Sunday, December 11, 2016

Gift ideas for baseball athletes

  If you are looking for last minute gift ideas for your young baseball or softball athletes here are a few moderate to low cost training tools that provide awesome value!

Functional Training Bands
These fit  easily into an equipment bag and can be attached to a fence or post. Great option for core/shoulder stability strength.

I would go with the extra light (purple) or light (magenta) versions. In this case you're using these bands to help develop movement control and not maximum strength. Ideal for teenage athletes.

This week on Instagram I will be sharing videos of my favorite exercises using these bands.

Medicine Balls

Outstanding tool for developing rotational power required for hitting, throwing, pitching and even running the bases (turn and go!). I suggest 4 pounds for middle school athletes and 6 pounds for high school athletes. You don't want to go to heavy here. The emphasis is on efficiency and speed of execution. If the ball is to big/heavy it tends to lead to compensation and poor mechanics.

These are ideal for throwing in to brick walls or up against the fence. Check my Instagram out the 2nd week of January for exercises using med balls. Why January? This is when you'll want to start incorporating these into your offseason training program.

Mini Bands

These are small but pack a powerful training punch. They easily fit into your baseball bag. These bands can be an outstanding tool for conditioning the hips. Hip rotation is an often overlooked quality when it comes to conditioning for baseball. You can use mini bands to help prepare your hips for the rotational demands of playing baseball. I  would go with all 4 resistance options (Light-X Heavy).

I will be posting mini band hip conditioning exercises on Instagram the 3rd week of January. I will give you a few pointers on how to effectively use mini bands.

I just checked and the mini bands and the functional training bands are on sale this week. Just follow the link.

If you haven't started thinking about your off season conditioning plan now would be a good time to start. The three training tools that I listed here are all easy to implement options that will help you perform better on the field and help ensure your durable enough to stay there!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Is Cross-Fit a good workout for Baseball players?

  Baseball is as competitive as ever and young athletes are always looking for an edge on their competition. One of the ways they seek to do this is with off field strength and conditioning.

This can be a powerful addition to a baseball athlete’s sport performance plan. That said the type of off-field training you choose is very important.

If you choose what’s “trending” in the fitness industry you are not optimizing the potential off-field training has to improve your on-field performance.

For example I frequently get asked what I think about Cross-Fit for young athletes and baseball players.

First, I respect the culture that Cross-Fit creates for it’s members. They do a great job of creating camaraderie and an environment that motivates folks (who might otherwise despise exercise) and encourages them to test their limits. From a programming perspective for the most part they focus on full body movements and not isolationism like bodybuilding, so that’s a plus.

However, there are several things that concern me when applying Cross-Fit type programming to developing young athletes and more specifically baseball players.

Most young athletes lack foundational strength.

Kids that can barely hold themselves up in a basic push-up or lunge are being tasked with highly technical lifts and explosive movements.  Young athletes with poor posture, limited joint mobility/core stability are being subjected to high volume (lots of sets and reps) training programs that overload their already weak and under conditioned bodies.

Just like with throwing or hitting, it’s important to do things RIGHT before even considering doing them A LOT.

The movements place a lot of stress on the wrists, elbows and shoulders. For that reason alone it’s not a good fit.

And it’s not just the stuff that is included in these workouts that can be problematic it’s the stuff they are leaving out.

A rotational sport like baseball requires a lot of dedicated work to address the small hinges that swing big doors. Qualities like thoracic spine mobility, hip mobility, rotator cuff strength and function, anti-rotation core strength and opposite side rotation are essential for enhancing on-field performance and more importantly ensuring the athletes can play consistently and not sitting out due to nagging injuries.

I would go so far as to say programs like Cross-Fit are not workouts at all. They are practices. They make you better at Cross-Fit. It’s a competition!

Just like baseball is a competition and you use batting/fielding/pitching practice to improve your skills so that you can improve your on-field performance.

I’m all in favor of athletes trying different sport/competitions but for competitive baseball players Cross-Fit type workouts just aren’t a good fit.

Instead of enhancing performance most popular fitness trends will push athletes closer to the brink of injury, while reinforcing poor movement quality and joint mechanics especially in the case of one-side dominant, single sport, rotational athletes (baseball, tennis, quarterback).

I see baseball players being exposed to programs that are inappropriate due to lack of specificity (Cross-Fit, Football programs). Or training modalities that actually hinder athleticism (body-building, long slow distance running) or workouts that amount to little more than a glorified warm-up routine that doesn’t meet the complete needs of what should be explosive/powerful athletes (band programs).

The answer is finding a conditioning program that meets the unique needs of the modern baseball athlete. They don’t need to be pampered but they also should not be hammered. A training program, should boost athletic performance and not teach a kid merely how to survive a workout…

I developed my program Forever Fit over 15 years ago to meet then needs of all developing young athletes. To give them what they are missing out on due to lack of free play.

In the last 5 years I have been working hard on developing Baseball Fit because this generation of baseball athlete needs what it provides. Modern baseball athletes need something that counteracts the unique demands of their sport while also providing them with the crucial athletic growth they need to realize their full potential on the field of play and in the game of life.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Reign of Errors: Why Birthdate Is So Influential In Baseball

  Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers described the relative age effect in sports; athletes born in the month(s) immediately following the age-cutoff date are disproportionately overrepresented in the sport.

For example, data kept from 1950-2005* shows that most American Major League Baseball players were born in the month of August (503). Further, every month after August of a particular birth year until July 31 of the following year,  (313) there was a steady decline in the likelihood that an American child would become a major leaguer.

What is so magical about August? For more than 55 years (beginning in 1950 when organized Little League baseball got its start), July 31 had been the age-cutoff date used by virtually all non-school affiliated baseball leagues in the U.S.

The Baseball Info Solutions (BIS) database contains birth information about all major and upper-level minor league players active since 2002. According to the data, 18.6 major league players were born per day in August, compared to just 12.5 players per day in July. The BIS data also shows a 26.6% spike in August while July comes in at 15.4% below average.

The result:

In almost every American youth league, the oldest players had been the ones born in August, and the youngest were those with July birthdays.

For example, someone born on July 31, 2000, would almost certainly have been the youngest player on his youth team in 2011, his first year playing in the 11-and-12-year-olds league, and of average age in 2012, his second year in the same league. Someone born on Aug. 1, 1999, by contrast, would have been of average age in 2011, his first year playing in the 11-and-12-year-olds division, and would almost certainly be the oldest player in the league in 2012.

Twelve full months of development makes a huge difference for an 11- or 12-year-old. The player who is 12 months older will, on average, be bigger, stronger, and more coordinated than his younger counterpart, not to mention more experienced. And those bigger, better players are the ones given opportunities for further advancement. Other players, who are just as skilled for their age, are less likely to be given those same opportunities simply because of when they were born. Bryce Harper would've been a star no matter his birth month, but a player like Dustin Pedroia (8/17/83) who has less natural aptitude for the sport, might have gotten a small leg up over similarly skilled players because he's an August baby. It's clear by the numbers that this small advantage can have an impact that lasts a lifetime.

In 2006, USA Baseball changed the domestic age determination date to April 30 of the current year. The age of a baseball player as of April 30 is that player's "league age" for the season.

According to USA Baseball:

The primary reason to change the domestic determination age is so most players on a team will spend the majority of the regular season at the same chronological age as their league age. Currently, more than 95 percent of all local Little League programs start their seasons before May 1.

 Most youth baseball organization members under the jurisdiction of USA Baseball have adopted the April 30 age determination date.

With the new rule it will take a while to shake out how this affects rosters at the Major League level but I think we should definitely be aware of the historical data. Those who fail to acknowledge history could lose out on a significant pool of talent if we don’t think this thing through a little more critically.

For example, does moving the cutoff date from July 31 to April 30 really matter? It doesn’t’ appear that this will actually fix anything over the long-term. All that will likely happen is that kids born in the month of May will now have a big advantage. After all, players born immediately after the age determination date have been shown to have a decided advantage over players born in the months just before it because they are more physically mature and able to dominate their competition at the youth level.

Allan Simpson in the February 2005 edition of Baseball America wrote-

Research has shown that a majority of players on youth league all-star teams of all age groups are born in the four months immediately after July 31. That advantage carried forward to the major league level, as more 2004 big leaguers were born in August (123) than any other month, and the fewest were born in July (89).

If we chose to we could acknowledge that cutoff dates matter. We could set up different tracks of development, one for the early developers and one for the potential late bloomers. Keep those late bloomers involved during their developmental years and continue to provide them with quality coaching and instruction.  The results should be significant.   In 2 or 3 years, you would have a much larger talent pool to choose from.

According to Bill James online:

If organized baseball could manage to develop these overlooked ballplayers as well as it develops August-born (now May) talent, there would be 25% more MLB-caliber players. The league could expand to 7 or 8 additional markets without a drop in quality, leading to more revenues for the league, owners, players, and individual cities.

The solution won’t be easy but even a small group of committed individuals can make a big difference. By placing an emphasis on athlete development rather than arbitrarily rewarding those with the happy fortune of being born in August… or now May we can start to create the necessary social proof that will be vital for getting the attention of the entire baseball community.

The organization that decides and acts to serve in the best interest of their young athletes will undoubtedly become an Outlier, an organization with humble intentions that will become the beacon for others to follow.

*In 2006, the age cutoff date moved from July 31 to April 30.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

What Happened To Those Little League Heroes?

  A team from Endwell, New York recently won the Little League World Series. And it got me thinking how many kids that have played in the Little League World Series have gone on to play Major League Baseball?

Here's an eye-opening statistic for many parents and coaches...

In the 69 years of the Little League World Series, a total of 45 players have made both the Little League World Series and MLB, including 13 current players who first made their names on the fields of Williamsport, Pa. How can this be?

Aren't we watching the greatest 11 and 12-year-old players, in the world?

What is happening to these players between the ages of 12 and 18?

Here's what happens...

We're really not seeing the most talented 11 and 12-year-old players in the game.  What we really see is the most physically developed 11 and 12-year-old players in the game.

When we see a 5'10”, 170lbs. 12 year old, that is a player that is just bigger and stronger than other kids his age.

NOT more talented.

Here's where it goes wrong...

Other kids his age start to develop physically.  4 years later that physical development levels out and often the physically dominant player has relied on that physical dominance and has neglected the skills of the game and have not developed the essential work ethic.

I get emails all the time from Dads of players who are just realizing this and they are now scrambling to play catch up.

Sometimes it's too late.

So, if you're not one of those early developers, hang in there, work hard, things tend to balance out.  If you get cut don’t give up. 12 years old is far to early to retire from the sport if you truly love it.

If you are one of those early developers, stop relying on that to succeed. Start layering this early advantage with the skills of the game.  

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Baseball Off-Season (Part 2)

How to get the most out of your baseball offseason

  In part 1 of this 2-part article on how to get the most out of your baseball offseason I offered the first two of my four recommendations.

Taking time off from baseball skills work should be priority number one closely followed by mastering behaviors that are well within your control (sleep, hydration, nutrition, and academics). For a more thorough vetting of these topics please check out part 1.

Without further adieu here are my final 2 recommendations for getting the most out of your baseball offseason.

Get a check-up/Get a clean up

The offseason is the perfect time to clear up any lingering issues that may have plagued you during the season.

Did your hips or hamstrings stiffen up?
Did you shoulder feel weak?
Do you feel flat and fatigued or run down?
Are you hurt? Do you have any aches or pains?

Now is the time to get those things taken care of! And the best thing you can do is to meet with a qualified professional and get yourself assessed.

I assess all of my athletes prior to starting an offseason program.  I look at joint range of motion, movement quality, tissue quality and posture. I also do a mind-set check. I ask the athlete to reevaluate their goals and ask them how they felt the season went and what they would like to improve.  If you don’t know where you are (assessment) and you aren’t sure where you want to go (reevaluate) it’s very tough to develop a strategy because there’s no direction.

After the assessment and reevaluation process we will develop the initial program that restores and rebuilds the athlete using exercises that are targeted toward improving flexibility, body control and awareness.  Basically we are giving them back what they most likely have lost after the long season.

Studies of pro baseball players reveal:
  • They lose shoulder internal rotation (this is what happens on the follow through)
  • They gain shoulder external rotation (this is the lay-back, cocking position, a case where more is not always better)
  • They lose elbow extension (the ability to straighten your arm)
  • They lose shoulder and scapular strength
  • You will lose overall body strength and power
  • Your posture and alignment will change

Take the time to restore, regenerate, and rebalance (the 3 R’s) your body and mind before you…

Build and maximize your athletic qualities

This is the fun stuff right? After you take care of the 3 R’s it’s time to hit the weight room and the training floor to improve your endurance, strength, speed and power.

In calendar form assuming you stop-playing ball after September and have try-outs in early March your offseason should look likes this:


October- No baseball skill work. Get to work on cleaning up your nutrition, sleep, and hydration habits. Also hit the books hard while you one less obligation. Attach these things as if they are part of your baseball preparation because they are. 

October/November- get assessed and get cleaned up! Your body and mind took a lot of abuse this past season you need to take time to restore, regenerate, and rebalance your baseball/athletic portfolio.

November/December- Work on your movement efficiency. This is the stuff you learned from your assessment. Move well before you move heavy stuff or run fast.

December/January- Develop your work capacity/Endurance and your foundational strength with an emphasis on optimal lifting technique.

January/February-The training will skew more toward general speed and power development.

February/March- it’s almost go time so now we turn our attention toward more specific speed and power development.

If you follow this sequence of events and do this right you have the formula to have an outstanding in-season performance. And you’ll have made huge strides toward meeting your goals on the field of play and in the game of life.

If you’d like to learn more about our formula I’d love to share it with you. Complete Baseball Performance was developed with the end user in mind; young athletes that want to maximize their potential in the sport that they love. Click here to learn how we will help you maximize your potential as a baseball player.

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Baseball Off-season

How to get the most out of your baseball off-season

  It’s been a long summer of baseball and it is time to start thinking about your offseason!

In an ideal world you would play another sport. This would be a great opportunity to give your body (and mind) a break from the baseball specific patterns that you’ve locked in for the past 6 months.

The athletic diversity you acquire from playing different sports will enhance your athleticism and durability both of which will help you maximize your baseball specific potential.

On the other end of the spectrum are the athletes that play fall ball and continue unimpeded with hitting and pitching lessons throughout the off-season. Definitely not the routes you want to be on if you plan on playing the sport at a high level (HS Varsity, Select Travel, College).

And then there is the middle ground that really gets you nowhere and that’s just “chillin” until try-outs come around in March.

Offseason training programs can provide a golden opportunity that many players do not take advantage of at the start of the offseason.  Think of it as setting the foundation to prepare your body to get the most out of your offseason training.

Here are the first 2 of my 4 recommendations to get the most out of the start of your baseball offseason training.

Take Time Off From Skill Work

One of the most important aspects to the start of the baseball offseason is to take a step back and get away from baseball.  While this may seem counterintuitive, I do believe it is critical to your long-term success.

Between traveling teams, tournaments, showcases, and grinding away at practice, the summer is almost as busy as the pro players!  I actually joke with some of my high school baseball athletes that they can’t wait to go back to school to take a vacation from their summer baseball travel schedule!

But there are important physical benefits of taking time off as well.  Throwing a baseball is hard on your body and creates cumulative stress.  Furthermore, several studies have been published showing that the more your pitch, the greater your chances of injury:

Pitching for greater than 8 months out of the year results in 5x as many injuries (Olsen AJSM 06)

Pitching greater than 100 innings in one year results in 3x as many injuries (Fleisig AJSM 2011)

Pitching in showcases and travel leagues significantly correlated to increased injuries (Register-Mahlick JAT 12, Olsen AJSM 06)

I have found that my younger athletes that play a sport like soccer in the fall tend to look better to me over time.  Sure, that is purely anecdotal.  But specializing in a very unilateral sport may actually limit some of your athletic potential, especially when you are in the certain age ranges where athletic development occurs.  Everything is baseball tends to be to one side.  Righties always rotate to the left when throwing and swinging, heck everyone even runs to the left around the bases!

Not only are these movements occurring at a high frequency to the same side over and over they also happen insanely fast!

Biomechanical analysis of a baseball swing reveals maximum pelvis rotational velocities of up to 714 degrees per second (Welch JOSPT 1995)

There is plenty of time to get ready for next spring.  Take some time off in the fall and let your body heal up.  You aren’t going to forget how to hit, pitch or lose your release point or feel.  You’ll come back stronger next season.

Focus on Small Hinges That Swing Big Doors

You were likely on the road all summer living out of a mini-van or cheap hotels all the while slamming quick but empty sources of nutrition like candy bars, Gatorade and Subway/McDonald’s.

It’s time to let replenish your body with plenty of the essentials:

Carry a water bottle with you at all times and start and finish the day with a full glass.

High quality sleep
Aim for at least 8 hours of sleep every night. Shut off the technology 30 minutes before bed and keep your room cool and super dark.

The focus here is on eating real food as often as possible. Stuff in a box or a pouch is not real food! Start every meal with something that is an animal (chicken, beef, pork) or comes from an animal (eggs, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt). Then eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables with every meal. Add whole grains like oats, brown rice, quinoa and sweet potatoes especially if you are trying to add muscle mass. Snack on things like nuts, fruit, and beef jerky. Use protein bars and powders only when you don’t have any other options. They are better than fast/snack food but real food provides the building blocks to strong/athletic bodies!

Take advantage of the time with no/light baseball activity by hitting the books as hard as you hit or throw the baseball. D1 college baseball has only 12.6 scholarships to offer. Full rides are rare but you can always find academic dollars to help make up the difference. More importantly baseball may help you get into a school you may not otherwise be able to attend. Learn how to study now so if you do get a “special” opportunity to attend a great university you’re prepared to handle the academic rigors.

The top two recommendations (take time of from baseball and take care of the basics) are well within your control and you can start right now! This won’t be easy but consider it part of the mind-set training you will absolutely need to achieve success on the field of play and in the game of life.

 I will get the rest of my off-season recommendations to you later this week. Until then do the simple things savagely well!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Complete Baseball Performance

Complete Baseball Performance
A total performance enhancement program for the developing baseball player

Baseball is a metaphor for my life and serves as my tool for leading young people and helping them maximize their potential on the field of play and in the game of life.  If you are an athlete interested in improving your baseball performance through cutting edge physical, mental and nutritional training join me at Complete Baseball Performance. The course begins September 8 and runs through March 1.

Complete Baseball Performance Program Highlights

Performance Preparation - Learn to mentally and physically prepare yourself to play consistently at a high level.
Sports Nutrition and Recovery - Understand health and nutrition strategies to optimize your performance and recovery.
Speed/Agility - Explore techniques to enhance your acceleration on the bases and range in the field.
Rotational Power - Improve your ability to generate power from the ground up to boost throwing velocity and bat speed.
Functional Movement Strength - Enhance your athletic strength and your ability to transfer it to the field.
Core strength - Boost your core strength -- a solid foundation starts up the middle. You can’t transmit force without it.
Shoulder and Hip PREhab - Optimize your range of motion and strength that are essential for durability and performance.  These joints transfer power and are involved in all baseball movements at high speed.
Flexibility/Mobility/Functional Assessment - Boost your flexibility and mobility to prevent muscle imbalances and overuse injury in this one side-dominant sport.
Character and mental skill development - Develop mental skills and strategies to keep all of the ups and downs in perspective. Baseball is a game of failure.  Learn an approach that allows you to thrive.

Complete Baseball Performance Specializes In Baseball Players

I played Division 1 College Baseball and have experienced first hand the impact appropriate strength and conditioning and the competitive edge that it can provide.

I coached my first baseball athlete in 2004 and have spent the past 12 plus years in the trenches with baseball players developing intimate knowledge of their unique needs.

I have dedicated the past 12 years of my career learning from elite baseball professionals. I have picked their brains to find out what is truly important for the developing young baseball athlete in our modern sport culture. My curriculum is based on what I have learned from leaders in:

Major League Baseball
USA Baseball
College Baseball
High School Baseball
Club/Travel Baseball

My direct involvement with professionals extends to learning from experts in the following domains:

Sports Medicine
Sport Performance Training
Sports Nutrition
Sports Psychology

Three other factors make Complete Baseball Performance unique and relevant.

1. I played college ball and I watch baseball – I am truly a student of the game.

2. I spend time on the field watching young ball players.

3. I understand the unique physical characteristics and demands of baseball players.

Complete Baseball Performance Begins With Love For The Game

This sport is in my blood! I never worry about growing old because there will always be baseball and that will always provide the “juice” that I need to live my life with passion and energy. Your team will win and lose (mostly they will lose) but the game gives you so much more than tangible rewards. I played the game in college and I know how it feels to play and what this game can mean to a young man. As an adult, I learned things that would have helped me immeasurably but no one ever told me when it would have mattered. This is why I am driven to share my experience with young men. The movie Field of Dreams captures what the games means to me. The entire movie speaks to my soul, but the scene where Ray has  “a catch” with his father captures my “why” perfectly. This “game” unties people and its bond is as strong as anything we’ve ever experienced. That’s why I created Complete Baseball Performance!

 You can learn more about Complete Baseball Performance Here

Why Strength and Conditioning is Essential for the Modern American Baseball Player...

  Here in the Midwest we are about to hit the fall sport season and high school football is about to "kick-off" and basketball/hockey seasons are just a few months away. It would seem that baseball would be the furthest thing from a young athletes mind right now.

Welcome to 2016 the era of sport specialization! Mother Nature used to limit our ability to play baseball during the late fall/winter but that’s not the case anymore. There is no shortage of facilities that cater to the needs of the baseball athlete. If an athlete wants to hit, throw or pitch during the winter they can do so under the expert tutelage of area hitting and pitching instructors.

I can opine until the cows come home that kids should take a break from year round sport participation but we can’t ignore the facts. Youth baseball is as competitive as ever and everyone is doing all they can to give themselves an edge.

I am not here to debate whether year round baseball is good or bad for developing young athletes… But if you truly have aspirations to be the best baseball player you can be you can’t ignore what happens as a result of this year round commitment to the sport.

I will circle back to the why but first allow me to introduce the what. Off-field strength and conditioning or Complete Baseball Performance (CBP) is essential for the modern baseball athlete!

As noted earlier everyone has access to expert baseball skill development through private/group pitching and hitting instruction. But there is a huge opportunity to set yourself apart with CBP. That’s because baseball players are an incredibly neglected population with respect to strength and conditioning.

Most training programs for young athletes are based off bodybuilding, football strength and conditioning or Cross-Fit. None of which are ideal, in fact they may do more harm than good.

A good baseball strength and conditioning program must address the unique demands of the sport. Baseball is a rotational sport with significant overhead activity with high velocity repetitive movements.

In fact throwing a baseball is the single fast motion in all of sport!

Humeral (upper arm bone) internal rotation velocity during throwing may reach 7500 to 7700 degrees per second.

And swinging a bat is not exactly a slow motion either…

During the baseball swing maximal hip rotational velocity reaches up to 714 degrees per second, where the pelvis rotates over a relatively fixed femur (thigh bone).

While qualities such as strength, speed and power are just as important in baseball as they are in other sports, it’s how you go about obtaining them that makes all the difference.

Now let’s get back to the why behind CBP.  First from a performance perspective two key qualities must be enhanced through training:

Durability- this allows you to stay on the field, where you’ll have the continuity to develop your skills. If you’re always hurt or experiencing pain you won’t be able to stay on the field.

Athleticism- the better athlete you are the better things tend to “stick.”  In other words the more fertile your athletic soil is the better the seeds your coaches’ plant will grow into something special!

There are also two other factors that necessitate CBP for the modern baseball player.

Sport Specialization- not only do you need CBP to counteract the demands of the sport, you’ll also need it to provide the diverse athletic stimulus that you’re missing out on by not playing other sports. This keeps your body fresh and increases your ability to adapt and develop elite level skill.

Athleticism is the foundation for sport specific skill; the more diverse and “deep” that foundation the better chances you’ll have to support high-level sport specific skill. If your foundation is to narrow it’s like trying to shoot a canon from a canoe! You’ll likely “sink” before you reach your potential.

Posture- due to modern technology kids are slouched and hunched over all day long leading to poor joint alignment and when you add on top of that extremely fast/one-sided/highly repetitive motions it can lead to significant muscle imbalances.

Start paying attention to how you stand at rest. Additionally, look around and notice how others stand at rest. I bet it looks a lot like the picture below (weight shifted into the right hip/low right shoulder/nipple, lower right hand, just to name the most obvious). This is something I see on extreme levels in some of our right-handed throwing athletes; they’re right handed people, in a unilateral sport, in a right-handed world!

Think of the poor alignment/posture as the athlete’s starting position. Their bodies have to work so hard just to play “catch up” (get the joints in position to execute the skill) it will likely lead to excessive stress on muscles, tendons, and ligaments in addition to the wear and tear on joint surfaces.

At least this will lead to poor timing and rhythm of hitting and pitching mechanics at worse it can lead to significant injuries to the shoulder, elbow, low back or hips.

Simply restoring alignment as close to neutral as possible could unlock significant gains in potential bat and running speed as well as throwing velocity.

Most strength and conditioning programs ignore this unique demand imposed upon the baseball athlete.

Baseball is an extremely fast sport and the one-sided nature and rotational demands require specific programming variables that simply aren’t addressed with Cross-Fit, Football based programs nor

The off-season is the ideal time to develop the body armor you’ll need to stay on the field and the athleticism that is necessary to develop elite level baseball skill.

Final Thought

Last week I spoke with my old friend Carlo Alvarez, Sport Performance Coordinator for MLB's Pittsburgh Pirates. There are two things from this conversation that I wanted to highlight.

First, Carlo told me that of the 40 athletes that the Pirates drafted this past June 39 had to be regressed from his basic conditioning program. He said they were a "mess" and lacked fundamental movement and general athleticism; they were not physically prepared for professional baseball. So essentially he had to take 39 kids that were skilled enough to be drafted and take them back to the basics (running, jumping, skipping, crawling...).

Secondly, the best athletes in America aren't playing baseball. 50% of the athletes in professional baseball were born outside of the U.S. Take a glance at the rosters of the 30 MLB teams and look at the starting shortstops... This is arguably the most athletically demanding position on the field and there are few American born athletes (7 out of 30 or 23%) playing that position at the MLB level.

What does all this mean? It tells me that there is a tremendous opportunity for those that make the commitment to improve their performance preparation and overall athleticism. If our best athletes don't play baseball then the kids that do choose the sport can make a huge leap by focusing on improving athleticism outside of baseball skill development. Further, skilled baseball players that are good enough to be drafted are grossly under-prepared for the demands of high-level baseball. This means athletes aren't doing the right things away from the field and they will likely stall out before reaching their potential.

The modern American baseball player spends plenty of time on skill development (possibly to much) and they are just as likely devoting time to speed and agility training and weight training that is not addressing their unique needs.  It's pretty clear (by the numbers) that the current formula is flawed, it's simply not working! If we keep running into the wall maybe it's time to find another way to get around it...

Learn why and how Complete Baseball Performance will allow you to maximize your full potential click here

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

What people are saying about the Complete Performance Program

Daniel led the team in just about every offensive stat!  I had several, several parents comment on Daniel's speed improvement this spring (eye ball test "he looks faster") and I have a feeling Daniel will have some company heading to the training facility this fall and winter to work with you!

- Chris, father of JV Baseball player

My girls’ soccer team worked with Coach Loomis last winter. His focus was on building a strong core for our female athletes. Injury prevention and proper technique were taught to our athletes. This past spring our team suffered very little, if any injuries. I believe that our lack of injury this season can be attributed to our girls participating in Phil Loomis’ off-season program.

- Todd, Troy Athens Varsity Soccer

Congratulations on your being named one of the International Youth Conditioning Associations Coaches of Distinction… USAH appreciates the time and effort our volunteer coaches, like you, put forward for the kids.

- Bob, USA Hockey’s American Development Model Regional Manager

Freddy really enjoyed your training program and we could really see the difference in both his body and his attitude. 

- Jim, father of 4 year Varsity infielder

Phil takes my development personally.  My goals are his goals. He is committed to pushing me to reach those goals so he constantly adapts my training to fit my needs as an athlete. Phil deeply cares about me as a person as well as an athlete.

- Matthew, joining  U16 New York Red Bulls Youth Soccer Academy, Fall 2016

Our son thinks your approach to core training, plyometrics and neuromuscular training is the best!

- Bruce, father of Division 1 Scholarship Big Ten Football Athlete

We love the influence you have in Damian’s life. Lucky mom!

- Jinny, mother of 2 times Division 1 High School State Tennis Champion

Beth and I sincerely appreciate your work with Daniel this winter, and the note that you sent out to the players that did not make baseball teams this spring was right on the money. Today, he hit what I would call a routine grounder to short and I am still amazed that he beat it out. I don't think he would have made it last year and while some of it is that extra edge I think not making the team last year has given him, I also know it was your work with him this winter.

Thanks for your coaching and your belief in my son.

- Chris and Beth, parents of JV Baseball player

You are very much a main part of Michael’s life right now. You may not realize the effect you have had on him over the past few years. His maturity and strength-of-self have exponentially grown over the course of his high school years

- Kyra, mother of 3 boys

 Thanks for all the time an effort you have put in to Drew’s training. Drew definitely enjoys training with you and trusts and respects you very much and for that I appreciate all you do.

- Dan, father of High School varsity Baseball player

Thursday, June 23, 2016

To Be Great Do I Have To Leave My State?

  I have been working with a young athlete the past two years whom has really developed himself into an excellent soccer goalkeeper.

He was recently invited to spend a week with the US National Team in Bradenton, Florida. You would expect that this athlete has been specializing in soccer most of his life (16 years) and more specifically has been groomed to be a goalkeeper.

That is not the case. He only recently (within the last two years) converted to goalie after have been a field player throughout most of his soccer experience.

The evaluation from the folks with the National Team was that he just needed more “reps.” This makes sense considering his relative lack of experience at the position. I think it’s very important to note that he wasn’t told that he needed to get more athletic (stronger, faster, more agile/powerful).

This young athletes’ athletic development was as close to ideal as can be expected in the modern youth sport culture in America. He played multiple sports growing up and when he decided to stick with one sport (in mid teens) he learned how to play the entire game. Now he takes that diverse athleticism and knowledge of the overall game of soccer and applies it to his development as a goalkeeper.

To often these days not only do kids specialize way too early they also specialize within the sport and this is highly restrictive to optimal athletic development. Think of specialization as Saran Wrap on your potential and intra-sport specialization as a manhole cover!

This young athlete just needs more reps this will require great attention to detail and a commitment to put in the essential work. At 16 years of age with highly supportive parents this is well within his capabilities. However if he were told he wasn’t athletic enough that would have been a HUGE issue. At 16 in most cases that critical window of general athletic development is nearly closed and further improvements would be very slow to occur and would likely not evolve to the level required for advanced sport competition.

At the age of 16 he is at the prime developmental age to turn his training focus toward intra-sport specialization because… The foundation has been set! His overall athletic ability is firmly entrenched. Because of this foundation he has given himself the opportunity to maximize his sport specific skills.

If the movement foundation is built upon sport specific skills (often due to early sport specialization) it intentionally restricts athletic diversity, adaptability and movement exploration, and therefore, limits the ability to develop highly technical skills and athletic instincts (unrehearsed or spontaneous movement, those plays that make your jaw drop and force broadcasters to say “you just can’t teach that!”).

Physical Therapist and Athletic Development coach Bill Hartman summarizes this process expertly:

These limitations in athletic learning result in novel experiences on the field of play being perceived as threats and the nervous system will limit human system variability to perceived demands of the sporting activity as a means of protection. 

Limitations in human system variability (including movement) limit ultimate sports performance.

Early specialization is in direct conflict with the optimal long-term development of young athletes.

In other words limited athletic/movement experience (sport specialization) is like riding the brakes. It will dumb down a process that should be highly refined and instinctive and makes it robotic and slow.

   Another key element that must be acknowledged in the athletic development process is the quality of coaching.

In America our most skilled and experienced coaches apply their trade to the most elite of athletes at the Division 1 Collegiate, Professional and Olympic levels.

Meanwhile, volunteers who also have to manage the demands of a full-time job often coach young athletes. This is not a recipe for developing expert coaching skills. Skilled coaches are necessary for helping athletes develop highly technical sports specific skills.

I will use the example of the young goalkeeper. He has developed to the point where now he needs very technical coaching to take his skill to the next level. He simply can’t get the coaching he needs here at home. He must travel to Chicago to work with an elite goalkeeper coach and at best this happens one maybe two times per month. This is likely not enough to get the “reps” required to meet his goal.

So the family has to explore life-changing options such as moving to an area that has an elite athlete development infrastructure in place.

Am I saying that if you really want to become an elite athlete your family has to leave the great state of Michigan?

No! I am saying however that in Michigan we do not have an established elite athletic development infrastructure in place, yet…

Some folks are working on it but it will take some time. As always follow the money trail. Elite coaches deserve and should expect to earn elite salaries.  Only D1 Sports and the Professional Leagues have the backing to support those types of salaries.

In time hopefully we evolve to the point where as a society we deeply value the role teachers and coaches play in the lives of our kids and compensate them accordingly. Truly they are responsible for the long-term health and prosperity of our nation.

What to do in the interim?

The best strategy is to expose kids to a variety of activities and sports from a young age. We need to encourage multi-sport participation through the 10th grade. In the late high school year’s specialization can take place though it is not essential and it must have guidelines such as off-field training to counteract the sport specific demands while also encouraging diversity/playing multiple positions within their sport of choice. Additionally accountability, commitment and being a good teammate are best established at this point and we should be well equipped to serve as role models in this area of life.

If we don’t have elite coaches at the youth level we need to let kids play and discover what they are good at. We should give them general guidelines and teach them the basics and fundamentals of sport. We need to put our bias aside and realize there is no such thing as perfect form/technique and even if there is we probably aren’t skilled enough to know neither what it is nor how to teach it.

The young goalkeeper has not played the position long enough to establish poor habits/mechanics that need to be corrected.  He is like a clean slate. As a result when he gets the elite coaching he learns better because he doesn’t have any barriers to breakdown before he can move forward.

I have spent a great deal of time over my 13 years as an athletic development coach interviewing elite coaches and time and again they tell me that they want athletes! “If you give us a great overall athlete we can teach them the sports specific skills they need to excel.”

Swinging a bat, throwing a football or blocking a soccer ball is an act of athleticism. We need to give our kids the opportunity to develop a huge general base of athleticism so that when it is time to specialize they have the tools necessary to receive the elite coaching and transfer it to the field of play.

Closing thought

  If you coach young athletes or are the parent of a young athlete now is the time to invest in athletic/movement diversity. It will keep their bodies fresh and shield them against injury while also giving them the best chance at excelling on the field of play and in the game of life.

Author John Maxwell’s Law of Diminishing Intent says, “The longer you wait to do something you should do now, the greater the odds that you will actually never do it.”

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Best Hitter in Big Ten Nearly Fell Through the Cracks

  Amazingly enough the college baseball regular season will wrap up this weekend with conference tournaments getting started next week. As of now Baseball America projects both Michigan and Michigan State to make the field of 64 for the NCAA Baseball tournament. That said the Big Ten is very competitive at the top with 6 teams fighting for what will likely be 4 bids so the Spartans and Wolverines have to finish strong to get in the dance.

One of Michigan State’s best players Jordan Zimmerman leads the conference in hitting at .394 and is third in both on base and slugging percentage and has walked more than he has struck out. Zimmerman’s journey to MSU was indirect to say the least.

On the surface it would appear Zimmerman was a highly coveted recruit but that is not the case. Young ball players can learn quite a bit from the path Zimmerman traveled to East Lansing.

Zimmerman grew up in Mesa, Arizona a hot bed for professional and Division 1 baseball prospects. It just so happened that Zimmerman played shortstop the same position as 4 other top players in the area. Three of the prospects were drafted in MLB in rounds 2,3 and 5 out of high school and the fourth ended up at Arizona State. Zimmerman was overshadowed by these other players and wasn’t heavily recruited and ended up at Mesa Community College. The knock on Zimmerman at 5’11 and 170 pounds was that he was only a “singles” hitter (he hit .400 all 4 years on the high school varsity).

It was at Mesa CC that he was “discovered” by an MSU assistant coach who happened to be scouting another player but ended up offering Zimmerman a scholarship on the spot. Zimmerman credited off-field performance training for helping him improve his athleticism and strength (filling out his now 6’1 frame at 190 pounds) but all along he continued to do what he’d always done… Hit!

Zimmerman was simply overlooked through no fault of his own. Often the recruiting process is out of an athlete’s control. I wrote in the past how elite MLB athletes Paul Goldschmidt and Kevin Kiermaier were overlooked for years before they were finally “discovered.” The simple truth is recruiters and talent evaluators are human beings. They can only watch so many baseball games in person and sometimes they flat out miss guys!

Zimmerman never let up! He continued to hit the ball hard and it only took one pair of eyes to see the potential. You have to mentally prepare as if each playing opportunity is your time to be “discovered.” Because you never know who is watching and more importantly you don’t know what type of player they may be looking for.

It’s very possible scouts missed Zimmerman because he didn’t fit their mold of what a good hitter should be. Everyone covets power and he didn’t show that.  There are 298 Division 1 baseball programs and they all missed this guy. He had to settle for playing at a CC but he never allowed that to deter him from developing his skills. There is always a spot for someone that can flat out hit the ball with authority even if it doesn’t travel over the fence.  It may not have fit Zimmerman’s timeline but he kept working until someone had to take notice.

I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.

Thomas Jefferson

I will wrap up with a tip I once received from famed baseball mental skills coach Harvey Dorfman.

I don’t care where you come from and it matters very little what you’ve done in the past. What matters to me is the person you bring here.

Tough and uncertain times don’t last and statistics are just numbers on paper what endures forever is the strength of your character. Allow that to be your driving force and you will ultimately become successful wherever you end up.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Getting Cut Stinks! But it just might be the best thing that ever happened to you...

  In Southeast Michigan high school baseball evaluations took place over the last week or so. While plenty of young athletes are brimming with confidence having earned a spot on the team there are more kids that didn’t make the cut.

This is a tough spot to be in particularly for those that have never experienced the disappointment of being cut from a team.  Most of the boys I have queried in recent days want to blame the coaches for not giving them a “fair look,” and that they are a much better player than Jimmy Ballgame who did make the team because he knew the coach from middle school…

I sympathize with these young athletes because when something is taken away you tend to react emotionally and want to lash out at those whom you deem responsible.

These athletes need to look at being cut as an opportunity. You have to use the disappointing result of being cut to learn what you could have done better. If you dwell on the disappointment and allow the negative result to fester it will eat you up and you will bury yourself.

Even in the unlikely circumstance that the coach doesn’t like you, is playing favorites or is just a “dummy” that’s out of your control. Don’t waste time and energy blaming other people; this negative response will not help you. In life and sport you will have bosses, coaches, teammates and co-workers whom you don’t get along with at a personal level.

You have to choose you!

Pick you, by committing to developing an approach that will get you where you want to be. Get help to develop an approach or game plan that is appropriate for you taking into account your athletic ability and skill set. Once your game plan is in place you have to execute that consistently.  

As a young athlete I was fortunate to learn a mental strategy that was vital for helping me navigate the up and down nature of baseball. The late Dr. Harvey Dorfman was a renowned baseball mental skills coach and he taught me the following formula:


You can control the two on the outside. You can’t control the one in the middle.

As an example...

If I know as a hitter that I can’t handle the high fastball on the inner half of the plate, my approach to each at-bat is "I am only going to swing at pitches middle away." If I follow my plan and hit a line drive that’s caught by the right fielder, I made an out. However, to me I should consider it a successful at-bat because I stuck with my approach in spite of the negative result. In this situation I could not control the result, which was an out, but I can control my response to that result. And if my response is a positive one then I was successful.

However, if I get frustrated because it was caught and abandon my approach then the at-bat was not successful because I did not control my response. I allowed the result to dictate my success, likely leading me down the road of a long and painful slump.

If you want to excel at sports and baseball specifically you MUST learn how to deal with failure, it is ESSENTIAL to maximizing your abilities.

Consider the following Major League Baseball players that experienced a negative result and used it to fuel them on their path to success.

Paul Goldschmidt is fast becoming a household name in MLB. In fact, he has finished second in the NL MVP voting twice.  Paul was never the best player on his little league team, travel team (he batted 9th and played second base on his 8th grade travel team), high school team nor was he the best player on his college team. The one quality that sustained Goldschmidt throughout his journey was his work ethic and his refusal to give up.

Paul Goldscmidt's story is also a cautionary tale that too often players are prejudged at a young age without acknowledging just how much they can improve over time.

At each step along the developmental path Goldschmidt realized he was not as good as his teammates or the best players on the opposition. But he did believe he could get better if he focused each and every day on doing so.
Goldschmidt said...

In college, I didn't get to go to one of the top schools in the state or the country, but I got to compete against those guys and just figured if I could just keep getting better, who knows what could happen.

Paul Goldschmidt made himself into a Major League star and his best tool wasn’t his speed, power, or arm. It was his work ethic. Goldschmidt’s hard work and dedication gave him a chance. Far too often young athletes have unrealistic expectations and in my opinion the limiting factor isn’t their size or lack of baseball tools…

Kevin Kiermaier is the starting center-fielder for the Tampa Bay Rays. According to the statistic Wins Above Replacement (WAR) he was the 7th most valuable position player in MLB in 2015, despite hitting .263 with a mere 10 home runs. What made Kiermaier so valuable in light of his relatively pedestrian offensive production?

He used his elite speed and athleticism to save 42 defensive runs the highest number since that stat was created in 2003. Kiermaier is a human highlight film on defense not only with wall climbing and gap diving catches but with a rocket arm that accounted for 15 assists, the most by a center-fielder in 2015.

Talent evaluators and scouts overlooked Kiermaier every step of the way.  As a freshman in high school he stood at 5’6" and while one of the best players on the team in high school, he was “unspectacular overall.” Only junior colleges and NAIA schools were interested. He ended up at a Division II Junior College. Kiermaier ultimately lead that team to a Junior College World Series title his freshman year and was named MVP of the tournament.

Tampa Bay Rays scout Tom Couston started showing up at Kiermaier’s college practices to watch one of his teammates.  The scout knew right way, that Kiermaier was a prospect, and that “he’s still bewildered no one else saw what he did." Couston had many scouts come up to him and say, ‘Good job. I just missed him’.”

When his former high school coach heard Kiermaier had a chance to be drafted, he joked, “Into what? The Army?”

Kieramier was undrafted but did sign with the Rays and the rest is history. Kiermaier, like Goldschmidt, had to prove himself every step of the way. He believed when no one else did. Kiermaier picked himself! *

When you are trying out for a team it comes down to getting attention.

Not everyone is going to understand you as a player. Everyone will not see your potential.

This means you have to make a choice…

Don't worry about those that don't see your potential. Show up and play your heart out for those that might!

- 5 Teams rejected Derek Jeter before the
Yankees picked him.

- There were 1329 players selected before Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza

- All 30 teams said NO to Albert Pujols 12 TIMES!!! The Cardinals picked him in the 13th round.

Pujols got 401 Nos and only 1 yes.

That's all it takes.

It's all about getting a look then it’s up to you. Have you done everything you can to prepare for that opportunity? Have you put the work in and have you developed a game plan that will allow you to succeed?

In any of the multiple roles we play (student, athlete, friend), we’re inevitably going to face trials and periods in life when we simply don’t know how everything is going to work out.

But we must realize that just because we’re going through a difficulty doesn’t mean we’ve failed in some way or we should shrink back from doing what we love to do.

Perseverance is the key to overcoming.

The testing of your self-belief produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Make the choice today to proactively develop and maintain the mental muscle of endurance.

In doing so, you will be able to fulfill your potential.

Closing thought

 I wanted to highlight one of the young men that committed to our off-season program this past Winter. DG realized a tremendous return on the investment of his time and effort. We started our program back in November and we just wrapped up the first week of March. DG attended well over 95% of the available sessions, by far the strongest commitment of the boys that attended. We learned last week that DG made the Varsity baseball team after being cut as a freshman and sophomore.  That rarely happens! First of all most kids give up on the sport. If they don't give up they still haven't been in the program the previous two years so they really have to stand out to get noticed.

DG's baseball tools don't jump out at you but he has the essential skill that is vital to maximizing your ability. He never gave up, he invested in himself and he sought help to achieve his goal. Determination and passion are just as important as running speed, hitting power, or pitching velocity. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard!

If you need proven program that will get you on the right track to playing your best click here


*Apstein, Stephanie. "Glove and War." Sports Illustrated 21 Mar. 2016: 81-83. Web.

 Additional Reading

This was a great book that I read near the end of my playing career. I wish I would have known about it in high school! Easy read for young athletes with plenty of proven mental skill strategies for baseball.