Blog

 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.


 The Value of Baseball’s Currency Never Changes
(10/14/2021)
 
 
   

The Value of Baseball’s Currency Never Changes


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


As we entered the final weekend of the 2021 Major League Baseball regular season, the game’s best two records resided in the National League West. Both the Giants and the Dodgers had already won over 100 games, and they would probably be spending these last few days setting up their pitching and resting their hitters to be at their strongest in anticipation of a deep October run. But thanks to how baseball’s postseason is set up, neither team has been afforded that luxury because one of the two will find themselves playing in the one-shot, winner advance, loser-go-home, Wild Card Game next week. Anything can happen in just one game, so the stakes of winning the division are huge versus the risk of playing in a single-elimination game after such an incredible year. For both the Giants and the Dodgers, it is every bit a sprint to the finish.

There is a microscope in the National League West and on all of the other tight races here in the final week of the season. Everything seems to be heightened. Each game seems just that more important; each run scored or stranded, that much more vital to a club’s postseason chances. But the reality is that it was an entire body of work that got us to this very point. In the marathon that is a 162-game season, no one game counts any more than another. A win in April has the same exact value as a win in August. The same theory holds true within each game: despite the spotlight that shines in the final couple innings, a run in the 1st counts exactly the same as a run in the 9th. It’s the compilation of every inning that makes up the final score in the end.

Had either the Giants or Dodgers pulled out a win here or a win there earlier in the season, maybe they would be breathing just a bit easier this week. If the Red Sox or the Yankees took better advantage of some great scoring opportunities in a game or two back in the spring that they wound up losing, perhaps they would be sitting a bit prettier than they are right now.

The truth of the matter is that teams never know which run will be the game-winner, nor will they know which win will be the difference in their postseason fate. We figure both out after the fact. Because we don’t know in the heat of battle or the middle of the marathon, it cannot be understated for teams to truly understand the importance of every single run and every single win while in the moment.

“Get ‘em next time.”

“There’s always tomorrow.”

“We still have three at-bats to go.”

Become a fly on the wall in any baseball dugout throughout the spring and summer, and you’re guaranteed to hear one if not all of those phrases. They are all often uttered as a positive and upbeat reaction to missed opportunities. In this game, with so much failure, that type of encouragement is not only invaluable but necessary throughout a game and a season. But it is every bit a coachable mindset to breed amongst your teams and players a sense of urgency to get ‘em THIS time or to not wait for tomorrow and figure it out TODAY, or to take advantage of the FIRST at-bat to put runs up and to not wait for the last. When the collective attitude of a team is built from the foundation of understanding that the value of a run and the value of a win are the same no matter when they take place, that’s a team ready to take advantage of every opportunity, no matter when in the game or the season they are presented.


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.


 Top 3 Nutrient Deficiencies in Teens
(10/13/2021)
 
   

Top 3 Nutrient Deficiencies in Teens


Most common nutrient deficiencies in teens


Your young athlete works hard on the field, at practice, in training, and at school—which means their bodies need proper nutrients and fuel to keep up. But with so much going on, it can be hard to prioritize a healthy nutrition plan and that can sometimes lead to certain nutrient deficiencies. Here, we're looking at a few of the most common nutrient deficiencies in teens.

Before we dive in, though, it's important to note that generally, these deficiencies can be fixed with real, whole foods versus supplements. If you believe your athlete needs a supplement, it's a good idea to check with your family doctor, get screened for deficiencies, and determine the best course of action before adding supplements. Remember: Food first whenever possible!

Iron
Teens, especially those who are opting to eat less meat—or who truly hate their dark leafy greens—while still training at a high level, may find that they're deficient in iron. This is a problem worldwide, researchers have found. In 2016, researchers noted that for preteens and teens aged 10 to 14, iron deficiency is the leading cause of "ill health." And overall, females face more health issues due to iron deficiency, which is often tied to iron loss during menstruation.

According to the American Society of Hematology, iron deficiency (also referred to as anemia) can lead to fatigue, headaches, unexplained weakness, rapid heartbeat, and brittle nails or hair loss.

Iron levels can be raised by adding iron-rich foods into an athlete's diet. The Mayo Clinic lists the obvious red meat, pork, poultry, and seafood as the easiest ways to get iron, but your teen could also add beans, dark leafy greens, and even dried fruit and iron-fortified cereals into their diet.

Vitamin D
Since most young athletes get their vitamin D largely from sunlight, it's common to see deficiencies in teens—one study found nearly a quarter of teens surveyed were severely deficient. Wintertime for outdoor athletes, and anytime for indoor-sport athletes who spend most of their sunny hours inside for school and practice, means less vitamin D from the sun. However, food can also help supplement vitamin D for adolescents, who need around 600 IUs per day.

Vitamin D deficiency can be hard for an athlete, since symptoms include fatigue and weakness in addition to bone pain and even depression, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

To boost vitamin D through food, think dairy products, eggs, and seafood. The easiest way to hit your daily dose? A single tablespoon of cod liver oil contains 1360 IUs of vitamin D.

Protein
While most research is based on specific micronutrient deficiencies, many teens—especially those who are extremely active athletes—may be missing enough of the macronutrient protein. Since protein is vital for not only muscle building, but also for repair and recovery, it's critical that young athletes are eating enough of it throughout the day. Often, children will have a carbohydrate-heavy breakfast like cereal, followed by a carbohydrate-heavy lunch like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a bagel, then another serving of carbohydrate around practice, so it's not until dinner that they're eating a solid serving of protein in the form of meat or fish. But young athletes should be prioritizing protein throughout the day for optimal benefits. Add eggs or Greek yogurt to breakfast, consider adding a low-fat milk to the side of a sandwich at lunch, and keep that healthy protein at dinner.

Other micronutrients teens tend to miss out on
Zinc and calcium are less common deficiencies but still are important for immunity and bone health, respectively. Research has shown that these are common micronutrients that get missed—but they aren't too hard to add back in. Zinc can be easily found in whole grains, dairy, red meat, poultry, and oysters (if you have a teen with an adventurous palate). Calcium can also be found in dairy. For vegetarian and vegan athletes, vitamin B12 deficiency can also be a problem, as can calcium for vegans. For a vegan athlete needing B12, consider adding nutritional yeast on top of meals (it has a tasty, cheesy flavor) or simply opt for plant-based milks that are fortified with B12 as well as calcium.

Takeaway
While nutrient deficiencies seem like a daunting challenge to parents of a picky eater, consider this: a bowl of cereal that's fortified with iron and zinc, plus a handful of raisins, with milk that's rich in calcium, vitamins D and B12, and protein covers most of these deficiencies. And for most teen athletes, cereal isn't exactly a tough sell.


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? Balks2
(10/6/2021)
 
   

What's the Call? Balks


What's the Call
Presented with Umpires Media


There are two outs, the count is 2-2 on the batter and there is a runner on third base. The runner on third attempts to steal home. The catcher jumps on to home plate, the pitcher tosses a pitch, the catcher catches the pitch, and applies the tag to the advancing runner. What's the Call?

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

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


 Fly out at the Warning Track
(10/3/2021)
 
   

Fly out at the Warning Track


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow breaks down a fly out at the warning track.


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.


 Minute Details
(10/5/2021)
 
   

Minute Details


Cuddyer's Corner
By Michael Cuddyer


Former Major Leaguer Michael Cuddyer discusses the importance of recognizing the minute details in practicing, work ethic, and coaching. 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.


 Mental Breaks- In Game and Out of Season
(10/11/2021)
 
   

Mental Breaks- In Game and Out of Season


Mental Skills
By Andy Bass


Focus and concentration are crucial to success in baseball and softball. We need to be locked in on every pitch and every at bat. How often have we heard coaches or players say that the reason they lost the game, or made a costly mistake, was due to lack of focus or concentration? It is ironic that in order to maintain focus and concentration in the moment (i.e. pitch to pitch) or long term (i.e. high school, college, professional) we actually need to take time NOT to focus and concentrate.

Roughly ten years ago a study was conducted on elite tennis players and their physiological arousal levels (how locked in they were at any given time) during the entirety of a match. What the researchers found was that the most successful players, and those who were better able to keep their endurance focus up at the end of matches, were able to “switch off” their focus between points. They went into an idle state in the seconds between each point, and the minutes between each game. They weren’t even thinking about the game and were actually allowing their minds and bodies to go elsewhere. The players who were able to engage in this idle state were the ones who were most energized and focused when the game was on the line.

Is there a good time for an idle state in baseball and softball? Even a few seconds between pitches may trigger a renewed focus on the next pitch. Instead of clinching your teeth when you hear “idle” chat in the dugout about a non-baseball event, relish it. These mental breaks are not mutually exclusive from focus on the game. They do not affect the player’s ability to recognize and appreciate the count, the situation, and the propensities of the batter at the plate. To restate: There is nothing wrong with allowing the mind to wander during breaks in the action of the game. In fact, allowing our minds to wander, and not focus on the game, might be the best way to STAY focused on the critical moments of the game itself.

Let’s take this a step further. We want our players to stay motivated and dedicate the offseason to working on their craft when others will not. But should there be mental breaks during the offseason, comparable to the idle state during the game? Definitely. We know that an over-commitment to one sport can lead to physical and psychological burnout. But it is also true that over-commitment can lead to reduced focus and concentration. Encourage your players to take time out of season NOT to work on baseball or softball. Just like taking breaks between pitches not to focus on baseball or softball, we also need time out of season to take weeks to not focus on baseball or softball (NOTE: This is why this ad campaign may do more harm than good to our young ball players). Our athletes should take time away. Go play another sport. Go on a vacation. Try other creative outlets like theater or music. The best way to maintain focus and discipline toward a sport? Spend time doing things that are not that sport.

Our mind and bodies were not designed to stay mentally focused on one thing. We crave stimulation and variety. To ask our athletes to stay locked in on baseball or softball at all times during a game, or at all times during a year, is not simply impossible—it is also an ineffective to help them maintain focus during a game—and, unfortunately, an effective way to deplete their desire to continue playing at all.



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.


 How to Regulate and Manage All Emotions
(9/22/2021)
 
   

How to Regulate and Manage All Emotions


How you can support your emotional athlete


As the parent of a young athlete, you're probably used to seeing a whole range of emotions, from wild joy to intense anger to devastating sadness. While it's tempting to try to help your athlete ditch the anger and sadness, it's actually more important that you let your athlete experience, understand, and move through their range of emotions.

Here, PhD, clinical psychologist and founder of The Kentucky Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, explains exactly how you can support your emotional athlete so that you're setting them up for success on the field and in the real world. And remember: When we talk about emotions, it's not just about negative emotions. Being able to understand and regulate positive emotions is important as well.

Don't avoid emotions
You may have had a coach who told you to keep a stiff upper lip in the face of adversity, or maybe you're uncomfortable with big shows of emotion. But letting your athlete show their emotions in a nonjudgmental space is critical for their development.

"What I always try to reiterate to athletes, their parents, their families, and their coaches, is that all emotions serve an adaptive purpose," Chapman says. "Anger, frustration, excitement, disgust, sadness, grief in the event of a loss...all of those emotions are important. They're all trying to tell us to pay attention to what's going on internally and externally, and then to motivate us to engage in a specific action." In other words, emotions are trying to help us navigate our world successfully by helping us evolve our understanding of ourselves and how we relate to the world around us .

Understand the Vocabulary
The crux of awareness training is recognizing that all emotions are complex, but Chapman explains that most people assume emotions are simply feelings. "Athletes often say things like, 'I feel like I shouldn't have made that mistake', or 'I feel like you shouldn't have said that to me', but those aren't really feelings," Chapman points out.

It’s important to understand what makes up an emotion:
Thoughts—What I say to myself.
• Example: "I'm so mad at my teammate."
Feelings—Physical sensations.
• Example: A higher heart rate or clenched fists.
Behavior—What I do about it.
• Example: The angry athlete may confront his teammate and yell at him.

Separate feelings from emotions
"If an athlete says, 'I feel anxious,' then a parent could ask them to explain the feelings of anxiety. And the kid might say, 'Well, my heart's beating fast.' Now that's an actual feeling," Chapman says. From that point, you can work on changing the feeling. Start with those physical cues—in this case, a rapid heartbeat—by countering it with a physical stimulus, like pausing and taking a few deep breaths with the athlete's eyes closed. That's a start to control the feeling, so you can then shift focus to dealing with the thought that’s causing the feeling.

Get out of emotional spirals by focusing on the present
Any emotion that your athlete is feeling has been triggered by a situation that happens before it. "It's important to teach athletes to become aware that how they respond with that emotion will lead to short and long-term consequences," Chapman says. Coming back to the present and focusing on the controllable elements of the situation, rather than giving in to an emotional reaction, is often easier said than done, but it's a critical skill to learn. "Can your athlete get focused on this pitch, this swing, this moment in time, as opposed to being concerned about what might happen in three days or what happened two hours ago?" Chapman asks.

Regulating emotion is important for positive emotion too
Emotional regulation is true for positive and negative emotional experiences, and successful athletes are good at regulating all strong emotion. Get too excited, and you could get ahead of yourself. Get too negative, and that could lead to a very poor performance. It's a balancing act and regulation will make it easier to find success.

"The classic example of too much positive emotion is anytime you watch a team performance, and they celebrate too early. One minute, you're celebrating your certain victory, the next minute, the other team gets the touchdown, you've lost, and you're crying," Chapman says.

Teach flexibility
Being flexible means being able to envision possible outcomes that are based on evidence. That's the key to emotional regulation: It’s being able to say, "It could be ______. But then again, it could be ______." Or more specifically, "It could be that I'll never learn this skill. But then again, it could be that with practice, I’ll get it eventually.” Notice that the negative thought is still there, but the goal is to understand that there are also other possible outcomes.

Takeaway
Learning how to manage emotions, both the positive and negative, is key to success in sport and life beyond the field of play. These steps will help your athlete begin the journey to better understanding and controlling their emotions.


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.


 Coaches Clinic - October 6, 2021
(10/6/2021)
 
   

October 6, 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.

Shane Loux - Arizona Diamondbacks
Robbie Robinson - New York Mets
Dylan Mazzo - MiLB Defensive Coach
Jacqui Reynolds - UMASS-Boston

OUTLINE     



 Seeing the Stolen Base Signs
(9/16/2021)
 
   

Seeing the Stolen Base Signs


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


From Dave Roberts in the 2004 American League Championship Series to Willie Mays Hayes in the movie Major League, the stolen base has long been one of the more exciting plays in baseball, a potential momentum shifter with every 90’ in the game.

As the game has changed in recent years, so has the stolen base and the propensity for teams to use it as a weapon. Gone are the days of players like Rickey Henderson or Vince Coleman stealing over 100 bases in a single season. The idea behind the stolen base to get into scoring position has been negated a bit by the argument that- in this offensive era of doing damage at the plate- the runner is already in scoring position at first, able to score on an extra-base hit.

Regardless of the climate for stolen bases in Major League Baseball, there will always be an appropriate time and place to look for bags at every level of the game. And it’s being aware of those times within the situation and the accompanying signs from the game that are indicators of whether or not you can steal. With the underlying baserunning idea that every 90’ is 90’ closer to scoring a run; that run which may be the game-winner; that game, maybe the World Series clincher; your players’ ability to steal a base might just be the difference between you winning a title or watching your opponent celebrate one right in front of you.

Every game for a manager or a baserunner with a green light, the question looms: what is the appropriate time and/or situation to attempt a stolen base? While every coach may have their unique philosophy on the stolen base, one thing that is likely universal for all is picking a time and/or situation when they think the runner has a good chance of being safe. With that in mind, here are a few ways to steal bags against some different signs of the game:

STEALING AGAINST THE STOPWATCH
The oldest bag in the book. Take the pitcher’s time to the plate (anything 1.3 seconds and lower is considered quick), add the catcher’s pop time to second base (2.0 and below is very good), and you have their combo time. To get an idea if that combo is suitable for the steal, you can get your runner’s steal time in practice, starting from their lead and stopping on their slide into the base. If that time is quicker than the pitcher/catcher combo time, that’s a good opportunity to be safe.

STEALING AGAINST THE CATCHER
Some catchers struggle to make a strong and accurate throw to second. In the current age of one-knee stances, other catchers don’t put themselves in a good position to throw when runners go. By paying attention to the catcher from the dugout, you may be well prepared to steal a base by the time you get to first, regardless of how quick or slow the pitcher may be to the plate.

STEALING AGAINST THE COUNT
Pitchers are creatures of habit, and catchers can become pretty routine in their game-calling as well. A pitcher often tries to put away every hitter with the same pitch in the same count, or their catchers call for that same pitch accordingly. When a pitcher’s kill pitch is an off-speed pitch down and out of the zone, that makes for a great pitch to run on because of the difficulty of simply catching the ball for the catcher.

STEALING AGAINST THE HOLD OR LOOK
Pitchers are creatures of habit not only with the way they sequence their pitch arsenal against opposing hitters but also how they control the running game. A great jump by the baserunner makes it that much harder for the catcher to throw that runner out, no matter how quick a pitcher is to the plate. So if before delivering a pitch, a pitcher consistently comes set for two seconds every time or only looks once when that runner is on second base, that consistency enables a baserunner to get that great jump that usually results in a stolen base.

Creating an edge on the bases often comes from using the eyes in the dugout. In many cases, when players and coaches pay attention to the nuanced details of the game, those game-changing stolen bases start well before a runner even gets on base. It’s not only a matter of players wanting to steal; it’s as much a matter of them seeing the signs within the game that tell them when it will be appropriate to do so.


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 - September 22, 2021
(9/22/2021)
 
   

September 22, 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.

Frank Maldonado - Tampa Bay Rays
Michael Barash - Sam Houston State University
Brad Gyorkos - Culver Stockton College
Brad Goldberg - Ohio State University

OUTLINE    



 4 Questions to Counter Negative Behaviors
(9/8/2021)
 
   

4 Questions to Counter Negative Behaviors


The best questions to ask when your athlete is having a tough time


As a coach for young athletes, whether they're in elementary school or high school, you're going to deal with the emotional rollercoasters that young people experience. A fight with a friend over the weekend can translate to feelings of despair on game day, and stress over a championship game can leave an athlete feeling paralyzed. But as a coach, you can teach your athletes how to examine their feelings and move on from negative moments.

"Coaches care about athletes, which means we tend to give them reassurance when they have a negative thought," says TrueSport Expert Kevin Chapman, PhD, clinical psychologist and founder of The Kentucky Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders. "That works for maybe 30 minutes, but it's ultimately going to backfire because now you have to keep reassuring them. The way to get out of that is to teach an athlete to think flexibly by asking the right questions."

According to Chapman, "The whole point of these questions is to get the athlete to look objectively at situations and not rely on emotional experiences. As the coach, you know the answers to the questions that you're asking, but it's going to be much better for the athlete if they work it out for themselves rather than you spoon-feeding them the answer.”

Here, Chapman offers some of the best questions to ask when your athlete is having a tough time or a negative moment on or off the field. And remember, these are also questions that you can teach athletes to ask themselves so that they learn how to question their behaviors and solve problems for themselves.

QUESTION: What's the evidence that this thought is true?
"This is one of my favorite questions to start with," says Chapman. "If a kid were to say, 'I know we're going to get blown out at the next game,' I would ask, 'Well, what's the evidence that this thought is true?'”

“He might answer something like, 'They beat us by about 20 in the last game.' Now we're starting to think evidence, not emotion."

QUESTION: What's happened in the past? Could there be another explanation?
"To change an athlete’s thought process, we’re asking evidence-based questions, not emotion-based questions," Chapman says. Your job here is to take the emotion out of the equation and force your athlete to come at a question logically, looking at only objective facts. Often, athletes will realize that their emotional argument isn't based in logic, which allows them to change their conclusion.

QUESTION: Does blank have to mean blank?
Being flexible is being able to generate other possible outcomes that are based on evidence, which means being able to say, "It could be ______. But then again, it could be ______." For example, getting beat in the last game sounds like a pretty good argument for getting beat this time. But follow that up with these questions: 'Does them beating us by 20 mean that they will automatically beat us by 20 again?'

Are you 100 percent sure that this outcome will occur? Are you certain that this thought is true?

In math class, students are told that they need to show their work on a test to get full credit. Make them do the same as athletes: What is the incontrovertible evidence that this is going to be the outcome?

QUESTION: What's the worst that can happen? Can you cope with that?
It sounds counter-intuitive to force an athlete to go even deeper into a negative thought. But leading the athlete through the worst-case scenario often helps them understand that the 'worst case' really isn't so bad. "This one is what I call the catastrophizing question," Chapman says. "Because catastrophizing is thinking the worst. It's actually great to make an athlete think through the worst thing that can happen. Once they decide what that is, ask: ‘Can you cope with that?’ The answer is almost always yes."

The easiest example is a playoff game. The worst thing that could happen is the team could lose because of a fumble made by the athlete. But can the athlete survive that? Of course. He won't be kicked off the team, his teammates will understand, and his coach will support him.

Takeaway
Many coaches wonder how to help their athletes overcome negative thoughts that impact performance and enjoyment of the sport. Use these questions to help your athletes change a negative thought process in their sport and beyond.


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? Appeal Plays
(9/1/2021)
 
   

Appeal Plays


What's the Call
Presented with Umpires Media


A homerun is hit in a tied game in the bottom of the ninth. The runner cuts across the diamond thinking they automatically won the game. The opposing manager appeals. Is the game over?

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 Have Difficult Conversations
(8/25/2021)
 
   

How to Help Athletes Have Difficult Conversations


How to use a form of nonviolent communication


Whether you're a child or an adult, a coach or a parent, a teammate or a team leader, difficult conversations are never easy. Having frank discussions that feel confrontational can be intimidating and emotionally taxing at any age, but fortunately, there are ways to improve your athlete's ability to handle difficult conversations with teammates, coaches, and parents. And this won't just improve their ability to communicate with their team now—this is a skill that will help them navigate life.

Here, Nadia Kyba, MSW, TrueSport Expert and President of Now What Facilitation, explains how to use a form of nonviolent communication when beginning a tough conversation, as well as how to practice it in a low-stress setting.

Be okay with emotion
The most important lesson to teach a young athlete is that it's okay to feel emotional when approaching a hard conversation, whether it's asking the coach how to get more playing time, or asking a teammate why she won't pass the ball during games. "People often avoid having hard conversations because they're afraid that they'll get emotional—start crying—during them," Kyba says. "But that's okay. And if you take the time to prepare and have a bit of a script, maybe even practice having the conversation out loud to yourself or a trusted adult, then it's going to be easier to do it. I try to get people to prepare ahead of time when possible, and then invite the other person to have the talk at a set time rather than just getting into it."

Think before you start
On the note of preparation, Kyba is a firm believer in scripting out what you want to say and knowing what you want to get out of the confrontation. The worst kind of difficult conversation is when both parties leave feeling as though they weren't understood and their needs weren't met. "Whenever you're feeling like you're about to have, or need to have, some kind of confrontation, the best thing to do is to step back and pause," says Kyba. Think about the conversation you hope to have. What are the facts that you're bringing in? Are there any assumptions that you're making that may not be true? What exactly is the problem that you want solved? Taking five minutes to journal through these questions can make the conversation much clearer, which means it's much more likely to get resolved in a way that benefits both parties.

Set the stage
For a young athlete, setting the stage for a conversation may mean setting a time to speak with the coach during his or her office hours, texting a teammate to see if they can talk before or after practice, or even leaving a note for a parent asking for a parent/child meeting in the evening. Having a face-to-face discussion is ideal, Kyba says, but video chat or phone will work if in-person meetings are impossible right now. She recommends avoiding text or email to have a tough conversation though, since tone of voice is critical. "If you're nervous about crying, then try having your talk on the phone—plus, that way you can have your notes in front of you," she points out.

Follow the script
Kyba recommends using this five-step approach to a difficult conversation. Of course, not every person will be on the same page, but having this script worked out in your head or on paper before beginning the conversation can be extremely helpful.

1. Acknowledge: "Thank you for taking the time to talk to me."
First, thank the person and acknowledge them for being willing to have this conversation, Kyba says. This helps establish a positive space for the discussion and emphasizes the desire to have a conversation, not a fight.

2. Describe: "In the game yesterday, I was open a lot, but I noticed that you never passed me the ball."
Without adding any emotion or feelings, explain what you want to discuss. Use facts and keep it as simple as possible.

3. Feeling: "I felt overlooked."
Now, you can explain how the incident made you feel, but beware of using a feeling to create a fact. For instance, saying, "I feel like you don't like me," or "I feel like you think I'm a bad player," isn't about your emotion. This part of the script should only focus on your internal emotion, not attaching blame. More specifically, try to avoid saying "I feel like," since that often adds an external element to your feeling instead of describing an internal emotion. For the person you're having the conversation with, this will feel less like a personal attack.

4. Need: "I need to understand if there was some reason you weren't passing me the ball."
Difficult conversations often go poorly when the person initiating the discussion doesn't actually know what they need in order to resolve the problem, so before you start speaking, make sure you know what you really want. "What do you need in order to feel better about the situation?" asks Kyba. Often, the answer is more complicated than you might initially think. In this example, for instance, the immediate assumption would be that the person starting the conversation wants the ball to be passed to her. But really, what she needs is the reason the ball wasn't getting passed in the first place. Did her teammate simply not notice her, or is there a social dynamic at play, or was another player just within closer passing distance?

5. Request: "Could you let me know what your thinking was during the game?"
After you've stated your need, it's important to break down your need into a request that the other person can respond to. Again, people often skip this step and leave a conversation unfulfilled because they couldn’t articulate what the other person can do to meet their specific need. "In this case, you're not trying to change what happens in the next game yet, you're just trying to gather the facts and information from this last game and understand why the ball wasn't passed to you," says Kyba. Then, you have the information to either continue the conversation or make an action plan for the next game.

Your conversation may be concluded at this point. If you haven't come to a good understanding or found a solution, you can begin the process again. This is just a starting point, says Kyba. Thank the other person for taking the time to listen to you and try describing what you think the response to your request was, and how you feel about it.

Practice, practice, practice
Don't wait for a problem before teaching your athletes about this script! Parents and coaches can benefit from roleplaying a few difficult conversations with their young athletes. "You can role play some silly scenarios and let athletes work out their scripts, which feels like fun, but they do learn to be more prepared for when they need to have real conversations," Kyba says. "The more you get used to using this script, the easier it is to have a difficult conversation that ends with both parties feeling heard."

Takeaway
Having difficult conversations is never easy, but it is important for young athletes to learn this skill, as it offers benefits in both sport and life. These tips will help parents and coaches prepare their athletes to have difficult conversations and find effective resolutions.


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


 Double Play Attempt
(8/22/2021)
 
   

Double Play Attempt


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow breaks down a double play attempt.


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.


 The Uncommon Bond of Common Purpose
(8/26/2021)
 
   

The Uncommon Bond of Common Purpose


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


This was different.

It was transformational.

Three letters, a flag, and a goal changed everything.

U.S.A.

The first time you see those three letters across your chest, you realize the magnitude. That flag takes on greater significance as a unifying symbol and constant reminder of who and what we were representing. When you hear the National Anthem, it hits you; the song isn’t being played for the game; it’s being played for your team. And it gives you chills every single time.

The United States Olympic Baseball Team was unlike any team I have ever been a part of because we truly had one common purpose: an Olympic Gold medal. That was it. That was it for me and everyone else; that gold medal was the only thing on our minds and the only thing we cared about. For 24 players, six coaches, and the other ten or so support staffers, this common purpose amongst every single member of our baseball delegation gave us an uncommon bond that is near impossible to find in the world today. How many times have you ever been a part of something where you could feel that every single person was genuinely on the same page, indisputably pulling the rope in the same direction? Uncommon indeed…

Of the six nations competing for gold, we were the only team who didn’t have our names on the back of our jerseys. Those three letters on the front were all we needed to say exactly who we were. We were not 24 different players, six individual coaches, and some random USA Baseball personnel. We were all on the same team: Team USA.

-----

In this age of individuality where people are encouraged to have their own voice and motivated to build their own brand, never before has it been more challenging to get a group of individuals to think beyond themselves for the greater collective good. But that’s what we did. And we did it by beginning with only the end in mind, nudged with a handful of symbolic reminders along the way.

On our very first call together as a coaching staff months before the Olympics and the qualifying tournament, manager Mike Scioscia talked about the gold medal and tattooed that image into our minds as our ultimate goal. We hadn’t even punched our ticket to Tokyo at that point, yet that was the vision. In our first meeting in Florida with our group looking to qualify, the message was about earning the opportunity to win gold. At our first gathering as a team, that same message was crystal clear: we were going to Tokyo to win an Olympic gold medal, and within our club, we weren’t scared to talk about it. When your leader believes in something so strongly and communicates it so consistently, a funny thing happens- everyone else starts believing it too.

In subsequent team get-togethers, we were taught things like appropriate decorum when standing for our opponent’s anthem compared to ours, and the meaning behind the backward flag, how it marked going into battle. Martin Dempsey, the retired Army General who served as the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discussed his life experiences in the military and left us with an incredible perspective about teamwork and how our collective result would depend on our individual actions. In a ceremony before an exhibition game before leaving for Tokyo, members of the North Carolina National Guard presented every member of our traveling party with a flag patch… THEIR flag patch, pulled right off of their uniforms. Those patches- with that backward flag- accompanied us overseas with one always attached to each game’s lineup to keep front and center who exactly we were playing for. Outfielder Tyler Austin bought belts for the entire team. I know what you’re thinking; a belt isn’t that big of a deal. But when that belt has a gold buckle, all of a sudden, we were reminded of our goal every time we put our pants on. During workouts or in batting practice, before that last double-play ground ball or in that final round of batting practice, you’d often hear “for gold” right before that play or pitch.

Everything was for gold. And everyone was for gold. A medal, a flag, and three letters. That’s what made our team go.

Societal norms today have become more individualized than ever, and the landscape of sports is no different. High school athletes showcase themselves in hopes of catching the eye of a college recruiter. College baseball players often have one eye on their team and the other on getting drafted. Minor Leaguers are not playing for that Carolina League ring as much as they are playing to move up to the next level and the level after that, eventually reaching their pinnacle of the Major Leagues. And Big Leaguers? Some might just be playing simply to stay there, while others may very well be playing for their next big contract. At just about every rung of the athletic ladder, there is almost always that next rung to reach for, often reaching an individual free-for-all.

For our club at the Olympics, our ladder only had one rung, and we were hand and step reaching for it together.

-----

Going back to our first days together in late May to our last in the gold medal game, there wasn’t a single thing that we did that was individually driven; everything was about our team and that medal. But if there were ever an appropriate time for the spotlight to be on an individual, we had it in the form of Eddy Alvarez.

You see, Eddy was our second baseman. And a pretty good one at that. But his backstory is what captivated an entire nation. A first-generation Cuban-American, an undrafted professional signee turned Major Leaguer, and oh yeah, a silver medalist as a speed skater in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Eddy Alvarez was the epitome of the American Dream. His story, so impressive that the athletes of Team USA voted him to represent Team USA- all 613 Olympians- as official flag bearer.

With that honor came the well-deserved attention in a seemingly endless media junket. But Eddy, in true Team USA form, always directed the conversation back to the team and often used the words honor, privilege, and sacrifice when he spoke. When everyone wanted to make it about him, he made it about everyone else. There was no better person to represent who we were and what we were all about.

We are currently living in the age of the trademarked buzzword and catch-phrase. The coach-speak soundbites are everywhere to be “all-in,” “where your feet are” and put the “we before me” to “play for something bigger than yourself.” We hear this stuff all the time. Many know the popular words; however, very few know the accompanying action. Our U.S. Olympic Baseball Team never said any of this stuff, but we lived it in every sense.

Some believe in the Olympics, teams play to win gold, they play to win bronze, and are just *given* silver. While we may not have reached our ultimate goal, our fun-loving collection of “has-beens” and “have-not-yet-beens,” as many described us, left Tokyo proud having won the silver medal, and probably even prouder for the manner by which we did it. Some guys didn’t see any game action in the Olympics or played poorly when they did. Even those players- like most of the rest, some who have won World Series and played in All-Star games mind you- left saying this was the most fun they have ever had on a team. That’s the kind of team this was.

People come and go, and teams get built up only to get torn down, but when there is truly a common purpose to drive an entire group, it’s incredible what you can accomplish thanks to an uncommon bond will never break.

#ForGlory


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


 Vision
(8/16/2021)
 
   

Vision


Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard


Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopaedic Surgeon at Duke University, discusses issues related to vision in children playing sports and how to know if your child should be evaluated. 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.


 How to Minimize Conflict Arising from Assumptions
(8/11/2021)
 
   

How to Minimize Conflict Arising from Assumptions


How assumptions can go from a minor incident to a major problem for a team


We all make assumptions throughout the day—it's part of human nature. But young athletes sometimes make judgements based on assumptions that may or may not be true, and these misguided assumptions can hurt a team's dynamic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated assumption-making in every arena, and young people are particularly vulnerable as school and sports practices have shifted to remote models.

Here, Nadia Kyba, MSW, TrueSport Expert and President of Now What Facilitation, explains how assumptions can be dangerous and how an athlete interaction, when left unchecked, can go from a minor incident during a game to a major problem for a team.

The Circle of Inference

According to Kyba, the Circle of Inference explains how we interpret information and actions based on assumptions to form beliefs that drive our actions. Conflict arises when athletes misinterpret another person’s motives based on their own perception of the facts.

Below, Kyba walks through an example of how a missed opportunity for a pass in a soccer game could lead to a player quitting the team because he feels like his teammates all dislike him. It might sound overly dramatic to a coach or parent, but to a young athlete who's basing his actions on selected facts with his underlying assumptions and beliefs, it's a very real scenario.

The Action: During a soccer game, Joe is running up the midfield, open, and calls to Andy to pass him the ball. Instead, Andy passes the ball to Tim.

"Now, Joe is making a whole bunch of assumptions about why Andy made that pass choice," Kyba explains. "He isn't asking if Andy passed to Tim because there was actually a defender standing behind him, or because Tim was in a better passing position, or if Andy didn't hear him call out. Joe is seeing Andy not pass him the ball through his own lens of assumptions and beliefs." What we're looking at now is Joe's version of events, in order to see how dangerous assumptions can be.

Selected Facts: Andy ignored Joe in favor of passing the ball to another player.

Often, an athlete like Joe will operate with only the initial selected fact—that Andy didn't pass the ball to him—without thinking through other facts, like what else was happening in the game, if Andy heard him, or if Tim was in a better position. Instead, athletes should, "Start by asking ‘What do I know?’" says Kyba. You can also ask, "What don't I know?" Pausing and journaling about these questions may help an athlete skip assumption-making in favor of a more rational explanation.

Assumptions: Andy thinks that Joe is a terrible soccer player.

In this case, that's the assumption Joe is making. He doesn't have any facts that prove it—Andy has never said that Joe is terrible at soccer—he's basing this entirely on the lack of a pass during one game. But this is how the human mind tends to work, Kyba explains. "We make assumptions, working with selected facts. We're not working with a 360-degree view of exactly what happened," she says. "We just take the little bits of information that we have and form our assumption based on that small slice of information."

Beliefs: Beliefs go beyond assumptions from an event; they are based on how a person perceives the world and themselves after years of information being processed in a certain way. Here, Joe believes he isn't a very good soccer player and struggles with self-confidence.

"People who feel insecure in a situation or certain context will have a different narrative going in their head about what's going on," Kyba explains. So, in this case, Joe isn't just seeing Andy not passing him the ball, he's seeing this as confirmation that everyone else thinks he's a terrible soccer player. He might also already have a belief that the people on the team don't like him or think he's very good, which will also impact his assessment of the situation.

Interpersonal Mush: The goalie mentions to Joe that he noticed Andy purposely not passing the ball to Joe.

"The mush is incoming information based on the way other people are interpreting the story," Kyba explains. So, in this case, now the goalie's assumption that Andy didn't pass on purpose is added to the mix, further muddying the waters. The goalie has his own set of assumptions about what went on during the game, so now Joe has his own assumptions and beliefs mixed in with those of the goalie. This is why inter-team gossip can quickly escalate problems between teammates.

Actions: Joe quits the team.

With all the beliefs and assumptions at play, it's easy to see how Joe could end up leaving the team altogether. It seems dramatic to quit after a single ball-passing incident, but as you can see from the addition of beliefs and assumptions, a small action can lead to much bigger results—especially for young people who struggle to have difficult conversations to get to the bottom of problems. "He could quit the team, or maybe he goes home and sends a mean text to Andy and starts a fight, or he sends a text to other teammates telling them to not pass to Andy the next game—either way, Joe's response can easily change the team dynamic," Kyba says.

How to Avoid Conflict from Making Assumptions

From this somewhat simplified example, it's easy to see how one athlete failing to pass the ball to another athlete in the first game of the season can have a ripple effect for the next game, and the next, all the way to the finals. After one action comes a reaction, and that reaction starts the circle of inference all over again. That is why it's important to make sure that your young athletes become aware of how they make assumptions and the conflict it can create.

Especially when coaching teenagers, it's important to remind them that not every perceived slight is actually about them. "Even as adults, rarely are these situations about us," Kyba says. "But we all have years of assumptions and beliefs that make us feel as though a simple action is much more meaningful than it actually is." Even if our assumptions do turn out to be correct, it’s better to gather the facts, engage in discussion, and then make a conclusion.

Ultimately, as you read through this example, you probably realized that Joe could have avoided leaving the team if he had simply paused, looked at the objective facts—Andy passed to Tim and not to Joe—and then had a conversation with Andy about it. Joe likely would have realized that Andy simply didn't see or hear him during the game. "Once you get clear on the facts and your own assumptions, it's much easier to have a conversation and come to a more informed conclusion," Kyba adds.


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.


 Coaches Clinic - August 20, 2021
(8/20/2021)
 
   

August 20, 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.

Robert Dudley, Wake Tech CC
Jeff Willis, LSU Eunice
Justin Thomas, Appalachian League/Bethany College (WV)
Donegal Fergus, UC Santa Barbara

OUTLINE