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 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? 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
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.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Anterior Shoulder 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
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™’.
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.
The Durathro Sock in Use
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!
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.
Tellthe player how to do something. Watch them do it.
Then, tellthem 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.
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.
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
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®
“Man! My trainer crushed me today! My legs are toast! I’m gonna be sore tomorrow for sure! That was a great workout!”
I hear it all the time, and it’s a common flaw in thinking and in training.
Any moron can make you sore.
All we need to do to make you sore is to require you to something different than what your body is used to. Or, we can take you to muscle fatigue outside the ATP/CP system, entering the glycolytic system that kicks out lactic acid as a byproduct, and you will be sore…
Sore does not equal good!
Let’s start this discussion by asking the simple question, “What is the purpose of the weight room?”
TO MAKE YOU PLAY BETTER… PERIOD!
If the training doesn’t transfer to improved performance, it is nothing more than a circus act or a parlor trick.
Many strength and conditioning specialists, personal trainers, and coaches claim to have workouts and exercises that transfer strength and power training to improved on-the-field performance. Often they provide anecdotal evidence or testimonials about player X who “added 20 lbs of muscle in the off-season” and then had a great year.
However, as Dr. Frans Bosch points out, there are no good studies available that clearly demonstrate the transfer of classical
strength training to improved performance. That’s understandable. Such a study would be very difficult if not impossible to perform, and I don’t know how one would begin to measure or quantify the contribution of strength training to overall performance.
Over the last 12 months as I’ve studied for my Certified Strength And Conditioning Specialist exam, a flurry of ideas on training have bombarded my brain. Let me start by saying, I don’t have all the answers and I know I never will. But, I recently finished reading Dr. Bosch’s book Strength Training and Coordination: An Integrative Approach (for the third time) and now a few important, formerly hazy points have come into clear view.
One thing I am sure of is that simply grinding through the same workouts or crushing heavier and heavier weights will not get it done. Bigger and stronger won’t necessarily make you throw harder. It’s far more complicated than that.
Social media has been abuzz with videos of Aroldis Chapman crushing it in the weight room. People are marveling at the intensity of his high load workouts. The inference is, “Lift heavy things and you’ll throw harder.”
Well, as long as we’re talking anecdotes with no scientific backing, let me share something with you. At the beginning of spring training this year two 10-year high level major leaguers came into The Ranch for their preseason evaluations. Both guys have thrown fastballs in MLB games greater than 100 mph.
When they removed their shirts for the precursory scapular evaluation, it became clear that they were in incredible shape… if
you consider “pear” a shape.
Many other upper 90s guys, one very popular on the internet, don’t have rocked up bodies either.
My point is this: for every sculpted Adonis, Calvin Kline model-looking MLB flamethrower, there are a dozen or more guys with bad bodies who do just fine. So, is the work in the weight room really responsible for their success?
but maybe not.
For starters we have to understand how a dynamic system learns/adapts. According to Dr. Bosch, “Dynamic systems must be panicked into adaptation. The human body is not interested in what it knows or with what is familiar. It only wants what is new or different from the norm.” So, if you just keep hammering the same exercises and adding load, it won’t be long until your body will begin to accommodate to the stress and no further adaptation will occur.
Furthermore, if your workout rep scheme consists of 8-12 reps to muscle fatigue, your muscles will hypertrophy (they’ll get
bigger), and that isn’t always a good thing. Even if you’re able to maintain your mobility while you add mass, every time you create hypertrophy, you change the orientation of your muscle fibers, and that requires a new motor program to control it. For all the anthropology majors out there, that means if you jack up your bi’s and tri’s and kill a lot of bench press, you’re going to have to learn a new throwing pattern. Sure, you might be able to pull it off… or it might have significant negative consequences.
Let’s say you’re not working for hypertrophy, but instead you’re pounding out pure, unbridled strength. If you’re in the gym doing dead lifts and squats at less than 5 reps per exercise and close to your 1 or 3-rep max, you’re working in the strength zone. But, the problem with lifts like that can be found in a concept known as rate of force development (RFD). When you perform a slow, heavy lift you reach your maximum force production at about 2 seconds into the movement. Compare that to a pitch that from start to finish which takes about 1-1.5 seconds, and you’re training your body to be about ½ second late.
Some would argue that Olympic lifts like power cleans, high pulls and snatches would solve the RFD problem. Athletes
performing these lifts do reach their maximum force development within the time demands of a pitch, but in my opinion, they are not similar enough to the throwing movement to produce the intended adaptation.
What we’re talking about here is an exercise and therapy tenet known as the SAID principle. That’s an acronym for a “Specific Adaption To An Imposed Demand.” Your body will adapt specifically and predictably to the exact demands you place on it. It has to. It has no choice, because human tissue has no free will. It cannot decide not to participate. It must respond to the stresses we force it to endure. That means you had better be sure the stresses you are placing on your tissue are specific to the activity you are trying to improve. And, if you closely examine classical strength training, most programs fall woefully short in many ways.
According to Dr. Bosch, there are some huge flaws in the current approach to training as it relates to transfer and specificity. “Strength training,” he says, “should be coordination training with resistance.” Strength training must be specific to the motor control and coordination demands of throwing.
That sounds like the only appropriate training for a throwing athlete is… throwing.
But, you can’t just stand and throw 5 oz baseballs at 60’ 6” all day. That would indeed be specific, but the more specific an activity becomes, the less you will be able to shock the body into adaptation by adding load. Obviously, one can’t imagine standing on the mound and hurling 20 lb dumbbells, but it goes deeper than that. Clearly that would not be safe. However, throwing only 5 oz baseballs off the mound, avoiding variable weighted balls or not changing the distances of throws (as in long toss) might even have dire negative consequences.
Let me explain.
When it comes to coordination and specificity, you have to remember that the unicorn known as a “repeatable delivery” does not exist. You cannot repeat your mechanics. As early as the 1920’s, Dr. Nikolai Bernstein, the father of motor learning, and the guy who coined the term “biomechanics,” proved it with his famous Blacksmith Experiment. He took some of Russia’s greatest blacksmith, fitted them with lights at key places on their arms (the first wearable biomarkers) and used serial photography and motion pictures to track the path of their arms as they performed the singular task of pounding a nail into a log. Remarkably, none of the subjects in the study were able to repeat their arm path on any of the trials.
Similarly, every throw you make will result in a subtle deviation or error. You will not be able to make the exact same throw twice. Instead of searching for a repeatable delivery, you should be working on becoming a world class, real time, in flight adjuster to all the errors you make. To do that you must practice making the adjustment and you must do so subconsciously. There is not enough time for the neuromuscular system to make any meaningful adjustments to a throw by way of a cognitive or conscious input. You must use variable stimulus to train that adjustment.
That brings us to a perplexing training problem. You have to load the system to elicit an adaptation and at the same time you have to make that load specific to the throwing movement. But, specificity and load are often opposed. The more you load an activity, the less specific it becomes.
To solve this problem we must investigate the nature of specificity. As Dr. Bosch admits, “There is no proper research or summation as to how the specificity matrix is structured, only a set of vague assumptions.” In his book, Dr. Bosch asks us to consider five categories of specificity when making training exercises similar to the targeted movement.
Similarity in muscular coordination. He breaks this down into:
intramuscular coordination – the activity must target the muscle or muscles needed to perform the movement and
intermuscular coordination – it must simulate the required cooperation (timing and synergy) between recruited muscles.
Similarity in outer structure of the movement. That is, similar excursion of the joints (planes of movement).
Similarity in energy production. For example, long distance running requires a different energy system than throwing a baseball (see my previous blog called “Why We Don’t Run Long Distances”).
Similarity in sensory pattern (as it relates to environmental stimulus and/or internal proprioception). An example of this would be flat ground versus mound throwing.
Similarity in the intention of the movement. Training done at 100% intent will require a vastly different coordination pattern than ½ speed or slow motion drills.
Specificity and load characteristics can be divided into 3 categories:
Type 1: High specificity, low/no load
Type 2: Moderate specificity, moderate load
Type 3: Low specificity, heavy load
For a training program to be effective it must include exercise doses that span the spectrum of the specificity/load continuum.
Based on our experience at The Florida Baseball Ranch we recommend the following ratios:
15% Type 1: high specificity, no/low load
70% Type 2: moderate specificity, moderate load
15% Type 3: low specificity, heavy load
Type 1 exercises: Some examples of Type 1 exercises would include bullpens, live batting practice, weighted ballS, wrist weights, long toss, elastic bands and the Durathro Training Sock. These are all highly specific to the throwing motion, but the load and variability are low.
Type 2 exercises would include many of the plyometric activities we use in our power building circuit training. These exercises use various implements like medicine balls, slam nets, plyo boxes etc., to add moderate resistance to exercises that offer moderate similarity to the throwing movement. We program these workouts so they are specific to the ATP/CP energy system and we try to ensure that 80% of the time they are performed under one or more of the types of movements we call “the four pillars”. Our four pillars are the result of an in-house pseudo-study we did back in 2011-2013.
When we opened our doors in 2009, we assembled a toolbox of over 500 different exercises using a wide array of apparatus. We worked hard within the ATP/CP system, but I knew that not all of the exercises were transferring to increased power on the mound. So, I hired a computer guy to design a customized software program we called our “training manager.” It allowed us to collect in real time, the number of reps per second our athletes could perform on each of the exercises. We used clips of 5, 8, 10
and 12 seconds. After 2 ½ years we grouped the exercises into 6 categories: frontal (coronal) plane exercises (exercises moving from side- to-side), transverse plane exercises (exercises rotating around a vertical axis), sagittal plane exercises (exercises moving forward and backwards), diagonal plane exercises, exercises done predominantly on two legs (bilateral), and those done on one leg (unilateral).
At the time of the study, we had 16 guys throwing 90 mph. We compared those 16 guys’ performances to those of a group of similar size, age, and experience who were throwing in the low to mid 80’s. When we analyzed our information, it became clear that the 90 mph guys were way better than the 80 mph guys at 4 types of exercises. They were better at frontal plane exercises, transverse plane exercises, diagonal plane exercises and exercises done on one leg. We named those types of exercises “The Fab Four Pillars.” The two groups showed no difference on exercises done in the sagittal plane or on exercises done on two legs.
We could not draw any definitive conclusions from the research. There were too many variables we could not control. The primary lack of control was evident in the technique, during the performance of the exercises. While striving to break personal records on every trial, many of our athletes began cheating or shorting the range of motion excursion to achieve more and more reps.
Even though we knew our investigation was not completely scientific, we decided to take action any way. After all, it seemed to make sense since pitching definitely involves a side-to-side plane, a rotational component, diagonal movement and the pitching movement is essentially a one-legged maneuver. We concluded our study in March of 2013 and reorganized our power workouts so that 80% of our exercises were performed in one or more of the 4 pillars. By August of that year we had seen an additional 42 pitchers eclipse the 90-mph threshold. The types of exercises we do in our power circuits are representative of moderate specificity and moderate load.
Type 3 exercises are would include traditional lifts such as deadlifts and squats. Slow/heavy lifts are very low in specificity but very high in load.
THIS IS NOT SPECIFIC
No matter how you program your workload, all three types of exercises must be laced with some degree of specificity. When we are working on Type 3 exercises, we try to weave in some specificity by integrating movements in the 4 pillars. For example, instead of performing traditional deadlifts or bilateral squats, we employ single leg squats, Bulgarian split squats or single leg RDLs. Throwing a baseball is essentially a one-legged maneuver. You have to be able to control and accelerate your center of mass while moving down the mound on one leg. Then you must absorb the forces you create after you shift to a strong, stable front leg.
Dr. Bosch, referencing his work with Olympic level high jumpers says, “I have a lot of experience with people who do a lot of double leg squatting and they’re very poor on one leg.” This would imply that perhaps a heavy dose of double leg squats and dead lifts might have a negative transfer effect on throwers who must operate largely on one leg.
You also need to introduce some degree of overload into the Type 1 exercises you employ. It’s important to note that “load” doesn’t necessarily have to mean adding weight or resistance. When it comes to stimulating adaptation, “load” can also mean variability. Variability alerts the system and elicits adaptations in coordination and motor control similar to the manner in which overload with heavy weights produces hypertrophy and strength gains.
Variability can be achieved in one of 3 ways. 1) You can change the athlete. 2) You can change the task or 3) You can change the environment
Changing The Athlete:
In Dr. Bosch’s book he refers to fatigue-induced adaptation. As an example, you could have the athlete perform one arm biceps curls to fatigue, then have him throw. That seems a little sketchy to me from the standpoint of safety and I’m not yet ready to climb out on that limb. A more reasonable approach to variability within the athlete might be to have him throw in various states of overall fatigue. My high school basketball coach used to have us shoot free throws at various times during practice so we would learn to perform in different states of fatigue. Performing your conditioning prior to your throwing routine is a reasonable method for producing fatigue and for learning to throw with an elevated heart rate (which might simulate the psychological stresses of a competitive game).
Changing The Task:
This can be achieved in a variety of ways. Our series of graduated weighted balls alters the task between each throw. Long toss alters the task. The Durathro Training Sock alters the task, as do the wide array of drills we utilize to correct mechanical inefficiencies. Variability in drill work can be vital to the development of adjustability in a throwing athlete.
Changing The Environment:
At The Florida Baseball Ranch, we strive to constantly challenge the sensory and motor control demands on our athletes. We tilt mounds toward the glove side, away from the glove side, uphill and downhill. We throw off of flat ground and we throw off of BOSU balls. We perform a combination of running throws, stationary throws and mound pitches. Our purpose is to add as much variety (load) to the specific throwing movement as we can.
One more note of importance about adding variability: Variability added by manipulating the athlete, the task or the environment must be treated just like adding resistance during classical strength training. Variability must be on-ramped and increased gradually. The idea is to alert the neuromuscular system with an ever-changing novel stimulus without overwhelming it.
Attractors and Fluxuators:
If you’re going to find most efficient and effective way to train, another extremely important concept to understand is the presence of what Dr. Bosch calls “Attractors and Fluxuators.” Understanding the difference can guide you toward workouts that emphasize the most stable parts of a movement while allowing freedom and adjustability to a variable environment.
In all human movement there are an infinite number of ways to accomplish the same goal. In motor learning, researchers call this “degrees of freedom.” But, there are also a few characteristics of every movement that serve to stabilize the entire pattern. These are known as attractors.
Bosch notes, “Attractors can be identified by searching for common movements, time pressures and at-risk positions.” All other components of the movement are known as “fluxuators.” Fluxuators are necessary to allow the athlete to adapt the movement to dynamic stimuli, such as environmental changes or movement deviations. For a movement to be as efficient as possible, the attractors must be stable and the number of fluxuators must be limited. Identifying the attractors must be the starting point for any movement analysis.
Here’s my take on the attractors in pitching. I’m not completely settled on these, but hopefully this will be the foundation for further discussion.
1) Inverted iron pyramid weight distribution at the peak of leg lift on the back leg with co-
contraction of all the muscles around the back hip.
2) Double crow hop depth of knee flexion on the back leg during the glute load — butt behind heel, knee not forward of toe indicating glute dominance, not quad dominance.
3) Stable foot foot plan from above at weight bearing foot plant on lead leg. Lead foot lands from above (as opposed to sliding in) as a result of back hip rotation and lead hip extension prior to foot strike.
4) Co-contraction around the knee at weight bearing foot plant of the lead leg (no forward leakage or lateral instability of the front leg).
5) Arm at or near 90 degrees of abduction, elbow flexed 90 degrees or less with co-contraction of entire rotator cuff, and scapular musculature at final connection (weight bearing foot plant of lead leg).
6) Late launch by way of proper hip/torso rotation at ball release.
In my experience, all other disconnections are either coached into a pitcher’s delivery or they’re a compensatory move for instability in one of the attractors.
Unfortunately, the current traditional coaching paradigm often fails to understand that if you get the attractors right, the fluxuators will usually minimize themselves. Trying to force unnatural compliance of the fluxuators into a mythical “ideal model” through verbal cuing or cognitive input goes against the natural flow of motor learning. Examples of fluctuators in the pitching movement would include: postural tilt, timing of hand break, and activity of lead leg while it’s in the air. Nothing corrupts a movement faster than training the fluxuators while ignoring the attractors.
In the gym, our focus is to force co-contraction of musculature around the attractors. How do we do that? By adding instability/variability. When attractors are faced with perturbations or instability, they automatically go into cocontraction, allowing the fluxuators to adjust to the environment and accomplish the task.
Aqua bags, Khaos balls, plates dangling from elastic bands with a bar across upper traps are great tools for adding variability (load) and forcing co-contraction of atttractors. Adding these to task specific exercises like single leg RDLs, Bulgarian split squats, pistol squats and other innovative exercises in the frontal, transverse and diagonal planes, can improve both load and specificity.
The FBR Summer Training Program will adhere to the principles set forth in this article. We’ll be collecting data on the performance of all students. We can’t wait to share the results with you.
For more information about our world class summer training program, CLICK HERE. If you’re interested in joining us for 2-10 weeks of life-changing work, call us at 866-787-4533 before April 22nd and receive a huge discount.
Last summer, Jordan Conti from Gaenton, Michigan spent a couple of weeks with us. Here’s how it worked out for him.
“I came to the ranch in August for two weeks, best decision of my baseball life thus far. (jumped from 83-89 off the mound with no arm pain)!!!
Add rocket level velo, improve your secondary stuff, turbo-boost your command and eliminate your arm pain!
We’ll see you at the Ranch!
Randy Sullivan, MPT, CSCS
Bosch F, Strength Training and Coordination: An Integrative Approach, 2010 Publishers, 2015.
Boone, Jerry. 2016. Coach Your Best Podcast. Strength Training and Coordination pt 1,2,3. www.athletebydesign.com/bosch
Burke,Robby.2016/Podcast All Things Strength and Wellness. Episode 100:Interview with Frans Bosch – Strength Training and Coordination. www.upmentorship.com
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?
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!