I saw an article about the Pittsburgh Pirates off-season training for minor leaguers and found an older article about the Seattle Mariners’ minor league conditioning as a counter-example. These represent a more traditional mindset that values hard and toughness and a new, science-based mindset focused on developing specific athletic qualities for sports performance.
The Pittsburgh Pirates…. Instructional League training in Bradenton, Fla., would consist of “intense Navy SEALs drills.”…. From getting blasted with water after 5 a.m. wakeup calls to hand-to-hand combat in which, according to two sources, top prospect Jameson Taillon once suffered a knee injury, the Pirates’ insistence on using militaristic exercise has spooked enough players that a number openly complained to minor league staff members…. The activities that took place this year in Bradenton – which included running along the beach carrying telephone poles and flipping truck tires in the outfield.
Contrast this approach to that of the Mariners:
Most of them [weights] are no longer in a training facility the team has completely revamped this spring as part of an overhaul of its strength and conditioning program….The one equipment exception is a wall lined with Keiser air-compression pulley machines, which are used to perform exercises that simulate baseball activity — like swinging a bat….”It’s as technologically advanced a program as I’ve ever seen,” [Eric] Byrnes said. “It’s very baseball specific. I’m always open to trying new things, but it seems like they really have it figured out over here.”…. ”When we have guys that show up who are these big, strapping monsters, and we find out they hit four home runs? Never do they use their lower half well,” [Dr. Marcus] Elliott said. “Almost always they create big vertical forces. They can’t create these horizontal forces.”…. All players have been given diagnostic tests to pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to “lateral power” and flexibility…. ”It gives you a really good feeling about using a lot of your legs,” [catcher Rob Johnson] said. “But it’s not like a squat where you’re just pounding your muscles. Everything’s explosion. So, you get in that rhythm, you simulate your swing, you simulate certain movements that you make. The point of the whole thing is really to translate it onto the field.”…. ”If you’re going to build athletes, you have to do athletic things with them,” [Dr. Elliott] said. “The whole philosophy of building athletes is you have to expose them to an environment that forces them to develop physical tools that they need when they’re out there.”
Unfortunately, the environment created by the Pirates tends to dominate, especially with younger athletes. Hard appears to define a good workout, not improvement.
Years ago, when I specialized in training players on the court, I shared a gym with another trainer. He ended his workout with conditioning. His last exercise, after a two-hour workout, was repeat jumps onto the bleachers. He told the parents that he was building quickness.
The parents loved his workouts. He added new players week by week. He told me that parents loved his workouts because their kids were exhausted at the end. That was their measurement of quality. I replied that I hoped that parents would send their children to my clinics because they could see the improvement in their skills. Different philosophy.
I believe in the science-based approach to training athletes. Many believe in tough and hard as the most important qualities of a workout. Different philosophies.