I may be attempting to predict the future, but Eric has one-upped me.
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) July 30, 2014
He knows I’ve consistently sung the praises of the right arm of Indians pitcher Corey Kluber. I’m fascinated hearing about the mental toughness of the man going toe to toe with King Felix tonight in Cleveland. The timing of this post is impeccable.
Well played, Cressey. Well played indeed.
I’m fortunate to have a unique perspective on the current state of baseball. At Cressey Sports Performance, we work with athletes as young as 12 years of age and count as clients players from all 30 Major League Baseball organizations.
In light of this perspective, just about every conversation I have with parents, coaches, and kids invariably winds up leading to the question, “What separates the best from the guys who don’t make it?”
My answer is always a single word: consistency. The guys who “make it” and succeed are far more consistent in every aspect of their preparation than the ones who don’t.
Beyond our love of strength and conditioning, Gabe and I share a common bond: we’re both big Corey Kluber fans. For Gabe, it’s likely because of the way Corey pitches and his knowledge of forward-thinking statistical analyses of Corey’s accomplishments. For me, it’s because I’ve been fortunate to work with Corey for the past four years, beginning when he was “just” a Double-A pitcher.
The prevailing school of thought on him is he’s an unexcitable guy who has come out of nowhere. Seriously, “doesn’t smile” and “he must have just figured it out” are the centerpieces of every Corey Kluber discussion. Well, I’m here to burst your bubble: Corey actually has a great sense of humor, and his success is anything but accidental.
Each year, I write an October strength and conditioning program for Corey. A lot of players go on vacation to “recharge” for 4-6 weeks, and some even wait until the first of the year to start preparing for Spring Training. It’s certainly less common than it used to be, but there literally are guys who do zero exercise for 2.5 months.
Corey recognizes that taking care of his body is a year-round job, not simply a switch one can flip on and off when it’s convenient. Now, don’t get me wrong, we aren’t destroying him in the weight room that month. We focus on undoing the imbalances and weaknesses created by an absurdly long competitive season. We’re rebuilding work capacity, getting soreness out of the way, improving tissue quality and re-establishing proper nutrition and sleep patterns. This has guaranteed consistent athleticism throughout the year, as he hasn’t detrained like other players.
The end result? Corey has gotten an additional 4-6 weeks of off-season preparation over the “typical” MLB player over the past four years. Consistent effort yields consistent results. His average fastball velocity has increased each year he’s been in the big leagues – even as he has gotten older and thrown more innings and 2-seam fastballs.
You can’t get better at baseball (or any pursuit) if you aren’t healthy enough to play baseball and put in quality work. With the exception of a freak finger issue last year, Corey has taken the ball every five days for the past five years. His hard work and preparation have put him in a position to be healthy enough to “figure it out.”
In light of all the comments on how Corey rarely smiles on camera, I’d note that consistency of mindset is incredibly important. The guys who “make it” are the ones who don’t need to be talked off the ledge after a bad start on the mound or a 4 K day at the plate. They develop coping strategies, whether it’s reading the bible, golfing, playing with their kids, or messing around with video games, which they use whether they win or lose. Corey doesn’t get too up, and he doesn’t get too down.
I could go on and on about how he – without even knowing it – makes coaching him very easy. He clearly communicates how he’s feeling, asks questions if something isn’t clear, and – like clockwork – reminds me a week before he needs a new program. Success doesn’t happen by accident; it happens for those who’ve consistently worked hard and smart to deserve it.
While my title might be “strength and conditioning coach,” I view my biggest role as one of “educator.”
It’s my job to counsel athletes on how their bodies are unique and what they need to do to stay healthy over the long haul.
It’s my job to educate them on how – while it is approached much differently – in-season training is as important as the work they put in over the off-season.
It’s my job to relate to them that consistency in nutrition is as important as consistency in training; you can’t perform if you haven’t given your body the right fuel and building blocks.
It’s my job to explain to them why year-round baseball is a terrible idea if the goal is long-term development and health.
It’s my job to teach them how to avoid getting too “up” and too “down” after outstanding and poor performances, respectively.
If more athletes – regardless of level – took a step back to look at their developmental approach, they’d realize that success is about much more than finding the perfect exercise, magic supplement, newest glove or coolest walk-out song. It’s about consistency. Just ask Corey Kluber.
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