Year-round Baseball: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

baseballWhile you won’t hear many complaints about weather here in Southern California, the ample sunshine and warmth can actually be detrimental to a young baseball player’s career. Year-round sun leads to year-round baseball, and while playing all year will have benefits for the player, the costs far outweigh these benefits. By playing more games and attending more practices, a player can greatly increase his technical skills and his knowledge of the game (if a good coach is in control of the team). However, more practices and games will directly cause muscular imbalance, overuse injuries, and athlete burnout, especially at a young age. Travel baseball has turned into a machine focused on winning and being flawless while it should be focused on developing fundamental skills and teaching athletes to appreciate the game they love to play. It has become its own culture, and while every sport is trending the same way with year-round competitions, the explosive and one-sided nature of baseball makes this a major cause for concern. Baseball practices consist of plenty of throwing (the single fastest motion in sports), standing around, hitting (more explosive rotation), sprinting in circles while only making left turns, some more standing around, and plenty of hard stops and starts. Not to mention it is one of the slower paced sports and a sport in which failure follows you everywhere, giving you plenty of time to focus on those failures. All of these ingredients add up for recipe that can cook straight into a disaster. However, adding and substituting some ingredients can create a finished product of a very well rounded athlete who can physically and mentally handle every curveball thrown at them.

Injury Prevention

Ever watch a throw in slow motion? If you haven’t, you should (pause at :30).

That much torque and stress placed at the shoulder and elbow will cause injuries and muscular imbalances, these being amplified if proper steps are not taken to minimize these ill effects. Elbow and shoulder problems are rampant, most often noted with the rise in Tommy John surgery over the last decade, (Youth Tommy John Surgery). Injuries of the throwing arm are overuse injuries; repetitive throwing causes microtrauma in the cartilage and tendons that are protecting our arm from detaching from the rest of our body. Without proper recovery, the microtrauma adds up until a tendon or surrounding cartilage reaches a breaking point and tears (resulting in Tommy John Surgery, SLAP lesions, ect.). Time to recover is necessary to let the micro-tears heal before turning into a big tear, resulting in major time missed for the athlete. And while we are doing a better job monitoring pitch counts, we are not limiting the amount of innings of baseball that stack up in a year-round schedule. Pitchers may only throw 60 pitches in one game, but what are they doing in the other 4 games of the tournament? Playing shortstop? Catcher? Uncorking violent throws from the outfield? Position players warm up before every game, throw in-between innings, and stand around for long periods of time before making an all out throw. Add in practice a couple of days a week, most days if you’re in High School, and all of this throwing adds up week after week. Other major components in reducing arm injuries include proper mechanics, reducing unneeded stress at the elbow and shoulder, and proper strengthening of the entire body. Strengthening of the entire body allows the baseball player to put himself in the proper mechanical position to throw and to better absorb the stresses placed on the elbow and shoulder. Preparing the body with a proper strength and conditioning program focusing on core strength, functional stabilization of the shoulder, and improving upon any muscular imbalances is necessary for all serious baseball players. Without a solid foundation injuries will happen and hinder an athletes long term development.

Take Control Of Your Future

It is becoming increasingly more popular for baseball players to specialize in baseball at a young age. There are many reasons to fight this trend. For one, with only baseball on the menu it is almost impossible to get the athlete to stop throwing a baseball for an extended period of time. Following the typical fall/winter/spring sports schedule accomplishes that goal, allowing an athletes body to naturally work out some of the imbalances procured during baseball season and give the arm a break. Playing other sports during the offseason, such as soccer and basketball, will also increase the athletes natural abilities ranging from but not limited to coordination, balance, agility, speed, endurance, and teamwork. Equally important to the physical aspect of baseball is the mental aspect. Baseball is a game of managing failure, not getting too high when things are going well and not getting too low when things are going bad. The more an athlete can learn from his/her mistakes and apply the knowledge for the next time the better. Playing a lot of baseball from a young age helps the athlete find a lot of success at a young age, but these athletes don’t have to deal with a ton of failure. As you move up levels, the sport gets increasingly difficult with failure becoming a constant. A lot of big time prospects don’t make it because they never learn how to deal with failure; they finally reach that level where they begin to fail regularly and don’t have a mechanism built in to handle all the failure. Playing multiple sports gives the athlete more experiences, more situations, more chances to cope with failure and enjoy success.

Training for Success

With High School CIF rules allowing coaches to have contact with players almost all year, and the unrelenting drive for travel baseball, older baseball players rarely take a break from baseball. Training is huge for these athletes, and they must take the necessary steps at a young age to prepare their bodies for the years of constant wear and tear that is staring them down. At Champion’s Quest, we work with athletes from the ground up, building a strong athletic foundation to carry them into the future. Come in and try a FREE clinic and start investing in your future today!

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