One of my goals for 2018 was to invest specific amounts of time and money towards learning new things that could help make me a better coach. A fairly large portion of that money went towards a trip to Driveline Baseball in Kent, WA. The trip was worth every penny.
I took copious notes during my trip and walked away having learned more things than I could ever immediately implement, let alone describe in one short article. But there were some great nuggets that I found easily actionable that could help players and coaches alike. What follows is a distilled list of these ideas:
The secret sauce is hard work. The employees at Driveline aren't any smarter than other coaches, and the players there aren't any better than other players. But everyone in the room is committed to getting better every day. It's a palpable energy that feeds on itself, driving each individual to become the best version of himself. As a coach, creating this type of environment is a crucial component of developing a high performing team, and finding a culture like this is the best way to ensure development as a player.
What you allow, you encourage. As a coach of others or of yourself, what you allow to occur becomes your standards. Instead of letting small negative habits creep into your team culture or your own work habits, set high expectations and hold yourself and your team to them. (Side note: I was lucky enough to visit Driveline while Vanderbilt Pitching Coach Scott Brown was also on site. And while I had read this advice many times, his simple explanation of this concept really made it hit home.)
Med balls are a great tool to help ingrain a new movement pattern without asking an athlete to think while throwing. Especially for those who jump or struggle to hold counter rotation, med ball shotput throws with the focus on riding down the mound while holding the head over an externally rotated hip can work wonders for cleaning up sequencing issues.
This can be used in the off-season for some medium intent work during recovery days, (allowing for a few more quality reps without taxing the arm) as a warm-up/lead-up to high intent work, or during the season to allow a player to continue working on a movement pattern without having to worry about doing anything but competing once they have a baseball in their hand.
Just one or two sessions on a Rapsodo can be extremely useful. If you are a D3 coach who can't work with pitchers in the off-season or a pitcher with limited access to a ball flight tracking device, just getting a sense for how pitches actually move can be huge. It can tell a player or coach how to utilize an arsenal, including where to locate fastballs and which secondary pitches are good…and maybe more importantly which ones are bad enough to eliminate completely.
The goal of the constraint drills is to create athletic throwers who can throw in any situation, not to create people who are great at drills. The constraints are meant to allow the athletes to find individual solutions to the problems created by the constraints of the drill, while the cues should be viewed as ideas each athlete can use to create his own feel. If pitchers are constantly thinking in the drills they will constantly think on the mound, and that’s no bueno.
As a corollary to that, don't become a slave to the tools. Often, after getting better through new warmup, arm mapping, and constraint drill protocols, players begin to believe that the tools are what make them good. They believe that they need the tools to be good.
Don't fall victim to this mindset. Instead, remember that the tools and the drills are simply pieces of what has made you a better version of yourself. Regardless of how long you have to warm-up or what the limitations are on your day, have confidence in the work you've done, take that nasty stuff out there, and compete.
Honestly, there are so many more (mostly granular) things that I learned in just 6 days at Driveline, but these were a good jumping off point. If you want more info, honestly, read their website, invest in their Plus subscription program, or head out to Seattle to see for yourself. Because it's cool.