Hear me out on this one. What happens when you get injured? You are forced to refrain from hitting lessons, pitching lessons, long toss, conditioning, team practice, and you’re required to sit on the sidelines and watch. I’ll admit, that’s not exactly fun. But while on the surface level you are forced to refrain from activities to improve your game, there are benefits to injuries that actually can propel your skills to the next level. Take a look at three ways injuries can actually help and not hurt you (even more).
As many parents and athletes know, Amateur baseball has become a year-round sport. Most teams across the Southeast begin practicing in January, then playing games in March, continuing playing summer ball through July, then fall ball through November, and conditioning and training for the following season through December. I’m exhausted just writing that. Whether this is a good or a bad thing is still up for debate, but one thing that remains a constant is this — when I work with players, I see my hardest working, most driven players show up at some point during the year and give me less than their maximum effort. I don’t fault these boys and I know that 99% of the time they are going to perform and practice as expected, but sometimes, they are just exhausted.
What an injury does to players is force them to sit out and REST. Their tired bodies get a break. Their minds get a break. They get to catch up on sleep. They get to catch up on school work. They get to flat out take a break and it is a MUCH-NEEDED BLESSING. Even the most sedentary of grown adults with office jobs can appreciate a day off from work, a long weekend away, or even just taking a half day to spend with their family. So why wouldn’t a youth athlete benefit the same way? While players want to be on the field and feel a sense of sadness when they are forced to sit and watch, if their time out is spent correctly, what it is doing for their bodies and minds is extremely beneficial.
A player is hurt and is forced to not participate in baseball practice. The player is caught up on homework, he spent time with his family and he is really missing his teammates. What better way to spend your time out than to attend a practice or a game and sit alongside your coach. Team practices that cover bunt defense, cuts, double cuts, 1st and 3rd defense, and timing plays are all critical parts of the game — especially as you move higher into the next level of baseball. What better way to learn high level strategies than to observe? As Yogi Berra said,
“You can observe a lot by watching.”
Watching how different positions move for relays. Watching how certain teammates respond on timing plays. Watching who performs certain actions that makes them better ballplayers. These are all tools to add to your arsenal that not only help you become a better player, but a better teammate as well.
Along with watching you have the ability to be around your coach and teammates. You get to ask questions and get inside the mind of your coach. You get to hear him breakdown his expectations and get his thoughts while standing right alongside him. Understanding insights and deciphering different personalities of coaches are going to be great tools that are not only going to help you for the current season, but will for many more down the road. Plus, your positive attitude and eagerness to learn will, typically, NOT go unnoticed.
3. Knowledge of Training
Often times when a player gets injured, he gets the inevitable message from the doctor that he needs physical therapy. Physical therapy can be boring, monotonous and obviously not performed with the same excitement of a baseball practice or pitching lesson. So what often happens is youth athletes begrudgingly perform the scripted exercises and stare at the clock, counting down the days until they can get back on the field. What most fail to realize is that, more often than not, physical therapists were once high-level athletes with collegiate or professional backgrounds in sports at the elite level. Physical therapists absolutely love talking sports. They’ve worked with premier athletes, they’ve seen the best of the best, and they all have a story to tell. Getting to know your physical therapist can be a great asset to you. They can help you understand that you aren’t unique in your injury, while providing you an opportunity to gain another mentor. This can actually help push you in taking your game to the next level.
Along with learning tips, tricks and stories from your therapist, you also have the gift of learning about your body! Young athletes train so hard lifting weights and conditioning, but do they understand their own anatomy and what muscles are supposed to be engaged when they perform each athletic movement? Learning about how the rotator cuff works, which muscles fire in lateral movement, the alignment of the spine, and what you need to feel when you are moving can be a differentiator. Players that are working out with max effort hoping to put on size and get faster, could get to their end goal a lot quicker if they knew which muscle group they were targeting and where they need to feel sensation to ensure that targeted muscle group is engaged. When a player gets sent to physical therapy, it’s not a curse, it’s a huge chance to learn and train smarter.
Don’t get me wrong. Injuries are a tough time for all athletes. But, when viewed in the right light, they can certainly be a beneficial blessing.
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