Coaches Series: In-Season Program Adjustments


This is the third of several articles written by former Driveline trainer and now Head Coach at Lake Erie College, Cam Castro, detailing the in-season adjustments that can be made of Driveline’s programs and equipment at the college level (Twitter: @Castro_Turf)

As coaches, one of our biggest jobs is to be adaptable. Or should I say, one of our biggest jobs should be the ability to adapt. While I can’t speak for my peers, I would like to consider myself slightly more forward thinking than the “traditional” baseball coach. If you don’t believe me, just ask our 5’ 6” second basemen who is currently hitting cleanup for us. I like to think outside the box; I like to challenge how this game has been taught and thought about. It was that mindset that led me to driving nearly 40 hours across the country to work at Driveline Baseball.

The college-baseball paradigm shift on things like lineup analytics, infield shifts, weighted baseballs, and pitchers bench pressing has officially happened. The war is over.

In our program, we’re constantly evaluating what needs to be tweaked and changed. Going beyond the boxscore and analyzing metrics like BABIP, ISO, and FIP give us better ideas for how we work with our teams. For example, how to put our best nine guys on the field and how to manage a nine-inning game while maximizing both individual and team results.

That’s the golden goose, right? Individual results. In regards to our pitching staff, we try to gauge output, intent, usage, stress readings, and athlete feedback on fatigue. Any one of these can lead to programming adjustments that need to be made over the course of the season.

Our programming is laid out with a mix of stock programs and specific segments based on the type of athlete and/or time of the year. For example, after going through an initial screening, our athletes were placed on a stock on-ramp program in the fall, which allowed for us to build a familiar foundation with the training implements we used. Only one athlete required an alteration based on valgus carrying angle and lack of internal rotation (GIRD).

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Our fall On-Ramp was based on five-practice days per week with two days reserved for intrasquad scrimmages.

From there, our off-season programming was entirely based on usage and inning counts over the previous calendar year. Athletes were broken down into three groups: Velocity, De-Load, and Active Rest.

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Velocity Group were low usage (0-40 IP), Active Rest Group were moderate usage (40-80 IP) and De-Load Group were high-usage athletes (80-100+ IP). Usage calculation based on last calendar year (Fall 2015, Spring 2016 & Summer 2016).

After completing our off-season work, we sent our athletes home for winter break with a program based on ensuring at-home compliance, as outlined here in my post on Winter Break Training Program for Pitchers. Also, we again went back to a stock program based on prepping them for Mound Work, another topic I have written about in Blending to the Mound.

Here is an excerpt from our Pre-Season Mound Blending Program:

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All of our athletes followed this general program outline until we started Live ABs in the cage. From there, we started to alter Hybrid Days and Off Days based on the number of hitters faced per week.

This brings us to our in-season programming, which is broken down by the athlete’s role: Weekend Starter, Long Relief / Spot Starter, Reliever, etc. These are all derivatives of programming that you can find in Hacking the Kinetic Chain’s online content. Kyle actually outlines some of these in his latest post, Individualization in Athletics: Potential Points of Failure.

In this post, Kyle goes on to say:

“Individualization is now “baked in” to most good programs, where a pre-determined template is configured around an athlete’s needs based on screenings or other key performance indicators. This is a great way to show individual attention to an athlete, gain efficiency….and handing out copied templates to everyone won’t get the best results…”

This brings me back to my first statement: as coaches we need to be adaptable. We need to be adaptable in game strategy, adaptable in working with administration and faculty, adaptable in relating to our athletes, and adaptable in how we train those athletes.

Below is a general example of an in-season starter and reliever program that our athletes follow:

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This is based on a game schedule of Saturday, Sunday, Wednesday.

For our in-season programming, here is a general idea of what our Recovery and Hybrid Days look like:

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From here, our goal is to make programming adjustments based on the following evaluation:

Output – Basically, how often is an athlete seeing game action? If moderate to high, we follow the general program above with a slight alteration. If an athlete sees just moderate action, we increase Rockers & Walking Windups to two sets each on Hybrid Days. However if an athlete sees little to no game action, then we will replace Hybrid Days w/ Velocity days to stimulate development in-season (essentially extending the work that athlete did in the off-season).

Intent – If, under my assumption, an athlete lacks intent in-game, then we’ll alter his Hybrid Days and throw a Max Effort Bullpen (8-10p) instead of a Side Session. For more information on this concept, read Travis Hergert’s post on Max Intent Bullpens. This is also a tool we’ll use for an athlete struggling to “hold velo.” Since most midweek side sessions aren’t thrown at 100% RPE, this is a good training tool and stimulus for an athlete struggling to find max effort in his fourth of fifth inning of work.

Stress – We recently began monitoring our athletes’ daily elbow stress using motusTHROW sensors. By tracking an athlete’s workload on both high output days as well as recovery days we have a better understanding of when each athlete needs a program modification. These changes are made to reflect a necessary increase or decrease in volume and/or intent. The data we’ve collected using motusTHROW is still in its infancy as the sample size is too small right now. In the future, the plan is to collect in-game data in the fall of 2017 and off-season training next winter.

For more info on mThrow and the data it collects, read these two gems by R&D assistant, Michael O’Connell:

Fatigue – As coaches, we rely heavily on our athletes to self-report fatigue. Sadly, as most of you know, some athletes are not inclined to do this, whether it be pride or fear of having the role changed, reduced, or diminished altogether. As coaches, we all have that one weekend starter who will go 6+ IP for you on Saturday and then is dead to the world until Wednesday. It’s guys like this who require the most program modifications. Below is a program outlined for your starter who thinks it best he doesn’t touch a ball until the day before his next start:

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We have modified this athlete’s program to include more days off, and we have all but eliminated underload constraint training, deciding to focus more on low-RPE, heavy-constraint drills and extra recovery work. For the record, we do have an athlete following this program, and by the end of the week, he’s yearning to cut a couple loose or throw a side session. However, we’ve found this to be the best recipe to have him ready to compete again on the weekend.

Kyle summed up his last post with this:

“If you find yourself using new ideas on a regular basis, your templating base of training needs to be better tested, re-tested, and documented.”

My goal for our athletes is simple: provide the best and most comprehensive training program that I possibly can. This is all done to ensure each athlete yields results based on a program that is rich in adaptation. Brad Pitt in Moneyball said it best: “Adapt or die.”


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