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 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.


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