As winter training slowly come to an end, athletes eagerly await the start of a new season. Nowhere is this more apparent, than in the sport of Baseball. The boys of summer are once again ready to set new records, and, hopefully, replace any previous disappointments with cheers and thrills. This goal of achievement relies heavily on the fact that, the winter training program was fundamentally sound and efficient in correcting weaknesses and forging new strengths.
The winter training program has to realize that, like most sports, Baseball is a "True Agility" sport. Every movement on the field is decision-based, which, in essence, is the definition of True Agility. This requires not just great physical ability, but also great cognitive ability. Decision-based movement requires that you:
Recognize: The ball was hit left, the athlete must recognize that. Or, the pitch is coming, recognition again starts the process. Our mental engagement begins with recognition of the stimulus.
Attend: Once the stimulus is recognized, the athlete must attend to it. This is the “think” part of the game, as you observe the target in motion, predicting where it is headed. The ability to do this is, arguably, more important than any physical attribute
Decide: The athlete attends to the stimulus, while suppressing any distractors (no room to start right and then go left... too many moments would be wasted), and, then, decides what action is the right response.
Accept: Once you decide, your mind and body have to accept that decision by having the brain tell the body what to do.
React: once the stimulus is accepted, the athlete must now move and react to it. Yes reaction is physical, but it is based in a cognitive process. The efficiency of the athlete's cognitive process, from recognition to reaction, is known as the athlete’s Speed of Processing (SOP).
How many coaches or trainers know the actual SOP of their players. It is amazing that terms like “bat speed,” or “exit velocity,” or “60-yard time” are thrown around with oohs and aahs. If we do not know the athlete's SOP, then the fastest bat speed or 60-yard time might just be other wasted statistics. Remember SOP is the time between Recognition and Reaction. If SOP is slow, then Reaction is slow. If Reaction is slow, then the athlete plays slow, and “slow” is often “too late.” Fast bat speed, but slow in pulling the trigger... you are out. Fast 60-yard time, but the athlete is slow to react to the pitcher releasing the pitch... you are out.
The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) states this very clearly: “First move well, then move often. Moving well speaks to quality of movement and speed of processing (cognitive function). While moving often is not simply quantity but rather the capacity and adaptation that allow brain and body to function cohesively and optimally for life and sport."
An efficient winter training program must understand the importance of cognition, and must be able to evaluate and correct any physical imbalances. It is well understood that all position players must be able and agile in all directions. Speed of left leg must equal speed of right leg. Left-to-right acceleration must equal right-to-left acceleration. Anything less than this would create a favored side, and the need to compensate. How erroneous would it be to tell a player he has better range in a given direction, without giving him the reason and the way to fix it?
This past winter I had the privilege of working with baseball team of 9-year olds from my hometown of Mahopac NY. I say privilege because, in my 37 years of sport science I have had many professionals, Olympians and World Champions come through my doors. The dedication these 9-year olds showed to learning and developing was second to none. At our first team meeting we discussed 3 important facts:
Correct Imbalances. Physical evaluations would be aimed at correcting weaknesses and imbalances. An athlete is only as strong as the athlete’s weakest link, Fix weaknesses before developing strengths. This eliminates the need for the athlete to compensate. Train the true athlete, not the compensatory process.
Train SOP. A fastball can reach the plate in 400 milliseconds, and the time to swing is approximately 175 milliseconds. This leaves only 225 milliseconds to recognize, attend, and react to the pitch. It was decided to train every athlete’s SOP, to faster than 200 milliseconds... quite a challenge for ballplayer of every age and ability.
Team first. Every athlete has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses. Help your team mate first... and create bonds that will last forever
Once the rules were set, we agreed on a Team statement: "Maybe no one on the Team will make it to MLB, but one thing is for certain... every athlete one day will graduate from the minor leagues of childhood, to the major leagues of adulthood... Let’s help each other be the best at this."
Being a USA Baseball contributor, a BFS science board member, a certified Microgate trainer, and a certified BrainHQ trainer, I made sure each child was evaluated and trained according to their standards.
The incredible gold standard USA Baseball evaluation was performed for each athlete. This included game speed accelerations to determine the leg speed of each athlete, and the athlete’s accelerations (both right and left). Broad jump was performed, not just along a tape measure, but in a modular OptoJump system so that contact time could be measured. This gave us a reactive strength index, so that we could ensure that, with training, each athlete’s flight time was improving, while their contact time was going down. The DRIFT protocol by Microgate was performed so that the power, contact time, and most importantly dynamic control of each leg of the athlete could be recorded in a series of 5 unilateral jumps. Physical reaction time was recorded by pairing a Microgate WITTY SEM countdown system with WITTY timing photocells to produce results accurate to a millisecond. Each athlete had their gait tested – both shod and barefoot. This gave the examiners the ability to make sure that each athlete’s sneakers were actually helping to reduce or eliminate any asymmetries in the movement cycle.
We tested true agility by using Microgate WITTY Semiphores in a 4x4 box at two different levels of cognitive load. Total times were recorded and compared under each cognitive load. Any slowing of physical movement due to increased cognitive load was then baselined.
By employing validated published tests from BrainHQ.com, actual brain Speed of Processing was recorded for each athlete to show double decision, eye for detail and single decision ability. This is where we recorded the greatest changes in athletic ability. At the beginning of the program average SOP was approximately 600 milliseconds for each athlete. At the end of 12 weeks of training, average SOP improved to a super-fast 86 milliseconds. Remember what we said before, you need at least 200 milliseconds to see and attend to the fastball. The hitting coaches noticed the difference on the field. They reported that the athletes were understanding and picking up the ball sooner, and their “sense of game" was becoming clearer, which is a big advantage when called on to bat. Of great importance was the fact that BrainHQ, allowed us to track each athlete’s cognitive ability. If, at any time, an athlete’s SOP slowed, questions were immediately raised about rest and fatigue. This same understanding of SOP could be applied to contact sports where words like “CTE” and “concussion return to play” still prevail at an alarmingly high rate. Monitoring SOP has to be standard procedure for all.
The BFS Science lab was used extensively. BFS 6 Absolutes were employed at all training stations, both static and dynamic. Stand tall, eyes on target, big chest, etc. helped everyone in performing their needed training tasks. The BFS balance protocol was performed and monitored for each athlete. This ensured improved balance over time, and the avoidance of over-training. BFS Absolutes were combined with FMS corrective movements through all arcs of motion. It was constantly emphasized to... train the true athlete, not the compensatory process.
We used a slant board to make determinations of strengths and weaknesses for each position of the foot strike. Proprioceptive ability was monitored, to ensure improvements in Ground Contact Time (GCT). Any athlete displaying any inefficiency was fitted with non-orthotic inserts from BarefootScience.com. We observed that this product helped with the balance ability of each athlete in an amazingly short amount of time. This led to improved performance that was objectively measured.
As strengths and weaknesses were determined, proper training interventions were employed for their correction. Knowing that you are only as strong as your weakest link, our athletes had a burning desire to understand their results and to improve upon them. No sense in building strength on an unstable foundation. Identifying and fixing weaknesses became the mantra of the program.
We started hearing from coaches parents and other observers that the players “hitting the cover off the ball’ or about how they were “reacting faster” and “getting to position faster.”, I was very proud of our Team, when parents started to come to me and sais things like... “It’s no longer a struggle to get home work done,” “he seems to understand and get it better, “ behavior and bed time are no longer a commotion” or “he is setting a better example for his younger siblings.” These comments struck home to the idea... we are preparing the children for the game of life…Baseball is just the vehicle we are using to do so.
I think head coach Sacco summed it up the best when he said... "You know you're doing something right when your boys would rather come to do their training than go to a birthday party or something else. They want to be here, they see the improvements they've made and they compete against each other here so intensely, while always understanding it’s Team first. I see the level of quickness when we go the batting cages and the tremendous agility when reacting to ground balls and other drills. I've talked to parents who tell me how much better they're child is doing in the classroom and at home. With what I've seen in the short few months, I firmly believe every sports program at any level (boys & girls) should be doing this training. Just the brain training alone speaks volumes and is great for knowing when an athlete can or is able to return to play after and injury. I can't say enough how great I think this program is."
In summary, twelve 9-year old youth baseball players were trained for 12 weeks this winter at the Microgate USA headquarters. Seeing how the sport of Baseball is a True agility sport, it was decided that a comprehensive cognitive and physical training program had to be employed. Understanding cognition and speed of processing were very important to a successful program. Remember, what the mind perceives, the body eventually achieves. This gap delay between perception and achievement is the athlete’s reaction time. Yes, the athlete needs great explosive ability to react, but if SOP is slow, reaction will be slow — no matter how well trained the explosive part is.
Being able to evaluate and train at game speed was very important, for a successful program. The game should never be the trainer. Training at high demand must be closely monitored. Objectively understanding the movement ability of each athlete and correcting it, as needed, helps significantly in injury prevention and movement efficiency.
I would like to personally thank USA Baseball, Bigger Faster Stronger, Microgate, Barefoot Science, BrainHQ, FMS and my great staff for their involvements in this great program. Thank you to Anne Shadle PhD, whose understandings on the cognitive side of sport, makes everything blend so seamlessly. Most importantly I would like to thank the coaches and especially the athletes, whose dedication and determination made this the most enlightening training program I have ever seen at any level. Much was learned and many will be helped because of it.
As we all learn and share ideas, the impossibilities of today will fade, and the achievements of tomorrow will be greater than ever.
Now you can get BFS's famous Set-Rep Log system for your computer, tablet, and phone.
You can keep the simplicity of our Set-Rep Log books, but get the management functions and portability of a phone app. App includes predefined weekly schedules with recommended lifts for all common sports. Customize your weekly schedule using any lift on any day. Add the lifts you want. Coaches or administrators can see all teams and athletes at a glance, including scores, records broken, and trends for any one athlete or any team. Athletes can enter their own scores on their phone or tablet and immediately see how many records they've broken and their trends.
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BFS has set up an entire category of our tech products that available through April for 15% off. Get our Tech Protectors to safely keep your phones and tablets out of the way in your weight room - 15% off. Get our True Squat Strap for use with our True Squat App - 15% off. Get out tried and true Beat the Computer program for your PC - 15% off. 15% OFF Use code 0417WETS at checkout!
For our coaches who are committed to the original Set Rep Logbook we are even including these perennial best sellers in the April sale!
BFS has a sincere and ongoing commitment to Physical Education. This week we were in Boston for the 2017 SHAPE convention where hundreds of teachers and administrators braved blizzard conditions to learn more about helping their students be their best.
At the Boston SHAPE 2017convention we ran into Bob McBride, IAHPERD Executive Director, who had a chance to chat about BFS's 10 year run attending and speaking at the Illinois State IAHPERD Convention. BFS attends many state level SHAPE conventions so look for us in your state soon!
You have just received funds to improve your athletic facility, now what?
Abridged, Read the Full Article Here: Before taking any action, ask yourself, “How can this money improve our facility to optimize the performance of our athletes and enhance the health and wellness of our students?” Unless we first address potential problem areas – in the equipment, the space, the level of instruction or the ages of the students and athletes – we’re sure to face unnecessary financial and physical costs later. Here is the most effective and efficient process I have found as an athlete, educator and parent for building a safe and fiscally responsible program for the highest level of athletic performance: The 3 P’s: Program, People, Product.
Although it’s not possible to predict every bump in the road, we can prepare for human error in the interest of minimizing it. For instance, as tempting as it is to fill our facilities with expensive new equipment, doing so will not guarantee that our students will make amazing gains in performance. The determining factor here is the program. We can all agree that for athletes to reach their performance goals, they must be taught to use the new facility and new equipment in a safe and effective manner. The BFS Total Program is designed to deliver appropriate instruction and practice to all students in a safe and effective manner. The BFS Total Program provides the most solid foundation possible for highly competitive interscholastic programs as well as physical education programs for the student body.
Although many institutions produce outstanding teachers and coaches, they commonly neglect to address methods of conducting safe, efficient and effective teaching in the weight room for large numbers of students and athletes. Over my career of 50 years, I have had the opportunity to visit hundreds of schools and colleges around the country. It disturbs me to see weight-rooms in which the lifting instruction is poor, technically incorrect or completely nonexistent. Inadequate supervision leads to injury and the potential for litigation. Among other requirements, teachers and coaches must be present in the weight training facility and must provide appropriate instruction in both lifting and spotting skills. Safety concerns have led to the recent mandate by the NCAA requiring that weight rooms in their institutions be supervised by certified coaches. Although there is no specific certification required, the BFS Weight Room Safety Certification is clearly the best because only BFS addresses the class organization and progression of instruction necessary to train large numbers of students and athletes in the weight room. Administrators must provide for the professional development of their staff. The best way to ensure they are qualified to deliver safe, efficient and effective programs is through intensive hands-on practical instruction, evaluation of their teaching skills and testing of their knowledge. This in fact describes the curriculum of the BFS Weight room Safety Certification.
Tools are important in just about any endeavor. In interscholastic and intercollegiate sports, or physical education, there never seems to be enough money, time or space for the tools of our trade. Therefore, it is imperative that we unify our program and unify our people. Together, we can select great equipment that satisfies program requirements and fulfills learning objectives for the greatest number of students, athletes and stakeholders. Let’s make this simple: Just as the architect creates a physical structure, the administrator is the creative “architect” of the educational structures that will provide for the needs of many stakeholders. By following the model of the 3P’s we create the structure necessary to support the functions agreed upon by the stake-holders.
Selectorized equipment is certainly a time-saver. To change resistance the user only has to move a pin attached to the weight stack, and the machines tend to take up less space than plate-loaded equipment, especially when weight holders are required. But in terms of performance, there is no difference between selectorized machines and plate-loaded variations. There is, however, one major advantage of plate-loaded equipment: cost.
Adding a weight stack to an exercise machine significantly increases the cost of the unit. Also, due to the weight of the machines, shipping and handling costs are also higher. Whereas a plate-loaded machine may cost $800 plus $200 to ship, it’s possible that the exact same machine in a selectorized version may cost $1,600 plus $400 to ship – seriously, almost double. In today’s economy, that is an important distinction.
Reduce Liability - Improve Self Esteem - Develop Lifelong Fitness Inspire Your Students and Teams Be Their Best
Being Weight Room safety, strength and conditioning certified is a major step in reducing liability while improving your student's physical development. The WRSC is a complete, hands on, course that fully instructs teachers and coaches on how to safely teach a weight lifting class while inspiring students to achieve more.
Whether you are teaching an introductory PE unit or coaching the varsity team, having a WRSC certification gives you the tools to get results in your weight room.
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Join Coaches in Your Area to Learn the Best Ways to Train Your Athletes with the Proven BFS PROGRAM Not Only will this Certification Ensure that You Know How to Improve Athletic Performance, You will Learn Techniques that will Significantly Improve the Safety of Every Sports Program. This is a Hands-On, Learn-By-Doing Certification
High school athletes come in all sizes, but their training should be unified.
When the strength coaching profession was in its infancy in the 1970s, it was difficult to find information about periodization. Much of the material appeared only in articles published in expensive journals or a few hard-to-acquire books, many not available in English. All that has changed in today’s computer age, but easier access comes with its own set of problems. For starters, much of the information available about periodization has been poorly translated. For example, here is an excerpt from a textbook written by one of the foremost experts on periodization, the late sport scientist Yuri Verkhoshansky: “The perfectioning of a basketball player’s technical-tactical arsenal is also associated with the growth of their functional preparedness and the rise in the stability of the specific motor habits towards the developing fatigue.” It’s a pain to decipher phrasing like this, and any coach reading it will quickly lose interest.
At the high school level the BFS program is great for all athletes, but it’s uniquely suited for multisport athletes, due in large part to the BFS Set-Rep System and logbooks. There are several advantages for young athletes who elect to play multiple sports, even those who aspire to earn college scholarships.
Forty years ago the deadlift was one of the core exercises we encouraged athletes to perform year-round. BFS pushed this great core exercise in our early years because it was unparalleled in developing the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. We still believe that, but the fact is that we soon played less emphasis on it because we found something better.
What we’ve learned in working with young athletes is that regardless of what type of deadlift and athlete does, the exercise must be performed with the lower back “locked in” to protect the spine. When record poundages are used, there is a tendency for the athlete to round the lower back, thereby diverting some of the load from the muscles onto the connective tissues and disks. A belt helps, providing postural feedback to the lifter that he or she is breaking form, but the best insurance for protecting the lower back is to use a hex bar.
The hex bar places less stress on the lower back and more stress on the legs. Consider the following study: “A Biomechanical Analysis of Straight and Hexagonal Barbell Deadlifts Using Submaximal Loads,” published in the July 2011 issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. The researchers found that compared the to the straight bar deadlift, the hex bar deadlift produced “significantly greater peak force, peak velocity and peak power values.”
A research study published a year later showed that the hex bar is a superior method of performing not just deadlifts, but also squat jumps. The study was called, “Effect of Load Positioning on the Kinematics and Kinetics of Weighted Vertical Jumps.” It was published in the April 2012 issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
Amanda Vesti is a motivating young cross country runner who has exceeded expectations and shocked her entire state with her 2016 exploits! Her coach, Paul Dick, credits her success to building a proper power to body weight ratio with BFS Core Lifts. Her increased metabolism from strength training helped Amanda run faster while maintaining a cross country physique. BFS Feature Story: Amanda Vestri: Running Strong the BFS Way..... pg6
Commitment and cooperation are making a difference in New Mexico. When challenges such as shrinking budgets and staff for physical fitness and athletic fitness training happen to a school district, administrators look for creative answers. The Central Consolidated School District in New Mexico found such an answer with the BFS Unified Program. BFS Feature Story: New Mexico’s BFS Approach to Coaching Coaches and Kids... pg12
The deadlift was one of the core exercises we encouraged athletes to perform year-round. BFS pushed this great core exercise in our early years because it was unparalleled in developing the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. We still believe that, but the fact is that we soon played less emphasis on it because we found something better - THE HEX BAR!
Strength Training - Character Building In-Season - Off-Season - This Free Issue covers it all!
The BFS Total Program is a comprehensive system with one goal. To help young people be the best they can be in athletics, in academics, and in life. In this issue of BFS Magazine we have assembled articles for the archives to help you get started!
Because The Total Program is a broad system it can appear intimidating to new users, however at its core it is about incremental improvement over time. Implementing this program has proven over 40 years that this simple idea teaches valuable life skills from goal setting to personal responsibility. Coaching the Total Program in PE or athletics gets easier every week because students and athletes WANT to improve and through diligent record keeping seeing themselves improving, week in and week out.
Flexibility, agility, strength and teamwork training can happen in the timeframe of high school schedules, BFS has been doing it for 40 years. Let us show you how. Start with this free issue of BFS Magazine and see what championship results could be on your horizon!