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Career Capital in the Fitness Industry – Part 1

Written on July 22, 2014 at 7:02 am, by Eric Cressey

I just finished reading a fantastic book, So Good They Can't Ignore You.

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In his book, author Cal Newport goes to great lengths to demonstrate just how terrible "follow your passion" is as career advice. It's a compelling read, especially for those who are working hard to develop a career they genuinely enjoy.

Newport argues against the "passion" approach, as it can lead individuals down a road that may not be financially viable; just because you enjoy something doesn't mean that you'll be able to make a living doing it. This may be because there isn't sufficient demand in the market for it, or because you might not have sufficient "career capital" to be successful enough early on to actually stay in business. "Career capital," according to Newport, consists of "rare and valuable skills;" you need these to acquire the "traits that define great work." And, as the author also points out, being very good at what you do is actually more closely linked to job satisfaction than income alone.

Newport continues with several case studies to support this "Career Capital Theory:" people work long and hard to acquire rare and valuable skills (don't forget Malcom Gladwell's 10,000-Hour Theory) that give them more and more control over their careers by making them coveted and/or indispensable in their field of study. This control doesn't just afford them more compensation and flexible schedules, but also enables them to gradually test the waters to determine whether one specific avenue or "niche" is best for long-term career satisfaction.

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This is a stark contrast to the fitness industry, where many folks have lost their life savings opening gyms because they enjoyed exercise - but didn't have the rare and valuable skills required to be successful in the fitness industry. It leads to the question: why are some people very successful in the fitness industry - even with mid-life career change - while others fail miserably? What are the "rare and valuable skills" that allow them to succeed?

Before I answer these questions, though, I thought I might shine a little light on how Newport's theories spoke directly to me. To be candid, growing up, I never expected to work in the fitness industry. In fact, it was quite the opposite: I went to college thinking I was going to be an accountant.

However, around that time, I had some health problems, and as I got healthy, had to learn a lot about proper training, nutrition, and recovery so that I could put weight back on and get my strength back. I realized that it was something I enjoyed, and learning in this realm came somewhat naturally to me. After much deliberation, I decided to transfer to a new school to pursue exercise science - but I still "hedged my bet" by doing a double major in sports management and exercise science. I had two years of business school under my belt, and wanted to continue to nuture my entrepreneurial spirit (and avoid losing a lot of college credit).

Over the next two years, I worked for $7/hour at a gym to learn everything I could about the industry - all while I was taking classes. Simultaneously, I was rehabbing my shoulder from a chronic tennis-related condition, so I was "accidentally" finding a niche within a niche. Without even knowing it, I was building career capital while testing the waters to make sure it was actually what I wanted to do. I might not have gotten 10,000 hours under my belt by the age of 22, but I was definitely well on my way - and it put me in a position to know that I wanted to go to graduate school for exercise science.

At graduate school, I had the opportunity to "feel out" what I wanted to do without much risk. I got involved in the human performance laboratory to see if research was for me (it wasn't). It was only when I volunteered in varsity strength and conditioning that I found something I genuinely enjoyed, and I recognized that I could do well and be very happy working in collegiate strength and conditioning. Interestingly, I spent most of my time working with soccer and basketball players while I was there.

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As it turns out, I tested the waters in the private sector when I first left graduate school, and enjoyed working in that realm. Over the subsequent few years, I trained as many people - athletes and non-athletes alike - as I could possibly fit into my schedule. I honed my skill set, learned about what I enjoyed the most, gradually created more and more autonomy in my schedule, became financially stable, and recognized a sustainable, underserved population (baseball players) where I had unique expertise. Without even recognizing it, I had built career capital and started to "purchase" the coaching life I wanted.

That was 2007, when we founded Cressey Sports Performance. I've had seven more years to acquire career capital in a number of different contexts - actual training knowledge, interactions with athletes, managing employees, cultivating business relationships, evaluating opportunities, and a host of other areas - to put us the position we're in (opening a second location in Jupiter, FL).

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Back in 1999, I had no idea training baseball players would be my ideal job. And even if I had known, I probably would have fallen flat on my face if I'd tried to follow this passion. I didn't have enough rare and valuable skills to be successful at that point.

Fast-forward five years to 2004, and my current business partner and I watched the Red Sox win the 2004 World Series together. It was an awesome moment for us as baseball fans.

Another five years later, we owned a business and were training two of the athletes that were on the 25-man Red Sox roster that won that World Series. It was an awesome moment for us as business owners who'd earned and redeemed career capital.

"Follow your passion" IS horrible career advice; "build career capital" isn't. In Part 2, I'll discuss what "rare and valuable skills" one needs to be successful in the fitness industry. In the meantime, I'd strongly encourage you to check out Newport's book, So Good They Can't Ignore You.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 7/20/14

Written on July 20, 2014 at 9:36 am, by Eric Cressey

After a one-week hiatus, it's time for another installment of recommended strength and conditioning reading:

So Good They Can't Ignore You - This is a tremendous book that was recommended to me by my good friend, Luka Hocevar. If you've ever gotten the career tip of "follow your passion," this book will set you straight with outstanding examples of why it's terrible advice, and how to best build the career you want. I'll be discussing it in more detail in an upcoming blog as well.

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Butt Wink is Not About the Hamstrings - Amen, Dean Somerset, amen. Your butt isn't tucking under when squat because you have "tight hamstrings."

Dinosaur Logic - This is a great post from Dirk Hayhurst about the idiocy of people thinking that professional pitchers (with Masahiro Tanaka's recent injury as the example) are getting hurt because they're weak and getting babied. It actually came out right after this article I wrote on a similar topic, but from a different perspective: Are Pitchers Really Getting Babied?

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Cressey Sports Performance Just Turned 7!

Written on July 14, 2014 at 4:48 am, by Eric Cressey

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance co-founder and vice president, Pete Dupuis.

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Lost in all of the excitement surrounding yesterday’s announcement of Cressey Sports Performance’s soon-to-open second facility, is the fact that our business officially turned seven years old yesterday! It was on the 13th of July way back in the summer of 2007 that Eric, Tony and I decided to dive headfirst into an entrepreneurial lifestyle.

Rather than recycle the same old song and dance covering a list of our seven proudest moments, I will be taking a new approach in the 2014 edition of our annual birthday post. This time around, I’m going to outline the seven reasons that we are in a position to begin expanding our business and brand to other parts of the country.

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This isn’t going to be a seven-point bullet list of “how to add additional locations to your existing model”. Instead, this is going to be my way of highlighting the importance of employing good people who genuinely care about their clients, care about each other, and make it a priority to have fun every time they show up to work. I don’t think that Eric or I currently do enough to illustrate how much we appreciate our team, so this piece is a long time coming.

Gym owners with book smarts are useless without a good team

The first discussion point I like to cover during our business consultations here at CSP is the fact that the foundation of our success is quality customer service. Who really cares if you’re exceptionally talented at assessing athletes and designing individualized programming if you’re socially inept to an extent that people can’t bring themselves to spend 90-minutes with you?

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With this in mind, it should make perfect sense that I believe the seven “reasons” we’re in a position to expand are actually the collection of faces that our clients see on a daily basis. We couldn’t possibly open a second gym AND continue to operate our showcase facility simultaneously without an exceptional team of individuals who are dedicated to making both places special.

To give you a feel for what I’m talking about, consider this…

Over 3,000 athletes have now trained at CSP. That means 3,000+ assessments, some multiple of that number in individualized programs, and just a shade under 100,000 supervised training sessions executed since 2007. It is probably going to blow some people’s minds when I tell you that Eric didn’t assess every athlete and write every one of these programs himself. In fact, assessment and programming responsibilities are spread evenly throughout my staff of strength coaches here at CSP, and each one of them has their own unique specialties under our "umbrella."

What I think makes our staff amazing

This piece serves as MY perspective on what makes our entire staff unique, inspiring, caring, talented, ambitious, etc. There are, in fact, exactly seven of us who qualify as full-time staff here at CP. Since I happen to be one of the seven, you’re all about to get cheated out of a seventh “reason”, because I’m most certainly not covering what I like about myself!

Here’s a look at six people who I believe qualify as the crème of the fitness industry crop, beginning with our newest team members:

Stacie Leary – Office Manager

While Stacie is not a coach here at CSP, she is the first person that every single client through the door encounters. Stacie started as a client in 2013 and fell in love with the training environment. When our last Office Manager Paige departed (CP Hall of Fame staff member, by the way), Stacie was the first to inquire about the position.

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In the brief time since she’s been a part of our team, I’ve had more than a few clients find their way into my office to tell me that she’s doing an exceptional job. Her attention to detail borders on psychotic, which is EXACTLY what we need at the front end of our business.

Most importantly to me, Stacie genuinely cares about doing her job to the best of her ability. This is reflected on an almost daily basis as I receive text messages and emails from her making suggestions for improving the customer experience here at CSP. All of these messages roll in during times when she is “off the clock.”

Andrew Zomberg – Strength and Conditioning Coach

There are a lot of characteristics about Andrew that I appreciate, but my favorite happens to be the way he came to be part of the “CSP Family.”

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Back in the beginning of 2012, we decided to hire a new full-time strength coach. We chose to open the opportunity up to candidates from all different backgrounds and Andrew submitted an application. When the dust settled on the close to 100 candidate materials we reviewed, he happened to be in the final three candidates for a position that ultimately went to Greg Robins.

Fast-forward to the spring of 2013, when I found Andrew’s name at the top of the applicant pool for our coming summer internship. While this may not have been the most shocking occurrence in the world, I really appreciated the fact that he was eager to earn a spot in an unpaid internship program a year after just barely missing out on a paid opportunity with us. Not to mention the fact that Andrew and his wife were expecting a child, and settling in to a new life in New Hampshire after having recently relocated from Philadelphia.

Long story short, he genuinely cared about becoming a better coach. His decision to put in hundreds of unpaid hours to accomplish this over the coarse of that summer ultimately resulted in a full-time offer being extended his way. I’ve been thrilled by his contribution. And, his devotion to continuing education still remains strong; he spent his last "day off" observing elbow and knee surgeries.

Greg Robins – Strength and Conditioning Coach

As noted above, Greg became a member of our team back in the spring of 2012. Since that time, he’s coached thousands of hours of training sessions, assessed countless athletes, and designed more programs than he probably ever imagined he would. He’s also been a regular contributor to EC’s website, and helped me to build a thriving bootcamp program here at CSP.

Outside of being a well-liked coach on the training floor, Greg is undoubtedly the quirkiest individual I’ve ever met. He sings loudly (completely off-tune) at unexpected times, has survived entirely on the brisket he smoked in his backyard for multiple weeks at a time, and has a strange fashion sense.

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This past spring, as we were transitioning our Office Manager role from Paige to Stacie, I asked that each of my coaches work a single day of the week at the front desk so that they could gain an appreciation for the front end of our services. I think that our coaches tend to underappreciate this piece of the client experience, so this seemed to be the most effective way to educate them.

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Greg took the role seriously, showing up for his first day at the front desk wearing a blazer. When I asked what inspired him to clean up his look, he told me “I wear gym clothes in the gym, and office clothes in the office. There’s no in between with me.” As you can see above, I requested that he pose for a picture. Since he insisted that we figure out a way to incorporate the plant and a baseball bat, I opted for a nice spread of images.

Never a dull moment with Mr. Robins, and I love it.

Chris Howard – Wears many hats

Other than our co-founders, Chris is by far the longest tenured CSP staff member. He completed an internship with us during the fall of 2008 and ultimately joined the team as a full-time strength coach just over a year later upon completion of a massage therapy program. Chris is a strength coach, licensed massage therapist, nutrition guru, and internship education coordinator here at CSP. He does it all.

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I know for a fact that Chris cares as much about this place as us owners do. I say this because he makes his way in to my office at least once a week with one or more ideas of how we can improve our systems. He is single-handedly responsible for recording and documenting all of the content delivered in our weekly in-services and for creating an on-boarding manual for our incoming interns which essentially has them arriving on day-one ready to coach. Most importantly, he takes the initiative to systemize, organize and distribute all of this material on his own.

Earlier, I mentioned that my staff members care about not only our clients, but also each other. Chris clearly illustrated this concept just a few short weeks ago when he and his longtime girlfriend Jess volunteered to drive to my house on a Saturday night and babysit my three month old son so that my wife and I could escape for our first date night as parents.

Much like the rest of my team, Chris is as much a friend as he is an employee.

Tony Gentilcore – Co-Founder & Strength and Conditioning Coach

Tony is the most humble personality in the fitness industry. As one of the faces of CSP, Tony is a prime example of the continuity our clients look forward to in their training sessions. What these clients usually do not realize is that outside of the walls of our facility, Tony has thousands of loyal readers, Twitter followers, and fans in general who rely on his training insight on an almost daily basis.

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One of the problems with being as nice as Tony can be, is that he is vulnerable to relentless verbal assaults from people like Matt Blake, and often finds himself the subject of our “Quote of the Day” featured on the CSP Facebook Page. To this day, the most “liked” quote I’ve ever shared came from a 14-year-old female client who said:

“You know what, Tony…at first you appear to be a pretty intimidating guy with your big arms and shaved head. But then you wont stop talking about your cat, and I realize that you’re painfully soft.”

As much as it is fun to bust on his gentle nature, this underappreciated style is what makes him such an effective coach and talented writer. He was standing right there alongside me with a broom in-hand seven years ago as we prepared a brutally hot empty warehouse to be our first gym, and for that reason will forever share a bond with Eric and me.

Eric Cressey – President, Strength and Conditioning Coach, Future Exhausted Dad

Given that you are reading this on Eric’s website, I obviously do not need to outline his resume.

All I will say is this: Eric literally cares about every single aspect of how this business operates, from the program design, to the equipment selection, to social media, and everything in between. He eats, sleeps, and breathes Cressey Sports Performance.

One of the more common questions I receive from industry professionals considering opening their own facility is how to go about finding a business partner who clicks with you on both a personal and professional level. Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer to this question. I say this because Eric is truly one of a kind. Not only is he the smartest person in every room he walks into, but he also happens to have a work ethic that does not exist in anyone else. It is for this reason that I expect CSP to be uniquely productive and successful for years to come.

How’s that for a competitive advantage?!?!

Pete Dupuis – Vice President & Business Director

This guy shows up, answers calls, writes a few emails, and calls it a day. His report card reads: “Meets Expectations.”

Note from EC: in working in some humor, Pete has failed to give himself the tremendous amount of credit he deserves. Without him, the trains don't run on time at CSP, as every hour of training requires an hour of planning that goes on behind the scenes. And, logistics aside, we have Pete to thank for the unique look of our facility, witty "Quotes of the Day"on our Facebook page, and the fact that every training session is actually a social experience where clients feel right at home. We wouldn't be where we are without him and the immense amount of intellectual and emotional "capital" he's invested in the business.

Here's to seven more years of fun!

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Cressey Sports Performance is Coming to Florida!

Written on July 13, 2014 at 5:53 am, by Eric Cressey

It’s with great excitement that today, I can announce that we’ll be opening a second Cressey Sports Performance location – this one in Jupiter, Florida – this September!

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We’ve carefully contemplated this decision for years, turning down many other opportunities for expansion until we felt the time, location, and situation was right. And, most importantly, we wanted to make sure that our second location would be the right scenario for us offer the same high-quality training experience and family environment that’s available at our original facility in Massachusetts.

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Cressey Sports Performance – Florida will be a 7,770 square-foot facility that will offer both semi-private and private training for athletes of all ages and ability levels, and certainly for anyone looking to look, feel, and move better. For those who aren’t familiar with Jupiter, it’s on the east coast of Florida – roughly 90 minutes north of Miami and 45-60 minutes north of Fort Lauderdale, and just over 2 hours southeast of Orlando. Our facility is right off the main turnpike, I-95, and very accessible to spring training facilities for the St. Louis Cardinals, Miami Marlins, and New York Mets – not to mention some of the best “baseball hotbeds” in the country. We feel strongly that it’ll be a great place to utilize our passion and expertise to help athletes stay healthy, perform at a high level, and work toward their goals with our comprehensive, synergistic approach to long-term athletic development. This approach has played an instrumental role in more than 60 clients from our MA facility being selected in the Major League Baseball Draft over the past four years.

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As part of this expansion (and as you may have noticed from my initial paragraph), we’ll be going through a very subtle “rebranding,” shifting from Cressey Performance to Cressey Sports Performance. Folks have always said that our logo looked like a “CSP” more than a “CP,” and we felt that the shift would make it easier to better demonstrate what our services are all about. So, expect to see #CSPFamily posts on social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter), and that’s how we’ll refer to the brand moving forward.

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Joining us in this endeavor are two incredibly skilled, passionate coaches, Brian Kaplan and Shane Rye. And, even more importantly, they’re two genuinely great people who are in the fitness industry for all the right reasons, and serve as outstanding role models for impressionable young athletes. Over the years, I’ve sent many of my professional athletes to Brian and Shane, and the feedback has been outstanding. They’ve also spent considerable time at our Massachusetts location, and we’ve collaborated in a distance-based context on a number of amateur players and general fitness clients, so we’re very excited to see what happens when we put our heads together under one roof!

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My wife and I will be splitting our year between our Massachusetts and Florida locations. And, of course, our mascot, Tank, will be “taking his talents to South Beach” (or at least a few hours away from it).

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We’re also extremely excited to continue our strong relationship with New Balance, a company that has done things right in the baseball community, providing great footwear, equipment, and experiences while heavily emphasizing charitable involvement among its athletes. New Balance Baseball will be prominently featured at CSP – Florida, and we’re grateful for their support. We’re also excited to announce more great collaborative baseball efforts in the future between New Balance and CSP.

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Additionally, I’m happy to announce a new collaboration between Cressey Sports Performance and TRX, a company that has done a great job of pushing innovation and cutting-edge training, equipment, and education in the field of strength and conditioning. TRX equipment and ideas have long been an integral part of our training system, and we’re pumped to take things to the next level.

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I could go on and on about how excited I am about the facility, but there are still a lot of loose ends to tie up before we open, so I’ll hold off on going into crazy details (especially since I won't have pictures for you until our renovations are complete). Still, if you’re looking for more information on the facility, our approaches to training, and the services we'll offer at CSP-Florida, email CSPFlorida@gmail.com and we’ll take good care of you.

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Thanks to everyone has supported Cressey Sports Performance over the years. We look forward to seeing you in Florida when we’re up and running!

PS – We are also looking forward to providing an accessible continuing education opportunity for fitness professionals in Florida, so we’ll be hosting several seminars throughout the year. If you'd like to get on our mailing list to be notified of events on that front, please shoot us an email to let us know. Thanks!


Baseball Injuries: Are Pitchers Really Getting “Babied?”

Written on July 10, 2014 at 3:51 am, by Eric Cressey

Today, I want to tackle another argument that gets thrown out there a lot nowadays in the baseball world:

"Pitchers are getting hurt because we're babying them."

Usually, this phrase comes from more of an “old school” coach who simply doesn’t appreciate how substantially the game has changed over the last 20-30 years. Flash back to the 1980s and 1990s, and you’ll see the following differences:

1. Kids weren’t heavily abused with year-round baseball at a young age, so there weren’t as many damaged goods arriving in collegiate and professional baseball.

2. Strength and conditioning was simply non-existent at all levels. As quantifiable proof of this evolution of the game, recent research has shown that the average MLB player’s body weight increased by roughly 12% between 1990 and 2010. Bigger, stronger athletes throw harder – and guys who throw harder get injured more frequently. All those guys who threw 86-90mph in the 1980s would be out of jobs if they played nowadays and didn’t strength train.

3. Video analysis was archaic back then as compared to now. Nowadays, throwers at all levels can optimize mechanics much more easily with the help of technology. Better mechanics should reduce injuries, but we have to realize that optimizing mechanics usually also equates to greater velocity. Efficient movement is efficient movement, so this is likely a “wash” in terms of injury risk.

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4. Travel wasn’t as stressful at the professional level. The game has expanded to include more teams (which equates to more travel) and nastier time zone changes. That wreaks havoc on players more than the typical fan realizes.

5. The season was slightly shorter. This is likely a trivial difference, but with the expansion of the wild card at the MLB level – as well as the World Baseball Classic every few years – the season has been stretched out a bit. Anecdotally, it seems that more and more players are heading out to play winter ball as well.

6. There weren’t nearly as many guys throwing cutters. This pitch isn’t very friendly on the elbow, and it seems like everyone is throwing it nowadays.

7. The pitching side of the game wasn’t as specialized. Nowadays, outside of starters, you have set-up guys, lefty specialists, righty specialists, and closers. It seems counterintuitive, but the more specialized a pitcher you are, the more likely you are to pitch frequently. And, this doesn’t just include getting into games, but also the number of times pitchers throw in the bullpen, but don’t go in the name (a scenario that is not-so-affectionately known as a “dry hump” in professional baseball).

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8. Sports medicine wasn’t as advanced. This is a bit of a leap of faith, but I’d say that modern medicine has made it possible for pitchers at the highest level to throw through a lot more arm discomfort than in previous decades. The anti-inflammatories/analgesics are more powerful and they’re sometimes handed out like candy, so you have a lot of scenarios where minor issues become major injuries over the course of time because they’re masked pharmaceutically.

Take these eight points all together, and you realize that we have taken already damaged pitchers and provided them with tools (strength and conditioning and video analysis) to help them move at greater velocities than ever before, throwing more stressful pitches than ever before – and then pushed them out into a longer and more stressful competitive calendar than ever before – where they pitcher more frequently than ever before. And, sports medicine has trended more toward making it easier for them to push through injuries than preventing injuries in the first place.

How the heck does that equate to us “babying” them?

This is on par with sending an experienced racecar driver out to the Daytona 500 track in a beat-up old lemon and having him drive it as fast as he can for 250 days per year. Would you be surprised if the car broke down, or the driver crashed and was injured? Would you say that the car or driver was “babied?”

Go ahead and let all your starters throw 150 pitches per game, and leave ‘em out there for 300 innings. Dry hump all your relievers until they don’t sit down in the bullpen all season. And, be sure to let me know how it goes.

The current system hasn’t “babied” pitchers; the pitch count and innings restrictions were a response to the dramatic changes to the game that have effectively destroyed the long-term health of pitchers. Look at the velocity drops (and, in some cases, injuries) of CC Sabathia, Tim Lincecum, Josh Beckett, Dan Haren, Mark Buerhle and others who have racked up a lot of innings at a young age. While other players their ages may be able to preserve (or even increase) their velocities, these guys are on the steady downslope. Do you really think the problem is that they haven’t pitched enough?

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This leads to a very important clarification I should make: I’ll agree that pitchers need to throw more – but only if that means they pitch less. In other words, we need to get them away from specificity. We know too much specificity hurts them – and we also know that pitching off the mound dramatically increases arm stress as compared to flat-ground throwing. Whether it’s long toss, weighted balls, flat-ground work, or a combination of all these things, players need to find a way to build or preserve arm speed without the stress of the mound.

On the whole, pitchers aren’t being babied. In fact, in most cases, they’re being pushed more than ever before – and if you just keep pushing, something will always give.

Looking to get more insights on our long-term approach to developing baseball athletes? Check out one of our Elite Baseball Mentorships.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 7/6/14

Written on July 6, 2014 at 5:52 am, by Eric Cressey

I hope everyone had a great 4th of July. After a quick blog hiatus, we're back to it today with some recommended strength and conditioning reading:

Elite Training Mentorship - In this month's update, I have a webinar - "Do You Really Need More Thoracic Extension?" - as well as two exercise demonstration videos and an article. Tyler English has some excellent content in this update, too.

Connecting with Cressey - Ashley Crosby, director of social media for the Cape Cod Baseball League, came up to hang out at Cressey Performance, and wrote up her experience. Also, here is a follow-up piece on the CCBL website that goes into even more detail.

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The Not-So-Ugly Truth About Gluten - TC Luoma did a great job with this piece for T-Nation.

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A Quick Lesson on Long-Term Athletic Development

Written on June 27, 2014 at 1:59 am, by Eric Cressey

On Wednesday night, the Vanderbilt Baseball team won the first men's national championship in any sport in school history.  I'm absolutely ecstatic, as we've trained several current Vanderbilt players as well as some of their former players who are now in professional baseball, and I have a great relationship with the coaching staff.

To make the moment even more special, a long time Cressey Performance athlete, Adam Ravenelle, came on to get a six-out save in the deciding game three:

While Vanderbilt baseball's 2014 season is a amazing story in itself, there's a sub-plot that warrants mention as well, and Adam serves as a perfect example. "Rav" was a 5-10, 125-pound 8th grader when he first timidly walked in to Cressey Performance back in the summer of 2007.  At the time, he was a baseball player - but also a golfer, tennis player, and basketball player.

As a freshman and sophomore in high school, he played golf, basketball, and baseball. As a junior, he pared it down to basketball and baseball. Only when he was a high school senior did he trim things down to one sport - and even then, it was after he was already committed to play at Vanderbilt, and a serious MLB Draft prospect (he was drafted in the 44th round out of high school in 2011, and then again in the 4th round this year).

His teammate, Tyler Beede, is another one of our athletes. Ty played football, basketball, and baseball as a freshman. He went to football and baseball as a sophomore, then down to baseball only as a junior. He regretted leaving football, and went back to playing his senior year - and was still a 1st round draft pick in 2011 (and again this year).

I vividly remember a conversation I had with Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin in the winter of 2009-2010 when he talked about how he's always reluctant to recruit baseball-only guys. There are so many incredible benefits to playing multiple sports, from avoiding overuse, to developing general athleticism, to making friends in different social circles. If you look at the roster that just won a College World Series for Vanderbilt, you'll see that recruiting perspective is readily apparent. Look at their roster, and only 9 of the 34 guys come from states that could be perceived as "year-round baseball" states: Georgia, Florida, Texas, California, etc. There are a heck of a lot more guys from Massachusetts, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Kentucky and (of course) Tennessee - all states where it gets cold and snows in the winter, making year-round baseball a lot tougher. Most of the guys on the Vanderbilt roster were great athletes in other sports as well. In fact, of the 9 to which I alluded above, two - Carson Fullmer (FL) and Dansby Swanson (GA) - were praised by the ESPN announcers for their success in other sports (karate and basketball, respectively).

Early specialization might work out for a small percentage of young athletes, but it fails miserably for the majority. And, you can never go wrong with finding and developing general athleticism. Look at Vanderbilt's track record of success over the past decade (and their significantly lower injury rates), and it's impossible to argue. Let kids play, and not just baseball...they might just "surprise" you by winning a national championship.

Congratulations to the Commodores!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 6/23/14

Written on June 23, 2014 at 5:17 am, by Eric Cressey

Here's this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning reading:

The Changing Face of Youth Baseball - Here's an awesome guest post by Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria for former MLB player Gabe Kapler's website. It's must-read material for every baseball parent and coach.

High Performance Training without the Equipment: Installment 2 - In light of the popularity of Andrew Zomberg's recent post on training with little to no equipment, I thought I'd bring this old post of mine to the forefront. This one features good options for training the rotator cuff if you don't have access to cables or bands.

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Checklist for Determining Movement Dysfunctions and How to Get Over Them - Dean Somerset did an excellent, thorough job with outlining the training process, from assessment to correction and subsequent programming. Part 2 was a great follow-up, too.

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6 Key Qualities for Long-Term Athletic Development

Written on June 10, 2014 at 11:48 am, by Eric Cressey

This past week was the 2014 Major League Baseball Draft, and we watched the three days excitedly, as 18 Cressey Performance athletes were selected - including six of the top 100 picks. Among these 18 picks, there were actually several kids who spent their entire high school careers training with us, and one even started with us in middle school. With these guys in mind, I got to thinking a lot about factors I believe helped them to be successful over the long haul. Here are a few that came to mind:

1. They were all multi-sport athletes for at least part of high school.

There's a common misconception that professional athletes have been destined to be professional athletes from the time that they were six years old, so that should be all they should do. It's simply not the case. Time and time again, when I ask our pro guys what sports they played growing up, they share that they did everything. In this group of draft picks, we had basketball captains, great golfers, a D1-caliber football quarterback, a potential NHL draft pick, a long snapper, and one that even started out as a better tennis player, then switched over to baseball. The point? You have to be a good athlete before you can be a good baseball player.

Where does strength and conditioning fit in?  Well, to some degree, I see it as another sport that guys can play even after they specialize. Among other things, it affords them the variety they lose in their daily movement patterns.

2. They were "likable" guys and could roll with different social circles.

This might sound weird, but I think the ability to make friends easily is important for long-term athletic success.  If you're someone who can't get along easily with others, you'll always be distracted in a team environment, and never able to put full focus on training. Unless they're unbelievably skilled, the guys who say and do the wrong things invariably wind up weeding themselves out.

As a funny example, check out this video of Adam Ravenelle and Tyler Beede. They first met and became friends in 2008 at Cressey Performance. They were from different towns, but actually both wound up committing to Vanderbilt in 2010.

Both were drafted out of high school, but chose to honor their commitments to Vanderbilt - where they were roommates. And, look who was sitting next to Ty as his name was called in the first round of the draft last week:

 

Adam was drafted in the 4th round a day later, and I know Ty was his biggest fan.  Both these guys made friends easily, and it allowed them to benefit more from the environments they were in. They could bounce ideas off of big leaguers who trained at the facility, find throwing and lifting partners to push them. Perhaps most importantly, their likable demeanors made it possible to treat CP as an "escape" for a few hours when other parts of their lives were distracting or chaotic. When you're a self-centered ego-maniac jerk, you can never escape. With few exceptions, you have to be a good person before you can be a good baseball player.

3. They wanted to be part of something bigger.

One of our 18 players came from a troubled family life about which few people know, and it was a huge step for him to fill us in on the struggles with which he'd dealt. As a sophomore in high school, he did his initial evaluation with Brian St. Pierre (our first employee). About a year later, Brian moved to Maine to go back to school, and the athlete opened up to me about how bummed out he was about it because Brian was one of the few who "knew his story." In short, the coaches at CP had become more of an extended family than just a bunch of coaches.

Since then, he's been one our biggest advocates, referring several teammates from high school, summer, and college ball to train at Cressey Performance. Much like he's always been a great teammate on the baseball field, he's been a valued part of the CP Family. You have to be a good teammate before you can be a good baseball player.

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4. They never put the carriage in front of the horse.

Looking back on the initial evaluation day for each of these athletes, I can honestly say that not a single one of them ever told me that professional baseball was their goal. As an interesting story, I'll never forget the day I evaluated Forrest Wall, the 35th overall pick this year by the Rockies. It was literally weeks before I had any idea that Forrest was a very established prospect - and I only found out that was the case when someone else "in the know" encouraged me to look him up in more detail. Here was a family that had every reason to brag about how talented their son was, and they went out of their way to avoid it, staying incredible humble the entire time.

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Had they told him and everyone around him how great he was all along, would have ended up with the same outstanding character and work ethic that he has today? And, would he have been drafted the other night? It's impossible to say, but what I can tell you that my experience has been that there is generally an inverse relationship between how much a parent brags about his kid, and how hard that kid works.

Looking at our 18 guys, I can honestly say that on their first day at CP, some didn't even comment that they wanted to play college baseball (even though it was obvious they did). Rather, they all talked about wanting to be bigger, stronger, healthier, or something to that effect. They wanted to find the means to their ends - but not talk about the ends. You've got to be patient, humble, and process-driven before you can be a good baseball player.

5. They all were very consistent.

This is something I really noticed in hindsight.  This collection of guys were always good about getting their training in not only during the off-season, but during the in-season period as well.  It's always frustrating when guys put in great work in the off-season, only to put it on cruise control during the season, which inevitably leads to them coming back lighter and weaker at the end of the long season; it's just one step forward, and one step back.  For these guys, they were at least maintaining - but more often than not, improving during the season.  Slow and steady improvements with no hiccups is the name of the game. With such a long competitive season and challenging calendar, you've got to make taking care of your body an "all the time" job to be a good baseball player.

6. They came from strong developmental programs.

While there are a lot of tremendous coaches involved with these 18 players, I want to highlight the one with which I'm the most familiar: Sudbury, MA. In Adam Ravenelle (4th round), Carl Anderson (19th round), and Billy Bereszniewicz (30th round), Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School had three players drafted - all after successful Division 1 Baseball careers. While there may be a few other high schools schools in the country who can boast this, I doubt they're in northern states, where the talent may be thinned out from lacrosse or hockey.

It starts with good feeder programs at the youth levels; Sudbury Little League does a good job of emphasizing development over winning and showcasing talent, and kids don't show up to high school overused or injured. In high school, these three played for Kirk Fredericks, one of the best coaches I've seen at any level of baseball. He hammers home fundamentals, respects the game, and establishing a culture of winning (13 of the last 14 league titles, with three state championships worked in). Perhaps most importantly, the accountability he emphasizes prepares kids for college ball - or whatever the next step in their journey is. At the end of his freshman year of college, one of them actually said to me, "I never really appreciated how good Coach Fredericks was until I got to college and felt more prepared than everyone around me." That's what good coaches do; make it about the team by patiently cultivating habits in impressionable young minds over the long haul.

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These three also played for the New England Ruffnecks, one of the premier baseball organizations in the country, and certainly the Northeast. Again, the emphasis is development and playing challenging teams to get kids out of their comfort zones. They aren't just trying to rack up an impressive win-loss record or accumulate trophies. And, the trains always run on time, so players know what is expected of them.

It all comes down to clear and consistent messages. Everyone these guys played for expected quality effort from them every time out, and these coaches all modeled positive behavior. You can't expect kids to develop when coaches show up late, smoke butts in the parking lot, cheat on their wives, and completely disrespect the game.  It's about habits more than it is outcomes, so you have to make sure the right person is teaching those habits. You have to be around good people with good skill sets before you can be a good baseball player.

Wrap-up

What you might have noticed is that all of these key qualities related to habits and not outcomes.  It's not just about being able to deadlift 400 pounds or long toss 300 feet; it's about having the traits that allow for consistent, high-quality effort in the right environments to make the most of the coaching you have at your fingertips, and the natural abilities with which you've been blessed. If you take care of the habits, the outcomes tend to take care of themselves.

Congratulations to not only the 18 CP draft picks, but also the many other players reading this post who've had this great experience as well. You've surely done a lot of these things right along the way, too.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 6/8/14

Written on June 8, 2014 at 11:55 pm, by Eric Cressey

Here's this week's list of recommended strength and conditioning reading/viewing/listening:

An Interview with Matt Blake - This was a good podcast with CP Pitching Coordinator, Matt Blake. They discuss long-term pitching development and the interaction between our strength and conditioning work with his mechanical coaching.

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Elite Training Mentorship - For this month's update, I did a business webinar - The Top 10 Financial Mistakes Trainers Make - as well as two exercise demonstrations and an article. You'll also find content from Vaughn Bethel and Tyler English.

Assisted Jump Variations - Ben Bruno introduces some good ideas on regressing power training exercises for general fitness populations who may not be ready for more complex, high-impact options.

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