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.
This week's DST Exercise of the Week is the Dowel shoulder mobility series, which is an alternative to the old-fashioned shoulder dislocators that a lot people do for their shoulder mobility work. The problem with the old-fashioned dislocators is when we go up and over, we’re forcing our body into a fixed range of motion that might not be appropriate for that athlete at the time. This is going to lead to anterior glide of the shoulder once we turn it over, and that is going to lead to a lot of excessive extension when we are trying to go over the top.
We have the athlete grip a PVC pipe about shoulder width apart. He’s going to turn one hand out and one hand in, right in front of his body. We tell the athlete to take his bottom hand and push the other hand straight to the sky. Don’t worry about rotating yet, just try and reach up. As we reach up as high as we possibly can, we’re getting a good stretch through this entire side through the lat. Then, we tell the athlete to take this bottom hand and start pushing his other arm into a big arm circle. He’s going to rotate back so we’re also getting a little bit of thoracic mobility and core stability while he maintains this position.
We want to maintain pressure through the entire range. Then, when he gets back to the start, he’s going to do the same movement in the other direction. We go up and over pushing up with the other hand. It is important to know that whichever hand starts at the bottom is always applying the force, so we want to tell the athlete to try to keep the hips as square as possible.
After the athlete does eights reps or so on each side,
we’ll go backwards with it. So we will have the athlete start in the same
position, and we'll use the top hand this time to push the bottom hand down. Going through the Dowel shoulder mobility series is a better option to get that extra should mobility
work or movement preparation work before your workout. We usually do one or two sets of
eight to twelve reps of this.
Physical Principle: Periodization
One of the core principles for our athletic development processes is the concept of periodization. Having goals is vital for all athletes. You need to know where you want to go before you can take the proper steps to get there. However, constant fixation on an end-goal can be detrimental to actually achieving it. That is where the idea of periodization helps immensely.
Periodization is taking the end-goal and breaking it down into smaller, more achievable steps. Think of it this way: Your end-goal is a finished bookcase from IKEA . Periodization is what helps you build it with steps A through J. This process-oriented mindset creates daily opportunities for little victories, which helps sustain the motivation required to accomplish long-term goals. Focusing on, and believing in, the process is what periodization is all about.
"Rome wasn't built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour."
Everyone loves an underdog story. A long-shot with little hope who defies logic, silences doubters, and overcomes all obstacles on their way to ultimate glory. But that’s not always how it plays out in real life, is it?
Mr. Holland : "Jacobs would have fought this."
Principle Wolters : "She would have lost."
Mr. Holland : "Yes, she would have lost. But she would have fought this. And so will I."
This is a prime example of what true dedication looks like. Sure, it's dedication to a losing cause, but Mr. Holland absolutely refused to go down without a fight.
I've found that I'm drawn to this same mentality in fiction and reality alike.
One of the most inspiring stories in all of mythology is the Battle of Thermopylae -- Anyone want to do a Gerard Butler "This is Sparta!" impression? Now's the time -- I'll wait. What an incredible narrative: 300 men vs. hundreds of thousands . The Spartans faced certain death, yet remained undeterred in their resolve to fight for their land and stand up for what they knew was right.
Or how about a historical account? The Battle of the Alamo is essentially the same storyline. We absolutely love it here in Texas -- and for good reason. If you don't know the details, you need to do some research. The epic line in the sand drawn by William B. Travis. The willingness of every last man to give his life for the greater good. THAT is dedication.
Here's my point: You're not going to win every game you play.¹ You won't achieve every goal you ever set for yourself. You cannot and will not be perfect. But does that mean you shouldn't try? Absolutely not. Find something of great value, throw caution (and probability of success) to the wind, and dedicate yourself to it.²
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.
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.
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.
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 RecoverySo 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 StudiesWhile 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 SorenessMuscle 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 RecoveryThis 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.
ConclusionPlease 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.
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