Very often in the baseball world there is a distinction between the kind of coaching that happens in a training facility and the kind that happens on the field. Facility coaching tends to be more technology and individual based, while the on-field coaching lends itself to a more “old school” and team orientated approach. So what’s the right way? The answer is almost always somewhere in the middle. The happy spot, and the place most highly successful programs are finding, is blending the best of both worlds to create a high powered player development system.
The Technological Facility Approach
At KPI we have implemented a system based on technology that we use to drive all areas of athletic development. Here’s a list of all the pieces of technology we use daily at KPI…
- Hawkin Dynamics Force Plates – Used to measure the state of the Central Nervous System and we adjust the athletes’ strength program accordingly
- Driveline Traq – Used to program workouts for all the different programs in KPI
- Blast Motion – Bat sensors that measure all metrics of the swing
- Hittrax – Hitting Simulator that allows hitters to hit in different environments and measures all aspects of the batted ball
- Trackman – Ball flight monitor that measures each hitter’s individual batted ball metrics and provides robust insights
- V1 Pressure Mat – Force mat that measures the application of force and center of mass through the swing
- K-Vest – 3D Swing/Body analyzer that measures the kinematic sequence and body position in the swing
- Trackman – Measures spin and movement metrics of the pitcher with advanced insight reporting
- Rapsodo – Measures all aspects of the pitch and provides data and metrics for every pitcher
- Pro Play AI – Artificial Intelligence application that displays a pitcher’s biomechanics
- Arm Care Sensors – We are beta testing an arm care system that measures range of motion and elbow/shoulder strength levels for pitchers every day they come in to train
With these tens of thousands of dollars of technology we use the data the technology provides to give individualized programming to all the athletes and then we use the data even further to validate that the programming is working. This creates a system of constant checks and balances that we use to constantly evaluate the effectiveness of our training.
We all know what on-field coaching normally looks like… team orientated and skill based for things that can be mastered on the field (like ground/fly balls, team defense, etc). Since on-field coaching is almost always done in a team environment, the standard goal of most teams is to win. So the focus of the coaching will be to work on the team-orientated skills to win games.
There is incredible value in on-field coaching and the development of the team with the right mentality. Where that can fall short is when the on-field coach, and vice-versa on the facility coach, downgrades and bad mouths the other coach. Both have their essential function in the developmental process and need to be prioritized at different times.
What the Most Successful Teams are Doing at the Highest Levels
At the high school, college, and professional levels, we are seeing the most successful teams displaying a consistent and progressive mindset that values integrating all areas of development into the team environment. At the professional level, the three teams with 100 wins in 2021 (Rays, Dodgers, Giants) are all widely known for being tech-based and ultra progressive organizations that are dumping huge investments into new tools to drive player development. At the collegiate level, more and more programs are using the same tools we have at KPI to not only improve player development, but to also recruit at a different level than their competition. It is becoming common place for colleges to ask for reports on the various technological devices we have to evaluate and gather deeper insights into players they are recruiting. The high school level is a bit trickier, since there is such a large variance between programs, but in the Bay Area we are seeing success in the programs that are implementing new tools into their practice plans.
Connecting the Dots
So how do we incorporate the technological/facility approach in a team/field environment? It takes an open-minded approach and the field coaches have to be willing to change and incorporate new ideas and philosophies into their plans. Here are some simple ways to incorporate a facility/technological approach into the field environment…
- Assessment Based Warmups – Have a pro (maybe KPI) provide a simple, baseline assessment for each player and build out some programming buckets so players can do individualized warmups that meet’s their specific needs, instead of general ones
- In-Season Strength Programs – Professional trainers can help design proper on-ramping workouts and in-season workouts that compliment the stresses the competitive season can bring. This will help keep players healthy and at an optimal physical level
- Blast – Blast Sensors are $100 and when used properly, can outfit a whole team and their swing profiles. Coaches can diagnose each swing and tailor drills to each hitter so they are working on their deficiencies, not just hitting.
- Research – Do some research on what leads to the best hitting outcomes (hitting the ball hard and in the air) and use a Constraints Led Approach to setup practice environments. Ask us to borrow some tech to measure progress.
- Figure Out Pitcher Movement Profiles – Ask us to do a mass evaluation of pitchers using our tech and we can quickly determine a pitcher’s fastball movement profile (North/South, East/West, Hybrid). Field coaches can use that information to tailor bullpen sequences and off-speed offerings so pitchers can work on their strengths and mask their weaknesses.
- Mechanics – Use a biomechanics application and have a professional determine lowest hanging fruit to improve mechanics. Prescribe each pitcher some individual drills they can use in practice to help them improve their deficiencies.
Bridging the gap between the tech/facility approach with the ways of the field should not be difficult or painstaking. It actually should be a fun process since it can lead to extremely desirable results for a team. The results are all around us, one just needs to pay attention to them. Blending the best of both worlds to create a high powered player development system is what all coaches should be striving for. Are You Ready?