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Coaching Management 23.2

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BEN FLEMING is in his second year as Assistant Coordi- nator of Strength and Conditioning at the University of Mississippi, where he works primarily with the baseball team. Previously, he trained the baseball teams at the University of Central Florida and Kansas State University. He can be reached at: btflemin@olemiss.edu or on Twitter @StrengthBen. season. Most of the guys can still bench and squat heavy even into the postseason. As a baseball-specific strength coach, a big area of debate I've encountered through- out my career is whether or not to utilize Olympic lifts. For most baseball coaches, this is a touchy subject. Many view Olympic lifts unfavorably because they are concerned players will develop wrist and forearm prob- lems from catching the bar. To balance getting the best strength results with wrist and forearm health, I have the players do clean pulls from the ground or blocks. When the Ole Miss coaches heard that the players were not performing the catching portion of the lift, they were com- pletely on board with what I was doing. I pay close attention to each player's overall technique at each station before I allow him to add weight. I find it works best to have pitchers and position players lift together on lower-body days to build team cohesion, but I split them up on upper-body days because their workouts are different. Once I am comfortable with the athletes' fundamental strength base, I increase the intensity and pace of weightroom sessions through super sets. Often, I add upper-body or lower-body plyometric moves after a bench press or front squat to build endurance and muscular strength. I also like to pair strength-based movements with power movements. For example, I might have play- ers do five clap push-ups after a heavy set of bench presses. This approach directly replicates the in- game experience. When a batter swings and misses, he only has a few seconds to recover and repeat that motion. In the same way, a pitcher has to throw with strength and power, pitch after pitch. Given the relatively short amount of time I have with each player while they are in college, I am able to gain the fastest results utilizing this training method. Our 30-minute conditioning sessions run at the same pace as our work in the weight- program mentally and physically prepared the squad to bypass negativity, brush off expectations, and focus on what needed to be done to succeed on the field. Hired in July 2013 as the program's new strength and conditioning coach, I embraced this concept immediately. My approach to offseason development was based on train- ing position-specific movements, while also reinforcing determination and accountabil- ity through daily competitions. Ultimately, this strategy was a key factor in returning the program to Omaha after a 42-year absence. PHILOSOPHICAL FOUNDATION Soon after I arrived, I sat down with the coaching staff to discuss their goals for the 2014 season. We decided to emphasize toughness due to the 2013 team's difficulty winning close games, which kept them from hosting a regional as a top seed. To instill this mentality, we took an aggressive approach to summer and fall training in order to push the players physically, build them up mentally, and develop a team iden- tity centered on competitiveness. My approach to the offseason is to build powerful and explosive athletes. I try to work the players like they have never been worked before, which prepares them to endure the grind of the long season ahead. How players get through this grueling period of physical activity reveals their levels of mental toughness. I often tell the team that there are many talented baseball pro- grams in the country, and at the end of the day, success comes to the squad that has mentally prepared and believes it is truly the best. When the body becomes fatigued, the athletes must convince themselves that their weeks and months of training have prepared them to compete at the highest level. Individually, I work with each player on the necessary skill development to meet his position's demands and increase his confi- dence, while also enhancing his explosive- ness, power, and agility. I add a little competitive fire to offseason work by remind- ing the athletes that playing time is earned and challenging guys who play the same posi- tion to outwork each other. The result is the older guys help bring the younger guys along, and the younger guys try to show the upper- classmen how eager they are to start. Putting these physical, mental, and competitive skills together in the offseason produces a stronger team for the competitive slate. GET WITH THE PROGRAM Previous offseason Ole Miss baseball workouts consisted of training three days a week. Once I arrived, I upped it to four because I felt the athletes needed the extra strength work. I hold 90-minute sessions on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, spending the first hour in the weightroom and the final 30 minutes doing conditioning work on the football field. (See "Training For Toughness" on page 29 for a typical weekly schedule.) During the summer, we train position players and pitchers similarly because the pitchers haven't started throwing yet. But once intrasquad practice begins in the fall, the pitchers break off and move toward a training regimen that better mimics their in-season workload. My style of training is fast-paced, and the players are constantly moving throughout the workout. This approach helps develop physical and mental toughness—it's not easy to push a heavy load, recover quickly, and then repeat the action. Each training session begins with a warm- up designed to elevate the players' heart rates and get their bodies ready for work. Warm-ups usually start with a jump rope or medicine ball drill. Once their bodies are warm and loose, we transition to the mobility warm-up portion of the workout. Lower-body dominant exercises are done on Monday and Thursday, so the warm-up on these days includes ground hip mobility, hurdles, and hip bridges. Tuesdays and Thursdays are upper-body days in the weightroom, so the players complete shoulder mobility activities with an elastic band or 2.5- pound plates during the warm-up. After completing the warm-up, the ath- letes begin weight training work. Our main exercises include clean pulls, front squats, Romanian dead lifts, pull-ups, and different lunge variations. The players lift between 75 and 80 percent of their one-rep max during the offseason workouts. This helps them maintain their strength gains deep into the A big area of debate is whether or not to utilize Olympic lifts ... To balance getting the best strength results with wrist and forearm health, I have the players do clean pulls from the ground or blocks, not performing the catching portion of the lift. 28 Coaching Management PreSeASon 2015 Coachesnetwork.com Click Here to sign up for our free series of educational digital newsletters

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