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EDUCATION

Education is one of the fundamental building blocks of the game. As such, USA Baseball’s educational resources emphasize a culture of development, safety and fun within the sport through free online training courses and programs focused for players, parents, coaches, and umpires. Content is available in both English and Spanish.

HEALTH AND SAFETY

USA Baseball is passionate about protecting the health and safety of all constituents within the game. Through the Pure Baseball, SafeSport, and Pitch Smart, and other health and safety initiatives, USA Baseball is working to make the game of baseball a positive and safe experience at all levels of play.

PLAYER DEVELOPMENT

USA Baseball strives to be a steward of the amateur game through offering cutting edge sport performance analysis and player development. With a focus on physical literacy, fundamental movement skills and advanced performance metrics, the analysis of athletic abilities can help prepare players for their next level of play, wherever that may be.

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 Four Myths Parents Need to Know About Supplements
(5/17/2019)
 
 
   

Four Myths Parents Need to Know About Supplements



Dietary supplements are omnipresent in sports. When youth athletes see their professional idols or peers using supplements, they may feel supplementation is necessary to keep up with the competition. Since they are so readily available, it’s also easy for parents to think there’s no harm in letting athletes use them.

Unfortunately, the supplement industry is one of smoke and mirrors. Although they might seem appropriate for young athletes trying to stay healthy and competitive, there are many myths surrounding supplements that parents should be aware of before choosing to buy these products.
 
MYTH: A Supplement Found on Store Shelves is Safe

While you would think that a supplement sold in a health food store or pharmacy has been thoroughly vetted for safety and efficacy, that’s not the case due to how the U.S. supplement industry is regulated.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) evaluates supplements in a post-market manner, meaning that all supplements can be sold until something is proven wrong with them. This is the opposite of how pharmaceuticals are regulated, as their effectiveness must first be proven in studies and clinical trials.
 
MYTH: Labels Tell You Exactly What’s in a Supplement

Post-market regulation also makes it possible for supplement labels to be extremely misrepresentative, as well as intentionally deceptive, about what is actually in a product.
Many supplement companies list ‘Proprietary Blend’ on the label, meaning they can hide any ingredients they want, including those prohibited in sports, under that name. Other companies list ingredients under scientific names, or even fake names, that you might not recognize as anything dangerous or illicit, even if you are careful about reading the label.

In other cases, supplements that aren’t meant to contain potent substances become contaminated as a result of being produced in the same setting as higher-risk supplements. The manufacturer may be unaware and the label won’t reflect the error, but consumers are still at risk when products don’t undergo pre-market analysis and certification.
 
MYTH: Natural Ingredients Mean a Supplement is Safe

Supplement companies often brand their products as being ‘all-natural’ or ‘organic,’ usually with a green ‘certified’ logo that provides a holistic vibe. However, there’s plenty of things in nature that can cause serious damage to the human body, and unfortunately these are sometimes found in supplements.

The classic example of this is ephedra, an ingredient from a plant of the same name, which was popular in weight-loss supplements. After the ingredient was tied to the deaths of several young athletes and an NFL player, as well as other severe side effects in many more people, the FDA banned the ingredient from being sold in supplements in 2004. However, products that contain ephedra extract are still legal.
 
MYTH: Recalled or Proven Dangerous Products Can No Longer Be Bought

Unfortunately, after a supplement has been proven dangerous and recalled, it doesn’t magically disappear from the market.

Instead, it’s up to the retailer to pay attention to recall announcements and remove the product from their shelves. This means a dangerous product can stay on store shelves for years after the fact and that someone who has already bought said product would never know that it’s been recalled.
 
How to Decide If Supplements are Appropriate


While many people use supplements without adverse health consequences, it’s vital for consumers, and especially athletes who may be subject to anti-doping rules, to understand there is no such thing as a ‘no-risk’ supplement, only a ‘lower-risk’ supplement. In most cases, a healthy, balanced diet will get athletes the nutrients they need to stay fit and perform at their best. Some athletes may have specific nutrient deficiencies, but those should be diagnosed and treated in collaboration with your physician.

Before letting your athlete take any supplement, even one recommended by a physician, always do your due diligence by researching a supplement’s ingredients and manufacturer. For more information on these best practices and other helpful information about supplements, download the TrueSport Supplement Guide.


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.


 The Value Of Versatility
(5/17/2019)
 
 
   

The Value of Versatility


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


Not so long ago, when a player was described as a utility man, it was a fancy way to call a backup on the bench, and not exactly a term of endearment by any means.  But thanks to Big Leaguers like Ben Zobrist, Marwin Gonzalez, Brock Holt, and even pitchers like Andrew Miller or Nate Eovaldi, the players who can play all over the diamond or handle various roles on the mound have quickly become some of the most valuable guys on their team’s roster.

Think back to the World Series last October, and it’s clear to see how valuable Red Sox starters Rick Porcello, Chris Sale, and Game Three super-human Eovaldi were coming out of the bullpen en route to winning that title over the Dodgers.  The Royals and Cubs both won rings in large part because of Zobrist’s ability to be penciled in anywhere with grass or dirt under his feet, so much so that he was named MVP of the 2016 Fall Classic. This past off-season, Gonzalez signed a 21 million-dollar contract with the Twins, and Holt was an American League All-Star in 2015.

Follow any Major League team in this day and age, and you’ll quickly see how many lineups are determined by matchups against the opposing club’s starting pitcher.  And watch any Big League game, and you’ll quickly see how many late game pinch-hit/pinch-run and defensive decisions are made to put a team in the best position to win. Utility players have quickly become some of the most important pieces of a team.

The game has adapted to appreciate players who can play all over the diamond, and you should, too.  When someone can play multiple positions, they are giving their manager multiple options of how to use them.  It’s never too early for players to prepare themselves for that day when a coach asks them to move to a spot outside of their normal comfort zone.

Here are just a few ways they can bridge that gap and shorten the learning curve:

Catchers can take fungos anywhere on the infield to become comfortable fielding ground balls. That practice will actually help them become more athletic behind the plate specifically on tag plays at home.  Infielders should move to the outfield during batting practice and simply work live off the bat to get a feel for reading and tracking fly balls.  Doing so will improve their ability to handle pop-ups when they move back on to the infield dirt.  Outfielders should always bounce around to all three spots to become interchangeable in centerfield or at one of the corners.  And lastly, all players can always throw on some gear and catch pitchers’ bullpens.  Every team needs an emergency catcher if in the event the two guys on the roster go down in one game, and anyone who can reliably catch in a game quickly becomes one of the most valuable on the entire roster because the position is the most challenging on the field.
 
Learning how to play a secondary position doesn’t mean you have to become a gold glover at a spot you have very little experience.  Rather all you need to be is reliable.  Reliable and trusting enough to make the routine play, to throw the ball to the correct base, and to be in the right spot on the field when you are supposed to be there.  Knowing all of the responsibilities of multiple positions will turn you into a smarter player in the grand scheme of the game.

So, the next time a coach asks you to play somewhere outside of your primary position, thank him; he is creating some versatility for you that will turn into value when you learn how to play just about anywhere, any day.



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.


 Running Poles
(5/14/2019)
 
 
   

Running Poles


Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard


Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopedic Surgeon at Duke University and USA Baseball Sport Development Contributor, discusses a the longstanding tradition of running poles after pitching, and whether or not it is effective as a recovery tool by reducing lactic acid buildup. 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.


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