Let’s play a little game of test-your-collegiate-softball knowledge. What team won the first-ever NCAA softball championship (bonus points if you know the year)? What team has appeared in the most NCAA championship games? And, what team boasts the greatest number of NCAA softball championships (10)?
If you know the answers-without Googling them like it’s Spanish homework-give yourself a pat on the back. Just one though, because all three questions have the same answer. And although we’re a little freaked out, we’re completely impressed. For those who don’t know, University of California, Los Angeles is the team, and their first championship came in 1982.
Troy Jorgensen, strength and conditioning coach for the Bruins, cites the team’s level of conditioning as one of the keys to their unparalleled success. "Top conditioning prepares us for anything that can happen during a game-whether it be hot weather, extra innings, anything. The better shape we’re in, the faster we’ll be later in the game to make the plays we need to win."
Softball is a game of speed, change of direction and quickness. That means that running miles to get in shape is long gone. Instead, Jorgensen uses a conditioning plan centered around shuttles to prepare his athletes for another run at the title. "If you want your body to be fast, you have to run fast, so everything we do is fast," he says. "Shuttles are our conditioning bread and butter, because they are fast, involve stopping and starting, teach athletes how to plant and start running again, and theyre tough-so they build character."
When the Bruins work on shuttles, there’s no messing around. The athletes push themselves to the limit to produce results as fast as possible. "At UCLA, we have a bring-it-on attitude," Jorgensen says. "We attack things and know everything we do matters. We know we do things nobody else wants to, especially with our conditioning. We look at this as a challenge. We get after it, and thats why were successful."
Check out Jorgensen’s recommendations for incorporating shuttles into your conditioning plan. See how your hard work can help you pass the Bruins’ conditioning test.
Perform shuttles two days a week during the off-season, preferably on Mondays and Fridays. Start performing four to five shuttles a day and work up to six to eight as the season approaches. Jorgensen recommends starting your conditioning at least three to four weeks before season.
The 150-yard Shuttle is the basis for the UCLA conditioning test. The players must complete eight 150-yard Shuttles in 32 seconds or less, with 70 seconds rest between. The athletes can’t play until they can complete the test.
The key to great shuttle times, according to Jorgensen, is the turn. "The turn makes or breaks you," he says. "I tell my athletes to accelerate out of the turns, stride in the middle and then sprint hard again into and out of the next turn. Lazy turns just eat up your time."
Set up two cones 25 yards apart
Sprint from cone to cone six times for a total of 150 yards
Touch foot to cone at each turn