Top 10 Things to Look (or look out) for in Selecting an Athletic Training Facility

By Nunzio Signore (BA, CSCS, CPT, NASM, FMS)

What to Look For Top

I work with athletes and train guys who are really serious about getting bigger, stronger and faster. That’s what I am passionate about. Granted, there are five million strength coaches who flip tires, train with CrossFit and run boot camps with ladder drills and cone drills and call it strength training. Well, I’m here to tell you that it needs to be better than that if athletes are to get to the next level.

Since 2010, RPP has been training overhead athletes (primarily baseball players) with great success. Here’s a list of this year’s spring accolades alone. So much so that we are seeing a slew of local baseball training facilities attempt to add weight rooms to increase revenue and compete. Sorry guys, it’s not that easy. Today, I’m listing some “must have’s” for a facility to be deemed adequate before placing yourself or your child into a so called “strength training” program. If any of these parameters are missing, turn around and look elsewhere.

1. Experience and Expertise

An experienced strength coach should be able to develop a young athlete from someone who can’t define the word motivation into someone who comes to exemplify the definition of the word. Look for coaches who are Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists (CSCS, BS, NSCA) as opposed to personal trainers, ex-athletes and college coaches who are simply “doing what they used to do”.

But I should also say that just because a coach has a CSCS certification, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are equipped to train OH Athletes.  The letters by themselves don’t mean anything.  A great strength coach should be familiar with (i) the specific needs and requirements of pitchers and ball players, (ii) the common injuries they could face, and (iii) the movement and mechanical issues that can contribute to these injuries, as well as knowing when to push the athlete and when to refer out to a PT or other health care professional.  Training OH Athletes is involved.

Remember when training, you’re trying to build strength and power, not technique in your sport. When all else fails, inquire as to who they have worked with and get references.

What to Look For MIddle

2. Assessment and Testing

If a FULL assessment by a qualified strength coach or PT isn’t mentioned when you inquire about training… run the other way.  Assessing:

  • Is CRUCIAL to acquiring pertinent information that’ll help guide your program design and enhance performance as well as reduce the risk of injury
  • Helps develop a blueprint to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses
  • Helps us get to know the athlete’s movement patterns (are they hypermobile, normal, or very restricted)
  • Allows us to maximize time and performance while training
  • Corrects bad movement patterns before they become habits, and correct habits before they become injuries
  • Develops a report to be able to compare with age normative data as well as show progress when re-assessing

This is even more true and relevant when you’re training pitchers looking to throw as hard as they can.  Remember – if you’re not assessing, you’re guessing.

3. Individualized Programming

It’s common knowledge (or maybe it isn’t) that the best strength and conditioning programs are individualized to each athlete’s needs, injury risk, position, and goals. For example, do they have a previous or current injury that restricts them? Are they hypermobile, normal, or restricted? Do they have prior weight room experience? Is the athlete quick or slow? What position do they play? Are they a starter or a reliever? These questions MUST be answered prior to designing an individualized program.

Developing programs in accordance to long term athletic development that are age and development specific is also key. Every athlete is different, so should be their training program. This is another “if not… run the other way” situation (wondering how we do it click here).

4. Blogging

It’s a little difficult to write this one up without making it self-serving.  But I truly believe this.  One of the telltale signs of a knowledgeable facility is the articles, blogs and writeups that come out of it.  Is the head strength coach confident enough in his beliefs and training methods to put it out in blogs, articles and/or publications?  If you look around at athletic training facilities, I believe that there is a high correlation between the success of the organization and those that continually publish, write and publicly express their beliefs.  I have always believed that if you can express it well, then you probably understand it well.

What to Look For Bloggin

5. Understanding the Throwing Motion from a Biomechanical Perspective

This is huge. Having advanced kinesthetic knowledge into the breakdown of the movement mechanics of throwing has given me a better understanding of what the body is doing, how it is moving, and key things to add and/or avoid into the athlete’s strength training program. For example, pitchers, by nature usually have some degree of laxity in their extremities. Further stretching and mobilizing them may not be the best approach for injury reduction. Many of them would benefit far more by working on stabilizing these joints.

Throwing Motion Analysis 2

Throwing Motion Analysis 1

6. Periodization

Is the athlete in-season? off-season? pre-season? This is vital information as training will differ greatly depending on the time of year. Qualified coaches should always know where the athletes are in their training cycle and program accordingly.  The bottom line is baseball players can and should be pushed incredibly hard in the weight room as long as exercise selection and time of year is appropriate.

7. Low Athlete / Coach Ratio

This one is self-explanatory. Training an entire team at one time can get… messy.  Anything above 5:1 ratio is not only insufficient but unsafe.  We average 3:1 a ratio.

Low Athlete Coach Ratio

8. Specialty Equipment

Safety squat bars, slide boards, t-rows, stim machines, treatment tables, Thera-Bands, med balls and sleds are just a few of the specialty items needed to safely and effectively train the overhead athlete. A gym that is not fully equipped with these tools cannot sufficiently do the job. It’s like trying to chop down a tree with an eraser.

Specialty Equipment 2

9. Stimulating Culture

Young athletes need to be exposed to a rich proprioceptive and stimulating environment that helps make them a great athlete. Our guys sometimes spend two+ hours in our place training with the same guys they’ll playing against in a few months. The bottom line is they love the vibe and the comradery among the other players here and that’s important.

10. Word of Mouth

Over the life of your business, word-of-mouth should blow out of the water any social media, or trash talking by competitors.  So, why not do the single most important thing that impacts it the most… get great results. Every year we send our athletes out into the season bigger, faster, stronger and throwing harder. This sets the stage for enormous growth the following year.

In closing, please heed this warning. Be sure to ask questions as lifting heavy weights is not only an art, but dangerous if done incorrectly. It’s your future as well as your money, so choose wisely.

See ya’ in the gym…

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