As an athlete, how have your expectations of a training program and the coach/trainer changed from high school to college and throughout your professional career? My expectations of a training program have grown exponentially over the years. As a high school athlete I did not have a strength and conditioning program, dietary awareness, or mental training. I was just an athlete that played two high school games a week, had 90 minute practices after school, and ate whatever fast food was available on the way home. As I transitioned to a Division 1 college program I started my first training program. We had team weight training several times a week, longer, more structured practices, and plenty of conditioning. After workouts we were given protein shakes and advised to eat well, with no real idea what that truly was. Since transitioning to the professional level I have adopted a strict training program to further benefit my career. I have fully embraced the culture at Sparta. It has taught me discipline in my physical training, daily mobility, dietary awareness, recovery, and an overall dedication to holding myself personally responsible for my health and performance.
What factor (certain movement, personality trait, environment, etc.) of a coach/trainer do you value the most? As an athlete, communication is the most valuable factor for any coach or trainer. Two forms of communication are key:First is the ability to accurately measure and track progress. As athletes we want to see gains; from a performance standpoint this means, “Where am I versus where are started?”. The best coaches are able to measure an athlete's performance and show them the progress being made. As a professional baseball player I have four months to train during the offseason, and it is vital to maximize gains in that training window. I want to train as smart as possible so that I report to spring training ready to perform at a higher level than the previous season. The Force Plate Scan at Sparta generates our Sparta signature and constantly measures our performance, which allows the training to vary based on specific needs. A clear path of where my performance level began to where I currently stand is a constant conversation between myself and the coaches at Sparta.
The second thing I value is the ability of the coach to connect with the athlete, giving feedback that makes sense. Plenty of coaches/trainers have the correct information or idea of what they want their athletes to do, but lack the ability to translate that information in a way in which the athlete can conceptualize. The best coaches are very aware of each individual athletes personality and able to customize the delivery of information tailored to what will resonate with that athlete. A combination of video and highly specific verbal cues is personally what works best for me, but every athlete is different. Coaching is about understanding your athletes and finding the best way to connect to them so they can apply the information.
You mention communication, how has technology and your current support staff helped this area?
The transition from offseason workouts to spring training and in season training can be difficult. As the focus shifts from physical preparation to on field competition it is easy to neglect workouts. With the Sparta training the entire program is available via an app on my cell phone. A focus is placed on the essentials, daily self-myofascial release and muscle activation, and the ability to log nutrition and sleep habits. Workouts transition easily from winter to spring with an open line of communication between player and strength coaches. The strength and conditioning coach for my organization has been in to Sparta to see the training and talk with the coaches. During the season he is my daily strength coach, and his willingness to work together with my Sparta program has allowed me to maintain my offseason gains over the long 162 game season.
What factor of a coach/trainer frustrates you the most? As an athlete the most frustrating thing is to be in a “cookie cutter” program. Each athlete is built different and has specific strength and weaknesses. Treating each athlete the same is not efficient. When you're looking to maximize your performance it is very important to have a routine that is tailored to your specific individual needs. I have found success by aligning with excellent coaches that communicate well, where the training is based on my individual skill set.
Where do you see the field of performance and injury prevention opportunities for growth? As more technologies continue to develop, I see a constant improvement of athletic performance. Use of these technologies to produce marginal gains will continue to help the sports field evolve. The idea of improving 1% at 100 different things creates an edge for athletes. If you can recover 1% better, eat 1% better, sleep 1% better, those percentages add up quickly. Often a game is won or lost by a tiny margin, and it is important to understand that the small things matter.
How have you seen the field of performance and injury prevention change over the last 10 years? The use of technology in the field of performance and injury prevention has really exploded in the last 10 years. Looking back at being a high school athlete in the mid 2000’s the use of technology was essentially nonexistent. At most you would see someone use a radar gun, stopwatch, or handheld video camera (certainly not an iphone). Today we have many technological luxuries to improve physical training, recovery, and even mental performance.
This is my 7th offseason training with Sparta. Over that span the training has continued to evolve, which is why I keep coming back. The coaches are constantly looking for ways to train their athletes in more efficient and effective ways. With the use of the force plate data, we are able to track my movement signature and specifically train to create a rotational scan ideal for pitchers. Over the 2013 offseason we were able to make significant changes toward a rotational scan and the result was a breakout 2014 season.
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