Blog

 Sacrifice Bunt to Move Runners Into Scoring Position
(10/25/2020)
 
 
   

Sacrifice Bunt to Move Runners Into Scoring Position


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses a sacrifice bunt that moves two runners into scoring position.


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.


 Why Do Some Athletes Struggle with Body Image?
(10/21/2020)
 
 
   

Why Do Some Athletes Struggle with Body Image?


Tips on how to help with body image


Body image issues in athletes can come from a wide variety of sources: certain sports value specific weights and body types more than others, athletes will deal with puberty in different ways, and some student athletes struggle with control in other areas of their lives, which can lead to body image issues and unhealthy behaviors around food and exercise.

There isn’t one specific type of young athlete who’s at risk. Anyone can struggle with body image issues, and it’s important for parents and coaches to understand the different ways that those issues can be triggered. Here, Melissa Streno, a clinical psychologist who specializes in athletic performance and its intersection with disordered eating and body image issues, explains what might make certain types of athletes more prone to dealing with destructive body image issues. She also offers tips on how you can help.

Girls have higher risk

"Historically, in terms of gender, I think we would we have seen higher numbers of females with the experience of disordered eating, eating disorders, and body image concerns and thoughts,” says Streno. For some perspective, roughly 80 percent of women in the U.S. reportedly are unhappy with the way they look, and 70 percent of ‘normal weight’ women report that they want to be thinner. Even between the ages of three and six years old, half of girls worry about ‘being fat.’

How to help: Establish an open-door, judgement-free policy as soon as possible with your team or child so they know you’re available to discuss problems. For coaches, pay close attention to behaviors around eating and watch for signs of bullying. You can also consider holding regular team-wide check-ins where you discuss issues like body image, either as a group or with the help of an expert like Streno.

But boys are not immune

“People hear eating disorder and they automatically assume that it’s a female issue,” says Streno. "But there are issues like muscle dysmorphia, which is when someone is trying to achieve a specific body type or a certain amount of muscle to look a particular way. We see a lot of that with males. Now we're seeing a lot more men who need treatment and seek out support."

How to help: Role model open communication habits around body image. “Historically, there has been such a bias and stigma around seeking help and that males need to be strong,” explains Streno. “There was this idea that they can fix themselves on their own, but it’s important to ensure that young men are also seeking help when they’re struggling.”

Aesthetic and weight-class sports

“In certain sports, there is lot of pressure to look a particular way. We know that all sports can predispose an athlete to developing disordered eating, but there are absolutely sports that are more focused on the aesthetics,” says Streno. These include sports like gymnastics or figure skating that have subjective scoring, as well as sports with certain weight classes, such as wrestling or boxing. It can also include team sports, such as football or cross country running, where there are certain body types associated with specific positions or the ability to be successful.

How to help: Ensure that athletes have access to solid nutritional information that addresses how they can meet their sport goals in a healthy way. Streno also suggests that coaches reduce body image concerns by choosing uniforms that are more comfortable and offering a wider range of options.

Athletes going through puberty

As hormones begin to shift and their bodies begin to change, athletes are more prone to experience body image issues, and this can start as young as eight years old. “Puberty hits at different rates for males and females, and at different times,” says Streno. “It's so confusing for somebody to have their body changing outside the sport context, especially when they believe they are supposed to be maintaining a particular body image for their sport.”

How to help: Explain what to expect and what your athletes are going through. Most young people are confused by puberty and you can help by providing information about why and how their bodies are changing — and how they’ll be able to improve athletically because of it. For parents, be aware of how you talk about food and nutrition, especially during this time. Try not to comment on a child’s weight, shape, or size – and don’t compare them to anyone else. Empower kids by role modeling and encouraging self-talk that is kind and respectful.

Athletes with perfectionist tendencies

Unfortunately, the traits that can make an athlete great can also contribute negatively to their body image and lead to disordered eating. “When you think about perfectionism and orderliness and compulsivity, that predisposes some of these athletes to be rigid about the way they look in their uniforms, what they eat, and how much they work out in order to influence their body image," says Streno.

How to help: Watch your language. “As a coach or parent, be aware of what you're saying about your body and how you're treating your body. Kids are sponges and absorb everything that you say,” explains Streno. She urges parents and coaches to avoid talking about anything around body image, physical appearance, physique, food control, and discipline around eating. Seek out positive role models for your athletes, whether it’s professional athletes who are focused on spreading messages around body positivity, experts in sports nutrition, or even team alumni who are doing well in their careers now.

Athletes struggling in other areas

Unfortunately, many young athletes struggle with a lack of control in most areas of their lives, and their bodies can become the one ‘controllable’ component. “We see athletes start to struggle with this a lot when things are changing or they’re having issues in other areas of their life,” says Streno. “They use their bodies to maintain some form of control, whether it’s restricting eating, over-exercising, or beginning the binge-purge cycle. They want to feel like they have some control when everything else in their life is changing, sports-related or not."

How to help: Start by offering emotional support, not advice, and seek help for your athlete from an expert. Lastly, don’t normalize body image issues as ‘part of sport,’ warns Streno. Negative body image can lead to increased risk for depression, anxiety, and even suicidal tendencies. Often, there are underlying issues, and to promote the idea that it’s part of the game can be damaging to the athlete and keep them from getting help in another area of life where it’s gravely needed.

Takeaway

While awareness of body composition and body image is inevitable, there are some risk factors that contribute to the likelihood of negative body image issues. That’s why it’s important for parents and coaches to employ healthy communication and behaviors around body image.


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.


 Geography
(10/19/2020)
 
 
   

Geography


Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard


Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopedic Surgeon at Duke University, discusses how the climate where you live can affect your chance of injury. To have your questions answered by Dr. Richard, submit them using #USABMailbag on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.


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


 Don’t Amplify The Problem
(10/15/2020)
 
   

Don’t Amplify The Problem Without Trying To Be A Part Of The Solution


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


A couple years ago, I moved into a new development five minutes from where I grew up along the Jersey Shore. Living in this community comes with some great amenities including a clubhouse, pool, and gym, while also enjoying a maintenance-free lifestyle when it comes to things like landscaping and snow removal. Living here also comes with monthly Homeowner Association dues and an agreement to abide by the HOA regulations that make it all go. The perks and the guidelines are not mutually independent of one another and are necessary to work together in order to help the community operate smoothly.

We have a webpage that is a pathway for communication from management to announce certain community events or changes to some of the rules that the builder initially put in place. Additionally, the page acts as a forum for residents like myself to make others aware of various ongoings in the development that may include specific questions about our homes, organizing group outings for the kids who live here, or voicing concern about the way things may be going. Over the past few months, there has been a ton of “concerned voices” to the point where the page has become an incredibly toxic outlet for a very small number of homeowners to loudly complain about anything and everything under the sun.

“The grass is being cut too short.” “The grass is being cut too long.” (Yes, seriously). “Why hasn’t the road been paved yet?” “It just started snowing, so where are the plows that we are paying for?” “My ceiling has a crack in it.” “The landscaping company sucks.” “The builder sucks.” “The snow removable company sucks.” “The garbage truck made a mess.” “These people should be fired.” “My toilet keeps getting dirty.” (Yes, also a real complaint). Some of the issues are serious and absolutely warrant attention. But many, like those mentioned above, are not and highlight a far bigger issue: frequent complaints that don’t ever come with a single idea of solution.

For coaches, this type of behavior probably sounds pretty familiar. Have you ever had a player who was not happy about his role and spent more energy complaining about it than he did work to get better? How about a parent who wanted a meeting because you were screwing their kid out of an opportunity? Or maybe even an assistant who didn’t like the way you were running things as the head coach? Sadly, in our society, these instances are all commonplace in the landscape of sports today.

The dynamics of groups, whether they be communities, businesses, or teams, requires people to work together in order to have any chance of being successful. Our community has an elected board to make important decisions for our development and its homeowners. Businesses have their executives who are charged to do the same to benefit employees, stockholders, and customers. And in the athletic world, we have coaching staffs in place who are responsible for pushing our individual players and collective teams forward, together. Years ago, a wise man once told me that you cannot be all things to all people. One of the greatest challenges of leadership is making tough decisions that some people will not be happy about, and then, continuing to represent those dissenting voices as their leader.

Cheryl Reeve, a four-time WNBA Champion head coach for the Minnesota Lynx, has a practice of involving her players with every significant decision that comes up over the course of a season. Their voice comes with a caveat: because they are involved in making the decision, they release the right to complain about it after it has been made. While they may not agree with it, they had a seat at the table, and understand that in the end, it is a team decision, and as a part of the team, they will support that decision.

Those who are not actively behind the scenes have no idea what goes on behind the scenes. Simple solutions are not always as simple as they may seem from the outside. Until they become coaches themselves, players will never fully understand the challenges that go into playing time and team roles. There are often instances of players who think they are being unfairly treated by a certain coach, when the reality is that coach- as evident in those private meetings- is that player’s biggest sponsor. Until an assistant coach has to sync up three or four different groups of a team, they won’t fully appreciate how hard a daily schedule can be. Maybe there isn’t a better way to organize things because of all the pieces that go into the day.

When problems arise, and they will, challenge yourself to be more than just that person who criticizes everything that you’re not happy with. Come with potential solutions. Are you a player wanting to have a greater role? Then have a conversation with your coach about what exactly you need to do earn more at bats or innings on the mound. Are you an assistant coach unhappy about the way practice is being run? Offer a different option for the head coach to take a look at. Are you the leader of the team in charge of making final decisions? Create an environment that welcomes outside voices, where team members can be heard. If that becomes an accepted norm, while they may not like your final decision, they are more likely to respect it, and continue to be a supportive part of the team.

Very few things in this world run smoothly without issue. Team harmony in sport is no different. But when all people do is only complain about things, they are only amplifying the issue and throwing fuel on to the fire. We all have a choice. We can make problems worse if that’s all we ever talk about, or we can bring potential solutions to the table, and work together to fix it.


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.


 Seeing-Eye Single
(10/11/2020)
 
   

Seeing-Eye Single


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses a seeing-eye single that plates a runner.


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.


 Comparison v. Competition
(10/7/2020)
 
   

Comparison v. Competition


How to Develop Positive Body Image on Teams


For young athletes, maintaining a positive body image is difficult at the best of times, but when a competitive team atmosphere is added into the mix, that positivity can become even harder.

No matter how much you talk about the importance of pulling together as a team, your athletes are going to naturally compete with each other, as well as with rival teams, explains Melissa Streno, a clinical psychologist who specializes in athletic performance and its intersection with disordered eating and body image issues. This isn’t unhealthy, but it can go too far. “Teammates start mimicking each other’s behavior,” says Streno. “So, once you notice a problem with one athlete, know that there’s likely going to be a trickle-down effect.”

As a coach, you may not notice the subtle ways your team is creating an unhealthy environment when it comes to body image, eating patterns, and other habits. Below, Streno explains some of the warning signs to watch for as your athletes try to find success in competitive sports and how you can help foster a body positive image culture on your team.

Warning Signs
Changes in performance: “First, I would keep an eye out for a big shift in performance, where physically or psychologically, something seems off,” says Streno. “Physically, I think one of the easiest things to look for is a change in weight or body shape, or a major change in fitness.” Keep in mind that not all physical consequences of disordered eating or eating disorders are visible to the eye.

“Psychologically, we might notice a difference in their mood, more conflicts with teammates and coaches, and more isolative tendencies or less desire to be part of the team as they try to hide concerning behaviors.”

Behavior around meals: Streno recommends watching out for kids avoiding meals or changing their behaviors around mealtime. Are some kids making constant excuses to skip meals?

Overtraining: Body image isn’t just about changes in caloric consumption, Streno warns. “Pay attention for when athletes start to train beyond the prescribed amount or try to push through injury.”

Need for validation: When an athlete who hasn’t previously come to you for constant feedback or praise is reaching out for validation, that can be a warning sign, say Streno. “Coaches might see an athlete shifting how much they communicate and starting to ask, ‘Am I doing this right? Am I doing enough?’ when they haven’t done so in the past.”

Need for control: Often, disordered eating and overtraining are linked to an athlete’s need for control. Between parents, school, and sports, their sphere of control is limited, and their body is one of the few things that they can ‘control.’ “Very few athletes dealing with body image issues are merely concerned about performance,” says Streno. “It’s often about a need to control things.”

Bullying others: “Food shaming, or critiquing what other people are doing, is common,” says Streno. “And oftentimes, it's to make the person who's doing the critiquing feel better when they’re dealing with a lot of self-consciousness or low self-esteem.” Bullying obviously cannot be tolerated on a team, but remember that the food-shaming student is likely suffering and needs help.

Fixation on food trends: “If you constantly hear athletes comparing what they’re eating, talking about new diets, or gossiping about body image and comparing body types, that’s a sign of a team-wide problem,” says Streno. “Try to find the source of these messages." Research has shown that information provided by peers is more important to young athletes than what they see in the media or read about.

How to Help Foster Positive Body Image
Your words matter: “Athletes form an idea around even small comments,” says Streno. It may be unintentional, but your words can have dire consequences, so be extremely careful how you speak about eating habits, body type or weight, or any kind of physique-based advice.

Focus on strength: Rather than focusing on a specific type of physique, focus on strength. “Ask athletes what makes them feel strong, how can they maintain that level of strength, and what gives them energy,” Streno says. Create a team ethos that focuses on body positivity and what your athletes can do, rather than on flaws or places to improve. In addition to sharing that message yourself, seek out good role models in the community. Research has shown that younger girls are heavily influenced by older peers when it comes to body image.

Bring in an expert: If you notice that some of your team members are struggling with body image issues or implementing unhealthy eating habits, you can bring in a sport psychologist or another specialist to address the team, says Streno. This whole-team approach avoids singling out specific individuals, which can make the athletes who are struggling feel less self-conscious. But of course, if you notice an athlete is having extreme food and/or body-related issues, it’s important to get that athlete help immediately, rather than waiting.

Find positive outside influences: "I'm always encouraging athletes to filter out their social media, including the people that they follow,” says Streno. Coaches can help steer athletes to positive body image messages and accounts that promote a healthy approach to sport performance.

Takeaway
Body image is often influenced by surrounding people and cultures, which means that a competitive team environment can make it hard to maintain a positive body image. By watching out for these warning signs and fostering positive habits, coaches can help develop positive body image on their teams.


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.


 Get Outside
(10/7/2020)
 
   

Get Outside


Cuddyer's Corner
By Michael Cuddyer


Former Major Leaguer Michael Cuddyer discusses how umpires and coaches can set a positive example for youth players. 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.


 Taking the Extra Base by not Hesitating
(9/26/2020)
 
   

Taking the Extra Base by not Hesitating


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses taking an extra base by not hesitating when coming out of the batter's box.


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.


 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.