Blog

 What Does Your Team Need From You…Right Now?
(6/18/2021)
 
 
   

What Does Your Team Need From You…Right Now?


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


In the 2004 American League Championship Series between the Red Sox and Yankees, Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield was slated to start Game Four. Those plans quickly changed when New York took a 10-6 lead in the 4th inning. Sox starter Bronson Arroyo was knocked out of the game after just two innings. Two relievers didn’t fare much better over the next couple of frames, and it looked like Boston was about to use every single body in their bullpen. That didn’t happen because of Wakefield, who selflessly gave up his start in order to take a chunk of the middle innings of the game.

The Yankees wound up winning the game 19-8, and Wakefield gave up five runs in his three-plus innings of work; not exactly an outing to write home about. But when he volunteered to work out of the pen in what turned out to be a blowout loss for the Red Sox, Wakefield essentially saved his team’s bullpen, allowing closer Keith Foulke and high leverage relievers Mike Timlin and Alan Embree to be fresh for the next night. And that may very well have been one of the biggest reasons why the Sox were able to turn the series around and make their historic comeback after being down three games to none.

What Tim Wakefield did in Game Three of the 2004 ALCS was exactly what his club needed him to do at that very moment.

I doubt a pitcher out there today dreams of being a middle reliever in a lopsided loss; most see themselves being on the mound for the final out of a thrilling win. Position players don’t envision themselves getting mop-up at-bats in a blowout; they picture the game-winning hit or the game-saving play. By all means, players should be working towards and thinking about their ultimate goals. But the reality is that the game needs players for every single moment, regardless of whether it is good or bad, game-changing or not, from the very first pitch of the game to the last. All of those moments should be approached with the same focus and drive as if they were going to be the most important play of the game, even if they weren’t.

The game today has become so individualized where coaches have the ability now more than ever to cater their approach to help maximize each player’s ability to the fullest. Players are more talented than ever in large part because of that specialized means of training. In the process of doing so, what has gotten lost for many is where that player may fit in the grand scheme of a season or a specific moment of the game.

At the end of the day, the entire purpose of all of the blood, sweat, and tears that players invest in their careers is to do their part to help their team win; that is, after all, the point of the game. Sometimes, that will call for a strikeout on the mound or an extra-base hit in the box. But more times than not, the game doesn’t need the player to be the hero; it simply requires them to do what is needed at that moment to keep things moving towards a win. It may mean doing something that won’t get a headline, like limiting damage as a middle reliever or having a productive ground out that moves a runner as a hitter.

There’s a reason why Major League teams have 26 guys on the roster. There’s a reason why colleges are able to carry 35 players in their programs. It’s not to have an entire club full of stars, but rather an entire team ready, willing, and able to do the specific job that the game needs them to do—nothing more, nothing less.


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


 Injuries in Youth Players
(6/14/2021)
 
 
   

Injuries in Youth Players


Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard


Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopaedic Surgeon at Duke University, discusses common injuries, how to recognize their risk factors, and how to prevent them to keep you healthy and on the field. Learn more in today's #DiamondDoc. 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.


 5 Activities to Build Resilience in Youth Athletes
(6/9/2021)
 
 
   

5 Activities to Build Resilience in Youth Athletes


Simple steps to help your athletes become more resilient


One of the many outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic was that young athletes had to become resilient. No matter how much we may want to shield children from the harsh realities of cancelled seasons, lockdowns, and quarantines, every child experienced some kind of loss or hardship during the pandemic. But board-certified family physician and TrueSport Expert Deborah Gilboa, MD, explains that we can use these difficult moments as a learning opportunity to help our athletes become better prepared for inevitable challenges later in life.

This is a set of skills, Gilboa explains, as resilience is not simply a character trait. It can be nurtured and developed. Here, she discusses the five ways she wants coaches to approach building resilience on their team.

1. Building connections
Strong connections strengthen resilience because they diminish a person’s feelings of isolation. Fostering connections can be as simple as starting every practice with a question, whether that be a sport-specific one about the day’s practice goals or a sillier one like the last snack each person made for themselves. “Ask team leaders for ideas about icebreakers and ways to build better connections on the team,” Gilboa suggests.

“You can also have athletes divide into practice teams using things like sock color or their preferred house at Hogwarts! This way, they start to see what they have in common with each other. Then, turn it into an exercise that will improve the team dynamic: Have each person on the team ask a question to the group about something related to the sport, like how to improve a flip turn in swimming." Asking for advice helps build strong connections between teammates and shows that even the star player on the team has things they want to improve upon.

2. Managing discomfort
“Nobody grows when they're comfortable,” Gilboa explains. "Managing discomfort is crucial to becoming more resilient, because if you cannot handle being uncomfortable, you can't go through the steps required to experience a change and get to your goal. You get stuck.”

As a coach, you can grow in this arena by taking a step back and allowing students to deal with discomfort. You can still show empathy—no one likes running laps because they’re late—but don’t let athletes skip the hard things. Gilboa adds that you can turn this into a team discussion: ask athletes how they can help teammates manage their discomfort? How can they help teammates when they're sitting on the sidelines or can’t compete? How can they help when a teammate feels embarrassed about their performance?

When a situation is tough for the team, Gilboa says that part of managing discomfort is allowing people to express their feelings. “For example, if your team needs to run laps for some reason, I would tell them that they have 60 seconds to complain about it as loudly as they want, and then they need to get over it. And after that 60 seconds, they all need to find one positive about the situation—even if that positive is just that they’re suffering together."

3. Setting goals
To build resilience, Gilboa recommends having every member of the team first identify their ‘why’ behind playing. “We want to intentionally focus on the fact that every activity we undertake has a purpose,” she explains. Goals can also be small, daily objectives: Each practice, start by laying out the goals for the day and how those practice goals will eventually help lead to achieving bigger goals down the road. This helps athletes continue to come back to their ‘why’ and can help them push through tough practices because they have a good reason to do so.

4. Identifying options
“Unfortunately, we all tend to go with the first solution to a problem that we think of,” Gilboa says. "In general, we don't list a bunch of options before we decide what we're going to do. Being resilient means pausing and thinking about all your options and potential outcomes. That way, if one option fails, you know you have alternatives to try next—that makes it easier to persevere or show resilience.”

As a coach, whenever possible, let your team work together to identify different options, whether that’s making a plan for game day or picking what drills to do during a practice. And after a game, identify potential options you could take towards making improvements.

5. Taking action
While thinking through options is critical, action is a key final step in practicing resilience. “A lot of young athletes get stuck in option overload or decision paralysis,” Gilboa says. "And you can't be resilient if you can't move. So, you have to pick something and try it. It may not work, but then you can move on to the next option.”

Coaches can facilitate action by putting athletes in decision-making positions. Make sure every athlete on the team is tasked with choosing and leading actions, such as choosing stretches for warmup, picking drills, or leading the team through cooldown. Gilboa notes that it’s important for all kids to have a turn at making decisions, rather than leaving it to the loudest or strongest kids on the team.

Takeaway
Developing resilience in the athletes on your team is critical, but it doesn’t have to be hard. Follow these five simple steps to help your athletes become more resilient.


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.


 Base Runner Gets Thrown Out at Second
(6/6/2021)
 
   

Base Runner Gets Thrown Out at Second


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses a base runner getting thrown out at second base with 2 outs.


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


 Base Coaching
(6/2/2021)
 
   

Base Coaching


Cuddyer's Corner
By Michael Cuddyer


Former Major Leaguer Michael Cuddyer discusses discusses tips, tricks, and goals of coaching from first and third base. 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.


 6 Simple Reasons Why Athletes Fail to Meet Their Goals
(5/26/2021)
 
   

6 Simple Reasons Why Athletes Fail to Meet Their Goals


Why your athlete is struggling with their goals and how to find success


If your young athlete tends to lose focus partway through a season or fails to achieve their goals by the end of the season, they aren’t alone. Setting and achieving suitable goals isn’t an easy task, especially for kids who are also dealing with the expectations of the adults around them.

Here, Daniel Gould, PhD, director of the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University, explains why your athlete is struggling with their goals and what they can do differently to find success.

1. They Don’t Have Ownership
“With kids, it's easy for them not to own their goal,” says Gould. "In other words, a coach or a parent often tells them what their goal is, and because they didn’t come up with it, the athlete really doesn't have the drive to commit to it.”

You can help an athlete overcome this roadblock by letting them make a list of goals for the season without any input from you. You can discuss the goals after they are written out, but until then, refrain from giving advice. Make sure it's really the athlete’s goals, not them echoing what they’ve heard or been told.

2. They Don’t Have a Plan
“Every adult has experience making a New Year’s Resolution that we didn't follow up on,” Gould says. "That’s because we spend so much time identifying what the goal is, but then we spend a lot less time developing the plan for achieving it.” Without a plan for getting to the finish line, a young athlete is dreaming, not goal-setting.

Gould explains, “A child might say, 'I want to make the starting lineup.' But to make the starting lineup, do they know what do they need to do? Most kids will say, 'I don't know.' But you can help your athlete figure it out. Depending on the sport, it may be 'I need to improve certain types of shots.’ Or more simply, 'I need to be on time to every practice.’” Help your child create a road map, either written out or drawn as a timeline, of how to achieve each goal.

3. They Don’t Revisit the Goal
"This is a really common problem,” Gould says. "Everybody sets goals at the beginning of the year, but rarely do they revisit them on a regular basis to evaluate progress. Goal-setting only works if people get feedback relative to their goal.” Both coaches and parents can figure out a way to create ongoing feedback for an athlete and incorporate some kind of metric or evaluation.

Research has also showed that motivation tends to wane between the time of goal-setting and the point of achieving the goal, but setting related mini-goals that are actionable can keep motivation high.

4. The Goals Are Too Vague or Too Big
"We know that goals that are specific and measurable are much more effective than 'do your best' general goals,” Gould says. "For example, if I tell my kid that I want him to have a better attitude, that’s extremely general. That means so many things to different people. Instead, really break down what behaviors you want to see, such as demonstrating good sportsmanship, not making any snide remarks to officials, hustling between all drills, and saying thank you to your coach. Really clarify what success means.”

And goals don’t have to be massive championship-winning goals to be satisfying. Research has shown that smaller goals that are more easily achieved can be incredibly satisfying, so make sure that your athlete isn’t just setting huge goals.

5. They Expect Perfection
Basketball legend Michael Jordan famously said that he missed more than 9,000 shots in his career. There are baseball players in the Hall of Fame who failed seven out of 10 times at the plate. “The whole idea that you have to be perfect is just unrealistic, yet kids believe that it’s possible,” says Gould.

“But sports are a great way to teach a young person that one failure doesn’t mean that a goal is now unachievable or out of reach. If they fail at a goal, just help them reboot: Set new, realistic goals based on new information.” Later in life, we rarely have the opportunity to learn from failures with minimal repercussions, so use youth sport as a way for kids to build those skills and resilience that will serve them outside of sport and later in life.

6. Their Goals Aren’t Your Goals
Sometimes, an athlete’s failure to meet a goal is simply a case of mismatched expectations between them and an adult. For instance, a parent might have been the star defensive soccer player in high school and therefore expect the same from their child - even though that young athlete would rather be playing tennis. Make sure athletes actually want to achieve the goals that they set!

Takeaway
It’s not surprising that many young athletes lose interest in goals or fail to achieve their goals during a season. Keep these barriers to success in mind as you help your young athletes set and work towards their goals.



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.


 Barehand Play on Bunt
(5/23/2021)
 
   

Barehand Play on Bunt


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow reviews an excellent bunt attempt and outstanding barehand play by the third baseman.


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


 It’s Far More Than Just Putting the Ball in Play
(5/20/2021)
 
   

It’s Far More Than Just Putting the Ball in Play


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


A few weeks ago, in an early-season game between the Red Sox and Orioles, Boston found themselves with runners on first and third and one out when Boston’s first baseman Bobby Dalbec came to the plate. With the count 2-1, he hit a potential inning-ending double play ball to Baltimore’s shortstop Freddy Galvis. The ground ball was fielded cleanly, thrown to second for the first out, then flipped over to first a split-second too late to get a hustling Dalbec. The inning continued, and a run scored. In the box score, the at bat went down simply as an RBI groundout to short. But it was far more than just any old RBI ground out.

As mentioned, that ground ball was a potential inning-ending double-play ground ball. Well, the inning was the ninth. And because Dalbec beat the play, a run scored. And that run just happened to be the tying run. The game went to extra innings, and the Red Sox wound up winning. They might not have ever had that chance had their slugging first baseman not put the ball in play.

A couple of days later, it was Alex Verdugo’s turn. With two outs in the top of the eighth inning and Boston down 3-0 to the Twins, the Sox energetic outfielder battled in the box for ten pitches before knocking a game-tying, bases-loaded double down the left-field line.

“I was not going to let him beat me,” said Verdugo after the game.

Then came a road trip to New York against the Mets, with the Red Sox facing the best pitcher on the planet in Jacob deGrom. During the TV broadcast, a three-second clip captured what may very well have been the difference in the game. It simply showed Boston catcher Christian Vazquez choking up on the bat.

Why was that such a big deal? Because it showed a hitter making an adjustment based on what the game required of him in that particular moment. It was a scoreless game in the second inning at that point, with Vazquez up to bat with a runner on 3rd and one out. At that moment, his job was to get the run in. Period. And in order to drive in that run, that may mean emphasizing contact over power.

That’s exactly what it meant to Vazquez.

With the count 0-2, by choking up and shortening his swing to make sure he was able to put the ball in play and do his job, as the situation dictated, he won the AB, driving an RBI double into the right-centerfield gap. That turned out to be the game’s only run in a 1-0 win for the Red Sox.

The strikeout is the most unproductive out in the game, and for some reason, it has become in many ways an accepted practice in the game today. Many hitting coaches mock the idea of taking an approach to just put the ball in play, arguing that swinging for the downs and the possibility of doing damage trumps a less aggressive swing that may only yield weak contact, regardless of the situation. Some freely admit that a strikeout with intent behind the swing is better than the defensive swing aimed just to get the bat on the ball. That is a misguided approach.

What might happen when a hitter ‘just gets the bat on the ball’?

If the Red Sox first month of the season is any indication, their focus on putting the ball in play has yielded some pretty big wins here in the early going. To the hitters in their lineup, they aren’t trying to ‘just put the ball in play.’ It’s far more than that; they are competing in the box to find a way to get the job done, move runners, score runs, and win games. It’s not that they are giving up by wanting to put the ball in play, but rather it’s the contrary. They are not giving in.

So far, it’s working.


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


 Ulnar Collateral Ligament Injuries
(5/17/2021)
 
   

Ulnar Collateral Ligament Injuries


Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard


Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopaedic Surgeon at Duke University, discusses Ulnar Collateral Ligament injuries and treatments. 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.


 Why The Way You Praise Matters
(5/12/2021)
 
   

Why The Way You Praise Matters


Helping your athlete feel valued


Whether you’re a coach or parent to a young athlete, the way that you praise them after a competition can have a deep impact. Wade Gilbert, PhD, a professor at California State University in Fresno and a Team USA Coaching Consultant, has some advice on how to praise your athlete in a way that will have the most beneficial impact on their sport and psyche. 

Don’t offer false praise
 
“False praise is the worst thing a parent can give – the best type of praise is genuine praise,” says Gilbert. “If you want to praise kids, it should be genuine and earned. If the praise isn’t earned, don’t say anything. We overcomplicate things by thinking we need to say something positive about everything.” 

Focus on process, not results 

Studies have shown that parents shouldn’t focus on grades that their children receive – instead, focus on the way that they’re playing and performing. And as a coach in particular, the way you praise an athlete based on outcome versus progress can change how your athlete views success. If you only praise your athletes after games they win, Gilbert warns that the athletes will learn to focus on the outcome rather than the skills it takes to perform at a high level. 

Help them master their skills

Student athletes tend to have higher self-confidence long after they’ve left high school. “But confidence doesn’t come from false praise,” says Gilbert. “It comes when an athlete feels competent. So, if your athlete is getting better, that’s how their confidence will build. To pump up confidence, focus on teaching skills rather than praising them.” 

Praise what’s in their control

It can be tempting to point out how a young athlete ‘destroyed the other team' or ‘crushed the competition.’ But that puts an emphasis on the negative side of sport, versus praising the athlete’s personal performance. 

“You want to reinforce the positive things that they’re doing and that they can control, not things that are dependent on how other athletes perform. And in team sports, parents shouldn’t put down other athletes on the team while praising their own child.”

Follow your athlete's lead

“After the game, don’t start with a breakdown of how you thought it went,” says Gilbert. “Ask how your athlete felt about the game and let the conversation flow from that.” 

Sometimes your athlete doesn’t need praise, they may just need to quietly contemplate how the game went, or even talk through what went wrong during the competition. 

Praise others on the field

Gilbert recommends pointing out great plays by other athletes as well as your own. “We think we’re doing a favor by protecting them and offering this false praise, but really what we should be doing is talking about what an athlete did well, and also about what other athletes did. It’s OK to point out another player on the team, or on the opposing team, who had a great game,” says Gilbert. “That helps teach your child how to handle losses and wins more gracefully."

______

Gilbert concludes by recommending that coaches “make a checklist for pre and post-game routines, and a checklist for how often he or she is praising individual athletes on the team to make sure you’re paying attention to everyone.”

He adds, “You have to be proactive about making sure everyone on the team is being acknowledged," says Gilbert. It’s so easy to miss a quieter athlete during a season, but every athlete on the team should end the year feeling valued for their progress, skill development, and attitude.   


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.


 Balk Moves Runners Into Scoring Position
(5/9/2021)
 
   

Balk Moves Runners Into Scoring Position


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow analyzes a balk that moves runners into scoring positions.


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


 Coaches Clinic - May 19, 2021
(5/19/2021)
 
   

May 19, 2021


USA Baseball
Virtual Community Clinic


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

Greg May, Lincoln College
Andy Morgan, North Texas Community College
Dominic Anagnos, Southeastern University

OUTLINE



 Gathering Information
(5/4/2021)
 
   

Gathering Information


Cuddyer's Corner
By Michael Cuddyer


Former Major Leaguer Michael Cuddyer discusses the importance of gathering as much information as you can so you are able to filter through it in your mind and apply it to your game. 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.


 Giving Back: How Teams Can Meaningfully and Safely Give Back
(4/21/2021)
 
   

Giving Back: How Teams Can Meaningfully and Safely Give Back


How your child or team can give back this season in a safe, healthy way


COVID-19 has forced the cancellation of many school sports, but coaches and parents can use this opportunity to help young athletes focus on giving back to their communities. Right now, with practices and competitions mostly on hold, team unity can be found through volunteer opportunities instead of games and scrimmages. Kids can learn the importance of helping others and giving back while bonding as a team so that next year, they can come back stronger than ever. Even better, research has found that volunteering can also provide a boost to mental health in these tough times.

Jamie Kay Discher, Director of Girl Experience for the Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey has a few ideas on how your child or your team can give back this season in a safe, healthy way.

Get informed
In the Girl Scouts, volunteer opportunities aren’t just listed as things that need to be ticked off a checklist: The girls are encouraged to decide on projects that they’re passionate about, and then the leaders get involved to help with the specifics. But Discher believes that the research and decision-making is an important part of the giving back process. "Generally, the first step for anyone who's looking to perform service is to figure out what you're interested in,” says Discher. Have your team brainstorm ways that they’d like to give back. Make a list of options. Then, Discher says the second step is to make sure that you're actually filling a need in the community. For example, check with an animal shelter to see if they really need food or bedding donations before starting a collection process!

Get outside
Stream, park, and roadside cleanups are easy examples of socially distanced activities that make an impact and allow youth to spend time outside, says Discher. "We've had a lot of success coming up with safe ways for girls to perform service outside, doing things like watershed cleanups and forest regeneration projects. Those kinds of opportunities continue to be viable even while we're socially distanced.”

For your athletes, this could be as simple as doing an unofficial trash pickup during a hike in a popular park area, or you can contact your local parks and recreation department to see where the local need is greatest.

Get online
There are countless ways to take your volunteerism online. "For example, we had one girl who was doing a project to help residents living in assisted living facilities by teaching them how to protect themselves from cybercrime,” Discher says. “Obviously, when the pandemic hit, she couldn't go into those places. So, she got creative and took all the lessons that she was planning to prepare in person and recorded them as videos. Then she got the center to host the video on their TV systems so the residents could watch. She still managed to reach her target audience, she still managed to perform the service that she was looking to perform.”

Your athletes may not be ready to create a course on tackling cybercrime, but they could potentially create or teach something suited to their strengths, like virtual painting or cooking classes through a local library!

Get offline
While athletes can’t go into senior living facilities to provide comfort and entertainment, athletes can still become pen pals with people in senior centers who are craving contact with others right now. The Girl Scouts have an official national service project dedicated to this, but your team can simply contact local nursing homes and senior centers to see if there is any interest in starting a program. For younger athletes in particular, this is a great way to practice their penmanship and writing skills, Discher adds.

Get involved with citizen science service projects
“Citizen Science projects harness the idea that anyone can contribute to science research, generally using some sort of computer interface,” Discher explains. "SciStarter is a product of the National Science Foundation and has a slew of different research projects where they just need people to go look at their environment and report back to get a whole new set of data.”

The SciStarter website lets you choose your research project, and some—like this OpenSidewalks survey —can be done while running or walking. It’s a great way to help contribute to science while getting miles in for young athletes.

Takeaway
While it’s not ideal that sports have been interrupted by COVID-19, athletes can still give back to their communities in meaningful ways while practicing social distancing and other safety precautions.



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.


 The Key to Not Thinking
(5/10/2021)
 
   

The Key to Not Thinking


Mental Skills
By Andy Bass


The key to ‘not thinking’—thinking about ONE thing.

“Just don’t think out there!” “I am at my best when I am not thinking.” “They are thinking too much—they need to not think.” How many times have we heard, or even said, these phrases on the field? And while these statements carry with them good intentions… they are often times misinformed… and also impossible.

We can’t ‘not think.’ For one, our minds are not wired that way. And two, we would be dead if we were not thinking. With all of that in mind, the connotation that ‘not thinking’ carries with it, to let our minds and body be completely in the present moment and not allowing anything to take from our focus, is something we should aspire to.

Question: If I gave you an empty water bottle how would you get the air out of it? When asked this most people will say something like ‘crush it down’, ‘stick a vacuum cleaner it in’, etc. The answer is to fill it with water.

When our conscious mind is filled to the ‘brim’ with one single external thought—good things tend to happen. External is also vital to this process. The one thought should be about the outcome of the movement or something outside of our body (e.g. “See the ball early”, “Through the mitt”, “Drive off”, “Stay on top”, etc.) it should not be about the movement or our body (e.g. “Keep your elbow up”, “Drive my knee down”, “Keep my head steady”). NOTE: There are ways to change these statements to external: “Keep your elbow guard up”, “Drive toward the mitt” “Keep my helmet steady”. For more information regarding the benefits of external focus along with why the external focus tends to work better than an internal please click Constrained Action Hypothesis: Why an external focus may work better than internal.  

It is impossible to ‘not think’ (we should work to eliminate this phrase from our coaching vocabulary altogether because it is an impossible task). What we want from our athletes is to think consistently about ONE thing—particularly right before they step in the box or on the rubber. If we can help our athletes repeat that one clear external goal in their head we are on the path to helping them ‘not think’- being completely focused on one thing.


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


 Rotator Cuff Injuries
(4/20/2021)
 
   

Rotator Cuff Injuries


Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard


Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopaedic Surgeon at Duke University, discusses rotator cuff injuries of the shoulder and proper prevention techniques. 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.


 5-4-3 Double Play
(4/18/2021)
 
   

5-4-3 Double Play


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses a 5-4-3 double play with no outs in the first inning.


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


 Coaches Clinic - April 28, 2021
(4/28/2021)
 
   

April 28, 2021


USA Baseball
Virtual Community Clinic


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

Matt Pierce, South Texas Sliders
CJ Beatty, The Baseball Motivator
Austin Wasserman, High Level Throwing

OUTLINE



 Coaches Clinic - April 23, 2021
(4/23/2021)
 
   

April 23, 2021


USA Baseball
Virtual Community Clinic


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

Matt Walbeck, MLB Alum/Walbeck Academy
Mack Jenkins, Greenville Fly Boys
Christina Whitlock, Test and Train

OUTLINE



 When No One Is Watching
(4/15/2021)
 
   

When No One Is Watching


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


The ball was squared up. Red Sox centerfielder Jarren Duran broke back on a beeline straight to the wall. Unable to make the play, he quickly recovered the ball on the warning track, threw it to the cutoff man who unsuccessfully tried to gun down the batter who finished standing on 3rd with a triple. That’s what everyone saw on television.

What very few saw, or even cared to look for, for that matter, was Marwin Gonzalez and Hunter Renfroe, Boston’s left and right fielders during the play. As the Minor League Outfield and Baserunning Coordinator, my eyes don’t always follow the ball. Sometimes I will watch a baserunner’s route down the line from home to 1st. Other times, I may lock in on an outfielder’s approach to the ball. Often, I look to see if guys are moving into their correct backup position, a foundational staple of our culture among outfielders with the Red Sox. During this play to Duran, I didn’t purposely take my eyes off the batted ball. Rather it was the sight of both Gonzalez and Renfroe running across the entire outfield in a dead sprint to back up the play that was headed off the wall in center that grabbed my attention. Neither touched the ball, but both were there just in case they needed to.

Just in case. Even though no one (besides me) was watching.

Flashback to the fall of 1996. As a wide-eyed freshman just weeks into my first year as a member of the Rutgers University baseball program, I would often get to my locker where a newspaper or magazine article was waiting, courtesy of our head coach, Fred Hill. One stuck out in particular; a New York Times article about Derek Jeter, who was about to finish up his Rookie of the Year season with the Yankees.

In the article, he noted the impact that then-star first baseman Don Mattingly had on him regarding developing his professionalism to go about his business the right way. One previous Spring Training, before Jeter had even made his Major League debut, he told a story about how he and Mattingly were the last two guys on a backfield getting some extra defensive work in to finish their day. As they started back to the clubhouse, Mattingly said to Jeter, “let’s jog it in. You never know who is watching.” I carried that article with me for years after graduating and still think of it often when trying to get our players to be pros, whether someone is watching or not.

You never know who is watching, even when no one is.

The player was an intriguing prospect. We had gotten reports from some local coaches who we trusted that this second baseman might be a really good fit for what we were looking for at Rutgers. So, as our recruiting coordinator, I began the process with him and planned to watch him play. Wanting him to know of our interest, I made sure that he knew I was coming to his game that day. He was indeed a very good player, had some passion to play the game, and hustled everywhere on the field. I reported back to Coach Hill that this was someone we needed to stay on.

Coach Hill was happy to hear that I liked the kid, and then told me to see him again, but this time instructed me NOT to tell him that I was coming; a little trick that Coach Hill did all the time just to see if the player acted any different when he thought no one was there to see him.

This second time I saw him, it was like I was watching a completely different player. He jogged slowly when he should have been sprinting down the line. He walked out to his position in the field between innings as if playing defense was the last thing he wanted to do. And worst of all, he was a horrible teammate, showing up his double-play partner on an error, which came after yelling at his pitcher following a walk. Though he had the ability to become a Scarlet Knight, his attitude wasn’t one that we wanted in our program, and the only reason we saw that was because he thought no one was watching.

When he thought no one was watching, he wrote the end to his story with us.

There is a term amongst baseball circles as it relates to only doing something because someone else is watching. It’s called eyewash, and it is not a term of endearment. It’s easy to do the right thing when you know that all eyes are on you. But it’s when people aren’t watching that it’s that much more important to do the right thing because that’s what is truly inside of you. It’s when no one is watching that players are truly made.


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.