Blog

 Pitcher Utilizes Off-Speed Pitch after Establishing Fastball
(1/24/2021)
 
 
   

Pitcher Utilizes Off-Speed Pitch after Establishing Fastball


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses a pitcher utilizing an off-speed pitch after establishing the fastball.


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.


 Pitcher Strikes Out Batter with High Fastball
(1/18/2021)
 
 
   

Pitcher Strikes Out Batter with High Fastball


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses a pitcher striking out a batter on a high fastball.


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 Smartest Guy in the Room
(1/14/2021)
 
   

The Smartest Guy in the Room Is the One Who Doesn’t Know a Thing


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


The New Year is upon us. When the ball drops in Times Square, not only does it represent a calendar change, but it is also the moment for many of us on the diamond when we realize that baseball is right around the corner. And to prime us for the crack of the bat and the pat of the glove, every January, convention season often acts as the unofficial kickoff to the baseball new year.

Throughout the country, various organizations put on clinics where coaches from just about every level of the game discuss and dissect just about every facet of the game. From topics as detailed as fielding a slow roller to as board as developing culture within a team, these conventions offer so many different perspectives on our game with one common theme: sharing ideas with a coaching fraternity who wants to help their players and teams get better. Those who attend these annual events also have a common bond: they are smart enough- and humble enough- to know that they don’t know it all.

In January of 2007, just months into my own coaching career, I attended my first American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) National Convention, the circuit’s marquee event. Listening to speakers from professional baseball, to big-time Division One head coaches, to high school skippers that I had never heard of, I was completely blown away by their knowledge of the game’s smallest details and even more so by their passion and willingness to openly share with other coaches, some of whom were trying to knock them off of their pedestal. During those few days in Orlando, I truly got to know how much I didn’t know.

At its core, our game is the same today as it was 50 years ago, or even 100 years ago. Teams try to score more on offensive and prevent runs when out in the field; that part hasn’t changed one bit. But what has evolved and always will evolve is the scope under which we look at, and in turn, teach the game. That ability to continue to grow as a coach right along with the game is a direct result of simply being open to learning new ways to do things. Staying current doesn’t mean year in and year out you completely throw what you know out the window, but rather being able to build from your foundation from previous years with potentially better or more efficient ways to get the most out of your players and clubs.

Now some 14-plus years into my own coaching journey, I have had the privilege of speaking on the main stage of many of the events of convention season where I previously have sat in the audience. I often end my presentations with the following sign off:
The dumbest guy in the room is the one who knows it all. And the smartest guy in the room is the one who doesn’t know a thing.
The know-it-all isn’t in the crowd at these clinics because, in their mind, they have nothing more to learn. The coach who “doesn’t know a thing” always knows that there is still something to gain with the end result of helping our game grow.

With convention season set to begin here in 2021, the pandemic has forced much of the circuit to go virtual this year, making it easier for coaches across the country to learn from more coaches across the country. USA Baseball has established Online Community Clinics that are part of the USA Baseball Coaches Certification Pathway. USA Baseball also offers Regional Clinics, two-day immersion events hosted in Major League cities and coordinated in conjunction with Major League Baseball clubs. Day one is spent with clinic speakers in a lecture style format; while day two is on the field, typically in a big league stadium, applying the content speakers referenced the day before.
USA Baseball Virtual Community Clinics
USA Baseball Coaches Clinics  


Below are links to a handful of other clinics:
ABCA National Convention
World Baseball Coaches Convention
i70 Clinic
Be The Best
CatcherCon
Slugfest
Pitchapolooza
Bridge the Gap


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.


 Coaches Clinic - January 20, 2021
(1/20/2021)
 
   

January 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.

Aaron & Logan Klotz, Adrian Dirtbags (MI)
Larry & Jordan Vucan, Southlake Carroll HS (TX)
Jeremy Sheetinger & Tate Kight, Georgia Gwinnett College



 Stress Better: How Parents Can Help Athletes Grow from Stress
(1/13/2021)
 
   

How Parents Can Help Athletes Grow from Stress


7 ways parents and coaches can teach young athletes how to process and handle stress


Stress automatically calls to mind negative moments in life: A difficult upcoming test, a fight with a friend or parent, global collective stress like the coronavirus pandemic, or even self-created stress about what others might be thinking. And yes, too much stress and too few resources to combat it can be a bad thing…but allowing kids to entirely avoid it actually does them a disservice.

Board-certified family physician and TrueSport Expert Deborah Gilboa, MD, specializes in youth development—including stress management. Her main message to parents is that children need to experience stress in order to be prepared for later life and become effective leaders. "Our job as parents is not to protect them until they're adults. It's to ready them for adulthood. And the ability to deal with stress is one of our best tools,” says Gilboa.

Here, Gilboa explains how parents and coaches can teach young athletes how to process and handle stress, rather than bulldozing it away.

Understand your response to a child's stress
“From the time kids are very small, we have to be hyper-vigilant to keep them safe: There's no more helpless creature than the human newborn,” says Gilboa. “It’s natural to try and control absolutely everything that you can, but that won’t help your child grow and lead. Parents are hardwired to pay attention to every sneeze and cough, but then by the time our kids are adults, they suddenly need to be able to do everything for themselves.”

For nervous parents, Gilboa notes that despite the scary 24-hour news cycle, in many ways, it’s never been safer to be a child in the U.S.

Consider the source of the stress
“Very few parents get kids into sport to win championships or trophies, we’re just trying to teach them life lessons and as such, we shouldn’t deprive them of chances to deal with adversity and stress,” says Gilboa. This experience is especially beneficial in the semi-controlled environment of sport.

“Those experiences of getting benched or having to run extra laps or being second string, they’re all valuable life experiences even if they cause stress. Kids have to learn to put the group ahead of themselves sometimes. They have to learn to do stuff that they don't feel like doing. They have to learn to show up when they’d rather stay home.”

Lead with empathy
Often, a child’s stress can be lessened simply by having an adult acknowledge it and believe that it exists. While it’s tempting to laugh off certain stressors for a child, you have to understand that to them, a minor stress may feel like the end of the world.

“You can’t tell young people how they should feel—it’s ineffective and disrespectful,” Gilboa says. “As parents, we sometimes think that if our kids are stressed, we have somehow failed them already, so we try to rationalize that if a child is stressed, they’re not ‘really’ stressed. So first, we need to recognize that our kids do have stress, despite what we may think about it.”

Help them understand their feelings
Often, a child will feel stressed but not be able to articulate that emotion. As adults, Gilboa notes that we can help children work through their complicated emotions and should make sure that they feel safe sharing how they’re feeling. This includes if someone is hurting them, if they’re being bullied, or if they feel uncomfortable. Ensure that your child feels he can share any emotion with you without judgement or immediate action on your part.

Use low-consequence opportunities for teaching
While you may consider an argument between your child and a teammate to be a dramatic annoyance, they might consider it a major stress. These smaller issues are great learning opportunities with low risk for your child.

Rather than trying to solve the problem for the athlete by phoning the coach or the teammate’s parent, use this as a chance for your athlete to learn about stress management. That may mean discussing how to confront the teammate, talking through some stress-relieving techniques like deep breathing, or even having your child speak directly to their coach.

Stress can get out of hand
“As with sport, overtraining with stress is certainly possible,” Gilboa admits. “It’s important to make sure you’re not pushing your child too far.”

“If a child experiences too much stress from too many directions without the right support and training, they could become damaged—just like someone who runs once a week would be injured if they suddenly tried to run a marathon. It’s our job to help support our children to make sure they have what they need to deal with stress without over-taxing themselves.”

Promote a healthy lifestyle
It’s worth noting that some stress can be brought on or made worse by how your child is taking care of themselves. Stress is exacerbated by a host of physical influences, including hormones and sleep. Even overindulging in junk food or drinking too much caffeine can interfere with healthy reactions to stress. The simple solution is generally healthy living: Make sure that your athlete is getting plenty of sleep, hydrating and fueling properly, and exercising enough.

Takeaway
While it’s natural to want to eliminate stress for your young athlete, they need to learn to manage stress to prepare for adult life, and sport provides a perfect testing ground to hone stress-management skills.



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.


 Gradually Getting Back into Baseball
(1/12/2021)
 
   

Gradually Getting Back into Baseball


Cuddyer's Corner
By Michael Cuddyer


Former Major Leaguer Michael Cuddyer discusses gradually getting back into baseball after an off season by preparing your body and mind. 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.


 Coaches Clinic - January 15, 2021
(1/15/2021)
 
   

January 15, 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.

Jerry Edwards, Jacksonville University
Trevor Flow, North Hall HS (GA)
Trevor Burmeister, Colorado Rockies
Larry Day, Cleveland Indians
Perry Hill, Seattle Mariners

OUTLINE



 Pitcher Paints the Corners to Strike Out Batter
(12/20/2020)
 
   

Pitcher Paints the Corners to Strike Out Batter


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses a pitcher painting the corners to strike out a batter.


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.


 How to Deal with Anxiety Around Return to Play
(12/23/2020)
 
   

How to Deal with Anxiety Around Return to Play


Learn to recognize feelings, determine the cause, and help address anxiety.


As young athletes return to practice after being away from friends and coaches for months due to COVID-19 lockdowns, athlete anxiety will be natural. Not only are there new safety protocols in place that may seem confusing or intimidating, it’s a big shift emotionally as well.

Instead of being stressed or anxious about practices being canceled like they were three months ago, athletes are now feeling stress and anxiety around practices coming back. While the situation is similar, the ways that parents can help athletes cope with these feelings will be slightly different and TrueSport Expert Kevin Chapman, PhD, clinical psychologist and founder of The Kentucky Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, is here to help parents navigate an athlete’s return to play.

Let Them Feel Feelings
First and foremost, it is important to recognize your athlete’s feelings as valid. For months, he’s been told that he cannot play with his friends or go to practice without risking himself and his loved ones, but now, he’s being told to return to play. The shift in messaging may have been abrupt, as most states are reopening at a brisk pace, which doesn’t leave young athletes with much time to process feelings. “Most athletes I know are excited,” says Chapman. “But being nervous or anxious is completely understandable, and we need to normalize those feelings.” Don’t ignore your athlete’s feelings, discuss them.

Assess Where Anxiety Stems From
Before you can help your athlete figure out how to deal with anxiety around return to play, it’s important to understand what’s causing their feelings. Chapman notes that there are a few primary causes.

1. Not being "up to speed.” Even if a coach has been recommending cross-training or hosting virtual practice, your athlete may still feel like they’ve gotten behind. “Every athlete is feeling that way,” says Chapman. “It’s important to remember that everyone on the team has been in the same boat, so it’s unlikely that your athlete is far behind everyone else. But that stress is understandable."

2. Seeing friends for the first time in weeks. While adults are unlikely to feel the stress of seeing friends again, remember that friendships can be more complicated at young ages, especially in pre-teen and teen years. Your athlete may have been out of touch with teammates during this time, so it’s understandable that they might feel some nerves around seeing teammates again.

3. Worry about virus. Your athlete has been hearing about the dangers of coronavirus for months now and has learned that staying safe means staying away from people. For younger athletes in particular, it’s entirely possible that they could have developed an unhealthy amount of anxiety around germs and getting sick.

4. Absorbing parental anxiety. During the coronavirus crisis, parental stress and anxiety have been heightened, according to the American Psychological Association. “We know there's a family transmission of anxiety,” says Chapman. He explains that kids are attuned to parental emotions, meaning if you’re anxious about your athlete getting dropped off at practice, they will likely feel the same way.

Work Through Solutions
Once you understand the root of your athlete’s nerves around returning to play, you can work together to find solutions. Chapman has some suggestions for how to help ease the transition.

1. Not being "up to speed.” Remind your athlete that everyone on the team is likely having the same feeling and let them think through if there are any steps to take to ‘get caught up.’ Are there some extra drills to practice at home this week? Even spending a few minutes helping them practice in the backyard to remind them that they can still kick/toss/throw/catch might make a difference.

2. Seeing friends for the first time in weeks. If there’s time ahead of this first return to practice, encourage your athlete to set up a video hangout or group chat with a few teammates. Catching up with a couple friends may help ease the way back into a bigger social scene.

3. Worry about virus. Discuss the health practices that your athlete can take to feel safer, like using a mask or carrying hand sanitizer. If the coach hasn’t communicated any new practice etiquette around social distancing and mask use, have your athlete reach out to coach and get a list. Having tangible steps to take to increase safety may help ease your athlete’s (and your) mind.

4. Absorbing parental anxiety. While you may not be able to change your feelings of stress or anxiety, try to find a spark of excitement about your child’s return to play. Maybe this time is a chance for you to get in a workout of your own or sit quietly and read in the car. If you can come up with a few positives about practice restarting, that may help your athlete kindle feelings of excitement as well.

Reset Goals and Expectations
Games and seasons might not look the same for a year or more, and for older athletes thinking about college and professional athletics, this time can be tricky and even lead to a lack of motivation. But Chapman explains that your athlete needs to understand the difference between ‘catastrophic thoughts’ and the reality of the situation. For instance, most programs around the world are paused, so colleges are aware that the 2020 season will need to use different tactics for recruiting athletes.

If your athlete is falling into catastrophic thinking, Chapman says to ask a few questions: "Am I certain that this thought is true? What's the evidence that this thought is true? Is this thought being driven by intense emotion or facts?”

“All of those questions will force the athlete to look at the evidence to support his anxiety, and then come up with a more flexible way to view the situation. The new thoughts don’t have to be positive, just more flexible."

Take Them to Practice, Regardless
You may have an athlete who simply doesn’t feel ready to return because of anxiety around being back with teammates. Chapman says that validating those feelings is important, but in this case, try to get them to the practice field.

“I've found that avoidance is going to backfire and create even more avoidance,” Chapman explains. You can tell your athlete they don’t have to get out of the car or engage with the practice, but that you’re going to go watch. Once you’re there, Chapman says, they’ll most likely remember what they love about being at practice and will jump out of the car to meet friends.

Takeaway
In this confusing time, it’s natural for young athletes to be anxious about returning to play. With these tips, you can learn to recognize their feelings, determine the cause, and help them address that anxiety.



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.


 Become a Part of the (Book) Club
(12/17/2020)
 
   

Become a Part of the (Book) Club


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


Over this past year, the entire baseball community was knocked on its heels thanks to coronavirus. The Big League season didn't even start until July and lasted only 60 games. College programs across the country had to send their student-athletes home before getting into their conference slate. There wasn't a single Minor League Baseball game in 2020; the entire year a wash for player development. Many high school teams suffered an identical fate.

For a few months beginning in the middle of March, from Little Leaguers to Major Leaguers, just about every single baseball player was in the same boat: living without the game. How were players supposed to get better when living in a region with significant quarantine restrictions? How could teams get better as collective groups when they couldn't get together as collective groups? The spring of 2020 became a free-for-all with most everyone on their own when improving on the diamond.

As a coach and coordinator, I was in the same predicament. No players to work with; no coaches to help guide through the summer's ups and downs. For the first time since probably pre-school, I was without a baseball season. What first started as what we all thought to be a temporary pause turned into an off-season right in the middle of what should have been the regular season. So just as is the expectation in a true off-season, we still needed to find ways to get better, albeit in a completely different environment thanks to such an unforeseen circumstance.

We started sharing different resources that would enable us to grow professionally and personally. Some might have shared various podcasts with content to help make us better leaders. Others posted articles that may have included a relevant story to what we do or a lesson for a better way to do it. Videos from past coaches conventions that displayed productive drills on specific parts of the game helped keep our baseball minds sharp. While it wasn't ideal for any of us who all yearned to be off of Zoom and on a field, it was a way for us to continue to move forward on several different fronts.

During this time also came an idea that had been around forever in academia, despite rarely being welcomed in the alpha-male athletic world: the book club. One of my New Year's resolutions back in January was to read more, and the pandemic offered an unexpected opportunity to do so. After soliciting some recommendations from friends and colleagues, I bought several different books on leadership and culture, having become very interested in both in recent years. As we began to spitball creative ways to engage our minds while in quarantine and off the field, I mentioned to our group that I had just started reading the book Legacy, and if anyone wanted to discuss it along with me, they would be more than welcome. To my delight, a handful of guys joined in.

In the book, author James Kerr takes a deep dive under the hood of the New Zealand All-Blacks, a professional rugby team, which is arguably the most successful team of all time in any sport with an overall winning percentage of .773 through October 2019. It is a commonly recommended and referenced book, not just in the sporting world but also in business. The principles dissected throughout under the scope of leadership, culture, and teamwork provide a translative blueprint for developing and sustaining an effective organization.

On the surface, baseball and rugby couldn't be more different. One is played with a detailed skill and an athletic grace as the defense has the ball; the other with equally impressive brute force and tenacious grit as defenders seemingly try to kill the guy with the ball. On the surface, you would be hard-pressed to relate what happens on a rugby field to a baseball diamond. But if you were to go below the surface…

We spent the better part of a month reading and discussing the book, chapter by chapter, creating the conversation around what Legacy's rugby world contents would look like in our baseball environment. We found principles that by no means were specific to rugby, or even sports as a whole for that matter; they were pillars that help enable organizational success, skillfully scaled to anything that operates in a group. Upon completing the book, I was surprised at how productive the discussion was after hearing how we interpreted these principles from our own individual perspectives. That initial book club went so well that we did the same with Daniel Coyle's The Culture Code a few weeks later.

Even though it was new for us, book clubs have been commonplace among some of the most successful athletics programs. While coaching USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team, Louisville skipper Dan McDonnell had his club read The Gold Standard by Mike Krzyzewski, a book that chronicles Coach K's time as the head coach of the US Olympic team. Glenn Cecchini, the head baseball coach at Louisiana power Barbe High School has his teams read one book together each season. Over the years, they have read titles including Self-Discipline by Dominic Mann, The Power of a Positive Team by John Gordon, and Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willinik. Anson Dorrance, a voracious reader himself, the legendary North Carolina Women's Soccer Coach selects specific books for each of his Tarheel classes; a different one each for freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors, most of which have nothing to do with soccer.

Different times and different situations call for different measures. While I can't imagine many baseball coaches had a pandemic playbook handily ready back in March when our world stopped, there are countless playbooks out there that can help us better prepare for when it starts moving again. It's just a matter of us reading some of them…together.



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.


 Parent and Child Interaction After the Game
(12/14/2020)
 
   

Parent and Child Interaction After the Game


Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard


Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopaedic Surgeon at Duke University, discusses the importance of the interaction between the parent and child on the way home from a baseball game. 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.


 Coaches Clinic - December 20, 2020
(12/20/2020)
 
   

December 20, 2020


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.

Keith Bateman, Augsburg University
Bianca Smith, Carroll University
Carter Hicks, USA Baseball
Tony Cougoule, Chicago Cubs
Chris Cates, University of Tampa

OUTLINE  



 Top Nutrition Tips to Help Heal a Sports Injury
(12/9/2020)
 
   

Top Nutrition Tips to Help Heal a Sports Injury


Nutrition tips to make a big impact on your injured athlete’s return to play.


When your athlete is recovering from a sports injury that’s keeping them from taking part in practice and play, proper nutrition becomes more critical than ever. Eating well during this time can speed up healing and a return to play, while overindulging in junk food can actually set recovery back. Here, TrueSport Expert Kristen Ziesmer, a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, explains how to use nutrition to help recover from a sports injury.

Eating healthy is eating for injury
The good news is that a generally healthy, whole food-based diet is the primary defense when it comes to healing injuries, says Ziesmer. “Cut down on processed foods and focus on whole foods,” she explains. "Don’t restrict carbohydrates, but opt for whole grain versions versus white flour. Fill up on fruits and vegetables. Make your protein intake slightly higher, but only increase it by around 10 percent. And focus on good sources of fat, including nuts and seeds, avocado, olive oil, and fatty fish like salmon or tuna that contain high amounts of Omega3 fatty acids.”

This doesn’t mean your injured athlete can never have potato chips, she adds, but ultra-processed foods should be reduced. “Watch out for how many processed foods your athlete is having. Avoid processed meat like bacon or sausage, and most pre-packaged foods,” she explains. “Those processed and ultra-processed foods can raise the level of inflammation in the body and make it harder for the body to heal."

Lower sugar intake
It may be tempting to overindulge your injured athlete with ice cream and treats, but Ziesmer cautions against it. “Limit the amount of sugar that your athlete is having because that also raises the level of inflammation in the body,” she explains. "Plus, it's just excess carbohydrates that the body doesn't need when your athlete is unable to train at the same level as before, so that could turn into excess weight.”

Be careful here: While research has shown that obesity can lead to a heightened risk of injury when playing sports and it’s important to help your athlete maintain a healthy weight at this time, it's also critical to avoid creating issues around body image that may come from not being able to play their sport.

Skip supplements
Your goal should be to establish a ‘food-first mentality,’ so giving your young athlete a handful of supplements isn’t the best solution to healing an injury—nor is it the most effective. Rather than relying on supplements, look for foods that are rich in antioxidants, vitamin D, C, E and A, says Ziesmer. “Taking vitamin C and A or antioxidants in supplement form can actually inhibit muscle recovery because it's too high of a dosage. So, forget about the supplements and eat healthier foods,” she says. "Dark leafy greens and citrus fruits are great. For vitamin D, just make sure your athlete gets outside for 30 minutes each day, ideally in the middle of the day. And if your athlete has a bone or joint injury, some calcium is going to help, so add a little bit more milk or yogurt to their diet."

For more information on supplements and the risks, check out the TrueSport Supplement Guide.

Hydrate properly
It's easy to forget about hydration when you're not in training mode, but fluids are still critical. “Water is involved in every process that goes on in your body,” Ziesmer explains. “So, it's definitely important to make sure that your athlete is getting more water because that's going to help to carry more nutrients throughout the body, which is critical for healing.” Focus on water, not sports drinks, since your athlete won’t need to replenish glycogen or electrolytes as much during their time on the bench.

But don’t just think about water: Bone broth is a great way to hydrate while providing vital nutrients to injured athletes. “Gelatin helps any type of injury of tendons or ligaments,” says Ziesmer. “Bone broth is a great way to add that to a diet.” If your athlete isn’t excited about the idea of bone broth, hide it by adding vegetables and noodles to make it a more traditional soup for lunch or dinner.

Look on the bright side
While your athlete is recovering from an injury, this might be the optimal time to help him or her get interested in nutrition and cooking. “Your athlete likely has more free time during recovery,” says Ziesmer. "This can be a great time to help them learn some basic kitchen skills and hone a few healthy recipes.”

Try to help your athlete see this as an opportunity to focus on all the healthy habits that will keep them at the top of their game after recovery. Outside of the kitchen, this could also include things like getting enough sleep, doing recommended physical therapy exercises, and practicing mental skills like visualization.

Takeaway
It might be hard to imagine that nutrition and recovery are connected, but these nutrition tips can make a big impact on your injured athlete’s return to play.



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.


 Soundtracks, Part IV
(12/7/2020)
 
   

Soundtracks, Part IV


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.

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.

Taiwan

I have had the privilege of working a camp in Taiwan every December for the last four years with friend and also the Boston Red Sox Coordinator of Baserunning and Outfield, Darren Fenster. I knew going over there that this would be a challenge, and it is every year, because of the language and culture differences. Darren is the Field Coordinator of this camp and asks me to spearhead the pitching for the four days. I find the camp a great challenge for the reasons I mentioned, but I also played in Taiwan professionally for four years so I always find a way with my limited Mandarin and rely more on my understanding of the culture and default to show and do, rinse, repeat every day. Darren, on the other hand, never played in Taiwan, but has impacted and improved a camp four years in a row because he has mastered what soundtrack the Taiwanese staff and players need and at what volume they need it, and when they need it played. With the use of his soundtrack of energy, care level, and heart, it has been so cool to witness his bringing together a group of 40 players and approximately 25 staff together in a four-day period. The last four years of working in Taiwan with Darren always serve as a reset for me because it forces me to bring back my teaching to where it needs to be in the first place. It is coaching with constraints. Remove the language and we are forced to develop our soundtrack, use few words if any, and create a “show and do” environment which is skill acquisition rich. It makes me understand the question, “Do I want my players to learn words or acquire skills?”

Thunderstruck

My personal Soundtrack has evolved and grown over the years. I am also happy to say my volume controls have improved. It will continue to and it has to. Staying connected with players and seeking more self-awareness is a great way of becoming a master coach. I failed to mention my personal soundtrack when I broke into managing / teaching 20 years ago. It contained one song called “Thunderstruck” by AC-DC and it was played at two volumes which were loud and louder! Needless to say, that does not work in coaching or parenting or any relationship we may have.

As technology and its use evolves in the game, remember first that improving our soundtrack must continue or it will not matter what you know if your delivery system is not current. I have mentioned the firing order of coaching in previous blogs and stand firmly by being an excellent relationship builder as critical to the process. So, keep refining and growing your soundtrack and become a master DJ so that anything you know that can help a player will be relevant. Best of luck to you all in your coaching endeavors!


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. 


 5 Quick and Easy Snacks to Sustain Your Athlete's Energy
(11/25/2020)
 
   

5 Quick and Easy Snacks to Sustain Your Athlete's Energy


Simple options that you can pack for your athlete


Teaching your young athlete what healthy snacks look like – and ditching that reliance on fast food or ultra-processed snacks – isn’t just important for their athletic endeavors, it also impacts their overall health. For adolescents, research has shown that snacks, even when necessary, tend to detract from overall diet quality. But that doesn’t have to be the case with nutritious, balanced snack options.

When it comes to the best type of snack to fuel your athlete for long school days and practices, lead with a protein source and add carbohydrates to create a well-rounded recovery snack. Check out these simple options that you can pack for your athlete to eat before or after practice to fuel and recharge them throughout the day.

Scrambled Egg Rice Bars
For game day or right before a hard practice, topping off your athlete’s carbohydrate stores is key. Using sticky sushi rice, these bars are carb-focused, and by adding scrambled eggs (and some optional mix-ins according to your athlete’s preferences), you can add a small amount of fat and protein for more long-term fuel without impacting digestion. Bonus: Eggs have recently been shown to aid in children’s growth and development.

Ingredients:
• 2 cups sticky rice
• 4 eggs
• Optional: low-sodium soy sauce, chopped shallots, shredded cheese

Directions:
• Use a rice cooker or cook sushi rice on stovetop according to directions
• Scramble eggs in a frying pan, adding in any additions like shallots that need to be sautéed
• Mix eggs, rice, and add-ons together in a big bowl
• Spread evenly about 1-inch thick on a baking sheet covered in wax paper
• Refrigerate
• When cool, cut blocks (around 3x3 inches) and individually wrap
• Keep refrigerated – these should be eaten within three days

Half of a PB+J Sandwich
For a harder practice, like a longer cross-country run or drill-intensive soccer session, a more substantial snack may be required to fuel your athlete through the afternoon.

Elevate the traditional PB&J by swapping peanut butter for almond butter, slicing real strawberries onto the jam to add more real fruit, and choosing a bakery-fresh whole grain bread versus the white stuff. (Most parents opt for white bread thinking kids will reject whole grain, but studies have shown kids are just as happy with whole wheat!)

Making this sandwich with high-quality ingredients provides the right blend of macronutrients for your athlete and is easy to eat quickly.

Ingredients:
• Natural almond butter (look for a label that just lists almonds and salt, with no added sugars)
• Jam (brands like Smuckers now offer honey-sweetened, no-sugar, and reduced-sugar options, opt for one of those over the sugar-packed generic brand)
• Whole wheat bread (fresh from the bakery, or a bread like Rudi’s Sprouted Multigrain Bread, which can be found in the freezer section)

Greek Yogurt with Dried Fruit and Honey
Protein-packed Greek yogurt gives your child the longer-term energy he or she needs, while dried fruit provides faster-burning sugars to kickstart practice time or speed recovery afterwards. Opt for a low or no-fat plain Greek yogurt: while Greek yogurt’s higher fat content isn’t a problem for a breakfast option, it can lead to some gut distress if eaten ahead of practice and it won’t help refuel post-workout. Pick plain yogurt to avoid added sugars and remember that most store-bought flavored yogurts are packed with more sugar than most nutrition guidelines recommend. Adding honey allows you to monitor how sweet the yogurt is, and fresh berries are a better flavor burst.

Ingredients:
• 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (look for 2% fat content for higher protein with fewer harder-to-digest fats)
• 1 cup mixed berries (opt for what’s in season)
• 1-2 tablespoons honey or real maple syrup

Build Your Own Trail Mix
For a longer, less explosive effort, like a long run day for a cross-country runner or an extended practice for a hockey player – trail mix is an easy option for before, during, or after to refuel with a mix of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

Skip the store-bought sodium and sugar-laden trail mixes in favor of one that you make yourself. This way, you avoid added sodium and even sugars that can end up on roasted nuts (or sneak into ‘mountain trail mix’ in the form of M&Ms!). You can buy items separately in bulk, or you can even consider dehydrating fruits at home. Mix and match some of the trail mix classics and add a few new options for a unique, nutrient-dense mix.

Add more dried fruit for longer endurance efforts or keep the mix 50:50 for when shorter bursts of energy are needed and your athlete will be sitting around waiting for the bell to sound.

Ingredients:
• Almonds – Even a few almonds a day have been shown to improve overall diet quality, possibly thanks to their high fiber, protein, magnesium, and vitamin E content.
• Walnuts – Children who eat nuts are actually less likely to be overweight, studies have shown, and walnuts provide a high dose of the much needed Omega-3 fatty acids often missing in a young person's diet.
• Dried blueberries – An uncommon addition to trail mix, blueberries boost fiber, vitamins, minerals, fructose, and antioxidants.
• Dried tart cherries – Packed with antioxidants and they have even been linked to increased recovery for athletes.
• Pumpkin seeds – Get a unique blend of protein, fiber, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus by adding these seeds.
• Banana chips – For a more endurance-based trail mix, banana chips add a hefty dose of carbohydrates.

Hard-Boiled Eggs with Apple Slices or a Banana
For a shorter or easier effort, your athlete may not need a hefty snack, and this simple option provides healthy protein, fat, and carbohydrates without overdoing it. Eggs are an easy option, since each one boasts seven grams of satiating protein plus fats. For carbohydrates, apple slices provide natural sugars in the form of fructose for a little energy boost without overdoing it, or a banana can boost the amount of carbohydrates if you have a hungry athlete.

A Stash of Healthier Quick Options
If you don’t have time to pack homemade options for your young athlete, have a few easy choices on hand for those busy days when dinner is coming soon, but they’re hungry immediately after practice:

GoGo Squeez Organic Fruit and Vegetable pouches: These 60-calorie pouches are made up of apple, peach, and sweet potato puree, and contain two grams of fiber per serving for a quick carb boost without a cookie.

Clif Z Bar Protein: Clif’s Z bars are designed to be child-friendly portions at only 130 calories per serving, and the protein-boosted versions add five grams of protein to the whole grain bar.

Organic Valley 1% Chocolate Milk: Shelf-stable organic milk provides seven grams of protein per serving, while the chocolate brings the carbohydrate count to 20 grams. The 130-calorie serving is a quick-hit for pre or post-practice to tide an athlete over if dinner is happening soon.

Remember to keep these quick and simple healthy snacks readily available for your athlete because if they aren’t provided healthy options, children are more likely to eat unhealthy treats, even if they’re not hungry.


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.


 Productive Out to Bring in a Run
(12/6/2020)
 
   

Productive Out to Bring in a Run


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow breaks down a productive out that brings in a run.


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.


 Coaches Clinic - December 13, 2020
(12/13/2020)
 
   

December 13, 2020


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.

Demetre Kokoris, Toronto Blue Jays
Ari Adut, New York Yankees
Scott Bullock, Rocky Mountain High School (CO)
Nate Metzger, Wright State University
Tyler Packanik, Stetson University

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 Runner Safe on Chopper to First Baseman
(11/22/2020)
 
   

Runner Safe on Chopper to First Baseman


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses a runner being safe on a chopper to the first baseman.


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.


 Sometimes Actively Coaching Looks Like Not Coaching At All
(11/19/2020)
 
   

Sometimes Actively Coaching Looks Like Not Coaching At All


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


Thanks in part to the Minor League season being cancelled this past year, my spring and summer were without baseball for the first time since I was probably four or five years old. Living in central New Jersey where Coronavirus initially hit hard and forced a state-wide lockdown, kids all across the Garden State were without baseball much of the spring and summer as well. But as things started to open back up once we got into summer, knowing that I had a lot of free time on my hands, one of my best friends asked if I wanted to help out coaching his son’s team. Without much going on and while dearly missing baseball, I jumped at the opportunity.

If there were rankings for 10-and-under for fall baseball, which embarrassingly enough there probably are, you won’t find our Jersey Shore-based Tribe Red 10u club anywhere on any list of the top teams in the age group. This group was about to embark on their first experience playing on that intermediate, 50’ mound/70’ base field, with rules now allowing for leading and stealing. With that in mind, our practices focused on having fun while teaching players basic fundamentals as well as new aspects of the game, including taking a lead or pitching from the stretch.

In late September, after a solid month of practicing twice a week, we entered our first tournament, a one-day, two-game deal that gave our team some real competition. This was also my first real exposure to this level of amateur baseball. Walking around the complex with other games going on, the scene shocked me. Seemingly every single pitch, coaches from just about teams were shouting direction from the dugout. It was suffocating coaching.

To pitchers: “Push off the mound. Get your arm up. Get the ball down. Go from the stretch. Pick off. THROW STRIKES!”

To hitters: “Step to the pitcher. Keep your front side closed. Open up a little bit. Line drive swing. Barrel up. Head down. SWING AT STRIKES!”

To the defense: “THREE! THREE! THREE! FOUR! FOUR! FOUR!”

In the rare instance when there was no directive coming from a coach, the game screeched to a sudden halt, with players habitually looking into the dugout, waiting for someone to tell them what to do. These coaches- all well-intended, I’m sure- were creating robots on the diamond, paralyzing them from being able to just go out and play. This experience made me realize one of the most important aspects of coaching that doesn’t get nearly enough attention: active coaching requires us to NOT always actively coach.

The ability to figure things out, I believe, is an innate human trait. Think about it in this light: a child doesn’t learn how to walk by attending an “Elite Walking Camp” at 12-months old. They learn by falling, getting up, and then trying again. Maybe a parent will help the child stand for balance, but eventually will let go as their kid takes his or her first steps. Eventually, the child figures it out with minimal guidance.

Kids who are just learning the game are going to make mistakes all the time. For some perspective, even Major Leaguers make mistakes quite often. Just like a parent when their child is learning how to walk, as a coach, you have to learn how to let go so your players can learn how to play the game. And they will learn, by metaphorically falling down on the field. We have to let them play, let them fail, and let them figure it out.

At its core, coach’s job is to help players, so the urge to instruct whenever we see a window to do so is understandable. The perception of a coach not doing anything when everyone in the ballpark sees a mistake is one of a coach who doesn’t know what he’s doing, or worse, doesn’t care to help. To the trained eye, however, in many cases the reality is that not only does this coach know exactly what he’s doing, he cares SO much that he is consciously deciding to bite his tongue.

It is easy to be told what to do, and then go out and do it… or at least try. But in order to be able to do things on their own, players need to learn how to think for themselves. Constant direction removes that necessary layer of player development, and for teams trying to win, you may be sacrificing an out or a run in the process that affects the final outcome of the game. But without question, this short-term loss will produce a lot more wins, long-term.

Even though it may not look like coaching to everyone in the stands, some of your greatest impact on your players may come from those moments when you choose not to do anything at all. Stepping back, and letting players do what they think is right will open up the window afterward to teach them exactly what is right. The next time it happens, they will be ready do it right on their own, because you helped guide them to the path that is the way.


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.


 Coaches Clinic - December 6, 2020
(12/6/2020)
 
   

December 6, 2020


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.

Mike Silva, Louisiana Tech University
Rob Cooper, Penn State University
Mike Stawski, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor
Mike Current, University of South Carolina
Jordan Stouffer, Cincinnati Reds

OUTLINE