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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Over-training: Are We Playing TOO Much?

Article Title: Over-training: Are We Playing TOO Much?
By Steve Zawrotny

Perhaps you have heard of a concept leadership and
management guru Stephen Covey calls 'Sharpening the
Saw.' While he was aiming this idea to the business
world, it has applicability to those who coach and play sports
as well.

Basically, the concept goes like this:

Don't get so busy sawing that you forget to sharpen the saw.

What happens to the saw while you are sawing?

It gets dull.

What happens when your saw becomes dull?

You can still saw, but the process becomes much less
effective. The work is harder and takes longer - you just
don't saw as well.

To bring this back to baseball and softball, I've noticed a
trend that is not new, but may well be developing into a
problem. The situation is the growing proliferation of travel
teams at all age levels at nearly all times of the year.
While things do slow down a bit in areas of the country
with cold winters, in many places, baseball and softball are
becoming nearly a year round activity.

First, there is the normal spring ball season. Practice for
this may begin in January or February (in some places, even
earlier), with games beginning in late March. The season
continues until June, then summer league begins. This
typically will run into August, and then school starts again.

In many areas of the country, this means Fall league ball.
Practice for this often begins in August, and the Fall season
can run into late October.

So, you have 10 or so months of 'sawing' with young ball
players, leaving perhaps two months to 'sharpen the saw.' I
wonder if this is enough time for players to work on new skills
development, along with appropriate strength and conditioning.

No doubt that the best way to improve in baseball and softball
is to play a lot. This is why many of the best (but not all!)
players come from warm weather states - CA, TX, FL and
others. They simply have better weather allowing them to
play and practice more.

But is there a point where the returns for all these games and
travel diminish? Where it's time to stop and take some time
to 'sharpen the saw?' I think there is. Consider the major
league season: April - September, then the playoffs. Two
teams go all the way to the World Series in October.

Therefore, the vast majority of big leaguers are playing
about 5 months (admittedly, a LOT of games), not counting
Spring training (pre season). And there are various winter
leagues that certain players participate in for additional skill

But, while playing a lot of games in a relatively short
period of time is physically demanding, the big boys
have a LOT of down time with which to recover or
Sharpen the Saw.

I submit that coaches and parents need to consider this
idea carefully. It is well known that acquiring a new skill
takes time, and that there is usually a decrement in
performance as one learns and implements a new skill.
That's why it's usually best to not make any major mechanical
adjustments during the regular season. And, with all the
games and practices during the regular season, coaches
know it's tougher to provide a lot of individual attention to
their players.

This is becoming more apparent by the increasing number
of questions I get about how to implement a good all
around Strength & Conditioning program during the season.
Or how to fit in arm strength or bat speed workouts between
games and practices. It can be done, but it's not easy.

Here are some key points to consider:

1) In what areas does your player(s) need to improve?
Prioritize them.

2) Take the first priority (let's say it's running speed
improvement) and make it the first thing to work on
after any skill work for that day. Skill work requires more
precision as it is performed. For this to be most effective,
one should not be tired or the skill work can suffer.

3) If your player has multiple areas where they need
to improve, consider taking some time off from all the
playing and games. Will missing Summer or Fall ball
really hurt you, considering you'll be working on new
skill development, along with S & C?

4) This brings us to the idea of 'active rest.' The
athlete remains physically active, but in some other sport
or activity than baseball or softball. Sort of the 'cross
training' concept, which allows the ballplayer to recover
physically and mentally from their regular routine. As long
as the ball player is staying active, most any activity will

Here's a basic format for a well rounded off-season S & C

M - Strength, Flexibility work

T - Power work, Flexibility, Energy System conditioning

W - S, F

TH - P, F

F - S, F

Sat - ES, F

Do any hitting or pitching mechanical work before these
workouts, e.g., skill work in the AM, S & C work in the PM.

5) Let the energy level of your player(s) be your guide.
If s/he is having fun, is full of energy and enthusiasm about
their workouts, is not feeling unduly sore, etc., then let them
go. On days they may be feeling tired and worn down, it's
time for a day off. Just pick up at the next day's workout -
don't worry about making up for the missed work.

Remember, everyone needs to stop and 'Sharpen the Saw'
at some point. If it means not playing as many games in
order to do so, so be it. The idea of taking one step back in
order to more quickly take two steps forward is very legitimate
and worth making a part of your player development program.

Steve Zawrotny, MS, CSCS
FREE REPORT: "Harmful Resistance Exercises Baseball/Softball Players Should Avoid"

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