Sport Development Blog

 Shortstop Working Through the Play
(10/21/2019)
 
 
   

Shortstop Working Through the Play


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses why a shortstop should maintain composure, scoop up the ball and make a strong throw, despite bobbling or misplaying a sharply hit ground ball. 

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 Reality of Sports Supplements
(10/16/2019)
 
 
   

The Reality of Sports Supplements 


In youth sports 


For young athletes today, the temptation of sports supplements is everywhere. These products are found easily online and in almost any store. The reality is, their popularity is only growing. Because supplements are so readily available, coaches and parents should know the risks involved and precautions they can take.  
 
A Short Lesson on Supplements

Sports supplements are technically dietary supplements. Like the name suggests, they’re intended to supplement a person’s nutritional diet or address a nutritional deficiency. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates dietary supplements on a post-market basis. This means they’re taken off the market only after they’ve shown to cause adverse health effects. It’s up to the manufacturer to be upfront about a product’s safety, effectiveness and quality. 

Labels Don’t Tell the Whole Story

The truth is, supplement labels have at times been inaccurate or misleading.  Some products out there are contaminated and may contain potentially harmful substances or illegal ingredients such as:  
 
Anabolic steroids
Pharmaceuticals
Heavy metals
Toxins
Pesticides

While not all supplements may pose a problem, young athletes may unknowingly take these supplements without realizing the potential health consequences.

Look for the Certified for Sport® mark and Download the NSF for Sport App 
With thousands of supplements on the market, how can you as a parent recognize the good from the bad?  Look for products that have been Certified for Sport® by NSF International, an independent third party. The Certified for Sport® program is the best way to protect against potentially harmful supplements because of the rigorous testing and facility inspections that certified products must undergo. Lack of certification doesn’t necessarily mean a product is bad, but using it is a bit of a guessing game. Knowing the product has been tested for contaminants, such as toxins and athletic banned substances, provide peace of mind. 

The NSF for Sport App 

With thousands of products out there, it would be unrealistic to expect a coach or parent to research every single dietary supplement. One simple solution: Look for products certified by a third-party testing program like NSF Certified for Sport®. Better yet, use the app.  

The NSF Certified for Sport® app is free and lets you search for safer supplements by name, UPC code, product type and goals. It looks for products with the NSF Certified for Sport® mark for you. Having the mark is a sign that a supplement has gone through a rigorous testing process that:    

Tests for over 270 substances banned by pro sports leagues and anti-doping organizations
Confirms ingredient levels are listed correctly
Ensures there are no unsafe levels of contaminants
Audits manufacturing facilities for quality and safety twice a year

For more peace of mind, you should know that NSF Certified for Sport® is recommended by major professional sports leagues like the NFL, NBA, PGA and LPGA. It’s also the only independent certification program recognized by the United States Anti-Doping Agency and is required by Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and Canadian Football League.

Play It Smart

If you’re the coach or parent of a young athlete, do your homework about safer sports supplements. Talk to a registered dietitian if you can. Have a conversation with your player or child. Using supplements can be a tempting decision. NSF Certified for Sport® can help make it a safer one. To learn more visit nsfsport.com.


NSF International (nsf.org) is an independent, global organization that facilitates standards development, and tests and certifies products for the food, water, health sciences and consumer goods industries to minimize adverse health effects and protect the environment. Founded in 1944, NSF is committed to protecting human health and safety worldwide. With operations in more than 175 countries, NSF International is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center on Food Safety, Water Quality and Indoor Environment.


 The Power of One Play
(10/18/2019)
 
 
   

The Power of One Play 


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


The final score read 16-1.  The Red Sox win over the Yankees put them just one victory away from advancing to the ALCS in last year’s playoffs. Boston collected 18 hits for the game, including four from second baseman Brock Holt, who hit for the first cycle in postseason history.

But it was a single, non-descript, non-scoring play in the top of the 3rd inning that changed the whole complexion of the game, and in turn, the series. As the Sox lead 1-0, left fielder Andrew Benintendi stepped to the plate with Mookie Betts on first base and nobody out when he blooped a single towards the left field line. Such a soft and shallow hit generally wouldn’t allow a runner on first to advance beyond second base.  When he realized Andrew McCutchen was in no position to throw him out, Betts saw a window of opportunity to go from first to third and challenged the Yankees’ left fielder to make a play on him. 

The safe play in this situation- especially with nobody out- would have been for Betts to hold at second, which would have kept Benintendi at first with the meat of the order coming up. But the Red Sox did not get to where there were by playing it safe; they continued playing the same aggressive style of baseball that got them into the postseason in the first place. 

The result: Betts slid safely into third well ahead of the throw, and Benintendi alertly took second base without breaking stride and without being contested when he read the play in front of him. Not only did the aggressive play put two runners in scoring position, it also eliminated a potential double play, and perhaps most importantly, it set the tone for the game that would shellshock the Yankees. 

Both Betts and Benintendi would score in the inning, and while the Yankees minimized the damage and hit in the bottom half only down 3-0, it was a clear swing of momentum that anyone watching the game could feel. The flood gates would open in the 4th when the Red Sox essentially put the game away with a seven-run rally to jump out to a 10-0 lead.  Game.  Set.  Match.  

As we move into the final few weeks of the Major League Baseball season with a World Series crown on the line, just a single play can change everything. That play may happen on the very first pitch of the game, or sometime in the innings that follow with something that may not even appear in the box score, like an outfielder throwing the ball to the right base. Or an infielder making a diving play on a hit to save a run. Or runners taking the extra base. 

When players are made aware of how much momentum can impact our game, along with the types of plays that can create those swings in their favor, all of a sudden they will take the field looking to change their own games with a newfound attention to details to do things right. There is a microscope that comes over the game in October, one where almost every pitch can be dissected ad nauseum.  Perhaps this year’s champion will be able to look back on its run and point to a single play that made that run possible. THAT… is the power of a single play. 


Darren Fenster is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, and is currently 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.


 Treatment of Non-UCL Elbow Injuries
(10/15/2020)
 
 
   

Treatment of Non-UCL Injuries


Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard


Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopedic Surgeon at Duke University and USA Baseball Sport Development Contributor, discusses some treatment options for elbow injuries that don't involve the UCL, including medial apophysitis and osteochondritis dissecans (OCD). 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.


 How to Help Athletes Navigate Between Seasons
(10/10/2019)
 
 
   

Helping Athletes Navigate Between Sports Seasons


In youth sports


Serious student-athletes are being pulled in so many directions now: from academic responsibilities, to school and club sports with seasons that often overlap. Everyone wants those teams to do well, but this can often come at great cost to the student-athletes, who may encounter burnout, overtraining, and mental stress from trying to juggle multiple teams at the same time.

As a coach who focuses on collegiate sports, Celia Slater, former college basketball coach and Founder of True North Sports, often sees athletes coming to college burned out from trying to balance club and school sports. Here she explains how coaches can work together to create stronger, more resilient athletes by sharing the training load, not doubling (or tripling) it.
 
Don’t Force Them to Choose

“We shouldn’t put student-athletes in a position where they have to choose,” says Slater. “We should be creating systems that support the student-athlete and what he or she wants to achieve in sport.”

It is more work — you’re going to have to individualize plans, communicate more with other coaches and talk with parents and athletes more. It might mean relaxing the rules on the number of practices required or working with another coach to create a cohesive strength-training and interval routine. But ultimately, if the goal is to create great athletes versus simply stake your claim on them, extra time and considerations need to be given so they know they can play for both teams.
 
Create Lines of Communication Between Coaches, Parents, and the Athlete

Right now, you may be relying on the athlete to tell you what their other practice and competition schedule looks like, but that doesn’t always work. High-achieving athletes will feel the need to try to satisfy both coaches, and as a result, may end up doubling up on practices, or not telling you that they already did a lifting session or interval workout that day for their other coach.

“Talk to the other coach and come up with a plan that’s healthiest for the individual athlete, which also means including the athlete and their parents in creating a schedule that works for everyone,” says Slater. Make sure it’s clear that communication is necessary and expected. An athlete should feel comfortable talking to you anytime, not just at the start of the season.
 
Think Critically About Your Values Overall

“Are the policies on your team in the best interest of the team or of each athlete?” asks Slater. You may have unintentionally created policies that force athletes into unhealthy situations.

“Athletes are getting pulled in two directions, and eventually, they’re torn in half and will quit, or will pick one or the other. Look closely at your policy and culture and see how it aligns with the values of creating healthy, happy athletes,” she adds. Again, that might mean that your current hard line policy of ‘no missed practices the week before key games’ may need to be relaxed in certain circumstances.
 
Focus on Teaching Self-Leadership

Ultimately, most student-athletes won’t go on to become professional players, but no matter what skill level they have at sport, you can support their ability to succeed in life. “Student-athletes get sport skills at an alarming rate but often miss skills like self-awareness that they need to get through college and life,” Slater explains.

“You have to teach athletes to lead themselves for success later in life. We underestimate how difficult that transition can be, and don’t teach it.” This might mean letting a student athlete create her own schedule of practice, it might mean assigning more leadership rolls, or asking for a certain type of accountability. Remember that the goal of sport at a young age is about creating good people, not just good athletes.
 
Keep a Close Watch for Signs of Burnout

“Many athletes pulled in different directions by club and school teams end up quitting by college,” says Slater. “I think very few of these kids who go through club and school sports get to college and don’t want to play anymore, they just want to finally relax.”

This is avoidable: Be on the lookout for signs of burnout.

Slater adds, “Generally speaking, coaches need to be able to see if an athlete is having a high anxiety level, is depressed, isn’t enjoying the sport anymore.” Those signs may indicate that the athlete needs to take a break from one team, or to cut down on practice or play time.
_____

Whether an athlete is on a school team, a club team, or both, it’s a coach’s job to help create a healthy environment for all athletes. To develop happier and healthier student-athletes, it’s important to let them play different sports and learn how to balance their interests in a safe, effective 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.


 Runner Almost Caught Tagging Up at First Base
(9/26/2019)
 
   

Runner Almost Caught Tagging Up at First Base


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses the factors a baserunner should consider when establishing a lead on first base when a fly ball is hit to right field, including the positioning and strength of the right fielder's arm and how shallow the ball is hit, in order to avoid a run-erasing mistake.


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 On-Deck Circle
(9/25/2019)
 
   

The On-Deck Circle 


Cuddyer's Corner
By Michael Cuddyer


Former Major Leaguer Michael Cuddyer discusses the importance of dialing in during a hitter's time in the on-deck circle, one of the most personal and important spaces on the diamond. 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.


 Disciplining a Player is not Dissing a Player
(9/20/2019)
 
   

Disciplining a Player is not Dissing a Player 


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


Players make mistakes. 

They slip-up on the field, and they err off of it as well.  

Players are human, even the ones with super-human talent.  And just like a parent would when their own child screws up, it is a coach’s responsibility to address his players’ mishaps.  Often times, in a practice or game environment, a coach steps in with instruction when the player physically doesn’t do what he’s supposed to do on the field.  It is that type of instance why we became coaches in the first place- to teach the game we all know and love.

In other times, the gaffe has nothing to do with the game. In those moments, our players need our help in a very similar manner they do in order to get better on the diamond. But instead of helping with a skill by teaching, we help by providing discipline and holding them accountable for not doing the things they are supposed to do.

Here in 2019, the concept of discipline is one that comes with controversy. Some believe that punishing a kid for his transgressions potentially limits future opportunities. To me, disciplining those who don’t live up to a team’s standards isn’t hurting their future one bit; it is helping. Discipline is not an old-school versus new-school discussion. It is a straight-forward, right versus wrong TEAM concept.  

---

A few weeks ago, a very unique thing happened in a Major League game.

A player was removed from a game for not running a ball out of the box. 

Why this was unique was because you don’t see it often in this day and age of athletics, and rarely do you ever see it at the highest level of sport, with one of its best players.

Ronald Acuna is one of the game’s most exciting players, the second youngest player in Major League Baseball history to be a part of the 30 home run, 30 stolen base club.  In the third inning of a game against the Dodgers, he drove a ball deep to right field, and started his slow, home run trot shortly after contact.  The only problem was that this ball did not go out of the ballpark; it hit the wall just short of the seats with the right fielder playing the carom perfectly, setting up a throw to second base. But there was no play; Acuna had barely reached first.  His manager, Brian Snitker, then reached for reserve outfielder Adam Duvall to go into the game for Acuna.

When asked about his rationale for benching arguably his best player, Snitker spoke matter of factly.  “He didn’t run,” he started. “It’s not going to be acceptable here.  As a teammate, you’re responsible for 24 other guys, and that name on the front is a lot more important than the name on the back.  We’re trying to accomplish something special here, and personal things have to be put on the back burner. You can’t let your team down like that.”

With what was likely an unpopular decision to Braves fans everywhere, Snitker gave coaches everywhere a lesson of leadership when players don’t live up to the standard that has helped build a successful culture. In pulling Acuna from that game, he didn’t lose the respect of the other 24 players in that clubhouse; instead, he gained it even more. The Braves as a team will be better for it, and Acuna, as a player, will be better for it as well. 

---

Despite the parent you’ll likely anger, or the player you are sure to temporarily upset, there is nothing wrong with disciplining your players when they mess up.  In fact, contrarily, there is something very wrong, when you don’t. Because what you allow, you actually encourage.  A message to one is actually a message to all, good and bad. 

So, tell your players: the next time your coach benches you, he’s not being mean. It also doesn’t mean that he hates you when he pulls you from a game or sits you for the next. When your coach puts you on the bench, he is simply being your coach, holding you accountable for not doing what you are supposed to be doing. 

You may be mad now, but you’ll be better for it, later.


Darren Fenster is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, and is currently 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.


 5 Practical Self-Care Tips for Youth Athletes
(9/26/2019)
 
   

5 Practical Self-Care Tips for Youth Athletes 


In youth sports


From dealing with pressure on social media, to balancing academics, sports, and extracurricular activities, teenagers are under more stress than ever.

Amy Saltzman, MD, author of A Still Quiet Place for Athletes, believes that athletes who practice mindfulness develop a more balanced approach to self-care, which ultimately helps them achieve peak performance in sport and in life.

According to Saltzman, “Being mindful means simply being aware of what is happening here and now with kindness and curiosity, so that we can choose our behaviors.” She adds that young athletes who “bring kind and curious attention to all aspects of their health and well-being have an advantage in learning what works best for them during training, competition, and in life.”

Saltzman, a long-time athlete herself, explains that “in the long run, it’s up to young athletes to learn from coaches, parents, nutritionists, athletic trainers, sport-specific articles and books, and most importantly their own bodies, and develop and refine the self-care routines that create the opportunity to perform at their best.”

With that in mind, Saltzman shares five scientifically proven self-care habits athletes can practice to improve their physical health and maximize their ability to compete at their best. 

Prioritize Rest

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, getting extra sleep over an extended period of time improves athletic performance, mood, and alertness.

Saltzman says, “Oftentimes in sports, young athletes are encouraged to push beyond their perceived limits to progress, but pushing too hard and too often can result in injury and physical, mental, and emotional burnout.”

Overtraining doesn’t help anyone. Creating and actively implementing a proper rest and recovery schedule can prevent young athletes from reaching the brink of burnout and injury. By avoiding unhealthy extremes and prioritizing rest, you can help your athlete improve their physical and mental capacity. 

Make Healthier Food Choices

It’s essential to the development of young athletes to fuel their bodies with well-balanced meals of nutrient-rich foods instead of processed foods. In addition to preventing major health issues like osteoporosis, diabetes, and heart disease, healthier, whole foods develop their brain function.

Saltzman encourages young athletes to “bring their kind and curious attention to what they eat, how they eat, and how their body feels after they eat.” Over time they can take note of which foods complement their physical exercise and build a meal plan around the foods that help their body function at its best.

In general, Saltzman notes that athletes’ “bodies will function best if they eat natural foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, milk, cheese, and eggs.”

Drink More Water

Saltzman reports that “research shows that exercise performance is impaired when an athlete is dehydrated by as little as 2 percent of body weight. When the athlete loses an excess of 5 percent of body weight, their performance capacity is decreased by about 30 percent.”
Encouraging your young athletes to properly hydrate is essential to their athletic performance and, more importantly, to their overall health and well-being.
Saltzman adds, “It’s especially important for athletes to be aware and properly hydrate when they’re traveling, competing in hot or humid climates, or at altitude.” 

Focus On Conditioning

Youth sports offer athletes a place to improve their bodies’ overall performance and physical capacity. Not all conditioning has to be sport-specific.
Saltzman explains, “Young athletes can benefit by adding age-appropriate, developmentally-paced strength, speed, endurance, flexibility, and core strength to their exercise routines. And if young athletes do these activities mindfully (being present and discerningly aware of how their bodies feel, rather than just going through the motions), they will increase their physical, mental, and emotional strength, endurance, and flexibility.”

This self-awareness gives athletes a keen sense of when their bodies need to rest and recover, or hone in on where they need to dig deeper. 
Develop game day routines

For young athletes, game day often requires the parent shuttle or a school bus ride to the game. According to Saltzman, “It is wise for young athletes to develop a game day travel routine that allows them to arrive physically, mentally, and emotionally ready to compete at their best.”
Saltzman recommends athletes create routines that will help them be prepared for game day by:

Creating a detailed game day packing list
Having healthy snacks and plenty of water on hand for travel
Developing a mental preparation habit, such as listening to music, practicing mindfulness, or visualizing their ideal performance during the game
______
Saltzman concludes, “Athletes who are actively paying attention to their health and preparation are less likely to suffer from burnout, overuse injuries, overtraining, adrenal insufficiency, and chronic fatigue syndrome.”

Help your young athletes develop a stronger mindset to deal with the stresses of sport and daily life by introducing self-care strategies and encouraging them to practice them daily. 


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.


 Run-Saving Play at Shortstop
(9/23/2019)
 
   

Run-Saving Play at Shortstop


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses the keys, including precise pre-pitch preparation and a well-timed dive, in order for a shortstop to convert a run-saving, game-extended play on a ground ball in the gap. 

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.


 Non-UCL Elbow Injuries
(9/17/2019)
 
   

Non-UCL Elbow Injuries


Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard


Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopedic Surgeon at Duke University and USA Baseball Sport Development Contributor, discusses how to identify, prevent and treat less common, non-UCL elbow injuries in pitches. 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.


 Visual Training
(9/3/2019)
 
   

Visual Training


Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard


Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopedic Surgeon at Duke University and USA Baseball Sport Development Contributor, the process and benefits of visual training 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.


 Double Tee
(9/17/2019)
 
   

Double Tee 


Tech in Baseball
Presented with Diamond Kinetics


Skill Set: Hitting
Difficulty Level: Medium 
Number of Athletes and Coaches: 1-2 athletes and 1 coach, or 2 athletes as partners
Average Time to Complete: 5 minutes
Equipment Required: Bat, two tees, baseballs, net or screen to hit into

Goal: Keep the bat on the plane of the baseball, and drive the baseball up the middle

Description of the Drill: 
• Tee set up in front of the middle of the plate, roughly 6 inches out front of the plate
• Another tee set up about 6 inches in front of the first tee
• Hitter sets up even with the plate, while other partner puts balls on the tees
• Hitter hits the ball, trying to hit a low line drive back up the middle, keeping the bat on the plane
of the ball and the barrel behind the hands and extends their swing path to hit the second ball off
the second tee with a smooth swing
• Partners switch after 5 swings

Add Difficulty:
• To add a degree of difficulty, the hitter can move the tee to different contact points (inside, middle, outside) as shown for a right handed hitter below, but still make sure to place the tee roughly 6 inches in front of where the contact point would be for each location.
• Outside pitches should be hit to the opposite field, or opposite side of the screen or cage
•  Inside pitches should be hit up the middle or slightly to the pull side of the middle

Using Diamond Kinetics SwingTracker Sensor and mobile App - the following metrics and tools can help you measure your swing and see improvement when doing this drill:

Approach Angle 
Overview: Using the Approach Angle metric, hitters clearly know the direction of their swing plane at the moment of impact. While the optimal Approach Angle is dependent on the type of pitch, it typically needs to be between +5° degrees and +15° degrees in order to hit a line drive and between +20° and +35° degrees in order to hit a home run.

Optimal Ranges by Type of Batter:
• For U10-14 players learning to hit line- drives: +6 to +10
• For U15-18 player who want to hit line-drives: +11 to +19
• For U15-18 power hitters who have strength & ability to hit deep: +20 to +35


Coaching Insights:
• Consider that a pitch is coming “downhill” from the mound at a -6° degree to -8° degree angle. To counter that, a batter should be making contact at an upward angle to “match the plane of the pitch” at a minimum.
• If you have a kid who is hitting a lot of ground balls – look at the approach angle and work drills to get the point of contact happening at a positive angle.
• When you marry Approach Angle with Distance in the Zone, you might see why a kid is popping up too much or fouling off.
• When hitting off a tee or even soft toss, you’d hope to see fairly consistent Approach Angles swing- by-swing, but when doing BP or facing live pitching, you will see a bigger range because the hitter has to “go get” the pitch (and that’s OK).

For more Tech in Baseball videos, click here.


Diamond Kinetics is the market leader in mobile motion technology and information that enables player development, superior equipment fitting, objective scouting and recruiting, and engagement-driven entertainment.


 How to Talk About Mental Wellness with Your Athletes
(9/12/2019)
 
   

How to Talk About Mental Wellness With Your Athletes


In youth sports


It can be a daunting task, speaking to your athletes about mental wellness. It’s a sensitive topic and one that can’t be tackled lightly. Knowing that, psychiatrist Dave Conant-Norville, MD, shares some valuable tools and tips on how to start the conversation about mental well-being with your athlete, and how to keep those conversations moving forward.

Understand That Mental Wellness Starts Now

“Mental wellness includes all of the processes that go on in your brain — thinking, emotions, behavior, relationship processing. There’s a lot going on. The idea of mental wellness is optimizing, being free of disease. We want to talk about mental wellness in order to help prevent mental illness,” he adds. “We shouldn’t start the conversation after there’s already a problem, we want people to be mentally well.”
 
Start with the Performance Benefits

Some kids are naturally going to be skeptical when it comes to talking to any adult about feelings and emotions, but Conant-Norville suggests leading the conversation with an explanation of mental wellness as performance-enhancing for sport.

“I always say your health is only as good as your mental health, because it’s the governing factor for the rest of your health,” he adds. “It impairs your physical function. An athlete can’t function optimally without mental wellness. It’s really important to get over the dichotomy of the mind and body, that the two are separate.”

Implement Mindfulness 

Deep breathing and meditation are two of Conant-Norville’s favorite practices for athletes, and it’s one of the fastest, simplest ways to get ‘buy in’ from your athletes. Starting and ending practice with a minute or two of silence or even using a short guided meditation can be a great way to introduce the key mindfulness element of mental well-being into your athlete’s life without adding stress of ‘meditation as homework.’ For parents, this can also be a great after-dinner wind-down that the whole family could take part in.

Provide Other Mental Tools

“Successful coaches help students build a vocabulary around things like stress and anxiety. They teach game-day tactics like how to focus and how to relax and mentally prep for a big game,” says Conant-Norville. “For example, if you’re not sleeping adequately, you’re not going to do well,” he adds

Help athletes create a toolkit, whether it be teaching them about the importance of full nights of sleep, practicing deep breathing exercises that an athlete can use before a key practice, or simply making it OK for an athlete to come to you with an emotional issue.

Create a Trusting Community

Creating a sense of trust and fun goes a long way towards encouraging mental wellness. According to Conant-Norville, it also creates a sense of community and encourages open lines of communication. The team that truly enjoys their time together is the team that can share their feelings.

But, don’t just start a conversation with ‘tell me about your emotions,’ says Conant-Norville. That puts most athletes on the defensive, and likely won’t yield authentic results. The same is true for parents: it’s easy to want to demand an emotional conversation but without that sense of trust, it’s unlikely that your athlete will be open with you.
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Part of opening a conversation around mental wellness is paying attention to warning signs and knowing when it’s time to seek professional help for an athlete.

“Coaches are not therapists. You’re not equipped to treat mental health issues,” warns Conant-Norville. If you suspect that an athlete is dealing with some kind of mental health problem, make sure the athlete gets the help he or she needs from an expert

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.


 RBI Single Up the Middle
(9/2/2019)
 
   

RBI Single Up the Middle


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses the "we over me" approach to embrace when stepping into the box with two outs and a runner in scoring 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.


 7 Things to Avoid When Raising Good Decision-Makers
(8/29/2019)
 
   

7 Things to Avoid When it Comes to Raising Good Decision-Makers 


In youth sports


Young athletes are faced with a constant barrage of decisions, ranging from when they should take a shot to what sports they ultimately want to play. But logical, careful decision-making isn’t always a skill that comes naturally — it’s often a skill that needs to be nurtured. It can be a challenge for parents and coaches to find a balance between helping athletes develop those decision-making skills through trial and error while also ensuring that athletes find some success along the way.

Dr. Jim Taylor, a sport psychologist and parenting expert, has a unique expertise in helping parents and coaches raise well-rounded athletes who not only excel in sport, but who are able to make rational, well-thought-out decisions from an early age. Here, he talks about the biggest mistakes he sees adults make when it comes to raising a good decision-maker.
 
Not Understanding Your Role 

In early stages of development, when a child’s executive functioning isn’t entirely developed, it can be a challenge for them to make a rational decision. You need to pay attention to your child’s maturity levels (which can ebb and flow over time) and adjust your role in the decision-making process accordingly.

“The role of the parent in decision-making evolves as your child grows,” Taylor says. “It starts as dictator, where you have all the power; then it goes to governor, where you’re giving them some options to choose from; then to consultant, where they consult you for feedback on good decisions; then you become a sounding board, where you’re just listening to them puzzle through decisions. You’re progressively ceding control.”
 
Offering Too Much Choice 

“It’s trendy to focus on ownership and agency, letting kids have a sense of control over their lives,” says Taylor. “But they’ll make millions of decisions throughout their lives, they don’t need to make 50 today. It’s exhausting and confusing.”

It’s okay to moderate some of the decisions your athlete needs to make. Taylor adds, “I use the metaphor of forks in the road. Children are constantly faced with forks in the road: it might be just two, it might be ten choices. We need to help our kids learn to recognize the forks in the road, what the options really are and narrow them down.

Research has shown that the more options you’re faced with, the harder it is to make decisions.”
 
Offering Too Little Choice

On the other side of the spectrum are the parents who don’t offer children any agency, whether it’s choosing their sports for them, laying out clothes to wear, and picking their books to read. Coaches can have the same problem, laying out the game play-by-play and micromanaging athletes until they feel like pawns rather than players.

“Don’t make all of your kid’s decisions,” says Taylor. “Once they become old enough to choose things for themselves, we need to start offering some choices.”
 
Offering Choices That Don’t Exist

“Often, we make an attempt to give a kid a sense of agency where none exists, with the hope that they will make the ‘right’ decision,” says Taylor. “That’s disingenuous. Don’t offer them decisions in areas where you’re not actually going to honor their choices.”
 
Saying a Decision is Wrong or Bad

Raising a good decision-maker doesn’t mean raising a child who always makes the right decision, just one who is capable of being decisive, weighing both sides of an argument, and coming to a firm conclusion. If a child chooses soccer when you think he should play baseball, don’t tell him that was the wrong decision.

“Decision-making is a skill, it comes with experience, but it takes confidence. So when you allow a kid to make a decision, it’s not just about that specific decision. It’s about boosting their ability to make a decision later on,” Taylor adds. “You want them to sometimes make bad decisions because that’s how they’ll learn to make good decisions.”
 
Letting Your Child Avoid Decisions

If you’re the parent or coach of a child who’s obedient to a fault, that may not be an entirely positive thing. “There are some kids who are naturally risk-averse and don’t want to make the wrong decision,” says Taylor. “That fear of failure can be problematic down the road. They start attaching fear to making bad decisions.”

Start pushing the child to make small-scale decisions. Rather than picking your child’s clothes because he or she can’t decide what to wear, Taylor suggests offering two options (the red shirt or the blue shirt). That way, your child is still making a small decision, but it likely won’t be paralyzing.
 
Not Talking About Decision-Making

Making a choice might seem obvious to you as an adult, but kids need to be taught how to make decisions and that doesn’t come naturally. “Talk through decisions, look at how to list the options, and discuss the costs and benefits of each. Talk about which is the right thing to do. Talk about what is in your kid’s best interest,” says Taylor.

Taylor recommends following up on decisions: have the conversation with your athlete a few weeks after a decision to check in on how that choice looks now. “You can’t go back in time to change that decision, but if you have a period of reflection and talk through it, you might not make the same decision again.”
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Remember, you’re a role model for your athlete. Decisions are ultimately made based on core values, and to raise an ethical decision-maker means walking the walk.

“Teach kids to be deliberate about decisions,” Taylor says.

“Whatever you value, you’ll make decisions that align with that. If you value winning at all costs, you might take performance-enhancing drugs. If you value sportsmanship, you won’t. And those values may transfer to your kids,” says Taylor. “Instilling healthy, positive values in kids is the foundation for making those good decisions.”

And while it can be maddening waiting for a child to make a decision when you’re trying to tick an item off of your to-do list, remember that you’re not trying to raise someone who can make abrupt decisions. You’re trying to raise a child who can make measured, carefully considered decisions.


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


 Coaching Philosophy
(8/28/2019)
 
   

Coaching Philosophy


Cuddyer's Corner
By Michael Cuddyer


Former Major Leaguer Michael Cuddyer discusses how what you should emphasize when building your coaching philosophy, and what your purpose should be as the leader of the team. 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.


 Concussions
(8/20/2019)
 
   

Concussions


Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard


Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopedic Surgeon at Duke University and USA Baseball Sport Development Contributor, discusses how to define, diagnose and treat concussions. 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.


 Rundown Between Third and Home
(8/19/2019)
 
   

Rundown Between Third and Home 


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses both the baserunning and defensive perspective a rundown between third base and home plate, one of the most momentum-swinging and decisive plays in the game .
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.


 Unifying Leadership
(8/16/2019)
 
   

Unifying Leadership


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


In the coming weeks and months, teams for all sports and all seasons will begin to take shape.  Experienced upperclassmen will return to college campuses and high school grounds just as wide-eyed newcomers will have no idea what they are in for.  At some schools, veteran players will “welcome” their younger teammates to the club by having them carry equipment bags, pick up garbage, and fill water jugs, along with other forms of initiation, in the name of tradition and paying dues.

Meanwhile, at hopefully many, many more schools, the old will genuinely welcome the new, in the real meaning of the word. 

Back in May, right in the midst of a run to the Stanley Cup Finals, Boston Bruins team captain Zdeno Chara was asked about how his team has blended so well. His answer went viral. 

“No matter if someone is 18 or 40, somebody who has 1,000 games or playing their first game, we treat each other with respect and the same way as everybody else in the locker room. I didn’t like the separation inside of the team between younger players and older players, players who have accomplished something, players who are just coming into the league.  I don’t like to use the word rookie. They are our teammates… Once you’re a team, you’re a team, regardless of the age or accomplishments.”

In a sport with arguably more tradition than all others combined, the captain for one of the NHL’s best teams actively chooses to make his teammates feel, well, like a part of the team.

The best teams in sport aren’t always the most talented, but rather the clubs who collectively work together better than the rest as a cohesive unit, with everyone pulling the rope in the same direction.  Of course, success requires talent. But as history has taught us, success goes beyond talent. Much of this true sense of team is built from a culture whose foundation is set by leaders like Chara with the goal to unify. The toxic sense of selfish individuality that permeates through bad teams is developed in a very similar manner of including… by excluding. 

There is a very simple and incredibly impactful way to create a positive environment amongst old and new: sweep the sheds. 

In the book Legacy, author James Kerr gives an inside look at the All Blacks, New Zealand’s national rugby team who just happens to be one of the most successful sports teams in the history of sports who, at the time of publishing, held a winning percentage of .770. How this club has been able to enjoy so much sustained success is more impressive than their record itself; they attribute their success as much to their culture as they do their talent. 

Part of that culture includes the mantra of sweeping the sheds, where all members of the All Blacks live the tradition that no individual is bigger than the team or those who came before them when it comes to doing their job, both on and off the field. They take as much pride in keeping their locker room clean (sweeping their shed) as they do competing against opposing world powers in rugby.
No one is too good to do something.  When the biggest star or the most experienced veteran are themselves doing the most remedial tasks, like carrying equipment, like picking up trash, like filling water jugs, the newcomers can’t help but notice and will tend to quickly fall in line themselves, just as the All Blacks have done over time.  They are leading by doing the things that no one wants to do, which, ironically, makes everyone else WANT to do them.  This type of leadership bonds and team and its players far better than any words possibly could.

At one point or another, every single player was a rookie. Every single student-athlete was once a freshman. Every single star was the new guy way back when.  For some, it’s an easy transition. For others, it’s an overwhelming one. They ALL want to be a part of the team, sooner rather than later. That team is a simple, conscious decision; an intentional decision made by its leaders, choosing to create that team by unifying one another; new, old, and everyone in between.
Darren Fenster is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, and is currently 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.