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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.

BLOG

 Fake Bunt, Steal Third
(3/18/2019)
 
 
   

Fake Bunt, Steal Third


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses a well-executed fake bunt steal situation with a runner on second 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.


 Help Your Players Find Their Voice
(3/15/2019)
 
 
   

Help Your Players Find Their Voice 


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


Baseball is very much a game of routine ; those routines, an integral part of a player’s individual development as well as a team’s culture and environment. Hitters get in the cage every day to get their swings right.  Pitchers work in the bullpen every day to perfect their delivery.  Teams take batting practice, get defensive work in, and run the bases.  Every.  Single.  Day. 

Those routines become a habitual part of the professional player’s day .

Over the course of my six years managing at various levels of our minor league system, beginning in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2013, followed by four years in A-Ball, and finishing in AA last year before transitioning to my new role as our outfield and baserunning coordinator, I saw the value of using the previous day’s game as a teacher for our players to learn from.  When reviewing the games in my own mind, I knew what I saw, and the countless coaching points that could be taken from each contest.  But after discussing those points, almost like a teacher lecturing a class, I became curious to see what THEY actually saw.  So I changed my approach a few years ago.

Prior to giving any of my own thoughts, I’d survey the group, “Alright guys… whatdya got from last night?”

The first few times I did this, as I looked across the fifteen or so position players gathered in the group, I was surrounded by blank stares. Heads down. Crickets. No one saying a word. No one wanting to be called on.

Our team environment , at that time, was not one that encouraged input from players.  So it shouldn’t have been a surprise that these players- who we had good relationships with mind you- were apprehensive to speak in front of the group.  Some were timid to open up for fear of saying something wrong, while others wouldn’t open their mouths perhaps they were too cool to do so.  

Slowly but surely, as we changed the approach, we were able to create an environment where giving our players a voice became the norm, and they became more comfortable in talking the game, and using one another as an additional way to get better.  Even in A-ball with those inexperienced kids who truly didn’t know the game. 

In 2018, I managed the Portland Sea Dogs, our Double-A, Eastern League affiliate. Coming on the heels of my previous experience largely with inexperienced players, last year represented my first opportunity to work with guys who had a career under their belt and knew what it meant to be a professional.  We had a good sense of what made them tick individually, and they had a pretty good feel for the game at that point.  Additionally, the majority of them had played for me at some point and time previously, and were familiar with my style of engagement.  That combination, while being at a point in the careers where they were comfortable in their own skin and their understanding of our organizational standards embraced this style of coaching as a conversation.

Part of managing at the Double-A level last year included spending a week with our Major League team in September as a means to get a feel for how our staff and players were doing things in Boston, and figuring out what exactly we can mirror in the Minor Leagues to best prepare our guys for when their time comes.  What blew me away far more than anything else was the interaction between players and the manner by which there was non-stop communication about the game. Coaches would start our advance meetings, and then the players would essentially take over.  Then later, in the cage, around the dugout, or out in the bullpen, there were constant conversations that were completely player driven, a clear part of the culture that helped us win the World Series in October.  Some of our most inquisitive players, not coincidentally, were also some of our biggest stars.

For players, it’s OK to ask questions.  It’s OK to give feedback.  It’s OK to talk the game.  It’s all in reality, a necessary part of development.  We need to embrace the input from our players to know what they actually know, which in turn will help us learn what they don’t.  By encouraging questions, feedback, and game-talk, we can make coaching a conversation, not a lecture.  For coaches, it’s up to us to help our players find their own voice so they can develop in their own game. 


Darren Fenster is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, and currently serves as the Minor League Outfield and Baserunning Coordinator for the Boston Red Sox. In 2012 he launched Coaching Your Kids LLC, an organization dedicated to assisting coaches, parents and leagues in developing young players and improving their experience within the game. Previously, Fenster served as the Manager for the Portland Sea Dogs, the Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. Fenster is a two-time All-America from Rutgers University where he established school records in hits, doubles and at-bats. He was selected in the 12th round of the 2000 MLB Amateur Draft by the Kansas City Royals and played in the minor leagues for seven years. 


 Bad Calls
(3/14/2019)
 
   

Bad Calls 


The best ways for coaches and parents to respond to bad calls  


Bad calls happen. They happen in youth sports, high school sports, professional sports, and the Olympics. Of all the places where officiating mistakes happen, youth sports are probably where they matter the least. But, it’s on the sidelines of kids’ games that we often see parents and coaches losing their cool.

Before we look at three categories of bad calls and how to deal with them, it is crucial for all parents and coaches to remember that the referees in youth sports are often volunteers. Even those who are paid are likely refereeing out of their love of the sport rather than the compensation. They are human. They make mistakes. They have feelings.

Making accurate calls is important, but if we are looking to youth sports to teach kids valuable lessons about sportsmanship, responsibility, competition, and handling adversity, then it is important to realize that missed calls play a necessary role in teaching those lessons.

Let’s look at three categories of officiating errors and how parents and coaches can best respond to them.
 
The Official Missed It

An official can’t be everywhere at once, and there is no instant replay in youth sports. Sometimes things like a handball in soccer, a travel in basketball, or an out-of-bounds in field hockey simply get missed because the referee wasn’t in a position to be able to see it. Play continues with this type of error even though the correct call would have resulted in a stoppage of play. The players involved often know the error occurred, and parents and coaches who happened to be in the right position to see the foul know it occurred. So, what should happen next?

Coaches:


Don’t overreact to individual instances of missed calls due to unseen infractions. If it’s becoming a consistent problem, either in your team’s favor or not, have a calm conversation with the official during a stoppage in play. Officials want to perform as well as they can, and pointing out a consistent problem can help the official address it.

Your players’ attitudes and actions will reflect your response to missed calls. If you express anger or frustration, they are likely to respond that way as well, on the sidelines and on the field.

When talking to your players, use this type of missed call as an opportunity to point out that things don’t always go your way, but you have to keep playing and focus on what you can control. Another way to approach it is to encourage players to perform their best so the game is not close enough that a missed call would affect the outcome.

Parents:


Try not to worry about it and absolutely don’t yell about it. Your job on the sideline is to encourage your athlete and all the athletes on the field or court. You’re there to enjoy watching your child. You’ll probably notice missed calls, but let the coaches and officials handle it.

When your child expresses frustration about missed calls, either during a break in play or after the game, you have the same opportunity as the coach to reinforce the notion that life isn’t always fair, things don’t always go your way, and you can only control your own play.
 
The Official Misjudged it


This category of officiating errors focuses on infractions the official sees, but misjudges in terms of severity. For instance, a shove, kick to the shins, or elbow to the ribs might look pretty benign from one angle, but very rough from another. Compared to missed calls, misjudged calls often have an impact on player safety.

In some cases, officials may be too lenient and allow rougher play that endangers athletes. In other cases, officials are hypersensitive to contact and call fouls that seem unnecessary.

Coaches:

If the official is being too permissive of rough play and your players are at risk, speak to the official immediately to encourage them to be more proactive about controlling aggressive play. You can also adjust your player matchups or game strategy, if possible, to reduce the frequency of contact with players who are being aggressive.

On the other hand, if the official is highly sensitive to infractions, work with your players to be even more conscious of how they’re playing. This can be a useful lesson on adapting to the situation.

Parents:

Watching someone be rough with your kid is hard to handle calmly, but losing your temper isn’t going to help either. Let the coaches and officials handle it on the field, and if you feel the need to make your voice heard, talk to your team’s coach. Avoid the urge to yell at the official, and absolutely refrain from yelling directly at the opposing player.

If your player or team is getting called for infractions based on a highly sensitive official, use the opportunity to reinforce the idea that you have to learn how to adapt to the situation and find a way to perform your best.
 
The Official Got Mixed Up

Sometimes officials make mistakes, like losing track of the number of players on the field, counting the incorrect number of strikes or balls, or giving the ball to the wrong team. It happens. This is when the old adage, “It takes a village…” comes into play.

Coaches:

If you notice the error, bring it to the official’s attention so it can be corrected. Particularly in youth sports, these situations are best handled with a sense of humor. In competitive club and school sports, there may be a more formal process for correcting officiating errors.

Parents:

If you notice the error, bring it to the coach’s attention instead of directly confronting the officials. The coach is the person designated to speak and make decisions on the team’s behalf. And in a loud environment with voices coming from all directions, the coach is the person an official will pay attention to.

 Takeaway

Youth sports, even competitive youth sports, are supposed to be a positive experience for young players. Accurate officiating is important, but the big picture lessons that can be learned through youth sports participation are achieved through wins and losses, good calls and bad.


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


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USA Baseball's Sport Development team is proud to work with various partners within the amateur game.