The Critical Distinction Between Skill and Ability

By Coach Ron Wolforth-


Recently our staff put together a video clip of Ranch student Shane Daughety who a couple weeks ago topped 100mph on a running step behind and shared it on social media.


As one would imagine it was reacted to with both amazement / appreciation / astonishment, as well as vitriol / incredulity / suspicion / cynicism.


A small portion of the critical comments were in fact, in my opinion, valid and were offered with sincere curiosity and/or genuine intention.  Most of the criticism however was centered around envy, spite and fear.  But a portion of the most acrimonious and nasty critique is often a combination of arrogance coupled with ignorance, a lethal combination that Lieutenant General Russel L. Honore` famously referred to, in the midst of Hurricane Katrina, as ‘Stuck on Stupid’.


You see, it’s very natural to lash out at and ridicule what is different, unique or is not understood.  People have been responding to new things in that exact way since the beginning of time.  Jill and I have been doing this ‘training thing’ since 1993 and have become accustomed to and actually expect a certain percent of the population to immediately respond in a negative and disparaging manner.


As I tell our summer program athletes on a regular basis, just because someone points at you and emphatically calls you a ‘tree’…doesn’t mean you therefore are a ‘tree’. Fortunately, you get to choose whether that label is correct or not.


Most people are simply not very deep on a vast majority of the questions routinely asked to the universe.  We often are simpletons.  We look for uncomplicated recipes. We long for a silver bullet for our situation…a one-size-fits-all template that we can follow for ‘guaranteed success’.  We want straightforward.   We want elementary.  We desperately want the easy button.


We all realize that in the quiet solitude of honest reflection, these desires are actually closer to fairy tales than strategic planning.  Human beings are complex, complicated and convoluted.  We often utilize these simplistic models because they make the chaotic world we live in seem a little less scary and help us to feel like we have a modicum of control of our situation.  Therefore we often react viscerally to things that go against or run counter to our current beliefs or paradigms.


While a vast majority of the time we at the Texas Baseball Ranch® do not respond to ad hominem attacks or comments, I think in this case a response is warranted  because there is a real lesson that skeptical but otherwise sincere, open and curious people can gain from understanding the critical distinction between skill and ability.


Almost 15 years ago, engineer Paul Nyman coined the phrase ‘The Bernstein Principle; The body will organize itself based upon the ultimate goal of the activity.”  It was ground breaking in that it helped us understand the distinction between developing specific ‘skills’ of our pitchers vs. enhancing the ‘ability’ of our pitchers.


If, for example, our specific training segment emphasized maximizing force and the organization of our body for peak velocity, that segment would obviously look considerably different than if our training segment emphasized hitting a very specific spot or spinning a breaking ball at ‘X’ RPM.  Therefore the specific intent or goal of the training is always central to its execution and application.


When many people who are unfamiliar with our particular methodology in training at the Texas Baseball Ranch witness a ‘Turn and Burn’, ‘A Running Step Behind with Arm Swing’ or ‘A Running Double Crow Hop’, they see something that runs contrary to what they classify as ‘standard baseball behavior’.  Therefore they often reject it immediately because they can’t get beyond the peculiarness of the activity enough to recognize its possible potential.  Most people are simply not familiar with the overspeed/downhill, neuromuscular firing efficiency training many elite track sprinters include in their training, so these drills seem out of place.


To make matters worse, they see the impressive velocity numbers that are being created by these ‘unusual’ activities and surmise either 1) it’s a parlor trick of sorts and has no real relevance to game time performance,  2) the impressive velocity numbers are entirely because of the unique activity and anyone who simply learns the drill will automatically put up similar numbers or 3) with these startling radar readings these unusual activities MUST be very stressful to the arm and are thereby dangerous.


Unfortunately we don’t know what we don’t know.  Many coaches, athletes and parents simply don’t know the difference between skill and ability.  They are not privy to the extensive warmup/wake up, the arm care and the meticulous ramp up performed prior to our velocity enhancement session.  They are not aware that for our athletes, radar day measurements, using very dynamic drill sets are a culmination of a very holistic and long term training process.


Bottom line: While this training was considered new, cutting edge and extremely progressive in 2003, many people in almost every level of baseball development have since moved towards this type of athletic training and have adopted many of the principles Nyman introduced, and the Texas Baseball Ranch applied, all those many years ago.


In fact, in addition to the Texas Baseball Ranch, three other men and the institutions they lead  have embraced these training concepts; Randy Sullivan (Florida Baseball Ranch), Jim Wagner (Throwzone Academy) and Mike Ryan (Fastball USA) and have taken the journey with us.


In these past 13 years the Texas Baseball Ranch has had 346 clients break the 90mph barrier, 124 top 94 and 19 exceed 100 mph.  But that is really not the complete story.  The news is even much more positive.  When those 4 institutions are combined, one can begin to see the incredible impact this type of training has had on the baseball universe.


Combined, these 4 training facilities, utilizing a very similar training process have generated:

~816 athletes that have broken the 90 mph barrier

~241 athletes that have exceeded 94 mph

~45 athletes that have topped 100 mph 


And most importantly to the four institutions…190 athletes drafted in the June amateur draft…all since 2003.


As they say, the proof of the process is in the pudding.  While to an outsider our process may look foreign, the most important thing is the results of the training and those results have been both significant and indisputable.  


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At The Texas Baseball Ranch®, our goal is to help every athlete play one level higher than they would have had they never come in contact with us.  We’re able to do that by working on both skill and ability.  We’d love to help you or your young athlete be next.

We have two dates remaining in our 2018 Summer Elite Pitchers’ Boot Camp schedule.
Learn more about these exciting, information packed 3-Day events at


 Check out our Extended Stay Summer Intensive Program.  You can still join us for our August 2 week mini-session.
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