This is right about the time where ball players are contacting me more than any other time of year. In some cases it’s because their practices/ try outs have just begun, and they’ve realized they’re behind the eight ball. Other cases have to do with players getting ready for the upcoming season/ try outs. Whatever the case may be, there is one constant that will never change:
You can’t just jump into things.
Now I’ve been a young, confident, healthy athlete. I remember how I believed that I could just grab a bat and get after it. I could just pick up a ball and start chucking. I could throw on my spikes and execute technically sound (but maybe not so quick) base running technique. I suppose today’s player would feel at least as confident as I did, considering the whole year-’round season.
But I had to learn the hard way, as I’m sure any player that felt that level of invincibility: that’s just not the case.
I’m not talking about being in shape – although I’ve been around enough first-day-of-the-season practices to know there will be a few players losing their lunch because of the literal shape they’ve morphed into during the off season. (I witness the same player “lose it” two years in a row if you can believe that!) Staying in shape is the easy part.
I’m talking about wiping the dust off of the baseball-specific technique you displayed when you were “in the swing of things” during your last competitive baseball season.
For those players in the warm weather climates whose season is underway, you are up against it. You’ll be force fed exactly what you need to do, at an intensity level your body just isn’t ready for. Your muscles will ache. Your hands and even your feet will blister. You will stand out from the rest of the players, but only in the ways you’d rather not. To put it bluntly: you should have planned ahead.
For those players that still have a little bit of time before you have to show off, if you haven’t done so already (for whatever reason), it’s time to get going. BUT don’t just jump into it.
The worst thing a player can do is jump right into training. Just like the player that didn’t do anything until maybe the day before try outs, going all-out on Day One, is a recipe for disaster. You might feel like you put yourself through a great workout, but getting out of bed on Day Two will not be fun, and probably end up ruining the chances of getting anything accomplished on Day Two, Day Three, or until the pain from trying to pick up where you left off begins leaving your body.
As much as it might seem like you’re not really working out or even pushing yourself, starting off at a lesser intensity/work load is the best way to peak when it counts most. Remember: you’re not winning your league, the state championship, or the World Series in the winter. You’re preparing for them.
For example: Hitting
Grabbing your bat and taking 100 swings on Day One of your training, may be your plan, but it’s not a good one for the reasons I’ve stated above. Instead, start at a lower number of swings, breaking down the total number of your swings into one-hand and two-hand swings, and building on the total number every 3-4 days. I have my hitters start off taking 12 swing with each hand (for a total number of 24 one-hand swings), and following them up with 24 two-hand swings (for a grand total of 48). After 3-4 days, the numbers increased to 15/15/30. Three of four days later, the numbers increased to 18/18/36, then to 21/21/42, and finally 24/24/48. You may chose to start at a lesser total number (i.e. 6/6/12, or 9/9/18, but I wouldn’t start higher than 12/12/24, nor would I go past 24/24/48.
Pitching is a little bit more complicated due primarily to the number of different pitches you throw, but the process is still the same.
Base running may not be feasible – at least with baseball spikes on and on the field – in certain climates, but that shouldn’t stop you from building a foundation of sprints in your gym, in your school’s hallways, etc. When you start out, don’t make the mistake of trying to break the record for the 100 meter dash. Build up the number of sprints and the intensity as you go along.
This is not an every-other-day, or one-day-on/two-days-off type of deal either. This is every day. (Which is another reason why we start off gradual.) We train every day because you will be playing baseball every day. You’re getting your body ready for the “daily grind,” that is the baseball season.