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 6 Simple Reasons Why Athletes Fail to Meet Their Goals
(5/27/2021)
 
 
   

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.


 How to Eat for Immune Support During COVID-19
(4/7/2021)
 
 
   

How to Eat for Immune Support During COVID-19


Basic tips on eating for immune health


Nervous about your young athlete’s immune system as cold and flu season continues and COVID-19 is still a part of everyday life? You’re not alone. But luckily, there are some easy ways to boost your child’s immune health without turning to supplements or pills: Food can be a powerful tool in your efforts to keep your child healthy this year.

Here, TrueSport Expert Kristen Ziesmer, a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, shares her best tips for boosting immunity in the kitchen.

Educate your athlete
Ziesmer believes that when kids are educated about nutrition, it’s easier to encourage healthy eating. “I like to explain to kids how digestion works: when you eat something, it travels through your body and it gets absorbed into your whole system, so if you're eating a bunch of junk food, that's what is absorbed into your system and you won’t perform your best.” She recommends watching an explanatory video or two about the digestive system with your kids to help get them on board with improving their diets.

Improve the microbiome
Research has shown that immunity is linked to good gut health, which means a healthy gut microbiome. That’s right, not all bacteria are bad—and having a healthy balance in the gut can go a long way towards keeping your child healthy.

“There's no one magic food, but you can start improving immunity by having a healthy gut microbiome,” Ziesmer says. “The bacteria in your gut affects so many different things in your body, and about 70 percent of your immune system is found in your digestive tract. We want to populate our gut with good bacteria, which comes from fermented foods. Eating those foods will raise the level of healthy bacteria in your stomach, which will boost your immune system.”

Ziesmer recommends gut-bacteria-boosting foods that are rich in probiotics, including sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and kefir.

Eat the rainbow—especially greens
“Eating a generally healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables will provide vitamin C, vitamin E, and different antioxidants,” Ziesmer says. So, make sure that most meals are colorful, with a wide variety of vegetables, whole grains, and clean protein sources. Green vegetables in particular have been shown to potentially boost immunity, and of course, are part of any healthy diet.

Sneak in greens whenever possible, whether it’s a handful of spinach in a smoothie, broccoli in a stir fry, or a little extra arugula on your athlete’s sandwich.

Add more fiber
Certain fibers—including those found in apples, oats, and nuts—have been shown to strengthen the immune system while decreasing inflammation. Meaning that yes, an apple a day may keep the doctor away! “Naturally occurring fiber found in fruit and vegetables also helps populate your gut with healthy bacteria,” Ziesmer adds. “Probiotics are the healthy bacteria, but prebiotics are the fibers from foods that the healthy bacteria eat. Apples, bananas, asparagus, oats, and Jerusalem artichokes are great prebiotic sources.”

Watch out for fast food
Fatty foods, primarily those that are deep-fried and high in sodium as well as fat, have been linked to worse immune health, so it’s critical to keep the overall food quality of your athlete’s diet high. The occasional trip to a fast food spot won’t destroy your child’s immunity, but it’s important to make a high-quality diet a priority.

"If your athlete is eating a lot of junk food, that's obviously going to make the bacteria in the stomach more toxic rather than increasing the good bacteria,” says Ziesmer. “When eating out, you're going to be consuming a lot more saturated fat, salt, preservatives, and additives, all of which can raise the level of inflammation within the body and counteract the effects of having the healthy bacteria in your stomach.”

Even picky eaters need to eat right
It’s tough to push a plate of vegetables on a picky eater, but it’s critical for their health. Ziesmer recommends starting off by just putting certain vegetable on their plate at dinner. “Some kids have to be exposed to new foods 20 times before they will even try them,” she says.

You can also increase buy-in by having kids help pick new recipes, grocery shop, and food prep. And when all else fails, Ziesmer says to disguise foods, adding spinach to smoothies or wrapping asparagus in prosciutto. Or, she recommends the classic banana, which is packed with fiber and other vital nutrients. “Most kids like bananas,” she says. “Put one in the freezer and it’s just like ice cream!”

Takeaway
Food can be one of the many tools you use to help keep your young athletes healthy, and it doesn’t have to be hard with these basic tips on eating for immune health.


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.


 Planning
(4/6/2021)
 
 
   

Planning


Cuddyer's Corner
By Michael Cuddyer


Former Major Leaguer Michael Cuddyer emphasizes the importance of writing out a plan for the day, the week, and the year. 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.


 0-2 Strikeout to End the Inning
(4/4/2021)
 
 
   

0-2 Strikeout to End the Inning


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses a strikeout on an 0-2 count to end the 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.


 Making It Safe...Even When They Are Out
(3/19/2021)
 
   

Making It Safe...Even When They Are Out


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


A few years ago, during Spring Training, Brian Butterfield, then a part of our Big League staff with the Red Sox, led a discussion amongst Minor League coaches about the nuances of coaching third, a role he has had at the Major League level for more than 20 years. He detailed everything from how he gave signs to where he positioned himself on the field to what he looked for when deciding whether to send a runner home.

He also discussed the importance of body language.

Using the example of a baserunner who got thrown out by a mile because of a poor decision to go or a missed sign, Butterfield said that he always made it a point to help the player up off the ground and give them an encouraging pat on the butt, regardless of how bad the play. He said plainly that giving that simple pat on the backside might just be the most important thing he does in a game. It tells everybody in the ballpark- including sometimes 50,000 fans booing them off the field- that he had his player’s back, even though they were out. His support for his players essentially made it safe to mess up. That left a lasting impression on me.

Spend enough time coaching in baseball, and you will see some incredible things happen on the field- many that you can’t believe just happened and many that you CAN’T believe just happened. One euphoric, the other, maddening. In those instances that make your blood boil, it is easy to react without thinking. It is easy to give a death stare to someone across the diamond who just missed the hit-and-run sign. It is natural to throw your hands up in the air and yell without even thinking when your defense makes a dumb mistake. It is completely normal to get mad when things don’t go as planned. But when players see those reactions, inherently they can become scared to make a mistake. And when players play scared, the end result is usually not a good one.

While managing in A-ball, the first full season of professional baseball for many on our roster, we had an infielder who had a bad habit of constantly playing back on ground balls. He could get away with it while playing second base, but with the longer throw across the diamond at third, he would routinely play what should have ground ball outs into infield hits. Coming in on the ball was a challenge for him. He was that player who played scared, afraid to make an error by doing something he wasn’t used to doing. We worked on it all the time during his pre-game defensive routine, but the old habits crept back in when the lights came on.

Then, it happened. On a ground ball that he would typically back up on, he finally came in aggressively to field the ball. The ball clanked off of his glove for an error. I have never gotten more excited about an error in my life. When the inning ended, he came back to the dugout dejected after mishandling the play, and I think I gave him a hug, so pumped that he went after it the right way. He looked at me like I had three heads. The end result wasn’t what we wanted, but it was a distinct moment of progress. And from my reaction to his making an error, it was almost as if he had permission to screw up. He wasn’t scared to make a mistake by trying something new. So, he kept trying until he figured it out.

One of the many unique aspects of professional baseball is witnessing each player’s journey as they progress over time. We get them at various points of their development, each guy at their own individual stage. Some may already have polished skills and great habits from day one and simply need to keep doing what they are doing, while others might ooze potential with their raw athletic ability but make a lot of mistakes and need to turn that talent into a useable skill that works on the field. But regardless of where a player may start, we want them all to have the attitude they will never finish, constantly pushing the envelope to get better. More times than not, that improvement comes from failure. So as a coach, when you find ways to encourage and embrace failure, especially in practice, you are breeding the exact kind of growth you want in your team where success will eventually follow. It’s not accepting failure; it’s creating an environment where it is okay to fail; it is making it safe for your players…even when they are out.


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.


 Coaches Clinic - March 31, 2021
(3/31/2021)
 
   

March 31, 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.

Todd Carroll, MIT
Sean Travers, 64 Club
Rob DiToma, Fairleigh Dickinson University
Kyle MacKinnon, McPherson College

OUTLINE



 Coaches Clinic - March 26, 2021
(3/26/2021)
 
   

March 26, 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.

Josh Schulman, Yale University
Tommy Dueñas, Texas Rangers
Michael Schlact, Missoula Paddleheads
Rich Austin, Colorado Slammers
Jordan Baltimore, New York Empire

OUTLINE



 Olecranon Stress Fractures
(3/15/2021)
 
   

Olecranon Stress Fractures


Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard


Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopaedic Surgeon at Duke University, discusses overuse injuries of the growth plate or the bone at the back of the elbow, referred to as olecranon stress fractures. 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 Easy Ways for Young Athletes to Practice Gratitude
(3/10/2021)
 
   

5 Easy Ways for Young Athletes to Practice Gratitude


How coaches and parents can help their athletes practice an attitude of gratitude


Practicing gratitude has been a trending topic amongst mental health and wellness experts in recent years, and for good reason: This simple shift in thinking can lead to big change. According to the American Psychological Association, teens who practice gratitude are more likely to be happier in general and less likely to have behavior problems at school. They’re also likely to be healthier overall, according to new research, and could even be more likely to easily make friends.

But can gratitude also help them on the field? TrueSport Expert Kevin Chapman, PhD, clinical psychologist and founder of The Kentucky Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, says yes, and explains how coaches and parents can help their athletes practice an attitude of gratitude.

1. Understand process versus outcome
Gratitude helps ground athletes in the present moment by reminding them of the positives that are happening right now. "Depending on what an athlete is struggling with, you may find that getting them to be more attentive to feelings of gratitude is an antidote to some of the difficulties they face,” Chapman says. “Anytime you have negative self-talk and thoughts, those lead to strong emotional experiences that can inhibit your performance. In those cases, it’s always helpful to identify the things that you're grateful for.”

“For instance, some athletes struggle with not scoring goals. Many of those athletes will focus on that negative outcome and will tend to perceive their identity as part of their results and their performance, which can result in a lot of negative self-talk. But you can help them by reminding them why they're playing the sport, as opposed to the outcome of playing their sport. That’s a simple way to get them to shift their attention to being present, being grateful, being thankful that they can play. The goal is to get them back to enjoying the game, as opposed to focusing on the future or the outcome of the game."

2. Rewrite self-talk
“When I have an athlete who struggles with self-talk, I think it’s really important to specifically identify the negative things that they're saying to themselves that are outcome-focused,” Chapman says. "Once they can identify the negative self-talk, then that forms the basis to replace it with more flexible thoughts associated with gratitude.”

You can work on this with your athletes by first having them list five negative self-talk phrases that come to mind for them, then identifying what they could say instead to flip the script to something more positive.

"I get athletes to focus on what they're going to say to themselves before, during, and after competition,” he adds. “Statements like 'I love this game,’ or ‘I feel good when I focus on my own game,’ can help them concentrate on those feelings of gratitude. I get athletes to memorize about five positive self-talk statements that they can easily recall in various instances during sport performance. That way, when they do have a bad performance, they can use one of those affirmations while doing some deep breathing, and then move on. And outside of the game, I want athletes looking at those statements twice a day to get them fixed in their brains.”

3. Make a cue card
Chapman recommends having each athlete make his or her own index card with a list of a few things they’re grateful for, and at least one positive self-talk mantra at the bottom. “I have athletes write this out and put it in their locker, keep it in their duffel bag for competitions, or even go digital and put it on the home screen of their phone so they can see it all the time,” he says.

You can also recommend that athletes make one of these cue cards on a monthly basis. New negative self-talk will constantly be buzzing in the background, so it’s important to make sure that positive self-talk is regularly responding to the new stimulus.

4. Ask the right questions
After a competition, a lot of athletes, parents, and coaches will focus on the outcome, what went wrong, and what a team can do better the next time rather than the effort and the process.

“Asking athletes—and getting them to start asking themselves—things like, ‘What did I learn today?' is a really good way to not only keep a process-focus, but to also focus on gratitude,” Chapman says. You can also ask gratitude-specific questions, like what they were most thankful for during the game, or have them tell a teammate how grateful they were for their support.

Overall, Chapman advises parents and coaches to “Allow them to experience their emotions and thoughts, just try to shift them towards a more positive pattern."

5. Start a gratitude board or team practice
As the coach, you can create a team culture of gratitude. One way to do so, especially with younger athletes, but also with teens, is by having a large team gratitude board set up where athletes can write out one thing that they’re grateful for each day. Alternatively, you can have athletes do this out loud.

Let your team decide on how they want to start a gratitude practice together, Chapman suggests. “It depends on the athletes and it depends on what speaks to them."

Takeaway
Gratitude can be practiced just like standard skills and drills, leading to both performance and general wellness benefits.



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 Raise Upstanders, Instead of Bystanders
(2/24/2021)
 
   

How to Raise Upstanders, Instead of Bystanders


Five strategies to help your athletes become upstanders instead of bystanders


As young athletes navigate through adolescence, they may run into situations that challenge their moral compass. Whether your athlete is faced with an ethical dilemma in school, in sport, or in the community, doing the right thing is important – no matter who is watching.

In a study about young children and the bystander effect, results showed that although children are typically extremely helpful to others in need, they are more inclined to assist others only when the responsibility is clearly attributed to them. Children were less likely to help when there were other potential helpers around because there was a diffusion of responsibility. Here are five strategies to help your athletes become upstanders instead of bystanders in those complex times when their sense of responsibility and decision-making skills are tested.

Reinforce positive behaviors
Kids can learn about caring, fairness, and how to lead an ethical life from the people around them, so it’s up to adults to lead by example when it comes to intervening in a situation where someone needs help.

“One of the simplest ways to help kids learn new behaviors is to reinforce them as they happen,” explains Michelle Borba, PhD, an internationally recognized character education expert, educational psychologist, and award-winning author of 22 parenting books.

“Purposely catch your child acting morally and acknowledge their good behavior by describing what they did right and why you appreciate it.”

Teach them to become active bystanders
According to the Safety Net Coalition at Loyola University in Chicago, an active bystander is someone who not only witnesses a situation, but takes action to keep a situation from escalating or to disrupt a problematic situation.

When kids decide to speak up on another person’s behalf, it takes courage. Sitting in silence when you recognize someone is being hurt can also be devastating and fill your child with guilt after the incident.

Teach your athlete how to become action-oriented and assertive when it comes to situations that are unjust in their eyes. For example, if your athlete sees a teammate taunting an athlete on an opposing team, encourage them to be an upstander and leader by taking action to stop the bullying, whether it’s by helping the target walk away, telling an adult, or another method.

Expand your child’s circle of concern
Another way to raise upstanders is to expand their circle of concern. By teaching your young athlete to show care and concern to a wider network of people, you’re teaching them that their decisions have an impact on others in their community.

Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Making Care Common Project encourages parents to “cultivate children’s concern for others because it’s fundamentally the right thing to do, and also because when children can empathize with and take responsibility for others, they’re likely to be happier and more successful.”

So, the next time your child is debating whether they should invite one of their teammates or classmates to their birthday party, for example, ask them to put themselves in the other person’s shoes and how they would feel if they didn’t get an invite to a party that everyone else was invited to.

Practice kindness and empathy
Empathy creates compassion for other people’s perspectives.

In her book, Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, Borba shares, “Empathy can be instilled, and it is composed of teachable habits that can be developed, practiced, and lived. Empathy is what lays the foundation for helping children live one essential truth: We are all humans who share the same fears and concerns and deserve to be treated with dignity.”

When your athlete is regularly exposed to kindness and empathy, they grow both socially and emotionally. So, whether your athlete is having a tough time with a teammate’s attitude or they’re struggling with the coach’s decision to bench them for a game, acknowledge what they’re feeling and continue to encourage them to look at the situation from another perspective.

Create a positive, caring family motto
Borba also recommends that parents develop a family mantra. “Ask your child, ‘What do I stand for in this house? What really makes the difference in this house? What do you think is important to me in this house?’”

Borba adds that “You’ll begin to hear the kinds of values that your child thinks are important. Then, you can come up with some fun, memorable motto.”

As your athlete lives out your new motto, they will begin to internalize that positivity, which will soon be reflected in school, on the field, and in situations when it matters most.
______

Most parents hope to raise kids who play by the rules, are brave enough to stand up for what is right, and who make sure that everyone is treated fairly, equally, and honestly.

These strategies will encourage your athlete to help others as they foster their sense of personal responsibility.



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.


 Catch Greatness by Chasing the Right Things
(2/18/2021)
 
   

Catch Greatness by Chasing the Right Things


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


It’s easy to fall into the trap. We’ve all done it, myself included, many times. Societal norms can pull us in the wrong direction and leave us chasing the wrong things. We chase the things that the world tells us to, that will give us a better outside appearance when the reality is that we should be chasing the things that transform us on the inside.

Money.

Status.

Titles.

Possessions.

Companions.

It’s common to chase all of these things at various points in life, I’ve been guilty of this many times, but happiness doesn’t always follow even after these things you think you want are attained. When you chase the right things, personal fulfillment is often what follows, and that’s far more valuable than dollars or fame.

The same premise holds true on the diamond. Over the past fifteen-plus years, from working as a college assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Rutgers, to becoming a Minor League hitting instructor turned manager turned coordinator, there have been far too many instances of people going after the wrong things in the wrong ways. This includes Minor Leaguers chasing the Big Leagues, the high school kid chasing the scholarship, college coaches chasing their next job, hitters chasing hits, or pitchers chasing punchouts. Whether you are a player or a coach, look in the mirror and ask yourself, “are YOU chasing the right things?”

Chase PASSION: truly enjoying what you do makes you want to do it more and inspires others in the process to do the same. Coaches’ love for the game gets ingrained into the players they get to work with. Players’ love for the game energizes their coaches to work even harder to make them better. It is a two-way street, and it happens all the time.

Chase PEOPLE: those who will make you better from the inside, out. A few years ago, I had the chance to leave the Red Sox for a higher profile job and a bigger salary. Had I been presented with this opportunity ten years prior, I would have signed on the dotted line before the offer was made because money and status were my compasses. Luckily, my new compass points to people. I realized that I wasn’t ready to leave the people with the Red Sox, who gave me a second life in the game. Turning that “better” job down was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Chase PROCESS: when you work with the belief and the effort that you never arrive, one day, you will. Every Minor Leaguer wants to have a long Major League career, while every hitter wants to get a hit whenever they step foot in the box, and every pitcher dreams of throwing an immaculate inning, striking out the side on nine straight pitches. It’s easy to chase those results. But when people learn what exactly goes into those results and focus on controlling the things that they can control, the results they want often take care of themselves.

Chase AUTHENTICITY: surrounding yourself with real people helps you learn that you don’t have to be fake. Throughout life, we all go through insecurities. That same self-doubt is all over the place on baseball fields everywhere. “Am I good enough?” “Why can’t I break the lineup.” I don’t throw hard enough.” We all have our own unique gifts, both on and off the field. When we truly appreciate and embrace what those gifts are and stop yearning for what are don’t, we are in a far better position to find success by simply being who we are and doing what we do, both on and off the field.

Chase GROWTH: the smartest guy in the room is the one who doesn’t know a thing. When I first started coaching in 2006, I was the dumbest guy in the room because I knew it all. Once I began to understand what I, in fact, did not understand, I was able to transform myself as a coach and continue to chase knowledge every day, in some way, shape, or form. A player who chases growth welcomes their small wins but quickly moves on to their next challenge. What does that player’s progress look like after a week, a month, a season, or a career? They are the epitome of the compound effect of simply trying to get one percent better every day.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be great. In fact, this world is in desperate need of people with great aspirations. Greatness won’t come overnight, and it surely won’t come from running in the wrong direction. But once you understand exactly what to chase, you can’t help but reach that greatness, no matter what it may look like.



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.


 OCD Injuries
(2/15/2021)
 
   

OCD Injuries


Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard


Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopaedic Surgeon at Duke University, discusses osteochondritis dessicans injuries, or OCD injuries. 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.


 Coaches Clinic - March 3, 2021
(3/3/2021)
 
   

March 3, 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.

Bryan Stark, Harvard University
Roy Hallenbeck, Millville HS (NJ)
Scott Bankhead, USAB/NC Baseball Academy
Alex Jurczynski, Princeton University

OUTLINE



 Coaches Clinic - February 26, 2021
(2/26/2021)
 
   

February 26, 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.

Brady Kirkpatrick, Harvard University
Tony Schifano, San Francisco State University
Jeremy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds
Lauren Rhyne, USA Baseball
Andre Butler, Swarthmore College/Graveyard Mentality

OUTLINE



 2 Out RBI Double
(2/14/2021)
 
   

2 Out RBI Double


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses a 2 out RBI double on a 1-1 count.


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.


 Hidden Resilience: How to Build a Team
(2/10/2021)
 
   

Hidden Resilience: How to Build a Team


How you can help shift problematic behaviors to more positive ones


Have you ever considered the possibility that the behaviors you find most aggravating within your team might be undercover superpowers?

While we know resiliency is one’s ability to overcome adversity, it’s also important to recognize hidden resilience, which is the ability to overcome adversity using behaviors that are not always viewed as positive. Searching for hidden resilience means taking traditionally ‘bad behaviors’ and figuring out how to flip them to find a positive skill.

Nadia Kyba, MSW, TrueSport Expert and President of Now What Facilitation, gives the example of a player who’s always calling others out for things they’re doing wrong. While the habit may be negatively received by their teammates, the athlete might actually have the makings of a good coaching assistant if those critiques could be channeled positively.

According to Kyba, there is often some hidden resilience behind bullying-type behaviors. But how can you help shift those problematic behaviors to more positive ones?

1. Look beyond the surface
Bullying behaviors are obviously not acceptable on a team, but don’t stop at simply shutting it down. Try to understand what is causing the behavior.

"Some of the reasons an athlete might be bullying others is because they're looking for a chance to be accepted and have meaningful participation, or they're looking for self-determination,” says Kyba. "They want to take charge of what happens to them, so they're creating those outcomes for themselves by bullying other people.” That kind of hidden resilience is a protection mechanism, often hiding a fear of failure or embarrassment.

2. Remember kids are smarter than you think
“If a child can anticipate an outcome, even if it's going to be a negative outcome, they may do that thing because at least there is predictability,” says Kyba. For example, if a child is extremely nervous about the outcome of a big game, they may actively try to talk back during practice or show up late in order to guarantee they get benched.

If you can talk to an athlete who you suspect is using that kind of behavior to avoid feelings of vulnerability, you may be able to help them set and manage new expectations, and give them new tools for developing as an athlete and a human.

3. Consider past traumas
Kyba often refers to a trauma-informed approach, which means that coaches look beyond how an athlete is currently behaving and seek to understand what happened to them in the past to cause those behaviors. This approach can help you understand how and why an athlete is using his or her hidden resilience as a tool.

“Rather than thinking, ‘Oh, he’s just being lazy by showing up late to practice,’ say, ‘I know he’s being resilient. He’s had some adversity and he's overcoming it by setting his own schedule to feel in control.’ This shift—whether you’re accurately assessing the situation or not—helps you feel a level of empathy for the athlete that you may not have had before, which may make it easier to have a conversation with the student." With this empathy, it’s also easier to move to the next stage, where you work to help them to channel their behavior more proactively.

4. Turn the negative to a positive
Often, it’s hard for young athletes to see themselves clearly, and most of the motivators behind hidden resilience won’t be understood by the athlete. But as an adult, you can see how an athlete can tap into that reserve of resilience and channel it in more positive ways.

Kyba explains, “Often, you have to give the athlete a substitute for the problem behavior. Explain that instead of being the ‘loud kid’ on the team, they can be the leader on the team. Instead of acting out to get banned from the game, they can do some extra practice sessions and visualization exercises to feel more prepared.”

5. Normalize team conversations
Communication, done early and often, can solve most problems before they start. “Having regular team meetings is incredibly important,” Kyba says. “Let athletes voice their concerns without fear of reprisal. Talk about if there are conflicts happening, discuss team guidelines, leave the floor open for athletes to talk about areas where they’re not happy.” If you can normalize these meetings early on in the season, it becomes easier to have honest, open conversations.

Takeaway
An athlete’s past experiences and traumas, however small, may significantly impact their behaviors in many settings, including sport. While these behaviors may be problematic, and even include bullying behaviors, it’s important to recognize the hidden resilience behind them and help the athlete channel that strength into more positive actions.



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.


 Coaching Mental Skills
(2/17/2021)
 
   

Coaching Mental Skills


Mental Skills
By Andy Bass


“Baseball is 90% mental, and the other half is physical”—Yogi Berra. Although Mr. Berra’s percentages don’t quite add up, it is uncontroverted that the mental game is imperative to elite performance and success. Mentality is what separates the good from the great. The solid high school player from the collegiate player. The fourth outfielder from the All-American. The cup of coffee big leaguer from the ten-year veteran. There is perhaps nothing in sport that is a bigger predictor of success than mentality.

Perhaps daunted by the importance of the mental game (90%), we may tend to overestimate the time and resources needed to develop it. I fell into this trap as a coach myself when I was in graduate school studying Sport Psychology. I thought we would have to spend dozens of hours each week discussing confidence, arousal control, visualization, self-talk, focus, performance under pressure, etc. After all, we only have so many hours with our players, and we need to get our work in on the field. We may not be able to allocate time for a TED talk in the locker room. We may not always have the resources to bring in a Sport Psychology consultant to work with our team for a weekend, three weeks in a row.

The truth is we don’t have to.

Five minutes. Can we spend five minutes before practice and ask our players to lie down in the locker room for deep breathing and mindfulness?

Two minutes. Later in practice, can we spend two minutes asking players what kind of breath they were taking as they struggled in batting practice off a hard velocity machine?

One minute. Can we take one minute in the dugout after a player struck out to remind him to bring focus to the breath—to come back to the present moment?

Thirty seconds. Can we spend thirty seconds texting out a visualization audio file for our pitchers to listen to on their phones before they come to practice?

Ten seconds. Can we ask a pitcher in the bullpen to take ten seconds between a pitch to breathe and visualize the low and away fastball he is about to throw?

Two seconds. Can that pitcher in the next game take two seconds to visualize that low and away fastball before he toes the rubber?

In our organization, our mental skills team works to find those moments in the day when we can bring attention to the mental game. We want to ‘be brief, be bold, and be gone’ in between rounds of batting practice as a player stands in the outfield and discusses his self-talk with us. This takes minutes. We can send a YouTube video to an athlete about confidence as we leave the field for the night. This takes seconds.

Mr. Berra also said, “We made too many wrong mistakes” Don’t make the mistake of equating the importance of the mental game in baseball/softball with the consumption of time or expense.


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.


 Self-Perception
(2/9/2021)
 
   

Self-Perception


Cuddyer's Corner
By Michael Cuddyer


Former Major Leaguer Michael Cuddyer highlights why it is important to take a step back and reflect on your own experiences. 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.


 Ball Hit into Left Field to Easily Score Runner
(1/31/2021)
 
   

Ball Hit into Left Field to Easily Score Runner


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses a ball hit into left field that easily scores the runner on third.


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 Parents Need to Know About Sports Physicals
(1/27/2021)
 
   

What Parents Need to Know About Sports Physicals


How you can best tackle your athlete's sports physical


When your athlete comes home from school with a paper requiring a doctor’s sign-off before they can start the season, getting them in for the sports physical can feel like a chore. But really, the preparticipation sports physical is an opportunity for your child’s primary care physician to catch any underlying problems, check in with your athlete, and make an honest assessment about their readiness for play. Here’s what Dr. Michele LaBotz, TrueSport Expert and sports medicine physician, wants you to know about why and how you can best tackle the sports physical.

It’s an important check-in
From injury recovery to body weight concerns, and irregular heartbeats to concussion recovery assessment, your child’s preparticipation examination isn't just another item to check off the to-do list with as little effort as possible. It’s a legitimate visit to a medical professional to determine if your child is healthy enough to play, and it should be treated seriously.

Since these examinations often end with a simple ‘cleared for play’ stamp of approval, LaBotz says that it’s a task often viewed as an imposition, not a helpful intervention. “If you have a kid who's been really healthy and everything is fine, the physical may feel like a waste of time,” she says. “But I've done enough of these where we’ve found something surprising, like previously unrecognized vision problems or high blood pressure that, if left untreated, could become a lot more serious.”

It may be one of the few doctor visits your child has
“For healthy kids, the preparticipation examination may be the only time that they’re seeing a doctor all year, and many doctors can combine them with a routine well child visit” says LaBotz. Insurance coverage can vary, but well child visits are often covered, while dedicated sports physicals often are not, so combining them typically works well.

Sports physicals should ideally be performed at least six weeks before the start of the sports season to allow for enough time to address any issues that may arise. It can help to keep this timing in mind when scheduling your child’s routine check-ups with their primary care provider.

Fill out the history together
The medical and family history are a very important part of the sports physical, and one of reasons why sports physicals are best performed in the primary care provider’s office. In addition, the sports physical forms typically have a section for parents and athletes to complete. Don’t just sign off on this or let your child fill it out alone. Sit down with your athlete and go through the past year in sport together.
“You’d be surprised how many parents hadn’t heard that their child had sprained an ankle or had a bad fall during practice,” says LaBotz. And on the opposite side, your child might have already forgotten about a pulled muscle or a mild concussion that you remember in vivid detail. You may also have more information regarding family health history that your child doesn’t think about, like a history of significant heart or lung disease.

They offer kids a chance to talk
It’s not just physical support that children might need: doctors are also tasked with assessing whether a child is dealing with any mental or emotional issues. For a young athlete, body image issues and disordered eating could be problems that would otherwise go undiagnosed. And because doctors are bound to confidentiality requirements, this might be the only chance your child has to comfortably discuss things like drug or alcohol use, performance-enhancing drugs and supplements, or birth control with a professional. These visits may help provide your child access to other resources, since a doctor can refer them to a therapist, registered dietitian, or other appropriate expert.

Your child will likely be cleared for some play
“No doctor wants to keep children out of sport,” LaBotz says. They understand that children should have at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily for general health. “But if the doctor does find a reason that your child shouldn’t play a certain sport, we can often provide clearance for an alternate sport. A common example these days are athletes who may have ongoing issues from a previous concussion. We would not be able to clear them for a contact sport like football or soccer, but there are many other options.”

Sports physicals aren’t created equal
It may be tempting to opt for a cheaper or more convenient urgent care or pharmacy-based clinic for your child’s sports physical. But that fast-food approach to medicine is doing your child a disservice. “Your child’s primary care doctor will be able to compare year-over-year data during a physical in a way that an urgent care doctor isn’t able to do,” explains LaBotz. “One of these fast visits where the doctor doesn’t know your child can easily result in them missing important signs or changes that could signal a more serious problem.”

Takeaway
While it’s tempting to prioritize speed and convenience when it comes to the sports physical, there are plenty of reasons why it’s important to take the process seriously and get your athlete to their primary care physician for this important examination.



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.