Category Archives: Champion’s Quest

“The Process” : Mental Approach on the Diamond Part 3

In our last article, we had an in depth look at what the “process” looks like for a ball player. To recap, “the process” is all about controlling only the things that you can control. By understanding that results are out of their control, the athlete can focus in on the things that are important. These things that are important are hitting the ball hard, making quality pitches, putting their bodies in the right position to field on defense, and ultimately, staying completely aggressive with their approach and effort. clayton-kershaw9

Baseball was never designed to be a sport based on accuracy and analytics. If pitchers were only required to throw strikes, and hitters were only required to hit the ball into permanent unchanging gaps, then we could maybe put the heavy emphasis on stats that we do. However, Baseball is so much more than just ERA, batting average, hits, walks, strikeouts, on base percentage, and everything else we obsess over! This game is an art form, and chess match that pins competitors against each other in a ballistic, fast paced, ever changing setting with strict guidelines and a human umpire who can determine their fates. With this thought in mind, how do we set up a pitcher to have the best possible chance of success on the mound? 635982535697601028-ap-rangers-tigers-baseball-m

If you are a pitcher, it is not rocket science to know that “better stuff” (i.e. velocity, movement, spin, etc.) equals a higher likelihood of getting the batter out. This also means that a pitcher that is throwing 95MPH versus a pitcher that is throwing 85MPH can get away with way more mistakes, because the batter is stressed with reaction time. If a pitcher that throws harder can get away with more mistakes, from an odds perspective, doesn’t he have a better chance of getting the batter out? You may be saying to yourself, “well yah of course, unless he’s really wild.” Ok, well now let’s imagine this is the same pitcher that has the ability to throw 95MPH but the coach has asked him to “tone it down” and throw 85MPH with more strikes.

First of all, he is now trying to do something which he has never done in his life, which is throw the ball with less than 100% effort with high pressure to a small target. With that his mechanics will change, his approach will change, and ultimately he will lose confidence in throwing the ball over the plate with conviction. This is because he is now solely thinking about just throwing strikes, rather than competing as an athlete. This leads me to the big take away. The pitcher, no matta0qcber how hard he throws, will compete at a higher level and have higher success, if he is trying to put a hole in the catcher rather than just getting it to the glove. This is because…

  1. His “stuff” is better and therefore the batter has less time to react and adjust.
  2. He is allowing himself to throw the way he has HIS ENTIRE LIFE of playing the game. From an early age, he has honed his craft of playing quality catch in a relaxed state of mind without conscious thoughts, and the demands of high achievement and pressure. So quite simply, practice like you play, and play like you practice. 

I have said it before and I will say it again, baseball players are gymnasts on a diamond. This means that ballplayers have to play the game instinctually with full trust that their countless hours of preparation have established their skill set. If you go out onto the field and try to do something different, by appeasing a voice that is telling you to play it safer, you are only setting yourself up for frustration and suffered performance.

It is time to take a step back as a culture, and not only look at how we are mentally developing our youth ball players, but also how we choose to coach our older elite ball players. Next time we will talk about this mental approach from a position player/ hitting perspective.

Coach Kyle Richter, CSCS, USAW, TPI

USC Baseball Alumni, BA Human Performance

 

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Success Story: Gavin Gildart

Huge congratulations to Gavin Gildart for the success he has seen in his first quarter of work here at Champion’s QUEST. Gavin is one of our baseball athletes, and he is certainly making a strong impression on all of our coaches. In his first quarter, he already managed to iScreen Shot 2016-05-17 at 12.33.38 PMncrease his athleticism by over 100%! He originally tested at 5.0 on our scale, and has now achieved a score of 12.2! With this incredible spike in athleticism, he has seen his vertical jump increase by an astonishing 4 inches, he has shaved .3 seconds off of his 10 yard dash, and increased his strength and agility measures across the board.

This kind of improvement does not come easily, and Gavin has proven to be a consistent, tenacious, and diligent worker. Gavin exemplifies what can happen with the right direction, attitude, and work ethic. I look forward to continuing to watch Gavin develop both athletically and as a ball player!

Kyle Richter, CSCS USAW, TPI

USC Baseball Alumni, BA Human Performance

“The Process”: Mental Approach on the Diamond Part 1

Who has seen the movie For the Love of the Game with Kevin Costner? For me, it is one of my favorite movies. It provides such a visceral experience of what it is like to be an established pitcher in the big leagues. At several points in the movhqdefaultie you get a glimpse of what it is like to pitch on the biggest stages, what his dialogues with his catcher/ teammates look like, and most importantly what his “self-talk” looks like. There are several points in the movie that really stuck out as being spot on, those points that you catch yourself saying “yah that is what it really must be like.” In one scene, however, “Billy Chapel” makes his way out to the mound at Yankee stadium and the place is rocking. He looks around and soaks in the raucous and screaming (hostile) fans. He then proceeds to get on the mound and say in his mind “clear the mechanism” and kind of glare into the catcher’s glove. At this point all the noise completely dies down, and the rest of the stadium sort of disintegrates into the background.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS VS LOS ANGELES DODGERSNow although I have never pitched on an MLB stage, I have pitched in a rowdy college stadium. What I can confidently say, is that the “clear the mechanism” scene is not reality. We are all human, we all have ears, we all have eyes, and we all battle nerves. For me, mental toughness is not some super-human ability to block everything out of your senses, but rather, the ability to redirect thoughts rapidly in a positive manner. It took me many of these moments, mostly post college, to come to the realization that the only way negative thoughts, feelings, comments, or words can affect a ball player’s performance, is if you allow it to change your physical action steps. What this means, basically, is never ever let negative thoughts change your physical play/ approach to the game. The human mind is extremely powerful. Mostly, your mind will work to help you stay “comfortable.” In a pressure-packed moment, adrenaline can either serve to help or hurt your play, depending on how you choose to act. Your mind will likely tell you to slow down, be cautious, stay square to your target, and demand you to “take control.” When this happens, it is absolutely vital for the player to stay on the attack, and trust the mechanics that have been engrained through countless repetitions. By staying on the attack, the ball player is making a conscious decision to play the game instinctually, to the best of their innate abilities.

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In a moment like this there is no time to think about “controlling the outcome,” an elite gymnast must simply trust that their hard work, muscle memory, and routines are enough, and GO FOR IT. The same can be said for ball players.

The beautiful (and tough) thing about baseball is that most of the game is completely out of the player’s direct control. You can make a perfect pitch to the exact spot you were determined to hit and one of three things can happen; You can have the result you expected, the umpire can take away your positive result, or the batter can best you. Baseball is not a game of connect the dots; It is intricate, multi-faceted, and always changing. With this in mind, it is all about controlling only the things you can control. Next time we will start talking about what this process looks like, and how to take ownership of your mental approach.

Kyle Richter, CSCS, USAW, TPI

USC Baseball Alumni- BA Human Performance

Athlete Success Story: Lauren Willingham

Los Alamitos High School has produced many athletes and scholars in the past years. This year there is a sophomore that is bound to be another great athlete and scholar will graduate a Griffin.  She is a member Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 2.18.34 PM.pngof the Los AL Track & Field team, just like her record breaking older sister and she is on a course to do just the same.  Now that Lauren Willingham has gone through one season of Track & Field, she has become more controlled over her hurdling form and has been developing her strength in our weekly training program. The gains that she will be achieving form the Strength Clinics will not only help her through the season but will provide a base for any college program that she will attend in her future.

Lauren is not only a hurdler for Los Al, she also has been dancing for the Center Stage Dance Academy in Long Beach. She has been dancing since the age of three and is planning to continue through the rest of her high school years. With her dancing starting at a young age it has helped her with the flexibility needed in the hurdle races. Lauren has a very strong academic course load at Los Al, which will put her as top contender to any school she chooses to continue her education at. She is also a member of the California Scholarship Federation which will help guide her in a positive direction for higher education and she also has the potential of receiving up to $5000 in a scholarship fund.Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 2.32.42 PM.png
Since July of last year Lauren has dedicated herself to increasing her strength which will help her speed and power on the track. Now she has transitioned into the power phase of her training program for this season and it will provide her the ability to increase her power through the hurdles. This year she has set her goals at 16.83s for the 100m hurdles and 48.87s on the 300m hurdles, both of these goals are challenging for her but she has the ability to reach them. Once she has gained a strong step in between the hurdles then she will see her times drop and will be able to inch closer to the school records before the end of her senior year. I feel that if continues to grow in strength and power with our program along with a solid base of self-confidence she be able to have a couple of Los Al records with her name just like her older sister.

Go Griffins!!!

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Article by,

Coach Derrick Campbell, USTF-L1

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Why is “Core” So Important? Part 3, Muscular System Development

Where we left off in the series of “Why is Core So Important,” we dove head first into a discussion centered around the bare bone essentials of functional joint mobility, and how it applies totrout rotational athletes. Now that we have an understanding of how to safely isolate the core in a transverse plane, let’s talk about the approach to building the athleticism of the muscular system in a more general sense. After understanding this process, we can then go into further depth for programming core training exercises.

Elite athletes have many similarities to high performance automobiles. For starters, both require proper fueling, equipment, and multi-faceted maintenance. As the “horsepower” of the athlete/ car increases, there is an absolute need for a stronger braking system. In the car world this means forking over 4 to 6 thousand dollars on top shelf brakes. For athletes this means developing the muscles responsible for deceleration. It is vital that the decelerators match the power output that the accelerators produce.

With these primary similarities in mind, let’s talk about how we “build” the muscular system from a car perspective. The first thing we have to do is build the engine, and brakes. Of course, we are going to build a V8 engine. The first step is to develop the coordination and mechanics of the movement pattern. This provides the athlete with the first wave of athletic gains. Coordinated movements not only increase the efficiency of speed and agility movements, but also the strength. Once we establish a foundation of coordination in the athlete, the next step is to establish a base layer of strength. The strength building phase is vital for the athlete, as it provides the ceiling for power development. During this strength building phase we have to pay critical attention to training the accelerator and decelerator muscle groups equally. This balance will set the athlete up for success, and injury free performance.

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The athlete can only increase their power to the level that their strength will allow. Once the athlete has built this strength foundation, and increased their ceiling of potential, the engine building phase has been completed. Next on the agenda, is to supercharge the V8 engine that was masterfully crafted. While the V8 engine is fast by itself, and has already provided a large increase in athleticism, there is still more horsepower to be gained! The athlete is now ready to be wired for power gains. Power training is best exemplified by quick bursts of movement with high force production. The objective of power training is to re-wire the muscular and nervous system to become highly efficient together. This involves training the athlete to produce a higher amount of force at a faster rate. Some examples of power training include olympic lifting, plyometrics, counter-movement drills, resisted ballistic movements, and assisted ballistic movements. Once the athlete has built their supercharged engine, and powerful braking system, they are a force to be reckoned with.

Although there are many similarities between athletes and cars, here is one big difference. The athlete can always continue adding to the strength, and power that they have already developed. The work never ends for the athlete, because we never settle for good, or even great. It is about utterly maximizing our full athletic potential! As you strive to achieve greatness, and maximize your abilities as a person and athlete, remember, the joy is in the journey.

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Kyle Richter, CSCS, USAW, TPI

USC Baseball Alumni- BA Human Performance

“It’s In The D.E.T.A.I.L.S”

Many athletes want success, recognition and even fame, but few understand the importance of D.E.T.A.I.L.S. The true athlete not only understands the value of D.E.T.A.I.L.S, but embraces the smallest aspects of preparation and thus, realizes the ultimate success of an athlete is becoming a Champion.

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The definition of D.E.T.A.I.L.S lies in the 7 Pillars of Success. The 1st letter “D” stands for Determination, the 2nd letter “E” stands for Education, the 3rd letter “T” stands for Timing, the 4th letter “A” stands for Action. As the athlete continues the quest of becoming a Champion he displays the 5th letter “I” which stands for Integrity, the 6th letter “L” stands for doing the Little Things and the 7th letter “S” stands for Separation. Let’s take a closer look at this simple, yet powerful word: D.E.T.A.I.L.S.

The “D” in D.E.T.A.I.L.S stands for Determination.  Every athlete that pursues victory needs a driving force to inspire him to achieve success. When an athlete begins this journey he must display determination to move and push beyond difficult challenges, failures and hardships. Determination defines the athletes’ purpose, keeps focus and thus, provides the 1st pillar of becoming a Champion. The “E” in D.E.T.A.I.L.S is the 2nd pillar of success and stands for Education. Education is the foundation for learning on and off the field of life. Education gives the athlete knowledge, skills and the ability to prepare for the quest of being the best.

The letter “T” is the 3rd pillar of success in D.E.T.A.I.L.S and stands for Timing. Timing is so very important because it offers opportunity. Opportunity is defined as when preparation and achievement connect to reach a common goal. For example when a football player scores the winning touchdown and the top College Football Coach is in the stands watching. The player seizes the moment, timing is perfect and now he is in the position to receive the coveted football scholarship. The “A” in D.E.T.A.I.L.S stands for Action and represents the 4th pillar of success. Action is the energy, hard work and fuel that moves the athlete toward his goal. Action is the invaluable resource for all athletes because without it nothing happens but with it, extraordinary things can happen.

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The 5th pillar of success in D.E.T.A.I.L.S is the letter I which means Integrity. Integrity is essential in the character development of an athlete who wants to become a Champion. Integrity establishes honor, standards of excellence and sportsmanship. As a result, the athlete understands, it is far more important how you play the game, than the result of the game. Bottom line, the integrity of an athlete is far more valuable than victory, and this my friend, is the essence of a Champion.  As the Champion’s quest continues to develop integrity and attention to the smaller things become a major priority.

The letter ” L” focuses on the Little Things which is the 6th pillar of success in D.E.T.A.I.L.S.  For example, the routine, what you eat, how you train, who trains you, what you think about, and how you feel are the beginning stages of building uniqueness. When athletes pay attention to the little things the Champion now, sets himself apart from the crowd. When separation occurs in athletics recognition, awards and the praises increase almost overnight. But the true Champion, understands that being different creates separation.

Separation leads directly to the final letter “S” which is the 7th pillar of success in D.E.T.A.I.L.S.  Russell Wilson, Super Bowl Quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks stated, “Preparation Builds Separation”.   This statement is powerful because it embodies the essence of a Champion. All Champions know that it takes supreme dedication, exceptional work ethic, passion and a disciplined mindset to achieve greatness. These qualities appear very simple, but are very difficult to do consistently on a daily basis.   As a result, separation is in the D.E.T.A.I.L.S and this, is the difference between good and great.

Now young athletes, to acquire the 7 Pillars of Success you must remember D.E.T.A.I.L.S is a LIFESTYLE. When you prioritize determination, education, timing, action, integrity, the little things and separation you will receive the ultimate reward, becoming a Champion. Now young athletes you have the formula, go out and realize your dreams!!!!!

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“Keep Living Like A Champion”

Coach Reggie Ward

Director of Football Academy

reggiew@championsquest.com

562-598-2600

Why is “Core” So Important? Part 2

Where we last left off, I introduced the topic of Core training, and why it is so important for rotational based athletes. The idea is that we use the body as a “giant whip” from the ground up to propel ourselves or an object with maximal force. The legs can be considered the big “V8 engine” that is responsible for starting the acceleration process. This emphasizes that a large amount of force is being pushed through the ground. From there, the core is next to engage and represents the connection point between the lower and upper extremities. Without a strong connection point, the energy will sub-maximally be transferred, and thus the athlete will not maximize their potential power.

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At 5’10” 170 lbs, Jamie Sadlowski is a prime example of how a powerful core can propel an athlete. He has won two World Long Drive Titles, despite being “under-sized” for the sport. 

Before we touch on the specifics of proper rotational strength training, however, we have to understand how we approach this from a functional standpoint. The “Joint-By-Joint Approach” is something I explicitly follow when it comes to training athletes to be functionally stronger. This approach explains how each joint from the ground up must alternate between mobility and stability. For instance, the ankles must be mobile, the knees stable, the hips mobile, etc. When an imbalance occurs in this chain and a joint inappropriately either loses or gains mobility, the other joints in the chain will inappropriately have to compensate for the imbalance. This, undoubtedly, can lead to injuries. With this in mind, as we work up the chain, this approach demands that the Lumbar Spine must remain stable, while the Thoracic Spine must exhibit mobility.

This is such an important concept when it comes to rotational strength development. It is all too easy to put an athlete in a position where they are putting rotational stress through the Lumbar Spine. A prime example of this is a “Russian Twist.” How can the athlete possibly complete this drill without mobilizing the Lumbar Spine? The emphasis of tapping each side of the body forces the athlete to reach, round the shoulders, and inherently round their spine. The stress and “work” of the movement works its way down the rounded spine and falls directly on the Lumbar section. Even worse, the athlete is usually encouraged to use a medicine ball, which creates an added load and adds to the stress of the Lumbar Spine. So, while the athlete is gaining strength in the appropriate rotational based core muscles, they are promoting an imbalance in their mobility.0

This leads us to the absolute truth, that rotational based core training must promote rotational specific strength, AND promote the combination of lumbar stability and thoracic spine mobility. Strength without range of motion is useless! In fact, strength without range of motion, is an injury just waiting to happen. Next time, we will continue to dive into the specifics of this very particular type of training. Every athletic movement pattern can be classified by both the strength of the movement, and the speed of the movement. Stay tuned as we go over progressions, and how to effectively program for power gains.

Coach Kyle Richter, CSCS, USAW, TPI

USC Baseball Alumni- BA Human Performance