*Guest post by Team USA Softball Olympian, Haylie McCleney
Growing up, I was always the smallest kid on my team. I was naturally gifted with speed, which got me to a point in the game of softball where I could just put the ball on the ground and beat out an infield single with relative ease. I was successful, but I knew I needed to improve. I wasn’t satisfied with being the best in my area, in my state, even best in the country. I wanted to be the best in the world. That is something I am still striving to achieve to this day, 20 years after picking up a bat for the first time.
Around my freshman year of high school, I started to lift weights and put on some muscle. I was very fortunate to go to one of the few high schools in the area that encouraged it’s female athletes to attend summer workouts and continue lifting in the fall and spring semesters, regardless of what sport they were competing in during those seasons.
I lifted weights year-round for four years on top of running cross country, playing basketball, and playing softball. It kept me injury free and allowed me to continue to gain strength while my competition kept fatiguing. I was able to finish practices and finish games stronger than when I first started.
I firmly believed that devoting so much time to training and laying that foundation in high school is what led me to multiple college scholarships and an eventual signing to the University of Alabama. I fell in love with the weightroom. When I arrived on campus in Tuscaloosa I fell deeper in love.
Even after all the training I did in high school, I was one of the scrawnier players on the roster when I arrived in Tuscaloosa. I still utilized my slapping and speed game for most of my freshman year because I did not feel like I had the confidence or the ability to hit for power consistently. I just wasn’t strong enough. But, sophomore year, that is when everything changed.
By getting in the weightroom consistently and not being afraid of heavy weights, I put on 20 pounds of pure muscle after my freshman year of college. All my power hitting numbers doubled in one year.
I continued to grow a deeper understanding of my game and my athletic ability throughout my 4 years of college and continued training until I was named to the Olympic roster in October of 2019. I am totally confident in saying that I would not be on the Olympic roster if it were not for my commitment to a consistent strength and conditioning regimen!
Haylie McCleney TEAM USA Softball – Strength Training Program
What that looks like for me is typically 5x/week of training, when we are not in an active competition phase or training camp. 3x/week total body strength training and 2x/week conditioning sessions typically focusing on speed and agility as it relates to softball. When we are in training camp with Team USA we typically have practice twice a day and will lift anywhere between 2-4 times per week on top of our practices and game schedule. A sample practice day might look like this:
If we were to have a game in the afternoon, we would very likely lift that morning as well. Why? Because we know we need to be our absolute strongest come game time. We want to outlast our opponents and to do that we need to be strong and fit.
It has been one of the factors that separates the really good softball players from the great softball players. You couple that with the fact that strength training prevents injuries from occurring, now you not only have a strong team, but a healthy team that can finish their jobs well. We do not fatigue as quickly and are consistently performing at near peak levels. That is what Olympians are striving after.
Olympians work extremely hard, but we also work extremely smart. Every lift that we do has a specific purpose that translates directly to the field of play. The same is true for our conditioning sessions. We have to train consistently in the right way. For us, this usually means a more simplistic approach to training. We do not need a million reps and heavy weights all the time. It becomes more about how our bodies are feeling in that moment and what to we need.
A lift for us will typically follow a certain outline: Something explosive (jump, sprint, moving weight fast), a lower body push/pull, then an upper body push/pull, with core work mixed in between. It is a simplistic approach that gets the job done that athletes on our roster actively enjoy.
THE IMPORTANCE OF STRENGTH TRAINING
Don’t just take my word for it. Look at what other Olympians have to say about why strength training is so important for them and the benefits it provides them.
“My personal training has been different because of my age, so when we are on our own, my strength building has been more of a long phase of maintaining with some quick circuit training that adds in the bursts of Heart Rate I need. This has worked for me personally because my mobility is something I can’t sacrifice, so I’m able to stay strong while still capable of performing.” – Cat Osterman
I can attest to this with Cat. At 38, her body needs different things than the rest of our group. I firmly believe that her devoting herself to a solid training regimen has kept her in the game and continued to allow her to perform at her best levels for so long.
Another veteran player said, “ We already have really long game days and practice days so the fact that we can get lifts/conditioning in about 30 minutes is really nice. My body feels stronger but still able to move well.” – Michelle Moultrie
This is exactly what our training sessions are trying to achieve. Our goal is to improve strength a little bit over time while making sure every athlete can still perform at a high level. When you feel better, you play better.
Perhaps the coolest statement I was able to get was from Valerie Arioto. She said, “Strength and conditioning makes me feel like I have superpowers, like I can outlast anything and anyone. But it also is my therapy. Not only does it give me confidence knowing that physically I am prepared and at my best, but also mentally giving me more energy and releasing stress. I just feel better on and off the field, and overall happier doing what I love to do!” – Valerie Arioto
THIS IS HOW WE GET STRONGER
We train together as a unit while still giving everyone the space to individually get the specifics that they need, empowering our entire roster to be confident and strong women along the way.
Where does that confidence come from? Commitment to the training. Commitment to the process. Commitment to each other. If you want to train like an Olympian, that commitment is the first step.
If you’re interested in joining our Online Remote Training Platform for Strength, Outfield and High Level Throwing® Programs OR want to be a part of our AFFILIATE program and earn a commission, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!
Haylie McCleney is a professional softball player and from Morris, Alabama. Recently, Haylie was named to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Roster where she will represent Team USA in the 2021 Olympic Games.
She played four years at the University of Alabama where she was named an All-American four times and a finalist for Collegiate Player of the Year three times. Haylie has been selected to the United States National Team for the past seven years where she has won gold medals in World Championships, the Pan American Games, and the World Cup, hoping to finish it off with a gold medal in 2021. She was also a standout in the classroom, gaining three Academic All-American honors before graduating Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s degree in Human Performance and Exercise Science.
Upon graduating from Alabama in 2016, Haylie completed a Master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida in May of 2018. She has a passion for being in the weight room and making athletes better both on and off the field. She is a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). We are really excited that Haylie will be working directly with our softball strength and outfield remote athletes!