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 Helping Your Athlete Manage Performance and Social Anxiety
(9/23/2020)
 
 
   

5 Strategies to Help Your Athlete Manage Performance and Social Anxiety


Suggestions to help athletes control their sport anxiety


Every athlete will likely feel some kind of nerves during practices or in competition. Some athletes thrive under pressure and embrace the nerves, while others will crumple if not bolstered by a supportive coach and team.

Nerves aren’t inherently bad, and they can actually indicate interest in sport, but it’s important for athletes to learn how to manage anxiety for long-term mental wellness, especially since the anxiety created by sport is often similar to the social anxiety experienced outside of sport.

To help athletes control their sport anxiety, TrueSport Expert Kevin Chapman, PhD, clinical psychologist and founder of The Kentucky Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders , has some suggestions.

Sports should reduce anxiety, not cause it

Emphasizing the ‘fun’ aspect of sport is important at all ages, especially in the adolescent years. It’s easy to get caught up in the points spread or results as a coach, but that’s not the main reason sports matter for youth. Research has shown that playing sports can have positive impacts on mental health and anxiety in young people, and ultimately, it’s important to understand that for many young athletes, this will be the greatest benefit that sport will provide them. With that in mind, coaches and parents’ language and behavior should reflect that the goal of playing sport is the social and physical benefits, not the scholarships or tournament wins. For example, make your first question after a game, “What was your favorite part of the game?” rather than “What did you do wrong today?”

Teach mental strategies early and often

Coaches are often so bogged down by mandatory practices, busy competition schedules, and other demands on their time that they completely skip over the importance of teaching mental strategies to athletes. But visualization and other mental techniques have been shown to improve performance.

Start early in the season with a discussion of mental techniques and make practical recommendations, Chapman says. Walk athletes through a visualization exercise that they can do before games, have everyone download a free guided-meditation app, and have a discussion of what success looks like for this team, this year.

Avoid failure avoidance

When athletes are nervous or anxious, they often fall into a failure avoidance mentality, meaning that they begin to avoid taking risks that could end in failure. The problem with that, Chapman explains, is that while an athlete is avoiding failure, they are not going to be trying to win or to improve, they are just going to be trying to "not mess up.”

To avoid this mentality, explain early in the season that the goal for the team isn’t to win every game, or sink every shot, but to actually try new techniques, take risks, and make mistakes. Praise attempts, including the ones that fail, to create a culture where students can feel safe pushing their limits in sport.

Remembers, coaches can continue offering advice for improvement while fostering a positive outlook on failure. “Rather than saying something like, ‘Stop turning the ball over,’ a coach could try to say, ‘Focus on having better ball control,’” says Chapman. Flip your script to focus on positives rather than calling out errors.

“Punishment is meant to decrease behavior, whereas reinforcement is meant to increase behavior,” he adds. "And reinforcement is much more powerful than punishment. Therefore, the best way to get an athlete to do the right thing is to say something reinforcing."

Anxiety isn't always about winning and losing

According to Chapman, “The team dynamic piece is important and can cause a lot of anxiety as well. Social anxiety, fear of teammates making fun of you if you miss a shot, teammates won’t like you if you don’t act a certain way—that’s another huge contributor to anxiety in athletes. It always comes back to a fear of a negative evaluation.”

But this type of anxiety can be harder to recognize because, as the coach, you’re not in the same culture as the athletes. You aren’t privy to their texts and other communications, but you can help to create a team culture that doesn’t allow for bullying or the idea that winning is everything.

Listen to your athlete

There comes a point where the anxiety produced by a sport outweighs the benefits of playing. Chapman explains that if an athlete isn’t deriving any pleasure from playing, it may be time to consider a new sport rather than pushing through. “If an athlete is anxious before a game but always thrilled afterwards, that’s fine,” he says. “But if the anxiety never goes away, that’s a signal that there is a problem. I think that if they have a low desire, you never should push a kid to play, period.”

Takeaway

Sport anxiety is not preventable, but it should be manageable. It’s up to parents and coaches to communicate and behave in way that reduces anxiety around sport performance and reinforces the positive benefits of sport.



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


 Players Aren't the Only Ones Who Need to be Who They Are
(9/17/2020)
 
 
   

Players Aren't The Only Ones Who Need To Be Who They Are


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


As coaches, we often talk about the importance of our players being who they are and doing what they do. We want them to use their gifts, play with their personalities, and not try to be someone else. Players who truly know themselves have the best chance to maximize their unique potential.

It may be just as important for coaches to be who they are and to do what they do to enable them to help maximize their players’ and their teams’ full potential. Last winter, HBO aired a documentary profiling the relationship between two football coaching legends, Bill Belichick and Nick Saban. Unquestionably, coaches across America watched intently with pen and paper in hand, feverishly taking notes and fully prepared to be the next Belichick or the next Saban by the time credits rolled. Unfortunately, that is impossible. There is only one Bill Belichick. There is only one Nick Saban.

And there was only one Fred Hill.

In the spring of 2006, upon the sudden end to my playing career, Coach Hill created a position on his Rutgers staff for me because, 1) he thought I would make a good coach, and 2) I had nothing better to do and no plan B in life. At the time, I thought this would be a simple stopgap as I figured out what I wanted to do with my life. Little did I know that this would be the start of my second life in the game.

Assistant coaches are the unsung heroes of a coaching staff. They are the epitome of the behind the scenes worker who gets little reward and even less recognition for the job they do. An assistant coach has to be an extension of the head coach. In order for the relationship between the two to thrive, both must be aligned in their organizational standards as well as their strategic beliefs so that their players will get a single, consistent message. With all that in mind, when I entered the coaching profession, I thought I had to be the next Fred Hill.

Being able to work under the guy I played for in college- and who immensely helped me develop as a player- made for a pretty natural transition at the start. I knew his sayings. I knew how he coached. I knew what he believed. But as I began to find my own voice as a coach, I quickly learned that it was impossible for me, a new coach with NO experience as a coach, to be the same as an ABCA Hall of Famer with more than 1,000 career wins.

The process of finding yourself as a coach can be as long of a journey as it is to find yourself as a player. The funny part was that baseball was the least of my worries, as I was pretty confident in my foundation of knowing the game. It was actually the coaching in general where I was all over the map. It was a challenge at times to understand how to handle players on the field and off, how to create cohesion on a staff, or how to disagree with something without causing dissention.

By the time I left Rutgers to join the Red Sox in 2012, I had grown leaps and bounds both personally and professionally over the previous six years. But as the new guy in the organization as an A-ball hitting coach, I was much like a rookie in the clubhouse, unsure exactly of my place in this new environment. The general rule was the same in professional baseball, where hitting coaches and pitching coaches are not only an extension of their club’s manager, but also a vital branch of an entire organizational philosophy. I was hired to coach hitters in Greenville and I needed to figure out the best way to do that. How hands on did I need to be? Could I implement different things with different hitters? What would our daily routine be?

There was no handbook to answer all of my questions, but it was clear that experience through trial and error would be my best teacher, along with leaning on my colleagues who had been in my shoes before. Slowly but surely, I started to settle in. The more comfortable I got in my own skin, the better I become as my own coach. But I wasn’t entirely me. I wasn’t THAT comfortable. I was getting there, but I wasn’t there.

Then came the ground out that marked my arrival.

About one month into the season in early May, one of our best hitters came up with a runner on 3rd and less than two outs. His job, plain and simple, was to drive that run home. We preached situational hitting and the value of getting the job done when it came to developing into a productive hitter. The result of this particular at bat was a roll-over, ground ball to the second baseman. The run scored. The job was done. And I was pumped. Our hitter… not so much.

He sulked off the field. Banged his helmet on the bench. Slammed his bat back into the rack. If there was one thing that always got under my skin both as a player and now as a coach, it’s playing selfish. As I’m watching him come down towards me in the dugout, my blood is starting to boil. By the time he was standing next to me, he started complaining to himself. I snapped. “WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM,” I politely asked. “You just did your job. You helped your team. Now stop being a baby, grow up, and pick up your teammate who is hitting right now.”

What I didn’t realize at that impulse was that Chad Epperson, one of our roving coordinators from Boston, was in the dugout at the time. Had I been conscious to his presence, I would have been much more guarded with my words, as I had been to that point, if I said anything at all. I was still the new guy. Still finding my way. Still finding my place. After the game, Eppy came up to me and said that if I didn’t address that situation in the dugout, he would have himself, and he absolutely loved the way I handled it, reassuring me that sometimes players need some messages louder than others.

That meant everything to me, and not because he was ok with me getting on a player who acted unprofessionally. But rather because that was the moment when I knew I could truly be who I was as coach. I didn’t have to be cautiously filtered like I had been to that point. Eppy gave me that freedom to be me. That moment, yet so small in the grand scheme of everything, baseball or otherwise, was, still to this day, one of the most defining moments of my entire coaching career. A coach who knows who he is and does what he does is in the best position to help his players do the same.



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


 Soundtracks, Part III
(9/16/2020)
 
 
   

Soundtracks, Part III


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.

The Dominican Experience

The first time I went to the Dominican Republic I realized it was different than anywhere I had coached, starting with culture and language. In addition, the age range in the Dominican Republic is 16 - 17 and the paths of each player that took them to this point were unique in every way. So, I started from the beginning with my “serviceable Spanish” and started getting to know players and watching a lot. I coached very little. The Latin player is always so appreciative to coaches that make the effort to speak their language but also get to know them personally. When you need to get in there and coach them they receive it so well.

How is this different from coaching here in the States? It’s not! It is coaching 101. Get to know your players personally, watch them a lot, and then if they need coaching they will receive it.

So, what did I learn in this experience? I learned two HUGE lessons. First, your soundtrack is even more important if your language skills are limited. They realize you are trying to help them and care for them even if your Spanish is bad because your tone and body language speak volumes in the absence of words. The volume of your songs is especially big here also because they are so young and inexperienced you could be in danger of losing a player quickly if it is too loud too quickly. When they cannot understand the words always remember that they can FEEL you!

The second HUGE takeaway came to me a couple years ago when speaking with the legendary coach, teacher and author Frans Bosch. He said to me “players’ bodies really have no interest in your words.” I realized I may be a better coach in the Dominican Republic because my words are always distilled down to extreme simplicity and low numbers. I usually quickly transition to show and do, or watch (video) show and do. This is also coaching 101! Talk less and show and do more!

Before I knew anything about the science of skill acquisition I learned about what is needed for some real skill acquisition. Bernie Holiday, the Pirates Director of Mental Conditioning, said to our group a couple of years back another nugget on coaching and the use of words. He said our first language is not English, Spanish or whatever language we speak. Our first language is pictures, and it will always be our first language because we think in images. To Bernie’s point, if I said the word HORSE to you, your thoughts do not think of the word HORSE but an image of a HORSE. In teaching, master your Soundtracks, limit your words, and default to watch, show, and do more often!

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

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

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


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


 Safely Return to Play
(9/14/2020)
 
   

Safely Return to Play


Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard


Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopaedic Surgeon at Duke University, discusses how to safely return to play after time away. 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.


 Third Baseman Charges Ball
(9/13/2020)
 
   

Third-Baseman Charges Ball and Makes Leaping Throw


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses a third baseman charging a ball and making a leaping throw for an out.


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.


 Reducing Anxiety to Make Game Day as Good as Practice
(9/9/2020)
 
   

Reducing Anxiety to Make Game Day as Good as Practice


How to best support your team


Game-day performance anxiety is common in athletes of any age, but the worst possible time to start tackling it is, unfortunately, on game day. Yet most coaches ignore the potential for pre-game jitters until the last minute, when a pep talk is the best anxiety-reducer that they can provide.

But with a few shifts in your coaching throughout the season, you can help foster a team that’s as mentally prepared for game day as they are physically prepared. Specializing in sports-based anxiety, TrueSport Expert Kevin Chapman, PhD, clinical psychologist and founder of The Kentucky Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, breaks down how you can best support your team.

Set expectations for competition that are process-oriented

According to Chapman, process-oriented goals give kids tangible things to focus on that they can control in a game. The more in-control your athlete feels, the calmer they will be.

“The reason outcome occurs is because certain athletes follow a process,” says Chapman. "To reduce anxiety and realize success, we can focus on processes like positive self-talk, game day tactics or strategies, mechanics or techniques, imagery and visualization, getting better, and having a learning mentality. When athletes focus on learning those things and perfecting them out of the love of the game, there’s always a successful outcome regardless of how bad or awesome an athlete plays.”

Watch your language around competition

Often, parents and coaches accidentally play into competition nerves. Telling your athletes that they are ‘absolutely going to wipe the field with the competition,’ screaming at competitors, and generally focusing on the score rather improvement is going to show athletes that winning matters most and everything else is a cause for distress.

Statements like “This is the big game,” or “This play could make or break the season,” are also likely to add to an athlete’s anxiety.

Help your athletes create rituals

To calm their nerves and focus on process, encourage athletes to create their own ‘down to business’ routines. That could mean creating a certain mantra, finding a lucky ‘talisman,’ or developing a ‘secret routine.’

“Most pro athletes have some kind of ritual, talisman, or secret pre-game routine that they do, and that's how they get into that game-day state,” says Chapman. "I think we really should be letting kids figure out what their secret routine is. What is going to help them feel focused and in the zone?”

Encourage your athletes to come up with their own rituals and stick to them on game day. For younger athletes, helping them write a mantra or practice visualization might work best.

Make practice like game day

If you can make some practices more like game days, then game days will feel more like practices, Chapman says. In more severe cases of performance anxiety or in higher-level sports, he actually will have hecklers in the stands during practice.

That may be extreme for a school or youth team, but as a coach, you can set up some practices to be like timed or scored competitions. Make it as realistic as possible: Set aside pre-game time for the usual pep talks and the time spent waiting for the game to start, have athletes do their own pre-game rituals, set up start and finish lines, put out the same food and drink you would normally have available on the sidelines, and even encourage athletes to wear their uniforms.

Takeaway

Game-day performances often look different from practice performances due to anxiety, which means that athletes need to focus on their mental preparedness as much as their physical preparedness. These strategies will get athletes mentally prepared and ready to manage anxiety to perform at their best on game day.


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.


 Getting Back into the Game After a Prolonged Absence
(9/8/2020)
 
   

Getting Back into the Game After a Prolonged Absence


Cuddyer's Corner
By Michael Cuddyer


Former Major Leaguer Michael Cuddyer discusses getting back into the game, physically and mentally, after an extended absence. 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.


 Opposite-Field Triple to the Wall
(8/30/2020)
 
   

Opposite-Field Triple to the Wall


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses an opposite-field triple hit to the wall with an RBI.


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.


 3 Coaching Strategies to Manage Ongoing Rivalries
(8/26/2020)
 
   

3 Coaching Strategies to Manage Ongoing Rivalries


How TrueSport Expert, Nadia Kyba recommends coaches put a stop to rivalries early.


In some team dynamics, there are going to be unavoidable rivalries: teammates will struggle for starting spots, personalities will clash over leadership responsibilities, and issues will arise with other teams. Conflict is normal and not always a problem on its own, but ongoing rivalries can slowly poison a team. Nadia Kyba, MSW, TrueSport Expert and President of Now What Facilitation, has seen teams go through rough patches navigating these types of situations.

Here’s how Kyba recommends coaches put a stop to rivalries early.

Set Standards Early in the Season

Jealousy within the team can start from simple, easy-to-avoid misunderstandings. Inter-team rivalries tend to stem from competitive urges and athletes feeling as though they’re being unfairly treated. As a coach, you can set the team guidelines and rules of play early in the season to minimize some of these issues.

“Team guidelines help if there is some sort of conflict or rivalry between teammates,” says Kyba. “Having a system in place where they're clear on what the expectations around behavior are, and that everyone's bought into, gives players a sense of ownership and understanding.”

Check in with your team by scheduling short meetings throughout the season to ensure that there aren’t lingering undercurrents of problematic jealousy or rivalry.

Be Transparent

Discuss how players can get into the starting lineup, expectations for how practices are run, and explain the metrics that are important to you as a coach.

“If a coach is really clear about how they're making decisions, that takes away the opportunity to make assumptions, which can lead to rivalries,” Kyba adds. “One things I’ve noticed that leads to the rivalries is that coaches don't meet with athletes ahead of time to talk about how they're making decisions. In team sports, like soccer, basketball, or volleyball, oftentimes a coach will announce the starting lineup right before a game. And then players are left to have to process everything on the spot rather than having that team meeting a few days ahead of time to discuss the lineup and how the selection was made.”

Assess the Situation

What a coach perceives as a rivalry might be as simple as two people on the same team not being friends  — and that’s okay, as long as they aren’t actively engaging in fights, bullying, or disrupting the team. There’s an undertone in team sports that everyone on the team should be friends, but with young athletes, that’s not realistic or necessarily healthy to promote. And some jealousy can lead to healthy, not harmful, competition.

“It’s okay if athletes don’t love each other, they don’t have to be best friends,” says Kyba. “That diversity is actually what will make a team really strong, as long as they understand that they’re there for a common goal and a common purpose.”



At the end of the day, it’s easy to tell athletes to be good sports, but you need to also model that behavior on and off the field. If you’re yelling at the referee, cursing another coach, or complaining about players on the opposing team, you’re creating a culture where that kind of commentary is accepted and encouraged.

“I think the coach might not realize just how much kids necessarily soak up from them,” Kyba says. “If coaches are yelling at the referee, they’re modeling that it’s okay to question and yell at officials.”

Kyba adds that it’s also important to share guidelines and expectations with athletes’ parents. Make sure they understand that complaining or yelling at the opposing team, referees, umpires, and especially at the other athletes on the field isn’t acceptable behavior in the stands, ever.



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.


 Be Ready for When Your Number is Called
(8/20/2020)
 
   

Be Ready for When Your Name is Called


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


Unless you followed the Rutgers University Baseball program in the mid to late 90’s, you probably have no idea who Joe Waleck is. Even if you were a fan of the team, he wouldn’t likely be one of the first 15 players from that roster who you’d remember. Why would you? He was the team’s third-string catcher, and in 1998, the fifth-year senior finished the season with a grand total of 28 at bats after appearing in just 19 games. But for those who closely watched the school capture its first Big East Conference title, you know exactly who Waleck is, and are quite familiar with one of the greatest moments in history of Rutgers Baseball that he authored.

On Wednesday, May 13, 1998, our top-seeded Scarlet Knights opened the conference tournament against sixth-seeded and in-state rival Seton Hall. With two outs in the top of the 9th inning, the tying run on second base and us clinging to a 6-5 lead, a routine ground ball was hit my way at shortstop. As the classic, good-field, no-hit infielder, most people in the stadium in that moment probably thought the game was over. They thought wrong. The ball kicked off of my glove for an error, and instead of shaking hands, we were headed for extra innings.

In the bottom of the 16th inning, our starting catcher reached base and was lifted for a pinch-runner. With our backup catcher hurt, in came Joe Waleck to catch the top half of the 17th. By the time he came up to hit in the bottom half of the frame, records had already been set for, among others, the longest game in league history. After sitting on the bench for more than five hours, Joe Waleck stepped to the plate for his first at bat of the day, ready to seize the opportunity that every player dreams about. He hit a three-run, walk-off home run that, he would tell you, is the greatest moment of his athletic life.

Still to this day, I thank him for hitting that home run and he thanks me for making that error.

It is hard being a back-up. It is a challenge to stay motivated and to feel like a part of the team when the stat sheet says otherwise. But the truth is, every single player who has a uniform has an opportunity. It may not be the opportunity that you want, but it is an opportunity for you to be ready to take advantage of. The biggest challenge of being a reserve player often is simply not knowing when your chance is going to come. It is incredibly tough to be ready for something that doesn’t have a date or time.

Right, wrong, or indifferent, no two opportunities are the same. Some may find their names penciled in the lineup everyday regardless how they perform, while others may only enter the game as a backup. What is constant between the many vastly different opportunities that exist are the players equality to take advantage of them.

For role players who rarely see game action, the opportunity to take advantage of is batting practice. THAT’S your game for that day; your opportunity to get better. That’s how you ready yourself for your chance when the lights go on. For the backup who only gets in when the game is out of hand, your lone at bat when your team is down by seven is your opportunity to take advantage of. It may seem like a meaningless AB to everyone else, but to you, it carries meaning. When you take advantage of one opportunity, others generally follow.

During this unprecedented time in our history, in a way, Coronavirus has turned us all into Joe Waleck. Like him, none of us know for sure when our number will be called again. But just like he came off the bench in a key point in the game, it’s up to us to be ready for when that moment comes.


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.


 Staying Baseball-Ready
(8/17/2020)
 
   

Staying Baseball-Ready


Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard


Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopaedic Surgeon at Duke University, discusses how to stay baseball-ready without organized baseball during COVID-19. 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.


 Pick by the First Baseman After Tricky Throw
(8/16/2020)
 
   

Pick by the First Baseman After Tricky Throw


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow highlights a pick by the first baseman after a tricky throw from the shortstop.


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.


 6 Ways You Can Help Resolve a Coach-Athlete Conflict
(8/12/2020)
 
   

6 Ways Parents Can Help Their Athlete Resolve a Coach-Athlete Conflict


Tips for smooth coach-parent communication when it comes to conflict


When a young athlete has a conflict with their coach, it’s often hard for parents to know exactly how to handle it. It’s tempting to immediately interfere and email the coach on behalf of your child, but that’s not always the best solution for your growing athlete.

Helping your athlete advocate for themselves and deal with conflict head-on, rather than relying on you to have the hard conversations, is going to be better for your child in the long-term. Nadia Kyba, MSW, TrueSport Expert and President of Now What Facilitation, shared these tips for smooth coach-parent communication when it comes to conflict.

Open Lines of Communication Early

Ideally, a coach will have a meeting with parents of players earlier in the season, but if the coach doesn’t organize one, consider asking to set one up. Kyba explains that this early discussion of what the season looks like, how the coach approaches conflict, and the best ways to communicate with him or her can avoid conflict entirely or provide a script for how to deal with it when it does happen.

“Having that meeting at the beginning of the season can let you and the coach discuss expectations about how to manage conflicts, as well as setting boundaries around certain communication methods and meeting times.” She adds that a good rule is to avoid meeting or communicating with a coach within 24 hours of a competition or race to allow time for all parties to cool off from any conflicts.

Coaches Are People Too

Remember, coaches have a lot of demands on their time, and at the school sport level, likely aren’t getting paid much to lead the team. There is a lot of pressure on them, and parents often forget this when they feel their athletes are being ignored or under-appreciated.

“Sometimes, it's a full-time job just managing the parents,” Kyba notes. “I’ve seen many coaches who are so generous with their time, they're so committed and passionate, and they just want to coach – but actually what they're doing is getting bombarded by emails from parents.”

Before you send an annoyed email, bear in mind that your child may be dealing with a conflict, but the coach is likely inundated with other issues as well.

Watch Your Temper

This applies to both how you approach a coach and how you speak to your athlete about the coach, says Kyba. It’s likely that you’re inclined to side with your child in a conflict situation but remember that insulting the coach in front of your athlete encourages them to lose respect for the coach as well.

"We all have people we don't really like, but we still need to respect or get along with them, and that's an important lesson for kids to learn from you,” says Kyba. Additionally, yelling at a coach is likely going to embarrass your child more than it helps them.

Encourage Your Athlete to Communicate Directly with The Coach

Taking matters into your own hands rather than letting the athlete handle coach communication is common for parents, says Kyba. But unfortunately, it’s rarely effective: Coaches are less likely to want to help an athlete whose parent is always speaking for them, and are much more likely to be impressed by an athlete who communicates directly.

“When your child is empowered to manage the conflict, it’s better for them in the long-term,” says Kyba. You can help your athlete practice the hard conversations, but let your child learn to handle conflict.

Write It Out

Teach your child to understand what his conflict or complaint actually is, and what resolution he would like to see.

“The script I use is simple: You describe the issue. Then, you name what you're feeling about it. Then, you talk about your need. And finally, what is your request?” Kyba explains. Sometimes, the final request will show that the conflict isn’t with the coach at all but is about the athlete needing to do something differently. Gaining clarity before asking for a meeting will help avoid making the conflict bigger.

Know When to go to The Administration

It’s important to remember that there are personality-based conflicts, such as disagreement over which player is starting in a game or a problem with a certain aspect of practice, that should be worked out between the coach and the athlete. But there are others, where an athlete feels bullied or there’s any type of physical or emotional harassment, that should be addressed to the proper authorities immediately. When personal safety and mental health are at risk, as a parent, you need to seek outside help and shouldn’t feel conflicted about doing so.


Try and look at the big picture before asking for a meeting with the coach – or sending an angry email in the heat of the moment.

Kyba recommends pressing pause and waiting a full 24 hours to cool down before taking the next step. Often, that distance will allow you and your athlete to tame feelings of anger and have a more rational discussion. You might even find that the entire conflict will seem a lot less serious the next day.


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.


 Consistency
(8/11/2020)
 
   

Consistency


Cuddyer's Corner
By Michael Cuddyer


Former Major Leaguer Michael Cuddyer discusses how consistency in baseball is key. 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.


 Pitcher Covers First Base After Diving Stop
(8/2/2020)
 
   

Pitcher Covers First Base After Diving Stop


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses a pitcher covering first base after a diving stop by 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.


 Post-Workout Fueling
(7/22/2020)
 
   

Post-Workout Fueling


Tips to restore glycogen levels after a workout


After a hard practice, your student athlete is probably feeling exhausted and hungry—and it may be best if they don’t wait until the next meal before refueling!

TrueSport Expert Kristen Ziesmer, a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, explains exactly what and when your athlete needs to eat after practice..

Refuel within 30 minutes

This can be tricky for parents of young athletes, since often, you’re picking your student up from practice and heading home to dinner in a couple of hours.

"I remember being at the end of those practices, I could eat a horse because I was so hungry, but I didn't really think about eating a whole lot during the practice,” Ziesmer recalls..

It’s tempting to just wait until dinner, but she adds that eating within 30 minutes is ideal for young athletes because that's when they are "most like sponges," so they're really going to soak up all the nutrients. Remember, it can be a smaller snack and your athlete shouldn’t be skipping dinner as a result of the post-workout meal.

Focus on protein and carbohydrates

"The primary goal of post-workout fueling is to get those amino acids back into your muscles to restore glycogen levels in muscles, which means eating protein and carbohydrates,” Ziesmer explains.

The ratio of protein to carbohydrates depends on what type of sport your athlete is in – endurance or power. If your child is doing more running and aerobic exercise, opt for a four-to-one ratio of carbohydrate to protein. An example of this is roughly 40-45 grams of carbohydrates to 10 grams of protein, so a piece of fruit, two servings of crackers, and two light string cheeses.

But if your athlete is in a more explosive sport that has sprinting or lifting, aim for a three-to-one ratio. An example of this is about 30 grams of carbohydrates to 10 grams of protein, or two servings of crackers and two light string cheeses.

Keep easy options on hand

Have a water bottle ready and waiting post-practice (or make sure your athlete has one in their gym bag). Bear in mind, your child doesn’t need a protein shake packed with supplements, and in fact, supplements are not advised for young athletes, even for pre-workout fueling.

Ziesmer is an advocate for whole-food snacks whenever possible. Here are a few of her easy favorites:

• 16 ounces of chocolate milk and a medium banana
• Half of a turkey sandwich with a handful of pretzels
• Muffin – any kind, with 16 ounces of low-fat milk
• 1-2 granola bars with either a sports drink or watered-down juice
• Cooked oatmeal with low-fat milk, raisins, chopped nuts, and maple syrup

She adds that most of these options are easily available, even from convenience stores or gas stations, which means there’s no reason your athlete can’t be properly fueled post-practice.

Mix up carbohydrate sources

Ziesmer remembers seeing a father give his daughter a half-gallon of orange juice post-practice and shudders at the thought. “We have multiple sugar receptors, so just eating fruit as your carbohydrate post-workout is not ideal,” she explains. “That’s because fruit is a quick digesting carbohydrate, but you need some slow absorbing carbohydrates as well. Additionally, having too much fruit can really upset an athlete's stomach. Aim for combinations, like a grain with a fruit, for example."

Don’t skip dinner

Ziesmer notes that for four hours after practice, your young athlete should be refueling slowly and steadily, meaning that post-workout snack is only the beginning. “They really need to be eating about 1 to 1.2 grams per kilogram per hour of carbohydrate to refuel after a hard practice,” she explains. “That can be the after-practice snack and then dinner and then even a bedtime snack.”

For instance, your athlete could have chocolate milk post-practice for carbohydrates and protein, followed by a dinner of chicken, brown rice, and sautéed vegetables. They can finish off the night with a small bowl of oatmeal with dried fruit and peanut butter for a combination of carbohydrate sources, proteins, and a small amount of healthy fats.



Your athletes know what foods and meals make them feel good as they recover from practice or competition, so encourage them to remain accountable for their sports nutrition.

Ziesmer concludes, “Remember, if you don't eat before exercise, then you're performing that much less well and you're burning even less energy. And then, if you skip that and your post-workout fueling, you often wind up over-eating later, as well as feeling extra fatigued and more susceptible to injuries and illness.”



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.


 Sliding Injuries
(7/20/2020)
 
   

Sliding Injuries


Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard


Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopedic Surgeon at Duke University, discusses what is known about sliding injuries so that players can stay safe on the bases. 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.


 Perfect Throw and Tag
(7/19/2020)
 
   

Perfect Throw and Tag


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses a perfect throw and tag to eliminate a baserunner.


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.


 Finding an Edge
(7/16/2020)
 
   

Finding an Edge


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


For all the wrong reasons, the Astros were the talk of the off-season. Following an extensive investigation by the Commissioner’s Office, it was found that Houston had implemented a system that illegally enabled their hitters to know what pitch was coming, giving them a distinct advantage over their opponents en-route to a World Series title in 2017. Well before technology, analytics, and data were even on baseball’s radar, players and coaches have been looking for an edge as long as the game has been around. The Astros just took it to a whole ‘nother level, going leaps and bounds beyond the appropriate line of gamesmanship within the game.

Players and teams who are constantly looking for even the slightest of edges are able to separate themselves from the pack when they find it. The edge is about the smallest of details; and for those with the eyes and the mind to find it, an edge can be found all over the game.

From 2006-2011, as a member of the coaching staff at Rutgers University, I was responsible for creating scouting reports for all of our opponents. In addition to developing a plan of attack based on the overall stat lines for the opposing players, we also compiled additional information and tendencies that were potentially valuable while easily able to be implemented in game by our players and coaches. Knowing a few of these different things and finding a way to use that information could help us on every side of the ball.

Looking at a spray chart to know where to position our infielders might just enable us to make a play defensively that otherwise may have gotten through for a hit. It may allow a pitcher to get ahead in a big at bat in a key moment to know that the hitter was not a first-pitch swinger. It might open a window for us to get a stolen base on a pitcher’s slow delivery or stretch an extra 90-feet against a weak-armed outfielder. All of those types of edges add up, and over the course of a game and a season, they add up to wins.

The eyes can also create an edge by simply paying close attention. For decades, baserunners, when on second base, have worked to subtly relay pitches to the hitter by intently watching a catcher’s sign sequence. This is essentially what the Astros got in trouble for, only they didn’t use their eyes from second base; they used a camera from centerfield. Similarly, the keenest of eyes can pick up when a pitcher may be tipping his pitches by seeing the most minute difference from pitch to pitch.

For as detailed and challenging as getting pitches may be for a lineup, when out in the field, that edge can be gained much easier. Foul balls tell a story for the defense. When a hitter is clearly late against a hard-throwing pitcher, infielders and outfielders should clearly see that and position themselves a few steps to the opposite field. Pitchers can get a leg up against a hitter by reading swings; was the batter completely fooled by a change-up? Then it might be a good idea to throw it again. Baserunners may get a great jump on a dirt ball when realizing that the pitcher always throws one when he gets to two strikes. All of these tiny, little edges add up, especially when everyone on the team is looking for them.

Finding an edge is all about preparation off the field and in the dugout, allowing players and coaches to anticipate when the game comes around. Information enables those in the game to take the guess work out of it. With all of the variables that can occur over the course of an inning, a game, and a season, every pitch can be a crapshoot. The more variables we can eliminate, the easier we can make a really, really hard sport.



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.


 Pre-Workout Fueling
(7/8/2020)
 
   

Pre-Workout Fueling


Improve performance by eating at the right time before a workout


Young student-athletes are often faced with a tough challenge when rushing to practice after school. How do you fuel for a practice or workout with limited time and when lunch is often hours before the final bell rings?

TrueSport Expert Kristen Ziesmer, a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, shares what parents and coaches need to know about pre-workout fueling for middle and high school athletes.

Understand youth energy needs

“Kids' energy needs are a double-edged sword,” says Ziesmer. “Because of their metabolism and everything going on in their bodies as they develop, their energy needs are going to be higher per kilogram of body weight as opposed to an adult. But because they weigh less, their caloric needs will still often be less than an adult.”

Any time you’re trying to calculate caloric needs, especially when it comes to pre-workout carbohydrate needs, the amount per kilogram of body weight that they need is higher than an adult would need. You can use this handy table to get a sense of your child’s needs based on age and sex, but it will vary slightly based on weight. Ziesmer also notes that you might be shocked by how much your athlete needs. Between the energy cost of the workout and the daily requirements for a growing body, they really are burning through those calories.

Hydration matters

Hydration needs are also a bit higher, due to the fact that children have more surface area on their body proportionate to their weight, so they dehydrate faster than adults do. Ziesmer notes that kids, and even teens, are not as aware of hunger or thirst cues, especially during play (or practice). Make sure your athlete is always equipped with a water bottle at school and encourage them to sip steadily throughout the day rather than chugging a liter of water just before practice.

Tell your athlete to eat early

It can be tricky with school schedules and rules around eating in class, but your athlete does need to pre-fuel for practice, especially for practices like cross-country running where energy expenditure is high.

If lunch is early in the day – more than three hours ahead of practice, then Ziesmer recommends, “An hour before practice is good for a small snack because that gives your athlete time to digest their food. When eating an hour before, you need roughly one gram of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight. So, if an athlete is 150 pounds, or 68 kilograms, then they need approximately 68 grams of carbs, 5-10g protein. A sample snack would be 8 ounces of 100 percent fruit juice, 1 serving of whole grain crackers, and 1 tablespoon of peanut butter or 1 light string cheese.”

Skip protein bars

"I am not opposed to a Clif Bar, for example, because it’s whole foods that are compressed into bar form,” Ziesmer says. “But I definitely advise against bars that are packed with protein and chemicals, like a Quest bar.” In addition to the highly processed nature of bars, a lot of these bars are marketed for sports but are actually protein-based, so they aren’t ideal for eating ahead of practice.

“The problem with protein bars is if an athlete is eating too much protein before practice, then the stomach is really too busy trying to digest that food,” she explains. “A lot of the athlete's blood is now in the intestines trying to digest the food rather than being delivered to working muscles, which is going to sink the performance."

Aim for whole foods

Ziesmer urges parents to provide whole food options whenever possible in order to ensure that your young athlete doesn’t begin to depend on processed snacks. “It is really hard to get a good balance of macronutrients in a bar, and real food is just a better choice due to digestibility and nutrient content” she adds. Some options that should be easy for your athlete to eat between classes include:

• Half a bagel with nut butter
• Pita with hummus
• Yogurt with fruit and granola
• Half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich
• Half of a turkey sandwich
• Handful of pretzels with some watered-down fruit juice

Encourage your athlete to eat the right foods at the right time before a workout for improved performance and decreased likelihood of fatigue and injury.



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.