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.
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?
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.
Based upon the works of Dr. Frans Bosch and Dr. K. Anders Ericsson, the Ranch training systems have signiﬁcantly shifted toward the awareness of how the brain is being inﬂuenced and shaped during each training session and how our practice sessions are either developing/ optimizing or inhibiting with/ interfering with our athlete’s ability to adjust and adapt during competition. It has become painfully obvious to us that the traditional standard practice fare almost always represents a real limitation to an athlete’s ability to adjust.
Therefore we utilize the concept of Differential Learning and Deliberate Practice in almost every single facet of our training. Our clients systematically enhance their ability to adjust, adapt and overcome…it’s baked into the training cake. It’s part of what they do every day…Practicing Adjustment.
1). The Multi-colored Pad and Khaos balls are our newest training tools for a process we refer to as Khaos Training. By constantly changing the target and the size, weight and texture of EVERY Ball on EVERY Throw, 1) the brain is actively engaged and 2) The body learns to organize itself quickly and effectively over time.
2). By staggering the distances of our Advanced Command Trainers and utilizing V Flex in our command series and charting our sessions, we have seen dramatic improvements in our athlete’s ability to adjust and engage the brain during otherwise mundane training sessions.
3). We utilize many of the concepts of Jozef Frucek, Martin Bosy and Fighting Monkey™ and their paradigm of Earthquake Architecture.
4) We have expanded and improved our utilization of such tools as the Bell Club, Wrist Weights, Shoulder Tube™, Mini Bands and the Durathro™ Baseball Training Sock, *Take special notice the video screen in front of the athletes (red circle) playing slow motion and regular speed segments of elite, world class throwing athletes, focusing in on the speciﬁc movement segment the athletes are trying to reproduce*.
5) We have modiﬁed our strength development and corrective exercises to focus on coordination, synergy, variability, malleability and strength speciﬁcally at end ranges of motion. Literally everything has at least a component of adaptability and adjustability to it.
Note from Robert Oates:
Would you like to learn more about how elite pitchers are developed and how Oates Specialties equipment is used to improve elite athletes? If yes, then I encourage you to attend the Texas Baseball Ranch Ultimate Pitching Coaches Boot Camp. For the past 13 years, this experience has been the annual highlight of my year.
The always remarkable content offered at the event is from world class presenters, and the networking opportunity with people who live and breathe pitching always proves to be invaluable. From the program shown below, it is evident this year’s event will also be extraordinary.
Coach Wolforth has given us the opportunity to offer you a $50.00 registration discount. Just enter the code OATES (be sure to use all capital letters) in the registration form found at www.CoachesBootCamp.com.
This year’s Ultimate Pitching Coaches Boot Camp is slated for December 7 -10 (Friday through Sunday, with a bonus day on Thursday). Gunnar, Drayton and I will be there and hope to see you there as well!
The 2017 Ultimate Pitching Coaches Boot Camp
For the first time ever the UPCBC will be held in the brand new 4700 square feet theatre and assessment center. (At the Ranch we refer to it as the BIG RED BARN). This allows us a temperature controlled theatre in an awesome facility for the lecture presentations AND immediate access to our two 3600 sq ft training barns for any break out and hands on sessions. In our opinion this property is the ultimate venue for an event of this nature.
The Ultimate Pitching Coaches Boot Camp Agenda:
Bonus Day: Thursday, December 7: You get insider access to all the latest methods we use with our MLB, college, and younger athletes at The Ranch. Boot Camp: Friday - Sunday, December 8-10: Three full days of expert sessions, Q&A, and camaraderie. Learn from your peers, make new friends, and form valuable new connections to further your career as a coach.
• Coach Wallace will talk about the efﬁcient utilization of the Lower Half- both the back hip and glute as well as lead leg disconnections…and The Ranch process of Deliberate Practice in creating systematic gains in Command.
• Coach Kaday will discuss the Power Core 360 and how we enhance torque as well as increasing an athlete’s awareness of synergy, coordination and the summation of force.
• Coach Massey will talk about Recovery and how to dramatically improve it in your pitching athletes with some very simple steps.
• Coach Wolforth will discuss a myriad of topics- from simple ways to better engage the brain at practice for almost immediately higher levels of performance at game time; to the developing real leaders that actually make a difference inside your ball club and organization.
And Our Guest Lecturers include:
• Jonathan Armold: Minor League Pitching Coach, Texas Rangers
• Brian Cain: World Renown Peak Performance Coach
• Jon Huizinga: Baseball Coach with a holistic training approach emphasizing fuel/nutrition.
• Jeff Krushell: Human Performance and Development Expert & Major League Baseball International Consultant
• Stephen Osterer: Doctor of Chiropractic at Totum Life Science
• Tim Nicely: President V-Flex Technology
• Martijn Nijhoff: Studied Under Frans Bosch; Talent Coach for Knbsb
• Gary Reinl: Author of "Iced - The Illusionary Treatment Option"
• Randy Sullivan: P.T and owner Florida Baseball Ranch®
The coach looks down the list of pitchers he has available on his roster. He has to make a choice on who starts, who comes in relief, who closes, and who sits on the bench. The majority of the time the coach is going to select his harder throwers. He may decide to pick a few guys who have deception in their delivery like the old Dontrelle Willis or Chris Sale. He also may choose a couple lefties, if any are available, because there just aren't that many of them out there. But the coach will ALWAYS have to pick someone with command. Before we get into a debate about command and what that word means, my simplified definition for the purpose of this post is the ability to throw strikes and to not walk multiple batters in a row. Notice, I did not mention the ability to hit the glove on every single pitch, or the ability to throw off-speed pitches in the strike zone at will. The truth is that those abilities are not the norm and are typically the skill of an elite pitcher. But the bottom line is that a coach cannot allow runs to be scored without a chance of defending against them. Now some of the pitchers reading this post may have just felt their heart sink. You may be thinking that it is impossible to gain command in the middle of the season, and that you have no choice but to wait until the off-season to work on your command, but I can tell you from experience that it is possible. Let me share with you how I approached control that I think can be of benefit to pitchers who are currently in season.
The first approach to throwing strikes for me was to continue throwing at normal intensities. I found that every time I tried to slow things down and guide a pitch in to the catcher's mitt I would either get hit hard or the ball would be in the dirt. I found that throwing at my normal intensity was critical for throwing strikes and having my best stuff. I was a 100% max effort every throw kind of guy, and I am certain that I needed to throw that way to have better command.
The next step in my progression was to play the “Giant Game of Darts." This "game" was introduced to me by Ron Wolforth. The premise is simple: if you missed low, aim higher next time. If you missed outside, aim further inside. Now this sounds like common sense, but I still see pitchers who aim for the same spot every time even though they continuously miss to the same spot each throw. As an athlete, you must make adjustments every single play. As pitchers, there must be adjustments made before the play starts. I cannot tell you how many times I would be missing high out of the strike zone, and I would have to aim in the dirt in order for it to be a strike. This may sound extreme, but it worked for me. One thing to keep in mind, the game of darts is ever changing. From batter to batter and inning to inning, it is crucial to know where you missed on the previous pitch, and make sure the next pitch is not a miss to the same location. To me, this is what makes the Advanced Command Trainer an invaluable tool because you can clearly see if you miss the target.
The most commonly overlooked component with command is an athlete's breathing. Before I lose your attention, let me explain just how important breathing is. You take over 20,000 breaths in a single day. The majority of these are taken with poor posture and shallow chest inhalations. This means your body is already lacking oxygen and has an abundance of CO2 which changes the PH level in your body, making it more acidic. This change will not allow the body to perform at its best. During my certification of CPPS last year, we spent an entire day talking about the importance of breath and the correct manner in which to breathe and brace. Looking back at my playing career, I didn't give my breathing as much attention as I should have, and I believe this was a major contributing factor to my injuries and poor performance. If you are interested in learning to breathe properly, I highly recommend you spend approximately ten minutes to watch the video below. It is a game changer.
Last, something that may surprise a lot of people is adaptive training or “Khaos Training” in season. I have written a series of blogs on the importance, implementation, and equipment needed to create an ever changing training environment for an athlete. The majority of people believe this is designated for the off-season, but I believe it is a necessary component in season as well. Obviously, the volume and workload of the training will be different in season versus out of season, but an athlete needs to keep forcing his body to adjust to new stimulus. Training these constant adjustments is critical for having command of pitches during a game. Training should not end when the season begins. It should just change and become more specific and precise.
In conclusion, the above are several things that I believe to be beneficial for increasing a pitcher's command in season. A pitcher must be able to throw strikes and not walk batters in order to benefit himself and his team. In the end, it is all about making adjustments. You must have the right mindset, intent, and training demands in order to succeed in making those adjustments. If you are struggling with command are you going to just throw your hands up in despair and wait for the off-season or are you going to make changes now that will help you and your team?
Any time 3 or more of anything falls, I call it a “that thing” valanche.
This is an Avalanche…
This is a Ballvalanche…
And this thing…
This accident waiting to happen…
If you attempt to add to or take away from this chaotic cluster nut, the slightest perturbation of the equilibrium could begin a cascade of events resulting in a bona fide bowlvalanche.
How do you avoid this catastrophe? To paraphrase hall of fame pitching coach, Elmer Fudd, “Vewy carefully.”
Take away what you must.
Add what you need.
But be very cautious in doing so.
It’s like that when you work with pitchers too.
Imagine this Tupperware Jenga display represents the complexity and individuality of the throwing motion (and its probably not far off). One can easily visualize its precarious nature. When attempting to make mechanical adjustments, if you add too much or add it too quickly you could get a bowlvalanche. On the other hand if you take the opposite approach and start minimizing movement, taking things away… one wrong move and… you guessed it… bowlvalanche!!
When you’re adding or subtracting from a pitcher’s mechanics, to have to tread very lightly. It’s the message Coach Ron Wolforth gave me a few weeks ago when he referred our shared client, Justin Verlander.
“Do what you need to do, but leave as little fingerprints as possible.”
My intent is not to disparage anyone, and by no means do I ever claim to have it all figured out. Every pitching coach I know truly has a heart for helping his players improve, but often our knowledge is incomplete. In our attempts to help, we do more harm than good. Sometimes we add too much, putting a disruptive personal stamp on the athlete, forcing movement patterns that inhibit the pitcher’s ability. What often follows is a cascade of disconnections and kinesthetic confusion that leads to an erosion of performance that can progress to pain or injury.
Sometimes we fall into the archaic 1980s approach of reductionism. We try to “minimize movement to maximize efficiency”.This represents a deep lack of understanding about injury and performance. It’s a failed model. For over 30 years pitching coaches at very high levels have taken a “less is more” approach while attempting to produce “a repeatable delivery”. We continually misunderstand the difference between simplification and efficiency. We “simplify” the pitcher’s mechanics to the point of robbing him of athleticism and more importantly, his adjustability.
The hardest thrower we’ve ever developed (99.7mph on our mound and 98 in a nationally televised Division 1 game) was
drafted in the 12th round by a MLB club. Over the next 12 months, they “coached him” down to 85 mph, then released him. Well done!
A recent AP article suggested that injury-plagued pitcher, Stephen Strasburg might ditch the windup and pitch only from the stretch this season. “I’m not trying to reinvent myself, but just trying to simplify things as much as I can and be able to repeat my mechanics.”
And here we go again. In pursuit of this elusive “repeatable delivery” the pitcher’s movement is pared down to it’s simplest form. The athlete loses athleticism and explosiveness, but more importantly he loses his adjustability.
So what does it mean to have an adjustable delivery?
To explain this we must address the fundamental flaw in reductionist thinking – that a repeatable delivery is even possible. Listen closely…
The repeatable delivery is a unicorn!
It does not exist.
You cannot repeat your mechanics.
Every pitch will present a unique set of subtle, yet important deviations or errors. Instead of repeatable mechanics, what we need to pursue is world-class, in-flight adjustability that gives the athlete pre-organized solutions to self-correct when his delivery begins to veer off course.
Dr. Nikolai Bernstein proved it with his famous Blacksmith experiment back in the 1920s. He
took some of Russia’s greatest blacksmiths, tagged them with lights at strategic places on their bodies (the first biomarkers) and used serial photography and rudimentary motion pictures to observe them performing the singular task of driving a nail into a log with one swing. What he found was revolutionary to the motor learning industry, yet many coaches still don’t get it. When he compared the movement patterns of these high level hammer swingers across all subjects, Bernstein noted that they all demonstrated slightly different swings. They all achieved the goal every time, but no two subjects displayed the same pattern. But, more importantly no single blacksmith was able to repeat the same movement pattern on any of his trials. The results were always the same – the nail was pounded into the log — but the path to get there was different every time. It created a problem in motor learning science known as “the degrees of freedom problem”. Top down, centrally controlled models frequently used to explain movement patterns do not account for the variability present in all human movement.
Instead of seeking repeatable mechanics what we’re really looking for are repeatable results.
Many times when you eliminate complexity, you remove the margins for adjustability.
If an athlete can’t make real time adjustments to his movement, he has no means to self-correct and he is left to the mercy of his connective tissue restraints (e.g. UCLs and labrums). Training subconsciously with variable stimulus (weighted balls, varied surfaces, multi-dimensional drills, and modulating goals) while permitting creativity allows for self-organization of patterns with built-in adjustability. When the athlete’s arm begins to stray off course he already has a pre-formatted solution to the error and his body automatically rights itself and returns to a mote efficient, powerful, accurate, and durable pattern.
As a matter of principle, I avoid making injury predictions. But in my humble opinion, Stephen Strasburg should not try to “simplify his mechanics.” Instead he should develop an efficient throwing pattern that minimizes his disconnections while maximizing his adjustability. Otherwise, he may be looking at another trip to the DL and ultimately a catastrophic… bowlvalanche.
Randy Sullivan, MPT, CSCS
P.S We’ve recently announce the dates for our Elite Performers Bootcamps for the rest of 2017… CLICK HERE!
P.P.S. Learn all about our incredible 2017 Ultimate Summer Training Program RIGHT HERE.
I want to provide some feedback and tips that I have learned from my time as a pitcher. To provide a little more information about myself, I was an undersized individual with the heart and will to do whatever it took to succeed. I cannot tell you how many times I was told that I was not big enough to accomplish my dreams. But through sheer determination, I became the ace of my high school pitching staff, topped out at 92mph off the mound, and received a college scholarship from a nationally ranked junior college. I would not have had any of this success without proper arm care. I never would have thrown as hard or been able to answer the bell and take the mound each time my coach called on me without it. Proper arm care allowed me to achieve success in my baseball career. Most people would probably agree that arm care is critical for success, but let me ask you one question. Do you have obstacles preventing you from your ideal arm care routine?
If you answered no to this question then, like Coach Ron Wolforth often says, “you did not understand the question.” We all face obstacles in the game of baseball, but there seems to be a lot more when it comes to things like arm care. I am convinced this is because arm care is not glorious or fancy. After a game, everybody wants to shower and eat, and family and friends want to talk to you, just to name a few of the post-game distractions. Another obstacle is that you often need special (expensive) equipment in order to implement proper warm-up and cool down protocols. I see on Instagram the craze with cryotherapy, deep tissue massage, electrical stimulation devices, and so on. I believe each one of these devices and techniques could have a place in health and recovery. But are these expensive, time-consuming recovery techniques applicable in the REAL WORLD or only in the IDEAL WORLD? I for one believe they realistically could only be used in the IDEAL setting. Perhaps some professional facilities or a fully equipped training room would have these options at your disposal. Realistically, the majority of people do not have the space, money, or expertise to use such equipment day in and day out.
So now what? A typical baseball player faces many obstacles such as a lack of time and equipment, so how does one overcome these? I would like to share the way I overcame these obstacles, and how I wish I would have overcome others in the past. I believe first and foremost it is critical to realize arm care is a MUST not just something you hope or strive to do. The next thing to combat is time. I remember times where we would be late arriving to games because of school, schedules, traffic, and other unavoidable things. So to overcome this, I would carry my glove and a weighted ball to class on game days. I felt like just holding and moving the weighted ball around would help me be loose for the game. I remember carrying my wrist weights to class, and I would perform exercises to loosen up. I would make sure that I had everything in my bag that I needed. I recommend never relying on someone else to bring something when it is this important. I would always find a quick 10 minute window to perform resistance tubing exercises. Finally, I would never pick-up a baseball without throwing weighted balls first, even if it was only a couple of throws, because it was critical for me and the health of my arm. When I look back, I wish the Baseball Training Sock would have been around for me to use because I could have performed weighted ball throws on the bus or in class.
All of the above occurred before the game, but after the game there are even more distractions. As I stated earlier, your teammates are ready to go eat or celebrate (if victorious) or people want to see you, which can pressure you to rush or even skip a proper cool down routine. I would do the same things I just mentioned above on the bus ride home. If we were home that day, I would perform my IDEAL cool down. I was and am a big proponent on doing what you did to warm-up to cool down as well. I do believe I would have greatly benefitted from the compression floss to enhance my recovery since I could perform it anywhere, and reap the rewards.
Now what about equipment? I whole-heartedly believe that some equipment is needed to have a great arm care routine. The equipment that I utilized on a daily basis was resistance tubing, weighted balls, wrist weights, and exercise bands. You would never find me without this equipment. If I was still playing, I would also include the baseball training sock and the compression floss as well. If you look at the cost of these items, they are relatively inexpensive, and certainly far less expensive than some of the items I mentioned previously. One of the reasons I know how blessed I am to work for Oates Specialties LLC is because I personally used the products. They helped me in more ways than I can describe, and it did not cost my parents a fortune. That does not mean to say they did not spend a lot elsewhere, but I remember my mom and dad would let me pick one item at a time. Slowly I began to accumulate everything (including first class instruction) I needed to succeed. Fortunately, you do not need expensive tools to have a good arm care protocol. I believe you only need a few pieces of equipment and the knowledge of how to incorporate them.
Am I saying there is not a place for the more expensive implements? Absolutely not. You can use all different types of equipment to enhance your arm care and recovery regimen. There are clearly reasons why professional teams spend a ton of money equipping their training rooms with such equipment. I just believe they are used in an IDEAL setting, which can be attainable sometimes, but not all the time.
In conclusion, there are numerous obstacles or hurdles that can get in the way of accomplishing your goal. To me, these obstacles were the most acute when dealing with arm care, and I just wanted to provide information on how I personally overcame them. We each have our own specific obstacles, so figure out what it is that may be preventing you from succeeding, and find a way to combat it!
Baseball holds a special place in our society and, because of this, there is often nostalgia associated with the game. We discuss the game's greatest players with such reverence. We talk about the game's unwritten rules, the beauty of a perfectly executed hit and run, and a knee buckling curve ball. Many of us have vivid memories connected to a certain game, team, or players. This is what makes baseball America's Pastime. But the nostalgia for the way the game was played yesteryear, has created generations of baseball people who have been unwilling to adapt--unable to see that certain things about the way baseball athletes train needed to be updated and brought to the 21st century.
Fortunately, over the last 15 years or so, there has been a titanic shift throughout the baseball world. The baseball community has slowly, but surely, began to change its mindset with regard to training. Oates Specialties has been proud to be a part of this movement.
Perhaps the greatest change has come with regard to the perspective of how pitchers should train and prepare to pitch. The most notable result of this paradigm shift is the proliferation of academies, coaches, and trainers who are using new training tools and movements in order to help pitchers build a bigger motor. In other words, these coaches and trainers understand that the number one way to increase velocity is to build athleticism and explosiveness in an athlete. The primary focus of this training--as applied to the throwing motion--is on the acceleration phase. This is important. We all know that a pitcher has zero shot of making it to the next level without adequate velocity. But if that pitcher can't stay healthy, it really doesn't matter how hard he throws.
To provide an illustrative example: say you drive a Honda Accord and one day I walk up to you and give you a Ferrari. I then tell you to go as fast as possible. What I don't tell you is that the Ferrari has faulty brakes. Those brakes may or may not stop the car. Would you want to see how fast that Ferrari could go? Not if you're sane.
The bottom line is that a Ferrari without good brakes isn't much good at all. It's a recipe for disaster. The same is true for an athlete who successfully improves the acceleration phase of his delivery without intentional and serious focus on the deceleration phase. At the end of the day, assisting an athlete in increasing his velocity isn't the most difficult task. If you help that athlete become a more explosive, athletic version of himself on the mound he will likely gain some MPHs (achieving increased velocity is more nuanced than this, but you get my point). Instead, the most difficult task is to help an athlete increase velocity AND decrease arm tenderness/soreness/pain while also improving recovery between outings. This is a very different task. Think about it: if you increase velocity you are increasing arm speed, which means your arm is having to endure a greater load and more stress placed on it. It also means your body has to bring to a stop an arm that has accelerated to a higher speed in the same amount of time/space.
Without a healthy arm, a baseball athlete cannot take the field. And without taking the field that athlete cannot compete at his current level, much less make it to the next level. Plus, the longer it takes your arm to recover from an outing the longer it is before you can get back to training to become a better pitcher, regardless of whether the objective is to increase velocity, improve command, or sharpen your breaking ball.
So my recommendation for each and every one of you is to take some time to assess your arm care routine. How much time do you spend improving your arm's brakes compared to the amount of time you spend on your arm's engine? My guess is that most of you are obsessed with the super charger you are busy building on your engine and haven't really thought about the status of the brake pads. Such a perspective is nothing more than short term gain with long term problems.
Oates Specialties is here to help you with your arm care needs, so reach out to us if we can assist you in building your arm care and arm health routines.
I recently had the honor of attending the ABCA Annual Convention in Anaheim, CA with my friends from The Texas Baseball Ranch. It was my distinct privilege to be in the auditorium to hear the first speaker, NCAA Division 1 Baseball Champion, Coastal Carolina’s head coach, Gary Gilmore.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, Coastal shocked the baseball world by rising from a preseason 25th ranking and making history by slaying such NCAA Goliaths as NC State, LSU, Florida, and TCU before finally taking the title against Arizona in a thriller. I believe Coastal’s achievement is the best thing to happen to college baseball (and to baseball in general) in the last 20 years. It proved once again that in this glorious game, you don’t always have to be the biggest, strongest, or even the best team… You only have to be the better than the other team for about 3 hours. It also showed the importance of culture, the value of selflessness, love, respect and service, and the powerful synergy those qualities create.
During our summer program at the Florida Baseball Ranch, we start every day with a 5-10 min mindset segment. It really sets the tone for the day’s work ahead. It’s something I learned from Ron Wolforth, and we never miss a day. Last summer after the CWS ended, I was inspired to create a mindset I called “Jimmy Chitwood, Alex Cunningham, and The Essence of Life.” It starts out with a quote from former Cy Young winner, Barry Zito…
“I view my pitching on how confident I was out there, period. And if I lose that confidence, I become a prisoner in my own mind.”
So what is confidence? That’s a tough one… Confidence is kind of like being in love. It’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it.
Let me show you a clip from the movie Hoosier’s that I believe illustrates confidence at its best.
First of all, if you haven’t ever seen the movie Hoosier’s it’s not your fault. In my opinion that’s just bad parenting. This is one of my top 5 “must see” movies for any serious athlete. For the children of bad parents, let me lay out the plot for you…
In the state of Indiana, basketball is a religion. Years ago — before the “participation trophy generation” — every Indiana high school basketball team competed for the same state championship, regardless of size or location. For as long as anyone in Indiana can remember, the annual high school basketball tournament has been a must see event for all. From the biggest cities, to the smallest country towns, the single elimination race to the title has always captivated an entire state for nearly a month. In 1954 one team pulled off the stuff of legend.
The movie is based on the real life story of tiny Milan High School (called Hickory High School in the film). Gene Hackman plays Coach Norman Dale, a former high level collegiate coach who’s rising star has come crashing down in the wake of an unfortunate lapse in judgement resulting in a physical altercation with a player. Attempting to resurrect his career and his life, Dale takes a job as the Head Coach of Hickory High, in rural Indiana.
The program has a rich history and the community demands success, even though Hickory only has 7 boys on the team. To the expressed dismay of the town leaders, Dale takes on an alcoholic former superstar, “Shooter” Flatch (played by Dennis Hopper) as an assistant coach. After struggling early in the season, Coach Dale learns that the county’s best player, Jimmy Chitwood whose father has passed away and whose mother has recently become ill, has become disenchanted with basketball and refuses to play. Local teacher, Myra Fleena (played by Barbara Hershey) has been raising Jimmy since his mother’s illness and has concerns about the pressure of playing in such a rabid basketball community.
Coach Dale visits Jimmy and persuades him to join the team… and everything changes. Hickory starts winning, and they keep winning, grinding through the playoffs until they find themselves in the state championship game against a much more athletic team with a much larger student body. With their beloved assistant coach, Shooter, in the hospital for alcohol rehab, and the entire town of Hickory having made the trek to Indianapolis in support of the team, they find themselves struggling in the first half of the game. But in the second half, they turn things around and mount a furious comeback. With the score tied at 40 and 19 seconds left in the game, they get a key steal and call a timeout to set up a play. This is what happens next…
So my next question is, “How do you become Jimmy Chitwood?”
How do you develop the level of confidence that allows you to look your team, your coach and your entire town directly in the eye and say… “I’ll make it.”?
The final pitch of Coastal Carolina’s historic campaign provides some insight into that question.
In the final game, with the tying run on 3rd and the winning run on second, Coastal finds itself down to their last viable arm, Alex Cunningham. In 42 appearances, he has never saved a game. The count runs to 3-2, and here he stands. He is about to make the most important pitch of his season… of his career… of his life. One way or another, he’ll remember this pitch for forever… Either as the the greatest moment of his life… or the worst. Watch what happens…
Wow… I get chills every time I see it… and when I talk about it, I’m moved to tears.
Like Jimmy Chitwood, Alex Cunningham steps up and drains it!
How did he do it? How does one have that much confidence in a situation of that magnitude?
I believe the answer can be found in his body language right after the pitch… Watch it again…
What would most people do right after throwing that pitch? They would throw their hands up in the air and celebrate of course! And their body language would scream, “Look at me!! Look what I just did!!!”
But what does Alex Cunningham do? Look at the video… He immediately turns to his dugout… to his brothers in arms… to his team. He pounds his heart (an expression of love), he salutes them (an expression of respect and service) and throws his glove to the side, welcoming his beloved teammates into his arms for an embrace that turns into a dog pile.
I’d love to meet Alex Cunningham some day. I’d love to ask him about his thoughts before that pitch. I’d be willing to bet that as he toed the rubber for the most significant moment of his life, he never once felt like it was about him. I would guess that his thoughts didn’t wander to what this might mean to the rest of his life. And I’ll bet be never once felt alone. You see, according to Coach Gilmore, he and the leaders of the Coastal Carolina squad had cultivated a culture of selflessness. They had forged relationships that created bonds so strong that no player ever felt alone. In a moment of that magnitude, it would be easy to surrender on yourself. But when you are fighting for a greater cause… when you know that your brothers’ survival is at stake, you don’t feel the pressure of “what will happen to me?”
Like a fighting Marine in a battle against an overwhelming enemy, when you know the guys in the foxhole with you will die if you don’t keep fighting, you never consider waving the white flag. And you don’t feel alone… because you aren’t fighting by yourself. You know that everyone of your teammates, your coaches, and your family is there with you… And that gives you strength… That gives you confidence. That, my friends is the essence of sport... That is why we play the game… That is the lesson I have always wanted my sons to take away from the game when they are done playing…
As the spring season begins for most players reading this story, I would like to submit my question again… How do you become Jimmy Chitwood?
I believe you do it by intentionally building relationships and fostering a culture of love, respect, and service among your teammates. I’ve been on teams where it happened spontaneously, and I’ve been on teams where it never happened. I don’t think you should wait for it to happen… I believe you should make it happen… on purpose. But it can’t be for phony or selfish reasons. Your motivation for bonding with your teammates and coaches cannot be for your own gain. You can’t pretend to love your teammates so you can attain personal achievement and glory. That will never work.
You have to develop those relationships out of genuine love and respect for every teammate and coach. It has to be real… it has to be a projection of what is in your soul.
How do you do it?
I’d start with one or two guys and build from there. Spend time with a couple of your closest buddies. Ask questions about what is going on in their lives and really get to know what makes them tick. Find ways to help them in their struggles — big and small. Lead them through service. Soon you’ll notice them acting the same way toward you, and your bond will be strengthened.
But take caution. If you’re not careful, your immediate connection with a few guys will create a clique. You cannot allow that. Cliquish behavior will sabotage the effort and the team’s goals. As soon as your bond with a few guys is strong enough to support others, you must reach out and invite new members into the group. Before long, the light of love, respect, and service will spread through the entire team. If some resist initially, don’t fight it. Leave them in the dark temporarily and move on. Eventually that light will be too bright to ignore, and they’ll either join in or burn under its intensity.
Building these kinds of relationships doesn’t mean you’ll win every game… It doesn’t even guarantee you’ll have a winning season. But the bonds you’ll form will be unbreakable, and you’ll carry those relationships with you for the rest of your life. When you’re baseball career has ended and life presents you with struggles, all you’ll need to do is reflect back on this season and the love, respect, and service you shared with your teammates. The memories will be a constant source of strength and courage, and during the biggest pitches… during the biggest challenges of your life, you’ll never ever feel alone.
And that makes you a winner.
And THAT is the essence of sport…
Indeed the essence of life.
Have a great year everyone.
We’ll see you at The Ranch.
Randy Sullivan. MPT
CEO, Florida Baseball Ranch
P.S. Our Spring Training Elite Pitchers Boot Camp Featuring the staffs of both the Florida and The Texas Baseball Ranches is all set for March 10-12. Come enjoy the sun, some world-class training, and a Tigers/Blue Jays MLB spring training game. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE
Evidence and research can be a great thing. It is the basis for our never-ending quest for knowledge. But what if I told you relying on evidence and research could be harmful or even set you back in your training? I would venture to say most people would highly doubt such an opinion. After all, SCIENCE is ALWAYS RIGHT! I am not here to argue the validity of research, but I am here to ask if you need to be absolutely assured by scientific evidence that something is right before you place it into your training program? In my opinion, the answer to this question is no, not really. Let me explain.
Seems the rage these days is about these new weighted ball things and how they increase velocity.
When we started using weighted balls as part of our process in 2009, in my community you
would have thought I was Jack the Ripper! Naysayers unfairly blasted me privately, and publicly to the point that I finally gave in and stopped using them for a few months.
I soon came to the realization that critics will be critics and accepting their slings and arrows is simply the price I must pay for the privilege of working with all the fine young men in my care.
Oates Specialties is a family owned and operated business. Since starting the company in 2003 with baseball as its primary focus, Robert and Gloria Oates, along with their son Brian, have worked diligently to develop a line of quality athletic conditioning tools that is unparalleled. We hope you enjoy our product line, videos, and blog. Contact us if we can help you in any way!