Prioritizing Development 

  • By Dynamic Sports Training
  • 18 May, 2017

Kevin Poppe on The Battle Between Development and Showcases

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.

Dynamic Sports Training Blog

By Dynamic Sports Training 23 Jan, 2018
The plank hold on the med ball with leg lifts is a total body movement. It will target your core, shoulders and glutes all in one exercise. During the plank hold it is important to keep the core engaged - do not let the back dip or arch. During the leg lifts keep your hips stable - don't let your hips move side-to-side. The further apart your feet are the easier this movement will be. Keep your feet at a distance apart that you are able to complete the movement with good form. As you get better at this exercise, start moving your feet in closer together while still maintaining good form. Challenge yourself to get to where you can maintain good form with your feet next to each other. 

Recommendation for this exercise is 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps per leg.
By Dynamic Sports Training 19 Jan, 2018
In the Chalk Talk video below, I will take you through 4 simple ways to get faster in acceleration.

We will cover: 
1. Head Position
2. Stride Length
3. Arm Action
4. Lead Leg Action

The four points emphasized in this video can be seen in this picture of DST Athlete and NFL Running Back, Ben Tate: 
By Dynamic Sports Training 18 Jan, 2018
The crunch with the dumbbell transfer is a total body workout. Although it has an emphasis on the core, transferring the dumbbell requires you to keep your upper and lower body engaged as well. When doing this exercise it is important to keep the body under control and execute the exercises slowly. Using light weight will allow the exercise to be effective without causing strain.

Recommended: 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps 
By Dynamic Sports Training 12 Jan, 2018

What do you think it takes to achieve a goal? Effort? Determination? Sure. Honestly though, I believe the capability to be resilient is the single most important factor - but what is resilience? What does it mean to be resilient? If there's one thing I’ve learned in my life, it's this: Resilience is the measure of what is left of a dream after individual weakness and temptation chip away.


Resilience = Goal - (Individual Weakness + Temptation)

We all have goals. Maybe it’s to make it to the next level in our sport, some of us want to get in better shape in order to look better, or others may just want to find success in our given field. Whatever it is, that goal is whole. It is crystal clear in your mind. The details, the glory, the ecstasy, the pride - it’s all there. You can picture it. You can taste it. Unfortunately, most of us do not get to live out the picture we have in our dream. Why not? There may be a part of you seeking fulfillment in a worldly goal thinking it will bring you happiness. If this is you - trust me, it will not. It can't. Only faith in Jesus can bring fulfillment and joy.

For the rest of us, the reason is this: there is weakness, a hole in your armor, and temptation is penetrating your mind and chipping away at your dream.  Individual weaknesses are like holes in the bottom of a ship, and temptation surrounds our ship like an ocean. That combination is deadly to any dream. With enough weakness or temptation(s) present, a dream will certainly die. A ship with a few small holes might survive the trip, but you'll get there slower, and you can’t enjoy the destination because you have to worry about the water that got in your boat and how that might affect you in the future. Your resilience is what's left of your boat.


Identify Weaknesses and Limit Temptation

Let me be clear: you can not eliminate weakness altogether. However, it is absolutely vital to identify your individual weaknesses in order to eliminate temptation that might exploit your weakness. That’s what temptation does - it exploits weakness. I promise you will never be tempted in your strengths, so what actually tempts you? Is it taking a rep off because you’re tired? Is it eating bad foods? Is it drinking alcohol? Is it unsavory activity? Is it negative thinking? Identify it . Call it by name. This is the only way to protect your dream, yourself and your future. A boat with holes (weakness) can’t sink if there’s no water (temptation). If there are holes, we can patch it to keep water away from that specific hole, and focus our energy on keeping that hole patched. Do not allow temptation and weakness to dwell in the same place or you will surely sink. 



Mark 9:43-47

"If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell."



So...?

Let's slow down a bit. You can still reach your dream. It can still have much of what you dreamed about. But, guess what? The end has been diminished along the way. You can’t take back all those missed reps, missed days, bad meals or bad decisions. They have chipped away at what you dreamed of, what you cared about. What you have left is the remainder of your dream.


Now What?

Okay, so you can’t go back. There’s still a long way to go. Protect your dream. You can’t go back, so start looking at your path. Where are you allowing water near your holes? Where are you taking pride in your strength while ignoring the cracks elsewhere? Be vigilant. Protect your dream. Protect yourself. Will you be proud of what is left of your boat?....or will you sink?



Hebrews 12:1
 
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
By Dynamic Sports Training 11 Jan, 2018
Rachel is the Digital Content Manager at DST and a former DST athlete (2010-2017). She graduated with a degree in strategic communication from Stephen F. Austin State University in 2015, where she played division 1 soccer and won four Southland Conference Championships, voted as a team captain her senior year. After graduation and before joining the DST team, she played a season of professional soccer for IA Akranes FC in Iceland . She now plays for a Houston team in the UWS, a competitive professional women's soccer league in the U.S. and Canada.
By Dynamic Sports Training 09 Jan, 2018

The Dumbbell Row to Tricep Kickback is an exercise that will target the biceps, back and triceps. During this exercise it is important to keep a sturdy base with ankles hip width apart. Be sure to stay hinged at the hips with the core engaged.

 

When the arms extend for the tricep kickback, it is important to not let the weight move the body forward; core engagement will help resist that movement. You may feel that you can do more weight for the row but not as much for the kickback. However, use a weight that feels comfortable for both movements and focus on your form and quality of reps rather than the amount of weight you are using.


Recommended: 3 sets of 8-12 reps

By Dynamic Sports Training 05 Jan, 2018
Nutrition Principle: Energy
Eating the right combination of foods can help maximize your energy throughout your day and during training. One key is eating often and eating light. Eating smaller meals every 3-4 hours can help fuel your metabolism while maintaining muscle mass and help to avoid overeating. Keeping the meals balanced with a complex carb, lean protein and vitamin-rich vegetables and fruits can encourage sustained energy through caloric intake.

Energy is an essential part of athletic performance for practice, training, and in-game performance.

Physical Principle: Movement

Of all our physical principles, movement is the most important building block we have. While the concept is simple, the implementation is, unfortunately, often overlooked in many athletic development programs.

We approach movement as a core foundation of everything we do. Before an athlete can excel on the field/court, they must first be able to move efficiently. Because of this, we take all our athletes through an in-depth bio-mechanical assessment in which we look at an athlete's:

  • Flexibility
  • Joint Mobility/Stability
  • Body's Balance
  • Functional Movement
  • Motor Control
From there, we're able to create a personalized workout program that re-educates our athletes' bodies and movement patterns. Only after an athlete is able to move properly and effectively are they able to see improvements in the weight room that will translate to their in-game performance. Sometimes this means taking a perceived "step backward", but it's actually a step in the right direction.

"We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive."

- C.S. Lewis


Mindset Principle: Resilience
By: Rachel Owens

Sometimes you just can't catch a break.

Your car breaks down. Do you not go to work or school because you can't drive your car? You find a way to get it fixed, and in the meantime you find other ways to get where you need to go. You burn dinner in the oven. Do you not eat that night because you can't eat the burnt food? You make something else, or order takeout. You find yourself on the bench during games. Do you quit because you aren't getting playing time? You spend more hours in the weight room and on the field on your own to get better to prove you deserve that playing time.

Resilience: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. To be resilient means to not let hardship slow you down or hinder your journey. Whether it's in life or in sports, the resilient are the ones who don't take 'no' for an answer.

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts."
- Winston Churchill
By Dynamic Sports Training 04 Jan, 2018

The kettle bell squat into a RDL is a compound movement that can be utilized to help strengthen the glutes and hamstrings. It is important to make sure the feet stay hip width apart and the chest does not pitch forward in both of these movements. 


The squat : feet hip width apart, prevent knees from buckling inside the hips, squat as low as you are able, keep shoulders back and pinch your shoulder blades.


The RDL : feet hip width apart, keep knees stable and in place, hinge from the hip without "hunching over", keep shoulders back.


Recommended: 3 sets of 8-12 reps 

By Dynamic Sports Training 29 Dec, 2017

At DST, we are getting to the point in our off-season when our baseball guys are starting to swing and throw more and more. This got me thinking about how we taper volume and exercise variance with our guys as the off-season progresses. I think this is a pretty misunderstood concept in strength and conditioning in general, so I thought I’d share how we view this pivotal time and how we address it.


First Thing's First

To put it simply, if an athlete hasn’t done much frontal and transverse plane work at this point in the off-season (about two months before they report), they are being done a tremendous disservice. By now, they should have been experiencing all planes of motion at the mobility level as well as low and high-velocity profiles.  Basically, they should have restored rotational range of motion in their t-spine, loaded rotation in some capacity, and been throwing medicine balls before introducing a baseball or a bat. Don’t put the cart before the horse. Unfortunately, many in the Strength and Conditioning field get this concept totally backwards.


Why It's Backwards 

The reason coaches get this backwards is they view their training in a vacuum. Its getting later in the off-season, so they get more specific with their preparation. Now, if we just now start rotating with speed for the first time AND they are introducing similar stresses in their own hitting and throwing, congrats! You may have just over-dosed your athlete with volume. Coaches must start viewing their training as a piece of their athlete’s entire day and ultimately, as just a piece of their athlete’s volume.


How We Do It

At DST, we view our training as part of the athlete’s much bigger picture. We focus on building strength in the sagittal plane early, but we quickly branch out to develop other planes. As their volume of swings and throws increases, the amount of our rotation and ballistic training begins to decrease (generally - not necessarily all the time). They are getting that work in their sport skill development, so it frees us up to focus on other things. We can focus on mobility retention, max strength, managing stress and limiting what we can in terms of reps on the spine. Make no mistake, we still throw medicine balls and rotate, but we are conscious of the volume we add. Focus on lower-velocity rotation, better “bang for your buck” medicine ball work, strength and anti-rotation strength/core stability.


This has been something I’ve been thinking about for some time, so I needed to get this out there. This is the way we look at manipulating training at DST. Our training is not in a vacuum. These are bodies that we are in charge of managing as best we can. Always think things through to an end outside of training.

By Dynamic Sports Training 22 Dec, 2017
Supplements get a lot of attention in the field of fitness and athletic performance. Some are geared towards helping increase muscle mass, some to improve energy, and others to positively enhance health. Just like many things in the field, there are two extremes on the supplement spectrum. You have your camp that says you don’t need expensive supplements - just eat real food all the time. You also have the group of people that live off of pre workout, protein shakes, and fiber supplements, and argue it’s all the same.

Below I break up this discussion into different categories explaining reasons to take supplements to discuss my thoughts on the role and effectiveness of their use.


1. Improve Body Composition

What supplements have a positive contribution to looking leaner, shredding fat, and getting jacked? Lets start with the most popular: protein powders.

What:  Supplementing with protein powders is something I recommend to every client looking to improve body composition.

Why:   Protein is very important, and most people simply don’t get enough through the consumption of real food. Protein is made up of amino acids which is needed to build muscle. Muscle is metabolically expensive in the sense that it requires a lot of energy to keep. The more muscle you have the more calories you burn just from having that muscle. Protein also has the greatest thermic effect, meaning that more calories are burned from digesting protein vs. carbohydrates and fats.  

When:  The amount of protein you get in a given day is more important than when you get it. However, to maximize muscle protein synthesis - the process your body goes through to build and maintain muscle mass - you would want to consume about between 20-40 grams of protein every 3-4 hours.


2. Increase Athletic Performance

What:  Creatine, carbohydrate, and stimulants are all supplements you can take to potentially increase performance on the field or in training.

Why:  Creatine can make you more explosive. ATP-CP is the fuel source your body primarily uses during short duration explosive exercises like throwing a baseball or sprinting. The C in ATP-CP is for creatine. I’ve heard countless positive and negative reasons for why or why not to take creatine. However, none of them include the fact that creatine is vital for explosive athletes to be at their best. In fact, creatine is probably the most studied supplement out there. The fact is that creatine does not turn you into an elite athlete nor does it have negative impacts on your health. Creatine   can   get you that last 5% increase in performance if you are covering all of your other bases like training, nutrition, and recovery.

Just as creatine is vital for explosive athletes, carbohydrates are vital for all, but especially for more endurance dominant athletes. Regarding all the negatives surrounding the consumption of carbs, it must be said that to achieve peak athletic performance you must not neglect them. Carbs are the body's preferred fuel source. Carbs can help explosive athletes maximize their performance by having enough fuel sources to repeat explosive bouts over the course of a training session or game. For endurance athletes, like cross country runners and triathletes, carbohydrates can greatly improve how long one can go before reaching exhaustion in long and continuous duration events. Even though these athletes compete for hours at a time, they still are competing to be the fastest to finish, which means they must have the energy for more explosive bursts like cycling hills in the Tour de France or an all out sprint for a marathoner when the finish line is in site.

Another supplement that you’ll see people on both extremes of the spectrum include stimulants like pre workouts. Stimulants are the umbrella category for anything that contains ingredients such as caffeine, beta alanine, or nitrous oxides. Again, most people either live off of these products and consume them all day everyday or shame them to death claiming nothing could be worse for your health. Positives of stimulants include increase alertness and energy, which can provide a positive impact on athletic performance. However, the increased alertness and energy can result in restlessness and poor sleep quality when these products are over-consumed, which will surely negatively impact performance and health over the long term.

When:  Creatine is not something you take and experience super human levels of strength like a lot of people think. Sure, the placebo effect is real, but the small benefits of creatine probably won’t be seen until it is used consistently for multiple months at a time.

Carbohydrate supplementation such as Gatorade and Powerade are great intra or during training or competition for most athletes. These products are higher on the glycemic index, which simply means they are absorbed and can be used very quickly as an effective energy source.

Stimulants should be used strategically to get maximum benefits. A stimulant prior to competition or training is ideal. Negative effects of stimulants can include decreased sleep quality as well as suppression of ones appetite, which if affected will be more negative for the athlete in the long run, so time your use accordingly.


3. Increase Overall Health

I will speak on this category the least for the simple reason that every individual is different. This is a conversation for you and your doctor or dietitian. Overall health is a balancing act. Most people think that certain vitamins and minerals are either good or bad. This is simply not true.  For example, vitamin D is great and provides many positives for ones health such as strong bones and increased resistance against certain diseases. Most of the population is deficient and should consume or supplement with more, but over consumption can lead to a host of negative affects such nausea, vomiting, and poor appetite. Vitamin D can be consumed through natural means from dairy products and exposure to the sun. Certain regions of the world don’t have access to as much sunlight exposure or dairy, therefore supplementation would be a wise choice.


In conclusion, we must understand that at the end of the day supplements are simply not necessary. The definition of supplement is “something that completes or enhances something else when added to it.” Protein, creatine, carbohydrates, and vitamin D can all be sufficiently consumed through a well balanced diet. Improved energy and alertness from stimulants will never be as effective as getting adequate amounts of sleep, nutrition, and hydration in your daily life. Also understand that supplements have their place for the athlete and every day person. Take care of the big pieces of the puzzle when it comes to athletic performance and health, and use supplementation accordingly when needed.

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