The summer is a time period for baseball players that can be used to get healthier and stronger for the upcoming school year. There are some things to consider when reflecting back on the school year in order to determine whether or not you should continue participating in sport specific movements. These points to consider are an attempt to think about how much “work-load” has accumulated over the past school year. Too much work-load during the school year will increase injury risk over the summer, and make it difficult to perform at an optimal level.
Demands of being a multi-sport athlete
Someone who participated in sports specific activities in the fall, winter, and spring have not had an extended period of time away from sports specific activity during the school year. Guys that play football have the special privilege of participating in spring football right around the time summer ball is getting started. Combine this with being a full time student and you have a lot of workload that can be accumulated during a high school year. It is important to consider whether you are apart of this population as playing multiple sports can be a quite demanding.
With that being said, high school students should be encouraged to play multiple sports in high school! Kids should strive to experience as many different athletic situations as possible in order to gain a medley of movement patterns. It has been shown that the top tier of athletes in major sports in the USA participated in multiple sports growing up (Here) so whenever your kid expresses desire to try to learn a different sport, one should encourage this endeavor.
If you have been participating in football in the fall, wrestling in the winter, and baseball in the spring, there is nothing wrong with that! But when you add a full length summer baseball season immediately following all of this high sport specific activity, you might not have the proper rest and recuperation necessary to prepare for the following sports year. Spending time away from sports and focusing on getting stronger in the weight room allows one to return to the absolute strength side of the continuum (Here). If your entire school year was spent in absolute speed then there is a good chance you lost some mass and need to get bigger and stronger.
What kind of spring season did you have?
The spring season that you have will have a lot to do with what you decide to do that following summer. Were you a pitcher who started the first game of a series and then proceeded to relieve for a few innings in the finale? You must reflect on the season that was and be able to figure out how many competitive reps occurred. Competitive reps can be considered a pitch thrown, a base stolen, an at-bat, a pick off move, that occurs during the competitive (spring) season. They are “competitive” because each example listed is performed to maximal potential. Overtime, these reps can have a compounding effect breaking the body down. Eric Cressey makes sense of this concept by explaining how doing arm care is like making a bank deposit whereas performing a throw (especially off a mound) is like making a bank withdrawal (Here). How much work was done on the field compared to in the weight room?
High workload can result in bodily asymmetries that can be a precursor to injury.
How your body held up during the spring is also another huge piece to consider when deciding to play summer baseball. Did you constantly have pain on the front of your shoulder, on your biceps tendon, on the back near your shoulder blade? These issues have resulted from taking a lot of money out of the bank and not making enough deposits. These issues will be exacerbated during the summer season.
At the same time, maybe you sustained a serious injury (broken bone), that is not an overuse injury. You could not participate in baseball activity but it gave you the time to put in extra work in the weight room. You have been making deposits (working out, doing rehabilitation) but have been taking a “break” from sports specific activity (money in the bank). If this is the case, summer ball might an option for you. A slow start might occur because no competitive reps have taken place, but you’ll be better able to withstand a summer season.
The value of non-competitive reps
If one decides to not play competitively over the summer, that does not mean that one should avoid hitting, throwing, playing catch, etc. Once a person has alleviated any chronic pain issues through proper training strategies, that person should start a progression that ends with mechanically sound game repetitions.
As a hitter this progression starts with taking dry swings, then hitting off a tee, then front toss, then to someone throwing overhand batting practice, and so on. As a pitcher this could start with simple catch play working to increase distance and intensity in a gradual manner. Then progressing to a flat ground and then finally a bullpen session. The Summer is a great chunk of time to progress at whatever pace is necessary to go through these progressions pain free. It allows for ample time to develop a secondary pitch as a pitcher or work out some mechanical flaw in one’s swing. By taking a break from competitive reps and instead focusing on non-competitive reps, one can better fine tune mechanical adjustments that might remain unchecked during a summer baseball season.
Outwest Baseball best tee around!
If you decide to train over the summer, recognize the amount of free time that results from not having any school or organized sport activity. It is important to remain productive not only lifting but taking advantage of these non-competitive reps.
We look to keep kids under 100 competitive innings for the year.
This player’s summer will best be spent recovering from a long season so that he is ready to pitch in the fall and leave a good first impression for the new coaches that he will be playing for.
What is this player's biggest window for adaptation?
This player could use the 30-40 innings in a developmental sense by working on areas of pitching to carry over into the following year. This could include developing a pitch, working on a pick off move, or even focusing on doing some PFP’s (pitchers fielding practice).
If this particular college wants us to develop this pitcher as a starter, we might restrict his starts to 3-4 innings per outing. He would throw up to 30 innings over the summer. That way he still has about 10 to use in the fall.
The emphasis should be about getting as many “quality” reps in as possible. Performing continuous high repetitions of a specific movement (throwing/hitting) with poor mechanics is going to increase the risk of injury. Rob Panariello explains in this guest post on Bret Contreras’ site (Here): “Excessive exercise performance quantity (volume) will likely result in undesirable high levels of accumulative fatigue, as well as the undesirable negative attributes associated with an athlete who demonstrates excessive levels of fatigue.” Being mechanically sound is going to allow the body to recover much easier as well “Proper exercise performance (technique) will not only reduce the likelihood of training injuries but also allow for energy system efficiency, optimal recovery, and when appropriate, for the eventual safe application and efficient exercise execution of higher exercise intensities as prescribed in the athlete’s training program design.”
Caveat to all examples: getting healthy is always the priority. If you're trying to throw over the summer get healthy first. Summer exposure is super important for players looking to move to college. If you go into the summer having to rehab first you might be missing out on important opportunities to get seen.