Movement skills vs. patterns

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The physical demands of positions on the diamond are as various as the players who man them. Compare how centerfielder Vernon Wells moves to how second baseman Chase Utley does. They seem totally different, right? Which means they probably need to train differently, right? Well, according to Craig Friedman, performance specialist at Athletes' Performance in Tempe, Ariz., different position players make similar movements, just in different patterns, so training differently isn't necessary. "Look at a routine ground ball to a shortstop; he has to crossover step and accelerate to the ball, decelerate in a controlled body position to field the ball, and then throw," Friedman explains. "A first baseman has to recognize where the ball is going, crossover step and accelerate to the base, and then decelerate to prepare himself to receive the ball. They're similar movement skills that are just pieced together to make distinctly different movement patterns."

To work his clients' skills—like Wells' or Utley's—Friedman starts them in an athletic stance, or base position, and begins working different movement skills. The crossover step to acceleration—used when attempting a steal, moving to cover a base or reacting to fielding a ball—is the first, most important skill to develop.

"A major mistake players make with their crossover into acceleration is that they end up crossing over with a huge step in front of them," Friedman says. "Instead of keeping their step tight and pushing themselves forward, they end up having to pull themselves." Pushing is always faster than pulling, so getting this step right will make you a more agile player.

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By Chad Zimmerman

The physical demands of positions on the diamond are as various as the players who man them. Compare how centerfielder Vernon Wells moves to how second baseman Chase Utley does. They seem totally different, right? Which means they probably need to train differently, right? Well, according to Craig Friedman, performance specialist at Athletes' Performance in Tempe, Ariz., different position players make similar movements, just in different patterns, so training differently isn't necessary. "Look at a routine ground ball to a shortstop; he has to crossover step and accelerate to the ball, decelerate in a controlled body position to field the ball, and then throw," Friedman explains. "A first baseman has to recognize where the ball is going, crossover step and accelerate to the base, and then decelerate to prepare himself to receive the ball. They're similar movement skills that are just pieced together to make distinctly different movement patterns."

To work his clients' skills—like Wells' or Utley's—Friedman starts them in an athletic stance, or base position, and begins working different movement skills. The crossover step to acceleration—used when attempting a steal, moving to cover a base or reacting to fielding a ball—is the first, most important skill to develop.

"A major mistake players make with their crossover into acceleration is that they end up crossing over with a huge step in front of them," Friedman says. "Instead of keeping their step tight and pushing themselves forward, they end up having to pull themselves." Pushing is always faster than pulling, so getting this step right will make you a more agile player.

To perfect your crossover into acceleration, perform 4 reps of the following movements in each direction twice a week. Take plenty of rest between reps so you can focus on learning the skill. Move to the next progression only when you've mastered the previous one.

Progression One

• Start in athletic stance
• Crossover step to left or right, accelerate for 5-10 yards

Progression Two

• Start in athletic stance
• Shuffle two times to right or left
• Crossover step in opposite direction, accelerate for 5-10 yards

Progression Three

• Start in athletic stance
• Shuffle two times to right or left
• Crossover step in same direction, accelerate for 5-10 yards


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: BASEBALL | BASEBALL DRILLS | TRAIN | STANCE | SHUFFLE | CROSSOVER