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Van Horn Elite Catcher’s Camp Date Released

The Van Horn High School baseball staff is excited to release the date for the first annual Van Horn Elite Catcher’s Camp. The camp will be held on February 8th from noon to 3:30 at Van Horn High School in Independence, MO. Participants may pre-register or register on the day of the camp. The camp will feature catching coach, Richie Shust as the main instructor. Coach Shust recently was awarded the 2014 Missouri Assistant Baseball Coach of the Year, and has been a catching instructor at the high school level for the past 10 years. Along side Coach Shust, Coach Jay Kolster will provide a session covering baseball specific strength training and preparation.

In addition to registering with the flyer, participants must sign an accident waiver. The waiver can be seen below the flyer.

Please contact head coach, Jay Kolster at or call at (660) 232-6268.

Van Horn Catcher's Camp



Accident Waiver


Considerations for Trainers: Not All Injuries Are Created Equal

As a strength coach, it is almost inevitable that I will come across clients that have had injuries; sometimes multiple injuries. Clients whom have had surgeries often times experience a permanent loss in joint function. In these situations programs need to be modified in order for the client to receive the best training effect for their overall development. To preface the following information: We as coaches need to know WHEN to refer out and when to proceed with training. Often times, we can work around injuries through anecdotal research or protocols put forth by some of our leading physical therapists in the industry. However, there is NOT always a protocol that we can follow, and often times we have to rely on feedback from clients. There are some exercises that clients will simply not be able to perform, given their injury history. In this post I will be focusing on the knee in particularly, but by no means am I giving a protocol for success in training around knee injuries. This is strictly anecdotal feedback (years of feedback) that I have personally experienced dating back to 2003. Since 2003, I have had seven (yes, SEVEN) knee surgeries.

Before moving forward, let’s take a look at a condensed list of injuries (2003-2012).

Left Knee – 5 surgeries

  • Derangement of anterior horn of lateral meniscus
  • Chondromalacia patella
  • Grade IV Chondrolysis, lateral tibial plateau
  • Arthroscopic partial lateral meniscectomy
  • Athroscopic chondroplasty patella
  • Arthoscopic microfracture lateral tibial plateau
  • Degenerative joint disease

Right Knee – 2 surgeries

  • Arthroscopic removal of multiple loose bodies
  • Patellar shaving
  • Lateral anterior horn meniscectomy
  • Microfracture lateral tibial plateau

I think it’s pretty clear I’ve had some knee problems. I won’t go into detail with the actual injury mechanisms, but I’ll move forward with how I’ve designed a plan to train my lower body. The first step I took is recognizing my limitations. There are exercises that I cannot do; jumping, squatting to depth, single leg squat variations, and forward lunging. The following is a list of lower body exercises that I have found to be staples in my program.

1. Deadlift (Convential and Trap-Bar)

I find it interesting that if I do a body weight squat to depth I have knee pain, but I can trap bar deadlift 600 pounds!

The deep knee flexion during a squat to depth causes me to have knee pain. Is it really important to know the exact reasons? Probably not, but pain is usually a good indicator to steer clear of an exercise.

2. Barbell Bridges

Barbell bridges are a great way to train the posterior chain. I have found that pretension of the glutes helps aid in making it a glute dominant exercise. *Note-Video is of Bret Contreras (a.k.a, the Glute Guy).

3. Step-Ups (12-16 inch box)

Referring back to the discussions about deep knee flexion, I have found that I can go heavy on my step-ups to a small box.

4. RDL’s and SLDL’s

Straight leg dead lift variations are another way for me to train the posterior chain.

Ben Bruno showing off his variations of a single leg RDL.

5. Kettlebell Swings

Rounding off the list is the kettlebell swing. I find the use of kettle bell swings beneficial to my training because I can be explosive without having repeated blows to my knees. It has virtually no impact to the knee joint, as it is a hip dominant exercise.

The five exercises I listed are my “bread and butter” for lower extremity training. I think of this as a positive because I don’t have a huge list of exercises I could program. I know what works and I stick to them. Do I want to squat? Yes. Can I squat without pain? No. Therefore, I have cut ties with the squats…for now.

Making a Connection to Your Clients

If you’re going to be in this business and be a top strength coach, it is important to know how to train around clients with chronic injuries. Researching is a good start to designing a program (although all my personal evidence is anecdotal), as well as an assessment. However, feedback from the client can also help to determine how to program. Am I saying that the client dictates how you write a program? No, but you have to consider ways to train around pain. Each client is different, and even the world’s greatest physical therapists cannot come up with protocols for chronic dysfunctions, because not all injuries are created equal.

Presidential Fitness Challenge: Are Kids Really Benefiting?

We can all recall our times during middle school and being put through the Presidential Fitness Challenge. This took place over a week’s time and included; sit-ups, sit and reach, pull-ups, pushups, and the DREADED mile run. I say dreaded because I was the fat kid that coasted in at about 13 minutes.

To give you a better idea, check this link for today’s current President’s Challenge.

Current State of Our Youth

It is clear that the obesity epidemic is on the rise, as the CDC released their most recent statistics that revealed obesity rates having tripled since 1980. TRIPLED! The government has responded in evolving the past President’s Challenge to better aid in fighting youth obesity. Here is the mission statement of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition:

The President’s Challenge is a program of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition. The Council seeks to expand the availability of quality information regarding physical activity, sports, and good nutrition and to empower Americans of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities to adopt a healthy lifestyle through:

  • Regular physical activity
  • Participation in sports
  • Healthy eating

This is all well and good, but where does physical fitness testing fall into the mission statement? Is there truly a need for physical educators to perform fitness tests? I say no, and for good reason.

Kids Mature at Different Rates

The President’s Physical Fitness Test is an indicator of who and who has not gone puberty. Biologically, kids mature at different rates. Some kids start at age 9 and can range to age 13. Kids who have hormonal changes earlier will develop physically before those who have not yet matured. Of course the kid in the 8th grade that is already shaving his beard can bang out 30 pushups! As an 8th grader, I was considered a “man-child” with a height of almost 6’0” and weighing in at around 285lbs. I was known for crushing quarterbacks and I could throw a discus over 150 ft. Looking back, who cares! I had matured at such early age, this should have been an expectation, not me exceeding expectations. I guess you could say I was an “early bloomer”.

Me at age 15, a year after 8th grade.

The Fitness Test Serves as a Filter

Consider this scenario:

Student A is an 8th grade who has the biological age of a 6th grade student. During the physical fitness test, he/she is put on a spot light and performs poorly (perceived as poor) compared to his/her classmates. Student A is embarrassed and now dreads going to physical education class, because of the feedback of his/her classmates. Student A goes to high school, takes his/her ½ credit of required P.E. and never enrolls in a that class again.

The fitness test served as a filter for this student. Rather than emphasizing quantitative measures and teaching the student to be an advocate for exercise, we simply filtered that student and gave them a negative experience. The government combats these scenarios by offering a participation award which physical educators can print off of the website. THAT way, everyone feels like a winner.

The Fitness Test Doesn’t Teach Students How to Move

Curl-ups, pull-ups, endurance runs, sit and reach, and shuttle runs are all well and good, but are we actually teaching students how to be better movers? I would much rather students perform a written explanation on how to perform a pull-up versus being able to perform quantitatively. The bottom line, kids need to learn how to move better, before we (as physical educators) implement quantitative tests.

Advice for Physical Educators

As you can tell, I am passionate in reaching for change in our youths’ development. As a former physical educator, now turned strength and conditioning coach, here are a few things physical educators should change.

1) Get rid of fitness testing.

You could predict the top athletes by lining students up and looking at their physical development.

2) Teach students how to move efficiently and warm-up.

Teach students how to balance correctly, engage their core and glutes when performing pushups and prone bridges, and educate on how to warm-up properly!

3) Use writing as a way for all kids to meet expectations.

You have a kid that is weak and underdeveloped? Alter your assessment and have them explain in detail how to position their body and perform an exercise. Not only will it make your principal love you, but the student is prepared to move efficiently when he/she is developmentally ready!

4) Teach nutrition every day.

We cannot rely on parents to have kids eat healthy at home. Middle school students eat what their parents put in front of them. Rather than fighting to educate parents, why don’t we educate students on how to INFLUENCE their parents to eat healthy. If we want to change the obesity epidemic, nutrition must be a cross-curricular subject!

Closing Thoughts

Physical education should be put forth filters as the scope should be broad! We have to make every kid successful in some sort of way in class. You have a kid that can’t walk a chew bubble gum; Make them the best flag football official in the world! Not all kids will be varsity, collegiate, or professional athletes, but we can definitely teach them to be advocates of sport and exercise.

Certifications Aren’t That Important

With the recent move to the Boston area, I am finally settled in and have some time to catch up with my readers (probably only a handful, including my mom). For starters, Boston is now at the top of my list of best cities. Had a chance to catch a Red Sox vs. Royals game, which was very cool (Royals won).

This past week, I began my internship at Cressey Performance. I went in feeling pretty confident in my ability to coach exercise technique, but I soon realized that my knowledge was miniscule compared to the full timers at Cressey. Keep in mind I have a degree in physical education and I am soon to complete a master’s degree in exercise science. I also hold the NSCA-CSCS, which to many is the gold standard of certifications. I can now sit back and say that I didn’t know shiz going into the internship, or at least to the standards held at Cressey Performance. So, what am I alluding to? My NSCA-CSCS really doesn’t mean anything.

Yes, my NSCA-CSCS doesn’t mean anything. It looks great on a resume and some organization require it (MLB to just name one). However, it doesn’t prepare you for a number of things. For starters, it doesn’t prepare you to work  with clients/athletes on an individual level. Every client that walks through the doors at Cressey Performance has a different program to fit their individual needs. A major note here is that I did not even mention assessing those clients (that’s for a later discussion). Secondly, the exercises learned through the CSCS education are very general, and not truly sport specific. The CSCS seems to be geared toward more of a team setting, rather than an individual setting. Not everyone who is in strength and conditioning will be working at a university or with a professional team. Being at a facility like Cressey, we deal with a lot of baseball players. I have learned a butt load about the shoulder and how to train the shoulder in as little as a week as I did in preparing for the CSCS exam.

The point of this topic? For the aspiring strength and conditioning coach, do not think you are the shiz just because you passed an exam. I know a lot of nerds that could pass the CSCS if they were given the material. The bottom line is you have to continue to hone your craft and continue to learn what the best of the best are doing.


Why Coaching High School Sports Helped Me Grow

Over the past five years I have had the opportunity to coach high school athletes in baseball, softball, and basketball.  There were a lot of ups and downs and lots of learning along the way. Not only did I have to learn how to manage teenagers, but I had to learn how to manage parents as well (a task in itself). When I was fresh out of playing college baseball, I began my coaching career as an assistant baseball coach at Lexington High School. Right out of the gate, the only thing I cared about was developing players physically and winning games. Well, I soon learned that was only one of the many focuses of being a high school coach. As a coach in the public school district, all types of kids walk through the doors with their respective motives, skill sets, and problems at home. Soon, the job title as “coach” becomes a host of other job titles (i.e. counselor or role model to name a few).

Below are some points of emphasis that I learned (on-the-go) that aspiring young coaches may want to take into consideration:

1) It’s not all about winning games.

Believe it or not, coaching in the public schools is not always about winning games. The program expectations range from school to school, and sometimes your job as a coach depends on winning, but there are other important factors that are required in running a successful program.  I can recall a time at Lexington when my baseball team was just above .500, but we ended up one win away from the Final Four. Successful regular season? Average. Successful season overall? Absolutely. Getting players to buy into the program and always putting the program’s integrity before winning is one of the first steps.

2) Everybody needs a role.

As I mentioned before, you never know what is going to walk through the doors into day one of practice. At Lexington, we had a high school enrollment of less than 300. Needless to say, there were no cuts taking place in any athletic program. Nothing is worse than having players who do not have roles. They can become a cancer and tear a team down. In my list of top ten favorite players I have coached, there was a handful who did not go on to play college baseball, or receive any post-season awards. They were the type of kids that you admire because of their deep commitment and ridiculous work ethics. These were the kind of kids who did not touch the varsity field until maybe their senior year, and in that senior year they played huge roles. As freshmen, these kids had trouble walking and chewing bubble gum, but due to the program being bigger than life itself, they bought in and came to work every single day. How does a coach create an atmosphere to get lower level skilled athletes to buy into the program? The first step, is making sure everyone on the team is important. As a coach, you can never write a kid off because of their skill set. Secondly, treating the junior varsity and freshman teams the same as the varsity team. Equal reps in practice and scrimmaging with a mixed group of varsity and junior varsity players are some examples. The bottom line is; give kids a purpose.

3) Preparing for life after the sport.

This may be the most difficult point of all, and a point that takes years of managing players. I’ll admit, I never mastered preparing athletes for life after sports, but I can touch on a few things I emphasized while coaching.  To better illustrate in preparing high school athletes for life after sports, take a look at the picture below. The Sphere of Commitment is a document I used with my softball team at Lexington. In summary, the coaching staff pushed for our athletes to become quality citizens and leaders in our community and school. *Note-I stole this from Coach Gary Adams of UCLA and modified it to fit my needs.

All in all, these experiences have helped me tremendously in learning how to build relationships will all types of different young athletes. The same principles can be applied to strength and conditioning, a career that I am currently pursuing. Thanks for looking and feel free to place your comments below.