Four Words That Changed My Life Forever
Back in 2010 I was sitting in the audience of an Ultimate Pitching Coaches Boot Camp at The Texas Baseball Ranch, when Coach Ron Wolforth introduced 4 words that have revolutionized my approach to teaching and have allowed me to integrate my physical therapy skills into coaching and teaching plans in a manner unlike anyone else in the country.
I have known Ron for almost 5 years now, and no less 6 times over that period, he has tossed out an idea that caused me to say “Wow! That’s great!” followed by “Dang it! I should have known that!…Wait, I DID know that! I should have applied that! ”
Such was the case when he uttered this phrase:
“Start With the Pain”
It was brilliant.
That 4 word phrase sent me tumbling down a winding path of questions, answers, and more questions. The journey has been exciting, rewarding and sometimes frustrating as one question begets another.
But the results for my students have been well worth the effort.
You see, it’s not supposed to hurt to throw.
And the game we all love is no fun if you’re in pain.
If pain is present, there are always multiple contributors–not just one, but several.
To point to one movement pattern inefficiency, one physical constraint, one training session, one game, one pitch, one exercise, or one coach or teacher is shallow, narrow-minded, arrogant, and ignorant.
It’s rarely ONE anything
It’s WAY more complicated than that.
ALL INJURIES ARE COMPLEX AND MULTIFACTORIAL.
For a major injury to occur, a confluence of factors such as the physical constraints of the athlete, mechanical inefficiencies in his delivery, his workload, his preparation, his warmup, his nutritional plan, his life history, his medical history, his athletic history and his mental/emotional mindset (just to name a few) must all come together in the perfect storm to reach a threshold where tissue compromise occurs.
Over my 20 years as a practicing physical therapist, I have had hundreds of throwing athletes come to my clinic with injuries. Understandably they are looking for answers, but some are more interested in assigning blame. When I begin interviewing them about their medical and athletic histories, most of them have already self- determined the “cause” of their injury.
The conversations vary from case to case, but the template is:
“_________ did this and it caused __________.”
I have personally been on both sides of this equation, and I refuse to engage. Its unfair to everyone involved. Again, ALL INJURIES ARE COMPLEX AND MULTIFACTORIAL.
Whenever a patient begins the blame game, I immediately stop the complaint/accusation and begin the process of unraveling the matrix of variables that could be contributing.
Every pitcher I evaluate is a unique and complicated case.
But if you want to even get close to solving the puzzle, “Start With the Pain” is a great place to begin.
The location of the pain will tell you where to look for physical and movement pattern constraints and will usually get you headed down the right path.
Within 2 weeks of enrollment at The ARMory every single pitcher undergoes a complete head to toe physical assessment and a video analysis to look for possible constraints that could inhibit his performance or predispose him to injury.
If I have any suspicion of possible injury, I demand the client see a physician and get MRI documentation that he his safe and healthy enough to participate. Even then, if any pain persists, I exclude them from any velocity development until they are completely pain free.
I ask every one of our guys about their pain when they walk in the door, and I ask again 10-15 times more during a 2 1/2 hour training session. If even a single throw or drill elicits any pain whatsoever, it sparks an immediate response from me. I examine the athlete and take video to see if an inappropriate movement pattern may be contributing. If the pain persists for more than 3 throws, the athlete is shutdown. This is rare, however, as I can usually provide an intervention or a movement pattern adjustment to relieve the painful situation.
For the unusual occurrence when a guy tweaks an elbow, shoulder, back, oblique ankle, or knee, etc… I transfer him to my physical therapy clinic, which is 3 doors down from The ARMory. We manage the inflammation and initiate pain free drills and exercises to correct the contributing inefficiency. That player receives a 21-day corrective protocol to address any mechanical inefficiency he might have, and I exchange text messages or phone calls with him every day to check on his status.
(If you haven’t heard of this yet, I highly encourage everyone to check out Coach Wolforth’s “Solve Your Disconnection” DVD series. In my opinion it’s the best thing he has ever produced.)
I personally design the individualized training protocols for every athlete in our system. The training environment is high energy, and intense. The work is hard, but it is science-based and completely controlled to ensure the safety of every pitcher.
While the system is grounded in guided discovery, and individual degrees of freedom, I have complete and total control over every detail of our process. The only thing I cannot control is what the athlete does when he’s not with me. Many times, pitchers will attend our training sessions while then go off to the high school or travel ball circuits and I won’t see them for 4-5 months. I can only hope I have trained them well enough so they can independently manage their own programs.
If you’d like get your pitching career headed in the right direction start with an assessment by clicking here. We run them every Tuesday night. If you are a current ARMory member and haven’t had an evaluation in the last 60 days, you should schedule one immediately.
And Then This Happened:
This past weekend I attended a travel ball showcase tournament with my youngest son’s team. He’s a 16 year old catcher. The event was crawling with college and pro scouts, and it featured a travel ball division and a junior college division.
On Sunday I was helping out, coaching 3rd base for my son’s team when AJ, a guy who trained at The ARMory last summer left his JUCO team gathering and literally walked onto the field to give me a handshake and a hug.
He had enrolled with about 6 weeks left in the summer at 81 mph and had gained 7 mph before he left for school. He told me he had continued with his ARMory training and had gotten up to 89 mph.
Another JUCO student at the event began the summer at The ARMory at 86-88 mph and had gotten as high as 93 mph. His parents told me he recent topped out at 95 and is sitting at 93-94
As AJ hugged me, he said “I’m not having pain”.
It was music to my ears.
Today I got a text from a young man named Eric who is a college sophomore. He told me he is also pain-free and hit 93 mph in a game last week. I was thrilled for him! I asked him to send me a short note outlining his story. Here’s what he said:
“Near the end of my senior year of high school, my velocity was topping out at around 82 mph. I had no college baseball options, and I thought my career was over. A buddy of mine brought me to the ARMory, and I immediately bought into the program. Four days a week, three hours a day, we were working out at the ARMory, focusing on unique drills to emphasize the most efficient ways to increase velocity.
After just three months of hard work, I had increased my velocity to 90 mph, and ended up pitching throughout the season at a good college program. I still practice all of the ARMory drills daily, and have increased my velocity up to 93 mph. The ARMory saved my baseball career, and was one of the best decisions I made!”
It’s past midnight–almost 1 am.
I was just about to hit send when this text came across my phone.
It was from AJ, the guy who came onto the field to hug me.
“The ARMory to me was so much more than just a summer workout. It has become a lifestyle. It provided me with so much more than physical ability. It mentally got me in the right areas. It formed me to be a better person on and off the field. I went from thinking “this is unreal” to ” how far can I push myself to become that much better”? It was truly life-changing for me. Looking back at it, I made a huge mistake by not going sooner. but truthfully I feel that I got the most out of my 6 weeks (gaining 7 miles per hour). I would just like to say thank you so very much for giving me the opportunity to better myself in ways that no one or no place else ever could.”
I love my job!