Sport Development Blog

 Throwing Error on a Steal
(1/20/2020)
 
 
   

Throwing Error on a Steal


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses how to take advantage of a pitch in the dirt as a runner. 


Tom Succow, is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, and 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 Best Coaches in the Country
(1/17/2020)
 
 
   

The Best Coaches in the Country


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


Soon after the ball drops on Time’s Square and the New Year is rung in, an event for baseball coaches takes place. During first week of every January, the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) holds their national convention where baseball personnel descend upon rotating cities to learn more about the game so they can help make the game we all know and love even better. 

While all under the same one roof, you’ll find coaches from every single level of the game who combine to create a brotherhood of likeminded people who can’t get enough time talking baseball. It is an environment unlike any other that not only creates a feeling of excitement for the upcoming season but also a great sense of appreciation to be a part of such an incredibly special group.

For most in attendance, myself included, the highlight of every ABCA Convention is the clinic speakers. In a massive room seats are perfectly lined up and big screens hang from the ceiling, all eyes lock in on coach after coach who take the main stage to discuss various aspects of the game. From something as specific to how to turn a double play or script the perfect bullpen routine to topics as broad as developing culture within a program or learning how to coach different individual personalities on a team, there is literally something for everyone in attendance. 

The ABCA prides itself by having “some of the best coaches in our game” present to its members. I’ve been fortunate to have been a speaker twice and can honestly say that presenting in this environment to my peers in the game is one of the coolest things I’ve done over the course of my career.

But something dawned on me a few weeks ago as I sat in the crowd taking notes, blown away by this year’s lineup of speakers.  With every introduction for each coach, no matter the role and no matter the level, it seemed like each guy was “one of the best teachers of the game” or “one of the best pitching coaches in the country” or “one of the best experts on hitting.” And in the industry, on the surface, those descriptions were most deservedly stated.  

With all due respect to Vanderbilt’s Head Coach Tim Corbin, who I admire as much as any coach in the game and would have loved to have played for or coached alongside; with all due respect to JT McGuire, a Minor League coach with the Cleveland Indians, who shared more drills in 35 minutes than I ever thought even existed for outfield play; with all due respect to Kerrick Jackson who worked a miracle at Southern University; Buck Showalter who has probably forgotten more about the game than most will ever know; Rick Heller and Matt Hobbs who can use today’s technologies and analytics with hitters and pitchers as well as anybody; and with all due respect to the ABCA who spends months lining up each presenter to make every convention an impactful one; these were NOT the best coaches in our game. 

The best coaches in our game were the ones sitting in the crowd. They, collectively, represent the future of our game far better than any one of us who has the privilege of taking the main stage. Without these grass-roots coaches, there are no college All-Americans or MLB All-Stars.

The majority of the coaches in the audience at every ABCA convention don’t have anywhere close to the same resources of those presenting. They have less man-power on their coaching staffs; a smaller budget for developmental tools; fields that are literally just fields, not facilities. All of those limitations force those coaches to be more creative in order to make their players and teams better.

Most of the coaches sitting in those seats also don’t have nearly the same talent as those speaking on stage. It’s easy to coach when you have great players. It’s easy to coach when you get to pick your own roster. But most don’t have either luxury, let alone both. Their roster is what it is, and they have to figure out how to develop every single player. And year after year, that’s exactly what they do.

Contrary to popular belief, the mark of a successful coach is not found in a won-loss record. In fact, some of the very best coaches may very well be found on some of the worst teams. Years ago, a wise man once told me that the way a coach should be judged has nothing to do with a season’s outcome, but rather everything to do with the players’ excitement to simply come back to play again the following year. Let that sink in.

Today’s player is tomorrow’s coach. As coaches today, we have the incredible opportunity to give our players such an experience on the diamond so rewarding that they not only want to play year after year, but later, make the decision to join us in the coaching ranks to share their knowledge of and passion for the game with the next generation of players, as we did with them. If we do it right, those players that make up our teams will at some point down the road be sitting alongside of us at future ABCA conventions, not realizing that they are sitting amongst the those who are truly the very best coaches in our game.


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.


 How to Help Athletes Be Confident In Tough Situations
(1/16/2020)
 
 
   

How To Help Athletes Have Confidence in Tough Situations



As a young athlete, your child is occasionally faced with big decisions, as well as hundreds of smaller scale decisions on a regular basis. Parents should not only teach good decision-making habits and strategies, but also help their athletes feel confident about making tough decisions.

Dr. Carl Pickhardt, PhD, practicing psychologist and author of 15 books on parenting, including his most recent book, WHO STOLE MY CHILD? Parenting through four stages of adolescence, shares his expertise on how to teach your young athletes how to feel confident about their decisions, from the early days of T-ball all the way through college visits.
 
Teach your athlete to recognize decisions when they’re being made

To be confident about making tough decisions, a child needs to learn how to make smaller, simpler decisions for themselves from a young age. “You don’t empower younger athletes to feel like they can make their own decisions; you empower them by helping them recognize all the athletic decisions they are already making for themselves,” says Pickhardt. “This is the personal power base you want them to be able to build upon.”

Helping a child become decisive during practice or games can help to build a strong, resolute nature that will later be used for more than just game-day small-scale decisions. Pickhardt adds that the younger a student is when he starts making decisions for himself, the easier it will be to make complex decisions later on. Think of decision-making like a muscle that needs to be worked out and regularly used to stay strong. The stronger that muscle gets, the more confident your athlete will be in their decisions.
 
Help your child see the importance of consequences

“Decisions can determine direction, and setting one’s own direction can feel satisfying,” says Pickhardt. Children often don’t feel that they have true decision-making power, so when a choice is within their control, make sure you’re explaining how and why the decision matters.
“Choosing shows what one cares about, but also brings with it the risk of disappointment,” Pickhardt adds. “Choosing is also losing — time and energy spent on activity X means time not spent on activities Y and Z, and so this brings the risk of regret.” For example, a young athlete can choose to focus on soccer or track for the spring season.

Because they must choose one thing over the other, children often don’t want to make a decision or will avoid making one. But athletes will gain self-confidence by making these tough choices, so don’t try to force your child into a decision that you think is the right one.
 
Acknowledge the difficulty of making choices

From an adult perspective, some choices seem obvious to you — but that doesn’t mean it’s obvious to your child, and that’s okay. “If the child wavers back and forth or keeps changing their mind, they may be experiencing honest ambivalence — wanting and not wanting to do something at the same time,” says Pickhardt.
Be patient, and don’t push your athlete toward a decision that you want, but instead, help your athlete come to their own choice. “All decisions are partly an entry into the unexpected,” Pickhardt reminds parents. “Thinking through decision-making is important because by predicting possible outcomes before deciding, one can evaluate a possible decision before choosing it.”

You can help your young athlete by teaching smart decision-making tactics, like listing out pros and cons of different options, and by looking back at similar decisions that they’ve made in the past. Remember, an adolescent’s emotional intelligence is still developing, and they may not yet have all the tools to make a rational, thought-out decision.
_____

It’s tempting to simply equate confidence in a decision with making the ‘right’ decision, or a feeling of sureness. But unfortunately, most decisions aren’t black-and-white.

Things like focusing on a club team versus a school team, or choosing a college to attend, won’t be simple choices with an obvious right or wrong answer. “Rather, confidence in hard decision-making is not so much being sure of the outcome, but being secure that whatever the outcome, you will be okay and glad you gave it a try,” says Pickhardt. “That’s true confidence.”


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


 Catch Over the Tarp
(1/6/2020)
 
 
   

Catch Over the Tarp 


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses the proper technique to secure a snag on a foul ball hit over the tarp down the baseline as a third baseman. 


Tom Succow, is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, and 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.


 Conditioning
(1/15/2020)
 
   

Conditioning


Cuddyer's Corner
By Michael Cuddyer


Former Major Leaguer Michael Cuddyer discusses how conditioning leading up to the season can help athletes perform throughout the season. To have your questions answered by Michael Cuddyer, submit them using #USABMailbag on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.


Michael Cuddyer is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development blog, and 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.


 What To Do When Your Athlete Needs a Sports Break
(1/2/2020)
 
   

What To Do When Your Athlete Needs a Sports Break


In youth sports 


When your young athlete needs a break from their sport, it’s your job as a parent to support them and help guide them through this challenging time. Steve Smith, PhD, a professor of clinical psychology at UC Santa Barbara, works with parents and young athletes as they navigate sporting life, and he’s seen many athletes take breaks from a specific sport before returning the next season stronger and happier than ever.

Here’s what he wants parents to know:
 
Don’t panic

It’s easy to start catastrophizing when your child needs to take a break or wants to try something different. “Talking with parents about this can be a real challenge, because many get so heavily invested in their child’s participation or results in one given season,” says Smith.

“There’s good research that shows kids need breaks from sport and pushing too hard can often end in outcomes that no one wants.” Don’t forget, a break isn’t always because of a physical injury – your athlete might need a mental and emotional break as well. Everyone can burn out from pushing beyond their limits, both physical and emotional, even at a young age.
 
Be aware of your response

For some parents, it can be hard to accept that your athlete needs a break. On a conscious level, you may not even be aware of how you’re reacting, but your young athlete might sense your disappointment.
“Parents will say they’re OK with the child taking a break, but the child will tell me, ‘If I take time off, my parents will be disappointed,’” says Smith. “Parents are communicating something different to their child than what they’re saying, and it can be really confusing.”
 
Find an expert

The hardest part of helping an athlete take a break from sports can be the initial conversation. You may not want to be the one who tells your athlete they need a break – and honestly, many pre-teens and teens are disinclined to listen to you anyway. Smith recommends seeking out an expert, such as a sports medicine doctor, sports psychologist, or physical therapist, who can assess and explain the reason for taking some time off.
“It’s helpful to have a third party involved. A sports medicine doctor can help explain to a young athlete that six weeks off now can lead to six years of strong play,” he adds. “A coach can also help here, telling an athlete that leaving is only temporary and they still have a place on the team.”
 
Make an active recovery plan

Many athletes and parents panic at the idea of a break, simply because there isn’t a firm timeline or plan in place. This especially true for young athletes who are told to take time off but may not be given a strategic recovery plan that involves low-impact exercises, physical therapy, or mental wellness activities.

Depending on the situation, a coach may be able to help create this plan in tandem with a doctor, physical therapist, or even a sports psychologist. However, Smith notes that not every athlete wants to immediately return to sport, so if your child seems uninterested in a return, don’t force it.
 
Help your athlete keep in touch

Staying connected with coaches and teammates can be hugely beneficial. “Often, a child’s teammates are their closest friends, and suddenly he’s not seeing them every day at practice, and it can feel like his friends are moving on without him,” says Smith.
Keeping in touch with a coach can also help with a child’s motivation and eventual return to sport, and it keeps the coach connected so he knows when the athlete will be able to return to play.
 
Find similar athletes

“There are so many great blogs and online resources out there created by athletes who’ve had the same hurdle as your child,” says Smith. “Search for those so you can show your athlete that he’s not alone in needing a break, whether it’s due to injury, burnout, or even just to pursue another sport or hobby. There’s always a success story that you can point to.”
 
_____
 
The hardest part for both parents and athletes on a break from sport is that suddenly, time opens up. For a lot of young athletes, hours after school and on weekends are dedicated to practice and competition, and the new free time can be daunting.
Let your athlete take a few days to indulge or recover with some time spent relaxing but try to find ways to fill the time after the first week, says Smith. “Find a new activity that can be life-enhancing so that time can be really enriching,” he suggests. That may mean joining a new club at school or spending time as a family doing things like hiking or taking a class together.
Parents also may find themselves at a loss when, suddenly, they aren’t driving to and from practice and competition. This is a good chance for you to take some time for yourself, perhaps restarting your own exercise regimen or spending more time at home. “Know that you deserve a break, too,” Smith 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.


 Hamstring Injuries
(12/24/2019)
 
   

Hamstring Injuries 


Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard


Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopedic Surgeon at Duke University and USA Baseball Sport Development Contributor, discusses how to prevent, identify and treat hamstring injuries, which are the most common lower extremity injury in baseball. To have your questions answered by Dr. Richard, submit them using #USABMailbag on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.


Marc Richard, MD, is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, and 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.


 Iron Sharpens Iron...Especially in the Winter
(12/20/2019)
 
   

Iron Sharpens Iron...Especially in the Winter


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


The baseball off-season is always a time of year that comes with some concern for us coaches. Yes, we love the down time which allows us to recharge our batteries to once again be energized come spring. Yes, players need time away from the game so that they, too, can get both a physical and mental break that will allow their bodies and minds to make a strong return to the diamond. 

But there is an aspect of our absence off the field that brings us anxiety. It doesn’t come from the time off; it comes from the unknown. 

When professional players disperse every September for all corners of the world, they do so with clear expectations of what they are to work on. As college programs wind their semesters down, the student-athletes that make up their rosters will all go their separate ways for the holidays with an understanding of where they should be athletically when they come back. For an extended period of time of weeks and months, these players will be on their own, relatively removed from the coaches who have invested countless hours into their individual development.  

Come the start of the 2020 baseball season, all coaches will generally have two simple expectations for their players: 1) report to spring training or pre-season practice in good physical shape, and 2) return a better player than when they left. Both of these reasonable asks require players to do a lot on their own.  For many, we know that won’t be an issue at all.  For others, we have absolutely no idea what we’ll be getting upon reuniting as a group. 

The players we don’t have to worry about are the ones who understand and master the power of self. They know that the best type of discipline is self-discipline; they do what they are supposed to do and don’t do what they’re not. They realize the best type of coaching is self-coaching; they don’t need to be under constant watch by someone else to get better. They recognize the best type of motivation is self-motivation; they don’t need a tweet or a video or a quote to push themselves. Additionally, they carry two very distinct character traits on top of their natural athletic ability: 1) they take initiative and don’t have to always be told what to do, and 2) they go above and beyond the status quo and do more than what’s expected of them. In all these ways, they are just different from the rest.

It’s those exact type of players who we don’t worry about who we want to surround those we do. With the extreme limitations that high schools and colleges put on their coaches when it comes to actively coaching their players, members of the team would often organize captain’s practices, where everyone would get their work in without any supervision or direction from the staff. 

But it’s more than just gathering a group together to play catch and take some swings.

When those players who we don’t have to worry about are intentional about the time spent with the ones that concern us, a slow transformation takes place. Little by little, all of that good stuff that we want in all of our players- the initiative, the work ethic, the self-awareness, the discipline- starts to seep into the players we question. And before we know it, our players return to campus and report to spring training not just as better players, but also as better people. Because of the positive influence of a teammate.

Every summer, Peyton Manning would fly his receivers in from wherever they spent their off-seasons not just to run routes and get a feel for how the soon-to-be Hall of Fame quarterback threw the football, but as much to build a relationship that would be the backbone of a big part of their team’s success. Recently retired infielder Troy Tulowitzki would bring a number of Colorado’s prospects in to live with him at his house during the winter in Arizona not just to workout together but to be an example for what would be the future of the Rockies franchise. 

When your best players are investing in the rest of your players, a positive culture is being built at the core. Every coach has their game plan for a success season before Opening Day, but when you nail culture before strategy, your strategy has that much more of a chance to stick. 

Many view the off-season as a time of year when focus goes entirely to individual development. But it’s as much a team period as any other time of when teammates can push one another beyond their own limits, and truly show one another what means to be a part of a team. While a club’s stars will come out in the spring, its leaders are undoubtedly born in the winter.


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.


 Textbook Backhand by the Shortstop
(12/16/2019)
 
   

Textbook Backhand by the Shortstop


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses how to execute a perfectly-timed backhanded snag and deliver a pinpoint throw from the shortstop position. 


Tom Succow, is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, and 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.


 Myths Surrounding Pitch Type
(12/10/2019)
 
   

Myths Surrounding Pitch Type


Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard


Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopedic Surgeon at Duke University and USA Baseball Sport Development Contributor, breaks down how the effects (or lack of effects) that throwing breaking balls has on a youth pitcher's arm. To have your questions answered by Dr. Richard, submit them using #USABMailbag on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.


Marc Richard, MD, is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, and 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.


 Live Your Life Legibly
(12/4/2019)
 
   

Live Your Life Legibly 


Cuddyer's Corner
By Michael Cuddyer


Former Major Leaguer Michael Cuddyer explains why it's important to take pride in your name, who you are and where you came from. 

Michael Cuddyer is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development blog, and 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.


 How to Help Your Athletes Achieve Goals
(12/19/2019)
 
   

How to Help Your Athlete Achieve Goals 


In youth sports 


Some athletes, when asked about their current goals, will simply list ‘winning.’ But ask how they intend to meet that goal and you’ll likely be met with confused silence. Not only does goal-setting often go overlooked, we also miss teaching students how to meet their goals by putting specific, long-term daily habits in place. 

Frank L. Smoll, PhD, a sport psychologist and professor at the University of Washington, regularly finds himself teaching these concepts to university students who are learning about goal-setting for the first time. Here’s what he wants you to know to help your athletes create a system of habits to hit their goals.  

Teach goal-setting basics 

Before explaining habits, you need to first teach your athletes how to set goals, and then how related habits can logically help them achieve those goals. It sounds obvious to adults, but for young children, that cause-and-effect may be harder to comprehend. 

“In college, I teach a course on this, but it’s foundational and often skipped in younger grades,” says Smoll. In order to set young athletes up with a strong foundation of goal-setting, try sharing the concept of SMART goals and the reasoning behind this strategy.  

Consider the ABCs 

“Create goals that are Achievable, Believable, and Commit-able,” says Smoll. “People often set broad goals – like New Year’s resolutions to ‘lose weight’ – and they rarely work.” That’s because goal-setting is a process that requires commitment to working on things on a daily basis.  

You need to start with a goal that you can believe in, realistically achieve, and are willing to commit to. Then, break down that goal into action steps. “Find individual steps that are achievable and commit to them,” he adds. “Those early wins are going to keep students invested and moving forward.”  

Not all goals are created equal 

“Find something that your athletes want to get from the season. Find something that they will want to achieve, and they will be motivated to start working on those strong habits,” explains Smoll. 

Their goals don’t have to be sport-specific. Suggest something outside of sport if they’re struggling to find something sport-related. Maybe a goal would be to make time to read more books or improve their grade in a class. Smoll adds, “You can find something simple that they want to accomplish, and once they accomplish something small, they’ll be even more motivated.”  

Define those good habits 

Once a SMART goal has been identified, sit down with your athletes and list out habits that support that goal and will help the team find success, suggests Smoll. 

That can include practice-specific habits like always warming up, as well as healthy lifestyle habits like eating balanced meals, getting in physical activity beyond practice, and practicing smart time management.  

Show the importance of specific habits 

Often, children won’t understand how a habit like sleeping enough can improve their training. “You have to convince young athletes of the importance of these habits before you can expect them to put them into practice,” says Smoll. 

For example, more than 40 percent of teens aren’t getting adequate amounts of sleep, and inadequate sleep can lead to inattention in school and in games, as well as an increased risk of depression and anxiety or other risky behaviors. Simply telling a student to ‘sleep eight hours each night’ isn’t as helpful as explaining the benefits versus the risks.  

Avoid external rewards 

It’s tempting to offer extrinsic rewards for a job well done, or for sticking to a healthy habit for a certain amount of time. “But the problem with providing extrinsic rewards for goal achievement is that an athlete will start working for that reward versus that feeling of accomplishment. A dedicated athlete shouldn’t need five dollars for a win,” says Smoll. 

“A lot of parents want to be involved, but they’re actually hurting the athlete by providing external motivation. We want athletes to have an internal drive, and if you start introducing extrinsic rewards, that undermines internal motivation.”  

Chart progress 

Repetition has been shown to be the key to habit formation. “One of the keys to goal-setting is adding in process goals that are measurable, things you can do each day. I have athletes set up a simple performance evaluation system where they can check off if they met that objective for the day,” explains Smoll. 

That can be things like drinking a certain amount of water, showing up to practice on time, doing a quick yoga or mindfulness routine each day, or any other healthy habits. “Any simple form of record-keeping is going to be helpful." 

_____  

Teaching young athletes how to develop strong habits early will set the foundation that will allow them to reach their goals. 

Being able to see “those easy early wins – like simply sticking to a small habit – can make it much easier to work towards big goals,” says Smoll. “Give a kid something they can do right away, and you create a foundation for moving on to other things. This is a big part of why youth sport is so valuable,” Smoll says. “It’s a laboratory for life.” 

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.


 Role Modeling for Young Athletes: What Not to Do
(12/5/2019)
 
   

Role Modeling for Young Athletes: What Not to Do 


In youth sports


As a parent, raising a happy and healthy child is probably one of your top goals. Throughout this journey, you’ll not only be cultivating a positive, caring environment for your young athlete to thrive in, you will also be acting as a role model of the behaviors and values you want to instill. 

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) defines a role model as “a person who serves as an example by influencing others. For many children, the most important role models are their parents and caregivers.” 

Leading by example and embracing the fact that you are your child’s key role model will help them develop the kind of behavior you want them to adopt and practice throughout life. The AACAP explains that “children look up to a variety of role models to help shape how they behave in school, relationships, or when making difficult decisions.” 

It’s imperative for parents to take a look at the way they are living their own lives and reflect on what they want their children to mirror, especially since “negative role models may also influence children,” according to the AACAP. Here are five practices that parents should avoid in order to position themselves as the positive role model their young athlete needs to build character and confidence in sport and in life.  

Don’t Silence Your Goals 

According to Michele Borba, PhD, an internationally recognized character development education expert and educational psychologist, “To help children feel comfortable talking about goals, we parents need to share our own aspirations.” 

Borba adds, “The secret is to purposefully model goal-setting when your kids can watch or listen. In fact, modeling is such a simple way to learn the skill. All you need to remember is the formula for goal-setting: I will + what + when and then teach it to your kids.” 

Practice writing out a few goals with your athletes with the formula above. For example, you can suggest, “I will improve on passing the ball more accurately by the end of the soccer season.”  

Don’t Set Unrealistic Expectations 

While there’s nothing wrong with aiming high, be aware of your athlete’s true capabilities and work with them to set realistic expectations for themselves. 

“Be careful of setting too high a standard. Putting your kid in situations that are too difficult puts them at the risk of failing and lowering feelings of competence. Aim for ‘one step more.’ Effective expectations encourage kids to be their best, so that they can develop a solid belief in themselves,” says Borba. 

For instance, if your child is learning a new sport skill, like shooting the basketball with their less-dominant side, you cannot expect them to perfect that skill in a season. Instead, help them set an expectation that they’ll be attempting to score 1/3 of their shots with that less-dominant arm by the end of the season.  

Don’t Lose Sight of the Big Picture 

At times, it can be easy to lose sight of the big-picture benefits sport participation can bring to your young athlete’s life. Some sport parents get so bogged down in wins or loses that they forget how sport enriches the lives of young athletes by teaching them values and life skills, such as honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, and teamwork. 

Frank Smoll, PhD, a sport psychologist and professor at the University of Washington, suggests, “Parents should never shout criticism or instruction at their children – even to teammates and opponents. If parents wish to shout encouragement or praise, codes of sportsmanship dictate that recognition be given to other athletes as well.” 

He emphasizes that “there’s no reason why a great play or great effort made by the opposition shouldn’t also be appreciated.”  

Don’t Let Your Emotions Get the Best of You 

In recent times, we’ve seen how a bad call can push some parents over the edge and create tension on the sidelines. But that behavior will only teach your child that it’s okay to erupt in violence when things do not go their way. 

“When parents yell at or criticize athletes, coaches, or officials, they set an incredibly poor example. It’s not surprising to find that parents who exhibit poor self-control in their own lives often have children who are prone to emotional outbursts and poor self-discipline,” says Smoll. 

He adds, “If parents are to expect sportsmanship and self-control from their children, they need to exhibit the same qualities.”  

Don’t Forget to Show Empathy 

According to Borba, “Empathy is the ability to identify with and feel for another person. It’s the powerful quality that halts violent and cruel behavior and urges us to treat others kindly.” 

When parents can display empathy on a daily basis, they encourage their young athlete to show the same grace to their teammates, opponents, coaches, and officials. 

Borba confirms that “the more aware that kids are of what empathy sounds like, the more likely they are to use those behaviors in their daily lives. Let’s not assume our children know how to show others they care. For instance [phrases to share are]: ‘You look upset.’ ‘I understand how you feel.’ ‘It makes me feel sad that you’re hurt.’ ‘I bet that hurts a lot. It happened to me, too.’”  

______ 

Your influence as a parent is something that should not be taken for granted. Remember, young people are always observing your actions and attitudes. At the end of the day, the way you behave can easily impact your child’s development in a positive or negative way. 


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.


 Diving Play by the Second Baseman
(12/2/2019)
 
   

Diving Play by the Second Baseman


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses an attempt at a diving catch by the second baseman, and how both the defense and offense should react when they fail to covert the grab. 

Tom Succow, is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, and 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.


 Disability Etiquette: What You Need to Know
(11/21/2019)
 
   

Disability Etiquette: What to Know


In youth sports 


We live in a diverse world of people. With over 60 million people with disabilities in the nation, there’s a good chance you have an athlete with a disability in your community. As sport continues to evolve to include more athletes with disabilities, it is becoming more and more imperative that we all learn disability etiquette. 

 TrueSport has partnered with Disabled Sports USA, the national leader in community-based adaptive sports, to help create a more positive and inclusive sport environment for all youth.  

This starts with the simple recommendations below from Disabled Sports USA on how to best interact with and support people with disabilities. 

General Best Practices: 
Use person-first language to put the athlete first. 

People-First Language 
Person/Athlete with a disability 
Person/Athlete who uses a wheelchair or scooter 
Person/Athlete with an intellectual or cognitive disability 
Person/Athlete with multiple sclerosis 
Person/Athlete with a mental health condition or diagnosis 
Blind or low vision 
Deaf or hard of hearing 

Language to Avoid 

Disabled or handicapped person 
Confined to a wheelchair, wheelchair bound 
Special, mentally retarded, slow or simple person 
Afflicted by multiple sclerosis or “victim” 
Mentally ill or crazy 
Visually impaired 
- Hearing impaired 

Don’t assume 
Ask how you can help instead of making assumptions about what an athlete can and cannot do. Avoid the urge to help simply to speed up processes. Instead, build in extra time for the athlete to get equipment set up or complete a skill progression. Some athletes may need more time to think or speak, so be patient when waiting for a response. 

Don’t Ignore 
Take the time to get to know your athlete and how their disability might affect their participation and make appropriate and reasonable modifications. 

Ask prior to moving or touching equipment 
Understand that an athlete’s adaptive equipment, such as a wheelchair, walker, or cane, is part of their personal space. Only adjust the equipment if requested, as unexpected shifts could cause the athlete to become off balanced and cause injury. 

Communication Best Practices: 
Do: 
Speak directly to the athlete using your regular speech patterns. Only speak louder or slower if requested to do so by the athlete. 
Face the athlete when speaking and try to avoid blocking the mouth or chewing anything so that those who are deaf or hard of hearing can clearly see your lip movements. 
Put yourself on the same level as the athlete when speaking to an athlete who uses a wheelchair or is short of stature for more than a minute or two. 
Provide extra time for athletes with cognitive or intellectual disabilities to formulate thoughts and complete sentences. Try not to interrupt or provide words for the athlete as this could further delay processing time. Instead, consider ways to ask questions that require only yes/no answers. 
Make sure to introduce yourself to an athlete who is blind or has low vision they know who is speaking. Prior to ending the conversation, let them know you will be leaving and who will be guiding them next or when they should expect your return. 

Don’t: 
Be afraid to ask an athlete with a speech impairment to repeat themselves if you have difficulty hearing or understanding. 
Over-inflate the successes of an adaptive athlete. While PR times or other goal-related successes should be celebrated as with any other athlete, over-hyping achievements for adaptive athletes gives the impression that expectations were not high to start. 

Coaching Best Practices: 
Take the time to look around your facility and ensure that there are no physical barriers to participation. 
Is parking close to the venue? Are there enough handicapped parking spaces? 
Are areas accessible to all without having to navigate stairs, thick grass, etc.? 
Are hallways wide enough for wheelchairs? 
Is the facility tidy and clear of any obstacles? 
Are equipment areas or water stations set at a height that is accessible for all? 
Have the same expectations of all athletes as you would any other in your program. This means requiring them to show up on time, participate in the full lesson to the best of their ability, etc. While modifications can be made, the focus should be on independence and inclusion. 
Don’t be afraid to try out a variety of adaptations to find the one that works best for your individual athlete. Prior to the start of the activity, ask the athlete what they need and want, and keep up a dialogue with the athlete throughout the process. 
Schedule more breaks if stamina is an issue, consider quieter lesson areas or times of day if the athlete is easily over-stimulated, etc. 
Ensure proper adaptive equipment is available so they can be ready to start lessons at the appropriate time. 
Allow athletes to choose to challenge themselves by providing appropriate skill progressions to meet their goals. 
Consider using Universal Design coaching practices where suitable. Universal Design: Planning an activity to ensure everyone can participate by considering all needs and abilities ahead of time.


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


 Stolen Base on a Late Throw
(11/18/2019)
 
   

Stolen Base on a Late Throw


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses why getting a read on a pitcher's tendencies is perhaps the biggest key to instantly propelling yourself into scoring position by securing a stolen base.

Tom Succow, is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, and 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.


 A Coach's Choice: To Critique...Or to Coach
(11/15/2019)
 
   

A Coach's Choice: To Critique...Or to Coach


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


Growing up down the Jersey Shore and still calling the Garden State home comes with some incredible benefits. Our people are as passionate as they come.  Our nature is no-filter, Instagram worthy. Our Italian delis are to die for; our bagels, unmatched. And don’t even get me started on our pizza. But one of the greatest parts about living in such close proximity to New York City actually has nothing to do with food: our sports talk radio is second to none. 

Whether it be heading into work and listening to Boomer Esiason, sitting in traffic on the way home listening to one of the two Mikes (Francessa or Kay) screaming out of your speakers, or any of the countless on-air personalities in between, it is clear that the Tri-State area is home to more Monday Morning Quarterbacks per capita than anywhere else in the world.  Who knew there were so many out of work NFL offensive coordinators and Major League managers in one region of the country?

But for as entertained as I am when hearing these self-proclaimed experts dissect every move by every coach and every player in every sport, there is a very related element of coaching that takes on a similar sound. 

Our ability to coach begins with our ability to evaluate. But evaluating without coaching is simply critiquing. And we’ve all done it. We are coaches, not critics. 

I watch far more baseball than I’d like to admit… it’s a problem. 

If Spring Training is my personal equivalent to the ball dropping in Times Square, then the MLB Postseason is my Christmas. There is no better baseball than October baseball. For the entire month, I am routinely glued to my couch, watching every game possible with the eyes of both fan and coach. And if the Red Sox happen to be playing, you can add screaming at my television to the norm in the Fenster house. I would be lying if there weren’t times where I’ve said either aloud or to myself, “what the heck is he THINKING?!”

Even with watching as often as I do, I am still amazed how entire seasons and championship runs can be made- or broken- with a single pitch. But by seeing year after year the power of one play , I have learned as a coach that there isn’t anything that should ever be taken for granted on the field and work hard to emphasize the minute, intellectual details of the game as much as I coach the game’s fundamental skills in the players that I work with. Still to this day, the game continues to teach me.

A title may be won in part because an outfielder throws the ball to the correct base to keep a double play in order.  The winning run may score because of the anticipation of a below average runner who goes from first to third.  A rally may be thwarted because of a heady pitch sequence that records a key strikeout. These thinking plays, when done over and over, become winning plays. 

Without question, players who truly know the game and constantly think the game are players who will help win games. But over the past few years I’ve noticed a very disappointing trend: those players are few and far between.  And you know what I did when I first noticed it? I became a critic.

“He doesn’t think.”

“No game sense whatsoever.”

“Reckless player.”

With every one of my comments lacked any actionable solution. For a short time, in addition to those many moments on my couch, I had become that perfect caller for sports radio with all the answers. I had become great at pointing out everything that they DIDN’T do well. That approach to coaching can become toxic really quickly.

Today’s generation is as talented a collective group of baseball players as the sport has ever seen. Pitchers are throwing harder than ever. Hitters understand their swings more at 18 than I did at 28. Our industry’s focus on training has taken our players’ talent to levels we have never seen before, and they only continue to get better. 

But for as good as they are, they still need us.  They need to be coached, not critiqued.

In these moments when I initially saw the direction the game was going in, I had a choice. I could let the frustration get the best of me and criticize all that these players weren’t doing (like we all have done at some point) or I could do my job, and coach them to help them get better.  

To the hitter who didn’t think in the box, the solution was to teach the value of an approach and how that approach could be developed simply by watching the game from the dugout.  For the outfielder who had no idea where to throw the ball relative to the situation of the game, the solution was to help them understand in simple terms which runner is the most important and why.  And for the baserunner who essentially liked to run until somebody tagged him out, the solution was to show the risk versus reward in decision-making on the bases.

When you focus on the problem, the problem endures.  When you focus on the solution, the problem goes away.

Even for coaches at the highest level of the game, no players are perfect; they all make mistakes.  And for anyone with a competitive bone in their body, those mistakes can often bring upon a physical reaction that angers and irritates us.  Problems don’t go away when we complain about them; they dissipate when we intentionally work to fix them with a solution. We get to choose exactly what course of action to take. Choose to live up to your title. Choose to coach.

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.


 The Risks of Sports Specialization
(11/12/2020)
 
   

The Risks of Sports Specialization 


Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard


Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopedic Surgeon at Duke University and USA Baseball Sport Development Contributor, discusses the risks involved in specializing in only one sport as a youth athlete, including psychological burnout and overuse injuries. 


Marc Richard, MD, is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, and 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.


 Why It's Important to Avoid Tension on the Sidelines
(11/7/2020)
 
   

Why It's Important to Avoid Tension On The Sidelines


In youth sports


"I joke that when my daughter was playing tennis, I was just a chauffeur taking her to practice. And sometimes, that’s all kids really need you to be,” says Dr. Patrick Cohn, a sports psychologist at Peak Performance Sports. He’s only partially joking…most parents could benefit from decreasing their tension and taking a more passive role when it comes to youth sports. 

"We tell parents that their only goal is to make sure that their kids are having fun. Your job is to support kids when it's appropriate,” Cohn adds. With that in mind, here’s why and how to avoid being tense and distracting on the sidelines.

Sideline Coaching

Your goal as a parent may be to see your child having fun, but research has shown that sideline behavior rarely reflects that goal. "Shouting instructions from the sidelines is a major no-no,” says Cohn. Not just because it’s irritating for the other parents, but because it can actually hurt your child’s performance.” 

“Remember, the coach is there to coach the kids, and having another person shouting can also make them lose focus, get embarrassed, or feel pressure to perform perfectly for the parents shouting instructions all the time,” Cohn adds.

Your ‘Cheering’ Style

Showing up with your face painted in team colors while the other parents are in business casual? Try not to stand out too much. 

"Pay attention to the cues from the other parents. Parents should be cheerleaders, reinforcing when they’re playing well but not overdoing it,” says Cohn. "Depending on the sport, there are different rules of behavior. Golf has quiet clapping, hockey has more yelling.” 

“If you know you have trouble controlling your temper and what you do on the sidelines, I recommend you watch the game from afar where your athlete can’t see you. Watch up on a balcony, or even behind a tree…if you truly want your athlete to have more fun and be more focused, take yourself out of the equation if you know you’re a distraction." 

Handling a Bad Call

Your anger with a bad call in a child’s game may be the same rage you feel on the road, which research had shown is tied to ego defensiveness and a control-oriented mindset. Angry reactions on the sideline often happen because parents make the game about them and take events personally. Even if you think you’re being subtle when you disagree with a ‘bad call,’ your child likely is picking up on it. 

“Your tension is extremely obvious to young athletes, and to yell at people around you is actually disrespectful to your kids,” Cohn says. Instead, let bad calls be a learning opportunity for them. If the umpire makes a call you don’t agree with, that’s OK. 

You won’t agree with every call, and the umpire might even be in the wrong. But if you complain every time you disagree, you’re teaching your child that that behavior is acceptable in life. Keep in mind that your child will have to deal with a teacher or boss who isn’t always fair and can’t always rely on you to ‘fix’ everything.  

Non-Verbal Behaviors

"Kids are easily distracted during games. If you’re arguing on the sidelines with another parent, they’re likely going to notice, be embarrassed, and even alter their performance,” says Cohn. "If I roll my eyes, my daughter can see from 50 yards away.”

“I try to teach athletes to stay focused on the field or court, but that’s hard. Kids pick up on parents’ non-verbal cues. I’ve heard parents tell me that they got up to use the restroom, but their athlete assumed they had gotten up because they were upset with the child’s performance. If a kid is feeling your tension, they tend to start playing safer and more tentatively, in fear of making mistakes." 

Dr. Cohn concludes, "From a long-term perspective, the athlete won’t have as much fun in the sport [if they’re worried about their parents on the sidelines], because they’re so tuned into what they think their parent is feeling during their game, which can lead to them leaving the sport altogether." 

Bottomline: Knowing how to best support your athlete is key in creating a positive sport experience for not only your athlete, but also for their team and the rest of the parents on the sidelines supporting their athletes.

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


 How to Welcome New Teammates
(10/24/2019)
 
   

How to Welcome New Teammates 


In youth sports 


Being the new athlete on a team can be one of the scariest experiences for a young athlete, and as a coach, you have the power to improve – or worsen – the situation. While you’re likely busy running practices and preparing for competition, taking time to help new athletes assimilate onto your team can shape an athlete’s entire sporting experience. Dr. Tasha Belix, a registered psychologist, shares best practices on how coaches can prepare themselves and their team for new members.
 
Prepare for a New Athlete

Whether it’s before the season starts or before the first practice, start a conversation with your new athlete by asking a few questions to get to know them better. That preparation can help you determine the best way to make sure the ‘new kid’ is seamlessly integrated onto the team.

If an athlete is shy and would prefer not to be put on the spot at the first practice, try assigning them one or two ‘buddies’ to help show them the ropes. For more outgoing athletes, encourage them to lead one of the simpler drills and do a more traditional ‘getting-to-know-you’ introduction.

Belix suggests that there’s no right way to introduce every athlete, and the more tailored you can make that first meeting, the better the athlete will feel afterwards.

Make a Team Plan

“Let your team know a new person is coming before they show up, if possible,” says Belix. “Don’t always rely on the same person to step up and help the new athlete through the first practice.”

Encourage your entire team to take on a leadership role and take the opportunity to ‘buddy’ up with their new teammate. It will help your team get to know the new player on their own and relieve the stress on the newcomer to initiate every conversation.
 
Keep an Eye on the New Kid

While you should let the new athlete integrate into the team naturally, you should also be on the lookout for bad behavior from your players.

“If you see the new athlete being treated poorly, of course you need to act on that,” says Belix. This means acting as early as possible versus waiting for a situation to become more dire – bullying can be subtle. “Trust your gut. You may need to have a chat with athletes and hold them accountable.”
 
Check-in After Practice

Try to make time for a quick one-on-one with the new athlete after practice, without singling him out. “Have a quick conversation about how the practice went, if they are feeling comfortable, if they need anything, or if they have any questions or concerns,” Belix says.
Often, after the initial introduction, a coach assumes that a new athlete is integrating fine, but this check-in process can help an athlete feel heard. Belix adds that if the new athlete is chatting with their teammates, postpone talking with them versus interrupting.
 
_____
 
As a coach, it can be hard to step back and let the new athlete on the team integrate on their own terms, but it’s necessary. Remember that “some kids are less social than others and that’s fine,” says Belix.

“Don’t necessarily assume that an athlete isn’t fitting in if they’re not immediately making friends. Pushing a new athlete will likely just make them feel uncomfortable – give those athletes space if they seem to be happy otherwise.”




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.