The Challenges and Dangers of Implementing a Velocity Enhancement Program During the Season

By Ron Wolforth –

 

Every single year for the past 15 years, 400+ athletes and their parents travel to Montgomery, Texas in search of performance enhancement. A vast percentage of those athletes are looking to add velocity to their current capabilities.

 

The danger often begins because people simply don’t know what they don’t know. Many naively believe adding velocity as a baseball athlete is an isolated addition; very much like upgrading to leather seats in your new car or adding a new deck in your backyard.

 

In my opinion, a more helpful and accurate way of processing the variables and potential challenges posed by velocity enhancement is for one to think of the athlete as his own unique, independent ecosystem.

 

A key tenet of an ecosystem is: Change, in any 1 variable, can, and typically will, influence other areas. Change can be either positive or negative. This is where we all too often experience the infamous concept of “the law of unintended consequences”.

 

The law is often cited but rarely defined. My interpretation is that specific actions always have effects that are unanticipated or unintended.

 

For example, an athlete losing or gaining mobility at a specific joint often directly affects the functionality of the joints directly below and above it, and consequently can affect the function of the entire system.

 

I have found that when you take the time to fully discuss this phenomenon with coaches, players, and their parents, they almost always immediately understand its ramifications. Unfortunately, many people never have this discussion or have never experienced this specific training phenomenon. They naively assume that all change created will be positive because their intent was positive. This is simply ingenuous. (In other words, it’s a rookie mistake.)

 

For 2 very valid and critical reasons, velocity enhancement programs are best applied in the offseason.

 

Reason #1: As the athlete makes changes to increase the energy going through his system, the stress to connective tissue typically increases as well. If the athlete is already experiencing tenderness, tightness, early fatigue, and/or poor recovery, adding stress via a velocity enhancement program almost certainly is not a good choice. In that case, it would be a far better choice to focus time, effort, and resources on improving arm health, durability, and recovery.

 

I’m often asked to critique online velocity enhancement programs. My proverbial answer is… “It always depends on the athlete and where he is on his personal journey”.

 

For a percentage of athletes, a specific program might work quite well. For another group, this exact same process would be exceptionally dangerous, and their soft tissue is not yet ready for this specific ramp up. To know exactly where an individual would fall on this question, I would need to know much more about the athlete.

 

Furthermore, during the season, the stress to soft tissue is typically increased and the time available for recuperation is constricted. Therefore, it obviously is not an ideal time to be adding additional stress to an already taxed system.

 

Reason #2: My primary concern is, the athlete is trying to do 2 things at once… and those 2 things are VERY difficult to pull off at once. They are:

 

  • Perform very well in a game (command/ swing-and-miss stuff/ consistency/ recovery)
  • Gain velocity

 

We all realize that velocity is only 1 performance parameter. Other factors to note are command, deception (generating swing-and-miss secondary stuff – curveball, slider, change, cutter, split, etc.), and consistency. So, I see these 2 scenarios play out quite often as the body is trying to create and perform/ compete at the same time.

 

Scenario A: The athlete indeed gains some velocity with changes in their intent,  mechanical efficiency, contributions from posterior chain, etc. However, through this evolution… they begin to struggle with command or arm health/ recovery as their body attempts to adjust to the increase in energy going through it. They become frustrated because they’ve ALWAYS had great command and now, what they were known for, isn’t as good. They feel the choice of the new training was a poor decision. On the contrary, it might have been a proper choice… but they simply didn’t give their body enough time to adjust and adapt.

 

Scenario B: They never see any velocity changes… primarily because they were immediately busy competing and getting outs. The regular stimulus needed in order to elicit change in velocity simply wasn’t there in large enough volume, or consistent enough for any adaptation to occur. In essence, the body and the brain said, “Do you want to compete and get outs, or do you want to throw harder? Make a choice… you can’t have both right now”.

 

Subconsciously or consciously, they chose to perform well in the game over velocity. They become frustrated with little or no gains in mph, and feel they made a poor choice… that the system doesn’t work. On the contrary, it might have been a good choice. They instead chose to concentrate on performance instead of development. (I personally believe that was a wise choice to make in season.)

 

The competitive landscape is littered with well-intending pitchers who chose incorrectly.

 

When athletes engage in velocity enhancement during the season, they run the significant risk that the other parameters of their performance may be negatively affected. Most commonly, they gain 3-5mph but lose a degree of command. The reality was their command was only slightly above average to begin with, and their coach is not pleased with the tradeoff.

 

Even worse, occasionally they will actually get LESS pitching time for all of their efforts because their other performance-related abilities suffered.

 

For these reasons, we suggest being very strategic with velocity enhancement programming. There are ways one can augment velocity during the season, but they must be hyper-personalized and monitored very closely. Online, one-size-fits-all velocity enhancement programs (in my opinion) are of little use in this regard. In fact, they can be detrimental and even dangerous if the fit is inappropriate.

 

I leave you with a saying that we use frequently at the Ranch:

 

Velocity gets you opportunity.

Command gets you innings.

Velocity makes you interesting.

Command makes you relevant.

Velocity creates challenges for the hitter.

Command allows for the pitcher to control the AB.

– Coach Wolforth

 

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Important TBR Updates

 

  • Information and dates for our 2022 3-Day Elite Pitchers Bootcamps can be found on our website.  Our May 28-30 camp is sold out and June 10-12 camp is at limited capacity. Space is filling up fast so don’t delay! Call the office or fill out the online registration form(s) to reserve your spot. https://www.texasbaseballranch.com/elite-pitchers-bootcamp/ 

 

 

  • Would you like to experience both.  We do have that option.  Attend one of our 3-Day Elite Pitchers Bootcamps and Add-On one week of our Summer Program.  Call for the details (936) 588-6762.

 

 

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