The Physical vs Skill Battle

Currently we see a huge overemphasis on skill development at the youth and high school level. Skill development in the form of lessons, select teams, showcases, practices all take precedence over actual physical athletic development. In many cases physical development lags greatly behind. There must exist a harmony between physical development and skill development.  All too often many baseball athletes struggle to transition their game to the next level because of a lack of physical development. Look no further than your local 6’4” 230# average baseball player.  The bigger, faster, stronger athlete will almost always be given an opportunity over the 140# skilled athlete.  This can’t entirely be blamed on the athlete as we all know genetics and biological age are huge factors.  But there often more that can be done to develop athletically that is currently missed out upon.

Lessons culture

Lessons have become ingrained into the culture of youth and teen baseball development. They are viewed as THE way an athlete becomes a better baseball player, often at the expense of well-rounded athletic development.

The problem with a lessons-only outlook becomes the lack of overall development. Baseball is an asymmetrical one sided sport that is dominated by repetition.  Yes baseball is a skill and like any that requires repetition and practice, however skill only training is leading players down a road of injury and to a lack of athleticism.  Year round lessons with no regard to developing the engine that drives athletic development is asking for problems.

Imagine a program put in place as a freshman in high school that trains consistently for 3 times per week throughout both the fall and spring regardless of competitions. In an 18 week semester thats a total of 54 training sessions per block, and over 100 workouts for the year without summer factoring in.  Over the course of an athlete’s full high school career you have 400+ training sessions. Imagine the possibilities from 400 training sessions consistently strung together.  Add to that another 10 weeks of training in the summer and you have over 550 workouts.  Now think about the 140# kid that says “he can’t gain weight” and what 500+ training sessions would do for him.

Athletes at the high school level will never have a better time for gains…EVER. Their bodies are gaining size, strength, and speed without so much as doing anything.

Lance Walker had a great stat a few years back at the NSCA National Conference. He stated an athlete will get 3% faster yearly throughout pre and post pubertal years without doing any formal training.  Kids get faster WITHOUT training for it.  Now imagine actually training to try and get faster during that time.  Imagine stacking 550+ workouts for speed and power together during that time.  The power of consistency is massive.

The benefits of developing physical qualities

Nervous System

The nervous system is the real engine behind the physical development that drives all athletic enhancement. Want to be a poor athlete? Have a poorly develop nuero-muscualr system.  Building a strong, fast, athlete that has many movement options increases the options for greater skill development.    An athlete who can’t brace on his front leg will never blow radar guns away no matter how many lessons he has. Having the best-looking swing on the team doesn’t mean anything when you can’t get the ball out of the infield.  Increasing general athletic abilities with youth and teen athletes can increase skill development by increased body awareness, movement capacity, and overall athleticism.  Training creates the ability to control the body, as well as external implements, better. A hitter who is too slow with the bat to get to a down-and-away fastball now has more bat control because he has developed into a stronger, faster athlete. A hitter with more speed and power can now wait a split second longer in determining whether to swing at an incoming pitch.  The nervous system is the foundation of all physical abilities. A rising tide lifts all ships.  Lift skill development by developing the athlete first.

Resilience Against Injury

The best ability an athlete can have in their sport is durability. Missing games and seasons is one sure fire way not to be a better baseball player.  Too many athletes are so focused on this and that showcase that they are in a constant state of injury.  A constant state of injury never allows them to develop their potential.  Don’t be injured.  Be resilient to injury.  Training outside of the field builds a robust athlete that can withstand the stresses of skill development.  Remember baseball is a one sided sport.  Continually neglecting the asymmetries that develop is recipe for injury.

Assists Skill Development

Skill development is certainly necessary in baseball as well as any other sport. But more often than not, what makes the best baseball players on the field are skill AND body control, strength, power, speed, and often, size.

More skill development is often the least of a baseball athlete’s needs. Year round games, lessons, practices, etc. completely fill the needs of skill development.  What is really missing is general athletic abilities.  A foundation of movement competencies should be a priority always.  Parents must remember that increasing an athletes physical attributes will assist them in their skill endeavors.

Well-rounded athleticism raises the ceiling of possible skill development. Mastering basic movements and turning that into greater physical capacities is the ultimate foundation for skill to build upon. Building an athletic foundation will raise the roof of possible development. All this should not detract from the importance of skill, but show the importance of the harmony that must exist between skill development and physical development.

A bigger athlete has the potential to produce more velocity on the mound, more exit velocity from the box. A faster athlete can get to a ball deep in the 5-hole where previously it would be a base hit.  A stronger athlete can wait a split second longer on swings, or have the ability to get to a down and away fastball without getting the bat knocked out of their hand.  Yes skill all matters in each of these situations but the more athletic the player, the more foundation for skill to flourish.  After all, nobody ever created an average football player on Madden.  We built him with 99 ratings on everything!  Create more athletic athletes and watch skill go along for the ride.

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