Category Archives: Travel Baseball

“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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The “Athlete” Pitcher: A Look at the Modern Power Arm Part 2 of 3, Scientific Basis

Where we left off, we talked about a pitcher’s general strength needs and how that ceiling correlates to Power development, which leads me to my next question…Why have we insisted on training pitchers for decades as endurance athletes? We are truly stuck in the stone-age when we send our pitchers out on a three-mile run, or tell them to go “run some poles.” We should demand more excellence in our approach going forward, and base it on scientific facts. The human musculoskeletal system is a true miracle. It adapts, reacts, and improves itself based on the demands we ask of it. Science shows us that it even displays the ability to become more proficient in the ways we train it. Don’t take my word for it, but rather take the word of the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Three primary muscle fibers account for our skeletal-muscle system.

Muscle Fiber Composition Can Change Depending Upon the Needs of the Athlete

Type I- high level of endurance, while sacrificing the ability to produce high power.

Type IIa- balance of endurance and power, but lean slightly towards the side of endurance.

Type IIx– highest level of power output while sacrificing endurance in the long run.

NSCA Statement

“There is little evidence to show that Type II fibers change into Type I fibers as a result of aerobic endurance training, but there may be a gradual conversion within the two major Type II fiber subgroups-of type IIx fibers to Type IIa fibers. This adaptation is significant, in that Type IIa fibers possess greater oxidative (endurance) capacity than Type IIx fibers and have functional characteristics more similar to those of Type I fibers” (Essentials of Strength and Conditioning 129).

LHP Tyler Skaggs of the Angels hard at work in the gym.

In writing, and through research this shows that endurance training can actually change the physiology and structure of muscles. While they gain muscular endurance, they lose some ability to produce power. This is exactly the reason why we should go back to the chalkboard and re-assess the needs for a pitcher who is trying to develop velocity, aka power!

Coach Kyle Richter, USC Baseball Alumni, BA Human Performance, USA Weightlifting

Please contact me with any comments, questions, or inquiries!        Champion’s QUEST Baseball Academy

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!

http://www.asmi.org/research.php?page=research&section=UCL