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.
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.
Scapular push-ups are a basic exercise designed to target the serratus anterior muscle which is a mover in protraction and upward rotation of the scapulae. While the scapular push-up is not necessarily the most ideal way to target protraction and upward rotation, it is a good beginner’s exercise to gain awareness and control of the scapulae, and specifically, the serratus anterior.
Three Coaching Cues:
Start in a plank position with the elbows under the shoulders and a neutral spine.
Slowly descend into scapular retraction (bringing the shoulder blades together or pinching) without compromising a neutral spine.
Press the elbows into the floor and drive into protraction (taking the shoulder blades as far apart from each other as possible or push apart).
The scapular push-up can be used as an assessment or a reinforcement technique within a strength program (especially for younger athletes).
If you go to your favorite search engine and type the word “leadership” in the search bar, it’s going to pull up thousands of articles and quotes online on the subject of leadership and characteristics of great leaders. You’ll find pearls of wisdom from world leaders, sports figures, legends and icons past and present.
I don’t presume I can give better insight into the subject of leadership than so many greater men and women have already done. Instead, I want to take what has already been said and try to apply it to our everyday lives -- to give tangible examples on how to live into the principles of leadership.
Leaders Have A Clear Vision
“Action without vision is only passing time. Vision without action is merely day dreaming. But vision with action can change the world.” - Nelson Mandela
It’s essentially impossible to lead when you don’t know where you’re going or what you’re doing. Without a goal or purpose in mind, it’s also very hard for anyone to “buy in” to you as a leader. When you have a clear vision worth working toward, I believe you’ll find yourself alongside others working to help you achieve that vision.
No matter where your leadership role is -- on a team, in a business, or within your family or group of friends -- you’ll have a much greater impact if you can cast a clear vision and plan on how to get where you want to go.
Leaders Build Relationships
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” - Theodore Roosevelt
Take a brief moment to think of the best leaders you’ve had in your own life. I’m willing to bet whoever just came to mind had a few of very important things in common:
Who wants to follow someone who doesn’t care about them? I’ve heard several horror stories about people who hated their jobs because of how terrible their boss was. In the vast majority of these cases, the issues were personal not professional -- they didn’t feel valued or cared for as individuals.
If you want to achieve your goals and fulfill your vision, you’ll need the help of a team. To keep that team in tact, you need to invest in each and every one of them. Don’t just tell them, but show them they’re valued and build a personal relationship with them. In short, treat them the way you want to be treated.
Leaders Empower Others
“Leaders become great not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.” - John Maxwell
That theory was put to the test here at DST this past year. When the Los Angeles Angels reached out to our owner to join their staff, Lee could have passed on the opportunity because he was needed here. Instead, he took the interview knowing full well what the results here could be. That decision instilled great confidence in our team. By moving forward, he conveyed his trust in us to thrive without him here.
Empowering others is a process. It means focusing on the what and not the how. It can mean giving up control and relying on others to operate in their own styles and methods; or letting others make changes, try new things, and even fail on their own. But it’s an ability leaders need to ultimately succeed. Because at the end of the day, leaders aren’t making followers...
Leaders Make Other Leaders“True leaders don’t create followers. They create more leaders.” - Tom Peters
Physical limitations can create mechanical issues. Increasing the range of motion through the thoracic spine creates separation so force can be transferred without “energy leaks”. You can’t have sufficient rotation when you are stuck with a rounded upper back posture. The Baby Hip Bridge exercise helps increase range of motion through the thoracic spine. Here are the three keys we’re looking for in the Baby Hip-Bridge:
1. Thoracic Spine Rotation:
If we lack thoracic rotation, our arms will drag to try and create separation. In addition, to make up for a lack of thoracic rotation, we will sacrifice lumbar stability to maintain an upright torso. Sufficient mobility in the “T-Spine” (upper back) allows essential separation of the hips and hands during your swing, throws and pitches. Lack of thoracic mobility can also cause anterior shoulder issues in pitchers, who compensate for lack of range by creating external rotation in the wrong places such as the shoulder joint.
2. Shoulder Stability: The shoulder is a tricky joint because it has to provide adequate stability while maintaining full mobility. This exercise focuses on keeping the shoulders in a stacked position, and can create strength through stability added with thoracic rotation.
3. Psoas (Hip-Flexor): Proper hip mobility while pitching plays a significant role in avoiding shoulder and elbow injuries. When the hips are stuck in an anterior pelvic tilt, it can block off internal rotation as needed to generate force on the mound.
Physical Principle: Stress
By Sammy Knox
Stress is the body's way to react to a challenge. When we talk about stress in our workout programs, we're talking about different ways to challenge our athletes' bodies to get stronger, faster, etc.
Depending on an athlete's program, we're going to prescribe different levels of stress (or loads) to help increase strength, explosive power, or stability (control). There are a number of different factors that go into the stress levels our athletes go through in their workouts -- these factors include the athlete's in-sport goals and their bio-mechanical abilities. Before we can gain strength and increase speed, we must first make sure our bodies are able to handle the stresses necessary to reach our goal levels of strength and speed. Once we are in the right position, we'll give our athletes' bodies the necessary levels of stress (in varying degrees and phases) to work towards their end goal.