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

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