A Baseball Player’s Guide to Off-season Success

These five steps will return you to the field as a stronger player, both mentally and physically.

For many young baseball players, the off-season is a time filled with little direction. It’s unfortunate that this lack of structure can be detrimental to the athlete’s progress from year to year, since rest is so important.

The struggle lies mainly in understanding how to adapt training methods to improve strengths and weaknesses that surfaced during the season. These steps will help you optimize the off-season so you can improve performance and enter the new season with confidence.

Step 1: Set Detailed Goals

Within this step, there are a few smaller steps:

  1. First and foremost, identify where you need to improve. Start by doing a self-assessment of strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Next, sit down with your coaches for feedback on where they feel you need improvement.
  3. Finally, as legendary strength coach Dan John has said, “Keep the goal the goal.”

Commit to focusing on your goals and finding a program that will help you achieve them. Aim to have a program tailored to you and your goals, not generalized for an entire team. When training is focused on improving performance, the rest will fall into place.

Step 2: Train for Number One

While it is only natural to compare yourself to your teammates, it’s crucial that you do not fall into the mental trap of obsessing over someone else’s year. The focus is on what you can do to improve you, not what a buddy did last off-season. So many aspects of baseball are out of your control, but the beauty of the offseason is that improvement is in your hands.

Step 3: Source Your Information

The baseball industry is filled with so-called experts who claim they have the answer to all of your problems. One of the biggest challenges we face as athletes is choosing who we listen to.

Be wary of coaches you haven’t worked with who have extreme ideas on what is right and wrong when it comes to athletic performance. As you grow and develop there will inevitably be tweaks to how you hit and field. But fully changing your natural mechanics should be taken seriously and only done after consulting a coach who is familiar with you as a player.

Step 4: Stay Healthy

I had a coach who would come straight to the training room during the team stretch and scream “YOU CAN’T MAKE THE CLUB IN THE TUB!” To be fair, most of players were either battling injuries or rehabbing from a surgery, but his point was crystal clear. If you’re in the training room nursing an injury, you’re not on the field getting closer to your goals.

How can you stay healthy and injury-free? If I had the answer to that question I would be a wealthy man. There is no guarantee that taking precautionary measures in the off-season will stop you from getting bit by the injury bug, but taking proper care of your body is crucial to success.

A big part of staying healthy and getting the field time you want during the season is listening to your body. If you begin to feel worn down, pull the reins on the workouts and recover for a week. Pacing yourself is critical to season longevity, and your body will thank you in the final stretch of the season.

A Note to Pitchers: Unlike other position players, there is a cap on how much you can do without tempting injury. You cannot throw a thousand times per day. It is always in a pitcher’s best interest to back off rather than push through, a lesson I learned the hard way. This will not hinder your improvement, because the restful period gives you time to work on the less sexy part of your game. A few other guidelines for pitchers:

  • Fielding Practice – Don’t give away free outs. Ask someone to hit your groundballs and work on your fielding practice. Learn how to cover first base and do it at game speed. No coach likes giving away free outs.
  • Mechanical Work – A sore or tired arm should not stop you from improving your pitching. Working on your mechanics and keeping them just as sharp as if you were playing in a game is key for when you get back on the mound.
  • Mental Strength – You’ve heard about the power of visualization before. Take time to reflect on your goals. Visualize yourself in situations and continue to build confidence in your abilities.

rest is essential during the off-season

Step 5: Mental Game

There are tons of great resources at your fingertips to improve your mental game. It might sound arduous, but pick up one of these and read up.

Better Rest, Bigger Benefits

It is important to take time in the off-season to relax and recuperate. Following these steps will help you return to the field as stronger player, both mentally and physically. Stay on track with the goals you set for the off-season, and you will go into the season feeling well prepared for the challenges ahead.

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