The Words Get in the Way – And for Baseball Players – Boy, Do They EVER!

By Coach Ron Wolforth –



When I was in college, one of my favorite female singing artists was Gloria Estefan. To this day, I still love her voice, it is so soothing. One of my favorite songs was about her breaking up with a long-time relationship, and her inability to tell him what she was really feeling. Thus, the title, “Words Get in the Way”.


The song always resonated with me. How often do we accurately articulate to the people around us what we really mean or are thinking/feeling? How common is it for us to say, “I wish I would have said that differently!” or “I should have taken the time to share X in greater detail!”? In my experience, this is a very, very common challenge for all of us.


When it comes to the training of athletes in general, and in impacting any individual athlete’s movement pattern specifically, this challenge can even become overwhelming.


In this age, the age of TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and texting, human communication has often devolved into 140 characters or less of clever sounding phrases, derision, and superciliousness. In other words, our communication often is less about connection, communion, refinement, debate, and/or interchange, but instead, more about pretense, efficiency, power, influence, and manipulation.


Paul Nyman very aptly said it many years ago when he wrote, “There is a real desire in many corners of the baseball universe to constantly explain the unexplainable”. I have seen that truth play out every single week over the past 20 years.


The common thought is that if we can just get the right terminology… the right word… the right phrase… the right cue… then even the most complex problem can be solved.


Of course, we intuitively know this is not true, but many are constantly seduced into the efficiency of verbal instruction and phraseology.


Recently, Randy Sullivan reminded me of a brilliant point made by Rob Gray, Associate Professor of Human Systems Engineering at Arizona State University, “Words are at least two steps removed from the perception and action that you actually experience.”


Dr. Frans Bosch said an equally true and brilliant statement at our Coaches Boot Camp in 2016 when he said, “An athlete’s body shows very little interest in what the coach has to say. Force is the language of muscle, not posture, position, or thoughts.”


My dear friend of over 20 years, Brent Strom, the pitching coach for the Houston Astros, refers to the dependence and prevalent use of great sounding terms, phrases, and cues as the primary method of instruction as “verbal terrorism”.


As W. Timothy Gallwey suggests in his, The Inner Game series, verbal instructions are far easier to give than to receive.  No truer words were ever written.


Let me be clear with regards to verbiage and phraseology so that coaches, parents, and athletes are not overwhelmed by my message…


Words and phrases are not, in themselves, bad or good.  Words are required for verbal communication and therefore, are of course absolutely necessary to some degree.


Furthermore, we at the Texas Baseball Ranch®, are just as susceptible in reverting to “verbal terrorism” as any other baseball training organization. We have developed our own philosophy, which is highlighted by very specific verbiage with their own specific meanings, such as (just a few examples):


  • Back Shaping/ Backward Chaining/ Chunking
  • A Constraint Lead Approach
  • Connection/ Disconnection/ Mechanical Efficiency
  • Synergy/ Sequencing/ Summation of Force
  • Counter Rotation
  • Forearm Flyout
  • Forearm Play
  • Postural Efficiency
  • Pattern of Deceleration
  • Glute Load
  • Torque/ Torsion
  • Proximal to Distal/ Distal to Proximal
  • Quad Dominant/ Glute Dominant
  • Lower-half Loading/ Lower-half Unloading
  • Late/ Marginal/ Early Launch


The problem arises when we believe… or even worse… we assume these words, phrases, or cues are the answer to motor skill development. They decidedly are not.


Again, that does not mean that words, phrases, or concepts are unimportant. They certainly can be very important.


Unfortunately, the truth, when it comes to skill development, is far, far, far more complex than the words we utilize.


Case in point: even at the Ranch Consortium, take just 2 terms that we both utilize – “forearm flyout” or “hinge”. Each of these terms are interpreted differently between the 2 sister organizations.


So which interpretation is more correct you might ask?


While that may be a very interesting question, the reality is that each individual group’s understanding and application (along with your own understanding and application) of that term is constantly evolving. Therefore, many of you may prefer the Florida Baseball Ranch’s® interpretation/ application this week, but in 6 months, prefer the Texas Baseball Ranch’s® interpretation/ application.  Other times it is vice versa. We all have experienced this phenomenon in our lives as our opinions, beliefs, and positions on certain topics change and evolve over time. It is a very human experience.


The specific answer to that previous question as to what interpretation is more correct is in how each individual athlete applied that specific interpretation.


We at the Ranch Consortium believe that Bosch is exactly right, how specifically force is applied to each athlete as he moves is the actual language that matters. Do not ever forget this truism! It is in the practical application… in the specific stimulus… in the way force is applied to each individual athlete that is important. Not the word, cue, or term itself.


Social media is constantly abuzz with the debate over the origin and efficacy of a certain term, phrase, or concept. To a certain degree, this debate is healthy and instructive.  People obviously desperately crave credit for the creation, use, or application for a specific topic, paradigm, or innovation. Many are also fully committed and engaged in the shaming, punishing, and discrediting of those who fail to satisfy their individual rules for these terms, phrases, and/or concepts.


This is where we get the current “cancel culture” phenomenon, and baseball certainly has its own problems with that to a smaller degree.


The following is just a cross section of the terms and cues that have dominated baseball instruction over the past 30 years. I’m certain you will have been exposed to many of these at some point.


  • Up, Down, Glide Out
  • Pause at the top
  • Stay back
  • Stay closed
  • Get the ball out of your glove early
  • Thumb to thigh, ball to sky
  • Supinated take away
  • Ball Facing Away – the high cocked position
  • Elbow driveline height
  • Drive the ball in a straight line
  • Nothing happens until foot strike
  • Pause at the top
  • Tuck and Pull
  • Pinch and Swivel
  • Glove Side Block
  • Tall and Fall
  • Drop and Drive
  • Stack and Track
  • Stride, Glide, and Rotate Late
  • Triple Extension
  • Opposite and Equal
  • Keep your head and eyes level and on line
  • Scapular Loading
  • Pelvic Loading
  • Pelvic Tilt
  • Hip and Trunk Separation
  • Positive Disconnection
  • Lead Leg Block
  • Spiral Staircase
  • Extension
  • Lead Leg Retraction
  • Hinge
  • Hip Lock
  • Proximal to Distal


Weighted balls are great.

Weighted balls are dangerous.

Long Toss is great.

Long Toss is dangerous.

Flat ground throwing is safer.

Flat ground may cause corruption and more stress.

Limit the use of the mound as it is more stressful, replace with flat ground work.

Limit the use of flat ground work, utilize the slope more in your throwing.

Reduce the dependency of drills, throw on the mound more.

Reduce the use of the mound, utilize specific drills more as they are your agents for change.

Doing turn-and-burns and run-and-guns are useless and have very little relationship to throwing in a game.

Turn-and-burns and run-and-guns are very helpful in encouraging a more dynamic organization of the body.


Is it any wonder why many young athletes are confused? Is it any wonder why many parents are cynical? Is it any wonder why some coaches are hesitant to teach anything? 


And unfortunately, as Sonny & Cher sang in 1967… “The Beat Goes On” … this explosion of ideas and concepts will only accelerate.


The Bottom Line


The words coming out of a coach’s or trainer’s mouth will always pale in significance to how specifically force is being applied as the individual athlete moves through his drills or his game delivery. Spend your energies affecting that environment, in lieu of discovering a more impressive way of articulating high-level execution. 


We think the future of training is in creating rich, vibrant, robust, visual, kinesthetic, and proprioceptive environments so that it is the body and the muscle that is learning, growing, and problem solving. We believe the athlete is much better served when we speak directly to his body in the language the body understands, instead of verbal demands, commands, and cues.


In 25+ years of doing this, I have found that it is absolutely true that an athlete’s body has very little interest in the words that I use. As Gloria so wonderfully said in 1985, “The words get in the way.”


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Important TBR Updates


  • One of the things we do exceptionally well with our Extended Stay Summer Program at The Texas Baseball Ranch is to help young men map out a plan for progress and help them to stay on track.  If you or someone you know would like to join us at The Ranch this summer, please check out the program at  There is an early bird discount that ends on April 16th.



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