Sport Development Blog

 The Ball Has A Voice
(1/18/2019)
 
 
   

The Ball Has a Voice. Listen to it.


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


Every Spring Training as Red Sox players and staff descend upon Fort Myers like we will here again in a few weeks, there is usually one of two specific points of emphasis that will largely become the theme of camp that year.  Generally speaking, that focal point is determined based on something that our system as a whole might not have done well in the previous season or something that the Major League staff wants us to get better at as players get called up.  One year it was getting our infielders locked in on the tiny details of their position with things like where to setup on the base for tag plays or making sure they were lined up and out far enough for cutoffs and relays from the outfield.  Another spring stressed to our baserunners anticipation on balls in the dirt when on base to be in a better position to advance, while to start a different camp, our attention was placed on backing up bases and plays.

A few years ago, our emphasis was placed on aggressiveness to get the lead out on our bunt defense.  We wanted our pitchers to dart off the mound to be ready to make a play at 3rd.  We wanted our infielders to cheat, creep, and crash on top of the hitter in order to get what could be a key out in a key spot in the game.  And we instructed our catchers to take charge and direct traffic loud and clear.  Emphatically, that year we simply hammered the point to our players to give themselves a chance to get the lead out when a bunt is put down, and if that lead out wasn’t there, then we’ll just handle the ball cleanly to take the out the opposing team is giving us at 1st base.

When we first practice our bunt defense- or any other team fundamental for that matter- on the back fields at Fenway South, we do so with no baserunners in a very controlled environment, making sure everyone is where they are supposed to be on the diamond.  In many ways, it’s very much like an NFL team doing its walk-thru on a Saturday without any defense in preparation for their game on Sunday.  We then roll bunts at varying speeds at varying spots to give everyone on the field different looks as they will likely see over the course of the long season.  With the emphasis on being aggressive towards the lead out, the first few rolled bunts were sure-fire plays to 3rd; hard pace, right at one of our fielders in a position to make the play we were looking for, all with the catcher yelling, “THREE! THREE! THREE!”  The next few reps were what we would consider tweener sacs, bunts that our defense would have to execute to perfection in order to even have a chance at the lead runner.  Again, with our attention on aggressiveness, every single tweener bunt went to 3rd base.

We then move on to the well-placed sac; that bunt when laid down in the perfect spot at a perfect speed, where it is near impossible to get the lead out, and just as challenging to get the batter at 1st.  Well, that first rep went to 3rd base.  Our staff spread around the field then instructed that the play should have gone for the sure out at 1st.  The next rep went to 3rd.  As did the one after that.  And the one after that.  At this point I realize what we had done:  with our constant stressing of aggressively going after the lead out, we had taken a group of what was, at the time, relatively inexperienced A-ball professional baseball players, and created bunt defense robots.

Stopping the drill right then and there, we gathered as a group on the mound to address this issue.

“Guys… we have to listen to the ball,” I started.  “The ball has a voice and it will tell you what to do with it.  We want that out at third, but sometimes it just might not be there.  So, stop memorizing the game, let the play develop, and make our decisions accordingly.”

The more they learned how to “listen to the ball,” the more they were able to slow things down and trust their eyes, as their decisions got better and better.  This mode of thinking the game doesn’t just apply to bunt defense; it can and should additionally be implemented with baserunning (the ball will tell you when to go 1st to 3rd, when to go back to tag, etc.) and defense (where to throw the ball from the outfield with a runner advancing, when to create a short hop by coming in or a long hop by going back in the infield).  When players can constantly look at the ball and ask themselves what is it saying to them, they will begin to see the game in a different, clearer light.

The idea of listening to the ball also can aid in individual player development.  Some of the best players in the world are likewise some of the most self-aware players in the world with an astute knowledge of who they are, what they do, and how they do it.  When a player can effectively become his own coach without the constant need for feedback from someone else, they put themselves in a great position to get better all the time, not just when a coach or teammate is watching.

Hitting and pitching are two facets of the game right now that have historically been incredibly mechanically driven.  Many players think internally, based on the feel of their swing or delivery.  Putting a focus externally on what the ball is doing can offer a different way for them to perfect those mechanics without necessarily thinking about them.  

For instance, when a hitter is working to improve his ability against velocity, they may initially think about shortening their swing to get the barrel to the ball. But if they instead listen to the ball, and see how everything is going to the opposite field or foul, they may very well then make an adjustment in their timing to make contact to the middle of the field, fixing an internal flaw by listening to what the ball is saying off of the bat.  A pitcher can use the same train of thought with regard to things like arm angle, release point, break, or command.  When they try to make the ball do something else, the mechanics have a chance to fall into place.

Baseball is very much a thinking man’s game , where two identical balls in play may require two completely different decisions based on the variables that come up over the course of nine innings per day, five-plus months of the year. While some decisions are no brainers, others require instincts and intellect just to have a chance at collecting an out, taking the extra base, or having a productive at bat.  Those decisions don’t have to be made alone; let the ball help you. That ball indeed has a voice.  Learn how to listen to it.

 



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.


 Accountable Sports Parents
(1/17/2019)
 
 
   

Accountable Sports Parents


The importance of accountable sports parents


Youth sports parents play many different roles: former (or current) athlete, coach, fan, motivator, role model, critic, and maybe most importantly, influencer.

Studies have shown that family members may influence an athlete’s involvement and achievement in sport even more than coaches. Parents also are the first and most critical determiners in whether or not children reap the social benefits of playing sports.

This is why it is so crucial that sports parents are aware and accountable for their actions, and how those influence their young athletes.

Accounting for Your Attitude

Parental encouragement is significantly related to a child’s attraction to and competence in playing sports. Parents who provide positive encouragement instill a greater sense of enjoyment, ability, and motivation in their child.

Research done by Windee M. Weiss, Ph.D. of the University of Northern Iowa emphasizes the importance of parents staying accountable for and modeling good behavior, and helping their children interpret their sport experiences. Parents are critical in helping their child develop coping strategies to deal not only with competition, but also with losing. Children’s perceptions of their parents’ interest in their playing sport also predict their lasting involvement in sport.

Studies done by the University of Minnesota’s Diane Wiese-Bjornstal found that the way girls perceive their parents’ assessment of their abilities predict their likelihood of playing and staying in sport. That is, if their parents do not have confidence in their abilities, neither will they.

And dads, are you listening? Studies have found that fathers hold more influence – both positive and negative – over their daughter’s sport competence and values than mothers do. However, mothers are more likely to first enroll their daughters in sport and then continue encouragement by providing transportation, uniforms, moral support, and snacks.

Being Responsible for Their Readiness

There is some good news to report from yet another study on the topic. Researchers from Yale University, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Michigan suggest that children participate in organized activities, such as sport, because they want to, not because their parents make them.

But parents still need to consider whether a child is mentally, emotionally, socially, and physically mature enough to participate in sport. Readiness for a sport is just as important as readiness for school. And, like schooling, younger children need more positive direction at first, until they begin to develop and master the sport.

Pros and Cons for Parents

Parents also benefit from their child’s participation in sport. Research from Wiersma and Fifer found that their positive experiences include watching their child learn new skills and having the opportunity to interact with other parents.

On the negative side, parents who lose accountability for their lofty expectations and put too many demands on their young athletes before, during, and after competition can create stress that can destroy their child’s enjoyment of sport. Research by Bois et al., Power and Woolger, and Van Yperen has shown that negative parental support and pressure can result in competitive anxiety, interpersonal difficulties among teammates, and even quitting. Conversely, lower parental pressure has been found to be associated with children enjoying their sport more.

An overemphasis on extrinsic goals (winning, trophies, status) by parents can negate focusing on intrinsic goals, through which the child gains enjoyment from playing, mastering skills, and improving their game. Coaches also report that children’s sport performance is affected by the presence of parents. Additionally, parents lacking self-awareness and accountability for their actions are most likely to create conflict for coaches during the critical time that their child is improving mastery and transferring their trust in authority from the parent to the coach.

LaVoi and Stellino research found that the children of parents who create anxiety about failing and emphasize winning are more likely to engage in poor sport behaviors than children whose parents encourage enjoyment and self-mastery. Another study from Guivernau and Duda showed how athletes’ perceptions of their parents’ approval regarding cheating and aggression shape their own views about appropriate sport behavior. When youth athletes feel that their parents are supportive, positive, and emphasize mastery and enjoyment, they are more likely to display concern for opponents and grace in losing. They also are less likely to trash talk or whine and complain about the coach or their playing time.

Accountability from parents for their actions and attitudes effects much more than just their athletes’ level of effort on the field. It also impacts their mindset, mood, and motivation to continue on playing sports at all, as well as their trust in their coach and authority in general.

Creating accountable youth athletes and young adults starts at home, with parents taking responsibility for their actions first before demanding that their athletes do the same.

This was originally published in True Sport: What We Stand to Lose in Our Obsession to Win (p. 58-60)

References:

Bois JE, Lalanne J, Delforge C. The influence of parenting practices and parental presence on children’s and adolescents’ pre-competitive anxiety. J Sports Sci. 2009; 27(10):995-1005.

Brustad RJ. Affective outcomes in competitive youth sport: the influence of intrapersonal and socialization factors. J Sport Exerc Psychol. 1988; 10(3):307-321.

Brustad RJ. Who will go out and play? Parental and psychological influences on children’s attraction to physical activity. Pediatr Exerc Sci. 1993; 5(3):210-233.

Brustad RJ, Partridge JA. Parental and peer influence on children’s psychological development through sport. In: Smoll FL, Smith RE, eds. Children and Youth in Sport: A Biopsychosocial Approach. 2nd ed. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing; 2002:187-210.

Davison KK, Earnest MB, Birch LL. Participation in aesthetic sports and girls’ weight concerns at ages 5 and 7 years. Int J Eat Disord. 2002; 31(3):312-317.

Donohue B, Miller A, Crammer L, Cross C, Covassin T. A standardized method of assessing sport specific problems in the relationships of athletes with their coaches, teammates, family, and peers. J Sport Behav. 2007; 30(4):375-397.

Fredricks JA, Eccles, JS. Children’s competence and value beliefs from childhood through adolescence: growth trajectories in two male-sex-typed domains. Dev Psychol. 2002; 38:519-533.

Greendorfer SL, Lewko JH, Rosengren KS. Family influence in sport socialization: sociocultural perspectives. In: Smoll and Smith R, eds. Children and Youth in Sport. Dubuque, IA: Brown and Benchmark; 1996: 89-111.

Guivernau M, Duda JL. Moral atmosphere and athletic aggressive tendencies in young soccer players. J Moral Educ. 2002; 31(1):67-85.

Holt NL, Tamminen KA, Black DE, Mandigo JL, Fox KR. Youth sport parenting styles and practices. J Sport Exerc Psychol. 2009; 31(1):37-59. 157.

Lafferty ME, Dorrell K. Coping strategies and the influence of perceived parental support in junior national age swimmers. J Sports Sci. 2006; 24(3):253-259.

LaVoi NM, Stellino MB. The relation between perceived parent-created sport climate and competitive male youth hockey players’ good and poor sport behaviors. J Psychol. 2008; 142(5):471-495.

Mahoney JL, Larson RW, Eccles JS, eds. Organized Activities as Contexts of Development: Extracurricular Activities, After-School and Community Programs. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum; 2005.

McLean K. Dealing with parents: promoting dialogue. Sports Coach. 2007; 30(1):12-13.

Power TG, Woolger C. Parenting practices and age-group swimming: a correlational study. Res Q Exerc Sport. 1994; 65(1):59-66.

Van Yperen NW. Interpersonal stress, performance level, and parental support: a longitudinal study among highly skilled young soccer players. Sport Psychol. 1995; 9:225-241.

Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport. The 2007 Tucker Center Research Report: Developing Physically Active Girls: An Evidence-Based Multidisciplinary Approach. Minneapolis, MN: Author; 2007.
http://www.tuckercenter.org/projects/tcrr/default.html.

Weiss WM. Coaching your parents: support vs. pressure. Technique. 2008; 28(10):18-22.

Wiersma LD, Fifer AM. It’s our turn to speak: the joys, challenges, and recommendations of youth sport parents. J Sport Exerc Psychol. 2007; (suppl 29):S213.

Woolger C, Power TG. Parent and sport socialization: views from the achievement literature. J Sport Behav. 1993; 16(3):171-189.



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.


 Being a Good Teammate
(1/16/2019)
 
 
   

Being a Good Teammate


Cuddyer's Corner
By Michael Cuddyer


Former Major Leaguer Michael Cuddyer discuss the benefits of being a good teammate for your teammates and yourself. 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.


 The Individuality of Coaching
(1/9/2019)
 
   

The Individuality of Coaching


Beyond the Diamond
By Dr. Anne Shadle


As someone who loves psychology and finds the intricacies of human interaction fascinating, it is easy to see why I would be drawn to the topic of the individuality of coaching. Most of us would agree that the psychology of each person is quite fascinating. We might also agree that understanding the unique psychology and communication needed in coaching someone would prove to be important in helping our athletes achieve their fullest potential.

Each of our personalities, along with life experiences and the environment in which we live and learn plays a huge part in how we socialize, communicate and interact with others. The ability to relate to others is a key topic in effective communication and coaching.

- How do effective coaches build relationships and trust with their athletes?

- What are some keys to effective communication?

- How does effective communication help us to teach sport skills and evaluate progress in performance?

3 Keys to Effective Communication
• Cues
• Feedback
• Personal Coaching style

In the world of athletics, one of the most important sport skills is the mental ability to focus one’s attention. Previous research in the field of sport psychology has shown that successful athletes have honed their ability to use visual, verbal and kinesthetic cues to intentionally focus their attention. When distracted or not focused on the task at hand, these athletes also use visual, verbal and kinesthetic cues to refocus their attention. Research conducted with Olympic Medals winners indicates that cue systems were most successful when the cues had been established and used by the coach and the athlete in the weeks and months leading up to the Olympic finals (McGuire, Shadle, Zuleger, & Low, 2014). Both coaches and athletes reported that this type of communication was one of the factors that significantly helped the coach-athlete duo to win an Olympic Medal.

As expected, the actual cues a coach uses with athletes depends on both the coach and athlete and their preferences. It is important to understand the individual’s learning style and tailor your cues to that style. Listed below are some of the benefits, of using cues systems, for athletes as well as for coaches.

Cues from the coach help the athletes to:
1. Focus their attention on specifically what the coach considers to be most important in that exact moment – i.e., cues connect the coach with the athlete and are able to provide immediate guidance and attention to the athlete. Cues tell the athlete what they need to do, how to do it, and when to do it.

2. Immediate feedback, learning, and direction - these cues are especially important during practice because they tell the athlete about their progress. Loaded with information, these cues enable the athlete to make decisions about where to focus their time and effort; e.g., on perfecting technique, or developing strength or how to improve footwork/stance.

3. Feel supported psychologically - cues can give the athlete energy, reassurances, inspiration and have a calming effect.

Cues help the coaches to:
1. Direct the athlete’s focus and attention. By using a cue system coaches can provide specific feedback to athletes during practice as well as during competition in a very efficient and precise manner (Keep cue language short and to the point. Can you say it in 3 words vs. 10?) When a coach needs to communicate with an athlete and time is limited, such as in the heat of competition, a cues system can be especially valuable.

2. Immediate feedback, learning, and direction- these cues are especially important during practice because they enable coaches to teach athletes exactly what to do “next” or when they find themselves in a specific situation. Thus, cues help coaches process the information through their eyes, digest it and then teach athletes what to do next.

3. Provide psychological support to athletes and to maintain own emotional balance and mental fortitude - cues help the coach manage their own energy and composure while also helping to support the energy and composure of their athlete(s).

Effective ways to establish and use cues:
Use results from the individual communication style and preferences inventory to create a mutually acceptable plan for improving the efficacy of communication between the coach and the athletes.

How to give cues:
Cue from the ground up: verb body part direction
(Example: Lift your elbow up).

Feedback:
We know for an athlete to learn a skill, the skill must first be performed and programmed into their body’s motor learning. Skill is defined as, “the capability to bring about some desired end result with maximum certainty and minimum time and energy,” (Schmidt and Lee, 2014). A few of the different components involved in the process of learning and performing a skill are the perceptual or sensory processes, along with decision making, and finally the movement. Taking the time to explain why you are doing something and connecting it to the end goal for the athlete helps to strengthen not only trust with the athlete but also understanding the learning that is occurring.

When giving feedback, it might feel like you are saying the same thing over and over. This is part of the learning process. When you teach, you often repeat the same thing, but it helps to vary how you say the same thing until the athlete gets it. This is when you know a cue works. A cue that works for one athlete might not make sense to another and vice versa. The great John Wooden has a book entitled, You Haven’t Taught Until They Have Learned: John Wooden’s Teaching Principles and Practices. This is a great book to further dive in and learn more about the individuality of coaching individuals as well as a team.

How much feedback is too much?
It has been found with a group of elite Olympic athletes that one correction was enough for the athlete when learning a new skill. Coaches must prioritize, from their own coaching style, what is most important. This will help guide which corrections are most important and need to be made first. Some athletes can handle two corrections but for most one correction was enough when learning a new skill. Once the athlete has mastered and made the first correction, you can move on to another.

The issue we often see is that coaches give too much information with their feedback which can often overwhelm the athlete (it is also too much information for the brain to process-thus why the athlete feels overwhelmed). It is best to take it slow when coaching/teaching new skills or correcting/breaking bad habits. Some athletes will adapt and learn quicker, others are less flexible and thus take more time to learn new skills. This is where the psychology of the individual comes into play and understanding how your athlete learns and the style in which they best absorb the information being communicated.

One final note: I would caution learning a new skill or changing the way an athlete does something too close to championship competitions. We want the athlete to feel confident going into major competitions. If this is a new skill you are working on and it is early in the season, I would say go ahead and work at that new skill. Be sure to communicate that information and the learning process to your athlete. For example, “I know we are working on this new batting stance. I want you to stick with this during the next game.”


Dr. Anne Shadle, Ph.D., is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, is a certified consultant in Sport Psychology CC-AASP and is a member of the United States Olympic Committee’s Sport Psychology registry. She also serves on the Athlete Advisory Committee for USA Track and Field (USATF) and currently is the President-appointed committee chair for Psychological Services for USATF. She is heavily involved with coaching education and certification for the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) and USATF. Shadle received her Bachelor of Science in Education and Human Sciences from the University of Nebraska, where she also ran track and field. She was a two-time National Champion in the mile and 1500 meter distances before going on to run professionally for Reebok and compete in the 2008 Olympic Trials.


 Attempt to Stretch a Single to a Double
(1/7/2019)
 
   

Attempt to Stretch a Single to a Double


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this week’s edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses an attempt to stretch a single to a double.


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.


 What's the Call? Catcher Interference
(12/27/2018)
 
   

What's the Call? Catcher Interference


What's the Call
Presented with Umpires Media


No balls, no strikes. With a runner charging home, the catcher moves into position to make the play, interrupting the hitters swing. What's the Call?

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

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


 Stability and Mobility
(12/25/2018)
 
   
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Stability and Mobility


Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard


Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopedic Surgeon at Duke University and USA Baseball Sport Development Contributor, discusses stability and mobility as it relates to your performance as a baseball player.


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.


 Should Kids Set New Year's Resolutions?
(12/20/2018)
 
   

Should Kids Set New Year's Resolutions?


Learn how to be a resolution role model


Many adults associate New Year’s resolutions with abandoned aspirations instead of positive changes.

For those who struggle to stick with New Year’s resolutions, it can seem illogical to promote the habit to children. However, many experts in child development recommend parents set goals with their children every New Year. Not only does it help teach the power of creating goals and following through, but it can also help us stay accountable to our own resolutions as part of being a good parent role model.

The Case for Youth Resolutions

The American Academy of Pediatrics is just one big proponent of setting resolutions with kids. Their own list of recommended resolutions is age specific, making suggestions such as washing hands before eating for preschoolers and reducing soda intake and standing up to bullying for high schoolers.

While setting goals with young kids might seem a little excessive (if not overambitious) in this age of overscheduling, some argue that childhood is the best time to teach how to form new habits.

“[Kids ages 7-12] are still young enough that their habits are not firm,” says Christine Carter, Ph.D., author of Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents. “They’re old enough to think about what a New Year’s resolution is and to make their own, yet parents can still help guide them.”

Young kids also aren’t likely to set resolutions of profound importance, meaning the focus should be on the goal-setting process rather than the success or failure of achieving the desired result.

Do It Together

Most kids probably won’t sit down and make their own resolutions, let alone follow through on them, without some guidance. Setting goals as a family is a great way to demonstrate that goals are much easier to achieve when you have the support of people who care about you. Clinical health psychologist Indira Abraham-Pratt, Ph.D., ABPP, says, “Resolutions that involve the entire family foster teamwork and support; families come together and encourage one another, which also inspires healthier habits for the whole family.”

This is also an opportunity to show kids what good goals look like, how to write them, and what to actually do with them. Chances are they’ll propose something lofty, such as winning every game they play this season. After admiring their ambition, suggest ways they could re-write their goal to make sure it’s something they can control. Once you’re all done, take their goals, along with the rest of the family’s, and put them someplace where they’ll be seen frequently, such as on the fridge or on a bulletin board.

Set regular check-in times once or twice a month to ask how your child’s goal is going and discuss challenges they might be having, as well as ways to overcome them. Be sure to share progress, successes, and struggles with your own resolutions. And perhaps most importantly, be open and honest about the possibility of failure.

“One of the reasons people break resolutions is that they don’t anticipate the moments when sticking with the resolution is going to be especially difficult,” says Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed. “Talking those over in advance as a family will be helpful — and it will help if the family can come up with strategies to get through those tough moments, so they can celebrate their overall success at the end of the year.”

Do Not Set Resolutions This Way

While most agree resolutions can be beneficial to children if they are well thought out, setting resolutions without their input is a surefire way to get low buy-in and a high chance that they’ll never want to set resolutions again. This is especially true if the proposed resolution is something you’ve been harping on anyway, such as a household chore.

Similarly, first-time resolutions (or even ones for adults) shouldn’t be too-far-reaching or without some easily clearable benchmarks to help build momentum and acknowledge progress.

Carter recommends keeping lists short and breaking resolutions down into actionable steps, such as having a child focus on putting their shoes away when they arrive home as part of a larger ‘be tidier’ resolution, and only giving verbal praise as a reward. “You can’t bribe kids into doing this,” he comments. “Once you make it external with rewards, you lose them.”

Resolutions also need to have a positive frame around them, not one of deprivation.

“Instead of a resolution like ‘No desserts this year,’ a family might choose something more attainable like ‘Eat healthier this year,’” says Tough.

Be A Resolution Role Model

Achieving the greatest buy-in from goal-setting kids comes down to two things:
1. Is following through on this goal enjoyable?
2. Do the people I look up to show me it’s possible to achieve my goals by following through on their own goals?

If those two conditions can’t be met, then it might be best to skip setting goals with children until we can accomplish what Katie Hurley, author of The Happy Kid Handbook, recommends is a much more important resolution for parents:

“Help your children explore their passions. Encourage them to follow their dreams. Dial back the intense worry about college acceptances and high paying jobs and help them understand the importance of happiness. Happy kids are more successful in the classroom. Happy kids are more likely to follow through with their goals and reach a little bit higher. Happy kids are confident enough to enter the world without worry. That is the greatest gift you can give your child this year.”

If you do decide the time is right to set resolutions with your child, the most powerful way to show the importance of setting goals will always be to follow through on your own. This added accountability is a powerful tool to create change for both you and your child and to ensure the next generation continues turning over new leaves with great success.

Sources:
http://www.pbs.org/parents/holidays/making-new-years-resolutions-child/
http://www.parents.com/holiday/new-years/resolution/8-ways-to-help-kids-make-new-years-resolutions/
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/katie-hurley/4-new-years-resolutions-that-will-change-your-childs-life_b_4521297.html
https://www.today.com/parents/how-make-succeed-family-new-year-s-resolutions-t106510
https://www.floridahospital.com/blog/why-your-kids-new-years-resolutions-should-be-part-your-own



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.


 Off-Season Recommendations
(12/19/2018)
 
   

Off-Season Recommendations


Cuddyer's Corner
By Michael Cuddyer


Former Major Leaguer Michael Cuddyer discusses ways to train and grow as an athlete during the off-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.


 Game Three: A Classic That Taught Us So Much
(12/14/2018)
 
   

Game Three: A Classic That Taught Us So Much


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


The game’s first pitch was thrown at 5:10 PM local time in Los Angeles.

Its final pitch was delivered at 3:30 in the morning back on the East Coast in Boston.

What happened during the seven hours and twenty minutes in between that was Game Three of the 2018 World Series was nothing short of baseball history. It had everything. And if you somehow had the motivation (or caffeine in your system) to stay awake for the whole thing that culminated with Max Muncy’s walk-off home run, you couldn’t help but go to sleep with just a little more baseball acumen than when you woke up.

Eighteen innings. One game needed two to finally be decided. It was the longest game in World Series history by four innings in length and by one hour and 19 minutes in time. Both teams combined to use 46 players, meaning only four guys between the Red Sox and Dodgers did not appear in the game. There were 561 total pitches thrown over the course of 118 at-bats, both new records for baseball’s Fall Classic.

But it wasn’t all of the shattered records that made this game so incredibly great; it was everything that happened between the lines, that enabled those records to be shattered. The game, put simply, was a coach’s dream, with countless teachable moments that every single one of their players could benefit from, truly exemplifying the value of learning from watching.

In the top of the 13th inning, Brock Holt showed outstanding anticipation on a pitch in the dirt and was able to advance to second on an impressive dirt ball read. He would later score the go-ahead run on an error by the pitcher who threw the ball away on a soft ground ball up the first base side. In the bottom half of the inning, Max Muncy alertly tagged up from first to second on a foul pop out along the third base side. He would then score the tying run from second with two outs on a throwing error by the second baseman that the first baseman couldn’t keep in front of him.

The Red Sox put runners on first and second with nobody out in the 15th when Christian Vasquez laid down what appeared to be a good bunt on the third base side of the mound. But it didn’t get the job done after Kenta Maeda made a great play to nab the runner at third. The game also had instances of players not hustling out of the box and not getting an extra 90 feet on the bases because outfielders backed up misplays and got the ball back in quickly and accurately. How could this game have possibly changed had those guys gotten to second base? An answer we will never know…

So, the next time your coach gets on you for not hustling or backing up plays; obsesses about tiny details like perfecting cutoffs and relays; spends time focusing solely on baserunning; teaches you how to bunt; and consistently works to get pitchers better at fielding their position, thank him. That is a coach teaching you how to be a baseball player. And baseball players win.

But it wasn’t just the fundamentals of our game on display that this game taught us. In Nathan Eovaldi, we learned all about selflessness and competitive drive. In Alex Cora, we got to see true leadership. And in the Boston Red Sox, we saw first-hand the true meaning of team. I honestly believe that the Red Sox won the World Series when they lost Game Three.

The game itself was an instant classic that neither team deserved to lose. And it was the individual effort by Eovaldi that most assuredly had no business tagging an “L” next to his name. Pitching on one day’s rest after appearing in the first two games of the series in Boston, Eovaldi toed the rubber for seven innings out of the bullpen, more than any pitcher in the game besides Dodgers’ starter Walker Beuhler. With essentially no one else left to come into the game for the Red Sox, he emptied his tank, inning after inning, for his team, extending the game into the wee hours of the morning with every zero he put up. It was a performance that had some of his teammates inspired to the point of tears. It was a performance that all of his teammates knew deserved a better fate. And it was a performance that Alex Cora couldn’t help but recognize following the game’s heartbreaking end for his club.

Minutes after the game ended, Cora witnessed each of his starting pitchers from the first three games of the World Series offer to start Game Four. Chris Sale insisted he was available. David Price, on two days’ rest, volunteered to take the ball. Even Rick Porcello, who started the very game they had just lost, told his manager that he, too, would be good to go. And yes, even Boston’s folk hero Nathan Eovaldi and his seemingly bionic arm wanted his name up for game four.

Not one for post-game speeches, Cora gathered his band of brothers in the clubhouse after what had the potential of being a debilitating, Series-swinging loss, wanting to make sure his team knew two things: first, how proud he was of the effort displayed on that field, and specifically how incredible Eovaldi’s performance was; and more importantly, that his club still had a two-games-to-one lead in the Series. Cora managed to get his team to leave a clubhouse that they had entered demoralized, completely inspired as they looked forward and turned the page.

“By the end of (the meeting), we felt like we won the game,” said shortstop Xander Bogaerts.

And it was that feeling of confidence, fueled by Cora’s speech and motivated by Eovaldi’s outing, that the Red Sox collectively took into games four and five of the World Series. The rest, as they say, is history.

The 2018 World Champion Boston Red Sox may very well go down as one of the best teams of all time. But their success was far from a sure thing, having entered the postseason with countless questions about how they would be able to neutralize the power of the Yankees formidable lineup; how they were going to deal with the Astros’ big three arms of their rotation. Their success was a product of everything we as coaches strive for not just on the field, but off the field as well. And all we needed was Game Three to show us all of those things in one place and one time, for 18 long and glorious innings.


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.


 What's the Call? Fair/Foul
(12/13/2018)
 
   

What's the Call? Fair/Foul


What's the Call
Presented with Umpires Media


The first baseman is positioned in fair territory when he fields a ground ball that is over foul territory. What’s the Call?

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

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


 Stolen Base and Unearned Run
(12/10/2018)
 
   

Stolen Base and Unearned Run


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow talks about an unearned run that was scored as a result of a stolen base attempt.


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.


 Open vs. Closed Kinetic Chain Exercises
(12/11/2018)
 
   

Open vs. Closed Kinetic Chain Exercises


Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard


Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopedic Surgeon at Duke University and USA Baseball Sport Development Contributor, discusses the kinetic chain and open vs. closed exercises.


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.


 Age-Based Guide to Goal Setting
(12/6/2018)
 
   

Age-Based Guide to Goal Setting


TrueSport Ask the Expert with Roberta Kraus, Ph.D.

While it makes intuitive sense that effective goals for fourth graders differ from those made by juniors in high school, it’s important for parents and coaches to understand how to help youth athletes make and achieve appropriate goals. Dr. Roberta Kraus is a sports psychologist who works with athletes ranging from grade school to high school, and novices to Olympic athletes. As a TrueSport Expert, she provided her knowledge and guidance so we can all help make youth sports a positive experience for kids.

Where to Start

To help kids pursue the best goals, parents and coaches have to be on the same page in terms of the overall objective. According to Dr. Kraus, auditoriums of parents and coaches always know the “right” answer in terms of the reasons sports are beneficial for kids: character building, work ethic, integrity, teamwork, etc. But knowing the right answer doesn’t stop parents and coaches from applying too much pressure on kids to win, be a star player, and live up to the money spent on private trainers and traveling club teams. If we back up to a more fundamental goal, we can probably all agree we want to keep young athletes engaged in sport.

Staying engaged reinforces the values parents and coaches say they want from sports participation. Sports help engrain exercise and nutrition habits that lead to improved health outcomes throughout adulthood. The question is, how can we help kids set and achieve goals in a way that keeps them engaged in sports?

Goal Setting vs. Goal Getting

The amount of control, self-determination, and accountability athletes will change dramatically as they progress from elementary school through high school. To be an effective goal, a young person needs to have sufficient control over the factors necessary to achieve it. This is why Dr. Kraus encourages kids, parents, and coaches to focus on “Goal Getting” instead of “Goal Setting.” Goal Getting is based on what a young athlete can achieve through effort. Goal Setting is based on win/loss types of outcomes. This isn’t an “everybody is a winner, we’re all special” idea. These are real and measurable goals a child can either achieve or fail to achieve, but the achievement or failure is based on the only thing they can really control: their effort.

Consider the following examples:

Goal Setting:
• Win more than half the games this season.
• Win the Championship
• Make the varsity team

Goal Getting:
• Get off the starting blocks faster (skill acquisition)
• Improve vertical leap by four inches this season (power development)
• Encourage a teammate at every practice and game (leadership)

Focus on Competitive Maturity, Not Age

Despite the title of this article, Dr. Kraus encourages parents and coaches to prioritize an athlete’s competitive/training maturity over chronological age. Consider, for example, two 12-year-old baseball players. One has been playing competitive travel baseball for four years, the other just picked up the game this season. They are the same chronological age, but vastly different in terms of competitive maturity. From a goals perspective, the athlete with more experience can thrive with greater and different challenges compared to the more novice athlete.

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation

In addition to an athlete’s competitive or training maturity, Dr. Kraus encourages parents and coaches to consider the source of an athlete’s motivation when it comes to establishing appropriate goals. Athletes who are motivated by internal, personal achievement have high intrinsic motivation. Athletes motivated by external validation, like social status or prizes, have high extrinsic motivation. Both are important and valuable, but intrinsic motivation is a crucial component for long-term participation and achievement in sport.

If an athlete exhibits high intrinsic motivation early on by prioritizing personal achievement and what success feels like rather than what it looks like, then coaches and parents can help the athlete progress by encouraging the pursuit of extrinsic goals (winning). In contrast, if an athlete exhibits high extrinsic motivation early on by prioritizing winning and elevated status that results from success, then coaches and parents should help the athlete develop intrinsic motivation before reinforcing the athlete’s extrinsic motivation.

Use Language Deliberately

The words parents and coaches use can have a dramatic impact on a young athlete. According to Dr. Kraus, adults tend to be specific with criticism and nebulous with praise. Think about the car ride home after a game. Do you point out specific instances where your young athlete didn’t get to the ball fast enough or a specific time your young athlete wasn’t in the right position on the field? Do you follow that up with nebulous praise for “being aggressive” or “working hard”?

The very specific criticisms paint mental pictures of what went wrong, but nebulous praise doesn’t enable kids to similarly visualize success. It’s important for coaches and parents to be as specific with praise as with criticism. Instead of “you were aggressive,” recall a specific example: “It was great to see you charge for that loose ball and get there first.”

It’s not that you shouldn’t point out areas that need improvement, but rather, that adults need to consider how quickly and specifically we can identify and describe failures, but how important it is to similarly identify and describe achievements.

Apply Consequences and Rewards

In her experience, Dr. Kraus says young athletes tend to impose harsher consequences on themselves for perceived failures compared to the consequences parents and coaches would normally deem reasonable. On the other end of the spectrum, neither young athletes nor their parents and coaches tend to praise effort or achievement to the same extent. In essence, as young athletes, parents, and coaches, we have a bias toward criticism and negative consequences.

To counter the bias toward criticism, coaches and parents should encourage young athletes to establish concrete consequences and rewards related to the effort (not outcomes).

Ask the question: How do you help your team by giving your best effort? This is the basis for the athlete’s reward. If giving your best effort means you are hustling on and off the field the whole game, that’s what gets rewarded with ice cream or more screen time.

Ask the question: How do you hurt your team when you don’t give your best effort? This is the basis for the athlete’s consequence. If giving up early rather than chasing a loose ball, or chastising a teammate for committing a foul, is the example of you not giving your best effort, that’s what you pay a consequence for. That consequence could be not playing video games for a period of time, or waking up early on the weekend to do yard work.

The athlete, peers, and teammates should be the first judges of whether an athlete earned his or her reward or should suffer his or her consequence. Team captains should provide input next. And coaches and parents should be the last people to weigh in. For Roberta Kraus, reducing the pressures to specialize and succeed are the most important and impactful things parents and coaches can do to support young athletes. When you foster a young athlete’s sources of motivation and help them value effort over the outcome, you establish a pathway to personal achievements that don’t depend on a case full of trophies.

Roberta holds two master’s degrees, one in Higher Education from the University of Northern Colorado and one in Sports Psychology from the University of Arizona. Her Ph.D. from the University of Denver is in Communications, specializing in its application to individual and team effectiveness. She played competitive tennis and basketball at Montclair State College earning her a spot as an alternate to the Women’s Olympic Basketball team.


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


 What's the Call? Disabled Player Following Home Run
(8/14/2018)
 
   

What's the Call? Disabled Player Following Home Run


What's the Call
Presented with Umpires Media


A batter hits a home run then injures themselves running the bases and is unable to continue. What's the Call?


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


 Teaching Respect for Officials
(11/28/2018)
 
   

Teaching Respect for Officials


7 Steps to teaching youth athletes to respect umpires and officials


Most people recognize being an umpire, official, or referee is a difficult (and often thankless) job. Yet ironically, many youth sport parents, coaches, and athletes insist on making this job even harder by shouting ridicule and criticism the referee’s way. While fans empathize with an athlete who makes a mistake, referees (who are sometimes not much older than the athletes) are more likely to be condemned, demeaned, and chastised. Teaching respect for referees doesn’t necessarily mean encouraging blind obedience, but rather, how to self-advocate, take responsibility for your own actions, and overcome adversity.

A Crisis of Disrespect

It’s probably no coincidence that as society’s win-at-all-costs attitude has increased, youth sports organizations are facing a severe referee shortage.

While incidences of violence against referees were extremely rare, they are now occurring more frequently: in 2013, a Utah youth soccer referee died after being punched in the head by a player upset about being called for a foul. A few years later, two high school football players in Texas received national attention when they blindsided a referee during a game. While those tragic incidences represent the extreme, young athletes can see professional athletes and coaches verbally confronting officials on television almost every night.

Even at the youth sports level, it isn’t difficult to find instances of players, coaches, and parents verbally abusing officials. If we’re being honest, most parents have probably – even unintentionally – let a “You’ve got to be kidding me, Blue” come out of their mouths. The ease with which these comments emerge makes it more important to increase awareness about how parents, coaches, and athletes treat officials.

The 7 Lessons for Umpire Respect

Like with sportsmanship and teamwork, umpire respect is an important value that needs to be specifically taught to athletes, parents, and coaches. However, even though there are officials at every game, there is virtually never a direct conversation about the expectations for respecting officials.

Teaching respect for umpires doesn’t have to be hard, hokey, or time-consuming, as long as you can remember the seven lessons for umpire respect:

1. OFFICIALS HAVE MORE TRAINING THAN PLAYERS AND SPECTATORS

No matter how experienced or knowledgeable an athlete or parent is, it’s important to remember officials have specific training in the rules of the game, how to observe the game, and how to make difficult calls. They are also often in a better position to see the play, especially compared to parents on the sidelines or in the stands. If you’re still convinced you can do a better job, leagues are always hiring.

2. MORE FOCUS ON THE OFFICIAL MEANS LESS FOCUS ON THE GAME

There are many aspects of sports that are unpredictable and out of a player’s control. However, there are some things an athlete can control. Players, spectators, and coaches can’t control officiating, but if players are overly focused on how the officials are calling the game, they are likely less focused on playing the game to the best of their abilities. Similarly, coaches should advocate for their team, but focus more on instructing and guiding players than haranguing umpires. For parents in the stands, you could spend your time focused on the umpire, or spend that time focused on watching and encouraging your young athletes to do their best with the one thing they can control: their own performance.

3. OFFICIALS SHOULD BE TREATED LIKE COACHES

One of the ways coaches can model respect for officials is to make an effort to personally greet officials before the game, just as you would the coach of the opposing team. And while it may not be practical for every player to greet the officials, encourage captains at the pre-game meeting or coin flip to introduce themselves to the officials. These efforts help turn nameless, faceless referees into people, particularly people to be respected, in the eyes of young players.

4. RUDE TEAMS DON’T GET CLOSE CALLS

Officials do their best to call games objectively, but they are still human. On a tough call that could go either way, an umpire may be more likely to rule in favor of a team whose players (and coaches) have been respectful and focused on fair play throughout the game. It’s a natural bias to reward favorable behavior and the people who have treated them respectfully.

5. YELLING AT OFFICIALS MODELS POOR COMMUNICATION SKILLS

For parents and coaches, it’s important to think about what yelling at officials teaches young athletes. Youth sport advocacy organization, Play by the Rules, has outlined several different ways yelling at umpires hurts kids by communicating to them that:
Mistakes are not acceptable.
There’s no need to take accountability for your own performance when you can blame others.
It’s acceptable to disrespect an authority figure whenever you disagree with their decision.
Even though it’s rude, disruptive, and distracting to others, yelling is acceptable behavior.

6. TRY IT BEFORE YOU CRITICIZE

Having athletes and parents try officiating during scrimmages at practices is a great way of illustrating the difficulties umpires face. It’s the old “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” lesson, but it’s effective for helping parents and athletes be more empathetic toward officials.

7. REMEMBER IT’S JUST A GAME

No missed call during a youth sports game is going to make or break an athlete’s career. Youth sports are an environment for learning about and falling in love with sports, not heaping pressure on athletes, coaches, and officials. And in the off-chance a player, coach, or parent makes a mistake and is disrespectful to an official during the game, make an effort to resolve the conflict after the game with a face-to-face conversation with the umpire. This helps illustrate to young athletes that after a conflict with another person it is important to take responsibility for your actions and make amends with the other person.


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.


 Rehab Process from Tommy John Surgery
(11/27/2018)
 
   

Rehab Process from Tommy John Surgery


Diamond Doc
By Dr. Marc Richard


Dr. Marc Richard, Orthopedic Surgeon at Duke University and USA Baseball Sport Development Contributor, discusses the rehabilitation process and what to expect after Tommy John Surgery.


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.


 Misplayed Grounder
(8/14/2018)
 
   

Misplayed Grounder


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this week’s edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow analyzes a misplayed ground ball to left field.


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.


 So...You Wanna Work in Pro Ball, Huh?
(8/14/2018)
 
   

So...You Want to Work in Pro Ball, Huh?


FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster


Everyone has their own unique journey in the game. Some set out on a life path as a kid, and are able to follow it every step of the way. Others, like myself, set out on one road, only to get sidetracked and re-routed a handful of times on an incredible ride I never envisioned taking. For me, that road of happenstance brought me into the coaching ranks of professional baseball. My experiences in the game have been incredible, from the rewarding to the surreal.

A few years ago, when I was at a crossroads in my professional life, debating between continuing in the game and starting a new career path in the medical device sales field, countless people volunteered their time, offering their insight as to what working in professional baseball is really like. It was their collective experiences in the game that made me believe that there was still a place for me on a baseball field. And I’ve never been happier professionally since choosing that path.

Over the past seven-plus years, many have reached out to me both asking for insight as to what it is like to work in professional baseball, along with help getting into that side of the game, just as I did to others a short time ago. Here is my insight for all those inspired to find a position with a Major League club.

First, allow me to begin by offering some background as to how my career path took shape in the first place.

My playing career as a Minor Leaguer in the Royals system ended abruptly due to a knee injury, and I wasn’t prepared by any means to start a life after baseball, and had no plan B. So when I was released in the spring of 2006, I reached out to Fred Hill, the coach I played for at Rutgers, an ABCA hall of famer who has been like a second father to me, basically asking, “what do I do now?” He asked if I had any interest in coaching (I didn’t), because he thought I would make a good one if I got into it, and would create the Director of Operations position on his staff, specifically for me if I said the word. Well, without any other plans, I agreed, and by sheer good fortune, right place, right time, a position on a Big East Baseball program’s staff was created for me. Coach Hill saw something in me before I was ready to see it in myself. A huge break for me, which I didn’t realize at the time as I’ve since seen how incredibly hard it is to get a coaching position at any school, let alone one with a “big time” athletics department.

At the time, Division I programs could only have four “coaches” on the field, working with players, so, in the Director of Operations position, I was not allowed in uniform or on the field. That was actually a good thing because it enabled me to learn the complete inner workings of a college baseball program, and prepared me to step into an assistant coach/recruiting role when the opportunity presented itself a couple years later. In the meantime, I was able to get on the field, coaching experience, hooking on for one summer as an assistant in St. Cloud in the Northwoods League in 2007 when we won it all, and then the following summer in Orleans in the Cape Cod League.

After a few years on the coaching staff at Rutgers, and after testing the waters looking into a career in medical device sales, I began getting the itch to get back into professional baseball in a more baseball-centric position without having to recruit or worry about the countless off-the-field responsibilities of the college game. Having played for six years professionally myself, combined with the time I spent at RU, I felt like I had an incredibly strong resume that would make me a slam dunk hire for any professional team, well-equipped for a number of different areas in the game, that I would essentially be able to pick. My expectations were far off.

I spent the entire summer of 2011 discussing my desire to return to professional baseball with those who had positions with clubs that I already had relationships with. I went through the Baseball America team directory and highlighted every single name that I knew (or played with or against) and reached out with a call, text, or email. After three full months of conversations, when September rolled around, I got one, yes, just one, phone interview with the Rockies for an open hitting coach job. I didn’t get a second interview. Then I started considering internships in baseball operations, and was up for two: one with the Indians that had an amazing track record with some very big wigs in the game, and the other with the Mets working in baseball operations with a variety of departments. I was ready and willing to leave a full-time position, with benefits, and a mortgage to pay, just to get back into the pro game.

So as the fall of 2011 was progressing, and while going thru the long interview process for those internships, I was preparing for another year at Rutgers. During instructional league in mid-October, I followed up with the Red Sox assistant General Manager at the time, Mike Hazen (now running the Diamondbacks), who I played against when he was at Princeton, and he said there was a possibility of something opening up in a few weeks, but nothing for sure. For the next month and a half, crickets. Figured nothing was open after all, or they filled it with someone else. Then, during Winter Meetings in December, he called me out of the blue to ask if I was still interested in the hitting coach job, as the A-ball job had opened, and later that day I did a phone interview with the Farm Director. A week later I was up at Fenway for a face to face, and the following week they offered me the job. Literally six months-worth of banging doors down with next to no opportunities, and then just like that, within a quick two weeks, I had the job. That transition has been thenbest move of my professional life. Simply getting my foot in the door was also the hardest transition of my professional life.

Having just completed my seventh season with the Red Sox, I can unequivocally say that working in professional baseball is awesome. I absolutely love it, and honestly can’t really see myself doing anything else outside of the game. But rest assure, it is not an easy lifestyle on a number of different fronts. My days are spent teaching the game I love. I have a passion for what I do, and a purpose to my days that go far beyond the field. While much of the world is inside, making a living doing something they may not enjoy, I’m outside throwing BP and hitting ground balls. I’ve been a part of, and have had an impact on, one of the most storied franchises in all of professional sports. I’ve worked in the cage with a future hall-of-famer. I have a World Series ring…with my name on it.

I. HAVE. A. WORLD. SERIES. RING.

But for as rewarding as a career can be to work in professional baseball at the highest levels of the game, there are many challenges that come with doing something that we love.

In Player Development, you will work from one extreme to the other. Yes, our days are spent on the field, making our players better; nights spent competing under the lights. But being a coach in professional baseball means sacrificing any sense of a work-life balance. Days are long, often times arriving at the ballpark before noon for a 7:00 p.m. game and staying as late as midnight or later. Our schedule is one of the extremes, pretty much working just about every day from mid-February thru Labor Day before enjoying an off-season with little to no responsibility. The fall and winter provide me with a ton of flexibility to branch out and do a handful of other things in the game that has literally taken me all over the world and have given me life experiences that most could only dream.

There is a culture and camaraderie in our organization that is very much a family atmosphere full of like-minded people who truly have a passion for the game and helping those in it. I have built relationships with both colleagues and players that I hold as dear as I do my own relatives and people I grew up with. Sustaining a “normal” family life, however, is a huge challenge. I am not married, and don’t have any kids, so it’s very easy for me to up and go where I want when I want, or to go wherever the Red Sox tell me to go. Some guys will go weeks and months without seeing their wives or kids and are able to make it work.

And lastly, there is a big misconception when it comes to compensation in professional baseball. Put simply, you’re either in the Big Leagues, or you’re not. Unless you are a Major League manager or a long-tenured guy on a Major League staff, you will not get rich working in professional baseball. It is in many senses a labor of love. The majority of those working in the game are doing it for the love first, the money, second. But, if you’re financially responsible, you’ll be able to pay your bills, and will have opportunities to make money in the off-season if you find your way in as a coach.

Scouting, both amateur and professional, and baseball operations are other departments that every Major League club employs, and while I don’t have personal experience in either, much of the same premise applies as does in Player Development. No job in baseball is a traditional 9-5, and few will be able to sustain a career in the game without a genuine love for the game.

A life in the game requires many sacrifices. Sacrifices that many don’t want to give up or can’t give up. But those sacrifices come from a place of passion. And that passion is a bond we all share, and one that keeps us enthusiastically coming to work day after day, year after year. We all take a great sense of pride in being a part of something that is so much bigger than any single one of us.


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.


 Score on a Wild Pitch
(8/14/2018)
 
   

Score on a Wild Pitch


Monday Manager
By Tom Succow


In this week’s edition of Monday Manager, four-time USA Baseball coaching alum Tom Succow discusses scoring on a wild pitch during the bottom of the fifth with a tied score.


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.