Warning: Connection Ball Vandals Could End Your Baseball Career - by Randy Sullivan
We get banged on a lot on the internet about our TAP connection balls. If you aren’t familiar with the connection ball, it’s pretty simple. It’s a yellow inflatable ball that has a little texture to
the skin. We use it as a tool to create feel and feed the mistake on a few different arm action inefficiencies. We blend it into a series of drills designed to elicit more efficient, powerful, and durable movement patterns.
How did we start using them?
As the story goes, Coach Ron Wolforth, of the Texas Baseball Ranch was working with Ranch vet, Cody Springer on eliminating an elevated distal humerus, so he rolled up a foam pad and stuffed it under his armpit. Cody immediately felt the difference and his aberrant pattern changed quickly.
Meanwhile, Robert Oates of oatespecialties.com had sent Ron a sample Tap ball thinking it might be useful in teaching hitters to slot their back elbows. As soon as coach Wolforth noticed the change in Cody’s arm action with the rolled up foam pad, he call Mr. Oates.
“Robert, you’re going to need to increase your manufacturing order on these foam pads. I have a great idea and I think you might be selling a bunch of them very soon.”
Apparently, the little yellow ball
was sitting on the ground about 4 feet away from Coach
Wolforth while this conversation was taking place. As he described what he was doing, Mr. Oates interrupted and asked, “Wouldn’t that little yellow ball I sent you do the same thing?”
Coach Wolforth paused…
He looked down at the little yellow ball and replied, “Yeah. That’ll work. Have a great day Robert.”
It didn’t take long for the naysayers to start criticizing what they called, “Those ridiculous little balloons.” It always amazes me how people with no real understanding of a training technique or a tool immediately pass judgment on it.
“They’re intent killers”, I heard them say.
One guy even wrote, “Send me a picture of you putting a knife into your connection ball and I’ll give you a free hat.”
That might not be the best idea. This little yellow ball could actually save you from a career ending injury!
People who knock the connection ball really don’t understand it. You see, in our practice, there are basically 4 ways to influence a movement pattern:
- Eliminate time
- Create feel
- Feed the mistake
- Change the goal Notice that common coaching interventions like verbal cues, cognitive input, or physical guides aren’t anywhere on that list? For more on that topic, see my free e-book called “Why Your Pitching Lessons Don’t Work.”
A connection ball properly used helps create feel and it feeds the mistake (make the error worse). For example, when we use it to improve forearm flyout, the air in the ball pushes the arm further into the mechanical error, forcing the athlete to pull the forearm more toward elbow flexion. This improves arm action with immediate biofeedback.
The connection ball is a tool… not a panacea… a tool.
Every tool has a purpose and when deployed for the right job can be instrumental to success. But a tool used incorrectly, on the wrong job, or at the wrong time could have disastrous results.
And when it comes to managing arm pain, in many cases the connection ball isn’t just a tool… It can be an outright weapon!!
Last week we had a client, Taylor (not his real name) with a partial UCL tear – a 17 year-old upper 80’s righty who seemed to be on the fast track to college or the pros when he first felt his the pain.
As per norm, doctors told him to rest for 6-8 weeks. He did so and when he started throwing again, after 8 pitches, he felt the pain again.
After another 8 weeks of rest and rehab nothing changed. He was still having pain with every throw. Upon the advice of our friends at Titus Sports in Tallahassee, he came in for a Precision Strike.
We conducted a full head to toe physical assessment and found several inefficiencies that could be contributors to the pain.
The pitches he threw for the video resulted in 5/10 pain, and when we sat down for the review, he and his mother seemed extremely depressed and frustrated.
As we dug into the video, the picture became clearer. He had a huge forearm flyout – a known
contributor to medial elbow stress – and an extremely quad
dominant lower half.
With all the new data in hand, I wrote him a corrective throwing drill progression that involved the use of a connection ball between his forearm and his biceps to teach him the feel of being inside of 90 degrees at weight bearing foot plant.
The connection ball created a much better elbow angle and he immediately felt the difference.
When he made his first connection ball assisted throw, Taylor who had appeared sullen and skeptical up to this point, turned and smiled. “That didn’t hurt at all,” he said. After a few more pain free throws, I asked, “Do you want to try to throw it a little harder?” He did just that, and the result was still the same… no pain! He completed his entire drill set, 60-80 throws, without pain.
When it was all done, we returned to my office for an out brief. The smile on Taylor’s face and the relief/hope in his mother’s eyes reminded me yet again of how grateful I am to be able to do my job every day.
A boy comes in with debilitating elbow pain.
He throws with a connection ball and now has no pain… Hmmm…
Hey naysayers! Put the knife away.
Keep your hat.
I’ll keep my connection ball.
Are you having arm pain?
I want to help you!
Our next Elite Performers Boot Camp is scheduled for Jan 21/22. Let us conduct a full assessment and find all the contributors to your pain and eliminate them.
Or maybe you just want to add on a few mph to your fastball. Well we can help you do that too. And we can help you do it in a way that reduces your risk of injury as much as possible. We do it all the time.
Click here or call Amy at 866-STRIKE3 (866-787-4533) and let’s get your spot locked in right now. They’re filling up fast, so hurry.
We’ll see you at The Ranch!
Randy Sullivan, MPT
CEO, The Florida Baseball Ranch