time for the spotlight to be on an individual, we had it in the form of Eddy Alvarez.

You see, Eddy was our second baseman. And a pretty good one at that. But his backstory is what captivated an entire nation. A first-generation Cuban-American, an undrafted professional signee turned Major Leaguer, and oh yeah, a silver medalist as a speed skater in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Eddy Alvarez was the epitome of the American Dream. His story, so impressive that the athletes of Team USA voted him to represent Team USA- all 613 Olympians- as official flag bearer.

With that honor came the well-deserved attention in a seemingly endless media junket. But Eddy, in true Team USA form, always directed the conversation back to the team and often used the words honor, privilege, and sacrifice when he spoke. When everyone wanted to make it about him, he made it about everyone else. There was no better person to represent who we were and what we were all about.

We are currently living in the age of the trademarked buzzword and catch-phrase. The coach-speak soundbites are everywhere to be “all-in,” “where your feet are” and put the “we before me” to “play for something bigger than yourself.” We hear this stuff all the time. Many know the popular words; however, very few know the accompanying action. Our U.S. Olympic Baseball Team never said any of this stuff, but we lived it in every sense.

Some believe in the Olympics, teams play to win gold, they play to win bronze, and are just *given* silver. While we may not have reached our ultimate goal, our fun-loving collection of “has-beens” and “have-not-yet-beens,” as many described us, left Tokyo proud having won the silver medal, and probably even prouder for the manner by which we did it. Some guys didn’t see any game action in the Olympics or played poorly when they did. Even those players- like most of the rest, some who have won World Series and played in All-Star games mind you- left saying this was the most fun they have ever had on a team. That’s the kind of team this was.

People come and go, and teams get built up only to get torn down, but when there is truly a common purpose to drive an entire group, it’s incredible what you can accomplish thanks to an uncommon bond will never break.

#ForGlory


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.


 Vision
(8/16/2021)
 
   

Vision


Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard


Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopaedic Surgeon at Duke University, discusses issues related to vision in children playing sports and how to know if your child should be evaluated. 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.


 How to Minimize Conflict Arising from Assumptions
(8/11/2021)
 
   

How to Minimize Conflict Arising from Assumptions


How assumptions can go from a minor incident to a major problem for a team


We all make assumptions throughout the day—it's part of human nature. But young athletes sometimes make judgements based on assumptions that may or may not be true, and these misguided assumptions can hurt a team's dynamic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated assumption-making in every arena, and young people are particularly vulnerable as school and sports practices have shifted to remote models.

Here, Nadia Kyba, MSW, TrueSport Expert and President of Now What Facilitation, explains how assumptions can be dangerous and how an athlete interaction, when left unchecked, can go from a minor incident during a game to a major problem for a team.

The Circle of Inference

According to Kyba, the Circle of Inference explains how we interpret information and actions based on assumptions to form beliefs that drive our actions. Conflict arises when athletes misinterpret another person’s motives based on their own perception of the facts.

Below, Kyba walks through an example of how a missed opportunity for a pass in a soccer game could lead to a player quitting the team because he feels like his teammates all dislike him. It might sound overly dramatic to a coach or parent, but to a young athlete who's basing his actions on selected facts with his underlying assumptions and beliefs, it's a very real scenario.

The Action: During a soccer game, Joe is running up the midfield, open, and calls to Andy to pass him the ball. Instead, Andy passes the ball to Tim.

"Now, Joe is making a whole bunch of assumptions about why Andy made that pass choice," Kyba explains. "He isn't asking if Andy passed to Tim because there was actually a defender standing behind him, or because Tim was in a better passing position, or if Andy didn't hear him call out. Joe is seeing Andy not pass him the ball through his own lens of assumptions and beliefs." What we're looking at now is Joe's version of events, in order to see how dangerous assumptions can be.

Selected Facts: Andy ignored Joe in favor of passing the ball to another player.

Often, an athlete like Joe will operate with only the initial selected fact—that Andy didn't pass the ball to him—without thinking through other facts, like what else was happening in the game, if Andy heard him, or if Tim was in a better position. Instead, athletes should, "Start by asking ‘What do I know?’" says Kyba. You can also ask, "What don't I know?" Pausing and journaling about these questions may help an athlete skip assumption-making in favor of a more rational explanation.

Assumptions: Andy thinks that Joe is a terrible soccer player.

In this case, that's the assumption Joe is making. He doesn't have any facts that prove it—Andy has never said that Joe is terrible at soccer—he's basing this entirely on the lack of a pass during one game. But this is how the human mind tends to work, Kyba explains. "We make assumptions, working with selected facts. We're not working with a 360-degree view of exactly what happened," she says. "We just take the little bits of information that we have and form our assumption based on that small slice of information."

Beliefs: Beliefs go beyond assumptions from an event; they are based on how a person perceives the world and themselves after years of information being processed in a certain way. Here, Joe believes he isn't a very good soccer player and struggles with self-confidence.

"People who feel insecure in a situation or certain context will have a different narrative going in their head about what's going on," Kyba explains. So, in this case, Joe isn't just seeing Andy not passing him the ball, he's seeing this as confirmation that everyone else thinks he's a terrible soccer player. He might also already have a belief that the people on the team don't like him or think he's very good, which will also impact his assessment of the situation.

Interpersonal Mush: The goalie mentions to Joe that he noticed Andy purposely not passing the ball to Joe.

"The mush is incoming information based on the way other people are interpreting the story," Kyba explains. So, in this case, now the goalie's assumption that Andy didn't pass on purpose is added to the mix, further muddying the waters. The goalie has his own set of assumptions about what went on during the game, so now Joe has his own assumptions and beliefs mixed in with those of the goalie. This is why inter-team gossip can quickly escalate problems between teammates.

Actions: Joe quits the team.

With all the beliefs and assumptions at play, it's easy to see how Joe could end up leaving the team altogether. It seems dramatic to quit after a single ball-passing incident, but as you can see from the addition of beliefs and assumptions, a small action can lead to much bigger results—especially for young people who struggle to have difficult conversations to get to the bottom of problems. "He could quit the team, or maybe he goes home and sends a mean text to Andy and starts a fight, or he sends a text to other teammates telling them to not pass to Andy the next game—either way, Joe's response can easily change the team dynamic," Kyba says.

How to Avoid Conflict from Making Assumptions

From this somewhat simplified example, it's easy to see how one athlete failing to pass the ball to another athlete in the first game of the season can have a ripple effect for the next game, and the next, all the way to the finals. After one action comes a reaction, and that reaction starts the circle of inference all over again. That is why it's important to make sure that your young athletes become aware of how they make assumptions and the conflict it can create.

Especially when coaching teenagers, it's important to remind them that not every perceived slight is actually about them. "Even as adults, rarely are these situations about us," Kyba says. "But we all have years of assumptions and beliefs that make us feel as though a simple action is much more meaningful than it actually is." Even if our assumptions do turn out to be correct, it’s better to gather the facts, engage in discussion, and then make a conclusion.

Ultimately, as you read through this example, you probably realized that Joe could have avoided leaving the team if he had simply paused, looked at the objective facts—Andy passed to Tim and not to Joe—and then had a conversation with Andy about it. Joe likely would have realized that Andy simply didn't see or hear him during the game. "Once you get clear on the facts and your own assumptions, it's much easier to have a conversation and come to a more informed conclusion," Kyba adds.


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.


 Coaches Clinic - August 20, 2021
(8/20/2021)
 
   

August 20, 2021


USA Baseball
Virtual Community Clinic


Community coaches clinics are an integral part of continuing education for coaches at any level. USA Baseball Community Clinics are held year-round at facilities nationwide, and provide coaches with the opportunity to learn and grow by networking with local coaches while participating in on-field demonstrations. The clinics are open to coaches at any level of the game, as well as any baseball parents or enthusiasts.

Robert Dudley, Wake Tech CC
Jeff Willis, LSU Eunice
Justin Thomas, Appalachian League/Bethany College (WV)
Donegal Fergus, UC Santa Barbara

OUTLINE   



 Close Pick-Off Attempt
(8/8/2021)
 
   

Close Pick-Off Attempt


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses a close pick-off attempt to first base.


Tom Succow is currently the assistant coach at Yavapai College in Prescott, Arizona. In 2017, Succow retired as the Head Baseball Coach at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, Arizona, after 42 years at the helm. Succow accumulated over 700 wins during his tenure, as well as a state championship in 2006 and three state runner-up honors in 1982, 2007 and 2012. Succow is a four-time USA Baseball coaching alum, including an assistant coaching position with the 2003 16U National Team, which won the gold medal in the International Baseball Federation AA World Youth Championships in Taiwan. Succow was honored by the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) as National Coach of the Year in 2007 and is a member of four Halls of Fames, being inducted into the Arizona Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2003, the Brophy Hall of Fame in 2007, the National High School Baseball Coaches Association (BCA) Hall of Fame in 2013, and the Arizona High School Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame in 2016.


 What's the Call? Advancing Bases
(8/4/2021)
 
   

Advancing Bases


What's the Call
Presented with Umpires Media


There are no outs with a runner on first base. The batter hits a line drive, but the right fielder makes the catch. Attempting to double up the runner on first, the right fielder throws to first. But the throw sails and rolls out of play. Where do you place that runner?

For more What's the Call videos, click here.

Umpires Media is a leading provider of video-based sports rules explanations, maker of the world’s first digital baseball rulebook and the Baseball Rules Explorer.


 Regulating Anger On and Off the Field
(7/21/2021)
 
   

Regulating Anger On and Off the Field


How to help your athlete manage anger


When it comes to youth sports, we’ve all seen the shocking videos of parents letting their emotions fuel violent outbursts against other parents, coaches, and even young officials. But what if that angry outburst comes from one of the athletes on the field? How would you as a coach or parent help your athlete manage that outrage?

Dr. Kevin Chapman, TrueSport Expert, licensed clinical psychologist, and founder of the Kentucky Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, explains that anger is “a normal basic core emotion.” He adds, “Angry is the result of a perceived social slight. Someone has knowingly, intentionally, or unnecessarily acted in a hurtful way toward us.”

Dr. Chapman also emphasizes that anger is an important emotion that prompts people of all ages to defend themselves and their loved ones. For example, if you get carded unfairly in a game, anger is a healthy response as long as the actions tied to that anger are focused on appropriate resolutions, such as telling the coach or asking the referee to explain their decision.

In order to avoid aggressive outbursts as a result of anger, Dr. Chapman recommends sharing and practicing a three-point check system with your athlete to help them reframe their internal dialogue in frustrating situations and respond in an effective way.

1. Thoughts
According to Dr. Chapman, “The most pivotal facet of any emotion is how we interpret the situation. An event occurs, we think about the event a certain way – usually based on previous experience with similar events, and this leads to the emotional experience.”

For instance, if a young athlete just found out they won’t be starting the game, they may feel angry at the coach for leaving them off the starting lineup. As the emotion builds, the thoughts follow suit:

“This is unfair. I work so hard. I don’t understand why he picked them over me.
This sport is pointless. I don’t deserve to sit on the bench. Why do I even try?”

At this point, Dr. Chapman recommends that the athlete “take a step back, take a deep breath, and ask, ‘What am I thinking right now?’” Acknowledging the thought process triggered by anger will help the athlete evaluate those thoughts more objectively and consider how they would describe the situation after the emotion passes.

2. Feelings
After athletes assess what they are thinking about when anger flares, Dr. Chapman explains that they should then ask themselves, “What am I feeling in my body right now? What’s my heart doing? What’s my stomach doing?”

According to the American Psychological Association, when people get angry, they can feel internal sensations in their bodies, such as heart palpitations, stomach distress, sweating, hot or cold flushes, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle tension, increased energy, and others.

Recognizing the physical signs of anger and becoming more self-aware of those sensations can help athletes understand that what they’re feeling is normal. If athletes experience physical signs of anger, encourage them to practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, to help with muscle relaxation – which will help dissipate the other physical sensations they begin to feel when angry.

3. Behavior
“The last step in the three-point check recognizes that behaviors are a manifestation of the thoughts and physical feelings that people experience during the bout of anger,” says Dr. Chapman.

“In attempting to feel more comfortable, we often engage in actions that may lead to temporary relief that could make us feel worse in the long-term,” Dr. Chapman adds. He continues to explain that “learning the functional nature of [your athlete’s] basic emotions and effective ways to regulate these emotions will help [them] live a fulfilling life that is not dominated by the ‘feeling’ component of our emotional experience.”

If an athlete wants to act on their anger, whether that be yelling at the coach or storming off the field, encourage them to instead ask themselves, “What do I feel like doing right now? Will that action lead to anything positive in the long-term?”

After your athlete acknowledges what they want to do, have them practice the first two steps in the three-step system to further process their reaction to the situation and identify a more effective response.

Takeaway
Dr. Chapman concludes, “All emotions have three parts. It’s important for young athletes to understand that all emotions are meant to help us, not hurt us.”

As young athletes become more aware of the thoughts, sensations, and actions connected to anger by practicing the three-point check, they will become increasingly better at managing unnecessary anger and responding effectively in difficult situations.


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.


 Bobble Error by the Shortstop
(7/18/2021)
 
   

Bobble Error by the Shortstop


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses a bobble error by the shortstop with two outs.


Tom Succow is currently the assistant coach at Yavapai College in Prescott, Arizona. In 2017, Succow retired as the Head Baseball Coach at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, Arizona, after 42 years at the helm. Succow accumulated over 700 wins during his tenure, as well as a state championship in 2006 and three state runner-up honors in 1982, 2007 and 2012. Succow is a four-time USA Baseball coaching alum, including an assistant coaching position with the 2003 16U National Team, which won the gold medal in the International Baseball Federation AA World Youth Championships in Taiwan. Succow was honored by the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) as National Coach of the Year in 2007 and is a member of four Halls of Fames, being inducted into the Arizona Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2003, the Brophy Hall of Fame in 2007, the National High School Baseball Coaches Association (BCA) Hall of Fame in 2013, and the Arizona High School Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame in 2016.


 Thumb Injuries
(7/27/2021)
 
   

Thumb Injuries


Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard


Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopaedic Surgeon at Duke University, discusses the ulnar collateral ligament of the thumb and how to mitigate the incidence of injury. 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.


 When the Star of the Team Is the Team Itself
(7/15/2021)
 
   

When the Star of the Team Is the Team Itself


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


Pop quiz: who was the star of the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team?

You know, the Miracle on Ice Team...was it the team captain, Mike Eruzione? Maybe it was Jimmy Craig, the goalie? How about their coach, Herb Brooks? Not sure? When thinking back on that team of college hockey players who shocked the world by beating the Soviet Union en route to winning an unlikely gold medal in Lake Placid, it’s really hard to pinpoint one person when the entire team is who everyone remembers. The team did the unthinkable. The team itself was the star.

Fast forward 40-plus years, move off the ice and onto the diamond. Another team represented the United States where again, it wasn’t any individual player who stole the show but rather a collective team who stole the show. With the Tokyo Olympics less than two months away, four nations had already qualified to compete in the sport of baseball. The US was not one of them. Our opportunity to do so came last month in Florida at the Americas Qualifier, a tournament where eight teams would fight for one of the remaining two spots.

A part of US manager Mike Scioscia’s staff as our third base coach, collectively with extraordinary help, communication, and organization from USA Baseball personnel, we spent the better part of three months constructing a roster that we hoped would be good enough to compete for the Olympic bid. One of the unique aspects of putting this team together was the vast player pool we had to choose from; anyone who was not on the 40-man roster of a Major League club was eligible to play. With hundreds of names to consider, we looked at everyone from guys who had never been out of A-ball to former Major Leaguers who were seemingly at the tail end of their careers to everyone in between.

And that’s exactly how our final 26-man roster shaped up; a club made up of guys from every end of the experience spectrum.

When the team convened for the first time at old Dodgertown in Vero Beach for training camp, our players and staff shared introductions during our initial team meeting in the clubhouse. Major League All-Stars like Todd Frazier talked about why playing for THIS team was important to them. World Series Champions such as Edwin Jackson viewed winning a gold medal in the same light, and some of baseball’s top prospects who had previously worn the red, white, and blue as amateurs, excited to do it again. We also had a few journeymen who played almost everywhere, near and far, not to mention a former Olympic silver medal winner on our club...in speed skating!

But most importantly, in that entire clubhouse, we had zero egos.

When the room turned to Jon Jay, a ten-year Major League veteran, his message finished with a simple directive to everyone on our team. “No complaining…” he stated. “…About anything. This isn’t what we are all used to (as professional baseball players), and we are going to have some bumps in the road, but nothing gets in our way of doing our job and winning this thing.” It set the perfect tone for the next two weeks to come.

---

From the first pitch of the first game, we knew this was different. Facing Nicaragua in Port St. Lucie, Florida, it felt like we were playing in Managua, the country’s capital, with their entire nation in the stands. Nicaraguan fans were into every pitch as if each was the 9th inning of a World Series game. As coaches, we often preach to our players how every pitch matters, but over an entire season of 100-plus games in professional baseball, you will overcome some hiccups where teams don’t take that approach. In the format for this qualifier, we didn’t have that luxury. Every pitch DID matter, and we all felt it.

We wound up winning that first game 7-1, but it was much tighter than the final score would indicate. The intensity of that environment was different than anything most of us had ever experienced on a baseball field before. Mike Scioscia described it as having the same feel as an elimination game in the Major League postseason. By the end of that first game, our lens had clearly changed from what we were all accustomed to in professional baseball. No one was playing for a promotion to the Big Leagues. Not a single player was playing for their next big contract. No one was trying to build their brand. It wasn’t about what was next for each individual player; it was about what was right in front of us as a team and what the team needed in that very moment to push us closer to a win. And everyone was on that proverbial bus.

The Dominican Republic would go down next in a tight contest, 8-6. Then Puerto Rico, 6-1, in a rain-shortened affair. In the Super Round, we needed a seven-run 8th inning to break the game open against Canada, on our way to a 10-1 win. And in the clinching game over Venezuela, Todd Frazier morphed back into that Toms River Little League star we first met in 1998, carrying us to a 4-2 win with a 4-4 day at the plate.

Five days. Five wins. One Olympic ticket punched.

---

We had 26 guys on our club. Each one of them did something to help us, even if it didn’t show up in the box score. Luke Williams ignited a game-winning rally…with a bunt. Jarren Duran changed games…with his baserunning. Catcher Mark Kolozsvary had a standout performance with the bat, but we lost count of how many runs he saved with key blocks behind the plate. Three-time All-Star Matt Kemp went hitless in just four at-bats but brought a veteran presence to our dugout that could not be measured. David Robertson hadn’t pitched in a game in almost two years since elbow surgery and managed to close out two wins for us, including the clincher. Anthony Carter left his team in Mexico to pitch in just one inning for us, a huge shutdown inning that kept momentum on our side in our win over the Dominican. A’s prospect Nick Allen finished the tournament going just 1-17, but without his Gold Glove caliber defense at shortstop, we don’t even sniff winning this thing. The list can go on for all 26 guys.

This collection of relative strangers had just six days to become a team and prepare for what essentially was five game sevens. We won every single one and qualified for the Olympics. Mission accomplished; we earned the privilege and honor to represent the United States of America in Tokyo. Over the course of my 15 years coaching baseball, I’ve never been around a more incredible group of players, coaches, and support staff where everyone involved was truly pulling the rope in the same direction, all working towards accomplishing the same thing.

On a team full of stars, we made the real star, the team itself. Amazing what can happen, when that happens…


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.


 In a Slump? Adding Variation Can Help
(7/20/2021)
 
   

In a Slump? Adding Variation Can Help


Mental Skills
By Andy Bass


Slumps at the plate are an inevitable part of baseball and softball. We have all seen them or experienced them. From the All-American to the bench player—everyone goes through those stretches when they couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat. It is important to recognize that slumps are natural and inevitable. But what can we do as coaches to help players going through a slump?

As coaches, most of the time our natural reaction is to go physical and mechanical. “What is going wrong with the swing?” “Let’s look at video to break down where the issues are.” Let’s get in the cage and talk about what needs to change.” “Let’s try to repeat the same swing over and over again.” Unfortunately, though offered with the best intentions, these mechanical suggestions and blocked drills are just not helpful.

Why not? First, we know that the most effective learning occurs with variation not repetition. It is physically impossible to repeat a movement pattern (Bernstein's Repetition without Repetition). We learn most effectively when we engage in variation not repetition. We are not asking our body to do the impossible: replicating a movement. We are asking it to address the same problem (making contact with the baseball) using numerous different methods (swinging from different stances, different velocities of pitch, location, etc.).

Second, and most important to the idea of a slump, is that variation helps the player “get out of his own head.” How many times have we heard the complaint, “I’m so in my head right now, I don’t know how to get out?” This is paralysis by analysis. When we ask our players to perform significant variations of their “normal” hitting stances, different areas of their brain engage and others disengage. Because these stances require different ways to stay balanced in order to make contact with the ball the vestibular system (responsible for balance) and dorsal stream (visual system responsible for balance) are kicked into high gear. Because these areas are engaged to a greater level, the player’s prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for conscious thought, has to disengage slightly. The variation helps drown out the conscious thoughts and the player begins to “get out of his own head.” (See generally Hypofrontality Hypothesis.)

Remember the variation is to help the athlete mentally work through a slump. It is not a corrective skill as we are NOT asking them to then go into a game and swing from these different stances. Ask players to swing from different stances in the cage (thrown ball, not off a tee”). Feet slightly closed, slightly open, very open, closer together, further apart, off one foot, criss-crossed, etc. Just ask them to have fun with it. For 10-20 swings ask them to try and hit the ball using a different stance each time.

Slumps will happen—it is inevitable. As coaches we want to do what we can to help players work through those slumps as quickly as possible. We should avoid going mechanical or trying to tinker with them physically (nobody just suddenly forgets how to swing a bat). What can help them get back on track, and out of their own head, is to add variability into their drill work. Swinging from different stances, and even different sized and weighted bats, can help players move past the ‘paralysis by analysis’ that often accompanies slumps. There is a reason for the phrase ‘variety is the spice of life’!


Andy Bass is currently a Mental Performance Coordinator for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bass played college baseball at Davidson College and was drafted in the 18th round of the 2011 MLB draft by the Tampa Bay Rays. He received his PhD in Sport Psychology and Motor Behavior from the University of Tennessee.


 Pride
(7/13/2021)
 
   

Pride


Cuddyer's Corner
By Michael Cuddyer


Former Major Leaguer Michael Cuddyer discusses tips on how to show self-respect and dignity when not playing. To have your questions answered by Michael Cuddyer, submit them using #USABMailbag on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.


Michael Cuddyer is a 15-year MLB veteran and two-time All-Star, spending his career playing for the Minnesota Twins, Colorado Rockies and the New York Mets. A member of the USA Baseball 18U National Team in 1996 and 1997, Cuddyer was then named the 1997 Virginia Player of the Year, Gatorade National Player of the Year, and was a member of USA Today’s All-Star team. He was selected ninth overall in the 1997 MLB Amateur Player Draft by the Minnesota Twins.


 How to Fuel for Two-a-Day Practices
(7/7/2021)
 
   

How to Fuel for Two-a-Day Practices


Tips for how to keep your athlete satisfied and ready to head to practice for the second time in a day


It's no secret that many young athletes are over-extended, often playing on school and club teams in one or more sports, traveling for competitions, and squeezing in conditioning sessions. Two-a-day practices have become the norm for many athletes.

While this can lead to great sporting success, it makes eating right throughout the day more difficult. Here, TrueSport Expert Kristen Ziesmer, a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, offers some tips for how to keep your athlete satisfied and ready to head to practice for the second time in a day.

Plan efficiently
A busy week for your athlete is likely a busy week for you between pickups and drop-offs, so make sure you have plenty of easy-to-eat food on hand before the school week begins. Sit down with your athlete and talk through what they should be eating during the day. Let them choose what options sound the most appealing to ensure they are fueling enough over the course of the day, rather than waiting until they are home for dinner to pack in the calories.

Don't skip breakfast
Often, one practice will be early in the morning, before school. For young athletes, it's tempting to stay in bed as long as possible and skip breakfast in favor of the snooze button. But if your athlete has an early morning practice, they still need to eat something beforehand. It doesn't have to be a heavy, large breakfast, says Ziesmer. "A really quick and light-on-the-stomach option would be a banana, maybe with a bit of peanut butter, and some water," she says. "But after practice, make sure they have something bigger for breakfast like a sandwich or a bagel with some carbohydrates and protein."

Prioritize eating between practices
“Between the two practices, an athlete really needs to focus on getting in as much food as possible because one practice is draining, and they shouldn't go into the next practice already depleted," says Ziesmer.

"Ideally, an athlete would have several hours between practices, and even if it is a back-to-back session, they definitely need to have a good snack in between. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a string cheese with fruit and a handful of granola or pretzels would be a good idea." A snack like that after practice is ideal to kickstart recovery and refill depleted glycogen stores, followed by another snack later in the day before heading into the next workout in order to top off those glycogen stores and allow your athlete to train hard for a second time.

Think simple, portable foods
A smoothie after practice sounds great in theory, but in actuality, it may be a melted disappointment by the time your athlete gets around to drinking it. Finding a snack that your athlete can munch on throughout the day during school and during practice is critical.

Homemade energy balls are one perfect solution. They're quick to make, can be made in big batches, and are easy to eat quickly as your athlete navigates between classes and to practice. Ziesmer recommends blending cashews, raisins, cinnamon, and salt together in the food processor until the ingredients are sticking together, then make them into small ball shapes and store in the refrigerator. You can change up ingredients, using different nuts and dried fruit, and roll the finished balls in cocoa powder or shredded coconut.

"I like these because they're easy to eat, so your athlete can grab one of them between classes," Ziesmer says. Other great recovery snack options include granola bars, easy-to-eat fruit like apples and bananas, and simple snacks like cheese and crackers. If all the practices take place around school, make sure your child's locker is stocked like a healthy convenience store!

Hydrate with carbohydrates and electrolytes
Carrying a water bottle and sipping throughout the day to maintain optimal hydration levels is critical. "At the second practice, I would also recommend having electrolytes and carbohydrates in their water because your athlete is getting into the realm of multiple hours of exertion," Ziesmer says. "Your athlete could use a traditional sports drink, or you could make one with diluted fruit juice and a pinch of sea salt."

Ziesmer’s favorite recipe is simple and makes 4 8-ounce servings:
• 5 cups water
• 1/2 cup orange juice (or grape or apple)
• 5 tablespoons of honey
• 1/4 teaspoon of salt

Have a recovery meal planned
Dinner shouldn't be nutrient-empty fast food on the way home from practice: The recovery meal is as important as what your athlete is eating before and during practice. Make sure that your athlete is able to kickstart recovery with a quick snack after practice, like chocolate milk or a half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, followed by a dinner that contains plenty of carbohydrates, vegetables, and lean protein, Ziesmer says. A brown rice, vegetable, and chicken stir-fry or burrito bowl, for example, can be a great and easy post-practice dinner that will promote muscle repair and recovery so your athlete is ready for the next session.

Takeaway
"If your athlete says they feels nauseous, if they feel like their legs are super heavy, if they have problems with cramping, or if they report having no energy, then they definitely did not eat enough during, before, or after practice," Ziesmer says. Add more fuel throughout the day, make sure your athlete is drinking enough, and consider letting them take a rest day (or skip one of the two practices) to catch up on fueling.


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.


 Batter Strikes Out on a Check Swing
(7/4/2021)
 
   

Batter Strikes Out on a Check Swing


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow analyzes a batter striking out on a check swing.


Tom Succow is currently the assistant coach at Yavapai College in Prescott, Arizona. In 2017, Succow retired as the Head Baseball Coach at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, Arizona, after 42 years at the helm. Succow accumulated over 700 wins during his tenure, as well as a state championship in 2006 and three state runner-up honors in 1982, 2007 and 2012. Succow is a four-time USA Baseball coaching alum, including an assistant coaching position with the 2003 16U National Team, which won the gold medal in the International Baseball Federation AA World Youth Championships in Taiwan. Succow was honored by the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) as National Coach of the Year in 2007 and is a member of four Halls of Fames, being inducted into the Arizona Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2003, the Brophy Hall of Fame in 2007, the National High School Baseball Coaches Association (BCA) Hall of Fame in 2013, and the Arizona High School Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame in 2016.


 Summer Nutrition Tips for Youth and Teen Athletes
(6/23/2021)
 
   

Summer Nutrition Tips for Youth and Teen Athletes


Nutritional tips to consider for a healthy and active summer break


Conventional wisdom would say summer is the time when kids eat the healthiest and have the lowest risk of gaining weight. After all, it’s sunny and warm outside, kids are playing or going to camps during the day, and all the best fruits and vegetables are in season and easy to get. However, according to a 2016 study by The Obesity Society, obesity rates in young elementary students increased during summer breaks!

Although, youth athletes are at lower risk of gaining weight during summer break due to their high activity level, there are still some important nutritional tips to consider for a healthy and active summer break.


Keep Eating On a Schedule
The constant availability of food during summer break was a contributing factor for weight gain in the Obesity Society study by von Hippel and Workman.

During the school year, kids followed a more structured schedule of meals and snacks. While not necessarily intended to restrict caloric intake, this schedule created significant portions of the day when no calories were available. At home in the summer, kids ate more frequently and ended up eating more calories overall during the day.

If kids increased their activity level during summer break, then increasing eating frequency and caloric intake would make sense. However, there are many kids who are actually less active during summer break.

Some kids spend their days watching TV or playing video games. In other families, finances may not allow for day camp opportunities. Unfortunately, many parents are reluctant to let their kids freely play and wander their neighborhood due to either real or perceived danger. The combination of increased eating and reduced physical activity is a perfect recipe for weight gain.

Youth sports athletes are typically quite active during summer break, but sticking to a structured eating schedule – or at least putting some parameters around what foods can be eaten at what times – helps kids establish positive eating habits.


Start With a Hearty Breakfast
During the school year, starting the day with a good breakfast has been shown to improve cognitive performance during class. Conversely, it’s been shown that hungry kids don’t perform as well in class. Breakfast is still important in the summer, particularly if your kids have a full day of structured or unstructured activities ahead of them.

What should a summer breakfast look like? Your goal is to provide long-lasting energy, so kids can get engrossed in whatever they’re doing instead of looking for snacks every 60-90 minutes. To accomplish this, aim for foods that are high in protein and high in fiber. For example, a breakfast of Greek yogurt, a higher-fiber cereal, and fresh fruit provides protein and fiber for satiety as well as natural carbohydrates for energy. Adding eggs further increases the protein and fat content of breakfast.

At the other end of the spectrum, a breakfast that is loaded with added sugar and contains little or no protein (e.g. frozen waffles and Nutella, sugary cereal, fruit juice) won’t keep an active kid satisfied for very long, meaning that despite consuming a high-calorie breakfast, they’ll be on the hunt for food again be mid-morning.


Stock Up on Healthy and Easy Lunch Options
In the study by von Hippel and Workman, poor nutritional quality was one of the other contributing factors for weight gain during the summer. As much as you may have not-so-fond memories of school cafeteria food, for many kids the nutritional and portion size structures of the school lunch program provided more balanced nutrition than they got at home.

As parents know all too well, a hungry kid is likely to eat a lot of whatever is most convenient and at least moderately appealing. The trick is figuring out what foods your kid will reach for and which foods they’ll leave to rot. For instance, open containers of grapes, blueberries, or raspberries make fresh and cold fruit a quick and easy option to reach for. Deli meat and sliced cheese makes a sandwich a quicker option than boxed mac-n-cheese or frozen pizza. Sparkling water with flavoring is refreshing and may be more appealing than plain water, and it’s a much better option than sugary soda.


Make Good Snacks and Treats Readily Available
If you don’t want a teenager to eat an entire bag of Doritos in one sitting, you should provide an alternative and leave the Doritos at the grocery store. It is unrealistic to expect kids and teenagers to, left to their own devices, make consistently healthy food choices. However, if there are reasonable alternatives and the opportunity to indulge in occasional treats, parents can help instill a healthy relationship with food that can last a lifetime.

Here’s a sample of foods to encourage and provide your athlete, as well as a sample of foods to limit access to. Some of the items in the recommended list have added sugar (popsicles) or are heavily processed (tortilla chips), but on balance are still better choices than other alternatives.


Snacks to Encourage
Fresh fruit
Fresh vegetable sticks
Minimally processed nut butters (peanut, almond, etc.)
Salsa or Hummus
Cheese
Popsicles
Tortilla Chips & Guacamole
Dry Roasted Nuts

Snacks to Discourage or Limit
Cookies
Fried snack chips (potato, Doritos)
Nutella or high-sugar added peanut butter
Queso Dip
Cheese-in-a-can
Ice Cream
Nachos
Honey Roasted Nuts

For many families, even with a schedule of activities, summer break represents a period when kids are at home more hours during the week compared to the school year. With a bit of planning, parents can stock their kitchens and pantries with convenient, healthy, and appealing foods to keep everyone from grade schoolers to teenagers fueled for summertime activities. At the same time, parents should help kids stay on a reasonably structured eating schedule to reinforce good habits and minimize mindless snacking driven more by boredom than hunger.

References:
Hippel, Paul T. Von, and Joseph Workman. “From Kindergarten Through Second Grade, U.S. Children’s Obesity Prevalence Grows Only During Summer Vacations.” Obesity, vol. 24, no. 11, 2016, pp. 2296–2300., doi:10.1002/oby.21613.


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.