Ahead Of The Curve with Jonathan Gelnar

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May 14, 2020  

Alon Leichman- MiLB Pitching Coach, Seattle Mariners

Today we're talking with Alon Leichman, Milb pitching coach for the Seattle Mariners. Alon has an interesting background, being born and raised in Israel and then playing college baseball in the States. So we talk about his journey to the Mariners, which includes volunteer coaching in Cape Cod during his first summer after playing. What he learned as a bullpen coach in the World Baseball Classic, coaching with Jerry Weinstein. And we also dig into how we can get to better know our players and why that is vital to everything we do as coaches.
Hoops Whisperer
Show notes courtesy of Zach Casto

Alon Leichman: MiLB Pitching Coach (Seattle Mariners)

  • Surround yourself with good people. 
  • Relationships with your players are the first part of success. 
  • Get to know your staff the same way you get to know your players. 
  • This creates whole team trust. 
  • Pick the brains of the members of your staff, friends, and others. 
  • This time is a great opportunity to learn. 
  • You are either learning and growing or you are getting passed up. 
  • Take a step back and appreciate what you have during these circumstances. 
  • Have gratitude for all the blessings you are given. 
  • Spend time with the players and be yourself. 
  • Be your authentic self so that the players will trust you. 
  • When coaching players they are ELL’s don’t be afraid to mess up with Spanish. 
  • This allows the ELL athlete to be vulnerable and trust you as well
  • One of the biggest problems players have is overthinking. 
  • Have a strong enough relationship to allow players to come to you to talk about it. 
  • The sooner you recognize this the quicker the problem will be fixed. 
  • Reassure them they it’s okay to struggle and they we are all in this together. 
  • You want to get them out o an athletic mindset and not struggle with over thinking. 
  • The more we can use external cues and give the players a goal the better chance the athlete will self organize and accomplish the goal. 
  • The more we think about our mechanics the more the mechanics will break down. 
  • Without data, we must use an educated guess to help the player. 
  • When you see video: see if the delivery is fluid. 
  • When at foot strike, is the arm in a good position?
  • Is the elbow and shoulder level? 
  • Deficiencies: body limitations. 
  • Talk to strength coaches and have them help you find out these deficiencies. 
  • The arm recoil isn’t necessarily a bad thing. 
  • For some players it is natural to do this. 
  • It’s natural with some hard throwers. 
  • Recoiling is a natural deceleration for the throwing arm. 
  • Take the strengths of the player and give data based off of the technology of what you have. 
  • The data can show you where you’re at with accomplishing your goal. 
  • Individual plans and goals provide clarity for the player on what to do to dominate their role. 
  • “Process over results.”
  • Individualized plans provide buy in for the player. 
  • If you don’t know the player and the his strengths the. You won’t be able to help develop the player the best way possible.
  • Involve the player when making decisions on their goals. 
  • Don’t change without asking the player’s side first. 
  • Give evidence as to why you want to make a change. 
  • Learn to listen but don’t switch super fast. 
  • You have to know how to tell evidence to your players. 
  • “It’s not the content that you speak, it’s the way you speak it to the player.” 
  • You want to be engaged with your guys. 
  • Example: one way to be engaged is to throw with the pitchers every day. 
  • Throw different pitches with each guy.
  • Have your catchers try out different stances in bullpens. 
May 11, 2020  

Nick Winkelman- Head of Athletic Performance & Science for Irish rugby and author of “The Language of Coaching”

Today we have on Nick Winkelman, Head of Athletic Performance & Science for Irish rugby and recent author of “The Language of Coaching.”
Nick's primary role is to oversee the delivery and development of strength & conditioning and sports science across all national and provincial teams. Before working for Irish Rugby, Nick was the director of education and training systems for EXOS and oversaw the speed and assessment component of the EXOS NFL Combine Development Program and supported many athletes across the NFL, MLB, NBA, National Sports Organizations, and Military. Nick has his Ph.D. on motor skill learning and sprinting. 
On the show we talk mainly about the role communication plays in coaching, and here’s a hint, it's a big one. More specifically we get into internal and external. Cues, how we can use coaching feedback loops and we discuss the role of attention and so much more
Here is Nick Winkelman!
Show notes courtesy of Zach Casto

Nick Winkelman: Head of Athletic Performance & Science for Irish Rugby

  • “Every Coach has a story of success or failure.” 
  • Treat every athlete with respect and wanting to get to know the athletes and make them better. 
  • Coaches are molding young men or women to become better people.
  • Be precise and have your words have purpose so people are focused in on the details. 
  • The quality of a movement is dictated on how we coach. 
  • We will get better throughout time but to improve faster we must coach better.
  • You need to find the right times to be quiet, when to ask a question, and when to talk more. 
  • “How we coach gets less discussion than what we coach.”
  • We need to focus on how we coach more and communicate better. 
  • One way to help reflection is to record yourself during practice and find out how many you ask high level questions and understand when you talked too much. 
  • The players have to feel like they are part of the process. 
  • They also have to feel like they’ve created and own part of their development process. 
  • There needs to be an evaluation process and then a feedback meeting to help the athlete understand where they are at and ways to help improve the process. 
  • We need to reflect and evaluate how we communicate to connect it with how we coach best. 
  • Often times our communication is on autopilot. 
  • After a practice ask these questions: What did I say, How did I say, When did I say, and Did I make a difference? (positively or negatively) 
  • Mic up twice for 6 months, and then after that once a month. 
  • Find out your strengths as a coach. 
  • Find out areas of improvement of coaching. 
  • Reflect on why that needs improved. 
  • Is there any habits or behaviors that should’ve been used? 
  • Get the spark, get the buy in, reflect, and improve the process. (When creating a plan for a coach or player for improvement)
  • The roadmap isn’t difficult, it’s changing the mindset that is difficult. 
  • “Habit is a type of memory that requires no conscious thought.” 
  • “To change these habits we must be conscious of these habits.” 
  • Coaching is a skill that has both good habits and bad habits. 
  • The best communicators have wait time, don’t say filler words, change their tone. and are precise when they speak. 
  • “You have to want to get better because these are elusive skills.” 
  • 3 keys of effective communicators: Words we use, our tone of voice (pitch, pace, loudness) and body language.
  • The best communicators tell one story and tell the right story using these elements. 
  • “When we make players better, we become a better coach.”
  • Understand what you’re coaching before you can reflect how to improve. 
  • Know your content. 
  • If we go through the effort of changing then what we are changing MUST improve performance. 
  • “Is the problem a mechanical problem or a coordination problem?”
  • In other words is it a car problem or a driver problem? 
  • If you’re given a race car it doesn’t mean you’re going to win a race. 
  • To change the body you’re going to have to get in the gym and work with professionals to help that person reach their goals. 
  • 3 P’s of Performance
  • 1. Position: Can they get into the positions to have success of this skill? Example: Hip flexion to field a ground ball? 
  • 2. Power: Do they have the strength to optimally perform the skill? Example: Engine of the car.
  • 3. Pattern:Can they take different positions and patter the movements together? Example: taking the bat back, and swinging. 
  • For anything that is a “car” issue is going to be worked with a strength professional. 
  • The driver problems will be prioritized in order to understand how it can be changed with cues. 
  • You can’t fix a car problem with a driver cue. 
  • You have to find out what will work best. 
  • If you see a player who is struggling to learn. 
  • “You have not taught until they’ve learned.” 
  • Find out if there is a better way to help the player learn and evaluate how well you coach. 
  • If you take the change we’ve made and you’ve owned it, whether or not you know it it will become part of your new normal. 
  • If you require my reminders as your coach, then you have not learned yet. 
  • “The best coaches makes them no longer needed.” 
  • “A good teacher is a giver.” 
  • A good coach doesn’t want to develop athletes who depend on the coach. 
  • Use questions to corral the athlete to the solution. During the next session watch with your eyes before you speak. 
  • “The silence set is the opportunity to show the coach thay the athlete doesn’t depend on you.” 
  • See if the player can self correct. 
  • As long as it looks like they are exploring and trying, keep them going. 
  • People have to struggle and keep trying in order to learn. 
  • “Before you can be understood, you must seek to understand.” 
  • Understand how the athlete communicates and learn how to communicate with the athlete. 
  • “Get to know the person inside of the player.” 
  • Our goal is to hide technical terms inside cues that will help the athlete recall the proper visual to have success. 
  • Cue prop is a prop to showcase the proper technique for the athlete. 
  • Example: show a pencil to help show body positioning.
  • If our athletes aren’t paying attention then we can’t teach them anything. 
  • The athlete who is making eye contact and their body is forward then they are fully focused. 
  • People listen with their eyes, ears, and body. 
May 7, 2020  

Tyler Yearby- Skill Acquisition Specialist, Co-Founder & Co-Director of Education at Emergence

Today we have on Tyler Yearby Co Founder of emergence which is a dedicated resource and community for coaches and movement specialists looking to explore the ever growing world of skill acquisition through ecological dynamics. Tyler also works at Starters Sports Training, which trains baseball and softball players.  

Tyler’s speciality is in skill acquisition, so we go over how we can use skill acquisition techniques in baseball. A few things we go into, constraints led approach, how we know if a skill “Sticks” long term, what is “game-like” and we go into how to do this in a team 
Nonlinear pedagogy
Constraints led approach
Dynamics of skill acquisition
Dexterity in its development
“Underpinnings” course
Visual perception and action in sport

Show Notes courtesy of Zach Casto

  • Ecological psychology is how we as humans interact with the world around us. 
  • It is how we handle the information that we use around us. 
  • Examples: weight and size of the bats or the weather. 
  • Constraint Drills: Preventing different options and the athlete will have a few options to have success. 
  • Example: The amount of innings in a game. 


    • Motor Learning is something that is continually adapting over time. 
    • It views the brain as part of a larger system that creates behaviors of the whole body within a set environment. 


  • Constraints: You are giving them a problem, and the athlete will come up with the best solution that they are capable of giving. 
  • “Constraints are the search for the appropriate reaction.”
  • We are creating snippets of the game and allowing the athlete to search based off of their memory patterns for areas of success. 
  • Constraints is all about the athlete. 
  • These drills allow for individualization. 
  • “We need to remember that we all perceive things differently.”
  • The better we get to know our athletes, the better we will be able to coach them. 
  • Example: We need to know how well they pick up the spin of the baseball. 


    • We need to know if they have an attention problem. 
    • We need to know if the problem is an intention problem. 
    • “Context is what shapes the content.”
    • The constraints led approach facilitates the process of self organization.
    • Mix the pitches across the plate and allow the athlete to recognize a pitch to hit the opposite way. 
    • Direct learning: Finding out where the athlete's intentions are. 
    • Understand where the attention is. Example: The batter is finding where the pitcher’s arm slot is in order to pick up the baseball out of the hand to recognize the pitch. 


  • As a coach set up the drill that designs and allows the players to come up with the solution that is necessary for success. 
  • Players will self organize, but they will self organize with the solution that is desired. 
  • The player is interacting with the process of the problem in subtle different ways. 


    • Don’t give the players too much information. 


  • The beauty of the constraint drills is that the players self organize their bodies to have the proper solution to the problem. 
  • The player will learn a feel on how to hit the ball the other way in their own way. 
  • Example: Use a ball with black tape on it to see the spin of the ball. 
  • This gives automatic feedback. 
  • Have consequences present that tells the athlete that they made a mistake. 
  • Make sure the environment that you are creating is game-like. 
  • Have a strike zone set up with the goal of the drill. 
  • Example: The hitter is in a disadvantaged count and they are to hit the ball up the middle or the other way. An inside pitch comes in, the hitter doesn’t swing and it is a strike. The hitter will learn to foul the ball off in order to stay in the count and to be able to achieve the goal of the drill. 


    • For younger athletes use bigger balls or have a bounce in the ball to help the young athletes pick up the spin of the baseball.


  • Allow your players to use different drills or tees because that may be part of their warm up routine. 


    • “If the best of the best use this, then it must be important.”


  • The tee is helpful for the psychological aspect of hitters.


    • For younger players the tee helps the players understand the feeling of getting their bat through the zone. 
    • When they are older, timing is crucial. 
    • Players need to see the pitch by seeing the arm slot of the pitcher and seeing the spin of the ball. 


  • We need to find and use drills that will help the athletes feel and live in game-like environments. 
  • Small sided games: The game is in a small area where the athlete makes decisions under stressful situations. The athlete also interacts with information that will happen in a game. 
  • Example: Your centerfielder, middle infielder, and catcher are struggling with lining up properly. Take them and mix up the reps to where some reps are in the gap and the players need to be lined up, and routine plays such as grounders and fly balls. (Make it random)


    • Players have to understand what they need to do with different factors of a game-like environment. 


  • Example: Moving up the screen for batting practice to help the athlete see a more authentic pitching velocity. 
  • This drill helps the athlete react and perceive the game-like environment. 
  • You don’t want to live there constantly because it may be too much for an athlete. 
  • But use this if you are facing a pitcher who throws with a high velocity. 


    • Representative Learning Design: Allow for actions that is what is going to happen in a game. 
    • “Machines all the time doesn’t work either.”


  • Constraint set up: 
  • This is the objective, I don’t know how you will get there but find out how you can do it. 
  • Players will understand what it feels like when they are doing it right and wrong based off of the information after the result. 


    • We need to understand the context of the data given. 
    • When the data tells us there is a different result than what has been happening, ask the player how they felt and what they did. 
    • This helps the athlete gain understanding from what they experienced. 


  • If we want to positively help our players then the wait times need to be individualized for the athlete. 
  • Players need to experience an event a lot for the experience to be stored into long term memory. 
  • If the necessary result doesn’t happen, then we need to go back and realize why the necessary result didn’t happen. 
  • If we keep changing the constraints and the performance of the athlete goes down, then we need to slow down because we are overwhelming the athlete. 
  • Have pitchers pitch live bullpens so that the defense, pitcher, hitter, and catcher is getting game like reps and working on areas that need work. 
  • As a coach, watch the results and see how the players react to the situations.
  • Define the constraint drill. 
  • What is the intent of the task? 
  • You can change the amount of defenders in the field, the weight of the bat, the backdrop, or the count. 
  • Do what you can to make the hitter feel what needs to be worked on. 
  • We need to understand what the athlete hears, sees, and feels.



May 4, 2020  

Hugh Quattlebaum- MiLB Hitting Coordinator, Seattle Mariners

Coaches vs. Covid


Today we have on Hugh Quattelbaum, hitting coordinator for the Seattle Mariners. Q has such an awesome background from his playing career, to being a screenwriter and then becoming a coordinator. On the show, we talk about the rewards and challenges of coaching coaches, we talk about how to execute organizational principles, we talk plan/approach and mindset and how to simplify these to help the player focus. You’re gonna love this conversation and here is Hugh Quattelbaum!

The way of baseball
Inner game of tennis
Obstacle is the way

Show notes courtesy of Zach Casto

  • Hire people who know can do a good job, no matter their background. 
  • You want to hire people who have a growth mindset. 
  • Progress starts with relationships. 
  • You can’t get people to trust you, until you prove to them to trust them. 
  • When your team is struggling look at the stats and come up with conclusions while staying in the program’s umbrella to ensure success for the team. 
  • As a coach you have to be a salesperson for the culture you want to create. 
  • You can do this too by modeling the behaviors you want. 
  • Make individualization a piece of player development. 
  • “Coach your players up but let them do their thing.” 
  • “Everyone be in charge of their 20 square feet.” 
  • Everyone has a big role. 
  • “All roles are important in their 20 square feet.” 
  • Give people space to be themselves and to dominate their 20 square feet. 
  • There is always common ground. 
  • If you develop the relationship, then the common ground can be made. 
  • “Almost every idea you come up with you will realize someone else will have a similar idea.” 
  • Everyone is trying to drive towards the same thing. 
  • The key is executing the most. 
  • Execution comes from simplifying everything in your program for execution to occur. 
  • Wisdom comes from cutting out the noise and doing what is best for everyone to execute the task. 
  • “Provide the player map but don’t give them the directions.”
  • This allows the athlete to find ways to achieve a task. 
  • Provide the environment and allow them to find out how to get to the desired result. 
  • Once you’ve developed the relationship aspect is to ask questions. 
  • Example: you have a player who is struggling, the staff has decided to help the player by sitting down and asking where you think the player can improve. 
  • You can help the player find answers by having the player answer your questions. 
  • “The data doesn’t lie.” 
  • Data allows to set goals that are validated and clear. 
  • If you give untruthful feedback to your players then you will lose trust with them. 
  • “You can never go wrong with confidence.” 
  • It’s unrealistic to help a player get to a 9-10 on the confidence level. 
  • The best thing you can do is to reassure them that they got this. To slow the situation down and focus on executing their process. 
  • You don’t want them to focus on mechanics and to focus on visualization. 
  • Start with feel (movement preparation) drills before BP. 
  • Example: Work on side bend in the swing. 
  • You’re working on weaknesses as well. 
  • Continue a daily pattern of working on strengths. 
  • After this you go into Batting Practice and working on your process in preparation for the game. 
  • “Don’t forget about what you do well.” 
  • If you go into visualization for 10 minutes before going into bed focus on takes and quality hits. 
  • “There is no substitute for mix BP.” 
  • You can use a machine or thrown BP and mix pitches and speeds. 
  • You can do the three plate drill for decision training in BP. 
  • Put a medium sized cone at the bottom of the zone.
  • If the cone starts at the bottom of the cone you lay off, if it’s at the top you take a swing. 
  • “Simple wins and helps us focus on what is important.” 
  • You have to practice your approach and swing decisions. 
  • Have your players declare what they are doing so there is a goal with each swing they take. 
  • During BP, focus on an external target to hit when you’re taking swings to reaffirm the approach. 
  • You want guys to look for pitches in the damage zone (the middle of the zone). 
  • The commitment box is where you want to hit any pitch. 
  • “Stay with your strengths as much as you can until you can’t.” 
  • “Pitchers make mistakes.”
  • Don’t give pitchers too much credit. 
  • As much as you are working, you’re opponents are working too. 
  • Keep striving for excellence. 
  • Set up velo machine drill and create two teams and compete. 
  • Have players through short range BP to get game like reps and competition. 
  • Have players compete by hitting targets to compete. 
  • Whatever you track will create a competition for your players. 
  • Example: Tracking Quality at Bats.
  • “You track it and they pay attention to it.” 
  • Ask your players, when you’re at your best what are you thinking? 
  • When you’re in-game players need to work on vision and process goals rather then mechanics. 
  • If players are talking about mechanics in-game then they are not setting themselves up for success. 
  • The biggest problem players will have is confidence. 
  • “Get guys time expect the expected.” 
  • At some point an 0 for 15 is going to happen. So have your players prepare for this so this event isn’t so shocking. 
  • Keep them focusing on controlling what they can control. 
  • “You don’t want them to think it’s the end of the world.” 
  • Have simple systems they value what we value the most. 
  • Target BP is fun for players to play where they hit targets in the game and compete. 
  • Answers are found in the middle of both sides of two arguments. 


April 30, 2020  

Todd Interdonato- Head Baseball Coach, Wofford College (SC)

Coaches vs. Covid


On today show we have Todd Interdonato, head baseball coach at Wofford College. Todd is in his thirteenth season as head coach of the Wofford baseball program. He was named head coach of the Terriers on June 26, 2007 after previously serving for two seasons as an assistant coach at Wofford. With 323 career wins, he is first all-time among Wofford baseball coaches in that category. Interdonato has led the program to unprecedented success, with 30 or more wins in five of the last six seasons. 
On the show We talk about how we give a ton of ownership to players, while holding them accountable, Todd gives us some insight into how to provide clarity to players in their roles, and we talk about how to build a team offense that is multifaceted.
Show notes courtesy of Zach Casto

Ahead of the Curve Live: Todd Interdonato

    • “Say less act more.”
    • Allow for your players to discuss the expectations. 
    • Have them come up with examples.
  • “People were likely to commit when they have ownership.”
    • It is their program, let them steer the program.
  • Cabinet: Players vote on who their class representatives. 
  • This helps the coaching staff understand what each class group feels in regards to practice, culture, etc,
  • Meet with the cabinet once every 3-4 weeks. 
    • Players appreciate a consistent message, so confusion doesn’t happen. 
  • Wofford Baseball 5 Must-Haves:
  • 1.High Internal motor
  • 2. Always be developing.
  • 3. Have a high baseball IQ. 
  • 4. Be selfless.
  • 5. Play Tough. 
    • Playing tough is can you throw a 2-0 fastball down the middle with the bases loaded with the 3 hole hitter up. This might be the best chance for the team to win. 
    • You have to give players data in order to help create the best chance for buy in. 
    • Find out the must haves at your level of play in order to have consistent success. 
    • Data will tell the story of this. 
  • As a coach find out ways to perfect your role. 
  • Have the players have this same mindset. 
  • Example: As a head coach, perfect how you will address your team better every single time. 
  • Plate discipline, timing, and creating maximum bat speed. Focus on these three areas for an offense. 
  • “Simplicity is king.” 
  • Anytime you feel you haven’t done your best job messaging your players, go talk with your players so that you and the players are on the same page. 
  • “If something isn’t connecting with the team, go talk to the cabinet members and find out what can help improve the practice session for the team as a whole.”
  • “You have to prepare for the role you have, not for the one you want long term.” 
    • You have to master at one level before you can get to the goal that you want. 
  • You want all of your players to understand their role and find out how to master their role. 
  • Players need to come in with a notebook to take notes with the coaches. 
  • Players need to know what their best skill is. 
  • Example: Player says he is a good OBP guy. 
  • Coaches then say, to be at your best you need to understand the strike zone and swing at pitches you can do damage with.
  • If a player doesn’t understand their role and how to master it, then it is our fault as a coaching staff. 
    • Having this clear message creates accountability for each player. 
  • “You don’t need to focus on the next skill, you need to focus on the skill you need to master right now.”
    • What kind of disparity can we create with stealing bases and preventing the opponent from taking the extra 90 feet. 
    • We are trying to defeat our opponents in every facet of the game. 
    • Teach your players why you do certain things in the game and why the opponent would do a certain skill. This creates an improved baseball IQ and situational awareness. 
  • Do your 1/9th: Whatever the situation calls for, do your part. 
  • “It’s not what your ego needs, it is what the situation calls for.”
  • “You cannot have success without the support of your teammates at the amateur level.” 
  • Swing at the right pitch, be on time, and swing at maximum bat speed. 
  • Change from swing rounds to pitch rounds. 
  • Example: Rounds of five, five different pitches. 
  • This is great decision training during batting practice. 
    • Guys who are obsessed with their mechanics want to swing and have a lack of plate discipline. 
  • Conditional Green Light:
  • Lead, Speed, Pitchers time to the plate.
  • If the player is matched up with this criteria, then they have the green light. 
  • Understand what your players can do despite what baseball is telling you to do. 
  • Trust your players more than what baseball is telling you to do. 
  • Allow the player to make the decision based off of this criteria. (They have to trust their baseball IQ). 
  • When recruiting, have the ability to say no if the player doesn’t fit the criteria that you want for your program. 
  • The player needs to have athleticism and MUST have character. 
  • “Find ways to win with the constraints that you have.”
  • Offensive Drill: 
  • Four teams of four. 
  • Two teams are on defense.
  • One group on the bases starts at first base. 
  • The guys at the plate get one round of five swings. 
  • The team hitting will see how many times they can drive the guys on the bases in. 
  • One base runner at a time. 
  • One round with guys on second. 
  • One round with guys on third. 
  • With guys on third the infield plays in. 
  • Always starts with less than two outs. 
  • This game takes two hours. 
  • This is a mental toughness game. 
  • No more than four guys in a cage without an individual coach. 
  • Focus on an individualized approach to coaching. 
  • Players love one-on-one small group teaching. 
  • After every series or game write notes. 
  • Find out what went well, what didn’t, and what to improve upon. 
  • Film intrasquad and offense whole team games. You can see game-like instincts and repetitions from the film.
    • The best coaches can adjust to multiple situations. 
  • “An elite coach has an elite attention to detail of focus on the areas they are trying to improve.”
April 27, 2020  

Chris Holt- Pitching Coordinator, Baltimore Orioles

Coaches vs. Covid


Today we have on the pitching coordinator for the Baltimore Orioles, Chris Holt. Chris Oversees the development of every pitcher in the organization and have an increased presence on the Major League side. 
On the show we talk about how he builds in autonomy and lets the coaches in the system utilize their strengths, how we can embrace who the player is but also help the improve and we talk about what he thinks the next wave is in pitching development is. 
Show notes courtesy of Zach Casto
  • When you have a small amount of players. (6 players) play double or nothing. 
  • Players go for a double no matter where the ball is. 
  • This can build instincts. 
  • “Coordinators coach the coaches.” 
  • You have to realize you want guys around you who will do things the right way. 
  • You want your players to do things their own way in order for them to problem solve the best way possible. 
  • Once you have buy in the approach has to be “Let’s get work done.” 
  • There is less difficulty to create buy in when there is objective data. 
  • Tell players what they do well and what they don’t. 
  • Explain why behind each finding and how they can improve. 
  • Understand the player as a person and find out how they learn best. 
  • With players who aren’t buying in be honest and real with the player. 
  • Players need to realize that “We don’t have time to waste, so let’s not waste it.” 
  • Our time playing the game is very short. 
  • Be close with your players so that you can be completely truthful with them. 
  • Understand where the player comes from and his background. 
  • Spend time in the office talking to the player and what they believe in. 
  • “Players need to maintain what got them good in the first place.” 
  • We want our players to own their performance. 
  • Throw your regular bullpen and then then finish off with a game called one shot. 
  • The coach gives the location, count, pitch, and situation.
  • If the player executed this pitch then the coach will do ten pushups or some other exercise. If the player misses then they have to do the exercise. 
  • This allows you to be vulnerable around your players and creates a fun atmosphere. 
  • The next goal is to maximize the sequencing and deception aspects of the pitcher’s mix and delivery. 
  • To get a players as good of a pitch off that he can the pitcher needs to have athleticism, rhythm, and tempo in the delivery. 
  • The pitcher must have a be on attack mindset. 
  • There must be an intent behind the work instead of an intent to throw hard. 
  • “Intent is having a purpose.” 
  • The next wave of guys are those who can pitch vertically and horizontally. (Nightmare repertoire). 
  • Work on simplifying what you are saying for clear understanding. 
  • Get into the art of cues. 
  • This can help players understand to maximize their performance. 
  • “You want to be simple and concise.” 
  • Find out what kind of learning that excites the players. 
  • Players need to understand that failing is a part of improvement. 
  • Be positive and enthusiastic with the player. 
  • Take complicated aspects and simplify it down to simplistic terms. 
  • When reading and learning focus on what speaks to you. 
  • Your thoughts become your habits, and habits become your performance. 
  • Whatever we are learning, we need to create mastery in order to teach it well. 
April 23, 2020  

Tracy Smith- Head Baseball Coach, Arizona State University

Coaches vs. Covid


Tracy Smith, the 2013 National Coach of the Year, was hired as the fifth head baseball coach in program history on June 24, 2014, and enters his sixth season at the helm of the Sun Devil baseball program. Smith has established a reputation of evaluating and developing talent as more than 75 student-athletes since 2000 improved their stock in the Major League Baseball Draft under Smith’s tutelage, including four who became first-round draft picks after going undrafted out of high school. In 23 total years as a head coach, Smith has seen 85 of his players selected in the MLB Draft, including 78 draftees since 2000 and 35 in the first 10 rounds. He has mentored 53 Major League Baseball draft picks over the past eight seasons.
On the show, we talk about his ecosystem of winning and the Arizona State culture. We go over how to establish clear expectations and communication with players and staff and we talk about what the look for in recruits and how that sets the tone for culture on a daily basis. Here is Tracy Smith! 
Show notes courtesy of Zach Casto

Ahead of the Curve Live: Tracy Smith (Arizona State University)

  • Every day is an opportunity to learn and assess the information you have. 
  • During this pandemic, try to find out where your team is at in order to have a clear plan for the future. 
  • When you go to a new program. Assess what you have and find out what will be successful. 
  • You have to find kids of a certain skill set that will develop. 
  • Look at physical attributes that allow for players to have a high ceiling. 
  • Have individual time before practice where you can have one on one practice with the players.
  • This helps the players to take their time and improve at their pace. 
  • Have a good staff around you in order to improve the team. 
  • The culture you want has to work for you and the program. 
  • It’s important to have the support and proper message from home in order to have a healthy program. 
  • Work really hard to identify kids and families that are all in. 
  • Achievement of goals isn't going to happen overnight. 
  • You can learn a lot about a player with how the player carries himself before, during, and after the game. 
  • Body language is so important to see. 
  • You want a strong culture to create extended success of the program. 
  • You want your upperclassmen to model the standards of your culture to your underclassmen. 
  • How will players respond to adversity?
  • You want your players to be able to adjust and be willing to learn and grow. 
  • Go through every aspect of the program and find out how each person impacts the success of the program. 
  • Grade on a 0-10 scale. 
  • You will find out where you are putting your time in. 
  • You will also write down jobs to be done for each aspect in order to have success in your role. 
  • Keep it to three jobs to be done. 
  • This gives everyone direct responsibilities and accountability. 
  • This is a business plan. 
  • “You hire good people because you can teach them to do anything.” 
  • The bad hires go back to their personality. 
  • “I don’t care who gets the credit as long as we have team success.” 
  • You want your staff to have open dialogue to improve the program. 
  • You want a staff that wants to consistently learn. 
  • The players that are easiest to coach have a process to do what they want to do. 
  • They are intrinsically motivated. 
  • Team standards are what you live by and model every single day. 
  • Players are going to figure out how to live and model the standards properly. 
  • You want your players to own their own performance. 
  • This helps them become their own best coach. 
  • The player needs to learn their own feels and mechanics through the help of the coaches and the player. 
  • If you’re having to focus on off the field behaviors, then you cannot maximize your abilities. 
  • Players have to have good behaviors in order to maximize their abilities as an athlete. 
  • Do activities with your players in order to have the players see you more than just a baseball coach. 
  • Example: have lunch with them. 
  • The more coaches can do things outside of the baseball setting, the more the players won’t feel afraid or untrusting because they will know who you are. 
  • “The more players can observe you off the field, the more they will trust you on the field.” 
  • Focus on the repeated bad decision after one bad decision. 
  • Find out what’s going through the mind of the athlete. 
  • Give them examples of when you messed up in order to help the athlete. 
  • “There are actions and consequences. Who controls that?” 
  • “Education is Power.”
  • Use science (pictures and videos) and the consequences of sleep deprivation, drugs, and alcohol. 
  • This helps the players understand what they need to do. 
  • When you can get guys to compete and learn from the competition then growth will occur. 
  • You want your players to learn how to get comfortable when they are outside of their comfort zone. 
  • Be creative to find this. You don’t want to hurt your athletes though. 
  • Spider Drill: (Outfield Drill)
  • Helps determine range. 
  • Cone in CF
  • Put a screen with a tarp over it on the mound. Have three machines at home plate. 
  • The outfielder can’t see which machine is being fed. 
  • All the outfielder can see is the ball. 
  • Players can’t cheat in this drill. 
  • You learn who has the quickest reaction time and who is getting to what locations. 
  • Chart the areas to objectively know who caught the ball where. 
  • What players and coaches will remember the most is how much fun you had with your players. 
  • Part of our jobs as coaches is to mold and develop people. 
  • Success is bringing all walks of life together to have success. 
  • Lay clear expectations and have the guts to follow through with those expectations. 
  • “Do what is right regardless of how it’ll impact you.” 
  • Have a rule, if your player screws up call the head coach. 
  • Be a father figure in that situation. 
  • “Purpose over passion.” 
  • If you love the game there are no bad jobs. 
  • “There is no such thing as a tough decision because if you’re clear with convictions your decision has already been made.” 
April 18, 2020  

John Savage- Head Baseball Coach, UCLA

Coaches vs. Covid


Today we’re joined by UCLA Head Baseball Coach John Savage. Through 15 seasons as UCLA’s head coach, John has established the Bruins as a consistent national championship contender. Savage helped UCLA reach college baseball’s pinnacle in 2013, as the Bruins won their first-ever NCAA baseball title. Under his guidance, UCLA has advanced to the postseason in 11 of the last 15 seasons, hosting an NCAA Regional in six of the last 10, including four-straight from 2010 through 2013.
Savage completed his 15th season as UCLA’s head coach in 2019. He is currently the third longest-tenured head coach in UCLA baseball program history and has gone 539-360-1 in the past 15 seasons.
On the show, we talk about steps he and his staff have taken to build the culture, we get into staff development, we talk about competitive situations in practice and much, much more. Here is John Savage!
Show notes courtesy of Zach Casto

Ahead of the Curve Live: John Savage (Head Coach UCLA)

  • When you develop your beliefs and become a head coach, trust yourself and be yourself.
    • Players will notice if you aren’t being your authentic self. 
  • As a head coach, be organized and delegate duties to assistants and trust them. 
  • Be present in the moment as a head coach. 
    • That allows for you to be the most helpful. 
    • Good pitching and catching will determine how good your team is at the end of the day. 
  • Organization, communication, and being a true team are crucial for the success of a program. 
    • Keep in mind that you need to know your players. 
    • This will allow for you to not go in and take away repetitions from the players. 
    • Hire coaches due to needs and allow for them to do their job and trust them to do it. 
  • Ensure that your coaching staff isn’t saying the weaknesses out loud to the team during practice. 
  • Also stay away from saying this because it could cause a wall to go up between you and the other coach. (Essentially be a professional). 
  • It takes time to become a good program. 
  • Different teams each year have different strengths and character. 
  • You want every single thing that you do to have a championship look.
  • The more you can teach guys to be part of that culture, the quicker the progress will happen. 
    • Good teams have good leadership. 
    • The players in quality programs know how to keep the culture where it needs to be.
  • As a coach it is important to model how the culture should be in order for the players to recognize what to do. 
  • Through time, the players will start to respond how the coaching staff will and how the culture wants the response to be.  
  • As a coach you want your players to be mentally tough and not focus on things they cannot control. 
    • You need to work on the individuals first before you can focus on the team.
    • This helps you learn the players first, and then focus on the team and players after that. 
    • Loyalty and trust of the coaching staff is crucial to have for a successful team. 
    • As a high school coach it is important to teach your players how to act, compete, and respond to adversity. (College coaches look for this along with academics and off the field character). 
  • “Good character makes great teams.”
    • At the end of the day, the best teams and athletes are consistent. 
    • “The game is supposed to be played a certain way.”
    • It comes down to how do you want your players to look and respond?
    • When you see something good or bad let the players know, but handle both situations in a respectful way in order for the athletes to not feel put down. 
  • “Timing has to be right for a coaching staff to give messages.”
  • You want rational messages, not emotional messages. 
    • “You want to keep building success not tear down success.”
    • “The game can flip on you quickly.”
    • Make sure every player on your team feels like they matter to the team. 
    • Example: Bullpen catcher helps the pitchers gain feedback before or during a game. 
    • “Players need to be ready when they get called upon.”
    • You want your players to walk with a sense of confidence. 
    • One negative player can feed upon to the rest of the team and hurt the culture. 
    • “Unless you help the player to make a change, they won’t do it.” 
    • Treat and care for others the best you can possible. 
    • The more we get to know our players, the more we can help improve their life. 
  • Make sure when you are working on improving mechanics, focus on one mechanic at a time. 
  • This allows for the player to not be confused and to have a clear understanding of what needs to be changed. 
    • “Present things to the player in order to build confidence.”
    • Talking to players and investing in relationships will allow for you and the coaching staff to understand how to handle each player in order to coach them the best way possible. 
  • You learn about how much to talk with players through experience. 
  • It is important to lead rationally and not let emotion take over decisions. 
  • “You can’t get wrapped up in the results in a game. You are taking blows in a game, so how you respond is important.”
    • You want rhythm and tempo to your team when competing. If you can control the flow of the game, then you are in control of the game.
  • Everyone’s developmental clock is different, so be patient. 
  • Sometimes you won’t have players develop until their Senior year. 
    • If you have players show that they are doing the right thing, then it will be easier for them to have the opportunity to reach their potential. 
    • Make defense a crucial part of your program. Players have to be able to defend well to play defense. 
  • Help your players find their roles. 
  • Whatever the player has shown that he can do then that will be the role. As they improve the role increases. 
  • Example: Jimmy can get a hit in pinch hitting roles, as he improves with defense he earns an opportunity to start and makes the most of it. Jimmy becomes a starter due to his hard work. 
    • Players have to learn how to be patient. It takes time to develop skill. 
    • Be honest and upfront in where the player is in their development so they understand their role. 
  • “You have to give players hope. You do this by giving opportunities.”
  • Example: If you are up 10-0, allow a player off of the bench to pinch hit and make the most of the opportunity. 
  • You don’t really know what you have until you play other teams. 
  • That is where you find the pulse of the team. 
    • If you don’t have Left Handed Pitchers then you will have to teach your Right Handed Pitchers how to pitch to get Left Handed Hitters out. 
    • Make the most out of what you have. 
    • “If you want to pitch in the Big Leagues, you need to have the ability to get the opposite handed hitter out.”
    • Put your players in competitive environments and watch how the player responds to failure in front of their teammates. 
    • It is during this opportunity that you can help teach the players how you would like them to respond to failure. 
    • Try to have enough of a competitive environment in order for the players to realize what they need to improve upon. 
    • The quicker you know your deficiencies the better off you will be. 
  • Players need to be versatile and have different tools in order to solve different problems. 
  • “You need to be able to hit 76 as well as you hit 86.”
  • As a coaching staff map out what the year will look like. The assistant coach that has the specific position will teach the staff what they would like to do. This will allow for the coaching staff to learn and to find out the best path of the team. 
    • The number one component part of a staff is loyalty. 
  • You want coaches who are just as smart or smarter than you on your staff. 
    • You need to be honest with your players. 
    • They will respect you more if you do this. 
    • You can’t take things personal, if you do then you will find yourself in a rut. 
    • Players must be able to commit to the rules of the team. 
  • You don’t know what you have until you have it. So be patient with the development of the player. 
    • There is always something that will surprise you with a player and will need to be worked on by a player. 
    • As a coach, don’t make a fool of yourself. 
    • Be a good role model to those that you coach. 
  • “If you are going to call pitches then you better see every bullpen.”
  • Rhythm, pace, and tempo is all about timing. 
  • Pitching and hitting are both based on timing. 
  • If you can’t pitch inside, then practice it. 
  • As a pitcher you don’t want to beat yourself. 
  • So in a game pitch outside until you have confidence to pitch inside. 
  • Pitchers need to be just as good out of the stretch as they are in the windup. 
  • It’s an old adage but it is so true. 
April 17, 2020  

Kirk Bradshaw- Founder of Athletic Training Institute (WA)


Today we have on Athletic Training Institute founder Kirk Bradshaw. ATI works with athletes and individuals who aspire to be athletic to develop and maintain their potential utilizing Muscle Activation Techniques, Performance enhancement and integrated systems.

On the show, Kirk and I discuss how athletes compensate, which is vital for our survival but can be a good or a bad thing for out athletic movements. We get into muscle activation techniques and a ton of different ways to recover including sleep and what we eat. This was such an enlightening conversation, and you’re gonna love it with Kirk Bradshaw!

Contact Info




April 16, 2020  

Hitting Coaches- Ron Prettyman- University of Washington and Neil Walton- Cal State (Northridge)


Todays conversation is with two college hitting coaches in Neil Walton from Cal State Northridge and Ronnie Prettyman from the University of Washington. 
On the show, we discuss how they train hitters through collaboration and freedom. We talk about how we (as coaches) can best adapt to our players, we go over game planning, scouting reports and how to adjust.  Both of these guys are rising stars on the collegiate level, and you don't want to miss this conversation with Ronnie Prettyman and Neil Walton!

Neil Walton Contact Info

@ _neilwalton11

Ron Prettyman Contact Info