Summer is right around the corner. Here is why you need to be prepared.
By: Peter Fatse, Founder // Director of Athlete Development
Each year the APA Baseball Institute is flooded with athletes looking to maximize their training in an effort to seek enhanced results. While we know that the development of strength and skill during the off-season is important, what is equally if not more impactful to the athletes career is the ability to sustain a level of performance through out their in-season schedule. For our more advanced collegiate athletes, the summer is packed with a high volume of games, practices and frequent travel due to extensive schedules. With the growing demands on our high school population, it's not out of the realm to see a team play upwards of 6-games in less than 72-hours. When you couple that with the showcasing schedules and the demands of "being seen" through various camps and clinics, there is a lot of stress on the athlete to compete at a high level. Do you wonder why your fastball velocity begins to decrease as July rolls around? Are you feeling sluggish and your "fast-twitch" muscle fibers seemingly inactive? It is bound to happen and the reality is that we can't avoid fatigue, but we can better manage it.
Examining Performance Training
Performance training, more specifically the ability to recover and reset the body in an effort to maintain strength and prevent injury is typically the last thing athletes prioritize in season. It's as if you are preparing to take your car on a cross country trip, polished the exterior, cleaned out each spec of dirt between the seat cushions but have forgotten to check the oil or tire pressure. While the car looks good and will maintain a level of consistency early on, it will surely falter at some point as key mechanisms to its design are compromised. The same thing is true for athletes as they are consistently placing a demand on their bodies that require them to sustain peak levels of performance. This is why we need to make sure that we continue to take care of the engine that we require and depend so much on.
When we think of performance training, it is important to understand the components of development that are involved:
- Strength Development
- Speed Development
- Skill Development
- Injury Prevention
- Recovery (Active and Passive)
- Nutritional Benefits
Each aspect listed above has their influence on any season for athletes looking to perform at high levels. Depending on the time of year and the amount of baseball competition and stress on the body, we will alter training goals to meet the needs of the athlete. There is only so much that any one person can give at any one time. If our volume of throwing increases putting heightened levels of stress on the body, that will take away from our ability to do other things such as develop strength. However, that doesn't mean that we eliminate that pillar from the equation, it means we make modifications.
Here are 5-things to consider as you prepare for your summer training.
1) Construct a List of Short Term (Process Goals) and Long Term Goals.
For our athletes, it's extremely important that we create a road map for their success. It is equally important that you not only verbalize but visualize the success you want to have. We encourage all of our athletes to write down and communicate their "big picture" with coaches and members of their inner circle. Most importantly, understand the daily steps that it takes to achieve long term sustained success. Success requires measurable/attainable goals. Writing down these goals and placing them in an area where they can be seen reinforces your actions!
- Write down 3 "Long-Term" goals ranging from an overarching career goal to one that may be 6 to 12 months away.
- For each Long-Term goal, list 3 daily "Process" or "Short-Term" goals that can be easily measured with a "Yes or No" answer for completion
- Make them visible! Make sure your goals are located in an area that you can see them daily. Often adding images or other reminders helps us reinforce them.
2) Make Recovery a Priority
Athletes that train hard need an opportunity to recover. Be it sleep, nutrition or post workout, it's important that athletes understand the necessity of proper recovery protocols. In a world that prioritizes multi-tasking and embraces a "busy" lifestyle, it is easy to overlook ones nutrition, meal planning or sleep patterns. We are constantly on the go, but preparation in recovery allows us to be much more functional during the day and to get the most out of our training sessions.
- Track what you eat for an entire day and the time to which you eat it.
- Create a meal-preparation plan each week to take the "guesswork" out of meal prep.
3) Spend Time Challenging Your Skills
This may seem as if its quite obvious but for much of the athlete population people get comfortable when building their skill. There is a level of comfort that when challenged athletes tend to shy away from. Whether it's a deeper level of concentration or practicing a skill at game like intensity, it is important to challenge the range to which you practice your skills. Ultimately, it is our belief that we want to increase the difficulty of practice so that it reflects circumstances that are more difficult to some degree than in-game action. This is not done every day but scheduled in advance so that our athletes can prepare mentally. For instance, do you have a schedule of when your games are for the week/month in advance? Does your mentality shift when it's "game day"? This becomes a more productive method as it helps athletes get into "compete mode" and let go of some of the mechanical elements to skill building by focusing on reaction!
4) Value Your Time
Time is our most valued commodity. We all get the same 24-hour cycle. We all have 7-day's in a week and can't control it from starting or stopping. The best method for valuing your time is understanding what you must accomplish and laying it out in advance to hold yourself accountable. You would be shocked by how much time we all spend in "space", scrolling through social media and watching YouTube videos until our eyes hurt. It is not about cutting those things out, but making sure to prioritize your time around the things that require the most immediate attention: Family, School, Training, Recovery, etc.
- Map Out Your Day Hour-by-Hour. Where you want to be at each point in the day? What are the most important things to accomplish that day?
- Set alarms and use timers (The stopwatch on your phone works well for this) to remind yourself when it is time to progress from one part of your day to the next.
5) Surround Yourself With People That Elevate You!
You are the sum of those you choose to surround yourself with! At AP, we pride ourselves on creating a healthy, competitive environment for our athletes to train. This cultivates a platform for athletes to continue to push themselves and embrace failure as an obstacle, not a destination. It is important to find coaches that value and understand your goals and are willing to challenge their own conventional wisdom to make the athlete better. It's equally important to be a contributor to your training environment serving as a leader and role model for what your core beliefs are.