Friday, February 26, 2010

MLB Exploring Testing for HGH in Minors

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

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 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

Monday, February 8, 2010

Need for Speed

The Need for Speed:

Baseball is an interesting game, involving many aspects of an athlete’s ability. Speed is one quality that all sports seem to want, but what is speed? What does speed mean? What does “that player is fast” really mean? I have posed these questions to myself many times, and I continue to evolve the approach I take in attaining “speed”. In this blog I wanted to go through the thought process and address some of the issues that aid the athlete in attaining their full potential.
When planning to increase a player’s speed, what is the goal? Is the player considered slow in the 60, or are they slow from home to first. Are they slow in the field, are they not making plays they should be. The reason this is important, is because a player that runs an excellent 60 time does not mean that player steals a lot of bases. In training, every quality of “speed” should be addressed but if we don’t understand what the goal is then how can we make an effective plan.

What are the qualities of “speed”?
1) Acceleration
2) Maintenance
3) Deceleration
4) Change of Directions

These are the basics, I have seen them broken down with different names and multiple stages, but this gives the basics that are easy to understand. In the first quality, acceleration, we are basically talking about from the point the player starts to the point that they reach top speed. I consider this to be the most important quality is baseball. The faster we can reach top speed the better the player will be at the game. I believe that is true at any position on the field. The reason I believe this is true is because this allows the player to play ahead of the game. They are able to refocus attention after acceleration to the play at hand whether it is fielding a ball or stealing a base. The game is played in short burst usually around 30 yards or 90 feet. Let’s take an example: we have two players they both run the 60 in 6.9sec. But player 1 runs the 30 in 3.0 sec. and player 2 runs it in 3.3 sec. Which player is going to steal more bases, player 1 because they get to their top speed faster? This player will also track down more balls and make more plays because they get to point “a” just a little bit faster then the other, but on paper, with traditional testing they are the same.
In baseball the second quality, maintenance, is not as important as in some other sports, because the player does not have to run very far, again we are looking at around 30 yards, or less, in most plays. Maintained of speed, is a great tool for conditioning in baseball, the more times a player can run that 30 yards in 3.0 sec. the better the player will be able to focus and not fatigue from the game.
The last 2 qualities of speed, deceleration and change of direction really go hand in hand. In many cases this aspect of speed is over looked, but with out these qualities the athlete is not able to be quick, which allows the player to use acceleration. Being able to refocus the players speed in another direction is key to making great plays, on the base paths or when getting deep in the hole. The quality of deceleration is also important in the reduction of injury. In many cases the change of direction or reacceleration is the point that many injuries happen and so by training this quality a player can also decrease the likely hood of injury.
When training for “speed” have a plan. Know what the player needs, and how to get it.

Brian Niswender

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Testing Athleticism

February marks another rite of passage for aspiring athletes. Every year, sports performance “gurus” prepare their athletes for the National Football League’s combine. Professional football prospects and team representatives descend upon Indianapolis, Indiana. There the athletes are put through a battery of physical drills and psychological tests attempting to identify elite players, determine their draft status, and predict eventual success on the field. Yet, according to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (Kuzmits and Adams, 2008), there is no consistent statistical relationship between combine tests and professional football performance. This is consistent with studies in other sports, such as handball (Lidor et al, 2005), rugby (Gabbett et al, 2007), and ice hockey (Vescovi et al, 2006). These studies noted that only the players’ skills, not their physiological characteristics were predictors of their playing ability. In other words, the only true measurement of an athlete’s performance on the field… is his performance on the field.

This is not to say that testing of athleticism does not have its’ place. Vern Gambetta defines athleticism as the ability to execute athletic movements at optimum speed with precision, style, and grace in the context of the sport or activity. These characteristics are all related to movement efficiency. Therefore, athleticism, by its’ very nature, aids and fine-tunes the performance of sports skills.

Analyzing athletic properties can provide a profile of an individual’s strengths and weaknesses. This is particularly true if the results are compared to the player’s performance. For example, let’s say that a right-handed pitcher is tested in the “5-10-5 Agility”. His score is rated as average when compared to other players of his performance level. However, further investigation notes that this pitcher is 0.1 seconds slower when moving to his left compared to the right. In terms of performance, the pitcher’s coach routinely works with him on locating his fastball to the far corner of the plate. One explanation of the pitcher’s poor performance on this task may be a lack of hip mobility when rotating his pelvis and trunk to the left. Decreased hip rotation can disrupt the sequential timing of events needed to place the throwing arm in the correct position to execute the throw. This ultimately results in poor efficiency of the movement and limited precision of the outcome (i.e. the inability to hit the outside corner of the plate).

Although athleticism may not predict future success in sports, it can be a useful tool in the enhancement of the skills needed for successful sports performance.