In my search for incredible baseball resources here in Rhode Island, I met local coach, dad, physical therapist, baseball fundamentalist, and all around good guy Jason Harvey. 5 tool talent in baseball is considered to be a top level baseball player who has speed, power, defensive ability, and more. After speaking with Coach Jason and learning about Elite Physical Therapy, his involvement with youth sports, and his coaching mindset with Little League and Ken Ryan Express Baseball, I would definitely label Jason Harvey as a 5 Tool Baseball Resource here in RI. And now, here is Part 2 of my interview with Coach Jason Harvey of Elite Physical Therapy. And if you missed Part 1 of my interview with Jason Harvey, you can get up to speed by clicking this link – Getting To Know Jason Harvey.
The RIBBE – What are the 3 biggest concerns you see in young baseball players, answering now as a movement expert?
JH – As a movement expert, my biggest concern is not only sport specialization but what I call position specialization at a young age. The research shows that the biggest risk factors of injuring the elbow in youth baseball are height and weight. Simply put, the tallest and heaviest kids usually throw the hardest, so they are leaned on to pitch all the time. I always see coaches who have one kid as a catcher for the entire game and the entire season. They will only have the best player play SS without moving them to other spots to develop their sense of fielding flyballs or see the game from a different spot on the diamond. This creates movement patterns in their throwing mechanics and fielding that are difficult to adjust as they get older. Another concern is the lack of emphasis or inclusion of lower body strength, agility, and coordination development. To throw, field, run bases, and swing, players need proper footwork, strength in their hips, stability in their core, and controlled dynamic multiplanar movement. I see basketball and soccer teams doing a lot of “conditioning” drills early in the season but it is very rare for baseball teams to include this conditioning in their programs to improve their athletic ability. I will see players who routinely can’t perform a drill in practice because their body can’t move in a way to do what I’m asking. This requires more movement development than skill development. The third concern that I will mention is the understanding of how to properly build up a player to perform at their best. Whether it’s pitching, hitting, or catching, understanding when players become fatigued and when we should work to increase their ceiling or limit their reps is something that is not often understood. Likewise, I constantly hear coaches just telling players what to do instead of understanding that we all learn in different ways. Some kids can learn, and change movement based on hearing. Some need to see videos or pictures while others will need to feel what the coach is describing. The proper building of a players ability may also be hindered by a hyper focus on pitch counts. Pitch counts are often being used by coaches to maximize their competitive advantage and not taking into account the development of the player. Pitch counts are definitely a great tool that has been added to youth baseball to prevent having kids throw 200 pitches in week. It is not uncommon for kids to throw 30-35 pitches per inning. Rules of the past limited the amount of innings a player could pitch in a week to 6 for 8-12 year olds. This would allow them to pitch upwards of 210 pitches in a week with no regard for rest and recovery. The current pitch smart pitch count rules should decrease some of the incidence of elbow injuries in youth baseball. Monitored in the absence of development planning and correction of mechanical flaws, players may still be left in danger of suffering an injury. A player who pitches 80 pitches for AAU on Saturday followed by 20 on Tuesday, 20 on Wednesday, and 20 on Thursday for Rec will probably have trouble going 80 again on Saturday for AAU. If the player had an extra day of rest on Tuesday, threw 40-50 pitches on Wednesday, and then didn’t throw again until Saturday he would be in a great position to be ready to handle the work load. The player would have had time to recover and even strengthen the shoulder the day after the pitching outings. I do get nervous that a player’s mechanics will not be taken into account when tracking pitch counts. Kids with bad mechanics should have a lower pitch count. Kids with great mechanics can safely get to higher pitch counts. The mechanics should fall into a window of acceptability. If the flaws are outside the window, the player’s mechanical flaws must be addressed to improve their ability and reduce the injury risk. Besides pitch counts, the proper warm-up and recovery routine should also be taken into consideration when dealing with players who do routinely pitch for the teams they play on. Just focusing on pitch count is not enough and could lead to improper training.
The RIBBE – Are these concerns something a player can overcome with proper technique and practice?
JH – Players can overcome mechanical flaws in their throwing motion, swing mechanics, and fielding footwork with proper training. Just like anything else, our bodies are great adaptability machines. They will adapt to whatever we consistently do or how we consistently move. Playing multiple positions and playing multiple sports helps to develop a youth players movement patterns so that they can maximize their athleticism on the ball field. By training how to generate ground reaction forces from the legs, the baseball player can attenuate forces at the elbow and shoulder. This improved use of the lower half will increase the players ability to generate bat speed, pitch speed, and foot speed.
The RIBBE – How do you define success with your youth baseball players? Wins, strikeouts, driving the ball consistently?
JH – I define success with my youth players by their consistent ability to generate good movement patterns. If their swing mechanics are good, I know that they only need to develop better timing to see results. If their pitching mechanics are good, I know that they will be safe as we work to increase their ability to generate force as we build them up in a progressive manner. If the movement is there, the results will follow. If the movement is off, the timing and everything else will be really hard to correct. The player will be risking injury if they try to create more force out of poor mechanics. I also define success by a player being able to consistently do what they have been trained to do. The game of baseball can be a harsh game. You could crush the ball in 4 consecutive at bats and have nothing to show for it. If the fielders happen to be positioned in the right spot, they may have made every catch. I would just encourage the player to keep the same approach so that they keep the same movement pattern. This will engrain the pattern so that when the baseball gods intervene and the law of averages takes over, those shots that were being caught will start finding holes. The same is true for pitchers. Sometimes the hitters are just hitting and our fielders are not in the right spot or making plays. The pitcher should maintain the same mind set if they are throwing strikes with good mechanics. I define success through the process instead of the results. It makes coaching and the game much more enjoyable for me and the players that I coach.
The RIBBE – What tips can you give a young coach just starting out with youth baseball?
JH – Learn as much about the swing, throwing motion, and fielding as you can. Teach your son and players that you coach how to do things properly even if you don’t see immediate results. The results will come. The more efficient great movement patterns become the better off the player will be and the more power and velocity they will be able to develop safely through their career. I would also say to be process driven. Focusing on the results can leave you and your players frustrated and confused. Focusing on the enjoyment and opportunity of the process to develop will keep you having fun and get you and your players through the moments when the results are not what you wanted. Focusing on the process also keeps you, the players, and parents in control of emotions throughout the season.
The RIBBE – How can we find you online, social media wise?
JH – And you can click on this link – Elite Physical Therapy on Facebook