Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What's your Speed?

In baseball the 60 yard sprint has been the bench mark of a player's speed for decades. There are few players that will run 60 yards in a straight line, the exception being a center fielder maybe trying to cover a gap. With that said, what does a 60 really tell us in respects to the game? It is the total distance from home to second or second to home, but in a real baseball situation we have a 90 degree bend in the middle. Many professional organizations and colleges are slowly making the switch to the 30 yard sprint and the 10 yard sprint. In functional terms this provides a coach and player with a better baseline evaluation of speed. The 30 shows how fast the player can get from one base to the other and so is a true functional measure of speed. The 10 yard sprint is a function of how fast the player is getting up to speed, which in most cases can make or break a player’s true functional speed. Baseball is a game of reaction and explosion and so the faster a player gets up to maximum speed, the more plays they will make both offensively and defensively. In most cases, even when the 60 is still used the player that has worked on his 10 yard burst and 30 yard sprint will also improve their 60. The real lesson here is to know your true speed, and in the case of baseball maybe quickness trumps true speed.

Brian Niswender

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Are You Hurt or Just Sore?

When we first begin a training program, we see a lot of improvement early. Things then level off and the rate of improvement slows down. The initial sky-rocket of improvement results from the brain learning how to coordinate the movements and recruit the muscles and energy needed to perform the new activities. This typically happens over the initial 1-2 weeks. The next 3-5 weeks are the slower, more physical adaptations that the body produces as a result of the specific activity (i.e. increased cardiac output, increased oxygen transport and use by the cells, or increased muscle fiber size, etc).

Whether you are a seasoned athlete or a beginner, whenever a new training activity is started, a common body reaction is known as “Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness” (DOMS). This is soreness that occurs 24-48 hours after activity and generally resolves within 3-7 days. Many studies have been performed to try and determine a cure for DOMS. Unfortunately, it is a natural response and a typical indication of when you’ve performed something new. The symptoms of DOMS can be decreased by performing a proper warm-up. When the muscles are “warm”, they are more pliable and responsive to activity. The best remedy for this normal muscle reaction, however, is to repeat the exercise activity. This “Repeated Bout Effect” is part of the adaptation process. Too often, we experience soreness and then wait a prolonged period before attempting to resume activity. By that time, the body considers the activity to be “new” again which results in more soreness. We then put off activity again or quit all together.

In order to see results from any training program, you have to challenge the body to a degree of stress that is greater than what it is normally accustomed. Too little, and you will see minimal or no improvement at all. Too much, may result in overtraining or potential injury. But, ultimately how much challenge your body can take, depends on your current fitness status. If you are just beginning a training program or you have had a long break, then you should start slower and with lower intensities to give your body time to adapt to the new stresses. If you are more fit, your body can handle greater challenges.

A couple of questions that I am asked frequently are “How can I tell whether what I am feeling is ‘normal soreness’ or the result of an injury?” and “How can I maintain my fitness when I am injured?”.

First, some typical symptoms that would signify an injury are:

- Swelling
- Numbness, tingling, or loss of joint motion
- Warmth to the touch
- Discoloration or bruising
- A twinge during a workout that becomes worse later
- Limping
- Pain that lasts more that 2-3 days
- Pain that increases over time
- Pain that interferes with normal activities

Second, an injury doesn’t have to sideline you for good. By following a few simple recommendations, it is possible to continue exercising, maintain your fitness level, and heal properly at the same time:

1. Listen to your doctor! - Your physician can provide you with appropriate exercises that can be done to promote healing and fitness. Most importantly, he/she can provide you with advice to avoid further problems.

2. Modify your workouts so that they don’t include the injured area. – For an upper body injury, focus on lower body training. For lower body injuries, focus on the upper body or maybe perform exercises while sitting. High impact activities (i.e. running) can be modified to low or no impact activities (i.e. stationary bike, swimming, etc).

3. If the injury continues to hurt, continue to modify your activities until you find something that doesn’t hurt. – Increased pain or swelling are signs of continued stress and occasionally, activity may need to be discontinued altogether in order to allow some healing first.

David Yeager, ATC, CSCS

Monday, December 13, 2010

Understanding Sports Drinks

Sports drinks are intended and were developed for use during sports, as the
name implies. Many people are confused about the role these drinks should
play in their lives as a beverage choice. Sports drinks should be used only
if an individual is participating in strenuous activity or sport that is
constant and lasts over an hour. For an activity lasting less than hour or
one that is not intense (walking the dog), water will meet hydration needs
just fine and the carbohydrate and electrolytes (sodium, potassium) provided
in the sports drink are not necessary. Sports drinks should not be consumed
unless you need them during exercise or immediately after exercise for
hydration. They are not a good beverage choice outside of that because
then they are just adding extra calories, in the form of sugar, that are not
being used. These extra sugar calories have no valuable nutrition and can
easily be stored as fat, if not burned. With obesity rates in children (as
well as adults) skyrocketing, the appropriate use of these drinks is
essential. If not used properly and judiciously they can promote excessive
calorie consumption, leading to high Body Mass Index numbers, overweight and

Sports drinks are a great tool during long, high intensity workouts because
they provide a small amount of carbohydrates to fuel muscles along with
sodium and potassium for fast, effective hydration. The carbohydrates help
replenish the carbohydrate stores in the muscle (called glycogen) that are
being used to fuel the work of exercise. For the serious exerciser, these
carbohydrates help to delay the fatigue that happens when the muscles run
out of fuel, enhancing performance through longer and more effective
training. They also help keep blood glucose levels stable (optimal fuel
for the brain) which enhances mental focus, so that the athlete or fitness
buff are able to concentrate and perform at the highest level possible.

Sports drinks actually hydrate better than regular water even post exercise.
Individuals who sweat a lot or who are "salty" sweaters will benefit from
using a sports drink during and after exercise to replace the sodium and
potassium that are lost in sweat. They also stimulate thirst, as opposed to
water which does not, that encourages more fluid consumption to aid in

Because this is a multi-billion dollar industry today, it's important to
look past the marketing and choose the best sports drink, being armed with
good information. Look for one that is around 50 calories per 8 oz., which
supplies about 6-8 per cent carbohydrate.

Although sports drinks are effective during exercise and for hydration after
exercise, they are not adequate for recovery. Foods or fluids that are high
in carbohydrate, accompanied by a small amount of protein are a better
choice to jumpstart the muscle recovery process, after high intensity
exercise. Wholesome, nutrient rich choices will supply the vitamins,
minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants active children and adults need
for good health. Some examples include: a peanut butter/jelly sandwich, low
fat fruit yogurt and fresh fruit, low fat chocolate milk, fresh fruit
smoothie and a handful of nuts, granola bar & stick of string cheese.

Kim Larson, RD, CD
Total Health
Contributor, BaseballStrengthCoaching.com

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What's Your Max?

This blog has two purposes, one is asking the question do we really know what our athletes maxes are? And second if we don’t know, are we doing our athletes a disservice by not testing them?

I ask the question do we really know what our athletes maxes are because I have been noticing a trend that more and more schools are using estimated maxes. In the past, this technique was used mostly in high school at the freshman and sophomore level but it has been slowly moving to the older athletes and I have been hearing it is being used to a greater extent in the college ranks. I am not saying the technique should not be used. It has many uses and is a great tool. But, when it is the only technique used, I believe we are not giving the athletes a true look at what their maximal strength is. I have been getting more and more athletes through my program both in person and athletes that I plan programs for that give me these estimated maxes but cannot really lift that weight. Many times I have found the athlete to be 20-30 and even 40 pounds off the estimated weight. This can be very significant considering that if the athletes max was say 250lbs and they could really only do 220lbs. This is more then a 10% mistake, and if these maxes are used for calculating workouts through out the week, in most cases the athlete would not be getting the proper stimulus.

This leads into the next question. Is this a disservice to the athlete? In my opinion the answer is yes. If they do not perform true maximal’s at least a few times a year, the athlete may never know where they really stand and when they move onto the next level have to move backwards in order to move forward. This can be very frustrating. In many instances, if we are able to get the athlete on track and work from their true maxes, the athlete sees greater gains in shorter periods of time, as well as, giving the athlete a greater confidence in their lifting ability.

I just want to leave you with one more thought. As coaches, would we be ok if we used estimates of speed or velocity????????

Brian Niswender, MA, CSCS

Monday, November 29, 2010

A College Christmas

Congratulations – you are just about ready to complete the fall semester of college – hopefully you did not get kicked out in a matter of 16 weeks. You managed to make it through the exams, papers, midterms, more papers, quizzes, social life, and soon enough - finals. Not only that, you managed to make it through the fall ball season – oh boy, spring baseball is right around the corner. That’s right, official team practice will start before you know it.

Let me make a couple recommendations – albeit highly recommended. You have worked extremely hard this past semester – even if it was by default. You had to go through morning running sessions, REALLY long practices, weightlifting sessions, study hall hours, tutor sessions, and many other social events that probably did not aid in fueling the body for baseball:

- Get some rest – for the next month or so, you are a faux “professional athlete.” You might have time to sleep in a little, recover from your training sessions (which you still need to be doing), and refuel your body from the fall semester – I am sure your parents are looking forward to feeding you again, trust me.

- Continue to train – the spring season is about 70 days away. I am not talking about the first practice – that’s the first game of the season. So you need to keep/prepare yourself for the season ahead. You don’t have the luxury of a big league spring training starting up just about 70 days from now.

- Fuel your body – take the time to eat right. I’m not going to go into detail about how much, what, and when you should eat – I will leave that up to Kim, the dietician on staff – but you are now at home and don’t have to stop at the Munchie Mart or the campus sub shop to get your food. Like I said before – most of the time, your parents actually enjoy you being home and will help you out as much as they can.

- Mentally prepare yourself for what is ahead – it’s a long season. You hopefully will be playing baseball games from February 18th until June 29th – and it will be a roller coaster ride. Remember, the game of baseball is laced with failure – getting hits 3 out of 10 times is pretty good. Think about making 3 out of 10 free throws – you won’t be playing too much, unless you happen to be Shaq.

With all that being said – enjoy your time around the holidays and be careful. We all consider baseball a very big part of our lives, but time around the ones you love is crucial for your overall well-being – even if it’s your dog. They tend to be your best fans and your worst critics, but they are why you are where you are and they will try their best to be there when you need. So give your family a hug, thank your mom, dad, and grandparents as much as you can and enjoy your time at home.

Everyone have safe travels and Happy Holidays.

Chris Ham, MSA, ATC, CES
Contributor, BaseballStrengthCoaching.com
Athletic Trainer
Vanderbilt University Baseball

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Top 5 Program Progression Mistakes

The goal of any training program should be the improvement of strength, power, and work capacity. Without an increase in training loads positive adaptations will never occur. However, the training stimulus should be adjusted in a gradual and progressive manner to avoid overtraining which can result in lack of energy, poor performance, fatigue, depression, aching muscles and joints, and injury. This week’s article will attempt to address my top 5 areas of attention to insure improvement and limit the risk for injury.

#5 Perform a Proper Warm-Up

Muscular stiffness and lack of joint mobility result in greater muscle damage after exercise. A dynamic warm-up increases the body’s global core temperature, as well as, the localized tissue temperature for the specific muscles that will be active during sports movements. When the muscle tissue is “warm”, it becomes more elastic, more flexible, and less stiff. This greater elasticity means less tissue damage and less potential for injury. Aside from the overall increase in tissue temperature, an active warm-up prepares the muscles and joints for performance by “turning-on” the neuromuscular (brain-to-muscle) connections that will be utilized during training.

#4 Monitor Technique

Emphasis should be placed on “quality” over “quantity”. Often athletes will sacrifice movement technique for 5-10 pounds of resistance. Improper exercise form can lead to injury when the exercise pattern exceeds the limitations of a joint or muscle. Mechanical errors that create inefficient movement sequencing and timing will lead to a decrease of transferred energy and subsequently an increase in the torques and joint stresses produced. By stressing the importance of proper technique, not only will you limit this potential for harm, but the brain will ingrain and store more accurate movement patterns for future use. Ultimately, the use of proper technique can lead to more accurate programming of motor unit activation and much greater improvements in exercise performance.

#3 Adjust the Training Load

The amount of training load applied is very important. Too little exercise will have no effect on training. Yet, too much may cause injury. The Overload Principle states that the training stimulus must be greater than the normal level of function for the athlete’s body to adapt. The amount of the stimulus will depend on the athlete’s current fitness level. When working with the less experienced a lower intensity should be utilized. However, the more experienced athlete can use a greater stimulus. The training load should be adjusted in a gradual and progressive manner. One technique that can be used is to highlight the “Sets and Reps” scheme. For example, if the session or movement outlines “3 sets of 10 repetitions”, choose a resistance or weight that will allow for the performance of the designated number of repetitions (i.e. 10). If the athlete is unable to perform the 10 reps, then the resistance is too great and needs to be adjusted to a lighter weight on the next set. If he is able to perform more than 10 reps, the load is too light and needs to be adjusted to a greater weight on the next set. When progressing from session to session, begin with the training load used in the second set of the previous workout and adjust accordingly.

#2 Master the Fundamental Pre-Requisites

Choosing the proper initial movement “level of difficulty” is important. Too often, coaches and trainers choose an exercise or movement because it has “sizzle”. When in reality, the athlete may not have the proper functional platform of strength, stabilization, or mobility to perform the activity. An easy illustration is the athlete who cannot perform a Body Weight Squat without significant foot pronation and inward collapse of the knees. Yet, for some reason, his coach has him performing Resistance Band Jump Squats. Training progression should be viewed as an Inverted Pyramid. Without the mastery of the fundamental pre-requisites, the pyramid will topple over and fall. The end-result movement pattern can be broken down into smaller, simpler “building blocks”. Proper movement sequencing should progress from the improvement of isolated muscle strength to the more complex movement. In the Jump Squat example, initial focus should be placed on strengthening of the gluteal and hip abductors muscles. Next, the athlete may perform a Wall Squat exercise progressing to a Body Weight Squat followed by a Free Weight Back Squat. Once the athlete, can perform a proper squatting movement with external load, then he may progress to a Jump Squat and ultimately the Resistance Band Jump Squat.

#1 Allow for Rest and Recovery

Training is the application of stress. The constant exposure to physical stress results in a lack of energy, poor performance, and fatigue leading to eventual tissue breakdown and injury. Repair and regeneration occurs between training sessions. This cycle of stress and recovery progresses the athlete’s fitness level. The more fit the athlete, the greater the training stimulus needed for adaptation. Greater intensity or stress increases the need for rest and recovery. Monitoring the athlete’s training loads, performances, and his physical and mental responses can help to identify the need to adjust daily plans and stresses for maximal training efforts and optimal results.

David Yeager, ATC, CSCS

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Best Energy Booster - Breakfast

One of the best decisions an athlete can make is to start the day with breakfast. Why you ask? Because your body is actually in a starvation state when you get up in the morning. Your metabolism has slowed to an almost stand still because it has not been fed in 8 to 12 hours or so, it acts to conserve energy by slowing all metabolic processes down. If you don’t fill your gas tank with some nutrition and energy you won’t be able to run your machine (your body)well. Your body and your brain need fuel to get it revved in the morning and prepare for thinking and the demands of physical activity. Between 10-30 percent of people head out the door in the morning with a low tank of gas because they skip this important meal. Omitting breakfast is a favorite practice of teenagers and gets worse with age. Amost 60% of teens in high school skip breakfast more than 3 times per week! Don’t be a statistic…learn how to eat smart.

There are some tangible health benefits to eating breakfast, according to research, so consider this:

Breakfast eaters...

...Are healthier. They are more likely to get more nutrition and essential vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber, in their diets.

...Tend to have better control of their weight. Studies show that breakfast skippers often overeat the rest of the day because of excessive hunger so they are more prone to being overweight.

...Do better in school because they have improved concentration, longer attention spans and they achieve higher test scores.

...Have better school attendance (and are tardy less).

...Have better hand to eye coordination, which is a critical element of success in sports.

...Fuel their sports training and practices better because they are supplying their muscles and liver with the right fuel (carbohydrates) to perform their best.

I often hear comments like, “I’m not hungry when I get up” or “I don’t have time to eat breakfast” in the morning. To that I reply, do not expect or wait to feel hungry when you get up in the morning. And breakfast doesn’t have to take more than a few minutes. Cereals are a great choice if they are not sugar-laden ones. Choose those with 3 or 4 grams of fiber (bran cereals like Fiber One, Oat Bran, Bran Flakes and Raisin Bran are even higher in fiber) and less than 9-10 grams of sugar per serving. Always look for whole grain on the box and select fortified or enriched cereals that provide iron, an important mineral for athletes. Here are some quick and easy grab and go breakfast ideas along with some others that will combat breakfast boredom at home!

-Bagel with peanut butter, 100% fruit juice
-Dry cereal like bran flakes with a banana and skim milk
-Breakfast burrito (2 eggs scrambled in microwave oven for 1-2 minutes, stirring) made with eggs, sprinkle of shredded low fat cheese and topped with salsa. Roll and go!
-Fresh orange, low fat mozzarella stick, dry cereal in a Ziploc, hard-boiled egg, applesauce, low fat chocolate milk.
-Carnation Instant Breakfast made with low fat milk (I like to throw a banana in and whirl in the blender, with a few ice cubes for a healthy milkshake before a tough workout!)
-Homemade smoothie made with fresh or frozen fruit, low fat yogurt/low fat milk or instant dried nonfat milk powder.
-Low fat cottage cheese with pineapple (no sugar added) with a whole wheat English muffin.
-Omelet with spinach, mushrooms, low fat cheese, tomato juice, and whole wheat toast
-Oatmeal (instant works!) with a handful of craisins and almonds on top, low fat milk
-One of my favorites: Low fat yogurt and fruit (think berries) parfait with a scoop of grape nuts or healthy granola in a plastic cup to go.
-Apple smeared with almond butter and topped with raisins, cereal bar
-Canadian bacon (or lean ham) and low fat swiss cheese on a whole wheat English muffin for a breakfast sandwich
-Clif bar (in a pinch) and 100% orange juice

If you want to be on the fast track to better health and performance, include breakfast in your nutrition game plan. Check out the Eat Right Tips from the American Dietetic Association’s website at www.eatright.org for simple, speedy and good-for-you breakfast ideas and power up with breakfast!

Kim Larson, RD
Sports Nutrition Consultant

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Do You Know Where You Stand?

Where do you stand?

Do you know where you stand as far as your talent or potential as player goes? I have been working with baseball players for 13 years as a coach, and have been playing the game for 30 years, and this still seems to be a problem no matter where you go. Understanding where you are in your development can help you as a player set goals and have a realistic sense of what the future holds. Knowing where you are usually comes from experience, you have to get out of your little bubble and see what else is out there. I currently live in a cold weather state, being Colorado, and have found that many players have no idea where there talent really stands and in many cases think of themselves to highly, without real evidence. Let me give you a little personal example. When I was in high school and looking to go to the next level I was setting up tryouts with all sorts of programs and coaches from D1 to NAIA. I had been in my little bubble and had not really got out and tested my talent too much. Some of it had to do with the fact that my family did not have a lot of money, but I worked really hard and wanted to play. On my way to a try out for a D1 school in Kansas I decided to stop at some smaller schools as well. The first school I stopped at was a NAIA school that was very competitive in their league and region. I went through the tryout and felt like I did very well, I was excited to see what the coach would say. The coach started out by saying that I would probably not be playing at his school, I was instantly disappointed, what was I going to do; I was on my way to a D1 school to test my talent. Well before the disappointment set in, I think the coach could read my face and said, you will probably not play here because you are better then any player I have on my team now. Of course he was more then willing to take me, but this is fine example of not knowing where I really stood, so I could make the right choices of schools to visit. The D1 tryout went well and I was offered the chance to go there, but that is another story. As a player you need to get out and play with, or against some players from around the country or at least your region. You have to see how they play, how they look and perform. There are also many so called recruitment tryouts and camps. I use, so called, because you need to look at these with a grain of salt, is the tryout really a way to make money or is it really a talent camp for coaches. As a basic rule of thumb if the tryout camp is really expensive it is probably a fraud. As a player you should look for local camps, or schools that are having camps and tryouts. A program that we have started this year is providing players with a free evaluation camp every summer, the camp is free so no player has an excuse that they could not come. We cover everything from strength and conditioning to fielding, hitting and pitching. Each player receives a full evaluation or there skills as well as some tips on how they can improve. This has evolved into the winter evaluation camp where we bring in other professionals to also evaluate. These camps are more in-depth, and so have a small fee, but the fee is for paying for the professional evaluators and their travel to our location. Finding a good competitive team might also be a great way to help establish your talent and raise it to the next level. The experience of playing with players you have not grown up with and getting to locations you might not have gotten to without this team will help you as a player develop and be ready for the next stage. The challenge of the blog this week is to really evaluate where you are as a player and where you want to go. Be honest with yourself, and you will become a better player then you thought possible.

Brian Niswender
Co-Founder Baseballstrengthcoaching.com

Monday, November 1, 2010

Puppy Training: Trusting the Process

Like a majority of American families, I have a dog to take care of and teach some house etiquette in order to keep my sanity. When he was a puppy my wife and I had to potty train him just like any other puppy. Yeah, he had his share of accidents on the floor and we picked up a lot of poop on those days. It was a process teaching him to wait and go outside. We rewarded him and praised him every time that he went outside. My wife and I trusted that process of potty training and things have worked out.

One can say the same thing about resistance training, corrective exercises, rehab, weight loss, golfing, hitting a baseball – well you get the picture. I am an athletic trainer (would rather be called a movement therapist) and I do have some treatments that will have an athlete feeling pretty good going into a competition, but the results of the treatment don’t typically last. Modalities that are listed as “treatments” are really just band-aids on a ruptured aorta. I am talking about oral NSAIDS, cortisone injections, ice, massage, knee straps, physical therapy, and surgery - all reactive modalities. My athletes wait for issues to reach their threshold and its then when they start to perceive it as a problem. To be blunt – there will never be any modality or treatment that will overcome a dysfunctional athlete with a warped sense of reality with a few weeks or even days before their next competition.

When I would brag on my dog as a puppy he would end up whizzing on the carpet – I would be mad for a minute, clean it up , and take him outside. I made the time to help him out with the process of potty training and guess what - he’s a good dog. I know that if we all had the time (and the commitment of the athletes) that we could make some major adjustments in movement patterns. It’s a process – the runner that has been running for years is probably not going to fix an overuse injury in a matter of a few days. The same can be said about a pitcher with a sore shoulder. Trust the process!!

Chris Ham, MSA, ATC, CES
Athletic Trainer
Vanderbilt University Baseball

Sunday, October 24, 2010

No Muscle Memory!

In this week's installment of BaseballStrengthCoaching.com's blog, I want to take a minute to discuss one of my pet peeves. Recently it seems that I have heard quite a few professionals discuss the concept of "muscle memory". While I understand the concept, as exercise science professionals we should know better. There is no such thing as "muscle memory"! Muscles do not have memory control centers. The actions of our muscle tissue are controlled by conscious and subconscious brain functions.

Sports performance skills such as running, throwing, striking, catching, jumping, landing, and stop and turn activities require coordinated muscle recruitments of multiple joints and planes of movement. During the developmental period of infancy, we learn how to recruit various muscle groups in order to stabilize and balance our bodies (raise the head -> rollover -> sit up -> stand). As we continue to grow and mature, we learn basic loco motor skills such as scooting, crawling, and walking. Still later in our development, we progress to more fundamental movements such as traveling skills (climbing, galloping, jumping, running), object controls skills (kicking, throwing, striking), and balance movements (dodging, rolling). All the while, the brain is programming and saving these movement patterns for future use. With practice the patterns are fine-tuned and enhanced.

The Central Nervous System (CNS) is not programmed for isolated muscle function. When a motor task is necessary, the CNS recalls the pre-programmed patterns of movement that were learned during our developmental years. During sports activities, the body has to compensate for the pre-programmed movement patterns and react to gravity, momentum, and ground reaction forces. This pattern of muscle activation and movement programming has also been seen in recent visualization research.

Rather than referring to this process as "muscle memory", which by definition is not possible, I like to use the phrase "subconscious memory". Subconscious memory more accurately reflects the motor responses.

David Yeager, ATC, CSCS
Co-Founder, BaseballStrengthCoaching.com

Monday, October 18, 2010

Snacks….good or bad?

Trick question, right? Snacks can be good or bad for the athlete---depending on what, when and how much you choose to eat. You can make snacks work for you—no matter what your athletic goals are. With just a little thought and planning, you can improve your energy, health and training in the off season using high nutrition snacks.

Snacking is a great way to add foods during your day that provide your body with immune-boosting nutrients and energy to fuel workouts. Snacks give you the fuel you need before your workouts to train effectively so adding in an energizing snack an hour or two before heading to work out makes good sense for the athlete. It’s hard to make the gains you want, in endurance or strength, if you have an empty tank! After hard workouts, snacks help muscles refuel, repair and rehydrate so you are ready for the next workout/training session---- whenever that might be. Snacks help you to maintain lean muscle, stay focused and improve your energy levels throughout the day.

When opting for snacks, it’s important to remember that they add calories, as well as nutrition. Although planned snacking is beneficial to athletes, it’s not permission to eat a limitless amount of whatever foods you want. Snacks need to be chosen with some thought or they can work against you and cause unwanted body fat and weight gain. The size of your snack should go along with the length and intensity of your workouts. Try to space them out every 3 hours during the day to boost your energy. Set a reminder on your cell phone to fuel up so that the day isn’t over and you are left wondering why you are starving and have no energy for your workout after school or work! Try to include two different food groups in every snack for longer lasting energy and add some fluids for hydration. Choose a high quality (whole grain) carbohydrate source that is low in fat and a small amount of protein from lean meat, nuts or low fat dairy.

Keep emergency stashes in your backpack or out of sight in your car. I keep mine in my trunk in a box designated as my “snack box.” Keeping them in the trunk of my car prevents me from taking a visible cue to eat when I’m not truly hungry or don’t really need those extra calories. It also helps prevent eating foods out somewhere that are just “empty calories” without any nutrition, because you don’t have the right food with you. These are the moments that matter. Your food choices between your meals will make a difference and ultimately affect your health and training----either positively or negatively. It’s your choice.

Try these simple snack ideas that support good health:

• Whole grain cereals or popcorn with 100% fruit juice
• Low fat yogurt or cottage cheese and fresh berries
• Cereal or granola bars and a V-8 juice
• Small bag of nuts (about 15) and handful of grapes
• Whole wheat fig newtons
• Quesadilla with a thin layer of fat-free refried beans and a sprinkle of low fat cheese or half a turkey sandwich
• 5-6 whole wheat baked crackers with a schmear of peanut butter
• Apple and a piece of mozzarella string cheese
• Chocolate milk and an orange
• Carnation instant Breakfast and a banana
• Baked chips and salsa and a fruit cup
• Mini bagel with low fat cream cheese
• Small bag of trail mix
• Baby carrots with hummus for dip

Kim Larson, RD
Sports Nutrition Consultant

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Don't Blow It!

How important is a first impression? As a baseball player it might be the only time you get to show a coach what you are made of. This is not limited to only your skills on the field but also what you are made of as a person. I have seen and heard many stories of how athletes have blown a great opportunity, and in the last 6 months I have witnessed 3 or 4 missed opportunities because the player doesn’t think it will matter. A word of advice, everything you do matters, from what you eat to how you dress. Let me give you a few stories.

I was at a camp watching a few players. This camp was hosted by a very well known coach at a college is Nebraska, which has a husker as a mascot. During a meeting with the players, the coach was explaining how the recruitment process goes and how it’s hard to see all the players out there. During this meeting the coach explained that while traveling to see players many times they are strapped for time and will only be able to stay a few minutes. During this time everything you do as a player can make or break you. If he saw a player during warm-up messing around, he would pack it up and leave and go to the next game. "Ladies and Gentlemen this is warm-up.", as he said. This might be the only time he has to see a player that day. If that first impression is bad, he may never return. Can you afford to make that impression?

Recently I had a player that had set up a try-out with a college coach. This player had 2 months after the summer season to prepare himself for the try-out. But what did he do instead? He decided to play golf. Don’t get me wrong. Golf is a great game. But, he did not touch a baseball for 2 months. When he returns to me before his try-out we had a week to prepare. Now, he failed to inform me 2 months earlier that he had set up this try-out. So, to my surprise we are trying to get some work done before that try-out. This player went to the try out with a minor sore arm and a weak bat. So how did the try-out go? Not so well. His arm was weak and lacked a lot of power. What will this coach do? We don’t know as of yet. But, did he put his best foot forward?

These are just a few examples and I could go on. But I think I have made the point. Please, if you get nothing else out of this blog this week, know that coaches are always watching. Take the time to prepare. That first impression could be your last impression.

Brian Niswender
Co-Founder Baseball Strength Coaching.com

Monday, October 4, 2010

Athletic Destinies Determined By Age 10

I recently came across this article. This is something that I really try to preach to young athletes. I'd be interested to hear some other opinions.

David Yeager, ATC, CSCS
Co-Founder, BaseballStrengthCoaching.com

LeBron James was 10 years old once. By that age, he was on his way to becoming the LeBron James we know today, and he was helped by playing football, according to expert trainers who agree that a range of play activities between age six and 10 helps build a broad base of athletic motor and coordination abilities.

Each year hundreds of kids come through Scott Moody’s AthleteFit facility outside Kansas City, and dozens of them finish high school with collegiate sports scholarships.

“If [kids] don’t develop those manipulative motor skills at that age, that 6-10 window, then they don’t have the confidence necessary to participate,” said Moody. As a result, their overall fitness goes down, further dropping confidence. “It’s this downward spiral that most people never come out of.”

Moody joined more than 100 trainers from across the U.S. and Canada at a recent National Strength and Conditioning Association Youth Training Symposium in Chicago (see him presenting on TRX Suspension Training in the photo above). They discussed how in an overweight yet sports-obsessed culture, trainers are making a difference in how kids get started in athletics.

Patrick McHenry, a high school strength coach in Castle Rock, Colorado, talked about a tall, strong basketball player who could shoot and who looked like he might be great, but as a senior he lacked footwork.

“Was it too late? Yes, for him.” McHenry said. “If we had had him during his sophmore or junior year we could have helped him, but would he have been the best? No.”

Rick Howard, director of athletics for the School District of Philadelphia, gets requests from teachers and coaches for lowest-common-denominator training programs to meet the needs of, say, a third-grade physical education class or a girls’ softball team.

“It’s not that easy,” he tells them. “You really have to know everybody on that team, what they’re good at, what they’re not good at.” Mostly he sees sports instruction and training for kids that winds up reinforcing what they’re already good at, “Kids that are fast, keep them running.”

Reinforcement has run amok in cases where young athletes are opting to specialize in one sport at a young age. In the worst cases, according to McHenry, they run the risk of overuse injuries.

“We find they’re missing their window to all of those motor skills that are going to help them athletically later in the game,” said Moody.

“Girls’ soccer players have trouble tracking the ball in the air,” he pointed out, “because they never played volleyball growing up, they never played softball growing up. They didn’t get used to tracking objects out of the air.”

Mike Nitka is an editor for the trainers’ association journal and a Wisconsin high school wrestling coach. Motor skills in older people, he said, “can be developed, but not at the highest level possible because Mother Nature is trying to give us the biggest assist possible, and these are the windows” for that.

“I have a sign in my office,” Nitka said, “Volleyball players play volleyball. Athletes play anything they want.”

Article taken from news.medill.northwestern.edu.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pull With Your Back

As coaches, we strive to achieve the maximum benefit for our athletes in the shortest period of time. Often, we see athletes performing an exercise correctly but not receiving the outcomes they should. Perhaps, this lack of outcome stems from the lack of appropriate focus on the performance of the exercise. For me, one of those exercises is the Lat Pulldown / Pull-Up exercise.

The primary muscles that are engaged during this exercise are the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, teres major, and the lower trapezius. Their function is to adduct the arm and draw it closer to the pelvis. During the throwing motion, these muscles act as large decelerators to counteract the distraction forces at the glenohumeral joint. The muscles of the hand /forearm flexors, as well as, the biceps brachii are considered secondary movers during the Lat Pulldown exercise.

One of the common mistakes that I notice when athletes perform this exercise is that they over-emphasize their grip and as a result pull down using the smaller muscles of the arms. As I mentioned, the primary focus should be placed on the larger musculature of the back. Using mental cues can improve the mind-body connection. When coaching these athletes, I find it helpful to use the mental cue, “Pull with your back!” to emphasize the proper performance of the Lat Pulldown exercise. This will make an immediate impact in the technique by locking your “lats” into activation. To check this technique, the coach can place his hands on the athlete’s shoulder blades and feel that the pulldown movement is being initiated by their depression and retraction.

Focusing on the proper muscular activation while performing a movement can help to insure maximum benefits are achieved. “Pull with your back!” can be used for any exercise that requires the large upper back muscles to perform (i.e. seated row, bent-over row, etc).

David Yeager, ATC, CSCS

Friday, September 17, 2010

Welcome to College!!

Congratulations! You were a very successful high school baseball player. Maybe you were lucky enough to garner some baseball scholarship money – good for you. You have packed your bags and maybe some of your high school trophies and highlight films – not recommended – and have made it to wherever your campus might be located.

You are on campus and realize that life is going to be pretty good. Baseball doesn’t start for a couple weeks; the girls are wearing their summer dresses and some are even laying out on the quad; life is good. The first day of class comes, and the first team meeting follows shortly after – man the recruiting process is over, Coach is mean, and these classes are going to be brutal. All in all, after the team meeting, Coach has the majority of the guys ready to run through a wall when he sets the expectations, the fall schedule, and starts talking about playing in Omaha in late June. You walk out of the meeting with chills and thinking that the team will do awesome this season – and no one has even touched a baseball.

Do you think you are ready?

I have had a couple of coaches break it down a couple different ways.

Coach A – “ Academics first (while holding up two fingers) and athletics second (while holding up the number one sign)!”

Coach B – had a more systematic approach and breakdown. “There are 24 hours in a day and it should break down like this. 8-3-6-4-3.”
• 8 hours of sleep – It’s a good solid number to shoot for, and your body will thank you.
• 3 hours to eat – Combining all meals and snacks (unless you eat like I do and try to grab anything as fast as you can between seeing athletes).
• 6 hours of baseball activity – No, this is not all organized activity, it includes early work in the batting cages and extra work spent on your defensive game. I won’t even start (yet) if your shoulder starts to hurt.
• 4 hours of class daily – Ok, I understand that you might be fortunate enough to not have class on Friday.
• 3 hours of free time.

Well, if I have done the math correctly, that is 24 hours. Wow, three hours of free time, that’s it? Those three hours are absolutely crucial. Coach B referred to that as F.A.T (four letter word-around-time). If your free time extends past three hours, where do you typically take the hours from? Sleep. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, then you are falling behind on the other areas. Then you are not performing as well as you would like on the baseball field, so you try to make up time in the cage. Then you are not doing so hot in some of your classes, so you decide to take a look at your buddie’s test sitting next to you in class – also not recommended. It seems to be a vicious cycle.
How will you spend your F.A.T??

Chris Ham, MSA, ATC, CES
Athletic Trainer
Vanderbilt University Baseball

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Importance of Hydration

With August temperatures soaring into the high 80’s and 90’s around most of the country, staying well hydrated is a full time job for athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike. Fluid consumption is especially important if you play sports outside in these hot, humid and sultry dog days of summer.

Being at fall ball tryouts last weekend when the temps hit 98 degrees made me realize how critical daily hydration, as well as rehydration, is to baseball players. Watching preadolescent players wilt as tryouts progressed, brought up a dangerous scenario that parents, coaches and trainers should all be aware of when working with young athletes. Lowered sweating capacity, poorly developed thirst mechanism and a limited ability to transfer heat from their muscles to their skin make this age group particularly vulnerable to dehydration and heat exhaustion. Core temperature rises in children at a faster rate than adults because they produce more metabolic heat than adults and it can cause serious heat-related illnesses. Adolescents also are still developing their body temperature control and are susceptible to these same issues. Special attention should be paid to drink adequate fluids before and during active play, as well as rehydrating properly afterwards, to reduce the risks of dehydration.

Dehydration has many negative, and possibly dangerous, effects on health and performance. Dehydration—even as little as 1-2 percent weight loss from sweating--is enough to diminish energy, accelerate fatigue and impair performance. A 2 percent weight loss is only 3 pounds for a 150 pound athlete. Sweat losses vary between individuals and with different exercise intensity, however, this amount of weight/sweat loss is not uncommon in hot, humid climates with several hours of practice and/or games. Some signs of dehydration include nausea, headache, fatigue, muscle cramps, lightheadedness and lack of urination and sweating.

Players will benefit from weighing before and after practices and games to determine their sweat losses so that rehydration is adequate to replace fluid losses. For every pound lost, replace with 24 oz (3 cups) of fluids, like sports drinks, 100% fruit juices or chocolate milk. Because your body also needs to replace the electrolytes sodium and potassium that you lose along with sweat, these fluid choices that contain electrolytes help to do that. Both fluid and electrolytes need to be taken in to restore a positive water balance in the body after exercising over one hour or in extreme heat, humidity or high altitude. Sports drinks are the preferred drink, over water, during exercise because they provide energy in the form of carbohydrates and electrolytes that provide rapid fluid absorption.

How much should you drink? To make sure you are fully hydrated follow these hydration recommendations:

• At least 2 hours before drink 16-24 oz of fluids (all fluids count!)
• Follow with an additional 8-12 oz. of fluids 1 hour before (water or sports drinks)

During practice/games
• Drink 6-8oz. of fluids every 15 minutes (Best choice: sports drinks)
• Adolescents need to drink more: 8-12 oz every 15 minutes
• Consume at least 24 oz in one hour

Post game
• Drink 24 oz. of fluid
• Calculate fluids needed to replace those lost in sweat (1 pound =24 oz. of fluid) and continue drinking to meet those needs.

How do you know if you are drinking enough? The easiest, quickest way to know is to check the color of your urine. It should be the color of light lemonade, not apple juice. Monitor daily and adjust your drinking schedule accordingly to get the most out of your training and practices!

Winning Hydration Strategies

Every day drink at least half your body weight in ounces (For example:
A 160 pound athlete should drink 80 fluid ounces per day)

Drink before you are thirsty & keep drinking when you no longer feel thirsty!

Drink early and drink often throughout the day

Plan your fluids and carry a water bottle with you wherever you go

Do regular urine checks

Eat foods high in water, like fruit (at least 2 cups a day) & soups

Drink sports drinks that taste good to you to help you drink more during exercise

Avoid beverages like energy drinks, pop and fruit juice during exercise (they are too high in sugar and will delay gastric emptying & hydration)

Coaches: Develop Hydration Protocols for your teams and implement periodic drink stops every 15 minutes for adequate hydration that supports good performance!

By Kim Larson, RD, CD
Regular Contributor

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Take some time off

Hello Again,

Sorry for the late blog this week, plans for the fall are falling into place and the baseball season is quickly coming to an end, which usually means the schedule is full of a lot of busy work. But with the summer season coming to an end it is time to start to think about the fall season for some and an extended off-season for others. Which ever season you are coming into it is time to take some time off, step away from the game and relax. Depending on which season you are coming into will determine the time off. We will just make some general guidelines when it comes to the active recovery time. When a player is getting ready for an off season they need to take at least 2 weeks off and up to 4 weeks of recovery can be needed if the player is healthy and no other problems are going to be addressed. This is a window and each player needs to make the choice of recovery time and some times that is determined by the start of the next season. The total time off needs to be planed so the player can again plan for proper progression into normal play again when the spring comes. I hope you can see where we are going; planning is the key to success. Planning everything down to recovery helps the player perform at their very best every season. If you noticed I used the word active recovery as well, when you are taking this break don’t be a couch potato, get out and do some activities you did not have the chance to do in-season. Some coaches may cringe, but go play some hoops, get on that wake board, go for a hike, and have some fun doing things not related to baseball. Your body and your mind will thank you. We will be addressing some off-season training topics in the next series of article topics. Get out and have some fun!!!!!

Monday, July 26, 2010

The "Sleeper Stretch"

The very nature of the overhead throwing motion subjects the shoulder joint to extreme positions and forces. When this activity is repeated over time, chronic adaptations will occur. When compared to non-throwers, throwing athletes often exhibit an increase in shoulder external rotation range of motion. However, the cost of this increase in external rotation is that it is often balanced by tightness in shoulder internal rotation. When this internal rotation tightness is 20 degrees greater than the non-throwing arm, it is commonly referred to as GIRD -Glenohumeral Internal Rotation Deficit.

Muscular imbalances in a joint or structure (i.e. tightness, etc) can affect the efficiency of the joint and may force other joints to do more work than they can handle. This creates the potential for injury by over stressing the body. Further, it inhibits performance by isolating the kinetic chain, and not allowing integrated movement. GIRD, or tightness of the posterior shoulder capsule / rotator cuff musculature, has been linked to an increased risk of injury by placing added stress on the shoulder decelerators, the internal static structures of the joint (labrum), and has been linked to medial elbow pain and disfunction.

The first line of defense in the prevention and treatment of posterior shoulder tightness is the “Sleeper Stretch”. This exercise is performed by lying on your throwing arm side with knees bent. Place your bottom arm perpendicular to your body with your elbow bent at 90 degrees. Stay on your side and do not lean backwards. Using your free (top) hand, gently push your arm toward the ground until you feel a light stretch or resistance to the movement. Hold that stretch for 5-10 seconds and repeat for 5-10 repetitions. Just as tightness is an acquired adaptation to repetitive movements, flexibility results from the consistent performance of a stretching routine. The “Sleeper Stretch” may be performed several times per day making sure that the joint is not being forced into a painful position / stretch.

When the muscles around a joint are in the proper length-tension ratios, they undergo less stress and can produce more force. Performing the “Sleeper Stretch” can improve shoulder health and performance in the overhead throwing athlete.

David Yeager, ATC, CSCS

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Protein - A Little Goes a Long Way

The subject of protein for the athlete--- from how much is needed to what kinds are best, is the source of many hot debates. In many athletic circles, its function in building muscle has been extolled as almost magical. True, protein is an important nutrient. It’s found in a wide variety of foods coming from both animals and plants. Protein plays a vital role in repairing and rebuilding muscles, is an essential part of hormones, enzymes and antibodies that support our immune system. It’s not an energy source unless our bodies don’t have enough carbohydrates—the preferred fuel for all sports activities. Let’s explore the physiological basis for how much and what kinds of protein an athlete needs to help put this subject into a practical perspective for baseball.

Is protein more important than fats or carbohydrates?

No. All three of these nutrients, in the right balance and at the right time, provide the nutrition athlete’s need for the best training and performance.
How much protein does an athlete need?
The short answer is: more than a sedentary person who doesn’t play sports. Protein needs in athletes are higher, but exactly how much higher? Protein needs are calculated by weight, what type of athlete you are (endurance or strength & power) your training goals and by where you are in your sports season. See the table below for examples.

Average Protein Requirements for a 70 Kg athlete ( Divide your weight by 2.2 to find kilograms)

Type of athlete Protein Requirements (grams)

Sedentary .9 grms/kg 56 grms/day
Regular exerciser 1.0 grms/kg 70 grms/day
Endurance 1.2-1.4 grms/kg 105 grms/day
Resistance 1.4-1.7 grms/kg 112 grms/day

Protein needs for baseball (in season) are about 15-20% of the total day’s calories and are equal to about 1.2 grams/kg of body weight. To get an idea of what you might need daily take a minute and do the math. In the off season, if training goals change, protein requirements may change as well. We will address that topic (and protein for muscle building) when we discuss nutrition for the off season in September’s sports nutrition journal article.

It’s easy to meet your dietary protein needs through basic, nutritious foods eaten in a well balanced diet. If you eat cereal with milk for breakfast, yogurt and fruit for a snack, followed by a turkey sandwich for lunch, peanut butter & jelly sandwich or chocolate milk after your workout and dinner of a beef vegetable stir fry…. you’ve eaten about 95 grams of protein! You also get extra protein in your between meal snacks. Foods like whole grains and even certain vegetables have a little bit of protein, too, so it all adds up. If you eat enough food to support your training and performance, chances are that you are getting plenty of protein. There is no need to take extra protein in the form of pills or powders—food works! Save your money, choose well and enjoy all the satisfaction and flavor eating good food offers.

Protein from animals (lean meats, fish, eggs, poultry) is the most concentrated source and contains all of the essential amino acids. High quality plant sources include soy products, like tofu and soy milk, nuts and dried beans peas and lentils. Low fat dairy products are also an excellent source of essential amino acids.

Is more protein better?

No. Research confirms that anything over 2 grams/kg of body weight is excessive and does not benefit the athlete in any way. In fact, it might be harmful. Higher amounts of protein stress the kidneys because they have to excrete the nitrogen that is produced from protein breakdown (notice those body builders at the gym with gallons of water in tow?) Also, extra protein that isn’t used is stored as fat in your body. Only small amounts are used to repair and rebuild muscles so keep that in mind when choosing your recovery snack, after workouts and games. Anything more than 20 grams of protein is wasted.

By Kim Larson, RD, CD
Regular Contributor

Monday, June 28, 2010

Know what you want.

As a player do you know what you want? If you want to play at the next level, then you need to make sure the boat is heading in the right direction. You can't expect things to just fall in your lap. If you do, you will be very disappointed. As a player you must know where you are going and then make it happen. Your coach is not going to pave the way. The best advice I can give you as a player is to get out and see what the competition is like and how you can get better. Then set those goals and post them so you can see them everyday. If you want to go play at a certain school then you better start communicating to them so they know who you are. If you're not an outgoing person, then you better figure out how to get better at it. Because if you dont speak up, the sports world will pass you by. YOU CAN NOT BE PASSIVE!!!! The journey to the next level is just that, a Journey. Don't just let it pass. As a great little green guy said, "There is no try. Do, or do not."

Brian Niswender
Co-Founder Baseballstrengthcoaching.com

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

To Supplement or Not to Supplement?

Last week Consumer Reports magazine issued a press release on a product review they did on protein powders and drinks that included sports nutrition products, like recovery drinks. Because this report received a lot of media attention I thought it might be a good topic of discussion for my first blog. The report indicated that several popular products, like Muscle Milk, had levels of heavy metal contaminants (arsenic, lead and cadmium) that could be potentially dangerous if products were used 2-3 times per day. Using these products once daily in their usual amounts is deemed safe, but the concern was that those using the products could suffer serious health affects if they used them more than once per day, which many individuals do. If you would like to read this report it is in the July issue of Consumer Reports magazine. The companies making the products in question have published remarks refuting these test results and, as usual, this leaves the consumer in a quandary of who and what to believe.

Dietary supplements are a huge industry today and sales top 23 billion dollars annually. Why is this important to you? First, dietary supplements are not regulated at all by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) nor are the claims the supplements make on the label or advertising regulated or monitored. This essentially means that anyone can say anything about a product—and they do. Manufacturers are not required to prove a supplement is safe, contains the ingredients it says it has in the amounts it states on the label, or that it even works before selling it. Only after a product has been shown to be unsafe and in many cases, dangerous to health, can the FDA remove it from the market.

There are several organizations that do random testing of supplements for safety, potency and effectiveness. These companies include Consumer Lab (CL) , the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), and United States Pharmacopeia (USP). Look for their seals of approval on the supplement before taking it to ensure you are getting what they say they deliver. There are many cases of supplements that have been tested and found to contain ingredients not on the label, ingredients in reduced amounts than they are said to have and also contaminants.
Many supplements promise athletes more energy, more muscle, enhanced performance, weight loss, etc. and these claims can be tempting for someone who is trying to achieve their best performance. Buyer beware! Don’t believe the hype these products advertise. How to spot a fraud? Look for these types of claims:

• Quick, easy and works for every athlete!
• Testimonials that it worked for Joe and it will work for you!
• States it has a secret about how to enhance performance
• Claims it uses ingredients that have been proven to work
• Belittles established concepts about nutrition or diet

As a consumer interested in sports performance, it’s critical to ask yourself these questions before considering taking any dietary supplement:

Am I eating a well balanced sports diet?
What improvements can I make in my daily nutrition?
Am I eating the right kinds of nutrient rich foods?
How can I change the timing of my food to enhance my performance and energy level?
Am I practicing consistent recovery to keep energy high and assist with muscle recovery (reduce soreness, and inflammation)
Are my recovery foods and fluids adequate to replace glycogen stores and rebuild muscle tissue damage?
Am I getting enough rest?

Real food works for the athlete in almost every situation and is satisfying and tastes great, too. Wholesome food is always safe, effective and a budget friendly source of nutrients, like protein. Compare low fat chocolate milk with any commercial recovery drink that contains protein and you will see what I mean. For most athletes, especially in the sport of baseball, supplements are not needed unless your diet is deficient.

The risks that come with using sports nutrition supplements on a regular basis are simply put, not worth the money. Grocery store-bought food and fluids can provide all the nutrition a baseball player needs for high performance and good health, if chosen wisely, using sports nutrition guidelines. Going to health food stores or nutrition supplement stores does not guarantee safety or effectiveness when you buy a sports nutrition product. In fact, sales people at these types of stores do not have any background, training or formal education in nutrition that requires them to learn the physiology behind how food and nutrients are used in the body. Remember: First and foremost their goal is to sell you their product!

For information on food and nutrition that you can trust, find a Sports Dietitian in your area by going to www.scandpg.org and follow the links to input your location. A Sports Dietitian, (CSSD) trained, educated and credentialed in sports nutrition, can help you evaluate your diet and any supplements you are considering taking. For more information on sports nutrition go to www.eatright.org and look for that link (sports nutrition) under nutrition for consumers.

Stay tuned for more on protein needs of athletes, what types of protein are best for athletes, when you should eat protein, how protein affects performance, and other facts about this important nutrient for good health and performance.

By Kim Larson, RD, CD
Regular Contributor

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Athleticism or Skill?

In February when the NFL Combine was in full swing, I discussed the validity of evaluating athleticism and its correlation to the draft and future performance. Here we are in June and it’s time for Major League Baseball’s Amateur Draft. This makes me want to revisit the idea of “athleticism” and ask the question: Should teams draft athletes and try and make them baseball players? Or, draft baseball players and attempt to improve their athleticism?

The answer: Yes

Let’s make 2 assumptions for the sake of this discussion. First, high school players have the raw athletic abilities needed for sports performance. They lack the sport-specific skill development and experience of the more expert player. In this discussion, the high school player would be considered the “athlete”. Second, the college player possesses greater playing experience and skill development. These athletes would be considered the “baseball player”.

According to Baseball References’ Draft Database, an analysis of the players from the 2000-2005 draft classes provides a couple of interesting points:

1. College position players are better bets to reach the Major League level than high school position players; and
2. High school pitchers are better bets to reach the Major League level than college pitchers.

As mentioned, the college position player has greater sport-specific skill development and possesses a broader base of playing experience to allow him to adjust and adapt to the professional levels. With regard to the pitchers, perhaps the high school athlete has less wear and tear on his throwing arm as a result of a younger age and less cumulative innings / pitches (Although this may be a topic for another time – youth travel baseball). More than likely, the high school player also participates in other sports. The multi-sport performer tends to be a more well-rounded athlete with the many physiological tools and traits needed in each arena.

When working with the high school pitcher, more emphasis should be placed on proper throwing mechanics and delivery efficiency, as well as, teaching the overall knowledge of the game (i.e. fastball command, development of off-speed pitches, pitch selection and sequences, and identifying hitters’ weaknesses, etc). Care should be taken not to neglect the young pitcher’s athletic gifts and continue to enhance and maintain these traits. However, the sport-specific skills take precedence.

The more experienced and developed collegiate position player, can use athletic development to aid and fine tune the performance of his sport-specific skills. Speed and agility drills may be used for balance and footwork enhancement, along with the overall improvement of fielding range and baserunning abilities. Development of lower extremity and core strength / power / stability may provide continued improvement with regard to bat speed and power at ball contact.

So, the answer to my introductory question seems to be “yes”. It just depends on what position the player is being drafted to perform.

David Yeager, ATC, CSCS

Monday, May 31, 2010

New Journal Issue Coming Soon!

"If you're green, you're still growing. If you're ripe, you're next to rotten." -Jack Hughston, MD.

Don't forget - BaseballStrengthCoaching.com's new journal issue will be posted in June! Stay tuned for articles on topics such as rotational power, visual search and recognition, mental skills and goal setting, and sports nutrition.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Use It or Lose It!

This is probably one of my biggest pet peaves and an issue that I spend a lot of time discussing with athletes each year. And, if you've heard this from me on several occasions, I apologize. But, being that we are knee deep into the season, I thought that I would take a minute and review a simple concept.

Deconditioning, also called detraining is simply the effect of losing fitness when you stop training. The Principle of Use / Disuse is one of the main principles of conditioning. The concept is that “if you don’t use it, you lose it”. How quickly you lose fitness depends on how fit you are, how long you have been training, and on how long you stop.

Many people stop exercising at times for many reasons. It is not uncommon for baseball players to train intensely during the winter months and significantly decrease or stop training altogether once the season begins thinking that they will be able to maintain their fitness level throughout the summer. I hear it time and time again, "I really work hard in the off-season so I don't need to now." However, this thought process simply doesn’t work. With the overall length of the baseball season, the day-to-day grind of playing / practicing almost everyday, and the physical stress of throwing / swinging, it is almost impossible to maintain your strength and conditioning levels throughout the entire season without some sort of plan. Studies show that deconditioning begins in about 2 weeks if training is stopped altogether. Once lost, it takes nearly three times as long to recondition as it took to “detrain”. After 3 months following the end of training, researchers have found that athletes lost about ½ of their aerobic condition.

Top Ways to Maintain Your Fitness Level

(1) Don’t quit completely. At a minimum, performing 1-2 high-quality, high-intensity training sessions each week can help maintain your fitness level.

(2) Account for the body’s ability to adapt to training. DO NOT keep doing the same routine over and over. Adjust your training plan to gradually progress the training loads and intensities in order to avoid, detraining, overtraining, and injury.

(3) Using a variety of different exercise techniques, while staying true to the training goals and performance needs, can help to limit overtraining, enhance motivation, and increase training adaptations.

(4) Continue training (well-body conditioning, cross training, etc) through injuries.

David Yeager, ATC, CSCS
Co-Founder, BaseballStrengthCoaching.com

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Whats wrong with that exercise?

I have been doing a little surfing in the last few weeks and am astounded by what I see. Baseball is natoriace for banning exercises that “will harm baseball players”, but what is the science behind it, what is the reason for the negativity towards the exercise. In many cases an isolated incident may have contributed to an injury and all of a sudden we can’t use the exercise any more. That is ridiculous and such small thinking that it is no wonder that so many players seek outside help, and in many of those cases find trainers that really don’t know what they are doing. I firmly believe that there are few exercises that athletes should not perform, but is all instances the player must be evaluated and cleared before doing any exercise program or exercise. A great example of an exercise I love but in many cases is done wrong especially in the lower levels of baseball is the Clean. What a great exercise, the player gets work in all parts of the body, in multiple disciplines, (power, strength, balance), but if the exercise is done wrong it can become one of the most dangerous exercise for an athlete to perform.
An exercise that gets a bad name in baseball is the bench press, but why? Iv heard it all, It hurts the rotator cuff, it causes the humerus to compress into the shoulder joint which causes pinching of the bursa, we get enough chest work while playing so we don’t need to do chest work, and this just names a few. What a bunch of hog wash, can these things happen, well yes, but that does not mean it will happen with every player and in most cases will never happen in most players. The question comes back to, just because it happened to one player does not mean it will happen to all players. Let’s free our minds and have the ability to be professionals. In many cases that trainer that says no benching, has his players doing DB bench press, really, yah that’s a lot different, and in some cases can even be more dangerous, but since the DB bench is “open chain” it must be ok. Come on wake up and learn the mechanics of the body.
Enough ranting and raving, I could go on and on with many different exercises, but what’s the point. We need to step away and decide if we are here to increase the players’ performance or sell an idea or program. Realize that not every exercise is right for a player but being able to identify the players’ needs and then prescribing a program that can help them get to the level they want is the goal. Take a minute and look at the exercise you use and realize that there are many ways to reach a goal and the player is the most important part of the equation.

Brian Niswender, MA, CSCS
Co-Founder BaseballStrengthCoaching.com
Warrior Sports Training

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Let’s Get to the Core of the Problem

Well, it’s been a little while since our last installment on the BaseballStrengthCoaching.com blog site. I apologize for that. With the initiation of the baseball season, I have been striving to settle in to a routine, adapt to the rigors of travel, and adjust to the day-to-day grind that is the game of baseball. But, that’s a topic for another time.

What I want to talk about this week is the dreaded Oblique Muscle Strain. Baseball is a rotational sport. Everything players do from swinging the bat, pitching the ball, or fielding a ball in the hole, involves a rotary movement at the hips, torso, or shoulder complex. The oblique muscles are the responsible for creating this torso rotation pattern. In recent years, many major league players, both position player and pitcher alike, have been sidelined by injury to this muscle.

In my opinion, these injuries occur for several reasons. First, have you ever followed a hitter around for a day and counted exactly how many total swings he performs? Let’s look at an example of a typical day. Player A shows up to the ballpark and goes to the hitting cage for early work. He may perform up to 30-40 repetitions attempting “lock in his swing”. Then, later in the day, Player A participates in the daily team batting practice which consists of up to 15-20 minutes of a group of 4 hitters. Each hitter may perform another 40+ repetitions. During the game, he takes another 5-10 swings while in the on-deck circle. This time, often with an additional weight on the bat. And finally, he averages 5 at-bats per game. And just for argument, let’s say that he takes 4 swings per at-bat for an additional 20 repetitions.

40 + 40 + 10 + 20 = 110 swings per day

110 swings per day. And, that doesn’t even take into account the number of rotational movements that are performed with his throwing activities. Add these numbers up over the course of an entire season and the rotational repetition volume is astounding. High volume can lead to fatigue. With fatigue comes changes in movement patterns. Changes in movement patterns equal abnormal muscle firing patterns.

The second reason I think these injuries occur is a result of a neuromuscular “misfire” and is directly related to the type of core training that we traditionally perform. During the hitting and throwing motions there is a period of loading (potential energy) and unloading (kinetic energy). As the pitch is being delivered the hitter performs a slight countermovement to “load” his swing and harness energy. As the ball gets closer to the plate, he begins to initiate his swing and “unload” his energy through the bat to the ball. It is at the point of switching from loading to unloading that these oblique injuries occur. In terms of plyometric training we call it the “amoritization phase”. And ideally, the switch should be as quick as possible in order to maximize the benefits of the stretch-shortening cycle and create the optimal resulting concentric force. Traditionally, players and coaches emphasize standard crunches, concentric med ball rotations, and possibly even medicine ball throwing exercises to improve overall core / trunk force production. However, when an athlete is not trained to harness energy and quickly change direction to release that energy. He lacks the neuromuscular conditioning to execute the fine-tuned pattern of load-stabilize-unload. When this lack of programming is coupled with the fatigue and abnormal muscular recruitment I mentioned earlier, the potential for injury increases.

Finally, “it’s all in the hips”. Hip mobility is a key factor. Athletes must have adequate flexibility and range of motion in the pelvis and hips to allow for complete torso rotation. When he lacks mobility in the hips, greater stresses are transmitted up through the spine creating greater needs of the abdominal musculature. Greater requirements result again in abnormal muscle recruitment patterns and can potentially lead to injury.

Prevention programs of these oblique and abdominal muscle injuries should emphasize the following points:

1. Monitor swing volume and tailor activities accordingly. Emphasize quality over quantity.

2. Core strengthening programs should focus on stabilization, eccentric loading, and the quick switch from load to unload. (Of course a good baseline strength level should be present before progressing to this type of training.)

3. Attention should be placed on hip mobility.

David Yeager, ATC, CSCS
Co-Founder, BaseballStrengthCoaching.com

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Why do we do what we do?

Why we do what we do?

Why do you coach, or train? Do you do it for personal glory, or recognition? Do you have something to prove? As a coach or trainer you are a mentor and leader, are you leading your players or are you dictating?
These can be soul searching questions for a coach, and I deal with these questions on an on going bases myself. I usually deal with these questions after one of my players has to deal with a coaching situation.
The first question I always ask is why did I get into coaching? It always brings me back to the coaches I had growing up, the good and the bad. I remember what the good coaches did, and how they acted. The good coaches are always great role models, they are always hard workers and they always put the athlete first. The bad coaches never really lead, there is always only one way and it is there’s, they are closed minded and negative. Then I remember why I love coaching, I remember what it feels like to watch a player succeed, to watch their eyes light up, to watch the way they carry them selves with self confidence and success. This is why I coach; I want to help the young player find his game, to become the best ball player he or she can be. To watch how hard work and focus can change every player. I remember that it’s not about me it about the player and my job is to help them succeed.

A few things we can do to help them succeed:

1) Lead by example.
2) Provide them with current information and techniques.
3) Be able to adjust to every players learning style.
4) Help them find the instruction they need.
5) Help them form good habits.
6) Teach them how to communicate.
7) Teach them how to plan a schedule.
8) Provide a safe place to share.
9) Challenge them in all aspects of life.
10) Teach them to be leaders.


Brian Niswender, MA, CSCS
Co-founder Baseballstrengthcoaching.com

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Energy Balance Equation

As a Performance Enhancement Coach, I am frequently fielding questions from athletes who are trying to gain weight. What kind of workout should I do? What supplements should I buy? How much protein should I take? What kind of protein should I take? All of these questions can and should be addressed. But, there is one question that should be asked before all others…How many calories do I need?

The concept of weight management through Energy Balance is not a difficult one to convey. First, if an athlete’s goal is to maintain his weight, then the amount of energy (calories) that he expends through activity and exercise must equal the amount of energy he consumes (food). If his goal is to lose weight, then he must expend more energy than he consumes. And finally, if the athlete’s goal is to gain weight, then he must consume more energy than he burns. This is the most important issue in weight management – even before I begin discussing protein, carbohydrates, supplements, etc. Gater et al. (1992) demonstrated that athletes who participate in a strength training program and consume more calories than they expend show higher muscle mass gains than athletes with a neutral calorie balance.

(+) Energy Balance = Weight Gain
(-) Energy Balance = Weight Loss
(0) Energy Balance = Weight Maintenance

Even though this is not a difficult concept to convey, it definitely is not as easy to put into practice. For me, the first thing that I ask the player to do when dealing with weight management goals is to keep a weekly diary of what he is eating and drinking, so that I have an idea of how many calories that he is consuming. From there, we discuss the player’s daily calorie expense based on his daily practice, training, and performance activities. The biggest thing that I’ve found over the years is that most players do not have a good grasp on how many calories they need during the day or how many calories they actually take in.

23yo Male / 6ft Tall / 200lbs  3,114 Calories

The average professional baseball player requires 3,114 calories just to fuel his normal bodily functions at rest and maintain his current body weight. The need increases to between 3,600 and 4,100 calories per day to fuel the body for the addition of daily baseball activities. It is important to also understand that a player’s calorie needs will change based on the time of year (off-season, pre-season, or in-season), within a given week (5-day Starting Pitcher Rotation), or according to his role on the team (Starter vs. Reliever, or Everyday Player vs. Bench Player). Consuming up to 100-500 more calories per day than you are expending will provide you with the energy needed to gain strength and increase your lean muscle mass.

How do you gain weight? Above all else, make sure that you have a positive calorie balance.

David Yeager, ATC, CSCS
Co-Founder, BaseballStrengthCoaching.com

Monday, March 22, 2010


A player’s intensity can be a great asset to his performance, a player that is able to perform at a higher intensity mentally as well as physically will excel at any skill he performs. But, how can we challenge the intensity to increase performance. I continue to explore new ways to challenge my athletes to increase their intensity, and consistency. Many players don’t understand how to keep intensity at a high level. They have been trained over time to just give enough to get by, if they only need to take 10 grounders a day to make the team then that is good enough. This can be very frustrating to me at times; I don’t understand how you can dream of playing a game at a high level and only do what is needed to get by. How can a player not want to be the best, or able to reach their full potential? I am not saying every player will go pro or has the potential to play pro ball, but, I have seen many players that through a lack of focus and intensity let the world pass them by. I have been working on a few aids that have had great success in helping many of my players find the intensity and consistency of intensity to raise their game to new levels. The ideas are simple, but can lay out a plan that can focus a ball players day to day routine.

1ST- We start to track the players practice schedule
-hitting, fielding, throwing.
This allows the player to see how much work is actually being done, the first time the player does this they will usually be surprised at the little they actually did at practice. Many players will say I put in 21/2 hours at practice that should be enough, but how much work did they actually get, 25 swings, 15 grounders, and couple base steeling opportunities.

2nd- Determine a plan of action to increase the players actual individual work time.

Set a day to day schedule on extra tee hitting drills, hitting off the curve ball machine, taking back hands, ect. The key is to start slow, just a few drills every night or every other night. Many times after the practice tracking reveals to the player the lack of work they have been doing they will be highly motivated to do extra work, but if they are overloaded, they set themselves up for failure. If the work load is too great the player will soon be stressed by the extra time commitment and will usually discontinue the activities. Remember to start slow and as progress is made it will be easy for the player to make adjustments and increase work load.

3rd- Keep track of the performance changes.

In many cases the player’s numbers will increase in just a few weeks, but the player will also start to exude more confidence and playing potential. The tracking of these changes can be an extra motivator to the player when tough times come, like a hitting slump. By reminding the player of the time committed to their performance and increased intensity the player can gain confidence and will themselves out of tough times.

Now this is not the only way to increase a player’s intensity, but just one of many. The goal is to increase performance and developing a plan and tracking progress increases the player’s ability to have a hands on experience, which in turn increases the success of the program. The first step is the decision to bring your game to a new level, it is hard work and sacrifice after that, in my opinion the fun part of the development process.

Brian Niswender, MA, CSCS
Co-Founder BaseballStrengthCoaching.com

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Preparation = Confidence

I know that the Vancouver Games have been closed for over a week, but one particular athlete’s story stood out in my mind. Immediately after winning the gold medal in the Women’s Moguls event, skier Hannah Kearney was interviewed and she talked about a “special note” that one of her strength coaches had sent her on the morning of the finals. Kearney was known to keep a diary of detailing each of her workouts over the past year. Her coach secretly went through the diary and summed up her work:

- 2,500+ Jumps
- 250 hours on the Bike
- 5,800 stairs climbed in ski boots while jumping into the pool

At the bottom of the note, the coach wrote “You are ready.”

Performance is a test of your training and skills. I know it’s a cliché, but don’t you feel better about taking a test if you’ve studied for it? Preparation for next season begins as soon as this season ends. Preparation for your next outing or game begins as soon as your last one was over. The goal is to maximize recovery, review what went right and what went wrong, develop a game plan, and then execute the plan. Simple right?

Not always. But, Hannah Kearney is on to one trick that can help…keeping a Training Log. Maintaining a log of workouts can help you recognize patterns and better understand when it is time to change movements and adjust the volume and intensities for optimal training benefits. Keeping a diary of previous performances can help you identify successful strategies and prevent falling into predictable patterns.

When you see it on paper, it is easier to recognize that you’ve done everything you can to prepare yourself for. And then you’ll know… “You are ready!”

David Yeager, ATC, CSCS

Friday, March 5, 2010

Finding Balance

Finding Balance

I have struggled all week with the blog. I wanted to touch on a very important part of the athletes training, that being balance. Some times this very simple concept is overlooked. The transfer of forces from the ground to the hands is based on balance, but where do you start and can it be covered in a blog. As I struggled with the topic I remembered a story I read from a master of kung fu. It explained the importance of a strong foundation as related to a tree. A tree that grows roots deep into the soil will withstand any storm and a tree that’s roots are shallow will fall over. The same is true of the athlete. The athlete that grows and trains his roots deep will be able to perform any task. In this metaphor the soil is the surroundings of the tree and so relates to the surrounding of the athlete. Who and what does the athlete surround himself with will determine how deep the roots can go. If an athlete is jumping from new fad to new fad they can never really lay down roots, because something new is being introduced constantly. The athlete must also surround him self with the right instructors and mentors. These strong influences can help the athlete stay grounded, motivate and support. So to keep it simple this week, really take a look at your program and who you surround yourself with. These things are either helping you or bring you down, and remember the tree, get those roots deep and stay with it. Hard work always pays off.

Brian Niswender, MA, CSCS

Friday, February 26, 2010

MLB Exploring Testing for HGH in Minors

League consulting with experts concerning immediate next steps
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com

02/24/10 1:30 AM EST

Major League Baseball plans to explore the possible implementation of blood testing for human growth hormone in the Minor Leagues later this year, an official in baseball with direct knowledge of the matter told The New York Times for a story published on its Web site late Tuesday.

The news comes one day after a British rugby player was suspended for testing positive for HGH, the first time that an athlete had been publicly identified for testing positive for the substance, the report said. In a statement to The New York Times, Major League Baseball said it was "well aware of the important news with respect to" the positive drug test that resulted in the ban of the rugby player. The statement continued: "We are consulting with our experts concerning immediate steps for our minor league drug program and the next steps for our Major League drug program."

Commissioner Bud Selig previously has implemented new steps against the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the Minor Leagues during the past decade, doing so without needing the consent of the MLB Players Association because most Minor Leaguers aren't members.

A second baseball official confirmed to The Times on Tuesday that Selig will likely move to get the union's approval to test for HGH on the Major League level.

The players unions in both baseball and the National Football League have accepted the use of urine tests for various performance enhancers. However, they have resisted blood testing, questioning the reliability of any current test for H.G.H.

"We believe we have the best drug-testing policy and there is no reason to forcefully implement any blood-testing at this time," George Atallah, a spokesman for the NFL union, told The Times. A spokesman for the baseball union only told the newspaper "that it was consulting with its medical experts" and declined further comment.

According to the report, MLB and the NFL have provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in research financing to Don Catlin, a longtime anti-doping expert, hoping that Catlin could produce a reliable HGH urine test. The Times reported that "Catlin has said he is making progress on the test but is not sure when it might be ready for widespread use."

Selig has publicly supported an HGH test.

"When a valid, commercially available and practical test for HGH becomes reality -- regardless of whether the test is based on blood or urine -- baseball will support the utilization of that test," Selig said in 2008, at a hearing before Congress.

That following November, then-head of the baseball union Donald Fehr said he would consider support for an HGH test "if and when a blood test is available and it can be signed and validated by people other than those that are trying to sell it to you. Then we'd have to take a hard look at it."

The report also said that officials for the World Anti-Doping Agency and the United States Anti-Doping Agency pointed out privately that athletes often used HGH out of competition and not when events were taking place. It was only in 2008 that kits were developed allowing for wider testing of athletes outside of competition.

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Monday, February 22, 2010

How Your Mind is Like Underwear

How Your Mind is Like Your Underwear
by Tom Hanson, Ph,D

In 1996 I spent 30 straight days as a student at a yoga center.

We did about 5 hours of yoga a day and ate vegetarian food. All that stretching and breathing
not only changed me physically (I felt like a greyhound when I left), it also opened me up to a new
world of learning and personal growth.

I met so many fascinating people and had so many mind-expanding conversations that
I’ve never been the same since. I’m more open to new ideas, I’ve taken more risks (e.g. quit a tenured college professorship to pursue my dream) and as a result my life has been a great adventure.

I attribute much of my growth and current happiness to my choice to put myself through that yoga experience.

Our minds are like our underwear: Once they get stretched passed their current capacity they never go back to their original size.

Those of us who have experienced getting a “snuggy” or a “wedgy” (or whatever you called it when you were a kid) know what I mean.

As I observe successful people, ones I want to be like, I see they pursue life-changing experiences instead of waiting around for them to happen.

We all experience unwanted, powerful, life-changing events: We lose jobs, lose loved ones, get dropped by girlfriends, get injured and get let down by people we trust.

These unwanted events are referred to in my world as AFGOs: Another (Fricking) Growth Opportunity.

But if you pursue great positive, wanted learning experiences you meet them on your own terms rather than waiting until an AFGO hunts you down. The more you do so the better you’ll be able to handle the AFGOs when they do come.

The yoga month I did was by my choice and it gave me skills and experiences that have helped me through some challenging times (like when I quit a tenured college professorship to pursue my dreams…)

Life is going to deal us all lessons, be it on the field or off. That is inevitable. Yet we can choose to live as a learning hunter or a learning hunted.

Rick, a high school player I coached this summer, was experiencing a lot of stress from the way his parents were acting. They wanted him to get a scholarship or get drafted and kept reminding him of what he needed to do. They were well-intentioned and didn’t realize the effect they were having on Rick.

Rick sought my help. I shared with him some ideas on how to be loving yet powerful in communicating his feelings with his parents. After some practice he was ready, and he initiated a tough conversation with his parents.

He could have sat back and not expressed himself, but he chose to do some learning, then take the actions he needed to clear his head. Everything went great and as you might expect, when the relationship with his parents improved, so did his performance, greatly improving his chances of reaching his goals.

Now he has an experience of initiating a difficult conversation with an authority figure. The ability to do that results in a different life from a guy who swallows his feelings.

Rick was a learning hunter.

Thank you,

Dr. Tom Hanson

Monday, February 15, 2010

The power of "Power Talk"

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
-William Shakespeare

As I sit here watching the Olympics this week, I can’t help but think about the countless hours of training and practice that these athletes put in for only a handful of competitions a year and this ultimate event only once every four years. With so much time between competitions, they remain motivated and push on to achieve their dreams of Olympic gold.

Yet, how many of us work with athletes, both young and more mature, each day that it is a chore to motivate them for each practice or training session? The Olympians are at the pinnacle of their sport and still find the will and resolve to perform their necessary day-to-day routines. Most of our athletes still have a long way to go before they reach their elite levels. Even some of those who have cracked the professional ranks, still require a significant amount of our energy to nudge and drag them through their training sessions and put in at least enough effort to get something out of their workouts. Why do athletes often view these activities as a necessary evil? A colleague of mine said it this way, “It’s like some of them just don’t want to work.” I usually put it a different way. They just don’t understand the importance of the “behind the scenes” work and day-to-day grind that can have a huge impact on their on-field performance.

Shakespeare asks, “What’s in a name?” Language is a systematic means of communicating ideas and feelings. The words that we use should clearly designate our purpose and direction. The subconscious mind records everything. A person’s experiences provide a context for the emotions and behaviors that result from the words that are expressed. If an athlete has a history of negative experiences related to training or is constantly bombarded with negatives in his environment, then this will ultimately lead to negative thoughts, emotions, and behaviors about training and workouts. For example, when a coach uses conditioning as punishment, this serves to frame strength and conditioning as something the athlete should not want to do. Our mission should be to provide an environment both physically and with the language that we use to motivate and encourage our athletes to strive for their best both during competition and during their day-to-day routines.

I read an article several years ago that really got me thinking about the concept of language and positive self-talk. The article described a shipping company that was losing almost a million dollars per year in late, damaged, and wrong shipments. They hired a consultant to analyze their warehouse operations and to recommend changes that they could make in order to maximize their profits. After a couple of months the consultants made only one suggestion…change a word. What the consultants determined was that in the warehouse, the workers were segregated into different roles (packers, loaders, drivers, etc.). These roles isolated the workers and limited their interest in the work they performed. The consultants suggested that the company do away with each of the workers’ designated roles and replace them with a single job description, “craftsmen”. The shipping company took the advice and began referring to each employee as a “craftsman”. They even altered their training and business manuals to refer to “craftsmen”. Over time, the company began noticing big changes. The employees began taking more pride and ownership in their work, warehouse morale improved, and the next year’s analysis showed that the money the company was losing due to poor work and shipping errors was virtually gone.

What are some words that we can change in our business? Since reading the article, I have made the following power changes to my language when I’m communicating with athletes:

Strength and Conditioning >> Performance Enhancement
Practice >> Training Session
Rehabilitation >> Reconditioning
Coaching Staff >> Performance Team

Professional baseball seems to also begun to embrace this concept of “Power Talk”. Many teams shun the negative, second-tier persona of the minor leagues by referring to it as “player development”.

David Yeager, ATC, CSCS