I was fortunate enough to have attended Cressey Sports Performance's Elite Baseball Mentorship program this past June in the Boston area along with fellow team members here at The Baseball Zone / SST Mississauga, Courtney Plewes and Rick Johnston (pictured L to R with Eric Cressey). This program has provided me with insight that gave me a better understanding of how the body works from a biomechanical perspective. This particular workshop was focused on the upper extremities, especially the elbow and shoulder, two areas that go without saying are extremely important to pitchers - and all throwers - in terms of performance, injury prevention & rehabilitation.
Here is a brief outline of the program and some of my own thoughts:
Day 1: We examined how the shoulder complex should function by looking at movement and symmetry with various athletes. Later that day we went onto the floor and watched assessments performed by Eric Cressey and Eric Schoenberg. Although this may not be my particular area of expertise I learned more about how the body moves so I can better serve our throwers here at The Baseball Zone as well as share this information with our staff.
Day 2: Was more of my bread and butter listening to Coach Matt Blake break down the delivery. Matt definitely confirmed that we are on point with our methodologies here at The Baseball Zone. Matt was more than available to spend time with me to answer questions I had and trade information and experiences. We talked about weighted balls and the variety of ways they are used. We also talked about how to deal with younger throwers. The main points I got out of our conversations were: Get to know your athletes and be cautious as things are always changing; Being a good pitching coach is one part artist and one part scientist/knowledge, and balancing the two are key. The second part of the day was back on the floor with assessments.
Day 3: Was spent on the floor with athletes as they prepared to throw. Eric Cressey and Eric Schoenberg took athletes through a player specific warm up based on their personalized assessments, then they were off to Matt Blake for pitching work. Matt did something I liked with weighted balls. He had the athlete hold a weighted ball and move as if they were going to throw, but they didn’t release the ball. When I later asked him about it, he said it was done to give them a better awareness or where the arm and body was during the motion. The weights must be appropriate to the athlete you are working with; for younger throwers the weight wasn’t much different than a baseball. He also confirmed that the technique should not change. If it does the weight is too much or the athlete may not be ready to add weight. I cannot express this enough - USE CAUTION. Most kids we see are not ready physically to handle weighted balls. We also had time to observe athletes training and these athletes flat out "get after it" there. They mean business and most athletes could beneift from seeing the intensity with which they prepare and get their work in. These athletes included players from Notre Dame, Boston College and Oklahoma State, and all of them were pitching in the Cape Cod Baseball League this summer.
At the end of the mentorship I have come away with plenty of new knowledge that will help to better serve our throwers here at The Baseball Zone. Eric Cressey, Eric Schoenberg and Matt Blake were nothing but first class and were certainly accessible during the entire mentorship. I highly recommend it to anyone who is serious about becoming a better baseball coach, no matter who they are and what their level of coaching and experience is.
I have enjoyed working this experience and new information into our programs here over the past few weeks, whether it be our Summer Clinics, High Performance or Private Lessons, and seeing the short term effects that hopefully lead to long term benefits for our athletes. If you have any particular questions about my time with the Cressey team, please send them in the comments section below and I will be happy to get back to you shortly.
Ryan Armstrong, Head Pitching Coach - The Baseball Zone
Image courtesy of ericcressey.com