The baseball season is finally here. It’s time to have some fun, compete, fail a bit, and learn from that failure. It’s time to figure out your practice and game routines, what works, what doesn’t work. But most of all, it’s figuring out how to stay healthy throughout the season!
With these 10 Tips, you’ll be moving in the right direction to having an awesome year! This goes for you too coaches as it starts with you!
1. Coaches, Don’t Be An Idiot
Seriously, don’t do anything stupid that will put your players in a vulnerable position for injury. Structurally, they are still developing, which means their movement patterns and movement tasks are very inefficient.
Their stability through specific ranges of motion are lacking with very little core control and upper extremity strength and their fine motor control just may not be there. We call them “Baby Giraffes” as their center of mass (COM) starts to get further away from the ground, giving them more of a challenge to stabilize their body in space. So, let’s take that into consideration when you want your 70lb 6th grader throwing 100 pitches.
2. Coaches, Have a Pitching Rotation and Keep Pitch Counts
Lots of studies show the more an athlete PITCHES during a season, the more likely they are at risk for injury. Here’s a great article on Youth Baseball and Injury Risk by Joel Novak from My Performance Rehab
I really think in the Northeast, athletes should PITCH LESS early on in the season. Yes, this means training more efficiently and smarter in the Fall/Winter and Pre-Season months so you are prepared, but it also means to monitor pitch counts early on in April, progressing them properly throughout the spring and summer months.
Rule of thumb, keep your youth pitchers under 50 pitches through April. Then, as they show you they can handle that volume, increase their pitch load through May. Then, adjust accordingly through the heavy schedule months of June and July.
In April, just a reminder, it’s cold, most athletes play other sports, and don’t train properly throughout the off-season months. So training volume for these kids goes from 0-100 real fast!
Coaches may also ramp up the practice intensity + volume too fast, and before you know it, the first day you are actually outside is the first game.
3. Coaches Communicate with Other Coaches
Although we don’t promote playing for multiple teams at the same time, it does happen…and the chance of an overuse elbow or shoulder injury increases.
Parents, why would you have your son play for 2, 3 or 4 teams at the same time? Seriously, what is the benefit of this? Do you realize the volume of throwing between warm-ups, infield/outfield, throws between innings, actual game throws? And that’s just position players. Add a pitcher to the mix who is also a catcher and infielder. Multiply that by 2x, 3x, 4x and the % increase in injury elevates significantly!
So, getting back to coach communication, coaches, be a nice guy and talk to the middle school, little league and travel coaches. Get on the same page with pitch counts, injury updates etc. The more communication between coaches, the better off the athlete will be!
4.Coaches, Minimize Pitching + Catching in the Same Game
The pitcher/catcher combo will get you every time. High intensity pitching + pitching workload + extra throwing volume = disaster! Respect your players and have that conversation with the players and parents, if they pitch that day, rotate them into a DH or EH spot or a position where limited throws may occur (usually 1B or OF).
5. Coaches, Don’t Increase Volume + Intensity at the Same Time
As mentioned above, be careful of increasing throwing volume + intensity at the same day. This goes for practice sessions as well. Have days where the athlete throws at sub max effort, then identify the days in which the athlete will be throwing at a higher intensity. All of this comes down to organization of practice, games, positions and pitching rotation. Be smart.
6. Players, Warm-Up Properly
Don’t just get to the field and start throwing as hard as possible. Warm up your body. Perform a Dynamic Warm-Up and some Pre-Throwing Activation Drills. Do something! Coaches, enforce this and make sure they do it correctly the first few times. Then, it becomes routine. The players know and the coaches are hands-off at that point!
7. Players, Get Quality Sleep, Stay Hydrated + Nutrient Rich!
Probably one of the most important factors is sleep quality, hydration and staying nutrient rich during the season!
There’s a correlation between quality of sleep and potential risk for injury so make sure you get adequate amounts of sleep each night!
Here’s another article on Chronic lack of sleep is associated with increased sports injuries in adolescent athletes.
Stay hydrated! I wrote this article on Fluid Intake for Athletes a few years back, so check it out and follow some of these guidelines.
Stay Nutrient Rich! Consume quality foods during the in-season as you will most likely lose a few pounds from travel, energy expenditure and erratic scheduling that could get you out of your normal eating routine.
Stay away from refined foods, chocolate, candy, pretzels and soda…basically everything at a traditional concession stand is terrible for your body!
Stick to smoothies, fruits, veggies, lean proteins, complex carbs and quality snacks, keeping your energy up and your brain focused on the activity!
8. Players, Strength Train
In-Season Strength Training is important. This doesn’t mean just lifting weights for maintenance of strength, but a way to continue grooving quality movement patterns and mentally preparing your body and mind for the next session!
Find a facility that you can call home! Where you can go there and use whatever modalities you can to keep your body fresh and away from chronic fatigue!
9. Players, Recover Efficiently Post Game/Practice
After each training session, practice or game, perform some type of recovery work. I know you may be hungry, fatigued or just want to get the hell outta there, but remember, your recovery work will allow you to stay fresh for the following session.
Every coach in this world meets with their team after the game somewhere on the field. Use this time to perform Hip Mobility Drills, Soft Tissue Exercises and Upper Extremity Movements/Stretches to speed the recovery process so your body won’t be as sore or as cranky the next time you show up to the field!
10. Be Better Prepared in the Off-Season!
This means selecting a training facility or program that fits your needs. You don’t need to play fall ball or attend the winter showcase when nobody cares. Develop your skills, strengthen your body and create a workable, practical plan and routine that gives you the best opportunity to succeed!