In baseball you constantly hear the concept that 3 out of 10 at bats is good enough to get you into the Hall of Fame. Essentially that is the equivalent of a .300 batting average. Ty Cobb holds the highest batting average in the Hall of Fame at .366.
You constantly hear that baseball is a game of failure and it's how you deal with that failure that will set you apart. BUT if you have ever been to a youth travel ball tournament you know failure is not accepted. When kids strike out you can hear the frustration in the parents voices, when plays are messed up you can see the coaches jumping up and down, and there is reason why there are so many memes in the social media world making jokes about parents thinking their kids will be college recruited or MLB recruited at their tee ball games.
We can laugh about it but the fact of the matter is: Baseball is one of the hardest sports out there. You are trying to hit a fast moving ball with a stick and if you are on defense you are making sure that ball doesn't get past your glove and being aware enough of the next play. Baseball is a team sport yet it is also an individual spotlight sport. Everyone has their position and if you mess up everyone knows it. Then there is the pitcher. A kid out there on the mound responsible for strikes across the plate. As long as they are throwing the ball across the plate as a strike that should be sufficient but really that is only sufficient if the field is doing their job as well. If the field isn't doing their job they don't pull the field, they pull the pitcher and replace them with one that will pitch differently. It's all part of the game.
On top of all of that how many times have you been hit by a pitch? Trucked by a kid running home? Tackled by a kid after the play and left with a broken collar bone? Been running routine plays and took a wrong turn and ended up with a broken leg? Went to head-butt the soccer ball and walked away with a concussion? Cut from a team? All true stories.
Everything mentioned above has happened and will happen. But it's the impact on the youth athlete that is important. Sports are physical but more importantly they are mental. If something has happened that has caused physical pain or emotional pain to a kid, a mental block will go up. This happens in all sports. Anxiety in youth sports (all ages) is a real thing and most youth athletes will never admit they are feeling anxious as they don't want to disappoint parents, coaches and teammates. Plus there is a stimga that you "just need to suck it up and get over it.". However, that concept doesn't work as the anxiety plays itself out on the field/court during games and during practice. At the end of the day if a youth athlete is struggling all the mantras and quotes in the world won't help that athlete succeed. Plus if adults have trouble with the concepts how can we expect our youth athletes to grasp them?
This week in our catching class we were videoing our catchers receiving. We noticed one of our veteran catchers had a slight bounce as he was waiting for our new BIG machine to release the ball. It was almost like there was a spring under him. Very slight but noticeable if you were paying attention. Then we observed when the ball came he moved to the left and his glove to the right. We kept telling him to hold still but every single time he did the same thing. When he was done he got up and said I am not moving. He had no idea he was bouncing or moving. Until we showed him the video. The past two weeks this same athlete had caught the ball in his glove wrong and jammed his fingers (the machine is throwing in the 80's). Prior to getting in front of the machine this week he said, "I have practice this afternoon, I don't want to get hurt so I am not going to catch off the machine.". So he had previously sustained injuries and he had already prepped himself to be injured during this session. We told him he needed to work on catching in the pocket and to pretend the machine was a high schooler not a machine. He got in front of the machine, caught the ball in the pocket and sustained no injuries but his body was still bouncing. All three sessions. He had no idea.
So we went over to the smaller machines that he had caught on a thousand times with no injuries, and what did we observe. NO MOVEMENT. No Bouncing. No body to the left and glove to the right. Perfectly still, perfectly receiving. So what was the issue? Anxiety with the big machine. Even after all of that and after showing him the video difference he still didn't want to admit there was anxiety. Grant told him that he needed to remember that he was 12 and at 12 catching off a machine like that he was bound to have some type of anxiety and that it was okay. He just needed to get more comfortable. Grant said told him that it wasn't about having anxiety itself but admitting you have it, knowing it was okay and then how do you work through it. The young athlete then admitted that he had been hurt and that the machine made him nervous. He then asked if he could come in during the week and work off the machine with a staff member on his own so he could become more comfortable and get over his fear.
The same type of adrenaline that causes "fight or flight" is the same type of adrenaline that occurs during highly competitive sports and in the world of year round sports that idea of "fight or flight" is not rare, like it should be. Honestly, how many times in your life have you been in a true "fight or flight" situation? It's happens every time an athlete takes the field/court to play, every time they practice. In travel baseball through the course of year a youth athlete is playing approx 15-20 tournaments (that doesn't included extra guest playing). Athletes year-round could be in a competitive nature for over 30-45 weeks of the year by practicing, studying and playing the sport and keeping themselves in a highly competitive state. Youth athletes are being flooded in constant states of adrenaline. This adrenaline flood leads to different levels of anxiety and some anxiety is perfectly normal (pre-game jitters) but some creates the mental block that impacts their play. Teaching youth athletes to be able to communicate effectively will enhance their overall training and allow them to progress to the next level in their sport.
At Athletes Lab Performance Center we believe one the most important aspects of athletic training is mental training. The same athlete mentioned above also once stated, "If you lose the mental game, you lose the real game." That is a very true statement but as you can see from the story above it is much easier said than done. We want to help our athletes not only be able to recite what they should know but more importantly we want them to LIVE IT. At the end of the day Teddy Roosevelt said it best:
Due to the seriousness of anxiety in sports, Starting in April we are going to be offering classes/seminars for parents and athletes about the "Mental Game".
You cannot pour from an empty cup.” Although the adage is often used in reference to mental health, it’s just as fitting to use it in reference to physical recovery.
From an athlete perspective, recovery work is the secret ingredient to successful training. The thing that separates good athletes from great athletes. Those that commit to improving their body’s ability to be ready for the next training session are the ones that are injured less, can play longer with less fatigue and can spend more time developing their skills.
There are several factors that have a dramatic effect on recovery from training sessions and strength/conditioning: sleep/rest, nutrition, and manual treatments. These are factors that give the body a chance to use all the internal mechanisms and pathways it has to prepare for the next training session(s).
Sleep is a vital component of health that is often undervalued, especially among the teen and young adult population. Sleep allows the body to enter repair pathways that are unavailable during waking hours. Sleep is also the time we solidify new movement patterns. Regular lack of sleep can lead to cognitive deficits and being under prepared to take on the demands of training sessions. For athletes this could look like slower decision making on the field/court or less coordination in movements that you’ve drilled over and over again.
Research suggests that teens and young adults need a minimum of eight hours sleep per night and there is emerging evidence that athletes need closer to nine. The list below describes some easy changes to improve sleep quality:
Nutrition is the literal fuel that the body runs on. Adequate and quality nutrition choices give your body the building blocks to keep your tissues running optimally. A sport or performance dietitian/nutritionist is a great member of an athletes team. The basics of fueling can be broken down as follows:
Manual treatment encompasses all the external things athletes and members of their rehab team can do to the body to jumpstart the recovery process from the skin’s surface. These are the things athletes should do on a regular basis to help keep soreness, tightness and injury at bay.
Before practice: I recommend 5-8 minutes of steady state movement to get the heart rate up and tissues moving. It could look like jump rope, jogging, burpees, jumping jacks, etc. Then you can move into the dyamic warm up for the hips/shoulders. Then once you’re warm you can hit any stretches if needed and then stretching at the end as the heart rate is coming down from practice.
After Practice: Daily use of a foam roller, lacrosse ball, massage gun or self massage to give a bit of compression to tissues most used in that day’s training session or tissues that feel sore. Compression then decompression of tissues can act as a pump to improve blood flow to the area, but to also flush out the metabolites from muscle contraction that can contribute to soreness.
I rarely recommend ice, even with an injury, unless there is a lot of swelling. There is quite a bit of evidence in the last couple years that suggests ice isn’t all that helpful for minor inflammation and can actually slow down healing/recovery when there isn’t an injury. Think about it this way: the body temperature is 98 degrees for a reason, and cooling tissues is only going to slow down the rate at which blood exchange can happen and all the metabolites produced by the muscle contractions can be flushed from the system. Instead of ice, a TENS unit or even needling with a TENS unit might be a better option to allow muscle flushing while allowing the joint to rest.
In-between Practice: For athletes that see a physical therapist to aide in recovery, the treatment looks like weekly to monthly sessions that may include dry needling to facilitate muscle repair, cupping to improve gliding of the fascial tissue layer between skin and muscle, joint mobilization and manipulation to keep joints healthy and moving well, or corrective exercise to improve body mechanics to help prevent injury.
All of the actionable items talked about are all ways an athlete can add value to their regular training. Although in total there are a lot of items above, changing one or two at a time and building on those changes can lead to better and better performance on and off the field. Use these to help fill your “Athletes Cup” and keep yourself on the field or the court and keep overall health and wellness in check!
By: Dr. Chelsea Lineberger, Physical Therapist,
The Lab Performance Therapy
I'm sure you are wondering what the Beatles could possibly have to do with an Athletic Training Facility. The answer is everything. When each generation discovers the Beatles they think they have done it for the first time but did you know there was a time when the famous band from Liverpool almost wouldn't have been a household name? If it hadn't been for an opportunity to spend years in Germany playing 8 hour days, having to hone their craft, creating new songs to last long sets, building stamina and working on their stage presence they wouldn't have been the huge success they were and continue to be. They had over 1200 live performances under their belt from the time they were a struggling high school band to starting the British Invasion in 1964. They were given an opportunity and they grabbed it by the horns. Not once, but multiple times. They recognized that their talent alone wasn't going to get them where they needed to be. They didn't start as mega stars, they started with talent and they WORKED their way to becoming one of the greatest bands of all time.
"Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn't work hard."
"There may be people who have more talent than you do but there's no excuse for them to work harder."
"But effort, no one can judge that. Effort is between You and You."
"The pain you feel today will be the strength you feel tomorrow."
"There's a difference between knowing the path and walking the path."
Every Facebook or Instagram feed is loaded with quotes about how if you work hard you will achieve your goal and we pass those same sentiments on to our youth athletes but do we really know what hard work means? Do our kids know and understand what that means? It means 10,000 hours. 10,000 hours is the number realized when professionally successful people count back to the number of hours they practiced between a young age and 20. 10,000 hours of dedicated practice and playing that allowed them to hone their craft and move to the top of their field. 10,000 hours of showing up to the practice cage with air pods and music taking swings off the tee, working through drills taught to them years ago: break it down, one knee down and flamingo. 10,000 hours of meeting teammates/friends after school to push each other, feeding balls into the machine on a rotating basis and hitting fungos to one another. 10,000 hours of wanting to not just play the sport you love but working through the failures that will come, pushing through the struggle of the new stance, the change in field distance or physical growth that comes with being a human being. Turns out there is a magic bean, its just going to take 10,000 hours to get there.
Hard work only beats talent as long as the hard work is consistent and deliberate. The first thing you have to consider when making the commitment to your sport is: What are you trying to accomplish? What are your goals? Where do you want to be? There is a reason that a common job application question is "where do you see yourself 5 or 10 years down the road". They aren't asking for travel plans they are wanting to see if you have to ability to see into the future and what expectations you have for yourself. Just like any employer you should want to know and be able to answer, "How far are you willing to take this?".
Coach Saban says, "it takes what it takes." Most people can get by with minimal work that never goes above and beyond what is required and still make their high school team, get an entry level job, afford life's necessities, etc. If those things are good enough -- if achieving on an average level satisfies you -- then you can coast through life fairly easily, rarely exiting your comfort zone, and accomplish the casual goals that you have set your sights on. You don't need 10,000 hours.
If by chance, though, there is a part of you that desires more than the minimum standard, that seeks to be elite, or that longs to be in a class all by yourself, then more will be required -- simply doing what is asked of you will not suffice if your goal is greatness. Jerry Rice said "today I will do what others won't, so that tomorrow I can do what they can't". Being elite is not for everyone -- it requires a commitment and sacrifice that is uncommon and often seems "weird" to others who cannot seem to fathom the dedication required to find success along the journey to greatness.
To begin, it starts with being honest and strategic. Being honest and "exceptionally clear" about where you are and what it will take to get where you want to go can be hard! 1. Study others, after all success leaves clues. The 10,000 hours concept is not made up, it has been scientifically proven through years of study and research of the human condition. 2. Formulate a strategy -- a process -- for how you are going to attack your goals. Hard work is just hard work if you aren't deliberate in what you are doing. You also need to be able to adjust and re-evaluate as you progress.
Next, it requires discipline and sacrifice. Forming a plan and creating habits in the short-term is easy; sticking to that plan when it requires sacrifice and when it becomes UNCOMFORTABLE is perhaps the hardest part. It is not easy to wake up early and prepare meals/snacks for the day before heading to school. It is not easy to miss a social event in order to train. It is not easy to skip a Saturday on the lake to be at a tournament in the next state. No one said it would be easy, the question is will it be worth it?
in 1964 the Beatles jumped the pond and played on small black and white televisions all over the country. They were an instant hit. Had it not been for teenagers realizing that their best opportunity was traveling to Germany and playing 8 hour days/night over and over again you probably wouldn't even know who they are. A high school baseball player has a 5.6% chance of playing college baseball. 10.5% of College Baseball Players have a chance to make it to the MLB. That percentage doubles. It doubles because if you have made it the college level you are more inclined to push yourself even further. BUT first you have to be that 5.6% and that percentage doesn't start at 18. The hard work, the "10,000 hours" begins as a youth. Because the truth is that only .5% of high school baseball players will find themselves on a Major League Field. They are ones that seek to be elite.
By Jennifer Seeley and Cam Beard