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Baseball Training

  • Fire vs. Poise - By Coach Ron Wolforth

    Is it any wonder young athletes are confused, frustrated, hesitant and/or unsure?

    On one hand they routinely hear from their coaches, instructors and parents that it is absolutely imperative to do things with passion and emotion. They have to act with fire, fervor and enthusiasm.

    On the other hand, they are also continually exhorted to keep their heads about them when the game gets tight. They are advised to be cool, calm and play with poise and self control.

    So what is it?  Passionate or Coolheaded?  Emotion or Poise?  Fire or Self Control? 

    The obvious answer is… “It just depends”.

    The challenge is… it depends upon ‘what’ exactly?

    The late Earl Nightingale may have offered us a clue when he said “History tells us, when it comes to excellence and superior performance, the path is clear. Identify what a majority of people do in any specific endeavor and then do the exact opposite. ‘Mediocrity’, by definition, is conventional thinking condensed down into a universal, standard operating procedure. Excellence then, in contrast, is behavior that is uncommon, atypical, extraordinary and unique.”

    So the next question then becomes, “If fire and poise are both critical to success, how do we assist our young people in understanding when to unleash their passion and when to be imperturbable and stoic?”

    Keeping Nightingale’s insight in the front of our mind, let’s look first at what is commonplace. 

    At practice and at training, the typical interaction and behavior is businesslike, pedestrian, routine, mundane, repetitive, unremarkable and monotonous. 

    In a game on the other hand, when the scoreboard is turned on, the behavior is considerably different.  In the heat of competition, energy gets ramped up significantly.  We see angst, tension, intensity, heightened emotions, celebration and reveling from both coaches and players. 

    So what do we at the Texas Baseball Ranch® suggest?

    We endorse training and practice to involve a great deal of high energy… to have angst, tension, intensity, passion, celebration and intentional emotion. 

    We recommend that behavior in games should exude poise, control, focus, composure and presence of mind.  Especially as the game gets to its most critical moments, exceptional performers are able to manage their emotions, remain present and execute their skills based upon the specific demands of the game.   

    In short: 

    In Practice / Training: Ramp the intensity, energy and emotion WAY up. Whenever possible, compete with consequences. Continually and constantly celebrate and reinforce what you want to see more of.   

    In the game: Remain focused, cool, calm and collected.  Manage your emotions.  Be strategic, intentional and purposeful.  Stay level headed and remain in the present moment. 

    This is EXACTLY the opposite of what occurs all around the baseball universe every year. 

    We believe having fire, passion, emotion and enthusiasm is indeed critically important to success.  It is our belief that emotion is even more important during the daily grind of practice and training. If athletes become accustomed to handling pressure, anxiety, tension, conflict and emotion during their regular work, they will be far better prepared to remain reticent and unflappable during moments of intense duress.

    Botton Line: Be uncommon. In practice, when everybody is sleep-walking and going through the motions, be fiery and intense.  When everybody is amped up in the heat of competition, instead be calm, unflustered, clear-eyed and level headed.       

          This will not happen by accident.  It must be on purpose.

       – – – – – – – – – –

    ATTENTION Coaches – Did you miss our Ultimate Pitching Coaches Bootcamp?   Don’t worry, you can still order the event DVDs which include all 17 presentations featuring Brent Strom (Houston Astros), Derek Johnson (Cincinnati Reds), Dewey Robinson (Tampa Bay Rays), Vern Gambetta (GAIN), Dave Lawn (Univ. of AZ) plus nine others including the entire TBR staff.  You’re definitely going to want these for your library.  Go to www.coachesbootcamp.com or give us as call and we’ll get you set up!

    ATTENTION Pitchers – There are only two opportunities remaining to get to The Texas Baseball Ranch® and participate in an Elite Pitchers Bootcamp before the start of the 2019 season.  Those dates are Dec. 28-30 and Jan. 19-21 (Martin Luther King Holiday).  This is the perfect way to get a jump start on the 2019 season and your competition!  To learn more or register go to: https://www.texasbaseballranch.com/events/epbc/

    SPECIAL 1-Week Session –  We are offering a special 1-week training session (Dec. 17-21) for college (and high school) players who’d like to get some extended training in over the winter break.  It will follow a similar format to our summer program.  You must be a Ranch Returner to participate in this particular session.  For more information or to register, call The Ranch office at (936) 588-6762.

  • Want to Make a Real Difference in Your Pitching Performance? by Coach Ron Wolforth

    Want to Make a Real Difference in Your Pitching Performance? Follow these three steps EXACTLY:

    A. Start by reducing or eliminating any regular pain, tightness or discomfort.

    • First, identify the specific location(s) of your pain
    image
    • Second, rate the current degree of that pain 1-10. A rating of one equals incredibly small discomfort, soreness, tenderness, irritation or fatigue. A rating of a ten equals severe and dehabilitating discomfort, soreness, tenderness, irritation or fatigue.

    Medial Elbow

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

    Anterior Shoulder
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

    Posterior Shoulder

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

    Lateral Elbow

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

    If your pain is exclusively to the medical elbow and/or the anterior shoulder, you’ll need to focus your immediate work on improving the efficiency of your acceleration using the connection ball and connection club.

    You can clearly see the changes Justin made to his movement pattern from 2014 to presently with the Astros using the connection ball.

    20 years of experience tells us that this is ESPECIALLY true if your discomfort is rated above a 3/10. In fact, significant gains in velocity, recovery, command or sharpness to secondary pitches will be very difficult to attain with routine discomfort exceeding 3/4 out of 10.

    Therefore we have coined a phrase at the Ranch, in terms of pitching development: ‘Start with the Pain™’.

    image

    If your pain is exclusively to the lateral elbow and/or the posterior shoulder you need to focus your immediate work on improving the efficiency of your deceleration pattern using the Durathro™ Sock.

    Nolan Ryan had by far the most efficient pattern of deceleration that we have seen in all of our research into elite caliber pitching athletes. Notice the difference between Ryan’s deceleration pattern and the typical pattern! The Durathro Sock has been an amazing tool in reducing lateral elbow & posterior shoulder discomfort and in improving patterns of deceleration.

    image

    The Durathro Sock in Use

    image

    Bottom Line: As little as 15% improvement in the efficiency of your movement pattern- either from an acceleration movement pattern perspective and/or a deceleration movement pattern perspective can have profound impact to 1) pain, 2) recovery and 3) consistency.

    And the great news is 15% is very easy to create.

    B. Create A Structured Recovery Program to Improve and Enhance Your Ability to Bounce Back after Bouts of Training and Pitching in Games.

    • First: Develop a holistic and integrated wake-up warm-up routine that prepares the entire body for the specific demands of robust training and/or competition. The body can only recruit what is awake. An elite thrower’s soft tissue also needs to be properly primed for the intensity of throwing a baseball at full effort.
    • Second: Develop a customized arm care/ pregame/ pre-training process that readies the body and arm to organize itself for high intensity.
    • Third: Develop a personalized ramp up process that allows you to enter the game, hot, lathered, loose and ready and yet not over heated, fatigued or winded…and just as importantly not so steep that you feel rushed, hurried, frazzled or pressed.
    • Fourth: Develop an In-game routine that keeps you warm, centered and prepared in between innings regardless of temperature or length of innings.
    • Fifth: Develop a post throwing regimen that reduces swelling, inflammation and aids in the healing of micro trauma to soft tissue.

    Bottom Line: As little as 15% improvement in your ability to recover or bounce back between outings or training sessions can have profound impact to 1) velocity; 2) command; 3) stuff and 4) consistency.

    And the great news is 15% is very easy to create.

    And once those two steps have been established:

    C. Create a 6-18 Week Hyper-Personalized Performance Algorithm to Focus Your Work on Exactly What YOU Need MOST.

    • If you are MOST behind your competitive peer group in terms of velocity: Create a Velocity Enhancement Program and develop a more electric fastball.
    • If you are MOST behind your competitive peer group in terms of command and throwing strikes: Create a Command Enhancement Program and become a strike thrower.
    • If you are MOST behind your competitive peer group in terms of your ability to throw pitches with movement and/or having swing and miss ‘stuff: Create a Secondary Offering Enhancement Program and go to work on developing your off speed and secondary pitches (curveball, slider, cutter, change-up, splitter Etc)

    Follow these three steps and without question you will make a REAL difference in your pitching performance.

    If you would like guidance or assistance in creating and then supporting yourself through these three steps personally, that’s what the Texas Baseball Ranch® Elite Pitcher’s Boot Camp is ALL about. Our Coaches work hands on with every pitcher in attendance to help them come up with a personalized plan based on assessments and a video analysis performed by me!

    Ready to Register: click here NOW

    Call our office with questions at 936-588-6762

    Email our office info@texasbaseballranch.com

    Until Next Time, Stay Curious and Keep Fighting the Good Fight.

    Coach Wolforth

  • Practice vs Training By: Coach Flint Wallace

    Practice and Training are terms that are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same.

    Every baseball team and player practices, but not all of them train.

    Let me explain what I mean…

    Practice is what we universally call anything that involves throwing, hitting, throwing a bullpen, taking ground balls and fly balls, etc.

    Practice is defined as, “Repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it”.

    Most practices are just designed to engrain or imprint a player’s current level of skill, so they can just perform that skill more routinely.

    The issue is that this is often the only development a player receives.  There is little or no portion of their time dedicated to training.

    Training is defined as, “The act, process, or method of one that seeks to improve skill, knowledge, or experience in a certain area”.

    Training would be things like working to increase bat speed, throwing velocity, running speed, fielding range, etc.

    Practice is applying what you learned.  Training is learning how to improve something or do something new.

    Practice is about getting enough reps in so you can perform your skill instinctively.  Training is about being able to perform that skill better than you could before.

    Practice is about successfully performing a skill over and over.  Training is about pushing until you fail.

    Practice is often about looking good.  Training often looks ugly.

    Practice is often about being efficient.  Training is about improvement.

    Practice is often the same old routine.  Training is about change and adaptation.

    Understand that top-level players train, they don’t practice.

    So please don’t mistake practice for training, but make sure every rep of every drill or exercise is working towards improving.

    Until Next Time… Keep Getting After It!

     

    At The Texas Baseball Ranch®, we can help you determine the specific areas you need to focus on in you’re training.

    We have three dates remaining in our 2018 Summer Elite Pitchers’ Boot Camp schedule.

    Learn more about these exciting, information packed 3-Day events at
    http://www.texasbaseballranch.com/events/elite-pitchers-boot-camps/

    OR

    If you’d like to spend more time with us this summer, check out our Extended Stay Summer Intensive Program.
    http://www.texasbaseballranch.com/events/tbr-summer-program/

  • If Babies Could Talk First, They Might Not Learn To Walk! - by Randy Sullivan, MPT, CSCS

    Until I met Frans Bosch at the 2014 Texas Baseball Ranch Ultimate Pitching Coaches Boot Camp, my coaching style was unremarkable and, in retrospect … suboptimal.  It was what I call TWT coaching.

    Tell the player how to do something.
    Watch them do it.
    Then, tell them how to do it better.
    And, when they don’t get it right, label them “uncoachable” and move on.

    It’s typical …

    and it’s highly ineffective.

    According to Bosch, one of the world’s most preeminent experts in skill acquisition and motor learning science, “The body shows remarkably little interest in what the coach has to say.”

    That’s because when learning and refining movement skills, a couple of truths exist.
    First, you cannot repeat a movement. Every repetition will result in a subtle deviation from the previous trial. “Repeatable mechanics” are a unicorn! Instead of being a guy who “repeats” his mechanics, you should strive to be a world class, in-flight adjuster to the deviations you make. And those adjustments have to occur subconsciously — without thought. You see, when we measure the amount of time it takes for a neurologic impulse to travel from the brain to the muscles and back up to the brain again, it becomes clear that there isn’t enough time for any adjustment in the pattern to occur by way of conscious thought.

    Our players are required to perform skills that don’t allow time for thinking. Therefore, we can no longer continue to coach them with methods that demand conscious thought all the time.
    “On your next pitch, I want you to focus on …”
    “Ok, on this one, you need to think about …”
    “When you get right here in the motion, you need to concentrate on …”

    Listen to us!! Can we please stop? There’s no time for thinking, or focusing, or concentrating!!

    Trying to enter a motor learning domain via a cognitive input is a futile endeavor. If words, verbal cues, and cognitive thoughts are the primary means of coaching, they can interfere with learning and erode performance.

    When you were a baby, and you learned to walk, we couldn’t use verbal cues to teach (thank goodness). Instead, we used one of the six different motor learning techniques we use at The Florida Baseball Ranch® to elicit the necessary movement pattern. we created a safe environment and gave you a goal — “Come to mommy (or daddy)”. Then we let your infinitely intelligent body self-organize until you accomplished that goal.

    Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
    If babies could talk before they could walk, they might not ever learn to walk! As parents and coaches, we’d probably screw them up with verbal cues.

    We get banged on a lot about self-organization. Critics call it “FIO (figure-it-out) coaching” and when they do, it shows a gross misunderstanding of skill acquisition and motor learning science. Self-organization is far more complex than traditional explicit, verbal cue-laden coaching. It requires a lot more creativity and thought than “TWT coaching.”

    Here’s an infographic showing some the various ways we can influence a movement pattern without using verbal cues.
    Choosing and executing the right technique, on the right athlete, at the just the right time, and under just the right conditions — that is the art of master teaching.

    This is what I’ll be speaking on at The Florida Baseball Ranch®/Dutch Baseball Skill Acquisition Summit on Sep 8-9. I’ll be joined by several of the leading skill acquisition scientists and the most progressive thinking coaches, physical therapists and athletic trainers in the business. The scientists will lay out the theory and the coaches will show you exactly how you can implement it into your practices.

    It will be the first time ever that skill acquisition science will be applied specifically to baseball on such a grand scale.

    To Learn More or To Get Signed Up, Click Here.

    We can’t wait to see you at The Ranch®

    Randy Sullivan, MPT, CSCS
    CEO, The Florida Baseball Ranch®

  • Knowing What to Do vs. Doing What You Know - By Coach Ron Wolforth

    There is a process to success.

    First we must ‘know what to do.’  Many of us simply don’t know the many possible steps to becoming a more athletic, explosive and durable pitching athlete. We flounder around dabbling in long toss, long distance running, weight lifting, hiring a personal pitching coach, throwing our weekly bull pens, trying to tweak our mechanics…hoping beyond hope that when we wake up one morning in February…we will have gained 7 mph and are now a stud and heading to DI or the draft board.

    Unfortunately, for the vast, vast majority of pitchers, said program isn’t the final click in the combination lock which is constraining all that untapped potential they were searching for.  The conventional paradigm is just more of the same.

    As we say EVERY DAY at the Ranch,

    “If you do what everybody else does, you’re going to get what everybody else gets…which isn’t much.”

    “If you do what you’ve always done, you’re going to get what you’ve always have gotten…and how’s that working out for you?”

    Although that makes perfect sense to 95% of the population, still there is the seductive thought that you could still be one of the rare ones who is exempt from such maxims.

    My comment to my son or daughter when they appear to be seduced down that slippery path of hoping to be exempt from the rules the rest of us have to follow: Even if you are one of the lucky ones and are truly blessed and gifted…you know in your heart, true success is long term.  It’s sustained and built over time.  It’s not a one shot thing.  Look at people who win the lottery – 84% of those winning the lottery will be back to their original state in 10 years.  They never learned or developed the discipline it takes to keep winning.  So even with their gifts or incredible blessings…they simply couldn’t sustain it.  On the other hand…work your way incrementally to becoming a millionaire…they can take your millions away…and in time…you’ll make your millions back.  Maybe no better case may be made for ‘knowing what to do…and then actually doing what you know’.

    Then we must ‘Do what we know.’  The ultimate success of students here at the Ranch inevitably comes down to how well and how often they do what they know.

    Knowledge is only potential power.  It becomes true power only when the knowledge is followed by action.

    That’s why I always seem to return to the ‘burning desire’ component.  For most of the young men I run across…they are interested in getting better…they hope they get better…they’d really like to get better.  But it is not a burning desire for them.  And in that case, no theory, no information nor any technique will be the ultimate answer.  

    – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    If you have that burning desire, The Texas Baseball Ranch® is the place for you!  We’ve got a couple different options for you this summer.

    Come for 3 days or stay for several weeks…

    Our 2018 Summer Elite Pitchers’ Boot Camp dates have been set.
    Learn more about these exciting, information packed 3-Day events at
    http://www.texasbaseballranch.com/events/elite-pitchers-boot-camps/

    OR

    If you’d like to spend more time with us this summer, check out our Extended Stay Summer Intensive Program.
    http://www.texasbaseballranch.com/events/tbr-summer-program/

  • Is Baseball’s Current Instructional Pop Culture Giving Weighted Balls A Bad Name? BY: RON WOLFORTH

    The competitive baseball universe is very akin in many ways to our Western Culture at large, trends and fads are always in motion. As we all know from life experience, trends and fads simply come and go. In 2018, ‘weighted balls’ and velocity enhancement programs are decidedly in vogue. Even as I travel around the world to places like Italy, The Netherlands and Australia, I see weighted ball programs coupled with their promises of fantastic jumps in velocity. If you are a relative newcomer to the world of competitive baseball, you may not be aware that this was certainly not always the case.

    In 1993, I started my first instructional academy in Langley British Columbia, Canada. For nearly the next 10 years, the utilization of weighted balls was decidedly not mainstream. Although a couple of very unique places were utilizing over-weighted implements, the baseball universe at large was decidedly against the use of anything other than a regulation baseball for throwing. The process of throwing balls weighing more and/or less than a regulation baseball was almost universally thought of as risky, perilous, crazy, fraught with danger and an exponential increase in the risk of injury.

    Today, 2018, weighted ball velocity enhancement programs are commonplace on the internet, at high schools, colleges and in instructional academies across the country. Today it seems everybody has a velocity enhancement process. That represents a significant change in the training culture in just 25 years. That’s great news, right?

    The answer, yes and no. We’ve obviously come a long way in reducing our irrational fear of a simple tool. That’s a good thing.

    On the flip side, hardly a week goes by that we don’t get an email or a phone call at the Texas Baseball Ranch® saying something along the lines of, “Our son has never had arm trouble before and this last offseason/month/week etc. his trainer/coach put him on this new weighted ball program… and now he is hurt/out and needs surgery. We heard you are the ‘supposed’ weighted ball/arm health people… why is this happening? Is this common? What do you suggest going forward?”

    Randy Sullivan at the Florida Baseball Ranch also gets regular questions along these same lines. As we also know, typically, for every call or email you receive there are many, many more who have similar issues but are not calling or are calling someone else. Suffice to say, with all the new velocity enhancement programs out there today, arm injuries are on the increase and weighted balls are, in our opinion, often getting an unfair bad rap.

    From Randy Sullivan- Florida Baseball Ranch,

    “We field 3-5 calls per week from parents of players ranging in age from 12-24 who most often have tried a mail ordered, one-size-fits-all weighted ball program and are now experiencing arm pain. It’s sad really, for many it was their first attempt at improving their ability to throw and they often regret trying the cheapest, simplest route. One-size-fits-all anything often becomes a dangerous shortcut.”

    Let me start by giving you a short history of the Ranch’s utilization of weighted balls and possibly assist people in understanding the role that a well-designed weighted ball program can play on arm health, durability and performance.

    Weighted Balls Are Simply a Tool. They are NOT a Panacea or a Quick Fix for Anything. They Can Be Beneficial, or They Can Be Utilized Inappropriately and Have Deleterious Effects.

    The Ranch History of Our Utilization of Weighted Balls

    The Beginning

    In 2002, inspired by the work and research on weighted bats by Dr. Coop DeRenne, we began in earnest using underload and overload principles in the training of our throwers. In other words, we began utilizing weighted balls. We started with 3 weights: a one-pound ball (16 oz),1/2-pound ball (8 oz) and an underload ball (4 oz). The balls we used were called ‘D-Balls’. They were a hollow yellow rubber ball and filled with a type of black graphite with a black cork stopper. I’m not even sure if they even make them anymore. The balls simply were not very functional for the punishment we were placing them through.

    Eventually, Mr. Robert Oates of Oates Specialties began to work with us to customize the balls to withstand the rigor in which we took them through. That evolution and innovation between Oates Specialties and the Ranch remain constant even today.

    It is important to point out that the baseball universe even in 2002 was much different than the one of today. In 2002 we were seen, of course, initially as heretics, crazy and dangerous in using weighted balls in any matter, shape or form. We were regularly excoriated publicly on websites, message boards and blog posts for our ‘reckless’ behavior and ‘placing the athletes in our care at unnecessary risk just to gain a few miles per hour’.

    In hindsight, all this scrutiny was actually a blessing. Every day when we went to work we had no doubt that the world was watching, just waiting to pounce on our ‘dangerous’ and ‘ineffective’ training methods.

    Several times I actually had rather influential baseball people get me in private and say, “Ron, just between you and me… off the record… how many TJ’s did you have at the Ranch?” Apparently, many people thought it impossible that we could do both… arm health/durability AND performance enhancement.The baseball universe at that time simply believed it impossible to thread the needle between those two outcomes.

    Ah Ha #1. Prehab vs. Rehab

    The first thing we did was make weighted balls initially the cornerstone of our Arm Care Program. We didn’t race to velocity enhancement initially because quite frankly we didn’t know what we were going to find, so we started slowly with arm care.

    By that time (2002) I had attended for several years in a row the ASMI Injuries in Baseball Conference in Birmingham Alabama. The impetus of the conferences was not performance enhancement; however, I found the symposiums to be exceptional on the topic of rehabilitation. Strangely enough, in the area of ‘rehab’ there appeared to be widespread acceptance on the use of weighted poly balls and rebounders.

    It occurred to me…THIS is exactly where we are going to begin with weighted implements. Weighted balls would be utilized first as a prehab/arm car process allowing our athlete’s soft tissue to first become accustomed to the stimulus/load and then… after a period of assessment… see where we go after that.

    Ah Ha #2. The Reformation-The Engineer and Pushing the Performance Envelope.

    In 2003, we invited a man by the name of Paul Nyman to speak at our Coaches Boot Camp. He was an engineer with a track background but a love of baseball. He gave two presentations that fundamentally and forever changed the way we trained at our facility. For several years we had been in search of a training process that rejected the conventional paradigms and antiquated, ineffective training methods. In Paul Nyman we found exactly that.

    Paul Nyman gave us a new paradigm and a new perspective. We referred to our personal iteration of Nyman’s dynamic systems paradigms as “The Athletic Pitcher Program”. Even publicly, I have long described Nyman’s work as essentially the ‘Reformation’ in baseball training. Today, Nyman remains the single greatest outside influence upon the Ranch and its fundamental training processes in our history.

    In 2003, Nyman proposed the unthinkable. He offered a structured, incremental weighted ball throwing program coupled with radar as objective feedback. To Nyman and his engineering/ track background, it was basic common sense. To the baseball elite, it was heresy.

    Ah Ha #3. Deceleration Is as Important as Acceleration

    Dr. Mike Marshall won the National League Cy Young Award in 1974 and set a Major League record for most appearances by a relief pitcher in 1974, appearing in a mind-blowing 106 games. He is the holder of two Major League records, both of which he set in the 1974 season: most appearances (games pitched) in a season (106), and most consecutive team games with a relief appearance (13). In his record-setting 1974 season, he pitched 208.3 innings, all of which came in relief appearances.

    Those statistics alone should force any logical trainer/coach/athlete to sit up and take notice and to ask questions. Dr. Marshall endorses a very unique movement pattern that in many ways is the antithesis of the current orthodoxy. Many people simply could not grasp his nonconventional approach and/or Dr. Marshall’s often bombastic and acerbic manner.

    We brought Dr. Mike Marshall in as a keynote presenter to our annual Coaches Symposium and just as advertised, he challenged the status quo and turned the preverbal instructional apple cart upside down, taking no prisoners with regard to his absolute disdain for contemporary methods of pitcher development. In our opinion, Dr. Marshall made a very compelling argument giving evidence that not only were the current standard training processes ineffective, in fact, they were complicit in the influx of injuries and surgical interventions.

    While Dr. Marshall had very, very few complimentary things to say about our training or our approach, we in turn learned a great deal from him regarding the critical importance of systematically preparing soft tissue for the rigors of pitching in competition, as well as the often-overlooked nature of the efficiency of an athlete’s pattern of deceleration.

    Dr. Marshall was the first person we ever heard articulate the connection between deceleration and acceleration, “The body and arm will only accelerate itself as efficiently as it can decelerate itself.”

    So, from Dr. Marshal we took two very critical pieces to our current training protocols:

    #1) That our process of preparing our athlete’s soft tissue for throwing needed to be far more robust than our previous methods.

    #2) That the efficiency of our athlete’s patterns of deceleration not only matters with regards to health, durability and recovery but also are influential with regards to velocity enhancement.

    In other words, if my soft tissue isn’t sufficiently prepared for the push or my pattern of dissipating energy and slowing down my arm is inefficient, a velocity enhancement program almost certainly needs to be postponed until those areas are adequately addressed, or injury will all too often be the result. At the very least, any efforts at velocity enhancements will be constrained or hampered if these areas are deficient.

    Unfortunately, this description of inadequate preparation of soft tissue and/or inefficient patterns of deceleration is far more common than most people think. It’s yet another reason young men get injured while embarking on a velocity building program. In our opinion, weighted balls too often serve as a diversion to the root contributors of injury. Ah-Ha #3 is a classic case in point.

    Ah Ha #4. Start with the Pain and Hyper-Personalize

    Fresh off the presentations of Paul Nyman and Mike Marshall, we began to experiment with weighted balls as a velocity enhancement process. However, we did so with two crucially important caveats:

    A. The athlete currently does not have arm/shoulder/elbow issues

    B. The athlete had a minimum of 6 weeks throwing weighted balls in our arm care process

    If the athlete passed out of that basic 2 step criteria, they were eligible for our initial velocity enhancement process. We referred to this process as “Starting with the Pain”.

    As an important side note, every single session would end with an arm health self-re-assessment. In other words, when each athlete would finish a session, we would immediately check with them on the status of their arm. If they rated their discomfort as a 4 or higher, they would automatically be withheld from the next scheduled session until their arm health returns to normal. If, at any time during the session, their arm discomfort rises above a 4 on a 0-10 scale or anything feels odd or strange, they were to immediately suspend their training session.

    This basic process remains standard operating procedure almost 15 years later.

    First- always prepare the soft tissue for 4-6 weeks prior to our initial push.

    Second- closely monitor every athlete’s arm health each session and adjust their processes based on the individual.

    Third- never hesitate in delaying or suspending the process if the arm is not responding well. Learn to train your pitchers to be intimate with their arm and understand that some days it is simply time to shut it down and decide to fight another day. In other words, if you’re ‘not feeling it’today, many times the right call is to suspend your push for today and come at it again later in the week or the next week. Injury will certainly place a REAL delay in your development. It is never a good idea to push to the point you become injured.

    Ah Ha #5. Mechanical Efficiency (Connection) Matters… A lot

    In 2005, I watched a sports medicine TV program about an orthopedic doctor who specializes in treating world class elite long-distance running athletes. His comments regarding injuries in this very specific population of athletes really resonated with me.

    He basically said that most doctors treat the injuries to elite long-distance runners from a faulty paradigm. This was the gist of his comments:

    Of course, world-class distance runners have incredibly high workloads, that’s the very reason why they are world class, so if your instinct is to treat the injury primarily or exclusively by the simple reduction of their workload, you will be of little practical use to your athletes. They run, that’s what they do. They run a great deal and that’s why they are elite.

    Instead, he urged the doctors to look deeper and closer, and not be so plastic in their perspective. Elite long-distance runners are far from normal. Therefore, he concluded a conventional approach to injury reduction for the general population will not typically be beneficial to the elite long-distance runner.

    If, he argued, the elite runner has an inefficiency in his running form or their shoes do not fully support their feet, under any considerable workloads of course injury is eventually going to often be the result. Therefore, he proposed, in many cases, the workload was only a symptom or an ancillary contributor to injury and not the cause itself.

    For example, if a runner actually ran on the side of his/her feet, would managing his/her workload be a sufficient solution? The obvious answer is absolutely not. Reducing his/ her workload may delay the final breakdown but would do NOTHING toward a solution. The only solution would be to improve the efficiency in which he runs.

    That made absolutely perfect sense to me. Applying this orthopod’s logic to throwing athletes, it became obvious to us at the Ranch that mechanical efficiency also really matters when it came to deciding who was approved to take part in our velocity enhancement programs. Over the past 12 years, we have identified 12 primary movement pattern disconnections that have the potential to add stress to soft tissue.

    So, when we initially assess athletes and find a significant level of one or more of the 12 disconnections, coupled with arm pain or difficulty recovering from throwing sessions, that indicates to us that we must first reduce the disconnection, reduce the discomfort of the arm and increase their ability to recover and bounce back before we throw them into a velocity enhancement program.

    To us at the Ranch, this simply is common sense. If I have some arm discomfort on a regular basis currently and NOW I’m going to really ramp up the stress, load, and intensity, why should I be surprised when injury or shut down is the result?

    Bottom line: In our opinion, this is one of the most common reasons so many young arms are injured from weighted ball programs and velocity enhancement programs. They are already on the edge of injury right now. The weighted ball just simply was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

    Ah Ha #6. Holism- Everything Matters. The Continual Search for the Simplicity on the Far Side of Complexity

    Many players and their parents desperately want development and performance enhancement to be simple. They want their coaches or instructors/trainers to explain the incredible complexity of human performance with catchy phases, teaching cues and/or one-size-fits-all recipes to success.

    In the privacy of quiet reflection, most of us would realize this type of process is simply fool’s gold.

    Need velocity? Just get on the internet and obtain a good weighted ball program.

    Need arm health? Just get on YouTube and watch a good arm care process.

    Need command? Throw more frequent bullpens.

    Need better secondary stuff? Ask your instructor/coach for a new grip. Maybe find out how Clayton Kershaw holds it.

    In our estimation, these suggestions are not bad in and of themselves, they are simply endemic of a much bigger problem. Most people routinely underestimate the complexity and difficulty of consistently performing well at highest levels of competition. At the Texas Baseball Ranch®, we have run head first into that reality, again and again, ourselves over the past 15 years.

    In 2010 to give our team at the Texas Baseball Ranch® a foundation to understand and deal with that complexity, I created a chart to guide us. It has since been edited and slightly improved upon, but the foundation remains unchanged in 8 years and is a fixture in our core philosophy.

    This chart was my effort to remind myself and my staff to continually recognize and appreciate the complexity of high performance, to refrain from the constant lure of trying to explain the unexplainable to a client and yet create a sensible foundation from which we could make valid and sound decisions and judgments.

    The 6 Primary Contributors to Substandard Performance

    What is keeping you from having a healthy, durable, electric arm?

    • Type I Contributors- Structural Related
        Physical misalignments, asymmetries, strength imbalances, constraints in                mobility/flexibility and/or strength/stability
    • Type II Contributors- Movement Pattern Related
       The movements related to actually throwing the ball; the mechanical efficiency of   the athlete’s movement pattern
    • Type III Contributors– Preparation Related
       Wake-Up warm-up, pretraining, pregame, postgame, ramp up to season or to     session/game
    • Type IV Contributors- Training Related
       How your training processes affect your abilities (strength program,   mobility/flexibility program, conditioning program, throwing program)
    • Type V Contributors-Workload/Recovery Related
       How much, how long, how often, how many per inning, how quickly you return to   full speed.
    • Type VI Contributors- Internal Systemic Related                                                                            Sleep, nutrition, hydration

     

    Why is this chart so important? What does it have to do with the efficacy of a weighted ball program? Simple…

    Everything matters.

    For example, the belief at the Ranch consortium is:

    If the athlete’s physical structure, alignment, strength, balance, mobility/flexibility or stability is considerably limited, constrained, compromised or deficient, a weighted ball velocity enhancement program is contraindicated and will have to wait until those issues are addressed.

    If the athlete’s mechanical efficiency is questionable or marginal and has manifested abject pain or difficulties in recovery, then a weighted ball velocity enhancement program is contraindicated and will have to wait until those issues are addressed.

    If the athlete hasn’t built a minimum of a 6-week foundation of preparation for their soft tissue, a weighted ball velocity enhancement program is contraindicated and will have to wait until those issues are addressed.

    We have taken our share of criticism from some corners of the baseball universe that we overly hype pain and for our ‘overzealous need’ for multiple assessments before engaging on a velocity program. We truly don’t mind the criticism. Everyone should be free to come to their own conclusions. However, that doesn’t necessarily make the criticism cogent.

    As I alluded to previously, we have been attempting to tread the needle between arm health/durability and performance for the past 16 years. In that time, we have found some really good news that we wish everybody in the baseball universe would understand and take advantage of, and that good news is this…

    The Really Good News

    #1. We have found that if we can simply assist each athlete in reducing or eliminating any regular discomfort of his elbow or shoulder and/or significantly improve his ability to recover/bounce back, that athlete will in fact nearly always (85% of the time) experience a slight but notable uptick of 1-3 mph in velocity in 4 weeks of his improvement in his arm health and durability.

    This should only make sense. If the athlete’s arm feels better…he will naturally ‘step on the accelerator’.If his arm is more durable, he can throw more often and for longer stretches of time. Do those behaviors appear to support enhanced velocity? The answer is without question… yes!

    #2. We have found that as the athlete improves his mechanical efficiency and builds his throwing foundation, any weighted ball program we place him under in the future will be far more effective.

    Final Comments

    The fact many people often forget is that ALL balls are ‘weighted’. Every ball ever created has weight. The common vernacular of ‘weighted balls’ infers that the balls they are utilizing are typically heavier than the 5 ¼ounce regulation baseballs. Coop DeRenne used the terms ‘overload’ and ‘underload’ to help further clarify his process. We of course are shaped by the works of DeRenne and Nyman and use similar language.

    I do believe it is a rather foolish and antiquated position to take that a 5 ¼ounce ball is somehow a ‘safe’ weight but 3 ounces or 7 ounces are dangerous.

    We suggest viewing the weight and size of the balls in your training as a specific type of stimulus, and just like dosage/time/frequency in medicine matters, so does the specific stimulus in training. Sometimes the individual is ready for and indeed should have ‘more’. Other times, ‘more’ would be dangerous.

    It will take customization, communication, testing, assessment and constant monitoring to maximizes it’s affects and minimize its risks. One thing is for certain, the one-size-fits-all processes that I see firsthand out there now does none of those. They are simple, but they are often far from benign.

    We have indeed come a long way from the 1990’s in terms of our perspective on weighted balls. That’s a great thing. However, in my opinion, until and unless we can move past the desire to obtain a universal, monolithic, catchall weighted ball throwing program, we as a baseball universe will keep running head first into the unintended consequences of inappropriate and misapplied training, with injury and surgical intervention as the much too frequent outcomes.

    But of course, it’s not weighted balls that are the problem. The problem is how they are utilized. As my late father was frequent to remind me when I complained about my equipment, “It’s rarely the bow that’s the problem…it’s the skill of the Indian warrior using it that matters.”

    Indeed.

    A Steven Covey quote that I think is the perfect way to end our discussion of weighted ball training,

    “If there is no gardener, there is no garden.”

    Our advice at the Ranch Consortium, when it comes to weighted balls and velocity enhancement programs, become the gardener. It’s the difference maker.

  • What’s the Goal Here? The First 5 Crucial Questions Surrounding Any Activity. By: Coach Ron Wolforth

    In 2003, Paul Nyman coined a definition that has become a centerpiece for us here at the Texas Baseball Ranch® for the past 14 years.

    Nyman refers to it as the Bernstein Principle: the body will organize itself based upon the ultimate goal of the activity.  It is derived from the works of the father of biomechanics, Nikolai Bernstein, a Soviet Neurophysiologist.

    14 years later it remains unassailable. Bernstein has actually become a verb of sorts at the Ranch. To Bernstein something at the Texas Baseball Ranch® implies we have a very clear goal, and we are acting in full accordance with that goal and not letting anything interfere with our efforts to achieve it. While the ultimate goal of this specific exercise certainly can and often will change or evolve, our commitment to our current stated goal at this moment must be unwavering. Distraction, diversion or interference must be kept to a minimum if we wish to grow and develop ahead of the rate of our competitive peer group.

    I find so many athletes and their parents confused, conflicted and/or bewildered regarding their personal development. They lack clarity and without clarity you are hard pressed to find conviction.  And without conviction... one cannot find consistent, exceptional performance at the higher levels of competition.

    But I personally believe the Bernstein Principle has merit way beyond the sports arena.

    On a regular basis, I believe one should have a built in personal dialogue loop that in almost every important endeavor undertaken... frequently asks 5 basic questions.

    #1. What's the specific goal here? (Perhaps even... what is the ULTIMATE goal here?)

    #2. Why is THIS goal so important to me?

    #3. What are the specific obstacles in my way to achieving THIS goal?

    #4. What are the dangers along this path to the achievement of THIS goal?

    #5. Who or what resources do I need assistance from to achieve THIS goal?

    For example:

    Debating whether to try to develop a slider instead of a curveball? Ask the 5 questions!

    Debating whether or not to take part in a velocity enhancement program? Ask the 5 questions!

    Deciding on the specific strength/stability or mobility/ flexibility program and process to use. Ask the 5 questions!

    Debating whether or not to transfer schools? Ask the 5 questions!

    Debating whether or not to ask a girl out on a date? Ask the 5 questions!

    Most athletes simply can't answer those questions clarity, self-actualization and self-awareness are too often lacking in their day to day world.

    So they get distracted. They drift off course. They get confused. They get angry. They get frustrated.  They get disheartened and disillusioned.

    As famous mountain climber Alison Levine shared in a TED talk regarding the lessons she learned from climbing Mount Everest:

    "Fear is absolutely' OK... it's normal.  It is complacency that will kill you."

    In my opinion, it is the same with skill development.

    Here's to you developing the habitual inner dialogue of a high performer. Practice utilizing the 5 questions as often as you can in your daily life. I promise you that your productivity will increase.

    Until next time,

    Stay Curious & Keep Fighting the Good Fight

  • What Is a Growth Plate Injury? What Do Our Baseball Training Programs Do To Fix Them? by Randy Sullivan, MPT, CSCS

    At our baseball training programs camps, we work with players of every age and experience level. It’s not uncommon to have a major league client on site, but it’s also not unusual to see a cool 9 year-old running around .

    Spring Training is beginning soon for major and minor league professionals, college and high school seasons are rolling and the young guys — middle schoolers and below — are launching into their rec and travel ball campaigns.
    About this time of year, as the arm pain management division of the Baseball Ranch® consortium, I field a lot of questions about growth plate injuries.

    So what are growth plate injuries, and how do they occur?

    First let me tell you what they are not… usually they are not catastrophic. So when you find that your son or daughter, or one of your players has suffered a growth plate injury there is no need to panic. Most of the time, a simple period of rest is all they need to get back on track.
    eliminating arm pain with baseball training camps
    Think of growth plates as little factories, manufacturing bone cells and depositing them on the bone to make it longer. There are several growth plates in the shoulder and the elbow. When an athlete is fully grown, these growth plates fuse and the factory shuts down. At younger ages, growth plates are highly active and vulnerable to stress.

    When exposed to abnormal stress, the body will usually break at its weakest link. In older athletes, the weak link is the connective tissue (rotator cuff, labrum, UCL). In the younger population the weak link is the growth plate.

    Not all growth plate injuries are the same. In our baseball training camps and programs, we treat growth plate injuries very differently depending on the type of injury. If you’re dealing with a growth plate injury, it’s good to understand the classifications.

    The Nature Of Different Growth Plate Injuries

    The Salter-Harris classification is a simple and easy to remember system to identify the nature and severity of a growth plate injury. It uses the name “Salter” as a pneumonic memory jogger. According to sketchymedicine.com, it goes like this:

    1. SEPARATED (the bone and the growth plate have come apart) – but it actually looks normal on x-ray (you can only tell on physical exam)
    2. Fracture ABOVE the growth plate
    3. Fracture LOWER than (below) the growth plate – fracture extends to the articular surface
    4. Fracture THROUGH the growth plate
    5. Fracture ERASING/compressing/squashing the growth plate – this is the worst kind because with disruption of the growth plate comes disruption of growth. Type “ER” injuries are usually caused by rare occurrences such as frostbite, electric shock and irradiation. They’re hard to see on x-rays but show up on MRIs.

    baseball training programs to eliminate arm pain

    Depending on the classification of the injury, treatment could range from simple rest, to casting, to surgery.

    Most of the growth plate injuries we see are of the “S” variety — the growth plate becomes separated, and manifests itself in the form of pain. This type of injury may or may not be seen on x-ray. But, if a young athlete experiences persistent pain in the shoulder or the elbow, you should be suspicious of a growth plate injury.

    The same variables that contribute to soft tissue injuries in the older athlete, also place the growth plates at risk. I discussed these factors at great length in my book, Start With The Pain: The Complete Guide To Managing Arm Pain In The Elite Throwing Athlete, but as a review, here they are again in order of significance:

    Type 1 contributors: structural/physical related (tightness, weakness, asymmetries, imbalances, etc…)
    Type 2 contributors: movement pattern related.
    Type 3 contributors: tissue preparation and recovery.
    Type 4 contributors: training related factors.
    Type 5 contributors: workload (pitch counts, innings limits).
    Type 6 contributors: nutrition, hydration, sleep, and psychological stress.

    What We Do For Growth Plate Injuries

    Coaches at our baseball training camps know that, when you have a soft tissue injury (UCL, labrum, rotor cuff) that doesn’t result in catastrophic failure, it’s very important during the rehab process that you provide controlled stress to organize the healing tissue along the line of resistance. It’s a concept known as Davis’s Law – a physiologic precept stating that all connective tissue in the human body organizes itself to resist the stresses under which it is placed. For this reason, in the case of soft tissue injuries to the throwing athlete, rest may be the worst thing you can do. If the tissue is not completely disrupted, it needs a mechanical signal to guide reorganization as it heals. This is when we recommend light throwing or throwing in the Durathro® Training Sock for players in our baseball training programs.

    What To Do While Healing

    But when it comes to growth plate injuries, tissue reorganization is not the primary goal. Protecting the growth plate and preventing the injury from progressing to a more serious situation is the order at hand. In that regard, the growth plate injury is one of the few throwing disorders for which I would indeed prescribe total rest. An acceptable amount of rest could range from 2-8 weeks depending on the nature and severity of the injury. By “rest”, we mean avoidance of throwing, not complete cessation of all training activities.

    When working with injured players in our baseball training camps, one of our mantras is, “Never let what you can’t do keep you from doing what you can.” While the athlete is waiting for his growth plate aggravation to subside, he should work to eliminate any possible constraints in stability and/or mobility that might be contributing to the problem. He may also be able to work on improving lower half power and efficiency – traits that will help him attenuate stress on the arm once he’s read to resume throwing. During this time, the young athlete can also learn a quality warm-up and recovery process that will serve him well when he eventually resumes throwing activities.

    After Rest Period

    After the appropriate rest period has elapsed, it is extremely important to address all the movement pattern related variables that might have contributed to the injury. A video analysis of the throwing pattern should reveal any arm action of lower half inefficiencies that might have combined with structural, preparation, recovery, or training related factors that could have created an environment for his injury to occur. From this analysis, an individualized corrective throwing plan can be designed and executed.

    Frequency, intensity and volume of throwing should always be ramped up gradually, monitoring the athlete for any report of pain.

    If you are the parent or coach of a young thrower, awareness of the possibility of a growth plate injury could lead to early detection, intervention and avoidance of a more severe injury.

    Do you need to get an x-ray or a MRI immediately if your adolescent thrower reports pain? Probably not.

    Most growth plate injuries are relatively benign and respond well to brief rest. However, in the case of intense, intolerable pain, or if the pain persists even after a couple of weeks of rest, it may be helpful to seek out imaging to get a more clear picture of the situation and possible treatment options.

    Are you having arm pain? If you are, I’m sure you’d like to get it settled. If you don’t take care of it now, at best it could nag you throughout the rest of the year and at worst it could evolve into something more serious.

    We literally wrote the book on arm pain management. Learn more about how we eliminate arm pain. Then give us a call at 866-STRIKE3 (866-787-4533) and let us set you up with a Precision Strike One Day, One-on-One Evaluation and Training Plan.

    We’ll do a total body physical exam and a video analysis to identify any variable that might be contributing to your pain. We’ll work with you to develop a training plan tailored to your specific need and we’ll help you return to pain free throwing quickly and safely.

    We can’t wait to see you at The Ranch.

    Baseball training programs that eliminate arm pain
    Randy Sullivan, MPT, CSCS
    CEO, Florida Baseball Ranch

  • The Top 4 Ways Pitchers Become Disconnected - By Randy Sullivan, MPT, CSCS

    “Overhand throwing is an unnatural movement.”

    That’s what “they” say.
    Who says that?
    You know, the ubiquitous yet ever-elusive “they” who reign supreme as the self-appointed authority on just about everything.

    Well… not surprisingly, “they” are wrong again.

    According to a June 2013 report published in the journal Nature, throwing has been “natural” since our Homo Erectus ancestors began chucking rocks and sticks at large prey about 1.9 million years ago.

    Humans are born to throw.It’s in our DNA. And when left to our own devices, most throwers learn to do so without the need for any coaching or guidance. Yet, despite the natural nature (that’s redundant and repetitive) of throwing, injury rates continue to climb and although most players desire to throw at a high level, many never achieve it.

    How can this be?

    As I reflect on this question, I am guided toward yet another stroke of brilliance from Coach Ron Wolforth of The Texas Baseball Ranch. Sometime around 2015, Coach Wolforth presented a list of 11 of the most common “disconnections” that limit a player’s ability to throw hard, demonstrate elite level command, developed high caliber secondary stuff and/or recover on schedule. At the risk of sounding like a slobbering lap dog, I am frequently impressed by Ron’s ability to see through complex problems and pare them down to comprehensible, manageable categories. Hyper-individualization of training plans across multiple dimensions is the hallmark and the desired endpoint of the TBR/FBR consortium but without categorization there can be no systemized path to customization.

    Categorize, then customize.
    That’s the formula and in my opinion it’s brilliant.

    Throwing at a superior level is about being “connected”. When a delivery is connected all the body parts are acting in timing and synergy with one another. Every part is playing its proper role and performing in concert with all the other body parts and those parts are operating around a stable spine.
    Disconnections are defined as instances when a body part acts independently, away from the natural synergy of the rest of the body or apart from a stable spine. Disconnections add stress to connective tissue that can result in injury, premature fatigue and/or difficulty with recovery. Disconnections can also limit an athlete’s ability to summate the forces in the kinetic chain, thereby limiting the ability to achieve optimal velocity. And finally, disconnections can lead to early unraveling of the movement pattern, resulting in command issues and substandard secondary stuff
    Being connected is natural. Disconnections are unnatural.

    So, why do some throwing athletes become disconnected?

    In my experience there are 4 reasons a throwing athlete develops disconnections (and these are listed in order from the most common to the least common).

    • Their disconnections are taught. Through the years, I’ve studied throwing more than most and I’ve screwed some things up along the way. Frankly, many of the concepts I espoused as a young coach probably did more harm than good. There are about 1000 kids I should find and offer my apologies. I taught what I knew… and I was wrong. Like me, there are many well-meaning coaches who unfortunately possess incomplete or in correct information. I’ve never met a coach who intentionally made a player worse, or chose to put him at risk for injury. Nonetheless, many of the standard teaching points in traditional pitching instruction are simply wrong and they encourage disconnections. “Get your elbow up”. “Point the ball to second base.” “Tall and fall.” “Push off the rubber.” All of these well intentioned commands can lead to disconnections that add stress to connective tissue, rob a pitcher of velocity and negatively impact command and secondary stuff. Yes, indeed… many times disconnections are taught.
    • They are desperately seeking energy in the wrong places. When inefficiencies present themselves, they tend to disrupt the kinetic chain such that a player attempting to maximize production subconsciously searches for motor patterns that might be counterproductive or might even put him at risk for injury. This is most commonly demonstrated in the disconnection that is the highly debated inverted W. Defined as any time the throwing athlete moves one or both elbows into extreme abduction with internal rotation of the shoulder. Typically, athletes who demonstrate this disconnection also exhibit poor lower half efficiency. Lacking support from the ground, they look to their upper bodies to produce the energy needed to approach elite level throwing. In my experience, many times if you can improve the lower half movement pattern, this upper half problem goes away.
    • They have mobility or stability constraints that force them to adopt a particular movement pattern. I say this quite often. Mobility and stability constraints are intimately interwoven. Often one will spawn the other. For example, if you have tight quads or you have poor ankle mobility, you’ll probably have a hard time getting into a glute load. Your mobility restrictions will force you to shift your weight toward the ball of your foot and you’ll become quad dominant. This will project the direction of your load toward the on deck circle on your arm side. From this point, unless you have crazy hip internal rotation mobility and motor control, you’ll either land across your body and throw hook shots toward home plate (significantly stressing your connective tissue in the process), or you’ll disconnect with a lead leg opening early, premature torso rotation, leaning hard to the glove side with your posture, you’ll push or leap with your back leg, instead of rotating, in a move that will cause you to release the ball with your back foot in the air – effectively eliminating any further contribution from your lower half. Mobility and/or stability constraint are often major contributors to disconnection and they’re frequently ignored. If you hope to change a pitchers biomechanical patter, you must assess for contributory physical constraints concurrently with a high-speed video analysis.
    • Their body randomly selects an inefficient pathway as they are learning their movement pattern. One of the fundamental principles in motor learning is known as Bernstein Principle #1 and it states, “The body will organize itself in accordance to the overall goal of the activity.” If given a clear goal, the body will find a way to accomplish the task. Note, however that we said the body will find “a way.” That doesn’t necessarily mean it will always choose the safest or the most efficient way. That’s where master teaching/coaching can play the most significant role in player development. As players begin to self-organize new movements we can use motor learning strategies to maximize efficiency and safety, increase the rate of learning for the student and improve transfer to game performance.

    As a master teacher or coach, it is our responsibility to design and execute training protocols that take advantage of all the available motor learning science principle to suppress, improve or eliminate disconnections. And, it seems to me that it would be a whole lot easier to catch them before they became a problem. Get your athlete connected first. Then add energy. That is the Ranch formula and so far it’s going pretty well… and getting better all the time.

    If you’re a throwing athlete who needs to get connected, here’s how you can connect with us, here are 3 links to get you there:

    • Come spend a week or two with us at our incredible Complete Game Winter Training Program. Stay anywhere from 1-6 weeks and train up to 5 hours per day, 5 days per week. Get connected and ramped up for the best season of your life. Click Here to learn more.
    • Schedule a Precision Strike, One-day, One-on-One evaluation and training session. We’ll spend up to 5 hours in a one-on-one experience assessing you for inefficiencies and physical constrain. Then we’ll take that information and design a custom-made training plan that will leave no stone unturned and you’ll leave not only with a world-class comprehensive training plan but you’ll also be offered a process to stay connected with us so we can help you continue your improvement. Click Here to learn more or call us a 866-787-4533 (866-STRIKE3) to schedule an appointment.
    • Come to a weekend Elite Performance Boot Camp. In what can only be considered 2 days of amazing, we’ll conduct a full court press assessment, teach you all the drills and exercises necessary to correct your inefficiencies. You’ll learn about our leading edge motor learning approach and we’ll teach you all you need to know about strength and conditioning, tissue preparation and recovery. You’ll leave with a plan that will make the complex subject of elite thrower training simple and easy to implement.

    We can’t wait to see you at The Ranch®.

    Randy Sullivan, MPT, CSCS
    CEO, Florida Baseball Ranch

  • What's the Goal Here? The First 5 Crucial Questions Surrounding Any Activity- By: Coach Ron Wolforth

    In 2003, Paul Nyman coined a definition that has become a centerpiece for us here at the Texas Baseball Ranch® for the past 14 years.

    Nyman refers to it as the Bernstein Principle: the body will organize itself based upon the ultimate goal of the activity.  It is derived from the works of the father of biomechanics, Nikolai Bernstein, a Soviet Neurophysiologist.

    14 years later it remains unassailable. Bernstein has actually become a verb of sorts at the Ranch. To Bernstein something at the Texas Baseball Ranch® implies we have a very clear goal, and we are acting in full accordance with that goal and not letting anything interfere with our efforts to achieve it. While the ultimate goal of this specific exercise certainly can and often will change or evolve, our commitment to our current stated goal at this moment must be unwavering. Distraction, diversion or interference must be kept to a minimum if we wish to grow and develop ahead of the rate of our competitive peer group.

    I find so many athletes and their parents confused, conflicted and/or bewildered regarding their personal development. They lack clarity and without clarity you are hard pressed to find conviction.  And without conviction... one cannot find consistent, exceptional performance at the higher levels of competition.

    But I personally believe the Bernstein Principle has merit way beyond the sports arena.

    On a regular basis, I believe one should have a built in personal dialogue loop that in almost every important endeavor undertaken... frequently asks 5 basic questions.

    #1. What's the specific goal here? (Perhaps even... what is the ULTIMATE goal here?)

    #2. Why is THIS goal so important to me?

    #3. What are the specific obstacles in my way to achieving THIS goal?

    #4. What are the dangers along this path to the achievement of THIS goal?

    #5. Who or what resources do I need assistance from to achieve THIS goal?

    For example:

    Debating whether to try to develop a slider instead of a curveball? Ask the 5 questions!

    Debating whether or not to take part in a velocity enhancement program? Ask the 5 questions!

    Deciding on the specific strength/stability or mobility/ flexibility program and process to use. Ask the 5 questions!

    Debating whether or not to transfer schools? Ask the 5 questions!

    Debating whether or not to ask a girl out on a date? Ask the 5 questions!

    Most athletes simply can't answer those questions clarity, self-actualization and self-awareness are too often lacking in their day to day world.

    So they get distracted. They drift off course. They get confused. They get angry. They get frustrated.  They get disheartened and disillusioned.

    As famous mountain climber Alison Levine shared in a TED talk regarding the lessons she learned from climbing Mount Everest:

    "Fear is absolutely' OK... it's normal.  It is complacency that will kill you."

    In my opinion, it is the same with skill development.

    Here's to you developing the habitual inner dialogue of a high performer. Practice utilizing the 5 questions as often as you can in your daily life. I promise you that your productivity will increase.

    Until next time,

    Stay Curious & Keep Fighting the Good Fight

    If you are a Ranch alumni we have a special holiday training session available- reply to this email to find out more.

    There are 2 opportunities remaining for players to join us this winter,  find the dates and more information at www.texasbaseballranch.com/elite-pitchers-bootcamp/ 

    We also have our annual Ultimate Pitching Coaches Bootcamp scheduled for Dec 8-10, you can register or purchase DVD's at PitchingCoachesBootcamp.com

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