Sport Performance and Mental Skills Resources

 The Importance of Using Data and Technology in the Player Development Process
(6/14/2022)
 
   

The Importance of Using Data and Technology in the Player Development Process


By Jim Koerner


Data and technology are revolutionizing how competitive sports are being played. Teams and organizations are receiving and inputting data at lightning speed. In baseball, we’ve seen major advancements from how we evaluate and develop players to actual in-game decision making. In what, for decades, used to be a mostly subjective, feeling-involved occupation, baseball now applies real time data to all facets of the game. Let’s look at why data and technology are important, and how they can be added to your daily player development process.

10 benefits to Using Data and Technology in Your Player Development Plans:

1. Identifies Areas of Improvement:
All players have inefficiencies and areas that need improvement. Player development can be more efficient when these areas are identified through objective measures. What does good horizontal movement on a slider look like? Do the fastball and change-up have enough separation? Does the barrel spend enough time in the zone? The development process is only as good as the evaluation process. Technology helps ensure the efficiency and accuracy of these processes.

2. Reinforces Areas of Strength:
Not all player development lives in the world of what’s wrong. Reinforcing positive movement patterns is a strong developmental technique. The appropriate technology and data collection can assist in keeping players doing the right thing more often.

3. Strengthens Arguments for Change and Improves Communication:
Visual reinforcement is a powerful tool when communicating about adjustment with players. With the increased access to information across multiple media platforms, players can now be more informed than ever before. Factual data and visual recordings make the buy-in process more influential.

4. Allows For Real Time Feedback and Adjustments:
The ability to capitalize on teachable moments is priceless in the player development world. Having insistent feedback and replay on a singular pitch or swing can allow a player to make immediate adjustments. This is a place where the “real” vs. “feel” worlds can assimilate.

5. Ensures Accuracy:
There is nothing worse than being wrong when it comes to player development. To suggest a change and then spend countless hours working towards it, only to see minimal or zero return can be debilitating. Sensors, apps, ball tracking devises, and video review keep us going in the right direction.

6. Tracks Progress:
Simply put, there is no better way to track progress than through data collection. Data eliminates any subjective assessment of improvement, which is especially important if the actual need for improvement doesn’t exist.

7. Separates Style from Technique:
There are a lot of instructors/coaches that make changes with their players because of the way something looks. As long as style isn’t affecting technique, these adjustments aren’t necessary. Technology can help prevent coaches from making unnecessary changes.

8. Holds Players Accountable:
There are numerous ways accountability can play a role. A simple tool, such as a pocket radar, can immensely enhance the productivity of your batting practice. Having players take rounds that are within +/- 3 of their maximum is a great way to ensure proper intent with each swing.

9. Saves Time:
Beginning with the player evaluation, and continuing through the execution of the plan, all areas in baseball technology and data collection are quantified. If progress continues, the process continues, if progress stops, we adjust.

10. Enhances Overall Goal Setting Process:
Goal setting is crucial to producing results. A player or coach can’t manage what they can’t measure, and you can’t expect improvement is you can’t manage. The popular goal setting acronym S.M.A.R.T stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time sensitive. To execute this process without data and some type of corresponding technology to collect it, is difficult.

How to implement Data and Technology Through Goal Setting (S.M.A.R.T+)

*SMART+ is my way of adding an application method to the goal-setting process.

Let’s look at a fairly simple example. You have a player that’s new to your program. After a couple weeks of practice, you believe that your player sits on his back leg while hitting and produces a lot of unproductive fly balls. Since you’ve been using a bat sensor during your batting practice sessions, you now have two weeks' worth of data at your disposal. After reviewing the data, you conclude that the swing metrics match your observations. This player averages 15-18 degrees on his attack angle. Based on your players physical profile, you both agree its best if he could work in the 8-12 degree range. While you’re going to continue to monitor each swing on a daily basis (for coachable moments), after three weeks, it’s your belief he should be averaging at least in the upper ranges of the agreed upon range.

SMART+ Test:
(S)pecific- Yes, you and the player are focused on adjusting the attack angle of the swing to a range more suitable for his body type.
(M)easureable- Yes, you are using a bat sensor that provides quantitative data.
(A)ttainable- Yes, while his swing has some upward lift, he is not far from swinging in an ideal range for his body type.
(R)ealistic- Yes, your player is a good athlete that has shown an aptitude for adjustment.
(T)ime Sensitive- Yes, in three weeks you want to see this player consistently in the desired range.

Types of Technology and Data Collection

There is potential for data and technology collection within many types of programs. While it would be great if everyone could have Edgertronic Cameras, Rapsodo, or Trackman, budgetary concerns play a role.

Here are a few low budget options that would work for various programs:

- Stopwatch (the best piece of low-priced technology every coach should use)
- Radar Gun
- Pocket Radar
- Diamond Kinetic Pitch Tracker
- Bat sensors
- Hudl Technique app (one example of a cost-effective app you can get on your device)
- Smart Phone (video, camera, apps)
- Manual charts (if you can chart it, I recommend doing so)
- Player journals (goal tracking, weight gain/loss, nutrition habits, general well-being)

By applying the appropriate data and technology to our player development models, we can streamline the efficiency at which we work. As coaches, we owe it to our players to provide the best possible solutions to their developmental needs.



Jim Koerner is currently the Director of Player Development at USA Baseball. Koerner has 21 years of college coaching experience, including 18 years at the D1 level. He spent 13 years as a college head coach, with ten as an NCAA D1 head coach. Koerner has coached over 30 MLB draft or professional Free Agent Signees, 11 All-Americans, 4 Conference Players of the Year, 4 Conference Rookies of the Year, 2 Conference Pitchers of the Year, and over 60 All-Conference selections. Additionally, Koerner is a 2x Conference Coach of the Year and 2021 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Southern Division Champion..

 


 Sudden Cardiac Death in Young Athletes
(6/15/2022)
 
   

Sudden Cardiac Death in Young Athletes


Kevin Gorey, MS
Senior Director, US Council for Athletes’ Health (USCAH)


**Sensitive Content: This article depicts instances of sudden death of children and may be sensitive to some readers.**


What Causes Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) in Young Athletes?

Most cases of SCD in young athletes are due to hidden heart defects or overlooked heart abnormalities. These deaths usually occur during practice or games. Another condition that can cause SCD is commotio cordis. Unrelated to any pre-existing heart conditions and caused by blunt cardiac injury, it accounts for approximately 20% of sudden cardiac deaths.

What is commotio cordis?

Commotio cordis occurs when a person is hit in the chest and that impact triggers a dramatic change in the rhythm of their heart. A projectile, such as a batted or thrown baseball, can cause a blow to the chest that results in commotio cordis. Researchers have found in animal studies that the optimum speed for a baseball to cause commotio cordis is only about 40 miles per hour. Many baseball pitchers can easily throw at that speed.

Keep in mind that optimum speed does not mean the minimum speed. There is a documented case where a father underhand-tossed a softball to his 6-year-old son at a picnic. The ball skimmed off the child’s glove, hit him in the chest, and caused a fatal cardiac arrest.

This may explain why that in most reported cases of commotio cordis, sudden death follows a seemingly benign blow to the chest. In these situations, witnesses have generally believed that the blow to the chest wasn’t hard enough to cause a serious injury.

What is the incidence of commotio cordis?

The U.S. Commotio Cordis Registry in Minneapolis, MN tracks cases of commotio cordis and has documented over 250 occurrences since its formation. Approximately 10-20 events are added to the registry every year. The actual incidence is believed to be greater, though, due to lack of recognition and underreporting.

Commotio cordis occurs most frequently in young people under the age of 18 during sports activities. The most recent data indicates that 53% of the victims were engaged in organized competitive athletics, while the rest were involved in normal daily activities (23%) or recreational sports (24%).

Healthy young athletes are especially at risk because of the pliability of their chest walls. One study of 55 cases of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) found that 90% were 16 years old or younger. All were playing sports either organized or informally. None of these children showed evidence of any heart defect or disease.

Typically, when a young athlete collapses on the field, people are confused and unsure of what to do. This confusion delays necessary treatment and lowers the chance of survival.

Can These Sudden Cardiac Deaths Be Prevented?

The only true prevention of commotio cordis is to eliminate blows to the chest, so realistically there is no way to prevent it in sports like baseball.

The only proven prevention strategy for SCD is through emergency preparedness. Use of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) dramatically increases survival rates if used within minutes of a collapse.

With defibrillation (use of AED) at one minute, the survival rate can be as high as 90%. Within 5 minutes, the survival rate can be as high as 50%. The survival rate of SCA decreases 7-10% for every additional minute that passes without defibrillation. By the time the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) typically arrive (9-12 minutes), the survival rate drops to 5%.

Importance of Emergency Action Plans


Emergency action plans are a critical component of the emergency response program for any sports team or organization. Not only should they be updated as often as necessary, but they also need to be readily accessible at all practice and game facilities.

The one action that can prevent deaths from sudden cardiac arrest is responding quickly and appropriately. Part of that response includes knowing CPR and having access to a functional AED.
Training parents, umpires, coaches and other staff to recognize commotio cordis, provide basic life support, and respond quickly is essential to a successful outcome. All coaches and staff should be trained in CPR and AED administration annually.

The sudden, unexpected death of a young athlete is a tragedy. It not only affects family and friends, but it also affects the coaches, players, league and entire community. It is natural for everyone to wonder what could have been done to prevent this sudden cardiac death. Now we know.

 **For more information about keeping your athlete safe during baseball season, check out USA Baseball’s Health and Safety Resources.**

Resources:
https://www.healthline.com/health/commotio-cordis
http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/902504-overview
http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/125/20/2511.full

Kevin Gorey is a Senior Director at the U.S. Council for Athletes’ Health (USCAH). Kevin brings extensive experience from both commercial health care and sports medicine to the USCAH team. His three-decades long professional experience has produced high-level results for the organizations he has had the privilege to work with.


The U.S. Council for Athletes' Health (USCAH) was founded upon the need for trusted, independent athletic health care partners with the experience and expertise to advise and consult with organizations regarding their healthcare delivery system. This is why USCAH is committed to providing independent and unbiased medical expertise to organizations and individuals dedicated to the optimal health and safety for the athletes they serve. You can find out more about USCAH at www.uscah.com or by reaching out to [email protected]


 Developing Your Offense & Hitters While Maximizing Team Batting Practice Time (Part II)
(5/31/2022)
 
   

Balancing the Development of Your Offense & Hitters While Maximizing Team Batting Practice Time (Part II)


By Jim Koerner


View part 1 here.

Organizing Your Batting Practice Groups
The organization of your batting practice groups can go a long way towards your practice efficiency. There are multiple ways this can be accomplished. Left or right-handed batters, by position, similar mechanical deficiencies, or the type of hitter are most popular. You can script a batting practice routine that suits their individual needs by categorizing your hitters. An example would be:

Run Produces: These are the elite players in your lineup you rely on to drive in runs. They are typically your middle-of-the-order hitters that have power potential. These players won’t be using small ball concepts (bunt, hit and run, slash, backside groundball, etc...) or will be using them infrequently. You can now either completely eliminate these reps from their batting practice plan or limit the number of reps.

Gap to Gap: This group might have some of the same qualities as the Run Producers but also have the need to execute the short game when needed. Practice reps would be adjusted accordingly.

Table Setters: These hitters will be relied upon to sacrifice bunt, bunt for hits, hit and run, run and hit, and slash. More attention to these specific skills should be emphasized, but it doesn’t mean broader hitting concepts are ignored.

Don’t force hitters into certain categories just to check a box. Just because a player bats fourth doesn’t necessarily mean he’s elite. You may end up with all Gap to Gap groups or more Table Setters.

Smaller groups also keep players more active. Groups of five would be the maximum. Groups of 3 or 4 are ideal. This gives each hitter an ample rest period but not so much downtime that they become stagnant.

Repetitions and Rounds
There are two proven effective training methods, Random and Blocked. Both methods can serve a purpose during batting practice, but studies prove that randomized training translates better game performance. Random training is never performing the exact same skill twice. For example, while hitting off a tee, you would adjust location and height after each swing, or in the batting cage, you would follow a gap to gap swing with a hit and run. Blocked training (repeating the exact same movement) is effective when reinforcing a specific feel for a hitter, whether a round of all hit and run execution or setting up a tee exclusively low and away.

How you approach each repetition and round also plays a role in game simulation. Each round should consist of no more than five swings. Anything beyond this point, fatigue sets in, and the quality of the repetition diminishes. More consistency and success can be found in rounds of 3 or 4, with a small rest in between each repetition. This is more game-like and allows for maximum focus and intent.
Rounds of 1 are also highly recommended to simulate game conditions. Tiering your rounds can also be effective. This allows you to accomplish different objectives throughout a session. This would look like this: 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1.



Drill Stations and Structure
Facilities, equipment, and time play a large role in what can be accomplished during batting practice. Here are examples of different stations that can be used to construct your ideal batting practice routine using the principles mentioned above:

Tee (Cage): A lower-pressurized opportunity where a coach can incorporate an individualized component to a routine. If there is a specific feel or mechanical adjustment a player is working through, you can set it up here. If a player has a specific routine they like to complete; this station is also a good place. If you believe you need more time to work on general concepts related to Decision Making, Contact, or Power, that can be accomplished as well.

Intent Swings (Light bat/Heavy bat) - Power

Target Tee Swings- Contact

Walk-up Drill w. Timing- Power and Contact

Shuffle- Power

Step Backs- Power

Front Toss (Cage): An Area where you can blend competitive drills with developmental concepts. If you’re incorporating a bat speed program or using different weighted and length hitting tools, this is an area that serves both purposes well.

Off-Set Angles (Front Toss) - Contact

Velocity (Overhand- short distance) - Power, Contact, and Decision Making

Mix (Overhand-short distance): Contact and Decision Making (Pitch Recognition)

Short bat (Front Toss) - Contact

Heavy bat/Light Bat (Front Toss) – Power, Contact

*Decision making can be incorporated into any one of these drills using the 1-6 zones discussed earlier

On-Field: Typically, on-field hitting is where I would like to get the most competitive and challenging. Increasing the pressure to perform in the same environment that game competition takes place further enhances the hitter’s comfort level in the batter’s box.

Velo Machine (Overload training)- Power, Contact, Decision Making

Breaking Ball Machine- Contact, Decision Making

Open and Closed Angle- Contact, Decision Making

Count Management (>2K, <2K) - Power, Contact, Decision Making

Situational Hitting- Power, Contact, Decision Making

Random Mix (FB/BB, FB/CH) - Power, Contact, Decision Making (Pitch Recognition)

2K Approach- Contact, Decision Making

Generate a Run Rounds (Group or Individual) - Power, Contact, Decision Making

Environment Constraints- Power, Contact, Decision Making

Multiple Plate Breaking Ball (Machine) - Contact, Decision Making

Multiple Plate Fastball (Machine or arm) - Power, Contact, Decision Making

Feel Good BP

Other Potential Stations:
Bunting
*Can be completed behind the backstop when the hitter leaves the on-field batting cage in between rounds, or it can be a separate station in an outfield corner. Using a bunting station on the side allows you to eliminate bunting on the field. Now you can use those reps for more swings.

Standing In – Decision Making and Pitch Recognition
*Any bullpens that need to be completed can have a batter standing in calling out pitch type upon recognition. The hitter can also use a simple yes or no call if he would swing or not.

Video Review
*Once the hitter leaves the cage, he can look at the previous round to evaluate

Vision Training Apps
*There are numerous vision training and pitch tracking apps that can used between rounds

Calling out Zones:
*Having the previous hitter stand behind home plate, calling out what zone the ball crossed to reinforce if the hitter swung at the proper pitch. This reinforces plate awareness for both players involved.

Non-hitting Stations:
Defense and Baserunning groups are both major aspects that can be incorporated into batting practice.
Live reads for the infield and outfield are arguably the greatest training tool available for defensive skill acquisition. This is also true for our base runners.


 
This example of a batting practice plan would be posted in the dugout or someplace that all the players on your team have access to it. It would be expected that each player has an understanding of their responsibilities for each station. Depending on roster size, facility access, and equipment, anything can be added or subtracted. In this example, groups were broken down by position (not by classification as in the previous example). Your structure will depend on the level of value you place on each skill.

Conclusion:
When structuring your team batting practice sessions, it is important to strike the appropriate balance between developing your offense and developing hitters. These are two separate aspects with overlaying principles that need our attention. By creating a challenging and competitive culture that is also organized and detailed, using various training instruments, we will develop our hitters into better movers and decision-makers.



Jim Koerner is currently the Director of Player Development at USA Baseball. Koerner has 21 years of college coaching experience, including 18 years at the D1 level. He spent 13 years as a college head coach, with ten as an NCAA D1 head coach. Koerner has coached over 30 MLB draft or professional Free Agent Signees, 11 All-Americans, 4 Conference Players of the Year, 4 Conference Rookies of the Year, 2 Conference Pitchers of the Year, and over 60 All-Conference selections. Additionally, Koerner is a 2x Conference Coach of the Year and 2021 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Southern Division Champion..

 


 Developing Your Offense & Hitters (Part I)
(5/24/2022)
 
   

Developing Your Offense & Hitters While Maximizing Team Batting Practice Time (Part 1)


By Jim Koerner


Some coaches deem batting practice the most important segment of their training session. If a typical team practice takes three hours to execute, batting practice usually occupies at least a third of that time. With such a large portion of training time dedicated to this skill, coaches need to ensure the execution of this segment is completed with the utmost efficiency and productivity. Multiple layers need to be considered when constructing your batting practice plan. This article will define philosophy, cover specific hitting concepts, and detail the integration into a batting practice model.

What is the Team Philosophy?

Before a coach can put together a player development model that can serve the needs of the team, they must first define what they believe is important. More specifically, a coach needs to fully understand his team's make-up and how his personnel is best suited to win games. At higher levels (college), some of this is controlled through the recruiting process and can be consistent from year to year. Coaches will recruit players that fit their offensive style. For example, the small ball game might be more important to some than others. Therefore you may see more players capable of using the hit and run or bunt as offensive weapons. Other universities might be more power-oriented and recruit more physicality. This helps when allocating precious practice time and repetitions. Why spend hours on sacrifice bunting when you know you're only going to do it ten times a season? At the high school level, the team's make-up is more likely to vary somewhat from year to year, and at the youth level, a more universalized approach should be stressed for all players to understand every concept.

It is also important to have a firm understanding of your offensive goals and how you want to achieve them. This helps keep you and your team focused on what is important. Scoring the runner from third base with less than two out (infield up, infield back, runners at second and third with one out or no outs, or bases loaded), two-out RBI's, two-strike approach, free bases (walks and HBP's), moving runners, quality at-bats, and the ability to string together consecutive quality AB's, along with all other situational hitting (all bunts, hit and run, run and hit, and slash) are areas that you might find important. If so, you need to find a way to make them a part of your daily or weekly routines.

Having both of these areas clearly defined will allow you to cycle through and allocate the appropriate practice days and repetitions necessary to excel at those skills.

What is your hitting philosophy?

There is a difference between a team philosophy on generating offense and a philosophy on what's important when it comes to hitting. To be clear, I am not speaking about swing mechanics but rather general concepts that will define success for every hitter. Over the years, I've outlined three areas that I believe bring value to our everyday batting practice routines. These three concepts are decision-making, contact, and power. Sometimes these three work independently, but many times they blend together. Batting practice routines should reflect the importance of these concepts on a daily basis. While the point of emphasis might vary from day to day, the underlying concepts are the same.

Decision Making: This is arguably the most important concept when developing good hitters. Players with strong strike-zone management skills are most likely the same players with high contact rates, higher on-base percentage, and more maximum exit velocity swings. Great decision-making also leads to a greater ability to execute an individual's plan (situational hitting) and to maximize one's own strengths and weaknesses. Pitch recognition also needs to play a role in the Decision-Making development process. The early ability to recognize spin directly impacts the swing decision. This is something that can and should be trained. An easy daily Decision-Making tool would be to have your home plate divided into six different hitting zones. These zones would be numbered across the plate 1-6 from the inside corner to the outside corner. Another way to accomplish this would be to place six baseballs across the front of home plate.
Each baseball represents a different zone. Now you can structure batting practice rounds based on the zones you want your hitters to attack. If the hitter swings at a pitch outside the required zone, he leaves the cage. This creates discipline and structure when progressing through your rounds. You can also have batting practice rounds that force your hitters to only swing at one type of pitch. Now you are layering in a pitch recognition element. For example, the BP thrower is working a fastball/curveball mix while the coach wants the hitter to attack zones 2-5 on the plate, only swinging at fastballs.

Contact: In its simplest form, contact is the ability to consistently put the bat's barrel on the ball. We have all heard terms like, "He has a feel for the barrel" or he has "barrel control." These terms describe the hitter's adjustability in the swing. Adjustability in the swing is the hitter's aptitude to hit on multiple pitch planes and adjust to multiple speed differentials. Incorporating multiple bat weights and lengths into a batting practice routine is a great way to promote swing adjustability. Over time, the body will learn to organize itself to allow the barrel to find the ball. These different size and weighted bats can be used during all types of hitting drills.

Power: Power can be a relative term and is not exclusive to hitting home runs or extra-base hits. I define power as the ability to maximize exit velocity and bat speed on an individual level. Mechanics and physicality aside, "power" is developed through swing intent, timing, approach, and count management. I recommend getting baseline exit velocities and bat speed readings on all your players. Once baseline averages are established, bat sensors are a great way to keep hitters accountable during batting practice. If the program doesn't have bat sensors, a radar gun can be used to track exit velocity. Batting practice rounds that consist of the player being required to work within +/- 5 MPH's of their maximum is a great way to manage the consistency of swing intent. It also layers in Decision-Making qualities.

Challenging and Competitive

It has been well documented how challenging it is to hit a baseball. This needs to be reflected in the way we train. If you want to excel at hitting 75 MPH fastballs, train in the 75-80 range to achieve the desired outcome. If success against pitchers that reach velocities of 90 or greater is important, then the training should reflect the objective. Obviously, this is age-dependent, but the point remains the same. Hitters swing and miss, get fooled and strike out at all levels. If this never occurs during batting practice, the training is not challenging enough. Failure is both a mental and physical part of development and needs to be dealt with at the practice level before you can expect your hitter to succeed on game day.
The use of pitching machines for all off-speed pitches, high-velocity fastballs, randomizing angles, over-training, and incorporating environment constraints (i.e., setting up cones in the gaps) are some examples of challenging batting practice. If you can chart it, then do so. Charting and tracking batting practice success gives a competitive element to each session and reinforces the development process, and shows progress. Examples of hitting drills that can be charted include situational round execution rates, hard contact percentages, exit velocities, and target tee drills. I recommend posting results after each practice so players understand where they stand relative to their teammates.

Tune in to Part 2, coming May 31, to learn more about organizing batting practice groups, repetitions and rounds, drill stations, and structures.




Jim Koerner is currently the Director of Player Development at USA Baseball. Koerner has 21 years of college coaching experience, including 18 years at the D1 level. He spent 13 years as a college head coach, with ten as an NCAA D1 head coach. Koerner has coached over 30 MLB draft or professional Free Agent Signees, 11 All-Americans, 4 Conference Players of the Year, 4 Conference Rookies of the Year, 2 Conference Pitchers of the Year, and over 60 All-Conference selections. Additionally, Koerner is a 2x Conference Coach of the Year and 2021 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Southern Division Champion..

 


 The Mental Health of Youth Baseball Players
(5/18/2022)
 
   

The Mental Health of Youth Baseball Players


Supporting psychological well-being in young athletes


Chad Asplund, MD, MPH
Executive Director, US Council for Athletes’ Health

Youth baseball is often the first organized sport that children start to play. Many of the lessons learned from youth baseball will help shape the thought processes regarding organized sports or sports in general for many young people. Organized sports, such as youth baseball, can be such a positive tool to learn things like how to be coached, how to compete, sportsmanship, and how to win or lose. However, there can also be a negative side to organized sports. Too much focus on winning, over-scheduling, and poor parent/fan behavior can create a toxic environment.

Youth sports are no longer the neighborhood pickup games of American lore. In recent years children as young as 6 and 7 are increasingly enrolling in high-level sports programs with professional coaches and year-round competition schedules. By age 13, up to 70% of children have dropped out of organized sports.

Evidence suggests that as young people compete more intensely in sports, gains in mental wellness may be replaced by mental health challenges particular to competitive athletics. Pre-pandemic, up to 20% of college athletes experienced major depression. For young athletes competing at national and international levels, anxiety and depression were 20% to 45% — higher in some cases than those in the age-matched control groups.

Parents are supposed to be the ones teaching good sportsmanship and how to behave, but more often than ever, umpires, coaches, and kids are dealing with tantrums from parents. This bad behavior by parents has led to a shortage of umpires and referees across many organized sports. Experts also say the amount parents invest, not just emotionally from the stands but also financially, adds to the pressure kids are feeling. Further, their actions often lead to a toxic environment in youth sports, when instead, they should be supportive and encouraging.

It is very important that coaches and parents are able to recognize the signs of decreasing mental health in young athletes. These signs include reduced interest in sport or other activities, sleep irregularities, irritability, change in appetite, and poor performance in sports or school. The recent position statement on mental health issues in athletes by the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine notes that the use of cognitive-behavioral therapy was stressed as an effective treatment for anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, and other mental health conditions in the youth athlete population.

Supporting psychological well-being in our young athletes feels especially urgent as we emerge from a pandemic that has probably affected everyone’s mental health in some way. Sports medicine experts are just beginning to seriously study the mental health problems that arise in youth sports, but it’s increasingly evident that constant competition, year-round training, and parental bad behavior can all contribute to worsening mental health in young athletes.


Dr. Chad Asplund is the executive director of USCAH, as well as a sports medicine physician and Professor of Family Medicine and Orthopedics at the Medical College of Georgia. Chad currently serves as the medical director for USA Basketball, and a team physician for USA Hockey, USA Triathlon, and Georgia Southern University. If you have any questions for Dr. Asplund, you can reach him at [email protected]

As a trusted partner with USA Baseball, we are pleased to offer a free online course, "Mental Health in Sport”. To access the free course, please visit www.athleticshealthspace.com and select “Create New Account with Program Code”. Enter your account information and the Program Code: PARENT. Follow the on-screen instructions after you create your account.



The U.S. Council for Athletes' Health (USCAH) was founded upon the need for trusted, independent athletic health care partners with the experience and expertise to advise and consult with organizations regarding their healthcare delivery system. This is why USCAH is committed to providing independent and unbiased medical expertise to organizations and individuals dedicated to the optimal health and safety for the athletes they serve. You can find out more about USCAH at www.uscah.com or by reaching out to [email protected]