During the holidays I took some time off and traveled home to New Jersey to catch up with some family and friends. Shockingly enough- cliche aside, I got into some interesting conversations. One conversation was with my future brother-in-law and my brother (father of a twelve year old baseball player) about the schedule of youth baseball and topic of overuse and training. And more importantly: the balance.
My brother-in-law, Rob Blanc, is a former collegiate and professional pitcher, as well as licensed nutritionist and trainer (NASM CPT-PES-FNS). He is currently a strength and pitching development specialist as well as Division II Pitching coach at Post University. I asked him to summarize his opinions from the conversation because I thought it was pretty insightful and extremely valuable. Enjoy…
With the extreme rise of early sport specialization in youth athletics today, players and coaches, simply put, need to start to figure it out in regards to player development. To be completely honest and putting it extremely blunt, we have had the game plan regarding player development at the youth and high school levels absolutely ass backwards. Outrageous ideologies such as “Baseball Players Shouldn’t Lift” or “Velocity Doesn’t Matter” are still around but are slowly but surely on their way out.
My struggles throughout my career- countless injuries and being “domed up” for years at a time, shaped my view of baseball development in today’s game in a big way. As baseball players, a high percentage of general & sport specific skill is developed OFF THE FIELD. It absolutely blows my mind that the primary focus of youth and high school programs honestly believe that the best avenue to instill progression of skill in athletes is through playing more games.
We are blessed to be apart of the biggest shift in baseball training methodologies in history, with information at the tip of our fingers from blogs, social media, conventions, and development driven certifications in all aspects of player development.
For all the coaches out there, please do yourself and your players a favor and pay attention to the following…you can thank me later.
One of the most underutilized parts player development needs to become a priority. Essential recovery methods include but are not limited to: Sleep, Manual Therapy, Chiropractic Services, Low Intensity Strength Programming, Functional Mobility Protocols, Sport Specific Ballistic Training Methods, and so many others. News Flash: It doesn’t make your kid soft if you preach taking days off from his little league + travel + lesson schedule….scholarships aren’t handed out to 12 year olds.
Youth athletes simply do not take in enough calories or macronutrients to instill proper physiological recovery, inhibiting the ability to add weight and decrease injury risk. There is a direct correlation between body mass and improved force production + reduced stress on ligaments/tendons. Especially in youth and even high school sports, make it a priority to increase nutrient intake, or better yet connect with a nutrition professional and get on a plan or at least get educated.
See Related: BioHacking- WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?
Strength & Conditioning
The absolute biggest part of development that is overlooked, getting strong. At the youth levels of the game, creating levels of proprioception (limb control) is essential to long term development down the road, especially with the rise of sedentary lifestyles across the globe. No… young athletes do not need to hop in a weight room and just throw up some weight, relax! Lets create better “movers” with minimal joint dysfunction through movement and decrease injuries on a large scale. Find yourself a qualified professional in the strength and conditioning field- it is truly the best investment you can make in player development.
New Age Training
From ballistic training protocols to the implementation of data driven technology, we are witnessing a drastic change in the sport of baseball. From high speed slow motion cameras to Hittrax and Rapsodo Pitching + Hitting systems, using subjective information as a primary source of training is now a thing of the past. Let’s be real, we all do not have the access to these revolutionary pieces of tech, but in the world today, a vast majority of us have access to smart phone equipped with slow motion video technology. Take advantage of video technology today, tape everything, cut it up and dedicate entire training sessions to reviewing video rather than taking the time you do have with an athlete and talk their ear off. Visual representation is essential to instill change and impact development.
As coaches we are all learning, no one among us knows absolutely everything about any part of baseball training, simple facts. With that in mind, take a moment to think about what you would want in a coach. Did they play at a high level? Do they have experience with specific training methods? What field related educational background do they have? What experience do they have in coaching and player development? Reputation, good/bad? These are basic questions that SHOULD go through your mind when seeking out resources in baseball player development, do your research!
This is just a brief look into the extensive world of player development; a simple guide to navigate your way through in the pursuit of performance enhancement at any level of the game. Let me leave with with these super simple concepts:
PLAY LESS…TRAIN MORE.
DO YOUR RESEARCH, AND ASK QUESTIONS.
About the author: Rob Blanc is a former professional baseball player; he is National Academy of Sports Medicine certified CPT, PES, FNS. Rob specializes in baseball throwing development and athletic performance.
With any questions, concerns, or to work remotely with Rob Blanc please feel free to reach out to him: