Have you ever taken a lesson where your coach keeps yelling out one phrase, like “use your legs”, over and over? Did you struggle the whole time to make the adjustment and your biggest feedback was only “yes” or “no”? Have you ever struggled to execute a pitch only to have your coach tell you to change something, and the next one was way better but it didn’t feel any different? Have you ever you felt like you made a change, had a lights-out pen, and then the next time you pitched you felt terrible and your “stuff” wasn’t as good as your bullpen? It’s not that you’re not coachable, it’s the words.
It has almost been a year since we partnered with the Florida Baseball Ranch, one of the top developmental programs in the country. Randy Sullivan has been amazing to work with and all of us have learned a lot from him. One of the biggest pieces that he has continued to emphasize is that words get in the way.
We want to change movement patterns without conscious thought. Everything in baseball happens far too fast for an athlete to actually tell his body what to do. Much of the “old school” teaching has been done using conscious thought. A coach tells an athlete what to do, the athlete interprets the words, then tries to execute the movement, the coach tells them how to do it differently. The changes that are made may carry over for a short time, but when the intensity is ratcheted up, athletes will typically revert back to old habits. We want to lead athletes through guided discovery, based on feel and execution to train the body not the mind.
In our individualized programs athletes are given corrective drills that force them to execute drills within certain constraints. This allows the athlete to figure it out on their own. You may not remember what you hear, but your body will remember what it felt.
Noah may not be Aroldis Chapman yet, but through this drill he is able to feel his lower body work in a way that is similar to the guy that throws the hardest fastball in baseball.
At the end of the day the most important things for a thrower are answering the following questions:
- Did it hurt?
- What did the radar gun say?
- Did you hit a spot?
- Did you get the guy out?
If we can check off all the boxes, then it was a perfect throw. There may be things that need more work in terms of movement, but it can never be at the expense of our four checkpoints. The most important thing about the four checkpoints is THERE ARE NO WORDS OR INTERPRETATION. It is merely simple feedback that doesn’t require an “expert” or even another observer. Target hit, boom, celebrate it, and do it again.