Blog

 Celebrating the People Who “Don’t Matter”
(1/21/2022)
 
 
   

Celebrating the People Who “Don’t Matter”


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


On the final day of Major League Baseball's regular season, the Red Sox clinched a playoff spot with a thrilling come from behind win over the Nationals. It was the cap of an unexpectedly successful season for Boston, one where few- if any- baseball experts thought this club had any chance of playing in October. The 2021 campaign was supposed to be a transition for the Sox as the franchise moved closer to long-term, sustained competitiveness. Just by playing meaningful games late in September, the club had exceeded early expectations. To clinch one of the two American League Wild Card spots? That was the icing on the cake.

When addressing the team before the club's well-deserved champaign celebration in the visiting clubhouse at Nationals Park, Alex Cora went around the room and recognized as many people as he could in the total team effort to reach the postseason. He thanked coaches and support staff as a group. He similarly thanked his players and pointed out a few front office personnel. Then he said this: "Taylor and Kuch… thank you. You guys have done an amazing job to help get us here."

It happened quickly. And if you didn't work for the Red Sox or even know the backstory of their journey into the postseason, which included a month-long Covid outbreak late in the summer, you wouldn't have even noticed, nor given a second thought to that specific thank you. Taylor is Taylor Boucher. And Kuch, is Nick Kuchwara. In the Red Sox Media Guide, both are listed as Minor League Athletic Trainers. But thanks to a worldwide pandemic, their roles changed for the 2021 season, as both were added to the Major League traveling party in charge of Covid protocol compliance for the club.

Taylor and Kuch were the guys who organized the frequent testing throughout the season, both at home and on the road. They were the guys who constantly reminded everyone to wear masks in the clubhouse and on the plane. These two were the guys who, before every away trip, sent out recommendations and risk factors for each particular city. This was not the job either signed up for. But it was the job both willingly did. And without their diligence to do the job they were tasked with, the Red Sox may not have been celebrating that Sunday afternoon in Washington.

Taylor Boucher and Nick Kuchwara didn't pitch a single inning nor step to the plate for a single at-bat this past season. On the surface, one would think they would have nothing to do with the club's success. But when Alex Cora singled them out after punching their playoff ticket, it was clear that two guys who seemingly didn't matter mattered that much more.

As the saying goes, it takes a village. In baseball, a team's success goes far beyond just the players on the field and the coaches in the dugout. Often, someone is so far removed from the action that they don't truly feel like a part of an organization's success. Sometimes, because they are so far removed, those people may struggle to find true meaning in what they do. A scout in the Dominican. An entry-level analyst. A manager in A-ball. The reality is that organizations work as a whole. And while the spotlight is on the team's results, those wins came thanks to a player that scout signed, an advance report that the analyst worked on, or a pitcher who came up through the system.

As a leader, it's easy to point out the people who everyone sees every day. But when you recognize and celebrate those people who "don't matter," you give them purpose. You make them feel valued. You make their days matter. You make them feel like a part of the team, which they most assuredly are. And when they know- because you are celebrating them- that they are, in fact, an important part of the team, you will have inspired them to go out and continue to do their jobs, even better. Just as Taylor and Kuch did, all spring and summer long in Boston.


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.


 Finger Blisters
(1/18/2022)
 
 
   

Finger Blisters


Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard


Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopaedic Surgeon at Duke University, discusses the causes and treatments for finger blisters. 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.


 Turning Sports Leaders into Life Leaders
(1/13/2022)
 
   

Turning Sports Leaders into Life Leaders


How to ensure that the leadership skills learned in sport can translate to other spaces


You likely already know that beyond the physical benefits of playing an organized sport, young athletes are also in a great position to learn valuable leadership skills through sport. While some kids may not consider themselves natural leaders, it's important for athletes to understand that they can learn these skills. But how do you, as a parent or a coach, hone those leadership skills and help athletes see the benefits of enhancing those skills in and out of sport?

Here, TrueSport Expert Deborah Gilboa, MD, explains how to ensure that the leadership skills learned in sport can translate to other spaces.

Teach athletes that leadership is a learnable skill
Many athletes, especially those who may be shy or introverted by nature, may not believe that they're leadership material. But like dribbling a soccer ball or perfecting a swim stroke, leadership skills can be mastered with practice.

Have athletes create a list of leadership qualities at the beginning of the season (depending on the age, you may need to help them). Try to broaden their definition of being a leader from the basic 'taking charge' or 'being outgoing' to softer skills like empathy and listening. With this expanded definition of leadership, athletes can practice a style of leadership that feels most natural to them and is sustainable through sport and life.

Use athletics as a starting place to discuss leadership
"As parents, it's rare that we get to sit and watch our child for an hour, but when they're playing a sport, we get to do just that: We get to observe our children from the sidelines," Gilboa says. "The next time you do this, pay attention and catch them doing three things that you admire. It could be how they treated someone else, or how they handled themselves during adversity, or that they passed to a kid who'd been left out for most of the game. Then, on the ride home or during dinner, tell them about those things you noticed."

The more positive aspects you can call attention to, the more you'll see that behavior playing out. On the flip side, if you constantly point out negatives about your young athlete, it's likely that you'll see more negative behavior as a result.

Bring in alumni
For older athletes, getting to know athletes who graduated a few years prior can be a huge boost to their growth and development. “It's really crucial to find people who have gone as far, or a little further, than your young athletes in their sport,” says Gilboa. “Get them to come to a practice to talk about what they learned through the sport and how it has helped them in the rest of their life." This helps student athletes begin to understand how leadership in athletics can transfer to other parts of life.

Avoid being the middleman
As a coach or parent, you may occasionally find yourself in the position of playing middleman between a young athlete and a teammate or adult. But Gilboa says whenever possible, try to avoid being a moderator and instead, help the young athlete take responsibility for hard conversations. For example, if you're a parent and your child is complaining that they don't get enough playing time, don’t call the coach on their behalf. Instead, help your athlete prepare to have a conversation with the coach.

Unless your athlete reports feeling unsafe or you're worried that the situation is unsafe, help your athlete be his own advocate whenever possible. "If they're not in danger, they're just uncomfortable,” Gilboa says. “This is a chance for them to learn new communication skills and improve their emotional intelligence and resilience.” These skills are the foundations of a strong leader.

Coach athletes to practice resilience
"Being able to build connections, set boundaries, stay open to new ideas, manage discomfort, set goals, find different options, take action, and persevere in tough times are all qualities of a resilient person, as well as a great leader," she says. Make sure those skills make it onto your athlete's leadership quality list and point out whenever you notice that your athlete is displaying one of those skills. For example, perseverance could mean staying late at soccer practice to help a teammate master a certain kick.

Takeaway
There are many styles of leadership that make it possible for athletes with various personalities to become leaders. Leadership qualities can be honed during your athlete’s time in sport and applied both in and outside of sport.


TrueSport®, a movement powered by the experience and values of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, champions the positive values and life lessons learned through youth sport. TrueSport® inspires athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators to change the culture of youth sport through active engagement and thoughtful curriculum based on cornerstone lessons of sportsmanship, character-building, and clean and healthy performance, by creating leaders across communities through sport.


 What's the Call? Catcher's Interference No.2
(1/6/2022)
 
   

Catcher's Interference


What's the Call
Presented with Umpires Media


There is one out, and a runner on third base. The pitch is thrown, the batter makes contact with the catcher’s glove on the swing and lifts a fly ball into left field. The umpire signals catcher’s interference. The ball is caught for the second out, but the runner tags and scores.

As the plate umpire, what is your 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.


 Leadoff Single on a Breaking Ball
(1/3/2022)
 
   

Leadoff Single on a Breaking Ball


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow analyzes a leadoff single on a breaking ball.


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.


 7 Tips for Meal Prep to Fuel Young Athletes
(12/23/2021)
 
   

7 Tips for Meal Prep to Fuel Young Athletes for the Week


Tips for successful, simple meal prepping


Meal prepping is a common recommendation for busy parents who want to provide healthy meals and make weeknights smoother, especially when there’s a young athlete with a packed schedule and a big appetite in the house. But meal prepping can also be overwhelming, and most people simply don't have six hours to spend in the kitchen on a weekend.

Thankfully, meal prep doesn't have to be a drawn-out process. Here, TrueSport Expert Kristen Ziesmer, a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, shares her tips for successful, simple meal prepping.

Planning is part of meal prep
Carve out time once a week to plan out meals for the coming week, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks—the busier your schedule is, the more important this step becomes! "Every weekend, I sit down and look at the week coming up," says Ziesmer. "For instance, I know that on Tuesdays, my son has soccer until 6:15 p.m., which means there's not a lot of time to make dinner. We know that meal should be leftovers from the night before, which means the night before, I need to make a bigger meal so that we have those leftovers."

Build a regular grocery list
Meal prep also means having all your ingredients on hand. Once you decide on meals for the week, you can build a comprehensive grocery list. "Blindly going to the grocery store and shopping at random usually means you'll be back at the grocery store within a day or two," Ziesmer notes. And once you've created this master grocery list once—ideally in a digital format so it doesn't get thrown out—it becomes easier to quickly look in the fridge and pantry each week and add or subtract items from the list as needed.

Redefine what meal prep means
The concept of meal prepping calls to mind stacks of perfectly organized containers in the fridge, labeled with which night they'll be eaten. That's not realistic for most families. "Before I had kids, I used to spend Sundays meal-prepping, making all of my food for the entire week, but now there's no way I have half a day to devote to that," says Ziesmer. Now, she meal preps by always cooking extra when she is in the kitchen. "Cook extra when you do cook! Rather than make everything on Sunday, I double recipes for dinner every time I cook it, and then we have that for lunches, or use the extra ingredients to have a dinner made with leftovers," she explains.

Apply meal prep to breakfast too
Most people think of meal prep as a lunch or dinner solution, but Ziesmer also loves simplifying a healthy breakfast. "I make overnight oats to save cooking time in the morning, or I'll make a big egg and vegetable frittata with whatever vegetables are starting to wilt in the fridge and we'll eat that for a few days," she says.

You can find a great hot oatmeal recipe here, but instead of cooking it on the stove, simply put the ingredients together in a container and refrigerate overnight, then warm up in the microwave in the morning or enjoy cold!

The right equipment helps
"Getting an Instant Pot is easily my number one tip," Ziesmer says. A pressure cooker like the Instant Pot can cook an entire chicken in under an hour, slow cook a chili or stew all day, or make rice in minutes. "It's great for quickly cooking frozen meat and vegetables—with so much going on, I often forget to take things out of the freezer for dinner, but with the Instant Pot, I can still cook quickly," she says. An Instant Pot or slow cooker also helps avoid massive cleanups, since most meals can be made using just that pot. And since you don't need to stir or sauté when using an Instant Pot, you can dump your ingredients in, walk away, and come back to a perfectly prepared meal.

Look for whole food-friendly shortcuts
Think past the traditional Sunday meal prep and keep your kitchen stocked with foods that don't require much forethought or meal prep at all. Frozen vegetables are just as healthy as fresh ones, and if you're the kind of person who often ends up with wilted, moldy vegetables in your crisper, you may want to swap at least some of your veggies to frozen options that can be sautéed or tossed in a stew or chili. And stock favorite easy meal staples: Things like canned wild-caught salmon, five-minute brown rice, canned black beans, and a jar of salsa in the pantry can be used to make a healthy burrito bowl in minutes.

Use spices and condiments to keep it interesting
Rather than making completely different meals for every day of the week, consider how basic ingredients can be seasoned in different ways in order to make each meal taste completely different despite the same base. For instance, chicken and brown rice cooked in the Instant Pot can be made into a Thai-inspired dish by adding some peanut sauce and frozen peppers and onions in a stir-fry; or a curry with the addition of some curry powder, a bit of coconut milk, and frozen cauliflower; or a burrito bowl with some shredded lettuce, guacamole, and pico de gallo. This simplifies your meal prep and prevents tastebud fatigue.

Takeaway
Meal prep should work for you and your family, which may mean reimagining the process to save time, accommodate picky tastebuds, and work around your athlete’s busy schedule.


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.


 When to Apply Heat and Cold for Recovery
(12/9/2021)
 
   

When to Apply Heat and Cold for Recovery


How heat and cold can be useful tools for recovery


As a coach, you may have suggested icing a sore ankle or taking a hot bath after a grueling practice to alleviate aches and pains. But some of the age-old recommendations around ice and heat have been debunked. Ice and heat still have a place in an athlete’s recovery, though, and can be incredibly useful tools when applied appropriately.

Dr. Michele LaBotz, TrueSport Expert and sports medicine physician, will explain some of the best practices around using heat and ice for recovery, but notes that both are rapidly evolving fields of research. She expects to see a lot more research on how heat, in particular, works for athletes. In the meantime, here's what we know.

Recovery is a nuanced process
Unfortunately, the entire topic of recovery—especially in terms of temperature—is very nuanced. What works well for one athlete may not work for another, and best practices are rarely clear-cut. For instance, using ice to help with inflammation right after an ankle sprain is going to be helpful, but using too much of it a few days later may actually slow the healing process, LaBotz says. So, try to avoid giving athletes any "one-size-fits-all" recommendations.

For acute injury, use ice
"If you sprain an ankle during a game and you're on the sidelines with an ankle that is swelling up, that's an inflammatory process that is out of control,” says LaBotz. “Putting ice and some compression on the ankle to keep inflammation under control in that acute setting is a reasonable thing to do, and your best first step."

But stop icing it eventually
While ice is a good idea in the first stages of an injury, it shouldn't be something you use non-stop. "One of the concerns about the use of ice is that it slows down blood flow. That means that it slows down the inflammation, and it slows down all the enzyme reactions that are part of the inflammatory process," LaBotz explains. "While inflammation sounds like a negative, it is actually necessary and part of the healing process that needs to occur at some point."

"There have been some studies showing that athletes don't replenish glycogen as quickly if they have a muscle that's been iced down," she says. "Old recommendations were to continue to ice a spot a few times a day until the soreness went away. But because we want injuries to begin to heal, we want blood flow to come in and we want cells to have access to glycogen and glucose so they can do the healing work. With that in mind, you need to strike a balance between icing to alleviate pain and inflammation and allowing inflammation to do its job."

Heat helps... eventually
Heat application won't help much on the sidelines of a game, but post-practice heat application is a good idea. "You would use heat in the short term to help with pain or muscle soreness," says LaBotz. "But some of the newer data on the role of heat in recovery and repair suggests that over the longer term, using heat can stimulate the growth of capillaries and turn on the enzymes to start the repair and muscle building process. This effect may ultimately help support optimal performance and recovery, which reinforces the consistent use of heat, but these changes take time and aren’t expected to result in any immediate impact for the athlete,” she explains.

Be smart about cold application
There's a fine line between too cold and not cold enough. Occasionally, there are issues with frostbite from chemical packs, LaBotz says. But more frequently, athletes have such a thick towel between their body and the icepack that the ice can't actually cool the muscles. "You want the cold penetrating into the injury," LaBotz says. "You get the best conveyance of cold using something like a dampened thin kitchen towel over the ice pack." And don't leave it on past the point of discomfort. If you're noticing more discomfort because of the ice, or if the area starts going numb or tingling, take the ice pack off.

Skip the ice vests
You may be tempted to recommend ice vests or other icy cooling solutions to your athletes on hot days. But LaBotz recommends that instead of ice vests, your athletes focus on minimizing time in the direct sun and sipping icy water or sports drink before their practice or game. "Athletes need to be aware of the environmental risk, and with ice vests on, they may not realize how hot it is until they're playing," explains LaBotz.

Hot and cold gels and lotions aren’t the same as ice and heat
You might be tempted to grab a balm or gel that offers "heating and cooling" action. But while these topically applied rubs might feel icy or hot and may relieve discomfort, they aren't doing anything for the healing process. "These balms just give the sensation of cooling," LaBotz says. “They don’t change the temperature of the muscles. When we're discussing the effects of heat and cold, we're talking about enough heat or enough cold to change the temperature of the muscles beneath. The cooling from a gel is mental. It distracts the nerves from the pain, which can be helpful. But it's not going to give you the same effects as actually heating or cooling the area."

Takeaway
While using heat and ice for injuries is a nuanced topic with rapidly emerging research, there are some best practices to keep in mind when helping your team recover safely and effectively.


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? Calling Time
(12/1/2021)
 
   

Calling Time


What's the Call
Presented with Umpires Media


There are no outs, and there is a runner on second base. The batter fouls pitch off behind the plate, and the umpire throws a new ball to the pitcher, who is standing off of the rubber. The pitcher is rubbing the ball in his bare hands when the runner from second base attempts to steal third base, but is thrown out by the pitcher.

The umpire threw the ball back to the pitcher, so the ball is now in play. Is the runner out?

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.


 Lead Off Backside Single
(12/5/2021)
 
   

Leadoff Backside Single


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow reviews a lead off backside single and the role of a leadoff hitter.


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.


 6 Things To Do When Coaching Your Own Child
(11/25/2021)
 
   

6 Things To Do When Coaching Your Own Child


Best advice for what to do when coaching your own child


Many parents get into coaching because they have a child in the sport. It can be a fun, rewarding experience for both of you, but as you might have realized, it can also be a challenge. As a parent and a coach, it can be difficult to establish expectations and boundaries that keep everyone happy, including you, your athlete, and the other parents and athletes on the team. Here, several TrueSport experts share their best advice for what to do when coaching your own child.

Find your why
While coaching your child can deepen and enhance your relationship, it can also strain it if you’re not mindful. “A good starting point is to reflect on why you are coaching this team in the first place,” says TrueSport Expert Nadia Kyba, a social worker and expert in conflict resolution. “Is it because volunteerism is one of your core values? Are you hoping to give your child their best shot at an athletic scholarship? Is it to become closer with your child by spending more time together? There are no right or wrong answers, but the key is to be aware of the reasons and to ensure that your actions as a coach are reflecting that purpose.”

Establish clear boundaries
Before the season begins, create a set of rules for yourself that break up your coach role and your parent role—you can even ask your student-athlete for his or her input. “Remember, whether your child performs well or poorly, your relationship with them shouldn’t be impacted,” Kyba says. One way to navigate this is to have set times that you will talk about the sport with your child. Your athlete may also have some rules for you, like not using their nickname in front of the team.

Focus on positive reinforcement
“As parents, our children can often be the targets of criticism since it is easy to point out their negative behaviors,” says TrueSport Expert Kevin Chapman, PhD, clinical psychologist and founder of The Kentucky Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders. But as a coach, rather than punishing an athlete for a mistake, reward them with positive reinforcement when something goes well. “Remember reinforcement is meant to increase behavior whereas punishment is designed to decrease behavior,” he adds. “Reinforcement is always more powerful than punishment."

Open communication with the team (and other parents)
As a parent-coach, you can expect parents of other athletes on the team to occasionally question your choices: If your child is always in the starting lineup, for instance, you might deal with a parent who feels that starting position is a result of favoritism rather than skill. Because of this—whether the complaints are perceived or based in reality—it’s important to open lines of communication between yourself, the athletes, and their parents. Kyba suggests holding bi-weekly team meetings with this format:
1. What is working well
2. Issues/Concerns
3. Ideas/Options
4. Action plan for going forward

“These meetings give athletes and parents an opportunity to have open conversations if they have concerns,” Kyba explains. “This is the time to be transparent about your decision-making and to allay any concerns about bias. Have an awareness of the power you hold as a coach and what barriers that brings to athletes and parents coming forward to ask questions or voice concerns about bias. Communicating an acknowledgment of this power and how you work to mitigate the problems it can create is so important!”

Frame feedback positively
Try to keep feedback positive, highlighting things that your athlete did right, rather than phrasing it as ‘constructive criticism.’ Then, add what they can try in the future. Kyba shares two examples of good feedback: "I noticed when you made a second pass, the team was able to score more often than when you took the shot off the dribble. I’d love to see you try a similar strategy during the game. What do you think?" or "I saw that when you stood up and cheered from the bench Lucy started to run faster and made a great pass. That type of energy can go a long way when we are down. When you’re quieter on the bench, I don’t see the same immediate impact. Thanks for contributing!”

Adopt a “What did you learn?” mentality
Chapman believes that as coaches, parents need to help their student-athletes adopt a process-oriented mentality. “Asking your child after competition, ‘What did you learn?’ is one of the most powerful questions to ask, since it will assist your child with a focus on the process of competing as opposed to the outcome of competition,” Chapman adds. “This will also build rapport with your child  and allow you to avoid criticizing poor performances.”

Takeaway
“Just enjoy it, because it goes by so fast,” hockey coach Greg Krahn, the latest TrueSport Coach Award winner, reminds parents. As Kyba said earlier, many parents choose to get into coaching to have quality time with their athlete, so make sure that your coaching is enhancing the relationship, and that you’re both having fun.


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.


 Are We Coaching the Athleticism Out of Our Athletes?
(12/8/2021)
 
   

Are We Coaching the Athleticism Out of Our Athletes?


By Jim Koerner


Throughout our country, baseball practice is taking place nearly every day. You can go to almost any area and find a field where players are being run through a series of defensive and pitching drills, base running, and batting practice. Well-intentioned coaches from the little league level on up are instructing our young players on the proper ways to play the game. These coaches from various backgrounds are applying methods mostly learned from either playing, watching, or reading about baseball. These methods are inducing a positive or negative response in each athlete, directly affecting the confidence level at which these athletes perform. How can we ensure that we are building these young athletes into instinctively driven, confident players that can maximize their athleticism? The answer is easy, but the implementation will be challenging.

Coaches will need to rewire some of their own belief systems, temper some of their own importance in the game's outcome, or even how the game is played. They will have to suppress their own impulse to over coach and direct every movement as well as how they potentially react to the result of a certain plays. In some cases we may even have to redefine why we are coaching. Is it for personal gain, where we are looking to pad our winning percentage, or is it truly for the betterment of the athlete? Movement restrictive drill sequencing, restrictive verbal cueing, reactionary coaching habits, and the inability to simply let players fail all lead to robotic, tentative and scared athletes.

Imagine a scene where all the neighborhood kids get together to play baseball. They improvise for bases, bats, and balls. They separate teams on their own, and most importantly, there are no adults to interfere. If done consistently, besides the occasional argument, what do you think would happen over time? It is my belief that the kids would begin to make intuitive and instinctual based adjustments on their own. Players would figure out such things as how big a lead they can take, how and when to go first to third on a single, when and when not to take an extra-base, how to position against certain hitters, and what pitches to call, among numerous other advantages. Personal limits would be pushed without fear of repercussion from a pre-programmed coach.

Now, if we can incorporate this type of mindset into a structured practice routine, a lot can be accomplished that will positively affect the overall development of our players.

Let's examine what a movement restrictive drill looks like. In its simplest form it's any drill that puts a limitation on a player's ability to move a body part. For example, let's look at all the hitting, throwing, and fielding drills we've seen over the years that have our athletes move in compartmentalized progressive steps.

Each step cuts the kinetic chain and forces the body to restart while losing feel, athleticism, and adjustability.

The result in a lot of situations is a stiff and robotic athlete. Drills that promote adjustability and free flowing energy transfer are more likely to allow your athlete to gain the "feel" that they are looking for and the ability to organize their body for the desired result. Other examples of movement restrictive drills that are less obvious happen during base running every day.

From a very young age, kids are taught that the third base coach directs all the traffic on the bases. Kids are more worried about "picking up" their coach than watching the ball and reacting to what they see. In most cases, if a coach has to direct a player to advance a base or go first to third on a single, the delay in reaction will cause the runner to be out. Instead of forcing these players to pick up the coach, why don't we teach them to read a defense by judging the depth of the outfield and their positioning? Let's teach how the speed of the batted ball will affect how far the runner can advance and define how the different angles an outfielder can take to a ball will determine whether or not advancement is possible. By doing so, we are allowing our athletes to trust what they see, rely on their own instincts, and play the game at a faster level.

Our cueing as coaches also has the potential to be a detriment to how a player performs. It's imperative that our players fully understand what we as coaches are trying to convey when using certain terms. Among others, phrases like "stay back" or "get on top" can cause a great deal of mechanical failure when misinterpreted. We also need to understand that these cues can be interpreted completely differently from one player to another. That is why it is important to have an individualized understanding of each player's needs. What works for one may not work for another. Consistency in how we communicate these terms and in what context can also help establish an understanding of the feel we are trying to create. Wrongly interpreted cueing can make the most athletic player look lost. Coaches must also avoid using the words always and never. I can still hear coaches telling me to always use two hands in the outfield or never swing at a 3-0 pitch. Over the years, I've found that the best outfielders I've coached primarily caught the ball with one hand. Why?

Because it is a less restrictive movement, and ultimately more athletic than when reaching with two hands, again allowing athletes to be athletes. As we've seen over the last several Major League Baseball seasons, depending on the situation, the 3-0 pitch might be the best pitch of the at-bat. Instead of coaching our hitters to always take that pitch, let's coach them to better understand their strengths and weaknesses, so they're prepared to hit every pitch.

Another step towards building a confident and successful athlete is for the coach to avoid putting their players in a box. My interpretation of a box is when a coach has a preconceived view of what something should like and then works towards that desired result. Not all boxes are bad, but every coach must understand the difference between style and technique. Style has no bearing on performance, while the technique can and will affect the outcome. How a player stands in the batter's box, how a pitcher goes through the windup or how an infielder throws may all look a little different and shouldn't necessarily be coached. If we're spending time on coaching someone's style we again could be hindering the player's ability to configure his body into an athletic movement. There is an old adage that says don't fix what's not broken. To be fair, I will say that there are some circumstances where someone's style may affect their technique. In these cases, adjustments do need to be made.

We hear coaches at all levels frequently talk about being process-driven. We need to hold true to that philosophy. Let's briefly analyze a scenario when a coach exhibits two different reactions on two similar plays. In the top of the third inning, with a 2-0 lead, the runner at first base does a great job reading a dirtball out of the pitcher's hand. The throw by the catcher is high, and the runner is able to slide under the tag. The player is praised appropriately by the coach. In the very next inning, with his team still leading 2-0, a different player also does a nice job reading a dirtball out of the pitcher's hand. Only this time the catcher does a great job recovering and makes a perfect throw to the bag. The runner is out. The coach immediately drops his head and as the player jogs back to the dugout, you hear the coach say "you need to be smarter than that." This scenario consistently plays out throughout amateur baseball. It is this type of mixed messaging that can cause a player or team to lose aggressiveness or confidence in what they are doing. We as coaches need to understand that if it is a part of our system and we are allowing players to react to what they see, then there are going to be times when things don't work. We need to avoid responding to outcomes but be more in tune with processes.

If the player hesitated and was thrown out in the above situation, you can communicate where the process broke down. If the process is flawless, encourage your player to stay aggressive and keep trusting what he sees. The bigger issue may come from the coach not having a system at all. A coach that has strong situational and philosophical beliefs allows one to communicate expectations in a clear and concise way.

A strong belief system that is communicated properly doesn't just help your players with their performance, it also helps the coach with the consistency of their response.

Mistakes happen all over the field. Coaches need to be aware of their body language and how they respond to these mistakes. Negative reactions or the need to overcorrect can hinder the athlete's ability to perform at a high level. Ask yourself these questions. Does a player's failure on the field elicit a response in us that threatens our own coaching ability? Are we worried about what others will think? If you answer yes, you're letting your ego drive your reactions. It's not about us, it's about the reason for the player responding the way he did. I find it important to ask the player why. Instead of immediately telling a player what they should have done, or reprimanding him for the mistake, take a moment to ask "what did you see," or "why did you make that decision." If the player has sound reasoning for the decision, you might be more likely to move on. If the player's thought process wasn't correct, now you can coach them in a much more productive manner.

Let's not lose sight of the fact that baseball is a difficult game to play and becomes much more difficult if our players lack the confidence and freedom they need to be successful. Coaches, understand your role in the development process and how your words, actions, and beliefs play a role in how your players develop and perform.



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..

 


 Error Leads to Extra Run
(11/22/2021)
 
   

Error Leads to Extra Run


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow reviews an error that leads to an extra run.


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.


 Strategies for Recovery After Pitching
(11/16/2021)
 
   

Strategies for Recovery After Pitching


Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard


Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopaedic Surgeon at Duke University, discusses recommendations for recovery after pitching. 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.


 Hydration Tips for Competing in Higher Altitudes
(11/11/2021)
 
   

Hydration Tips for Competing in Higher Altitudes


What you can do to ensure your athletes are prepared for altitude


If your team has a hefty travel schedule and you regularly compete in cities that are more than 3,000 feet above sea level, you may be concerned about how to ensure your sea-level-dwelling athletes are prepared for the higher altitudes. The good news is that you can mitigate some of the potential negative effects of altitude for your athletes so that they can focus on the game and not the thinner air. TrueSport Expert Kristen Ziesmer, a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, explains what you can do to ensure your athletes are prepared for altitude.

Know your altitude
Most destinations for travel sport teams won't be at altitudes that will really affect your athletes' performance, says Ziesmer. But anything over 3,000 feet above sea level, such as Denver, Colorado, will start to shift their hydration and fueling needs, as well as their perceived exertion.

Pre-hydrate
"Make sure your athletes are well-fueled and well-hydrated before they go," says Ziesmer. "That really goes for any type of competition, but it's especially important at altitude. Have them up their drinking game the week before, aiming to drink between 25 and 50 percent more than they normally would."

... And keep hydrating
"The same thing applies once you're at altitude: Athletes should aim to drink about 25 to 50 percent more than they would drink normally,” says Ziesmer. “They should adjust their fluid intake based on the color of their urine—it should ideally be a lemonade-like pale yellow—and their weight. If they're gaining weight, they can cut back on water, but if they're losing weight, they should drink more."

Remember dehydration signs may change
At higher altitudes, it's easier to becoming dehydrated faster—and research has found that thirst cues are less reliable. "Your body is cycling through oxygen faster as altitude increases," Ziesmer explains. "Higher altitudes also tend to be really dry, so athletes will sweat more, which makes them dehydrate faster. Typically, people also urinate more at higher altitude, which can add to dehydration."

Check in on sweat rate
Keeping an eye on the scale while at altitude is important, and if your athletes have done calculations on their sweat rates in the past, they may need to retest their sweat rates while at altitude. "Some athletes respond differently to altitude and to different weather situations," says Ziesmer. "If an athlete is losing a lot of weight during exercise at altitude, then they need to adjust how much they're taking in in terms of fluid during practice. They also need to appropriately rehydrate and refuel afterwards."

Drink regularly, don't chug
Throughout the day, athletes should be steadily drinking. Dehydration at altitude isn't just happening from a lack of hydration during practice, it's happening because athletes aren't drinking enough during the rest of their day. "The best thing for an athlete to do is try to drink a little bit every 15 to 20 minutes, rather than just chugging a bunch of water when they have a break," says Ziesmer.

Add electrolytes
"At altitude, because you're sweating more, the body requires a bit higher electrolyte intake," says Ziesmer. Not every drink needs to be a sports drink or electrolyte-infused, but Ziesmer favors splitting drinks between water and an electrolyte-based drink.

Fuel appropriately
While hydration is critical, proper fueling matters too. Traveling for training or competition can shake up an athlete's eating routines and mealtimes, but because of the high energy output they'll be expending during training or competition, it's important that their carbohydrate stores are topped up. In fact, research has found that most issues related to altitude training are actually related to the increased training stress rather than the altitude itself. "Training camps and travel competitions mean that athletes need to be eating more, not less," says Ziesmer. "But weird schedules and less access to food can make eating enough difficult." Make sure your athletes have access to regular meals and healthy snacks that they can grab between practice sessions.

Takeaway
Coaches are often responsible for athletes’ health and wellbeing while traveling, and when competing at altitude, hydration is especially important. These tips will help keep your team hydrated, feeling good, and performing well.


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.


 Failure to Cover Second Leads to Extra Base
(11/8/2021)
 
   

Failure to Cover Second Leads to Extra Base


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow analyzes a player failing to cover second which then leads to an extra base.


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


 Coaches Clinic - November 17, 2021
(11/17/2021)
 
   

November 17, 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.

Dr. David Szymanski - Louisiana Tech University
Scott Emerson - Oakland A's
Jake Valentine - University of Portland
Jose Trevino - Texas Rangers    



 What's the Call? Batter Out on Feet Location
(11/3/2021)
 
   

Batter Out on Feet Location


What's the Call
Presented with Umpires Media


There are no outs, The batter squares around to bunt, with his right foot touching the right-side batter’s box line and the plate. He lays down a successful bunt, but he was technically not in the box. Is he out for an illegal batting position?

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.


 How to Help Athletes Maintain a Positive Body Image After Sport
(10/27/2021)
 
   

How to Help Athletes Maintain a Positive Body Image After Sport


How parents can help guide athletes through this transition period


When a competitive athlete leaves sport, permanently or briefly to recover from an injury or pursue another activity, it's normal to feel a mixture of emotions. Even if the athlete is choosing to take a break from sport, issues surrounding body image, nutrition, and exercise outside of regimented practice can still come up.

Here, TrueSport Expert and licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Melissa Streno explains how parents can help guide athletes through this transition period while maintaining a positive body image.

Start before they finish
Parents should be helping athletes create an identity outside of sport and within other support systems even before an athlete is considering a break. Our interests contribute to how we define ourselves, so parents can help make their child's identity diverse by letting them choose many activities to try, and by role modeling and encouraging them with realistic, healthy expectations.

"This way, when sport does inevitably come to an end, they can feel there are other realms in their life where they're connected, comfortable, and accepted. Then it doesn't feel like their whole world is caving in after sport," says Streno. "And as a side note, diverse interests actually help us be more successful in sport anyway!"

Help them create new routines
"Many young athletes have followed a certain path that's centered around attaining or maintaining an appearance, often in a really detrimental way," Streno says. "They have very specific routines and behaviors, and they've been on autopilot. It's hard to change when that's all they've known. When redefining a relationship with food and exercise after sport, help them get the appropriate professional help to learn what their body really needs."

Finding a new way to move is important
Even if your child is leaving sport because he or she isn't enjoying it, movement is still important and healthy for any young person. Find exercise or movement that feels fun and not like training. This could be hiking, biking, strength training, yoga, or—depending on the situation—joining a recreational sport league. "Try to make sure that the urge to exercise is coming from a healthy place, not just being done to control what their body looks like," says Streno.

Understand what your child could be dealing with

"Any sort of shift in sport is significant because of the role this plays in our identity: not just the physical part, but also who we are," says Streno. "Struggling with the question of 'who we are' can lead somebody down a path of using food and exercise to maintain some sense of control when they feel everything else is shifting."

Encourage your child to dig into their identity
On a practical level, Streno recommends some journaling prompts for students struggling with identity beyond sport. Encourage your child to sit down and spend some time answering questions like:
• Who am I?
• Who am I without sport?
• What is important to me outside of sport?
• What have I gained from sport?
• Who I am because of sport?
• How do I use that in this next realm, this next endeavor, and this next challenge?

Prepare your athlete for changes
"After sport, there is going to be a transition period where your athlete likely experiences some body transformation," says Streno. "It's important to talk about the reality of what's going to happen. We're going to encounter physical changes throughout our entire life, so normalize that identity is not just how you look or how strong you are as an athlete."

"We also see a huge uptick in disordered eating and eating disorders post athletic career because it's the one thing that athletes feel they can control.” Learn more about disordered eating here.

Let your child grieve
Leaving sport for any reason can lead a child to feel a huge range of emotions. "I would encourage your child to wade through the really uncomfortable emotions. If they're not, that's actually riskier when it comes to eating disorders since coping with those feelings in private can become an avenue for disordered behavior," Streno says.

Takeaway
An athlete’s body image can be dramatically impacted when it’s time to move away from sport. Use this expert guidance to help your athlete navigate the transition and come out on the other side with a positive body image.



TrueSport®, a movement powered by the experience and values of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, champions the positive values and life lessons learned through youth sport. TrueSport® inspires athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators to change the culture of youth sport through active engagement and thoughtful curriculum based on cornerstone lessons of sportsmanship, character-building, and clean and healthy performance, by creating leaders across communities through sport.


 Hit and Run to Prevent the Double Play
(10/17/2021)
 
   

Hit and Run to Prevent the Double Play


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow analyzes a hit and run to prevent a double play.


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.


 Hand Injuries While Sliding
(10/18/2021)
 
   

Hand Injuries While Sliding


Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard


Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopaedic Surgeon at Duke University, discusses hand injuries while sliding and how to prevent them. 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.