Assessments Prior To Velocity Training Vital

Ron Wolforth MugSpecial 2-Part Series In Collegiate Baseball
PART 1 (Published in Feb. 26, 2016 edition)

By RON WOLFORTH
Special To Collegiate Baseball

MONTGOMERY, Tex. — In 2003, we created the Athletic Pitcher Program™ and began down a road of performance enhancement and velocity creation for baseball athletes.

Initially inspired from the work of Setpro engineer Paul Nyman, we have experienced firsthand the bumps and obstacles of such a track over the past 13 years.

It has been an amazingly challenging and fulfilling ride. On our journey, we of course have failed many times. We have figuratively chased the wrong rabbit down the wrong hole.

We have made assumptions and inferences that have since proven to be incorrect or overstated. On the positive side of the ledger, through those very failures we have learned, adapted and grown tremendously. We have succeeded beyond our wildest imagination.

As the baseball universe’s understanding and sophistication of player development has grown tremendously over that time, so has the utilization of performance enhancement and velocity enhancement programs.

Just one example of this growth was our rather primitive and rudimentary utilization of over-weighted and under-weighted balls in 2003 that was actually viewed at that time as edgy and dangerous.

Now the practice is common place at every level of baseball including several MLB teams.

The purpose of this article is to share three primary things we have learned over these past 13 years with regards to velocity enhancement that might help maximize your efforts and just as importantly minimize the risk of injury or training corruption.

In 2016 it is not difficult to find velocity enhancement programs on the web that promise amazing results.

While I have long since stopped searching for and/or critiquing such programs, I will tell you that many of them are solid and some of them I believe are very, very good.

While of course there are several that are not worth the paper to be printed on, I wanted to direct my efforts on some critically important distinctions to make while embarking on this path of velocity enhancement.

Beware One Size Fits All
We intuitively know that one size will not fit everyone. One size won’t even fit one person forever. As we grow, develop and change, so do our needs, strengths and limitations.

One size fits all programs are popular because they are easy to implement.

Unfortunately efficiency is not the same as effectiveness.

Designing a program customized to the individual athlete is often a daunting task, but the results are always worth the extra diligence.  I see the following scenario play out again and again in this arena.

Let’s say 10 young men engage in a generalized velocity enhancement program taken from a hot new program of the month on the web.

The participants in Group A (3-5 athletes) make tremendous gains and are subsequently thrilled and excited. Group B subjects (3-5 athletes) make little or no gains and are slightly disappointed by the process. Group C (2-3 athletes) actually regress, experience pain or discomfort or (even worse) become injured.

Those results often spawn predictable reactions that play out on message boards, chat rooms and twitter feeds.

The success stories of Group A are trumpeted by the program’s author, and testimonials are offered as proof positive of the incredible efficacy of the program.

Group B quietly accepts the fact that this program might not have been the right fit, or maybe they just somehow didn’t quite do everything that Group A did.

Group B now begins the search for the next hot program of the month on the internet.

Group C feels duped or betrayed and blames the program. The interactions often get incredibly vitriolic and nasty.

Each competing program heralds their achievers as undeniable evidence of the superiority of their process while often discounting their underachievers or malcontents as merely incompetent or inept.

On the flip side, they point to the failings of the competing programs as evidence of their inferiority. The vicious cycle is often repeated, animus is raised, and battle lines are drawn.

In reality, different programs could indeed be very solid. How can that be, you ask?    

Assessment Essential
I will promise you not every one of those 10 athletes were equally prepared for what we refer to at The Ranch as “The Push”.

Over the past 13 years, we have learned NOT to proceed without an assessment to assist us in knowing where each athlete currently is in several key areas.

Simply taking time to assess, correct and prepare for “the push” before we actually push has made the average gains higher, the percentage of underachievers lower, and the injuries far fewer.

Here are the facts as we see them. Every athlete must reduce/remedy his constraints before any velocity program can have its full effect. 

Failure to do so will minimize the athlete’s gains and could place him at significantly increased risk of injury. What are the common constraints?

To read more, purchase the Feb. 26, 2016 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE.  It includes a number of pitcher assessments that should be closely looked at before a pitcher starts a velocity improvement program. They include an assessment of pain, ability to bounce back, strength imbalances, levels of mobility, flexibility, among other crucial areas. In the last 5 years, not one of Ron Wolforth’s pitchers has suffered an elbow or shoulder injury due to this careful assessment.


PART 2 (Published in March 11, 2016 edition)
Wolforth Explains How To Do A Full Assessment

11119878;lkjll;akkl99By LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

MONTGOMERY, Tex. — Velocity improvement programs are springing up across the USA as never before.

Many pitchers are being helped with these programs.

But others simply aren’t ready for such grueling programs that put more stress on the elbow and shoulder than these young men have ever faced in their lives.

The result has been a number of injuries which result in Tommy John and shoulder surgeries.

Collegiate Baseball is aware of several college programs that have had numerous Tommy John surgeries in the past few years.

It would be fair to say that injuries to pitchers are approaching an epidemic level from youth baseball all the way to Major League baseball.

A record 93 professional players on all levels underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014, according to statistics carried by the web site www.baseballheatmaps.com

Incredibly, 878 professional players have had Tommy John surgery performed from 1974-2014.

Collegiate Baseball printed an in-depth story in the Feb. 20, 2015 issue which was written by John Mugarian that gave strong evidence weight training for pitchers could be a catalyst for the explosion of elbow and shoulder injuries.

Velocity improvement programs for those who aren’t ready for them could also be an issue as well.

The obvious question is how can how can pitchers stay healthy but still improve their velocity?

In the last edition of Collegiate Baseball, Ron Wolforth, owner of the Texas Baseball Ranch and originator of the Athletic Pitcher Program, delved into why a full assessment of each pitcher was necessary before they undergo a velocity program.

Areas included an assessment of pain, ability to bounce back, strength imbalances, levels of mobility, flexibility, among other areas.

Wolforth has been pushing the envelope with velocity improvement for the past 13 years with incredible success.

Since 2003, 187 students have broken the 90 mph barrier while 28 students have eclipsed 94 mph and five 100 mph. Over 78 of his trained athletes have been drafted by Major League Baseball organizations.

Importance Of Assessments
Having several different assessments are important for the health of the pitcher before embarking on a velocity improvement program, according to Wolforth.

“There will be people reading this who will roll their eyes because they feel the assessment idea is overkill,” said Wolforth.

“If you go into a doctor’s office because you feel terrible, he will do a series of assessments. You will tell the doctor what medical issues you have as he looks at your medical history so he can give you sound medical advice to start you on the path of being healthy again.

“The reason that assessments are warranted before velocity enhancement programs begin is that pitchers come to you at different places in life.

“There are some who are extremely flexible and not very strong. There are some who are incredibly strong but not very mobile. There are people who have overdeveloped front sides because they have been lifting in a football weight program. Their pecs, delts and biceps are overdeveloped while their back sides are underdeveloped.

“You have people who have constantly been throwing since they were eight or nine years old while some haven’t thrown much in the past year. Some will have a history of injuries while others won’t tell you about pain or injuries they have sustained if you don’t ask them.

“All of these people show up at your door, and you will now put them on a velocity enhancement program. That’s a mixed bag. It behooves us to take some time to do a proper assessment.

“I would strongly urge every baseball coach to partner with a local physical therapist who works with athletes. Keep in mind there are physical therapists who primarily work with older people with mobility problems. The type a coach wants to work with is the physical therapist who specializes in athletes or at least have a larger segment of his clients who are athletes.”

Wolforth said that since there are a lot of injuries to pitchers in baseball, he is often contacted from physical therapists around the nation who are working with 10-14 year old players that they  didn’t see 10 years ago.

“Although a coach can give a general assessment, it is wise to let the medical community use their expertise to make an informed assessment. I don’t try to diagnose that because it isn’t my expertise.

“Since we have initiated our assessments at the Ranch, instead of 3-5 significant gains in a group of 10 pitchers, we are seeing 5-7 significant gains. More and more of our guys are making gains and are sustaining those gains. We have very, very few pitchers who go backwards. It is incredibly rare for that to happen.

“During the last five years, I don’t know of an injury with any of our pitchers. So this assessment system is working extremely well. I know there isn’t any way we will keep every kid from being injured. But I would sure like to do everything I can do to reduce the injury risk as much as possible.”

To read more, purchase the March 11, 2016 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE.  It explains HOW to perform an in-depth assessment with pitchers prior to embarking on a velocity improvement program. The areas the assessment covers is obvious pain or soreness the pitcher currently has, strength imbalances, mobility and flexibility and mechanical efficiency.