Why Hyper-Personalization is Worth the Hassle

By Flint Wallace

Director of Player Development, Texas Baseball Ranch®

 

The central process for us here at the Texas Baseball Ranch® is to create a Hyper-Personalized Plan for each individual player that comes to one of our Elite Pitcher Bootcamps or our Summer Program.  Each year that consists of designing several hundred plans. 

 

To a lot of coaches, the process of creating a specific plan for every single guy on a staff may seem like a tremendous hassle and an unnecessary burden.  At the Texas Baseball Ranch, over the past six years or so, we’ve witnessed first hand the tremendous benefits of designing such a customized and personalized process.  We believe that, in the end, individualization actually saves you time and most importantly maximizes the efficiency and effectiveness of each athlete’s work.  In truth, if all you have is a one-size-fits all plan, you may be playing Russian Roulette with your season.

 

In order to get a better feel on why customization is actually the best way to go, let me talk through the challenge we all face as coaches in our quest to make the post season and win a championship.  For one moment, consider your number one starter for the 2019 season.  It doesn’t matter which level you coach, your number one starter is, in fact, your ‘Scherzer’, your ‘Kershaw’ or your ‘Verlander’.  And just like the Nationals, Dodgers and Astros, you can not afford to lose that guy and expect to be as successful this season. 

 

I’m certain all of you would agree, this would be especially heart breaking if you lost him to something that may very well have been prevented.  Unfortunately, that is the exact chance you may be taking by having every one of your guys do the exact same ‘thing’ without assessing and determining if that ‘thing’ was beneficial and/or an ‘appropriate fit’ for each athlete.

 

It doesn’t matter if your one-size-fits-all plan is the same stretching routine, throwing preparation, lifting program, throwing drills, approach to workload, recovery plan, or even how each player attacks hitters; if you are utilizing a one-size-fits-all program you will run the possibility of putting a few of your players at risk.   If all your guys are doing the exact same thing, you very well may be putting some of them at a much higher chance of stagnation, regression, or even injury.  And one of those guys may be your DUDE!

 

A simple example of this phenomena is having your star pitcher with tight hip flexors and poor squat technique go through regular heavy back squat routines in the weight room, or putting your ace pitcher, who is slightly overweight, through long distance road work on cement or asphalt in an effort to condition him.  These examples represent bad judgment at best and possibly could contribute to detrimental results that very well could affect the outcome of a season. 

 

To maximize your chance of success as a team, in our opinion, one should assess before one prescribes a path forward for each player.  I know this sounds like a big hairy pain in the rear, but it is not near as complex and arduous as it may sound.  Let me walk you through our assessment process.

 

In essence you are simply categorizing your players according to how they perform in a few assessments.  We utilize a basic classification system involving Green, Yellow, and Red categories to identify how a player performs on each part of each assessment.

 

Green = Not Currently a Constraint or Limitation

Yellow = Caution – need to address

Red = Needs to improve or as we like to say,  ‘It’s a significant opportunity for improvement.’

 

The first step is to figure out which assessments you would like to execute.  We perform six different assessments that provide us with the basic information we feel we need to create a Hyper-Personalize Plan for the Development of each player.

  1. Pain Audit
  2. Athletic or Functional Movement Screen
  3. Exercise Movement Assessment
  4. Video Analysis
  5. Recovery Audit
  6. Performance Audit

 

1. Complete a Pain Audit.  Here at the Texas Baseball Ranch® we start with a Pain Audit.  Around 2010, Coach Wolforth, coined the phase, “Start with the Pain™” and it has been our mantra ever since.  This will give you a lot of information about your players.  You may not want to call it ‘pain’ because that term causes some players to be less forthcoming with how they really feel.  It’s not to be disrespectful or deceitful;  it’s because they don’t want to have to miss any time.  We suggest you refer to it as an ‘arm discomfort audit’.  Simply ask your guys “if you threw 90-100 pitches in a game yesterday, where in the arm would you feel any discomfort,  soreness, stiffness, tightness, or fatigue today?”

 

Here are their choices of location of the discomfort:

Medial Elbow   Anterior Shoulder         Posterior Shoulder        Lateral Elbow

 

Have them rate their level of discomfort for each area on a 0-10 scale; 0 means zero  discomfort in that area, 10 means extreme discomfort.

0-2 Green

3-6 Yellow

7-10 Red

 

2. Perform some type of  FMS or Functional Movement Assessment.  This will measure a player’s mobility, stability, and range of motion of the joints.  For most coaches, your athletic trainer may be able to perform the assessment, or at least knows a local PT or Physician who could help with this.

Green – Acceptable

Yellow – Caution

Red – Significant Room for Improvement

 

3. Perform an Exercise Movement Assessment.   This is used to evaluate the basic movements performed in the weight room.  You can search online to find what to look for with each movement and what exercise to progress through from basic, to intermediate, to being able to load. 

1. Squat

2. Hinge

3. Lunge

4. Push

5. Pull

6. Carry

 

4. Conduct a Video Analysis.  This will allow you to look at each player’s delivery to identify any disconnections he needs to address.  This is also where the pain (soreness/fatigue) audit can help some.  If a player has issues in his medial elbow or anterior shoulder, that usually means there is extra stress getting added to the arm during the acceleration phase.  If the player’s issue is in the posterior shoulder or lateral elbow, that usually means there is extra stress getting added to the arm in the declaration phase of the delivery.  We grade each possible disconnection on a 0-10 scale. 0 means that disconnection is not present, 10 means it is extreme.

0-2 Green (That disconnection is not an issue)

3-6 Yellow (That disconnection is marginally present)

7-10 Red (That disconnection is severe) 

 

5. Complete a Recovery Audit.   Ask each player “if you threw 24 full effort pitches over two innings yesterday, how much throwing would you be able to perform today?”

Green =  Significant Throwing – Like it Never Happened

Yellow = Light to Moderate Throwing

Red = Very Light Throwing or Need the Day Off

 

6. Conduct a Basic Performance Assessment.  Rate the following areas as they compare to the player’s peer group.

Velocity:

Green = 3 to 5 MHP Above, Yellow = Average, Red = Below Average

Command: 

Green = 5-10% Above, Yellow = Average, Red = Below Average

Secondary Stuff: (Swing and Miss Capability & Command Capability)

Green = Excellent (Above Average), Yellow = Average, Red =Below Average

 

Once these assessments are done, group your players according to how they rated for each assessment.  Then when you come to that particular time in your practice schedule, or when you go to the weight room, have the appropriate exercises, emphasis, and/or drills for each group. 

 

For example, as part of your dynamic warm everyday, have a few minutes set aside for players to do exercises in the areas they scored a Red or Yellow.  When you are doing your arm prep to get ready to throw, make sure each player addresses any Yellow or Red issue(s) they had in their assessments.  

 

Assign the appropriate emphasis during throwing drills based off of the player’s Video Analysis Assessment so he is working on exactly what he needs to be to develop a more efficient delivery and is spending his time on developing the pitches and command he needs to be successful. 

 

Assign each player a lifting plan based on how the player moved on the Movement Assessment.  And finally, have a Recovery Plan that addresses what that exact player needs.  Besides just basic recovery, does he need to address his medial elbow a little more, or his posterior shoulder, or a combination of a couple of those specific locations?

 

It comes down to assessing areas, for each player, that could contribute to a pitcher not improving, regressing or even having to miss time on the mound, and then assigning the suitable plan for each player in each area of his development.  This will help to maximize each player’s ability, which in turn will help maximize the team’s performance. 

 

I do not know of any program that would not like their back-end and middle guys to improve, and when they are called on to contribute, for that contribution to be more productive.  I also do not know of a program that can afford for their Scherzer, Kershaw, or Verlander to regress or miss time. 

 

So I urge you to not look at Hyper-Personalization as a hassle, but instead look at it as a competitive advantage!

 

 

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If you felt this type of approach was helpful to you and you’d like to receive more explicit details regarding the development of individual throwing athletes inside of a team or group setting then the “Ranch Revolution Coaches Inner Circle” might be the ideal membership for you.  I personally lead this group. The membership gives you online access to our complete video vault (9 different cogs) containing information for warm-ups, arm care, throwing drills, mobility & flexibility, nutrition and more.    Each month, you also receive a copy of our “Pitching With Confidence” newsletter as well as our monthly blog and weekly mindset (these are great to also share with your players).  In addition there’s a bi-weekly Vlog from me covering topics specifically for coaches.  

Email me at CoachWallace@TexasBaseballRanch.com for more information and to find out how to get your first month’s membership fee waived.

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