My experience in working and counseling players and families in the way of youth sports has made one fact clear - I do not claim nor do I wish to...
The end of fall baseball brings another great baseball season to a bittersweet close. The World Series takes its place front and center, college programs are going into the final practices and evaluations for the spring roster, and travel teams are trying to get into one last tournament before basketball coaches come knocking for pre-season workouts.
Baseball conversations have some common themes at this time of the year with, such as:
“Don’t wear your arm out, shut it down!”
“Play another sport, get your mind off of baseball.”
“The season is over, I need a break.”
If you are a baseball person these are some of the recognizable thoughts that come with the territory. Debate on how much is enough and when is too much is what gives guys like me job security. Realistically this topic can be applied to most every sport. There definitely is a time for a player to “take a break” from the mental and physical workload regardless of their sport of choice.
As is with any part of baseball, it is up to the individual to find and embrace what works best for him. There are many suggestions and theories but there is only one you!
In my world of baseball counseling, with pitchers in particular, I advocate a “cyclical” approach to training. This is certainly not uncommon. Coaches and trainers know that there is an off-season, pre-season, mid-season, and post-season for athletes. If any part of the cycle is “overdone” or maybe “underdone” it will be difficult to achieve success without paying a price, possibly injury or perhaps find oneself mired in a prolonged slump.
Neglect in an off-season program usually leads to fatigue toward the end of the season. If the pre-season work routine is taken lightly the result will often show up in a slow start and nagging injuries (i.e. sore arm) from which a pitcher will be fighting all year to recover.
In my experience the month of November has proven to be a valuable month for many reasons:
1. November serves as a perfect “transitional” month from mid and post-seasons to off-season. Think about it, most of the pitchers are still loose enough to throw although many are finding that they are fatigued and would not want to pitch in a game at this point. BUT they also know they want to work on their weaknesses, perhaps find a new pitch or improve on their strike throwing ability. Why not work on spins, grips, rotations, arm slot adjustments, balance, flexibility, and mechanical corrections while the body is in “baseball shape”?
2. November is a time to formulate a personally created workout program based on your specific improvement plan. How many pitchers have been told, “You need to put on some size this winter.”, or, “We’d like to see you gain a few miles on the fastball.”, or, “If you can find that second pitch you have a good shot to be in the starting rotation.”? It is a rite of passage to hear this as a young pitcher but often the plans are either ill-prepared or age-group inappropriate. If you are a young teenage athlete a strength gaining program is going to be radically different your college counterpart. It takes a simple conversation with a trusted mentor to help create the plan and the timeline to a productive off-season.
3. November is the confidence building month! It takes one or two workouts to feel good about a new adjustment. Confidence and energy is restored and the off-season has begun in the most positive fashion possible and it has been done without throwing a pitch under stress, probably not even on a mound!.
4. If there is ever a month that is devoid of stress for a baseball player it is November. Many organizations encourage down time through the holiday season knowing that there is a need to “get away” from things. December brings the anticipation of “getting back at it”, where there may be increased thought toward training where November is logically less so. Take advantage of your relaxed state of mind and see the major jumps in your skills!
For all multi-sport athletes enjoy the season at hand. There is a calmness and self-satisfaction for a pitcher knowing that he as given appropriate closure to the past and is ready to take on what lies ahead next year with a renewed energy. The pitcher’s cycle continues even when participating in another sport or simply resting the mind and body without playing.
Let November be the bridge to an improved you, it works!