Behind the Comeback

  • By Dynamic Sports Training
  • 02 Dec, 2015

Barry Zito

In my career at DST, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a number of great ball players. Some of you might remember the blog I wrote about our work with Scott Kazmir. Last offseason, I was blessed to have the opportunity to work with Barry Zito. Barry discovered DST through Ron Wolforth and the Texas Baseball Ranch.
Barry walked into our office wearing exactly what you’d expect a Cali-born left-handed pitcher to be dressed in. On his head was a snapback hat, which had seen better days. The hat read ‘PatCast’ across the front (referencing Train’s front man, Pat Monahan’s podcast). He wore a blue t-shirt with the phrase ‘Pugs Not Drugs’ and below it was a picture of a pug. I was surprised to see that he was in remarkably good shape. I asked him if he’d like to sit down and talk. I had envisioned a meet and greet situation. He looked at me confused, almost annoyed, and said, “Actually, I’m ready to get started now if that’s cool.” So, we started.
Barry Zito’s story is well known. He was one of the best pitchers in baseball while a member of the Oakland Athletics (Cy Young Award, 2002). Things seemed to turn south after he signed with the San Francisco Giants in 2007. He had a brief resurgence in 2012, winning 15 games and leading the team to a World Series Championship. That winning streak was short lived and was followed by the end of his tenure with the Giants. This ultimately led to Barry taking off the entire 2014 season. Fast-forward to this year. Barry played the entire season with the Nashville Sound, the Triple-A team for the Oakland Athletics. Today he was called up to pitch the remainder of the 2015 season in Oakland, where it all started for him.
Barry began training at DST’s north location, operating out of Premier Baseball of Texas in Tomball, Texas. It is smack dab in the middle of nowhere. The facility is surround by farm fields and livestock, and the next-door neighbors are horse doctors. Our first conversation was a philosophy exchange on the mechanics of pitching. Barry is a guy that is deeply passionate about the art of throwing a baseball. I showed enough knowledge and understanding to be a sounding board for the new ideas Barry would come up with. The majority of what I know about pitching comes from the minds of Cleveland Indians Pitcher, Trevor Bauer and pitching coach, Ron Wolforth of the Texas Baseball Ranch. I wish I could say that there was some secret exercise that helped Barry get back on top. His success can only be credited to his own hard work and dedication.
Barry is a different breed. While he is everything you’d expect from a Cali-born lefty, he is extremely focused and intelligent. He won’t do something unless there is a reason for doing it. He wanted to know that each exercise we were doing was a building block for his ultimate goal, a return to baseball. He didn’t waste a single minute. While walking from exercise to exercise, Barry would work on the pitching mechanics that he was learning at The Ranch. This is a guy who is flat out hungry for success.
I was never concerned that Barry wouldn’t reach his goal. He was too determined to fail. He didn’t have a chip on his shoulder or something to prove. It was a very calm determination. Barry was enjoying the process and wanted to play again for the love of baseball. He had the confidence, was taking the right steps and putting in the right work in order for his goal to be realized.
Barry could not be further from the words high maintenance. One day he came in and asked if he was allowed to throw in one of the back cages; as if there would be a problem with a Cy Young winner using a cage. I noticed that Barry didn’t have anything with him. I said, “Yeah, go for it. Do you need a bucket of balls? I got a bunch of big-league ones here by my desk.” Barry replied, “No thanks, man. There’s a ball back there.” Then he quickly walked off. I was confused; one ball wouldn’t be nearly enough. I walked to the back cages about ten minutes later. The one ball that Barry was content using was one of those terrible dimpled balls that you see at the local batting cages. To Barry, it was a tool for him to get better with. This happened throughout the course of the offseason, by the way. Another time, Barry forgot his glove and stopped on the way to buy one. He picked a good one.
Barry Zito is an all-around great guy. For a pitcher who had a lot of successful years in the MLB, you would think that he would act somewhat “big league”. The fact is that Barry never big-leagued anyone. He has always been friendly. From time-to-time would help out our minor league guys with something they were working on. Barry and I also talked a lot about our faith, as we are both Christians. After his last bullpen in front of scouts, Barry was upset that a couple specific teams hadn’t shown up. As we were both leaving, he turned to me and said, “You know what? I just have to trust the fact that God has a plan.” Later that night Billy Beane, GM of the Oakland A’s, called Barry Zito.

Dynamic Sports Training Blog

By Dynamic Sports Training 27 Jun, 2017
For anyone who is trying to build the strength to do a regular pull-up without any assistance, we recommend starting with these pull-up progressions. DST Director of Adult Fitness, Chelsea Bellinger, takes us through three pull-up progressions, beginning with a modified pull-up, progressing to a band-assisted pull-up, with the final progression being an unassisted pull-up.

The pull-up is a compound lift that builds the pulling muscles of the upper body. These muscles include the latisimus dorsi, biceps, and the smaller stabilizing muscles of the shoulder and upper back.

A strong back is a major advantage for athletes of all sports. Along with bent-over rows, pull-ups are a major way to achieve this. The lats are one of the bigger muscle groups of the body and span from under the arm all the way down to your waistline. Because of their big, cross-sectional area, they play a key role in stabilizing the lumbar spine and, therefore, can help you improve on all of your major lifts, including the squat, bench press, and deadlift.

Another advantage to strengthening the lats through pull-ups is to help reposition and stabilize the shoulder joint. Scapular elevation (shrugged shoulders) is something that is seen quite often when we are conducting our bio-mechanical assessments. Pull-ups will help counteract this poor posture by driving scapular depression (shoulders down and back).

On the flip side, it is common for baseball players and other throwing athletes to develop very tight lats after a long season of throwing. We will still incorporate pull-up variations for this type of athlete, but may need to emphasis the eccentric (lowering) of the movement to improve mobility.

There is a reason pull-ups have been around forever and are a staple in any good strength program. If you are seeking to achieve your first unassisted pull-up, start with the modified pull-up shown and work your way through the other progressions. Once you feel like you've mastered the unassisted pull-up in neutral grip, watch this video  by Director of DST North, Kevin Poppe, showing a more advanced pull-up. 
By Dynamic Sports Training 22 Jun, 2017


The wall drill is a drill we use with all of our athletes. It emphasized body position and leg action during the Acceleration phase of sprinting. Here are simple coaching cues for the wall drill.

  • Good forward lean with body in a straight line
  • Head position is neutral
  • Core is tight
  • Big chest
  • Glutes contracted
  • Don’t flex your spine when your knee drives into flexion
  • Knee Up, Toe Up once in maximum hip flexion
  • Keep opposite glute contracted and knee straight as your knee drives into flexion
By Dynamic Sports Training 20 Jun, 2017
Our DST Exercise of the Week is the Tricep Dip. DST Personal Trainer Stephen Magee will demonstrate several progressions of this movement.

The first Tricep Dip variation uses the athlete's bodyweight and can be performed on any elevated surface. The starting position for this movement is hands on the elevated surface, palms down facing behind us. The legs are straight out in front, toes in dorsiflexion (pulled back towards the knee). Next, the athlete should move their bodyweight off the elevated surface with a slight bend in the elbows. Slowly, let the body down toward the ground by bending both elbows, keeping the hips as close to the elevated surface as possible. Once at the bottom, press up extending both arms straight back up into the start position. This movement can also be easily modified by slightly bending the legs. 

The next variation of the Tricep Dip is recommended for a more advanced athlete, as it incorporates the athlete's full bodyweight. This movement is performed using two parallel bars shoulder width apart. The starting position for this exercise is gripping the bars with both hands, elbows in full extension, feet hanging below either crossed or side-by-side. Using the body as a lever, move both knees back behind the shoulders, and then carry out the dip movement. 

When training for any high-level sport, it is important to train each muscle group. Often times, athletes focus on training the bicep and back muscles, but the tricep needs to be trained in conjunction with those other muscle groups to prevent upper body imbalances. The Tricep Dip is a great exercise into incorporate in any training program. 
By Dynamic Sports Training 14 Jun, 2017
Mindset Principle: Dedication
By  Josh Graber  

“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. If you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it full speed...above all, become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good.” — Roald Dahl

Lukewarm is no good.  Let that sink in. Of the things you say you're passionate about, how many do you truly go after full speed?

Unfortunately, we see a lot of athletes whose actions don't align with their words. Almost every athlete who comes to us has lofty goals they've set for themselves. Almost all want to play high-level college ball and most tell us they want to play professionally. We love hearing that, but only if the follow-through is there as well. We'll have guys/girls come in consistently for a couple of weeks then start to drift in attendance and focus to the training process. Eventually, some athletes stop coming in altogether. Is this because they didn't actually want to play pro ball? Probably not. It's probably because they don't want to put in the work and dedication it takes to reach that goal. 

This isn't a problem exclusive to athletes. It's a problem that can arise in every single facet of life. Relationships. School. Jobs. The list goes on. People write checks with their words, then fail to cash those checks with their actions.

Enough negativity! That doesn't have to be your narrative. Be different. Want it more. Trust the process. And achieve your dreams. To put it another way: If it's important, you'll find a way. If it isn't, you'll find an excuse.

What's important to you? 

Nutrition Principle: Nutrient Density
 By  Chelsea Bellinger  

Nutrient Density is the measurement of macro and micronutrients per calorie. Foods that are more nutrient dense are linked to having greater health benefits and providing more energy. Eating nutrient dense foods allows you to consume many nutrients without consuming a lot of calories. It is important for athletes to consume nutrient dense foods to ensure they are getting the nutrients necessary for muscle recovery and performance. 

Ask your trainer about the importance of consuming nutrient dense foods and different ways to incorporate them into your diet!

Physical Principle: Dynamic Correspondence

By Lee Fiocchi

The basic idea behind what we call Dynamic Correspondence is that an athlete's training off the field should translate to an athlete's performance  on  the field. Let's look at speed as an example.

Not all speed training is created equally. The common mantra that “you have to train fast to be fast” is very important but not entirely true.  The last couple years in research -- largely elucidated by JB Morin and his research group -- is that direction of force is critical, which really isn’t the biggest nugget that we learned from the research. Most effective coaches know and purposely design their training to achieve improved position and posture to help athletes perform more effectively in acceleration. The myth that I fell for is that loaded sprint training with loads greater than 10% of body weight can have a negative affect on performance. As it turns out, loads should be tailored to the individual's body and their goals. This thought process is true of almost all training: strength and speed training should vary depending on how it will impact the athlete in their sport and for their position.

By Dynamic Sports Training 13 Jun, 2017

DST Exercise of the week is the Glute Ham Raise (GHR).  In this video, we’re going to go over just the hamstring portion of the full Glute Ham Raise. 

We’re going to start by making sure the athlete's knees are up on the pads. Some things to look for are to have the glutes and the core tight. A cue for creating tension in the core is to tell the athlete to think about bringing the rib cage and the pelvis together. When first going out, some athletes will try to just tip straight down. But that movement leads to a bit of a hip hinge, and we want to eliminate that. We’ll coach the athlete to take their heels and push them through the platform, and that’s going to force the athlete to extend their legs straight out. Pushing through the platform, you want the athlete to keep tension through the hamstrings, avoiding relaxation of the back. 

They’re going to go down to about a flat position, then, before coming back up, they’re going to want to think about kicking their heels to the ceiling and attacking with the hamstrings, never losing core engagement. Once again, we’re not relaxing at the bottom, we want to make sure there’s tension through the hamstrings throughout the entire movement. 

This exercise is shown on a GHR machine. The Glue Ham Raise can also be done with an athlete using a pad on the floor. In this scenario, the athlete's knees would be resting on the pad and they would need something or someone to keep their legs and feet from coming off the ground when extending their body down to the floor. Both versions of this exercise are equally effective and will target the hamstrings and posterior chain.

By Dynamic Sports Training 08 Jun, 2017

Recovery is a difficult topic to research. Often times, there are conflicting studies and conclusions, because so much of the recovery process is measured anecdotally. So what’s one to do? For one, start with defining the terms. Next, read the methods of the study to see if they are actually addressing the topic at hand. From there, we can get a better picture of truth outside of the spectrum of opinion.

Defining Recovery

So what is recovery? Is it at the cellular level? Is it in reference to perceived soreness or recovery of specific and relevant range of motion? Is it recovery from an injury? Is it recovering strength? For this blog we will define recovery as being at the cellular level, referencing perceived soreness decreases and strength recovery. Relevant range of motion is a tricky topic to try to throw in here because of all the factors and mechanisms that could lead to lost mobility and the reacquisition thereof. It would be irresponsible to reduce that topic to whether or not cold-water immersion aids recovery of that nature. Same goes for recovering from injuries.

Finding Applicable Studies

While researching this topic, you will find numerous studies pointing in all different directions, most of which deal with recovery from highly metabolic activities like running or playing soccer. We acknowledge these, but for our purposes, we want to look specifically at resistance training. With how much traction cold-water immersion has had for decades and with the more recent surge of cryotherapy, one would think resources would be plentiful on this topic. This is simply not the case. Very few research papers and studies get into the specifics of recovery, especially as it relates to resistance training.  I was able to find some, however, and they are cited throughout this blog.

Effects on Perceived Muscle Soreness

Muscle soreness is a common, yet not always a reliable, indicator of recovery. However, the effects of cold-water immersion therapy are pretty clear. Pretty much every study ever done on this topic has shown that cold-water immersion significantly aids in a reduction of muscle soreness. However, there are very few studies that even attempt to find out why this is the case. There needs to be more research on this topic, but I believe there hasn’t been because we already have a decent hypothesis on this. The cold has the ability to numb the area and provides relief of pain. In-short, if you only care about reducing soreness, then cold-water immersion or cryotherapy is definitely a viable option for you.

Muscle Recovery at the Cellular Level

This topic specifically lacks applicable studies to indicate viability. However, a 2016 study by Peake, et al. does a pretty good job of attacking this. They used single-leg resistance strength training in three groups. One performed cold-immersion, another group performed active recovery and the third group used a passive (sedentary) recovery. The study controlled nutrition and even bathing schedules to eliminate the heat from the showers and baths from affecting the results. They monitored the results using muscle biopsies and blood work. Without getting into the entire study that you can read yourself, the results were not necessarily what you might expect.

Cold-immersion therapy showed no significant (statistically, not my determination) difference in muscle recovery when compared to active recovery. One could stop there and make a claim that active recovery would be superior because of its ability to be broadly applied in a group setting. It also comes with zero monetary cost. Not so fast. The study also showed that the benefits of either method were minimal when compared to the passive or sedentary group. So now what? Is this a referendum on all recovery methods? Well, not exactly. Methods are important.

The active recovery method was pedaling on a stationary bike, so all we see here is that, for recovery purposes, hopping on the bike for a warm-down seems to be a waste of time. It is not an indicator of the effectiveness of other active recovery modalities. Each would need to be studied or observed independently. In fact, I read another study that showed tremendous backing for active recovery over static or passive recovery. The problem is that they do not detail what the active method consisted of. My opinion is that it more than likely depends on the method itself.

It is important to note there are many studies that seem to indicate real benefits with cold-immersion. However, they don’t really apply very well to strength training. The studies base the findings on activities with a high metabolic stress and moderate mechanical stress. When it comes to strength training, we typically see a reduced metabolic stress with a heightened mechanical stress. That is an important difference. In the end, this study shows that the biological indicators at the cellular level do not support cold-immersion being used as a primary recovery method.

**Note: The study also references a 2003 study by Roberts, et al. that seemed to show a loss of muscle mass and force production when cold-emersion was implemented post-workout over a 3-month period. That is significant.**

Strength Recovery

This is where people could easily get lost. The studies seem to show contradictions rampant, but when observed more closely, there seems to be more of a bell curve. One study by Pfeiffer, et al. seemed to show drastic decreases in strength when using cold-immersion methods. However, the method to determine this was repeating high-intensity exercise with a quick turnaround (within an hour). As I stated before, there is a 2003 study by Roberts, et al. that indicates a loss of strength over a 3-month period of using cold-immersion in comparison to other recovery methods.

But let’s slow down a bit. There are also studies that seem to indicate strength recovery increases over a three day period in comparison to other methods. Some point to this as a proof-positive for cold-water immersion. Others point to it as misleading. I tend to fall into the latter camp. We know cold-water immersion reduces perceived soreness. That three day period seems to be in a typical soreness window, so a study taking place in that window seems to exploit that effect. While it is important to those looking for a quick turnaround, it also could be detrimental. This is only my opinion.

As an example, we know that to cause actual changes in soft tissue by stretching takes at least 2 minutes of constant stretching. However, we see increases in joint range after 30 seconds, at times. This is because we have affected the stretch tolerance of the muscle. This can give an appearance of increased soft tissue extensibility, but it is misleading. In the same way, because of decreased soreness, we should be able to tolerate more load than while experiencing soreness. Some need that from time to time, but I am in the business of developing long-term athletes. I don’t really care too much about a false two or three days of perceived recovery. I really want to see more studies attacking this topic, but until then, I can only go on this. For these reasons, it is my current opinion (which could change), that not only is cold-immersion not beneficial for strength recovery, but it can be detrimental in the long-run.


Please make your own determinations. Don’t blindly listen to what I’m saying, but these are the conclusions that I’ve come to with the current information available. There are simply not enough studies out there on this topic. The ones that are out there, when looked at as a whole, do not seem to support to the use of cold-immersion as an efficient or effective recovery method post-workout. This is especially true when it comes at a monetary cost to you. Alternatively, active recovery is going to depend on the specific method.


  Thibaut Méline, Timothée Watier, Anthony MJ Sanchez, Cold water immersion after exercise: recent data and perspectives on “kaumatherapy”, The Journal of Physiology , 2017, 595, 9, 2783

Wiley Online Library

Gillian White, Jessica E. Caterini, Cold water immersion mechanisms for recovery following exercise: cellular stress and inflammation require closer examination, The Journal of Physiology , 2017, 595, 3, 631

Wiley Online Library

Chris Mawhinney, Helen Jones, David A. Low, Daniel J. Green, Glyn Howatson, Warren Gregson, Influence of cold-water immersion on limb blood flow after resistance exercise, European Journal of Sport Science , 2017, 17, 5, 519


  R. Allan, C. Mawhinney, Is the ice bath finally melting? Cold water immersion is no greater than active recovery upon local and systemic inflammatory cellular stress in humans, The Journal of Physiology , 2017, 595, 6, 1857

Wiley Online Library

  Angus Lindsay, Sam Carr, Sean Cross, Carl Petersen, John G. Lewis, Steven P. Gieseg, The physiological response to cold-water immersion following a mixed martial arts training session, Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism , 2017, 42, 5, 529

  Pearce, et al.   Journal of Physiology . Volume 595, Issue 3
1 February 2017 
Pages 695–711

  Jeremiah J. Peiffer et al. Journal of Sports Sciences , Published online: 21 Aug 2009
By Dynamic Sports Training 06 Jun, 2017
The split squat is a beginner lunge variation. It can be used as a prerequisite to the lunge or Bulgarian split squat for beginners as well as loaded heavy for more advanced athletes. The split squat would be in the single leg quad dominant movement category. This will help will with single leg strength and stability as well as hip flexor flexibility for the back leg. All team sport athletes will benefit from single leg strength as it is vital for sprinting and changing direction.

Ques to remember to enhance your technique:

  1. Front foot flat on the ground
  2. Erect upper body with tension through the abdominals
  3. Bend and lower the back knee to initiate the movement
  4. Reverse the movement when your back knee is about an inch from the ground
  5. Drive through the front heel to stand back up

The split squat can be used as a substitute for people that may experience back, knee, or hip pain with a more traditional bilateral squat. The bilateral squat demands greater stability of the core, especially when loaded with a barbell on your back or holding dumbbells. The split squat helps to mitigate this with one leg in flexion and the other in extension, therefore holding a more neutral alignment of the pelvis and lumbar spine. This will help to alleviate back pain during squatting.

This movement is usually a good substitute for bilateral squatting for someone experiencing knee pain as well. The split squat allows us to play with the stance a little bit more than other variations, being able to control how much knee or hip movement takes place. Sometimes, if an athlete is experiencing knee pain, I will place my hand or a bench a few inches in front of their front knee and instruct them to avoid touching it as they lower themselves down to the floor.

The split squat is a great movement for all athletes and should be incorporated into any complete total body workout routine. Start with three sets of 8-10 reps per leg on your lower body days with a challenging weight. Remember: progression is the key. So make sure you are adding sets, reps, or weight each week for about 3-4 weeks before changing the exercise or deloading and starting over again on your next program.
By Dynamic Sports Training 30 May, 2017

Ever had the unfortunate experience of leaving your shins on the edge of a plyo box?

Trust me, it isn’t fun. In this article I will tell you how to properly implement a box jump into your training program.

The box jump is a great tool to use for improving athletic performance. This exercise is very effective at improving explosive power of the lower body. The purpose of the box in the box jump is to lessen the impact on the body by reducing the distance the body has to travel prior to landing, not to see how high one can jump. This works to limit wear and tear on the joints when teaching a young athlete still learning proper landing mechanics, as well as for the pros when managing the stress their bodies are under.

With that being said, of course jumping on the highest box is still pretty cool. And I’m all for it. Competition is essential for getting the most out of your training, and setting PR's (personal records) are great. One thing that needs to be stated, however, is a standard to judge a properly executed box jump. Just like in powerlifting where there are standards that must be met to achieve a “good lift” verdict, there should be the same for box jumps. In the powerlifting squat, the athlete must achieve full depth with the crease of the hip below, or at the very least in line with the top of the knee. I believe the box jump should be the opposite. If you don’t land a box jump with your hip crease even with or above your knee, it should not be considered a good box jump.

Why? Let’s break the exercise down:

Goal #1 : To improve explosive power of the lower body.

Goal #2 : To not take any unnecessary damage - this should be a lower impact jumping exercise.

Looking at the picture you will see the boxes are two different heights. Landing on a higher box means I jumped higher, right? Wrong. Notice the crease of my hip did not travel any higher when compared to my jump onto the lower box. I simply landed with straighter legs. Therefore the higher box, in this case, did not improve my explosive abilities, rather it matched what was accomplished with the lower box, forcing me to use the flexibility in my hips to rapidly pull my feet up as high as possible to land on the box.

Why is this an issue? Aren’t flexible hips a good thing?

Yes, having flexible hips can be a great asset for an athlete. However, this is not how I want to build it or test it.  If the main goal is to improve lower body power, and limit risk and impact on the joints, why would I choose a box height that didn’t require improvement in vertical power? Why would I choose a height that forced me to land in a compromised position, with poor joint angles and posture? Not to mention the dreaded bloody shins that comes from missing on non-forgiving boxes. I wouldn’t recommend a higher risk choice with no added benefit, besides maybe a few more Instagram likes. With that being said, know why you’re using the box jump, have a standard to judge good technique, and swallow your ego.

By Dynamic Sports Training 23 May, 2017

The Romanian Deadlift (RDL) is one of the most productive movements in strengthening what we call the “GO” muscles.  The “GO” muscles are the muscles usually overlooked on the posterior side of the athlete -- the hamstrings, glutes, lats, etc.  

The RDL can be used as a great teaching tool for younger athletes because it’s a hip hinge/posterior chain movement. Many times coaches don't emphasize the basics, so it’s a good idea to keep it simple with younger athletes by establishing a solid foundation early on. Coaches need to figure out how well the athletes can push, pull, hinge (RDL etc.), squat, and carry before progressing to more advanced movements. Teaching the hip hinge/RDL not only builds a strong backside, but it also creates the primary hinge movement for the deadlift, clean pull, clean, snatch, etc., as well as builds your deceleration muscles ("GO" muscles - catching on yet?).

The hamstrings and glutes play an important role in almost every sport. Strong hamstrings and glutes are a vital component in improving speed, as well as deceleration, and also help maintain good knee joint and hip stability. Having the ability to engage and properly activate your glutes will provide stability through the various movements of the hip.


  1. Tall posture and neutral spine (feet hip width apart, hands slightly wider than shoulders)

  1. Breathe-and-brace

  1. Power position


  1. Push the hips back

  1. Keep the bar close (sliding against the thighs)

  1. Vertical shins

  1. Back is engaged and flat while spine stays neutral.

Common Faults:

  1. Overextending lumbar and/or cervical spine

  1. Non-vertical shin angle

  1. Rounding of shoulders and Back

  1. Knees Locked Out
By Dynamic Sports Training 18 May, 2017

The question of showcasing is a topic I tackle often in talks with both players and parents. There seems to be an acceptance of the status quo when it come to showcases. People have bought in to the notion of "if there's a showcase, I need to go". In reality, showcases are unhelpful and, often times, actually detrimental to the majority of athletes. This statement comes from experience having been around and participating in showcases for several years. I've seen the inner workings of showcases from every angle: I’ve participated as an athlete, observed as a collegiate baseball coach and have worked several showcase events as a coach and trainer. It is my position that showcase events serve a small minority of the athletes who attend while the majority of participants won't realistically be seen by coaches. To help explain, I’ve put together a list of three problems with showcasing.

Problem #1: Showcases are Self-Serving

Showcase companies are generally not in it to help all athletes. Instead, I would argue any athletes they do help are just a by-product of chasing what these events are actually all about - MONEY . And I'll gladly give showcases their due here: they are wildly successful as a for-profit business, because there is almost no substantial overhead and a large cash flow comes in a short period. Allow me to break it down:

Let's say a showcase charges $500 for a weekend and they get 300 kids to show up. Not unreasonable, right? That is $150,000 . They can easily get away with paying 10 coaches $200 each for the weekend. Usually, big showcases get a discount with facilities because they know showcases bring in a large number of people and that brings credibility to their business. So lets say the showcase pays $5,000 for field use (Spoiler: They Aren't). The company still ends up with $143,000 for the weekend. Do ten showcases a year, and you’re talking about $1,430,000 . All they have to do at this point is pay a couple guys to maintain their web databases. Let’s say they pay three guys $100,000 per year (Another Spoiler: They don’t). Now, the company is left with a measly $1,130,000 in profit. I'm leaving a few things out, but you get the point. It's a racket. 

As I stated earlier, I've worked some of these showcases myself, and I can tell you the emphasis is not primarily focused on helping these kids. The emphasis is on making the kids feel helped. Here's an example: I was working one particular showcase as a coach of a team when a Division-I coached asked if one of my pitchers could pitch earlier because he couldn't stay to watch him pitch at his scheduled time. Seemed reasonable to me and it was a great opportunity for the pitcher! What happened? The showcase administrator refused to change the showcase schedule even though he knew full-well that meant preventing a kid from getting Division-I exposure. Doesn't seem consistent with someone who wants the best for their athletes, does it?

Problem #2: Showcasing (A Lack of) Tools

I don't want to tell you that showcases absolutely never help kids, because sometimes they do! It is just absolutely the VAST minority. Ninety percent of the athletes who show up will not benefit at all from the experience. Once again, if they were all about helping the kids, why wouldn’t these showcases turn away kids without real ability? Any guesses? Money.

The purpose of showcases is for athletes to show off their tools. For those of you who don’t know, a 'tool' refers to speed, power, arm strength, bat talent and glove talent. There are various standards for these tools as well.

Most of these athletes don’t have even one tool that meets the standards. As a pitcher, you’ll need to throw at least in the mid-to-upper 80’s. Position players, you need to run under a 7.2 second 60-yard dash. Outfielders, you need to throw upper 80’s to low 90’s. Infielders, you need to throw in the mid 80’s. These standards are the MINIMUM. If your goals are to play D-I or pro, the standards are even higher. If an athlete can’t meet ALL the standards required of their position, attending a showcase is completely useless.

Unfortunately, most athletes roll out there and showcase substandard tools. You wouldn’t sign up for a car show and bring a stock Ford Mustang, much less a beat up Corolla, but that is precisely what most athletes are doing. I tell my guys that it’s better to not participate than to put bad numbers on paper. If you want to showcase, take the time to develop some tools first.

Problem #3: Showcasing Too Early

Here's the deal: The standards are the standards regardless of how old you are. No college will sign you when you hit 84 mph as a freshman if you’re still 84 mph as a senior. Likewise, no college is going to turn down a 92 mph arm, because they were only up to 74 mph a year before. The same goes for the other tools. But now 8th graders are showcasing? It doesn't make sense. The player rankings they put out are to fuel more participants in their camp. Why? Money. There is absolutely zero benefit to showcasing before your tools are ready.

Since there are obvious problems, what's the solution?

The Role of Athletic Development

With so much emphasis on showcasing, parents and athletes are neglecting crucial times in the athlete’s development. People don’t balk at $1,000 for a showcase or $60-$80 per lesson, but for some reason $50 per week of athletic development seems unaffordable. This also stems from the industry's status quo and doesn't take into account the actual value of the services. Whether we are talking about throwing velocity, speed or power, working on force production and rate of force development is 100% essential. 

Let's use the example of sprinting. Let’s say we have a 170-pound kid who’s running a 7.5 second 60-yard dash. All the technical work in the world may not help this kid. If he doesn’t even have a base of strength, I don’t care how technically perfect he is. He can’t apply force to the ground. He can’t absorb the ground reaction forces and overcome them quickly and efficiently. He won’t get faster. You see, speed is trainable. Velocity is trainable. Power is trainable. Maybe it’s a force problem keeping you from improving. If so, we need to build your strength. Maybe it’s a lack of rotational power holding you back. If so, maybe we need to work anti-rotation strength and rotational medicine ball work. Maybe its specific mobility (not the same as flexibility) that is holding you back. I don’t care how many times a pitching coach tells an athlete to "get into their back hip". If they have a limitation, they won’t be able to get there. Still, parents will pay for lesson after lesson in vain where a coach flips them balls over and over or tells them to balance more.

Here's my suggestion: prioritize athletic development at least as highly as skill development. Athleticism enhances skill. This creates tools. Once again, don’t spend money on showcases that won't further your career. Focus on developing tools first.

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