Sport Performance and Mental Skills Resources

 Strengthening an Athlete's Decision-Making Skills
(8/15/2019)
 
 
   

Strengthening an Athlete's Decision-Making Skills


In youth sports


Whether it’s making a decision about how to properly prepare for a competition, practice a recovery plan, or stay away from shortcuts, good decision-making, although challenging to teach, is a skill that is critical to an athlete’s success.

According to the Decision Education Foundation (DEF), which seeks to empower youth with effective decision-making skills through curriculum and courses in decision quality, teaching teenagers how to decide is more effective than teaching them what to decide. For example, the popular D.A.R.E. campaign that was implemented in schools nationwide simply told adolescents about the negative effects of drugs and had adolescents sign a pledge to say no to drugs, but it didn’t have a significant effect on actually preventing youth from illicit drug use according to a report by the U.S. General Accounting Office.

Chris Spetzler, DEF Executive Director, recommends helping students understand how to make better decisions as the first step to “increasing their thoughtfulness when engaging their values, creativity, and critical thinking in making and following through on their personal choices.”

As a coach, it’s important to develop an understanding of the decision-making process, as this will better equip you to help shape the way your athletes approach decisions on the field and throughout their lives. DEF explains that there are six elements that must be considered in order to reach a quality decision, including helpful frame, clear values, creative alternatives, useful information, sound reasoning, and commitment to follow through.

Keeping in mind these six foundational elements of a good decision, here are five DEF exercises we’ve tailored for coaches to use at practice with their team to help strengthen an athlete’s decision-making skills:
 
Explain Decisions You’ve Made

Sharing a personal decision-making story of your own can help you build trust with your team, make you more relatable, and allow you to break down the decision-making process with them. Being able to pull from your experience and explain the rationale behind the choices you’ve made will help illustrate the six elements of good decision-making for your team.
 
Case Studies from Sports

Whether it’s deciding who should take the final shot of a game or how to deal the temptation of performance-enhancing drugs, sports come with a lot of decision-making opportunities.
Walking through a sports story that involves decision making is a great way to start the discussion on the topic with your team. Using case studies of athletes who have made poor choices in the past provides your team with the opportunity to dive deep and analyze the situation, reasoning, and outcome of a real decision with real consequences.
 
Interactive Role Play Activities

Inviting your team to participate in simulated decision-making scenarios allows them to critically think and practice the elements of good decisions in real-time.
Have your athletes act out relevant situations, such as deciding how to react to a teammate who consumes energy drinks before practice, to help them evaluate their values and learn how to make more informed decisions.
 
Group Projects

Breaking your athletes into groups and giving them a sport-related challenge to work through is another way you can give them hands-on decision-making experience, while also encouraging them to consider the values and logic of their teammates.
Encourage your groups to share their outcomes and explain how they reached their final decision.
 
Visualization

Many coaches are familiar with the practice of having athletes visualize skills or upcoming games, but you can also apply this technique to your athlete’s decision-making.
For example, practice setting a goal with your athlete and walk through the decisions they would make to reach that goal. Encourage them to visualize their future after achieving their goal and evaluate the steps they needed to take to get there. Would they be proud of the decisions they made to achieve their goal?
_____
Creating a space that encourages the development of an essential life skill like decision-making should be a top priority for the coaches of youth athletes. Continue to encourage your team to evaluate their decisions and take ownership over their actions so they can be proud of the paths they choose.
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.


 Los Beneficios de Hacer Múltiples Deportes
(7/30/2018)
 
   

Los Beneficios de Hacer Múltiples Deportes


USA Baseball

¿POR QUÉ ENTRENAMOS? ¡ESTAMOS TRATANDO DE INFLUIR EN LAS VIDAS DE NUESTROS JUGADORES!

El fin de la temporada de béisbol puede ser triste para todo el mundo. La transición al tiempo más fresco y el cambio de estaciones hasta el otoño pueden ser difíciles para alguien que disfruta de pasar la primavera y el verano en el campo de béisbol. Aunque estos cambios signifiquen el fin de la temporada de béisbol, ¡no tienen que significar el fin de participar en los deportes a lo largo del año!
Hay muchos beneficios de participar en múltiples deportes a lo largo del año.

Evitar el Agotamiento


Hacer el mismo deporte todos los días durante un periodo de tiempo prolongado, como a lo largo del año, puede llevar rápidamente al agotamiento. Agotamiento en un deporte significa cuando un atleta se fatiga mentalmente a causa de hacer un deporte demasiado a menudo. Cuando los atletas hacen un deporte demasiado a menudo a una edad temprana, puede que el atleta pierda el aspecto de diversión en el deporte. Entonces, el atleta querrá dejar de hacer deporte porque está harto de ello, y simplemente ya no es divertido. El deporte se convierte en trabajo, y al atleta le molesta ir a los partidos y los entrenamientos. Jugar en las ligas muy competitivas durante todo el año puede ejercer presión en atletas jóvenes, lo cual les causa volverse resentidos.
Es importante recordar que los niños hacen deportes porque pueden divertirse con amigos, disfrutan de hacer y les gusta competir. Estas tres cosas son las claves de la participación en los deportes juveniles. Demasiados atletas jóvenes se agotan porque el foco en estas claves simples se pierde cuando el atleta hace un deporte durante un periodo de tiempo prolongado. En tomar un descanso de un deporte para hacer otro, los atletas reciben más variedad, además de varias situaciones, y pueden continuar con los deportes porque es más probable que les gusten.

Reducir el Riesgo de las Lesiones Relacionadas con el Uso Excesivo


Las lesiones de uso excesivo y el agotamiento van juntos. Si atletas hacen un deporte a lo largo del año, usan constantemente los huesos y los músculos en edad de crecimiento de la misma manera. Sin variedad en el movimiento y el uso muscular, los músculos y los huesos que se usan a menudo pueden empezar a agotarse por el uso excesivo. La moción repetitiva del mismo deporte a lo largo del año, al hacer los mismos ejercicios, lleva a menudo a las lesiones de uso excesivo, como las fracturas por estrés, las torceduras y los esguinces, e incluso los desgarros en los músculos, los tendones y los ligamentos.
Al hacer una variedad de deportes,  especialmente durante los años de desarrollo, es probable que mejore el rendimiento de los atletas en otros deportes.

Desarrollar Mejores Habilidades Como Atleta Completo

En cuántas más deportes y actividades se involucran los niños a una edad temprana, más oportunidades tienen de desarrollarse como atleta, no sólo como jugador de béisbol, fútbol, basquetbol o fútbol americano. Muchas habilidades y técnicas se transfieren de un deporte a otro y se complementan mientras siguen desarrollar y fortalecer las habilidades preexistentes. Cuando los atletas desarrollan las habilidades tras varios deportes y actividades, es probable que su rendimiento en otros deportes mejore.
Por ejemplo, tanto el béisbol como el fútbol suponen el correr. En el béisbol, se corre alrededor de las bases y para perseguir las pelotas que se han bateado. En el fútbol, se corre por el campo, pasando el balón y tratando de anotar. Mientras que el correr de béisbol usualmente es más explosivo, en distancias cortas durante periodos cortos de tiempo, el correr de fútbol supone más resistencia, en distancias largas durante periodos largos de tiempo. Si un atleta hace tanto el béisbol como el fútbol, desarrollará las habilidades tanto del correr explosivo como del correr de resistencia. La habilidad del correr de resistencia les puede ayudar en el béisbol si batean un triple, y la habilidad del correr explosivo les puede ayudar en el fútbol si tratan de robar el balón del oponente. La combinación de las dos habilidades produce un atleta más completo.

Oportunidades de Desarrollar Más Habilidades Mentales para la Vida

Hacer múltiples deportes puede ayudar a los niños a desarrollar habilidades importantes para la vida, como la resolución de los problemas, el trabajo en equipo, la comunicación y la responsabilidad. Mientras que hacer un deporte imparte lecciones valiosas, hacer una variedad de deportes permite que las lecciones se enseñen y se aprendan en diferentes ambientes, lo cual ayuda a enseñar la adaptabilidad y la actitud receptiva hacia el cambio. Hacer múltiples deportes provee gran oportunidad de exponerse a nuevos papeles en equipo y hacerse jugador completo. Por ejemplo, un jugador que es el mejor en el campo de béisbol puede beneficiar de jugar otro papel en el basquetbol.

Habilidad de Seguir Fomentar la Confianza

El deporte es un gran vehículo de fomentar la autoestima en los jóvenes. En cada deporte, hay varios niveles de éxito que un joven puede lograr. Ya sea realizar un tiro libre o batear un sencillo, cada paso del proceso en el deporte ofrece una nueva oportunidad de lograr éxito. Mientras los atletas logran éxito en los deportes, su autoestima aumenta porque empiezan a entender que pueden derrotar cualquier obstáculo, tanto en el deporte como en la vida.


 Baseball Myths
(7/17/2019)
 
   

Baseball Myths


Cuddyer's Corner
By Michael Cuddyer


Former Major Leaguer Michael Cuddyer draws upon his wealth of baseball experience to dispel a number of common baseball myths. 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.


 Training and Transfer (Part III)
(7/30/2019)
 
   

Training and Transfer (Part III) 


Coaching Absolutes
By Dave Turgeon


In Training and Transfer Part II, we discussed on how to add layers to the simple applications to take your on-field training to another level by allowing players to engage in deeper learning and more ownership skills. In the final part, we will discuss the final and critical aspects on how to educate our players.

RANDOM VS. BLOCK TRAINING

There was a study done in 1994 by Hall, Dominguez, and Cavazos entitled “Contextual Interference Effects With Skilled Baseball Players” that shows the benefits of Random vs Block training but before we get into it lets clarify what this is. A great example of Block Training is traditional batting practice. You get a set number of same speed and soft pitches out over the middle of the plate. You know what pitch is coming and to a high degree what speed and location as well. If you know what is coming and where it is coming to, the pitch recognition and decision-making involved in true hitting (like in a game) has been eliminated. Basically, the player is on autopilot and it is swing practice as opposed to hitting practice. Another example of Block Training could be traditional ground ball work. The old “5 right at them, 5 to their left and 5 to their right” routine tells the defender where the ball is going and that it is definitely coming to them. The part of having to read a ball off a bat that may or may not come to them and not having knowledge of where or how hard has been removed. The equation of what is the speed of the ball, the speed of the runner, and “where will I go with this ball” has been removed. Essentially it is skill practice of fielding and throwing a ball only. Now, how could we turn each one of these into a random training session? The batting practice can become random by simply mixing in off-speed pitches and changing locations of those pitches as well as throwing balls out of the strike zone on purpose. By this one change, the batter now has to read and recognize the type of pitch and make a decision on whether to swing or not. The one adjustment got the hitter one foot out of the zoo and one foot into the jungle. To turn the defensive segment from block to random, we now hit the ground balls to any infielder at any time, so the fielder has to be engaged even though the ball may or may not come to him. Add to this a stopwatch of runner’s speed now every groundball (balls are hit anywhere and everywhere) has a speed of ball and speed of runner component to it. Decision making and problem-solving as opposed to mindless skill work have now been achieved. We have gone from zoo to jungle with one simple adjustment. The greatest example I have heard on this was laid out by colleague and friend Andy Bass. In a PowerPoint presentation on “Action Reconstruction” (motor learning term), he asked all of us to solve the math equation he flashed on the board. The math problem was 21 divided by 3, to which we all answered 7. He then flashes the same problem 6 more times to which the answers were quick and easy as expected. He then goes to another block of math problems only this time, every problem is different. The problems were easy but each different. Examples like 12 divided by 2, 18 divided by 9, 12 divided by 3, etc. It was blatantly obvious that the speed at which the problems were solved was quick but markedly slower than the first block. The second block of problems forced us to recognize each problem before solving it in a completely random fashion.  Just like the game! Baseball is constant problem solving done with athletic movements, so we need to practice this all the time. The math exercise is actually much easier than the game because we have more parts to the equations in the game and the added pressure of competition, crowds, weather, and many other moving parts that impact the execution of any and all plays. Our training methods will determine whether or not we are developing good problem solvers or not. Now to put some meat on the bone here let’s break down this study I mentioned earlier. 

The study involves 3 groups of hitters. The first group only does block training in the context of the team practice. The second group does block training the same as the first group but is given extra hitting beyond what the first group did. The third group is trained in a random fashion and is given additional training like group 2 but their additional training is random as well. The study showed as follows: Group 1 improved 6.2 percent, Group 2 improved 24.8 percent, and Group 3 improved 56.7 percent. Now given the small sample size and add in the human element these numbers could be skewed in measuring the actual transfer into games. It still jumps out at me so dramatically that it cannot be ignored. It shows there is value in block practice and that you will improve but more importantly it shows we are lowering the bar of transfer if we train only this way. Get out of the zoo and get in the jungle!

OBSERVATIONAL LEARNING 

“Observational Learning” is another way we learn and create the transfer. A great example of this would be how a baby learns how to walk. We do not coach our kids up and comment on their gate or foot strike, we simply encourage them to get back up. The child is building strength and at the same time figuring out how to walk. Classic watch and do learning. I think back at how I learned things in the game I probably “watched” more than I “did.” I had 6 older siblings that I watched and learned from on a daily basis. I watched baseball on television. I was a bat boy on multiple teams. Thousands of visual reps allowed me to learn and eventually transfer my skills to the game. Colleague Andy Bass broke down this concept to me in an interesting study done by Gaby Wulf. They had one group shoot 30 free throws and another group shoot 15 and observe another 15. The observation group practiced half as many shots. When they brought the groups back for retention and transfer testing the observation group was as good as the first group in retention but even better during the transfer test! The study suggests that having athletes observe while also practicing will deepen learning and processing. Now, discussing this with Andy made my creative juices flow. Obviously, this happens organically in batting practice and defensive practice as the off infielders or hitters are watching others perform the tasks. And educating our players will make them more intentional in watching the off reps. I thought we could be more intentional with this, so we came up with bunting and hitting montages with lots of different bunters and hitters for off hitters to watch on a computer between rounds. I found the most difference with the bunters in terms of speed of learning and will continue to push this concept of learning and transfer. Besides all of these benefits, it is also creating reps that will not wear the body down. In a professional season, the reps mount and the energy wanes over a long season. This is a great way to create and deepen skills and create transfer while saving energy.  
 

TRANSFER WRAP UP

How we create and develop skills into our players will largely impact how they are able to let them out in a game setting. Step one for us as coaches is that we will need to surrender some of our thinking to move our training forward. Remember, even after Christopher Columbus discovered the world was not flat and for many years after there were those who went to their grave believing it was flat still. Baseball teachers let’s adopt the mantra “truth over tradition!” There is a ton of low hanging fruit out there that will force players to Respect The Rep such as demanding it and letting players know the goal and expectation of whatever work you will be doing at that time. The next big one would be creating a challenging work environment that in and of itself requires a player to have focus and intent on every rep which will, in turn, create the transfer. Add the layer of competition and scoring will create the focus we are also looking for. This leads us to a huge one of Training to the Truth. This simply means we are training and making decisions at least to the speed of the game with whatever we are doing. Traditional baseball training is famous for crawling and walking in the workday and then wondering why we cannot run well at game time. Which leads us to Training Beyond the Truth. Shrinking down workspaces to create an even faster decision-making process is a great way of speeding up the game in order to slow the game down for them come game time. Although this make gets messy at times, we have to understand how messy learning can look and be ok with this. If the work is clean, they “have it” and need more challenge and different looks! A couple of new techniques that are big on developing a deeper learning and more transfer is having the players teach different parts of the game. I have heard so many times you never really get to know something until you have taught it and this is true. They are so much more engaged in the work it is amazing! The terms of Random vs Block Training are the latest buzzwords out there in our training and without getting bogged down with scientific definitions just think in terms of zoo vs jungle. You really get more of what you train. Observational learning may be the lowest hanging fruit in this whole discussion. Let’s not forget this is how we learn best. That said I find it critical that we educate our players on why we are training the way we are and that it works. The big hurdle you will face is fewer success rates and more messiness in the workday and players not “feeling” good all the time. The simple question I pose to players is this. Would you rather “feel good” in practice every day or “perform” come game time? The answer will be performed of course and then we must continue to educate them on how we learn, what it looks like, and how we are going to train to get them to perform. This education and the selling of the training is all pivotal on one thing. Does the player trust you? We have hit this element before in that the foundation of all coaching comes back to our ability to connect and develop our relationships with our players. 

SOME DIFFERENT IDEAS ON TRAINING THAT CREATE TRANSFER

• Drop ball ground ball work. Groundballs that are hit off a flip from another coach and randomly done. The defender can get rhythm and timing off of the flipper. Add a stopwatch to this you are now training reps where the ball is not hit to them. The 12-15 seconds between reps now comes into play as it does in the game. This becomes a drill in being present for every pitch. 

• Training in 10-minute blocks is something that I have played with more and more. The ebb and flow of offense and defense are like this and I have mimicked this in the training with good success come game time. This is jungle training while training to the truth of the game.

•More low hanging fruit in creating a work environment: Remove the turtle for batting practice. Do we hit with one in the game? Hitting with a helmet on at all times. Practicing in pants/uniform.  Think of how differently you feel wearing shorts and a t-shirt vs wearing a tuxedo to a function? Wearing pants also allows us to include the fundamental art of sliding into our jungle work. What we wear impacts the mind and the environment. Using music to create a more chaotic environment and make them more reliant on their eyes and reading situations rather than verbal communication. It also puts our brain in a better state to learn as well as create energy.
•Baserunning work is done with a complete defensive shell. The machine at home and runners at different bases are given the number of outs and the inning. The machine fires balls into random parts of the field either on a line or high in the air. The defense is forced to be in spots and make reads and the baserunners are making reads based off of information and real jungle environment. Plays are competed, and slides are in play. With all the decisions and reads that are going on this would qualify as a Fundamedley in the Jungle! The possibilities you can add to this are limitless.

•Pitching PFP should be done randomly and with a stopwatch. Instead of doing things in order like cover plays, comebackers, and fielding bunts do all of them out of order and with a different situation called out. You now have reading and decision making as part of the training. Better yet you could have some element of this while performing a bullpen session with counts and a coach in the box with a fungo. Sometimes balls being put in play and a pitcher being forced to run to cover a base or field a bunt and then return to pitch just as they do in a game. The heart rate going up just as it does in the game simulating stress to the work.
Put them in the jungle as much as you can to create a ROBUST learning environment and then, in the end, help them make sense of it. This involves question asking and feedback and allowing them to search for and give answers.

Turgeon is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, and is the Coordinator of Instruction for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Turgeon played in the New York Yankees farm system from 1987-1990 under Stump Merrill and Buck Showalter after being drafted out of Davidson College. Before playing for the Baltimore Orioles’ AAA affiliate in 1998 he spent eight years playing abroad. From 2000-2001 Turgeon began coaching in the Cleveland Indians organization before entering the college ranks where he coached with Boston College, the University of Connecticut, Duke University and Virginia Tech.


 7 Reasons Why You Should Invest in Multi-Sport Camps
(7/18/2019)
 
   

7 Reasons to Invest in Multi-Sport Camps 


Consider a multi-sport summer camp rather than a sport-specific one


“Anything we can do to give kids diversity in physical and physiological ways is a win,” says Steve Smith, PhD. Smith is a professor of clinical psychology at University of California, Santa Barbara and focuses on working with young athletes and parents, especially around topics like early specialization in sport. Smith sees multi-sport camps as a great way for young athletes to experience other sports and develop new skills without the pressure of playing for new teams or committing more time during already-packed seasons.

“A multi-sport camp is ideal for helping young athletes avoid early specialization,” says Smith. While tacking on extra sports during the year might be stressful for an athlete and difficult to handle from a time management perspective, a multi-sport camp allows young athletes to explore new sports without adding to an already-busy schedule. 

Here are seven more reasons why you should invest in a multi-sport camp. 

Promote Chances for New Teamwork and Friendships

When young athletes are involved in one sport, they tend to end up with a tight-knit group of friends from that one team. While it’s great to have close friendships, young athletes should be branching out, meeting new people, and learning to work with new teammates. In college, and in life, athletes aren’t always going to be surrounded by teammates they’ve known since kindergarten, so developing social skills is key to long-term success. 

“I work with a lot of collegiate athletes now, and I notice that they travel, practice, and live with their teammates — and if you’re not able to become friendly with those new teammates, you’re going to have a really hard time,” says Smith. “By only knowing one set of teammates, you lose out on interpersonal skills,” he adds. 

It’s important that kids develop their ability to interact with different types of people. A multi-sport camp offers a diverse group of athletes from different disciplines, locations, and backgrounds. Young athletes will have the chance to get outside their comfort zone by participating in a multi-sport camp.  

Learn to Accept Loss and Failure 

In the world of sport, being able to lose is just as important as being able to win when it comes to longevity. If your young athlete has been naturally talented and successful from a young age, it might be beneficial for him or her to experience not being the best on the field. 

“We learn more from failures than we do from wins,” says Smith. "Giving kids the opportunity to be in an environment where they aren’t the best, where they have to step outside of their comfort zone, that’s what teaches them about life and those important life skills.”  

Learn New Skills 

Enrolling athletes in a multi-sport camp can also help them develop in a more well-rounded way. Skills often blend from one game to another: footwork from soccer agility practice may be helpful on the football field and throwing a baseball may make a shot-putter tweak his stance. 

Youth athletes exposed to multiple sports have been shown to be more consistent performers, experience fewer injuries, and stay in sport longer than early-specializers. In a study of 700 professional baseball players, Smith even found that late specializing baseball players were "more likely to get college scholarships and that they consistently practiced more than early specializers.”  

Remember How to Simply Play

"Competition is hard, and it’s hard to be in that place all the time. Young athletes now don’t have a lot of time to just simply play, and camps can offer that,” says Smith. “Taking away the competition and giving a kid an opportunity to just be playful and not results-focused is a huge win.” 

A multi-sport camp can offer young athletes a chance to rediscover the joy of playing, not for a result, just for the sheer fun of running, jumping, throwing and dancing. 

Helps Athletes Get Over Injury

“There’s a benefit to having a horizontal kid—one who can run fast but also play basketball and paint and play an instrument. You shouldn’t be pinning hopes and dreams on one thing. When athletes do that and get injured, it can be devastating,” says Smith. 

A multi-sport camp can offer opportunities for cross-training so that your young athlete can continue to build skills and fitness without pushing an injury. Be sure to talk to a doctor before picking a camp in this case, as certain sports may be better for specific injuries than others.

Find a New Talent or Passion 

Discovering new passions is a great thing for a young athlete. “If a kid specializes early, it increases the likelihood that they’ll get injured or burned out and increases the likelihood of them being sedentary as adults,” says Smith. "That’s not what we want for our kids.” 

Helping children find sports that they can play for life is just as important as winning a championship. Many young athletes won’t go on to be professionals, but they can go on to lead happy, active lives, and finding hobbies outside of that one focus can help them achieve that goal.

Learn Independence

No matter how close you are with your young athlete, it’s important that they get some time outside of your sphere of influence to discover what they are truly passionate about. “You need to let your child figure out who they are, and to do that, you need to separate yourself from the equation,” says Smith. "Letting a child get away from the pressure can be a great thing for them."

_____

Parents and kids are often told that an athlete has to do one sport, do it early, and do it year-round. But as Smith and the research indicate, that’s not always for the best. So this summer, try enrolling your young athlete in a multi-sport camp. 

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.