MLB Player Development & Sports Science
Welcome to the last in my series of MLB sports science and elite performance.
You can catch the previous two if you missed them here:
As we all know investment in players has reached an all-time high and planning a careful pathway for their long-term career is essential for the teams sustained success.
Sports science gives a great opportunity to teams to observe the player as a whole and help identify where the players are limited and how to help them sustain their career.
Limiting Factors & Compensating
As we know great players are able to compensate for some limitations in one area by maximizing the positive impact of outstanding capacity in another. Sometimes this is quite pronounced and obvious: even a casual fan may notice when a player makes up for being limited technically, tactically, and psychologically by using their physical gifts to the fullest.
The most recent example the world witnessed was of course Tiger Woods overcoming obvious incredible physical limitations. In other cases, an athlete’s competence might be fairly even across the four (Tactical, Technically Physical and Psychological)coactives, and the need to compensate is much less noticeable.
Tactical, Technically Physical and Psychological (TTPP) Factors
Great players are able to adapt such compensations over time as their careers evolve, and it’s fair to say that if an athlete is to continue their career, they must be able to constantly develop all elements of their game – tactically (game sense, perception, positioning), technically (skill, awareness), physically (speed, power, stamina) and psychologically (concentration, awareness, resilience). Flipping this upside down, they also need to stay in the game to advance these elements.
For example, a pitcher needs a minimum level of physical ability and health to be able to stay in the game long enough to develop resilience psychologically, and then to be able to spend enough time improving physically to then improve technically and tactically. The pattern recognition, decision-making speed, and emotional fortitude needed to dominate a World Series takes time to develop.
Tactical, Technical, Physical and Psychological Career Development
(adapted from Game Changer)
The same goes for athletes in any team sport. While a young, precocious team can have unexpectedly early success, for this to be sustainable there needs to be a cumulative level of experience that has allowed enough players to get close to their maximum potential in each domain.
The importance of Health as the TTPP Foundation
Conversely, as players age, it is their increased technical, tactical, and psychological acumen that enables them to prolong their careers, even as their physical abilities start to erode. It is also essential that they recognize the increased importance of health factors that enable adaptation and recovery, such as sleep and nutrition. Maintaining a solid health foundation will limit the degree to which physical prowess declines and impacts overall performance. Health is also, of course, key to the preservation of technical, tactical, and psychological elements and this is where sports science can have an immediate effect establishing proper lifestyle habits.
It’s critical to remember that great technique can also buy time. If you have good technique and are continuing to improve physically, you can do well enough to stay in the game so that your tactical, technical, and physiological abilities can progress. Of course great technique also helps avoid injury over the course of a career. At the highest level, this is really the practical application of a “ratchet theory”—as time goes on …
- Players develop at different rates over their career
- Great players compensate better than their peers
- Health is the foundation for all aspects of long-term career progression (TTPP)
- ‘Staying in the game’ allows many intangibles (experience, resilience) to be developed naturally if the environment & culture is right
- Identifying and developing the players limiting factors them you extend their effective career