A few months back, I met Coach Gary Howard and was lucky enough to interview him for the RIBBE. (Diamond Fitness) At the time, Gary had mentioned a mobility and functional assessment test he used with his training clients and baseball players. He offered to assess my baseball player son, Harrison, and I gladly accepted. And last night, we were able to meet with Gary at It Starts Here Fitness in Warwick for The Functional Movement Screen Test.
First off, Gary is fantastic with kids. He is a parent, a head coach, a trainer, and knows how to communicate to a wide range of individuals. His focus is laser sharp as he is listening to your concerns about your child. My concern for Harrison is that he grew so fast in the last 2 years that his mobility and running gait needed to be assessed. Gary’s initial assessments, just seeing Harrison stand, involved his posture, foot being turned slightly outward, shoulders tight on one side – all great feedback. Gary explained the Functional Movement Screen Test to me and that I would be receiving feedback from him and an email summarizing the results of the test. Very cool and within a few minutes, Gary and Harrison got started on the test.
The Functional Movement Screen test measures 7 areas of flexibility and mobility. Some are basic tests of functional movement and others are more complex to dig deeper into how the athlete moves. Each of the 7 individual assessments is scored for proficiency and rated as acceptable, passable, or failing. Gary explained the test assessments in full detail to both Harrison and myself and gave a brief demonstration as well. Harrison would then perform the assessment with Gary close by to instruct him on proper form and be available for visual and verbal feedback.
After each assessment was completed, Gary would go to his tablet and record a score/rating. In addition, he would explain to me and Harrison why the test was important, what muscle groups were involved, and the correlation to functional baseball movement. His hands on approach to helping Harrison understand how his body works and how he can improve was just awesome to be a part of. Shoulder mobility, not just your throwing arm but both arms. Rotary stability, why do you need that as a pitcher? Truck stability, why is that important to a hitter? Gary took a lot of time to explain why these movements are so critical to the young athlete. I could see the wheels turning in Harrison’s head. He knew that to get to the next level of competition – Middle School, High School, even College baseball – he would have to work on his body movement skills.
Gary Howard works with clients at It Starts Here Fitness as well as XLR Batting Cages and Massage Envy, Cranston. He asked me if it was okay to stretch Harrison to improve his hip flexibility, one of the major areas of concern Gary had with Harrison’s test. I agreed and Gary brought out his treatment table. He worked on Harrison’s shoulders and hips for about 10 minutes to help improve flexibility. After he was finished, he showed Harrison some body weight exercises and stretches that could improve his hip, ankle, and glute muscles. Finally, he had Harrison run a few lengths of the gym so he could assess his running and gait. Gary was quick to point out key mechanical flaws in Harrison’s running and gave some expert advice as to form and running technique. All for him to continue to get better athletically.
As we were finishing up, I received a “ding” on my phone with the assessment results. It came on a 10 page sheet with the individual assessment explained, Harrison’s scores, and some recommendations for activities to promote good functional movement. I can use this sheet now as a guideline for Harrison as he progresses as a teenage athlete. Gary was fantastic throughout and spent a lot of time with us. Harrison felt energized having going through the assessment and learning how an athlete can get better through proper functional training. There was no pain, no soreness after the test and even into this morning before school for Harrison. I was an incredible learning experience with one of Rhode Island’s top baseball and personal trainers – Coach Gary Howard of Diamond Fitness and Training.
To learn more about Gary, contact him on Facebook on his page – Diamond Fitness and Training