The other day, I got a pretty bad case of the sniffles (no, it wasn’t covid). I had a sore throat, fatigue, didn’t handle caffeine well, and had no motivation to do really anything. Everything was kind of blurry. Given I had a pretty big work event coming up in a few short days, this was less than thrilling. It was going to be a long weekend if I didn’t start to feel better soon.
Naturally, as a 25-year old who doesn’t really get sick, I called my mom. I wasn’t home. I didn’t have any medicine – not like I had much at home anyways. My Claritin quick-fix didn’t quite seem to work. As a result, I needed a better solution. Moms are pretty good at providing advice in these situations.
As I talked through my symptoms on the phone, she gave me a list of things to go buy. Of these included Sudafed (had to look up a picture of this one), a nasal spray, and vitamin C tablets. I think something else was probably in that list, but I decided this was sufficient. Anything was better than what I had come up with on my own.
Much to my dismay, the drugs didn’t really seem to take an immediate effect. I still kinda felt like shit. As a result, I decided to give myself an earlier bed time. I went to bed at 9:30 pm for the next few days. I let myself roll out a bed a little later, still waking up around 6:30 am to get my morning lift in. I ditched my morning coffee. Every few hours, I would use my nasal spray. I’d use Sudafed about twice per day (not sure what the daily dosage was, but figured this was okay?). I hammered about 5,000 mg of vitamin C per day. Maybe more, honestly. Depended on whether I was bored and wanted something to chew on.
After day one, I started to turn a corner. I woke up and my throat didn’t feel like hell. My energy for my morning lift was better. I felt less fuzzy throughout the day. After day two, I felt pretty close to normal aside from some congestion and a sore throat. By day three, I felt like a million bucks. I could hold down my morning coffee and my resting heart rate didn’t take three hours to fall below 80 bpm. Sure enough, mom’s advice worked.
At least I think it worked?
Something about what I ended up doing over the next 72 hours had a big impact on how I was able to get over my cold. However, it’s just tough to pinpoint exactly what had the biggest impact. Was it the Sudafed? Nasal spray? Sleep? Exercise? I wasn’t sure.
This is where I ended up drawing a cool parallel to baseball.
When athletes come to us with a problem, they’re essentially presenting symptoms of a virus. That “virus” has become a barrier to performance. Whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional, they need help eradicating it. They might have tried something before (like me trying to cure a cold with Claritin D). They might have a big game coming up, they’re not performing well, and they’re hammering the panic button (relatable). Either way, they need help from a specialist. They need a doctor who can provide an accurate diagnosis and prescribe them the medicine that’s going to cure their virus.
As I found out with my mom’s advice, these prescriptions aren’t often simple. They’re never one thing. It’s a combination of things. For me to solve my cold, I needed a decongestant, nasal spray, vitamin supplements, exercise, and a healthy dose of sleep. Our athletes are no different. To get over their “cold,” they’re probably doing to need an adjustment that attacks the physical, mental, and emotional components of their performance.
Someone who pushes out of their backside might need a drill they can warm up with (step back swings), a thought to help execute that drill (stay centered, feel balanced), and a way to make that move come to life in the box (take a deep breath, relax). They came in with a virus. The prescription for that virus, however, is never a one-stop quick fix. It’s usually a detailed, deliberate, and holistic plan designed to eradicate it on a number of different levels.
Here’s the tough part: While the prescriptions you design are never one thing, most people want to boil down them down into one thing. This creates a slippery slope. The next time you get sick, you’re not going to focus on everything that helped. You’re going to try and find the one thing that helped the most. This is a problem. The reason why that might have helped the most is because it was done in combination with several other things. Are you sure that one thing is going to be most effective when it’s the only thing you do next time?
I fell victim to this. When I started to feel better, I wanted to attribute feeling better to one thing. I wanted to come up with a theory that created simplicity. Was it the Sudafed? Was it the nasal spray? Better yet, was it nothing my mom told me and was just sleeping eight hours per night for the first time in months the remedy I really needed? The more I thought about it, the more I realized how flawed this perspective was. Getting myself to feel better didn’t boil down to just doing one thing. Everything I did probably helped me feel better. It all mattered.
As coaches, we have to do what my mom did for me. We have to recognize a specific virus, develop a theory on potential contributors, and then create a multi-faceted prescription using our experiences, knowledge, and intuition. Athletes who are struggling to find velocity aren’t going to just gain it doing max intent bullpens three days a week. It’s going to come down to a multitude of things:
- Training habits and routines
- Managing workload
- CNS stimulation
- Movement repatterining
- Psychological mindset
- Belief systems
You don’t gain velocity by just adding velo drills into your throwing program. You gain velocity by making strategic and deliberate adjustments in several of these areas. You started going to bed earlier and sleeping better instead of playing video games long into the evening. You started to eat breakfast instead of skipping it because you woke up at 11 am. You started to train more consistently and with a purpose instead of showing up sparingly and throwing shit at the wall.
Is one of these areas going to make a bigger impact than another? Maybe. However, we can’t view it through the lens of a science experiment. There are no insignificant variables when it comes to elite performance. Everything matters. When I was sick, there wasn’t just one thing that helped me feel better. Everything – from the sleep to the vitamins – helped me get over my cold. We have to view our interventions with our athletes through a similar lens. It’s never going to be one thing. It’s going to be a combination of things. Most of them appear small in nature, but over time add up to something much bigger.
You know that 15 minute warm up you piss away everyday because you’re too busy catching up with your buddies? That’s an hour of development per week you’re wasting. Just think about what that looks like over a six month period. John Wooden’s UCLA basketball teams started every season by learning how to wear their socks and tie their shoes. These are the kinds of decisions that most people glance over when they view success. However, they are the things we need to pay most attention to. There are no insignificant variables when it comes to elite performance. Everything matters.
Now a question for you: What are the little things you are not taking care on a daily basis that are impacting your long term development?