Player Development – Chad Longworth Velo Shop

Player Development

Using a Test/Retest Model for Position Players

At the end of each summer, players return from their summer teams or training regiments to their respective schools. Each player tends to use his time in the off-season a little differently. He can go off to the Northwoods and play 70+ games, cover his windows with trash bags to get sleep in the Canada league, lift 7 days a week, or just take a couple extra classes and hang out. The thing about the college off-season is that it’s not nearly as structured nor much of a commitment as most college programs. So when players return, the coaching staff has a general idea of their team’s abilities but doesn’t know exactly what they will be getting in terms of skill for their fall roster. Maybe a couple guys come back tearing the cover off the ball, maybe a couple arms have gained some velo or developed a new pitch, maybe there’s the two guys who gained 10 lb. of bad weight or the incoming class is typically a crap shoot on how they initially will perform at a new school. From my experience with current and ex-college players, players returning to school come in for a somewhat formal team meeting with the coaching staff. Usually, the new guys have to say their names and where they’re from. Coaches talk about the plan for the fall and their goals for the upcoming season. Then it’s off to the weight room where the strength coaches run the players through a baseline strength test. This often consists of pull-ups, squats, deadlift, 60 yd timed run (rare), bench press (rare), jump height, and body weight. Those tests hopefully are used to create a baseline for each athlete’s lifting program for the upcoming fall, but generally are never retested to see any physical gains. Then, the first week of practice will start with the coaches beginning to “implement the program.” This can be extremely valuable in terms of setting expectations and having the correct attitude in a practice setting. To look at the big picture, this first week should focus on gathering information and setting expectations for the season. It’s vital, but we tend to think that some of this time gets misplaced. Much of the time is used to show who goes where on the five different bunt D packages, ball in dirt reads, running through and taking turns at 1st, what foot to lead off the base with, etc. These are all things that, even if you think should be high priority, could be taken up with other practice time. The Value of the Assess/ Retest Model Now, the strength staff does a pretty good job of running the players through some form of diagnostic testing. Why doesn’t the baseball staff do the same? Players have “team lifts” two to three times a week, but they are on the field close to six times a week. Why is there no test/retest to see if they’re actually improving on the field? People enjoy proof that they’re getting better, so when I was told “the stronger you are, the better you will perform,” I really started to chase numbers in the weight room. I got a lot better at lifting heavy things, but I can’t say I got just as good at the game of baseball. There isn’t a great reason for the test/retest model not to move to the playing field; a little more planning and structure is all that’s needed. So what if we gave players the same test/retest in the game they are competing in? Most coaches during the first week let their guys get acclimated to new faces and “knock the rust off.” This is the perfect time to assess. Players can be taken through a movement screen, whether it be OnBaseU, FMS, or TPI. Their batted balls can be tracked via HitTrax, Hitting Rapsodo, or a radar gun, if needed. They can be given a bat sensor to track swing metrics (bat speed, attack angle, etc.) with Blast Motion or Diamond Kinetics. They can be run through biomechanics to look at their sequencing, posture, rotational speeds, and body positions via K-Motion or, if you’re lucky, the college’s biomechanics lab. These assessments will show each player what he excels at and what needs work. Think about the importance that would have to someone entering his senior year with hopes of getting signed. This also can give the coaching staff an idea for how they want to plan out their fall season. Maybe 14 of the 20 hitters have an average attack angle of -2, which would give the coaches the ability to set up drills or constraints tailored to fix that problem in practice. So instead of running out the same “one size fits all” practice plan, they can at least have a “this size fits most of my team” plan. Or you can group hitters into buckets to better focus in on their weaknesses. This can also give players the ability to focus on “targeted metrics” to see their improvement. An assessment and test/retest model creates a structure to get more specific with drills and programming and how to avoid players constantly going through the motions in practice, which can result in negative attitudes. Maybe it’s because they think that drill is a waste of time, maybe they’re tired, or maybe they’re mad a freshman is taking their job. But giving them specific metrics to shoot for and tracking them over time helps give feedback and purpose for everything that they do. I can guarantee that once a player is assessed and told “you’re in the bottom 5% of hitters on our team in these particular metrics,” he will see why he isn’t playing and create a more focused attack during practice on what he needs to get better at. Creating Individualized Plans in a Team Setting The information gathered from the assessment can now help coaches design an individualized plan for each hitter and tell him which […]

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Stop Getting Your Foot Down Early

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Post Hitting Core Stability

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How Important Is Backspin?

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The Boring Neccessities Of Velocity Building

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Softball Pitcher Velocity Build Tracking Spreadsheet

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Velocity Build Tracking Spreadsheet

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Waiter Carry Explanation

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Upward Toss Explanation

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Band Pull Apart Explanation

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How To Determine if Drills Are Useful

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Applying Our Methodology in Softball

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