Blog

 Invest in Others the Way Others Have Invested in You
(11/18/2022)
 
 
   

Invest in Others the Way Others Have Invested in You


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


Everyone wants to feel like they matter. We all wish to have a voice that is heard, and people innately desire to be seen by others. There are few things more deflating than being made to feel like you’re invisible, muted, or insignificant. Sadly, in sport, the latter is far too common of an occurrence within the dynamic of many teams. It’s one of a leader’s primary jobs to make sure that doesn’t happen.

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Back in the spring of 1997, as a freshman playing at Rutgers University, I was taught a vital lesson that would later become the core of who I am now, as a coach. About ten games into my first season, Central Florida crushed us one night, behind what seemed like 15 pull-side hits down the left field line past our third baseman. As our shortstop, I was responsible for telling our third baseman when off-speed pitches were coming, so he could anticipate when the ball may be hit his way- a responsibility given to me by our head coach, Fred Hill. I didn’t relay a single pitch the entire game.

After the game, in front of half the team, Coach Hill ripped me for not doing my job. I was embarrassed. I was upset. I was mad. I was mad and upset at Coach Hill for embarrassing me. Literally in tears on the bus ride back to the hotel, I was ready to transfer. When we arrived at the hotel, he was waiting for me to get off the bus and asked me to come back with him to his room. It was there when he said this: “I probably shouldn’t be telling you this, but the reason I’m riding you so hard about every little thing is because I think you have a chance to be a great player for us. You shouldn’t be upset when I get on you; you should get worried when I’m not.”

From that day forward, I my ability to handle criticism was completely transformed. No matter how loud these messages came, I knew they were coming from someone who not only believed in me and what I could become, but more importantly, was willing to invest his time and energy in helping me reach my potential.

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In the world of professional baseball, and specifically in an organization’s Minor Leagues, high-profile prospects and big money signees generally get the bulk of the spotlight from the outside. Future Major League stars grab the headlines from the media and, in many cases, often grab the attention from their coaches as they work their way through the farm system. The running joke was that you were either a prospect or a suspect. In that light, as an undersized, under-tooled, middle infielder who couldn’t really hit or run, I was by all means a suspect as a Minor Leaguer coming up with the Kansas City Royals.

Two years into my professional career, made evident by the nature of interaction with some coaches were the prospect/suspect classes of players, and they were clear as day to me. That was until I got to Wilmington, Delaware in 2002, where I would play for a manager named Jeff Garber. He was different. In his eyes- at least to the player version of myself- there was no prospect/suspect status. To him, if you had a uniform, you were going to get coached. And if he was going to coach you, if didn’t matter if you signed for $1,000,000 or $100, he was going to coach you as if you were going to be a Big Leaguer one day.

It wasn’t about what Garbs taught me as a player that got me better. Sure, that helped, but it was far more how he made me feel in his approach to doing so. He made me feel like a prospect. He made me feel like I mattered. Because of the attention he always gave me, he always had mine. THAT is the power of investment. While I didn’t realize it at the time, now in his shoes as a Minor League coach myself, with the Red Sox, I know how truly special that was. In large part because of feeling like I always got the very best from Jeff Garber, I make constant effort to give every player the very best from me.

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The Cape Cod League is the preeminent summer circuit for college players. It’s a proving ground for the best in America to play one another and permits the cream of that crop to typically find itself atop Major League clubs’ draft boards the following year. Since 2001, Kelly Nicholson has spent his summers coaching in Orleans, the last 17 seasons as the team’s head coach. In 2008, based solely on the recommendation of a mutual friend, Kelly offered me the opportunity to join his staff that summer in what, still today, I consider one of the most impactful breaks of my coaching career.

Put simply, with this role, Kelly gave me the opportunity to think. Still at the infancy of my own coaching career, which had begun just two years prior, I knew baseball, but didn’t know the nuances behind coaching it. At the time, I was on Coach Hill’s staff at Rutgers, so my approach to helping our players there was to be an extension of him and his thoughts and his beliefs. While in Orleans, I didn’t have to play to Coach Hill, and Kelly didn’t want me to play to him either; he encouraged me to think for myself. In charge of making our lineup, running our offense, and coaching third base, I was given responsibilities that forced me to think for myself, and often, on the spot. I got some things right and some things wrong, but regardless, every day, I had him there for support, insight, and encouragement.

Kelly took a chance on me when he offered me the job- a stranger at the time without an interview- and spent the entire summer pouring into me, because, well, that’s what he does. His Orleans coaching tree has branches that run high and wide into all levels of the game, from high school all the way up to the Big Leagues. As one of those proud branches, I feel a sense of duty to plant seeds in other coaches the same way he planted seeds in me.

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The most valuable commodity in the world is time. It’s the ONE thing that every single one of us have but will eventually run out of. We show what we value in the time we invest. And when we invest time in those we are charged to lead, they feel valued. When people feel valued, the possibilities for what they may become are boundless. As leaders, we are in our positions because someone gave us their time, as Fred Hill, Jeff Garber, and Kelly Nicholson did for me. Now it’s our time to do the same for many others.



Darren Fenster is currently the Minor League Infield Coordinator for the Boston Red Sox. In addition to being the Third Base Coach for the 2020 US Olympic Team, Fenster was previously 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.


 What's the Call? Pitching Prohibitions
(10/6/2022)
 
 
   

What's the Call? Pitching Prohibitions


What's the Call
Presented with Umpires Media


The batter squares around to sacrifice bunt, but changes his mind and pulls the bat back. The pitch hits his forearm, which is still over the plate in the strike zone. There are no outs. The pitcher is standing on the mound with their pivot foot off the rubber as he reaches up and touches his pitching hand to his mouth. Is this a balk?

For more What's the Call videos, click here.  

Umpires Media is a leading provider of video-based sports rules explanations, maker of the world’s first digital baseball rulebook and the Baseball Rules Explorer.


 Hit and Run Out at Third Base
(10/3/2022)
 
 
   

Hit and Run Out at Third Base


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow reviews an excellent out at third base on a hit and run through left field in the Collegiate National Team vs. Olympic Team 2021 game.


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 Cultivate Healthy Social Media Use with Youth in Your Life
(9/20/2022)
 
   

Helping Cultivate Healthy Social Media Use with Youth in Your Life


How Coaches and Parents Can Support Them in Developing Healthy Social Media Behaviors.


Many of you remember the public service announcement from the 80’s, “It’s 10 PM, do you know where your children are?” If your kids are like most, they’re on their phone/computer checking Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, tiktok, or Snapchat. The age group between 13-17 often consumes 6-8 hours a day of social media and online content. While social media can certainly cause it’s share of problems, it’s here to stay. Young people are going to use it whether adults like it or not. Parents and coaches have a tough job—the goal isn’t to keep athletes off social media altogether, but to support them in developing healthy social media behaviors.

Let’s examine both sides of the social media phenomenon:

Helpful Impacts on Mental Health:

• It can provide a wealth of information for athletes looking to improve themselves physically and mentally, usually free of charge
• Group support
• Some kids have more comfort reaching out in an online format
• Sharing their athletic achievements with a wide and diverse population
• A platform for them to develop their “Brand” and market themselves
• An escape from the daily routine and outside of their “normal”

Harmful Impacts on Mental Health:

• Individuals or groups can post or share information easily without regard for a specific individual or group. This allows the consumers to infer tone and intent and this is where bullying is born.
• Even in instances where negative information is shared and then removed, that moment can resurface at any time which may cause the individual or group to process the emotions and feelings time and time again.
• The negative emotions that can be created because of social media are far-reaching and can take over a large portion of your child’s time and energy.
• Too many late-night hours can negatively impact sleep and we know how important the proper amount of sleep is to overall positive mental health.

How can parents engage their children to harness the positives of social media

Ask questions. Let’s face it—most youths know way more about social media than the adults in their lives. And they know more about what exactly they’re doing online. Instead of starting conversations by talking about the harms or effects of social media, be open and curious about their unique experiences with it.

Celebrate the positives. When kids feel judged or misunderstood about their social media use, they’re likely to get defensive and shut down. Make sure to point out how great it is that they were able to connect with their friends and family who live far away, or comment on how helpful it must be to reach most of their teammates to discuss who’s signed up to play for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic!

Promote limiting screen time. Everything in moderation, right? Excessive time on the internet and social media has been linked to poorer mental health outcomes like depression, anxiety, and loneliness. Younger children will need more help with this—consider setting time limits or media-free zones. As children get older, support them in managing their own usage—encourage them to dedicate time to offline activities or help them update their phone settings to limit time on certain apps.

Model healthy use. This one is more important than you think. Young people notice what adults are doing more than we may think, including being told to get off their devices while the adults in their life seem just as obsessed. It can be tempting to try to manage their use, but you’re better off modeling healthy habits (age dependent, of course). Studies have shown that parental use of digital technology, rather than their attitudes toward it, determines how their children will engage with it.

Friend/follow your kids’ accounts. Your kids—especially teenagers—might resist you monitoring their social media, but it’s important that you’re (somewhat) informed of what’s happening in their online world. Explain your reasoning, listen to their hesitations, and let them set boundaries. Your virtual relationship with your child is an entirely new one, so be patient. Your best bet to build trust is to stay in the background: Don’t comment or like their posts unless they want you to, let the little things slide, and be ready to have offline conversations about the important things.

Social media can be a useful tool for development and distraction, but it can be a weapon of mental and athletic destruction in similar ways. The line between is often blurred.

“It’s 10 PM, do you know where your children are?”

https://mhanational.org/back-to-school/social-media-and-youth-mental-health

Youth and Social Media: Mental Health Effects and Healthy Use (healthline.com)

www.athleticshealthspace.com

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



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


 Transfer Away from the Transfer Portal
(9/23/2022)
 
   

Transfer Away from the Transfer Portal


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


If you’re an athlete, a parent of an athlete, or a coach and happen to scroll through social media on any day ending in the letter ‘Y,’ you are bound to come across something like the following post:

“Honored, blessed, and humbled to announce my commitment to attend The University of ABC to pursue my athletic and academic goals. I couldn’t be more excited to wear the XYZ’s uniform. Thanks to all who helped me along the way.”

High school kids cannot wait to announce their college commitment to the world. After years of the proverbial blood, sweat, and tears, it’s a proud life moment to be celebrated, as it should be. When athletes share their college plans with their followers, they do so while envisioning the perfect college experience. They see themselves in the starting lineup from day one as a freshman. They picture themselves leading their team to multiple championships. They finish their collegiate careers as high draft choices. They imagine all the good that they want to happen.

We always hear about the commitment. We rarely hear the times when it doesn’t work out. And more and more now, things aren’t working out at a rampant rate.

A month ago, there were more than 2,200 college baseball players in the transfer portal. TWENTY. TWO. HUNDRED. To understand how significant that number truly is, consider that the traditional Division I program carries 35 players on their roster. More than 60 entire rosters can be filled with players looking to transfer this summer.

That’s a lot of bad decision making.

That’s a lot of poor advice from “trusted” people.

That’s a lot of college programs and their coaches going back on their commitment.

Having spent six years on the Rutgers University baseball coaching staff from 2006-2011, I had a front row seat to see the depths of recruiting and everything that went into it from both the program’s perspective as well as the student-athletes’. Selecting a college to attend is arguably the most important decision teenagers will have to make up to that point in their lives, and it isn’t one that should be taken lightly. Understanding the significance of that decision as essentially being a four-year experience that sets someone up for the next forty years of their life, we, as a program, made the conscious effort to educate families on everything that should go into that college commitment, to make sure it was a good fit. Baseball was just one of those things, albeit a pretty essential one.

Our guidance with recruits and their families simply revolved around figuring out what things were important for them in their college experience, in all aspects of the college experience, not just baseball. We found that when decisions were made solely based on baseball, as they often were, things had to be perfect on the diamond for it to have a chance to work out, and even then, it wasn’t guaranteed.

First and foremost, academics had to be the priority; that is what college is all about, right? Good grades create options, while poor grades will limit them. If a kid had grades good enough to get into an Ivy League school but decided to go to a poorly regarded college just for baseball, he is sacrificing his academic prowess. There are good academic schools with baseball programs that attract some of the most talented players in the country. There are also some incredibly good academic colleges that are perfect for someone who may not be the cream of the baseball crop.

Naturally, baseball is the next piece of the puzzle. While the focus should always start on the educational side first, there is absolutely nothing wrong with investing a lot of time in finding the best fit on the diamond as well, especially for those who have a passion for the game and dream of playing in the Big Leagues. Different kids have different baseball goals. For those who aspire to play professional baseball, the opportunity to get significant at bats or meaningful innings then must play a part in the decision since few players will ever get drafted if they don’t ever play.

Some players love to play so much that they can’t stomach the thought of being redshirted or holding a backup role for a year or two. Well, then it’s important for that player to find a program where his talent would enable him to play right away. Often that opportunity is going to be found at a smaller school, possibly at a lower division. Conversely, others might feel the need to be a part of a big-time college program and would be perfectly happy being a role player for the duration of their playing career, some maybe even turning down a scholarship from a lesser program so they could walk-on at a major university.

The last major piece of choosing a school comes with the social aspect of the experience. Colleges and Universities come in all shapes and sizes. From vast campuses in the suburbs, to concrete blocks in the city; from small student bodies of a couple thousand, to huge enrollments that could fill football stadiums every Saturday, the options for campus life are almost endless. Much like finding the perfect fit in the classroom and on the baseball field, many should also consider what kind of campus life they would enjoy the most. Some might be completely overwhelmed by the enormity of a big-time ACC or SEC school by sheer numbers, just as others need to be at a place where half of the students don’t go home on the weekends. Is the campus a short drive from home or a long flight away? Do you have to be in warm weather year-round? Homebodies probably will be much better off at a school with closer vicinity to home, while those with a greater sense of independence will be fine farther away.

Between Division I, II, and III, not to mention NAIA schools and junior colleges, there is assuredly a fit for everyone who wants to play a sport beyond high school. To find the best fit, recruits and their families need to do their due diligence. It is clear, with more than 2,200 baseball players registering in the transfer portal, that many do not. Time after time, while I was coaching in college, we watched countless recruits commit to other schools where we had a pretty good idea that things were not going to work out. Sadly, we were right far more than we wanted to be. The perfect fit is there; it’s just a matter of you taking the time to find it. Do that, and the only place you’ll be transferring is away from the transfer portal.


Darren Fenster is currently the Minor League Infield Coordinator for the Boston Red Sox. In addition to being the Third Base Coach for the 2020 US Olympic Team, Fenster was previously 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.


 How Parents Can Manage their Own Sport Anxiety
(9/22/2022)
 
   

How Parents Can Manage their Own Sport Anxiety


How your anxiety can impact your athlete and 5 ways to handle it in an honest, thoughtful way.

If you’re an athlete’s parent or guardian, you likely feel the same pre-competition nerves and jitters that your athlete does. You may notice that in the minute before the competition starts, your heart beats just a bit faster, or you struggle to sleep soundly the night before Nationals. That’s normal, but your anxiety can unfortunately have negative impacts on your young athlete if you don’t find ways to regulate it.

Here, TrueSport Expert  Kevin Chapman, PhD, clinical psychologist and founder of The Kentucky Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, explains how your anxiety can impact your athlete, and how to best handle it in an honest, thoughtful way.

Why your anxiety matters
“First and foremost, a parent needs to know that what they model and communicate to their athlete is what is important,” says Chapman. That means your anxious behaviors can make your athlete feel more anxious. “Unfortunately, children with an anxious parent are up to seven times more likely  than a child of a non-anxious parent to develop an anxiety disorder,” he adds. “But anxiety itself is not transmitted to a child genetically. Rather, the predisposition to respond to emotions in a dysregulated way is what is being modeled to that child in these formative years. That’s how the anxiety is transmitted from parent to child."

How to handle your anxiety

1. Pre-Game: Talk to your athlete
If you’re nervous about your athlete’s big game, they may be nervous as well, and that’s okay. In addition to understanding how your anxiety impacts your athlete, you can also focus on how nerves and anxiety are, in fact, completely normal feelings to have. “Successful athletes recognize that anxiety is normal,” says Chapman. “Anxiety is a normal part of competition. So it's not a matter of not being anxious when you compete. It's about normalizing the anxiety and understanding that it’s there to prepare you for the future threat, in this case, of not performing well. But there is an optimal level of anxiety that will help you, so regulating it and putting it in an optimal range is going to be what's important.”

Have a conversation with your athlete about how they’re feeling —and how you’re feeling! Let them know that it’s okay to be anxious, and that anxiety is there to help them prepare for competition. Often, that conversation helps them feel less anxious about their anxiety!

Need a quick catchphrase to give your athlete? Try telling them that the only difference between anxiety and excitement is their interpretation of the situation.

2. During the Game: Relax

It comes as no surprise that during the game, the best thing that you can do as a parent is to relax and try to stay calm and positive. Remember, as Chapman says, young people are incredibly skilled at picking up on the emotions of the people around them, especially the people who matter most to them. So if you’re on the sidelines  hiding your face, frowning, shaking your head, yelling, or looking horrified, they’re going to notice. Focus on taking slow, deep breaths to stay calm, and try to develop positive habits to keep you busy, like taking photos of the game (if that’s allowed). You can also task yourself with writing down five things your athlete does well in the game, which will force you to focus on the positive.

3. Post-Game: Don’t assume you know what your athlete is thinking
If a game didn’t go well, you might assume that your athlete is devastated, and that might make you feel anxious. But before you panic, remember that your athlete’s interpretation of the game could be completely different. Maybe you didn’t realize that he actually made a shot that he’s really proud of, or that she ran a personal best time. “Do not fall victim to catastrophizing and blowing mistakes out of proportion,” says Chapman.

“Parents need to remember that that process leads to outcomes . And if they can help their athlete recognize the process—things like learning skills, mechanics, technique, tactics, and strategy—then that's going to be the most important thing to be thinking about after a game,” he adds. "For example, my daughter was in the middle of a volleyball tournament and they lost a set. She was pretty upset about it, and as a parent, it’s easy to just try to empathize with her instead of helping her. But I told her, ‘I understand why you’re upset, but what did you learn?’ That’s a process question, and it took her out of that emotional state and back to thinking about what she needed to do to improve in the next set. She won the next match.”

4. Reward your athlete
Reinforcement is meant to increase a behavior, while punishment is meant to decrease a behavior. “Because of this, reinforcement is always more powerful than punishment  when we're looking for behavioral change,” says Chapman. “So, it's super important to reward yourself after spectacular performances. But you also need to avoid punishing your athlete for a performance that wasn’t the best.” His advice? Find something fun you can do with your athlete after every competition, like renting a new movie, and have an extra special reward for extraordinary performances, like actually going out to the movies.

5. Handling extreme anxiety
While avoidance is something that Chapman doesn’t typically recommend, if your presence at a game makes you anxious and that negatively affects your athlete, you may need to avoid being at the competitions. You could also consider driving separately and ensuring that you sit out of sight of your athlete. "I'm not a fan of avoidance, but if a parent is going to be so emotionally dysregulated that they're going to do themselves not only a disservice but they're also going to do the athlete a disservice, staying home might be the best thing,” Chapman says. “But ultimately, the goal should be to learn to regulate your emotions so you can be a part of your athlete’s sporting life.”

To manage these feelings of anxiety, ask yourself why you feel this way. Is it because typically, you only show up for the biggest games of the season and there’s a lot at stake? If that’s the case, consider trying to attend some practices or smaller competitions to see if lower stress settings ease your nerves. You can also seek expert help for yourself, says Chapman. Talking to a therapist about your anxiety will not only be good for your mental health, it may benefit your young athlete as well.

Takeaway
Your anxiety around your athlete’s competition and performance can translate to your athlete, so it’s important for you to address it and ensure that it doesn’t negatively impact your athlete’s performance or mental health. Nervous feelings around competition are natural, but if you do struggle with anxiety, consider sitting out of sight of your athlete during competitions and even driving separately if it’s a problem.



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.


 Double Down the Third Base Line
(9/5/2022)
 
   

Double Down the Third Base Line

Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow reviews a stand-up double that puts the runner in scoring position with one away for the US Olympic team.


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.


 What's the Call? Interference
(9/1/2022)
 
   

What's the Call? Interference


What's the Call
Presented with Umpires Media


There are runners on first and third. The batter hits a soft fly ball to the third baseman. The runner on third races back to the bag to tag up when they collide with the third baseman, who is then unable to field the ball. What’s the ruling?

For more What's the Call videos, click here.  

Umpires Media is a leading provider of video-based sports rules explanations, maker of the world’s first digital baseball rulebook and the Baseball Rules Explorer.


 Perseverance
(8/31/2022)
 
   

Perseverance


Cuddyer's Corner
By Michael Cuddyer


Former Major Leaguer, Michael Cuddyer discusses how players reach honest levels of success by maintaining a consistent and resilient work ethic, not matter the outcome. 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.


 Healthy Recipes for Athletes with Dairy, Soy, and Gluten Restrictions
(8/25/2022)
 
   

Healthy Recipes for Athletes with Dairy, Soy, and Gluten Restrictions


Recipes for snacks and meals that are soy, dairy, and gluten-free


It can be hard to make meals that are healthy and satisfying for athletes with certain food restrictions. But with a bit of prep and pre-planning, you can easily have snacks and meals on hand that are soy, dairy, and gluten-free.

TrueSport Expert Kristen Ziesmer, a registered dietitian and the owner of Elite Nutrition and Performance, has a few easy recipes to try.

Coconut Yogurt Parfait
Layer yogurt-berries-granola-yogurt-berries-granola into a bowl or glass for breakfast, or into a container for your athlete to bring to school for a quick lunch.

Coconut yogurt is a great option for athletes who can’t eat dairy, but if your athlete isn’t restricted to dairy-free options, Greek yogurt is a great source of protein. In general, avoid yogurts that are packed with added sugars. Ideally, get a plain yogurt that’s unflavored, then add your own sweetener with a bit of honey or maple syrup and a splash of vanilla extract.

Berries: Let your athlete choose their favorite berries. Blueberries, raspberries, and sliced strawberries tend to be the heavy favorites in parfaits, but if your athlete prefers chunks of kiwi instead, go for it! An easy option for busy parents is to buy frozen mixed berries, then prep the parfait the day before, so the berries have time to defrost in the fridge. Frozen berries can actually be better because the juices tend to run more and blend the whole parfait together.

Granola: To add more satiating carbohydrates and satisfying crunch, you can buy gluten-free granola, or easily make homemade gluten-free granola with under 10 minutes of prep. If you do want to make your own, preheat the oven to 250 degrees. In a bowl, combine gluten-free oats with a drizzle of maple syrup, a sprinkle of cinnamon, a dash of salt, and any chopped nuts that your athlete enjoys. Mix together until the oats stick together with that maple syrup. Spread the mixture thinly out on parchment paper, then cook for 3 to 5 minutes until the granola is dry and can easily be pushed around the pan. After baking, you can add in any dried fruit that your athlete enjoys too. You can do this once a week and have tasty homemade granola for days!

Even easier: Forget making granola, and instead just cook up some gluten-free instant oatmeal with a splash of almond milk, a spoonful of peanut butter, a sliced-up banana, some mixed berries, and a dash of maple syrup.

Build-Your-Own Rice Bowl
For lunches, rather than trying to recreate a grilled cheese sandwich for your gluten or dairy-free athlete, why not opt for something that’s easier to meal prep once a week, and doesn’t require any substitutions? Rice bowls are perfect for parents making lunches for multiple kids, since they can be made in bulk and stored in the fridge for a few days, and they’re easy to tailor to picky tastes. They’re also a fun meal to meal-prep on a weekend, since you can get your kids involved in the process. Have them help prep the ingredients, then build their own bowls. Start with a base of brown or multigrain rice for a complex carbohydrate that will leave them feeling full throughout the day.

Add your protein: this could be beans, grilled chicken, canned salmon, or tuna—whatever protein your athlete enjoys.

Add vegetables: opt for fresh or sautéed vegetables. Peppers and onions that are quickly sautéed make a great fajita-style bowl, while spinach, arugula, and romaine can add a nice crunch. Cucumbers, tomatoes, and bell peppers are also nice additions.

Add crunch, zest, and fun: Some fun topping ideas can include chopped nuts, crushed tortilla chips, avocado slices or guacamole, pickled jalapeños, and cheese or vegan cheese.

Make your side dressing: A small container with salsa or their topping of choice can be stored separately to prevent everything from becoming soggy.

A few simple dinner ideas
Sometimes, thinking about cooking gluten and dairy-free for dinner can feel overwhelming, but really, it doesn’t have to be. Most meals can easily be tweaked to avoid gluten, soy, and dairy if you’re cooking at home. In fact, a gluten-free athlete in the house can actually be a benefit because it forces you to get a bit more creative with vegetables and alternatives to bread and pasta. Ziesmer recommends:

1. Grilled chicken with plain Italian seasoning and salt and pepper with roasted broccoli and a baked potato (the potato and broccoli can be chopped, sprinkled with olive oil, and wrapped in foil, then tossed on the grill for a meal that requires almost no cleanup)

2. Gluten-free spaghetti with meat sauce (just hold the parmesan!) 

3. Breakfast for dinner with a veggie scramble. First, chop up a potato or sweet potato and put into a covered pan on medium with some olive oil and a bit of water to create steam for faster cooking. Then, chop up the veggies that are wilting away in your fridge—things like peppers, spinach, onions, zucchini—and once the potatoes have started to soften up, add the veggies to the pan. Once the vegetables are soft and wilted, crack eggs over top and scramble as needed. You don’t need milk to make a great scramble! Scoop onto plates and season with salt, pepper, and maybe a bit of chili or oregano for a small kick.

Takeaway
Rather than constantly trying to replace dairy, soy, and gluten with processed options like vegan cheese or gluten-free pasta, opt for simple whole foods and meals that skip those ingredients altogether when possible. Making your own allergen-free options, like a gluten-free granola, not only avoids added sugars and processing, it also allows you to create combinations that your athlete will love. And it doesn’t have to take much time!




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.


 Importance of Sleep in Athlete Development
(8/24/2022)
 
   

Importance of Sleep in Athlete Development


One of the best ways to help your child prepare for tomorrow begins tonight – and it’s free.


As summer break winds down across the country, now is the time to get your children back into their school year sleep routines. The all-to-common “late nights and late mornings” are at an end. Getting the proper amount of sleep is essential for growth, allowing your child’s body to reco
ver and repair from the day's activities. The functions of sleep are particularly important for young, developing athletes, who are practicing daily – a good night's rest can make all the difference in their success both athletically and academically.


How does sleep helps optimize sports performance?

Many people understand how sleep affects the developing brain. But for a high-performing young athlete, getting enough sleep is critical for their developing body. The first four hours of sleep are dominated by physical recovery, where more than 50% of your daily growth hormone is released, allowing the body to repair, recover, and optimize training adaptations such as increased muscle growth, strength, and power. The last four hours of sleep are dominated by the mental recovery phase, which is important in the development of short and long-term memory, processing, and cognitive function. This phase keeps the mind sharp. When striving to reach peak performance, sleep is a critical component – just as critical as hydration, conditioning, nutrition and mental prepa
ration.


Can getting enough sleep help reduce the risk of injury in young athletes?

Yes! Making sure young athletes get enough sleep each day reduces their risk of injury from both a mental clarity and physical recovery perspective. For example, adequate sleep improves reaction time and accuracy, and reduces mental errors. Restful sleep also allows the body to recover fully, repair and regenerate cells after workouts, all of which reduces the risk of injury.
How can getting enough sleep benefit a young athlete's development?

In addition to the mental benefits of adequate sleep, athletes getting enough sleep will also see better physical results from training. Lack of sleep, on the other hand, causes fatigue, leading to impairments in cognitive and motor performance, thus slowing reaction time. Sleep loss impairs judgment, motivation, focus, memory and learning. Without sleep, the brain struggles to consolidate memory and absorb new knowledge.




With all the resources spent on training, equipment and physical recovery, it’s interesting to note one of the best ways to help your child prepare for tomorrow begins tonight – and it’s free.

https://www.childrens.com/health-wellness/can-sleep-enhance-athletic-performance

https://thesleepdoctor.com/children/sleep-and-athletic-performance/



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

USCAH was founded upon the need for trusted, independent athletic health care partners with the experience and expertise to advise and consult with organizations regarding their healthcare delivery system. This is why USCAH is committed to providing independent and unbiased medical expertise to organizations and individuals dedicated to the optimal health and safety for the athletes they serve. If your team or organization would like to learn more about sleep and other health & safety issues, please reach out to [email protected]  or visit www.uscah.com.




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


 Buy Into the Boring: The Process that Makes the Plays
(8/19/2022)
 
   

Buy Into the Boring: The Process that Makes the Plays


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


Last month, we discussed The Play Before the Play, detailing the importance of those seemingly unimpactful plays in a game that directly set up the plays we see on SportsCenter the next day. The more we make our players aware of how impactful those ‘insignificant’ things are, the more likely they will buy into doing the things and playing in a way that will help make those things happen more often. The same can be said for how we go about our drills in practice and pre-game.

The professional season is a long one. Starting from the beginning of Spring Training in early February until the end of the year in September, there is a ton of monotony to our days at the ballpark. We stress the importance of routines for our players to become consistent in their play. You know what another word for routine is? Boring…

There is a prevailing sentiment in professional baseball where we challenge our players to become great at boring. While everyone loves to work on the highlight reel play or to just be loose and have fun during pre-game, it’s the boring stuff that comes up most often in the game. If our Minor Leaguers can’t learn how to master the mundane, they will have no chance of ever becoming Major Leaguers.

This season, our infielders implemented a new routine to finish off their daily throwing program, called Four Corners. It is the mother of all infield drills, where almost every type of catch and throw an infielder will ever have to make in a game can be practiced with a lot of reps in a very short period. With three different size boxes, the smallest with each corner about 30’ apart, medium at 45’, and large spread at 60’, we do everything from underhand flips around the horn, to jump turn double play feeds, to forehands, backhands, and chopped ground balls… and a whole lot more. Each specific four corner variation is done for about 30-45 seconds at a progressively increasing speed and intensity to allow for the technique to set in first, with the skill’s quickness following suit.

Just as with anything else, some players took longer than others to perfect the technique to be able to do it at game speed. Some struggled to pick up the quarterback option DP feed. Others grappled with cleanly fielding and throwing the chopper play. Different players with different abilities take different periods of time to develop. Once we started playing games, I made it a point to mention various instances when a play between the lines mirrored something we did during Four Corners because I wanted to make them aware of exactly how the work translated directly into the game. When they were conscious of that translation, the more buy-in we could get the next day during Four Corners… and the day after that… and so on and so forth. The better we became at Four Corners, the better we became in the game.

Over the course of the long year, throwing that ball around the horn at the end of our throwing program can indeed get boring. But when they understand how that ‘boring’ game of catch in pre-game work is what helps them when the lights go on for the game, they are far more likely to buy into the boring, because that’s the process that makes the plays.



Darren Fenster is currently the Minor League Infield Coordinator for the Boston Red Sox. In addition to being the Third Base Coach for the 2020 US Olympic Team, Fenster was previously 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.


 Why Small Ball Still Has Value, Especially at the Amateur Level
(8/23/2022)
 
   

Why “Small Ball” Still Has Value, Especially at the Amateur Level


By Jim Koerner


Have you noticed how baseball has transformed over the past decade at the Major League level? According to Baseball Reference, home runs per season have increased from 4,552 in 2011 to almost 6,000 (5,936) in 2021. With this increase, strike outs have also surged from 34,489 to over 42,000, with a decrease in batting average, stolen bases and sacrifice bunts. Batted balls in play during each game have decreased and swing and miss rates are on the rise. Training academies are also preaching the importance of maximum exit velocities and increased attack angles. I’m not here to argue the merits of the homerun, and who wouldn’t want to hit the ball farther and harder? I am also a big advocate for the extra-base hit and a big inning. But at what cost?

It’s one thing to see these trends at the highest level of baseball, where the pitching and defense are unmatched, but it’s completely different at the amateur level. The goal is to score as many runs as needed during a game, and there is more than one way this can be accomplished. The versatility of our hitters plays an important role in this concept and needs to be addressed in our player development models. To further emphasize my point, let’s look at these numbers:

In the early 2000’s batting average and stolen bases per season were consistently higher than they are now. With that, strikeout rates were lower as well as homeruns per game. One might think runs per game would suffer with the decrease in home runs, but in fact, the opposite occurred. In the early 2000’s runs per game were higher than they are now (as high as 5.14 in 2004, compared to 4.53 in 2022). There are multiple reasons for this including the aforementioned change in pitching, but it helps prove there is more than one way to a score run.

Growing up, my father taught me how to use the proper tools for different jobs. You wouldn’t use a wrench to hammer a nail. The same framework can be applied on the baseball field. Think of each game as a different type of job with different tools needed. During a season, you will experience slugfests and pitcher’s duals with multiple variations in between. Players that possess the skill sets to succeed in multiple run producing ways are the players that can win any type of game. One dimensional players, and one dimensional teams, are easier to pitch to and easier to defend. Let’s fill each player’s toolbox by teaching them the necessary skills to play tough against all opponents.

Defining “Small Ball”

“Small Ball”, otherwise known as the Short Game, or "manufacturing runs," is defined as an offensive strategy in which the batting team emphasizes run production by advancing runners into scoring position in a deliberate, methodical way without requiring extra base hits, or sometimes, any base hits at all. I would argue that Small Ball doesn’t necessarily need to be methodical at all, but it can be rather aggressive and entertaining. Let’s break “Small Ball” into three categories. Those categories are the bunt game, base running and situational hitting. The bunt game includes all types of bunt plays, including the sacrifice, drag, push, suicide and safety squeeze. Base running will include, but is not limited to, stealing bases, dirtball reads, advancing two bases at a time, or taking any extra base (i.e. an outfielder bobbles the ball or over throwing to cut offs or throwing to the wrong base). Situational hitting would be a hit and run, run and hit, hitting behind runners, scoring the runner from third base with less than two outs and other bat control techniques. I’ll even include two strike adjustments as a form of small ball, since strikeout rates have climbed dramatically over the years.


1. Bunt Game

Contrary to some belief, bunting is not easy, and the higher the level of baseball the more difficult it becomes. All forms of bunting require skill that needs to be perfected, like any other aspect of the game. While controversial in nature due to advanced stats on run probabilities, there are still multiple situations where a bunt is effective.
Defense, in general and at the amateur level, can be suspect. The increased chaos a bunt causes puts more pressure on the infield to make plays. In addition to the lack of pitcher fielding practice at some levels, drag, push and sac bunts can all have a time and place for success. Knowing what side of the field the bunt needs to be directed can increase the odds of it being successful. Typically with a runner on first, the batter would want to put a sacrifice bunt down the first base side. With runners on second, or first and second, the batter wants the third baseman to field the ball. When bunting for a hit with either a drag or push, it’s important to know if a left or right handed pitcher is on the mound. Typically a left handed pitcher falls off the mound towards third base, which makes a push bunt (a bunt between first and second base and past the pitcher) the more appropriate call. With a right-handed pitcher that falls off the mound toward first base, a drag bunt down the third base line is the proper play.

The right time to use these tactics depends on multiple variables. Factors such as the speed of the batter, where you are in the lineup, the score of the game, and who is on the mound all play a role for both you, and your opponent. Two of my favorite bunt plays, which are extremely difficult to defend at any level, are the suicide and safety squeeze plays. When executed properly, they should both lead to guaranteed runs for your offense. If you are facing a dominant pitcher or your batter has been struggling at the plate, and your team needs an insurance run late in the game, this can be the perfect play.

I also want to make note of the ancillary benefits the threat of a bunt can cause. With the increased popularity of the shift, holes in the infield are harder to find for a hitter. If your batter can put a bunt down, the defense needs to respect this as a viable option. The corner infielders can no longer play at greater depths. The more the infield must move-in, the greater the space is for the hitter to find a hole. On the opposite side, if the infield doesn’t respect the bunt option and continues to play back, this opens up room for a drag or push to be more successful.

2. Base Running

For those old enough to remember Game 4 of the ALCS between the Yankees and Red Sox, you will remember one of the most important stolen bases in baseball history. Down one in the bottom of the ninth, with no one out, Dave Roberts steals second for the Red Sox. This stolen base ultimately leads to Roberts scoring to tie the game and an eventual Red Sox victory. Right place, right time, and the right person. The Red Sox were playing to win. They were facing the best closer in the history of the game, and they knew hits would be hard to come by. By stealing second base, they gave their offense three opportunities to get the base hit needed to tie the game. They could have sat back and waited for a double, but with Rivera on the mound and with his propensity for strikeouts and ground balls, it may have never come. Analytics say: if a player or team can steal bases at an 80% or better success rate, you are helping your offense increase their run probability. Your team needs to be prepared to capitalize in these high pressure moments. They should also be prepared to take advantage of amateur pitchers that don’t hold runners well or are slow to the plate.

I’ve always emphasized that immediately after a batter hits the ball his mindset needs to change from being a hitter to “what do I need to do to score.” If a base runner is solely relying on the next batter to drive him in, multiple opportunities to be aggressive on the bases may be missed. Aggressive base running goes well beyond simply stealing a base. The most important base running skill a player can possess is the ability to advance two bases at a time. This means going home to second, first to third and second to home. In order to do this effectively, the runner needs to be proactive in his approach. Hard turns around first base on singles can lead to doubles. Hard turns around first base with runners in scoring position can also lead to extra bases in the case of an overthrow by the outfield or throwing to the wrong base. The ability to go first to third or second to home on base hits will depend on knowing the positioning of the outfield defense before the pitch, gaining productive secondary leads, getting good reads off the bat, and taking the proper angles when rounding the bases. This all takes time to perfect and can be done most effectively during your batting practice routines.

A good base running team puts pressure on a defense to make plays and move fast, which can lead their opponent to make mistakes and errors. A player that has the feel to advance two bases at a time minimizes the need for an extra-base hit to score a run. Players that are a stolen base threat can divert a pitcher’s focus from the batter. This type of distraction can lead to more pitches to hit or increased command issues for pitchers. Teams that are proficient and proactive on the bases and ready to capitalize on all mistakes, are much tougher to play against and defend.

3. Situational Hitting


To have a good situational hitting team means your team is made of unselfish players. Many times, situational hitting means you’re giving yourself up for a productive out. If your lineup is filled with players that are willing to do anything for the overall good of the team, you should win a lot of games.

While we can cover many examples of situational hitting, including the hit and run or run and hit, the most important aspect to me is the ability to score the runner from third base with less than two outs. Most coaches would agree that they would trade an out for a run every time. This is a concept that needs to be emphasized with your team. With a runner on third and less than two outs you will typically see three different types of defense. Those defenses being the infield is all playing up, the infield is all playing back, or the corner infielders are up, and the middle infield is back. In two of those situations, infield back and middle back, all the batter needs to do is hit a ground ball to either the shortstop or second baseman to score the run. With the infield up, the batter is looking to hit a fly ball or line drive in the middle of the field. While neither the ground ball nor fly ball help the player’s batting average, they do become very productive outs by scoring the run. Getting your batters to make these unselfish swing adjustments makes your team tougher to pitch to and defend.

While situational hitting sometimes requires the hitter to cut down the swing and adjust, so does hitting with two strikes. While technically two strike adjustments don’t fall under “Small Ball,” everyone would agree that the more balls a team can put into play, the greater likelihood of having more base runners. Hitters that are tough to strike out increases the pressure on the pitcher, and often drives up pitch counts. These are benefits that can lead to more run scoring opportunities as the game progresses.

When extra-base hits and homeruns are hard to come by, your team still needs to find a way to generate offense. Having your players prepared to score runs in multiple ways only increases your likelihood to win any type of ball game. As an opposing coach, it is never comforting to know the team you’re playing can affect the game on multiple levels. Don’t give up on “Small Ball” strategy when planning practices and developing your players. At some point you will need it.




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

 


 Our Words Matter: How to Be an Ally in Sport
(8/11/2022)
 
   

Our Words Matter: How to Be an Ally in Sport 


Advice for how you can truly support your teammates this season


Being an ally for your teammates doesn’t just mean posting on social media in support of a cause. It means standing up for them in tough situations, even when it’s uncomfortable. In sport and in school, this can be difficult. It can feel unpopular. But it’s the right thing to do.

Here, TrueSport Experts Kevin Chapman, PhD, clinical psychologist and founder of The Kentucky Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, and President of Now What Facilitation, Nadia Kyba, MSW, are sharing their best advice for how you can truly support your teammates this season.

Understand what allyship means for your team
Being an ally for your teammates is part of being a good teammate. “As teammates, understand how much your words matter to the other people on the team,” says Chapman. “Not speaking up for others, letting injustices take place on your team, isn’t acceptable. It's a cancer to the culture of the team.”

Acknowledge your own bias
Everyone has biases and developing a better understanding of the ones that you have can help you be a better ally to your teammates. “It’s not easy to think about your own biases,” says Kyba. “But it’s critically important. Think about the biases you’ve been raised with." For example, often young girls are given white dolls, while boys are given white superhero action figures. This sets up the bias that girls are nurturing and caregivers, while boys are the brave, strong defenders. In addition to these gender-based biases, our unconscious bias becomes that being white is the norm.

Along with race and gender, think about other things that may have created biases in your life: your financial situation or how you were taught to think about class and money; your religion; your sexuality and gender expression; and how different disabilities may lead to certain biases. Understanding your own bias helps you become a better ally because it allows you to better understand the microaggressions and everyday biases that your teammates may encounter.

Open the conversation with the team
It shouldn’t be the role of the transgender athlete on the team to push for a conversation about gender neutral bathrooms, or for the Black athlete to have to start the conversation around systemic racism. Being a good ally doesn’t just mean calling out aggressions and issues, it means being proactive. Consider asking your coach about having a team discussion around values and allyship. You may even want to ask a counselor who’s versed in these topics to come in to speak to the team. These preemptive measures not only make your teammates feel seen, but they may lead to a better understanding for the team as a whole. “Be active up front, rather than being passive until there’s a major issue,” says Kyba.

Remember differences aren’t always obvious
Some differences are more subtle, but equally important in terms of being a good ally. You may not have realized a teammate was Muslim, for instance, and needs to pray at certain times during the day. You may not know that a fellow athlete has a cognitive disability that makes it difficult for him to concentrate during team huddles. You may not be aware that one of your teammates is a transgender woman struggling to deal with a stadium’s bathroom policy.

With this in mind, try to take a moment to consider your personal biases and how you can better meet the needs of your fellow athletes, coaches, or volunteers.

Lean into diversity
Chapman and Kyba agree that saying that you ‘don’t see color’ or you’re ‘color blind’ when it comes to race is not a good thing. You might think you’re saying the right thing when you say that color doesn’t matter, but color blindness actually discourages diversity. “When you say that everyone is the same, athletes don’t feel safe talking about their individual needs,” says Kyba. “If an athlete on the team is Muslim, that makes it hard for them to tell the coach that they need a space to pray. And to pretend that being African American is not a different experience from being White denies that there are still huge problems with systemic racism."

Don’t be afraid to speak up
“From a practical standpoint, being an ally means that if you hear something, like a racial slur or a derogatory comment about someone in a marginalized group, you stand up for them, even if they aren’t in the room,” says Chapman. "It means telling a teammate that what she said was offensive, and asking something like, 'Can you help me understand why you thought that was okay to say?’” Chapman adds that giving someone the space to express what they meant by the comment, and then providing some education about why that comment was not appropriate is the best approach. Kyba agrees, and adds that sometimes, stating back to them what they said (especially in the case of a derogatory comment) and asking them to explain it can help that person quickly see that what they said was inappropriate.

Be aware of microaggressions

While you might be reading this article and thinking that no one on your team makes blatant racial slurs or derogatory comments, microaggressions are a very real problem as well. Microaggressions are seemingly small everyday instances of racism, sexism, homophobia, or religious oppression. If someone is missing practice on Saturday because of their religion, and the coach rolls his eyes as he mentions it, that’s a microaggression. It’s a microaggression to say that you ‘don’t see color,’ or that ‘you can’t be racist because you have Black friends.’ “Don’t stand idly by if you see a microaggression,” says Chapman. “There should be a zero-tolerance policy, and calling those out is important. You may even realize that you’ve been guilty of your own microaggressions, and if that’s the case, humbly apologize, label what was wrong about it, and learn from it.”

Take it offline
Remember that posting about your allyship on social media might feel great in the moment, but it needs to be backed up in real life. “Being an ally means being actively engaged,” says Kyba. “Rather than just throwing a post on social media, you have to actually become a little bit uncomfortable, whether that means asking questions, standing up for a teammate, or having a conversation around race or gender or sexuality with your team.”

Don’t just be an ally, be an accomplice
“I like using the word accomplice rather than ally,” says Chapman. “To me, there is a difference. This example tends to resonate with people and makes it easier to understand: If you were planning to rob a bank, an ally would be someone who would keep your secret and not say anything. An accomplice would drive the getaway car. So many people say that they’re allies, but when it comes time for them to take a risk, be uncomfortable, and actually stand up for someone, they won’t say anything. They won’t take action. An accomplice takes action.”

Know when to seek help
There may be points where you need to be the one to seek outside help from a coach, counselor, or school administration. Bullying, racial slurs, and violence obviously can’t be tolerated on a team, and as an ally, you can be the one to speak up and tell someone in a leadership position what’s going on.

It’s not always easy to know when to get help, though. “It's always appropriate to say something to the perpetrator, when it’s a peer-to-peer situation,” says Chapman. “But if it’s a super flagrant issue like bullying, then you may also need to take it to a higher level—and this is especially true if multiple people are involved."

Takeaway

Being an ally means doing more than reposting content on Instagram. It means standing up for your teammates when they’re treated unfairly and making sure that you’re also working to confront your own biases and assumptions. And it means that you may need to get uncomfortable.



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.


 What's the Call? How the Runs are Scored
(8/4/2022)
 
   

What's the Call? How the Runs are Scored


What's the Call
Presented with Umpires Media


There are two outs and the bases are loaded. The batter hits a homerun, but misses first base on the way around the bases and is declared out on the field. This is a four-base award, so do you have to score all these runs. How many runs score? What's the Call?

For more What's the Call videos, click here.  

Umpires Media is a leading provider of video-based sports rules explanations, maker of the world’s first digital baseball rulebook and the Baseball Rules Explorer.


 Coach’s Mental Health: How to Set Healthy Boundaries as a Coach
(7/28/2022)
 
   

Coach’s Mental Health: How to Set Healthy Boundaries as a Coach


Helping coaches understand how to set—and stick to—boundaries with athletes, parents, administrators, and even with themselves.


Creating strong boundaries is an important and often overlooked piece of the coaching dynamic. A lack of boundaries can not only impact a team’s success, but also lead a coach to experience burnout and negative mental health effects. Here, TrueSport Expert Kevin Chapman, PhD, clinical psychologist and founder of The Kentucky Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, is helping coaches understand how to set—and stick to—boundaries with athletes, parents, administrators, and even with themselves.

Why does a coach need to think about their boundaries?
As a coach, a lot is expected of you. But of course, you aren’t only a coach...you likely have many other responsibilities in your life. “Ultimately, coaches have lives, they have families, they have spouses, they have their own spiritual lives, and they often even have other full-time jobs outside of the sport,” says Chapman. “Like athletes need to be able to leave a bad practice or game on the field and move on, coaches need to be able to step away from the team as well. When coaches don't set healthy boundaries, that can create emotional dysregulation as well as strife within the team. And in many ways, it can create a negative relationship that affects performance.”

How to set boundaries with your team
A healthy coach-athlete relationship is one that is well-defined and has specific boundaries. Many student athletes unfortunately put their coaches in an almost parent-like role in their lives, but that can be problematic for many reasons. “Oftentimes, we have unrealistic expectations for coaches, because in many ways, people expect coaches to parent their kids. But coaches aren't responsible for that. Coaches are responsible for enhancing the development of the student athlete by teaching them discipline, camaraderie, teamwork, and communication, which are those skills that they won't learn necessarily in other settings. And that's why being an athlete is so incredibly rewarding: If you have the right coaches, you learn those things.”

However, that doesn’t mean responding to emails from athletes at 3 a.m. or talking to teachers about getting athletes extensions on papers they haven’t done. Make sure athletes know what they can expect from you, and keep those expectations the same for the entire team. No one athlete should get special treatment or extra allowances from you.

How to set boundaries with parents
This can be really hard to navigate, Chapman admits. Some parents want to be involved with a team for good reasons and with the best intentions, but it’s better to set a blanket boundary for parents rather than allowing some to participate and not others. “Draw a line in the sand about the boundaries that you will maintain throughout the season with parents as it relates to interacting with you as the coach on an individual level, as well as their interactions with players, parents, and officials,” says Chapman. Start each season by informing parents of your boundaries for them: Can they be at practice? What do you expect them to do on competition days? Should they email you about their athlete?

How to set boundaries with administration
“Coaches have a really delicate interplay with school administration, since the administration is responsible for their livelihood, but the coach might also be the mediator between the administration and a student, or administration and a parent,” says Chapman. To create boundaries and consistency, consider having all the coaches at your school or within your club get together to create a set of ideal boundaries between yourselves and the administration and present them as a united front.

For school coaches, this could include establishing your ability to bench or suspend any athlete for misconduct. This might help if, for example, you have to bench your star player for skipping too many practices, but he gets reinstated by the school administrator who wants the team to win the statewide championship. “Things like that undermine a coach’s authority and can lead to burnout or worse,” says Chapman.

How to set boundaries with your own goals
It might sound strange to set boundaries around yourself, but when it comes to goal-setting, you do need to set some healthy expectations around performance and outcomes. If you don’t create a boundary between how the team performs and your personal goals for coaching, you’ll often end up frustrated and/or putting too much pressure on yourself or the team.

“As a coach, your goals shouldn’t be focused on the team’s outcomes in competition,” Chapman says. “Instead, coaches need to set goals that show that their coaching is working and improving. This might include practical process goals like boosting percentages of shots made in a game, but it can also include things like communicating your emotions effectively as a coach and helping your players do the same. A process goal for that could be deciding that at least once in every single team meeting, you ask athletes, ‘What is an emotion you experienced today at practice? How did you respond?’” Make sure that your goals enhance team culture and help your athletes develop as both athletes and humans. It’s also beneficial to communicate these goals to others, especially administration, to ensure that your values are aligned.

Owning your mistakes

As a coach, ensuring that your athletes don’t view you as an infallible, always-perfect person is important for both their wellbeing and your own. It’s tempting to set up a boundary that blocks athletes from seeing any part of you that’s imperfect, but that kind of boundary isn’t healthy for anyone. “Know when you need to show your athletes that you’ve messed up, since that lets them see it’s okay to make mistakes and that it’s important to own those mistakes,” Chapman says. “It’s also important to know when to apologize, and when to let athletes know you’re struggling.”

Of course, this is context dependent: You likely don’t need to apologize to your kindergarten soccer team for a call you made that caused them to lose the game. But you could explain a mistake you made in designing a play to your high school football team.

The importance of sticking to your boundaries
Boundaries only work when they’re clearly defined and respected—most importantly, when they’re respected by you. It’s tempting to allow for exceptions, such as a late night call with your star athlete who’s going through a tough time, but that doesn’t do you or your team any favors in the long run.

Takeaway
As a coach, it may feel like you struggle to find the right boundaries, and to maintain them. But by setting clear boundaries and expectations early, you’re not only helping yourself and your mental health, you’re helping your team members, parents, and school administration.



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 Play Before the Play
(7/22/2022)
 
   

The Play Before the Play


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


“Little roller up along first… behind the bag… IT GETS THROUGH BUCKNER! HERE COMES KNIGHT AND THE METS WIN IT!”

It’s one of the most iconic plays in World Series history. Vin Scully’s call of that final play of Game Six is one of baseball’s timeless soundbites. But without what happened just three pitches prior, the 1986 Fall Classic may have ended with a different winner and all that we remember today with such reverence just might have never been.

With the count 3-2 against Mookie Wilson and the Red Sox just one strike away from their first championship since 1918, Boston’s Bob Stanley uncorked a wild pitch that allowed the tying run to score from third. Because of the way that the game ended, etching itself in baseball lure forever, very few remember the wild pitch that not only tied the game, but as things would turn out, as important, allowed Ray Knight- the eventual winning run- to advance to second.

That wild pitch is the ultimate example of the play before the play; something that happens within a game that, without it, the big play might not even have a chance to take place.

As a Minor League manager across three levels for six years, one of my responsibilities was to simply teach the game to our younger players coming up through the system. While the bulk of their development was found in physical work on the field, it was important to make sure they understood where their physical talents fit within the flow of the game and how their ability to play the game and do the little things directly affected the end result.

Just about every day prior to team stretch, we would gather as a group a review the previous night’s game. Rather than lecturing the club about what I saw myself, it was important to get the players to see those things for themselves, so I would often open things up with the simple question, “alright guys… what do we got from yesterday? What was the most important play of the game?”

In the beginning, the players who spoke up would recognize the big, obvious plays that everyone at the ballpark would notice; the plays that were the next day’s headline like a walk-off homerun or a key strikeout to escape the bases loaded jam in the 9th. With a little guided line of questioning, like “what happened right before that home run,” or “why did the bases stay loaded just prior to the strikeout,” they began to understand what I was getting at. Hitters could see how that two-out, twelve-pitch walk extended the inning to allow the next hitter to even have the opportunity to step up to the plate and send everyone home. Pitchers could grasp how the pitch up and in that went for ball two set up that huge strike three low and away.

Every single pitch and every single play in a game is its own experience. But the amazing thing about each one of those plays and pitches is how they can play a significant role in what happens next. Something as simple as an outfielder throwing to the correct base on a hit can be the reason a key double play is even possible against the very next batter. A great baserunning play to advance to third with less than two outs puts a team in a better position to score what may just be the game-winning run. A pitcher who backs up an errant throw and prevents a run from scoring in what ends as a one run victory. The many little plays that don’t show up in the box score but factored into the end score were the ones that our players needed to become aware of, in order for them to execute them better.

As they slowly caught on, they started to recognize those types of plays before the plays more and more. And the more they were recognized in those pre-game meetings, the more they were celebrated in the game when they happened, even if the ‘big’ play didn’t follow. The more they learned the game through that lens, the better they played it… and that’s what player development is all about.



Darren Fenster is currently the Minor League Infield Coordinator for the Boston Red Sox. In addition to being the Third Base Coach for the 2020 US Olympic Team, Fenster was previously 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.


 6 Healthy Snacks to Keep in Your Sport Locker
(7/14/2022)
 
   

6 Healthy Snacks to Keep in Your Sport Locker


Here are six snacks options that are shelf-stable, energy-packed, and tastebud-approved.


As an athlete, it’s recommended that you eat every three hours throughout the day, so it’s important to find snacks that travel easily, offer the right nutrients, and actually taste good, too. When it comes to nutrition, the goal is to find snacks that fill you up and keep you energized through an optimal blend of mostly carbohydrates, plus some protein and fat to help you feel satisfied for longer.

Here are six snacks options that are shelf-stable, energy-packed, and tastebud-approved.

1. Trail Mix
Trail mix is the easiest shelf-stable snack that can hit all the right notes: sweet and salty, plus a great macro and micro-nutrient nutritional profile for a busy athlete. Even better, it can be easily stored, transported, and eaten anywhere.

Here are a few of our favorite ingredients to include to maximize satiety and taste:

● Protein/Fat: Nuts and seeds are your best friends for protein and fat, and will help you feel full for longer. Walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, and almonds are all great options here. The more varieties you include, the better, since each nut and seed has a slightly different micronutrient profile.
● Carbohydrate: Depending on what you prefer, add carb-based options like raisins, dried goji berries, dried cranberries, banana chips, chocolate chips, Chex mix, and pretzels. You don’t need to add M&Ms to make a trail mix that contains carbs, though there’s nothing wrong with sprinkling a few in!

2. Granola Bars (done right)
Granola bars are obviously the easiest shelf-stable and locker-friendly go-to, but be careful when choosing one. Some granola bars actually have more sugar than a candy bar! Kristen Ziesmer, a registered dietitian, suggests checking the nutrition facts label and looking for granola bars that have less than 10 grams of ADDED sugar (listed below the total carbohydrate/sugar count on the label). This will help you avoid bars that are packed with cane sugar and high fructose corn syrup, while still containing plenty of carbohydrates like oats and dried fruit for energy. Carbohydrates are never your enemy!

3. DIY Energy Balls
If you eat your locker snacks on a daily basis, you can have slightly less shelf-stable options like DIY energy balls. Your energy balls can be made with just a few ingredients and a food processor: no baking required! In a food processor, Ziesmer suggests blending dates or raisins with your favorite nut (like cashews) along with shredded coconut, rolled oats, a bit of salt, and even a pinch of cocoa powder. Blend until they’re smooth, adding more dry ingredients (the nuts, oats, and coconut) until the consistency is thick enough to be rolled into small balls. Put them in the fridge to set, and then store in an airtight plastic bag or container in your locker for up to a week.

4. Pretzels and Shelf-Stable Hummus
If you prefer a saltier snack, a combination of hummus and pretzels is a great way to get carbohydrates, fat, and protein in a fast, easy-to-eat snack. Look for individual packs of whole grain pretzels or buy a bigger bag and divide it into single servings. The pretzels give you some quick energy thanks to their carbohydrate content, while the hummus provides a bit of fat and protein to make the snack more satisfying. Obviously, most hummus needs to be refrigerated, so make sure to look for shelf-stable single-serve containers of hummus. Once opened, don’t return the packages to your locker!

5. Shelf-Stable Chocolate Milk
For a fast hit of carbohydrates, protein, and a bit of fat, it’s hard to beat shelf-stable chocolate milk. There are a few brands that make shelf-stable packs of chocolate milk with organic dairy , or you can opt for almond milk versions if you don’t like regular dairy milk. It’s easy to keep a few of these in your locker for those days you’re running late and don’t have time to actually eat a snack.

6. Coconut Water
If you’re a fan of sports drinks, Ziesmer suggests trying the more natural coconut water, which is available in single-serve shelf-stable packs. It offers electrolytes and enough carbohydrates that make it similar in nutrition profile to a standard sports drink, but the water comes directly from a coconut. Often, you can find coconut water infused with pineapple or mango, if you’re looking for something with more carbohydrates.

Takeaways
Fueling throughout the day with healthy meals and snacks is critical for student athletes. These six snack options will travel easily, taste good, and offer natural carbohydrates from fruit and grains, as well as small amounts of protein and fat.


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.


 How to Be Heat-Healthy This Summer
(7/13/2022)
 
   

How to Be Heat-Healthy This Summer


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


We’ve all heard the term “Dog Days of Summer”, an idiom referring to the hottest days of the year. As the Dog Days loom, did you know young athletes are often the most susceptible to heat stress because they either don’t recognize the symptoms or feel pressured to continue practicing or playing? As a result, it is critical for parents and coaches to learn the signs and symptoms of heat illness to be proactive in prevention and having an action plan in the event an athlete develops heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Heat illnesses threaten the overall safety and well-being of your child. They range in severity from minor to life threatening, which is why it is important to know the different stages of heat illness so that interventions can be made.

Heat cramps, heat syncope (fainting), heat exhaustion and heat stroke are all heat-related illnesses that happen when the body cannot properly cool itself in the heat. The body’s temperature rises faster than it can cool itself down. Exercising or playing in a hot or humid environment can increase the risk of dehydration, which can lead to heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

Although these conditions are all caused by heat and a person’s inability to efficiently dissipate it, they often times cause different combinations of symptoms:



How can you help prevent heat-related illness?

On hot and/or humid days, try to do outdoor activities when it’s coolest, like in the morning or evening hours. You can also help protect your child from the sun by making sure they wear sunscreen, even when it’s overcast. Sunburn affects the body’s ability to cool down, which can cause dehydration.

Fluid needs vary based on activity, intensity, environmental conditions, body size of the athlete and training status.

In addition to encouraging athletes to drink during activity, helping adolescent athletes develop their own hydration schedule is also useful. Scheduling fluid intake will help athletes get in the habit of drinking at regular times throughout the day. The following is an example of a basic fluid hydration schedule. Use this as a guide to help athletes understand the purpose, but have them tailor the times to their school and training schedule changes:



This list is not exhaustive and does not serve as formal education. Thorough education for coaches, athletes, support staff and medical staff around heat illness should occur annually and include:

• understanding when it is safe to conduct a workout
• how to recognize signs of heat illness and initial treatment
• the importance of on-site medical supplies specific to the weather
• venue specific emergency action plans

Organizations should be able to show proper education has occurred for these stakeholders on a yearly basis.

Remember, it’s COOL to be able to prevent and treat heat illness!


https://www.childrenscolorado.org/conditions-and-advice/parenting/parenting-articles/difference-between-heat-exhaustion-heatstroke/

https://truesport.org/hydration/heat-illness-youth-sports/

https://www.childrens.com/health-wellness/the-importance-of-hydration-for-young-athletes

https://www.nata.org/sites/default/files/healthy-hydration-for-young-athletes.pdf


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

USCAH was founded upon the need for trusted, independent athletic health care partners with the experience and expertise to advise and consult with organizations regarding their healthcare delivery system. This is why USCAH is committed to providing independent and unbiased medical expertise to organizations and individuals dedicated to the optimal health and safety for the athletes they serve. If your team or organization would like to learn more about preventing/treating heat illnesses or emergency action plans, please reach out to [email protected] or visit www.uscah.com.




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


 What's the Call? How Many Runs Score?
(7/7/2022)
 
   

What's the Call? How Many Runs Score?


What's the Call
Presented with Umpires Media


The bases are loaded with the game tied at 5-5 in the bottom of the ninth. The batter hits a deep ball into left-center field. The ball bounces over the fence for a ground-rule double. What’s the final score? What's the Call?

For more What's the Call videos, click here.  

Umpires Media is a leading provider of video-based sports rules explanations, maker of the world’s first digital baseball rulebook and the Baseball Rules Explorer.