In this specific case, it’s Wimbledon (tennis) champions, but take a few minutes to watch this video about Russia’s most well known tennis academy – Spartak:
I first heard of Spartak when I read Daniel Coyle’s book, The Talent Code, and this video gives a glimpse inside the facility and training approach.
What’s the difference between the Spartak approach? Here is a key piece:
In Russia, it’s about the coaches – not the schools, Volkov believes.
“A coach in this country is a graduate, with a specific degree. All our coaches are Spartak alumni. And it’s a known fact that European and especially American methods refer to the physical rather than the technical side of things – which is different here in this country,” he said.
At Spartak, it starts with the goals of the kids (which you can hear in the video) and grows with the focus on the quality of deliberate practice and expert instruction.
2 years ago, I made a post describing how I used a weighted Bratt Bat to help some professional players improve their swing mechanics during their off-season workouts. I am still using the Bratt Bat as part of my training program to help players improve their hitting, and here is another example of how it works.
From the previous post (linked above), here were the “rules”:
What to do:
Use a weight appropriate for the strength-age-level of your player (65-75 oz. for high school, up to 100 oz. for stronger college players and pros)
Avoid a high volume of swings. 5-10 is enough to get the right feel, then switch back to a regular weight bat
Avoid trying to swing too hard. Save that for your overload-underload swings. Just get the feeling of the drill.
Focus on hitting line drives up the middle and towards the oppo gap
Remember this is just a drill and stick to the main principles of swing training for larger numbers of swings
Looking back, I still stick pretty closely to these rules. But in the upcoming example, we’re actually hitting a baseball off of a tee with a full swing (note: the Bratt Bat is not designed to hit baseballs. It’s better to use tennis or wiffle balls for higher volume or intensity of swings, as shown in our previous drill).
Now here is a comparison of a high school junior hitting off the tee with his regular bat (left side) and using a 75 ounce Bratt Bat (right side). After he took several tee swings with his regular bat, all I did was give him the Bratt Bat and tell him to try and hit it up the middle (tee is placed right down the middle, a bit forward of where the stride foot lands).
ESPN.com posted a nice short video today that details Manny Ramirez’s approach to his workout and training this off-season. You’ll see some movement drills, sprinting mechanics and instruction, as well as a number of rotational drills and exercises.
Aside from all of the drills and exercises, here is one quote I found particularly interesting:
Everything in every sport really boils down to rotational power.
Different Winter X-games commercials are starting to pop up on ESPN again and it reminded me of the video documentaries that were done last year to showcase snowboarder Shaun White’s practice and training efforts. It was a big deal in the snowboarding world because White was attempting different jumps that had never been done before. So his sponsors spent millions to create the perfect practice environment for him.
My short answer is no. Is it possible to run too fast or throw too hard? I don’t think so – it’s not possible to have too much physical ability, or “tools” in the baseball world. But bat speed, foot speed and throwing velocity are measures of just that – physical ability. More raw bat speed doesn’t correlate perfectly with a higher batting average or increased slugging percentage, but it sure gives you more ability to do those things. It’s like adding horsepower to a race car – the car can go faster, but you still need to be a good driver! It’s important to take those raw tools and convert them into on-field performance.