An important first step before every game.
- To get everyone loose and ready to play.
- To reduce the injury risk from pulls and strains in cold muscles
- To get...
- the blood pumping
- the circulation system peaking
- and the brain in gear.
- To bring the team together as a unit
Note: A new protocol for team prep has been published as a lesson series with illustrations. Look for it under the "PLAYING > All-Positions" top menu item or click here. We have updated this page (2009) to reflect the new approach.
Before the Circle
Before everyone gathers in a circle, there are a couple of steps often taken first.
- Light Jog - no longer recommend (as of 2009). Period. The reason is that the energy systems required for baseball and the energy system trained most by running are not the same. A series of short sprints with rest intervals (sun a base, walk back) is preferred as a way to get the blood and oxygen systems function and to build some core warmth before getting into more strenuous work.
- Arm Tubing - the traditional pick-up-a-ball-and-throw-to-a-partner is no longer recommended as a first step. All players - pitchers especially - should do the Jaeger Sports or Crossover Symmetry arm tubing routines before picking up a baseball. See also the arm swings below under step 3.
This is the approach most followed. See right column for an alternative.
Bring everyone together in a circle, away from fans, friends, and other distractions. We prefer the outfield but at times it can work better to be outside the fence line.
Once players know the routine, coaches should let them run it themselves.
One person takes the center of the circle, the leader's spot. Usually that's the starting catcher (the team's field captain). An added advantage of leaving the players alone to do this (coaches walk away), is that they can kibbitz and talk about whatever interests them. The bonding helps them gel as a unit and helps them realize that they are ultimately responsible for their own success as a team.
Step 1: The Core
The routine should start with core work and then extend to the extremities. Repeat each move at least 3-5 times: each rep should produce greater extension. Note: make this dynamic - not stretch and hold static moves, but withe the body in motion.
- Trunk bends to opposite foot (toe touches - hold, don't bounce),
- Laterals (side pulls, with an arm raised over the head - to full extension - and down to the opposite knee)
- Trunk rotations (slow at maximum twist, don't bounce, but don't freeze there either)
- The line work as listed below and illustrated in the new team prep routine.
Step 2: Legs
Do everything with toes in line and turned out as well - works different leg muscles.
- Ankle bends (but not twists - toes point out then pull up).
- Leg lifts (knees up to tummy, first shallow lift then leaps)
- Lunge stretches (like a long stride, and also side to side twist)
- Squats (slow on the way down, power on the way up)
- Cariocas and lateral lines (to loosem the hips)
- Optional: Prone work (on the ground) can include figure fours, pull backs, etc. (We recommend this only for post-game ... more dynamic line work pre-game).
Step 3: Upper Body
We assume some general throwing work has been done already. (In truth it would be better if the stretching happened first, but arriving and throwing is a comfortable part of the ritual before the entire team is on the field together.)
Again, as with leg work, it's important to repeat the exercises with palms up and also palms down which works the muscles differently. Also, we try to focus on stretches in only one direction at time, focusing on elongating the muslces, avoiding moves which twist them.
- Arm swings (to front then back for delts and pecs - both palm up and palm down). Players age 12-14 should hold a ball in each hand, players 15-17 should hold two, college and pro will hold 3 balls in each hand.
- Lateral arm lifts (out from body, for shoulders) - both palm up and palm down)
- Shoulder circles, slow and shallow circles at first, and in both clockwise and counterclockwise rotations, with palms facing both up and down
- Arm crosses (arms out to sides and back - scapular loading - then crossing over chest)
- Arm curls (again, both palm up and palm down, and to full extension/flexion of biceps and triceps)
- Wrist curls (also palm up and palm down, but no circles
Step 4: The Neck
We separated this from upper body only to emphasize one point - do not do neck circles
. Have players do nods (front and back) and shoulder shrugs (neck to side), but no rotational moves.
Step 5: Sprints
To wrap up our circle or line work and move on to the next phase of our pre-game ritual - we used to recommend a sprint jog like the following...
- The team forms a line behind the exercise leader (catcher) and starts a jog around the field. However, a jog is mostly aerobic and does very little for the anaerobic, sudden burst, energy systems needed in baseball. So we add a sprint component...
- On a 'go' shout from the catcher, the last player in line sprints to the front of the line.
- As soon as he arrives at the front, 'go' is called again and the player now last in line sprints to the front, and so on.
We find that with a team of 12 - 14 players, the sprint each player runs is equal to the length of a base-to-base run. Also the entire team can get in their sprints within one lap of the outfield. The sprint run ends with a burst of speed by everyone back to the starting point (or the bench).
You can add fancier moves such as cross-over steps.
The only disadvantage to the sprint jog is that it doesn't do as much as a series of wind sprints would do. We now recommend you line up everyone on the foul line and have them do a series of sprints into the field in line with second base. (Walk back to the line and sprint again, etc.)