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General  | General  | 7/2/2021

Wolforth Thrower Mentorship: Article 12

Jerry Ford      Ron Wolforth     
Photo: Johnny Tergo/Truth Baseball
Ron Wolforth probably knows more about the throwing arm and arm care than anyone we know. Many of you may have heard about the famous Texas Baseball Ranch that Ron has been running for many years. We have built a great relationship with Ron and his wife Jill over the years.

It all started a few years back when Ron sent his son Garrett to a Perfect Game event. His son was a catcher/infielder and set some all-time PG records for pop times (1.75) and velocity (89 mph) at the time. He also threw mid-90s across the infield. He is now playing professionally. Being an average-sized kid, this really drew our interest. Once we realized who his father was, it became clear.

Since then we have followed the Texas Baseball Ranch closely. Ron is a very humble man, which is a reason so many speak highly of him. We have never run across a single person that shows any disrespect for him or the Ranch. So we decided to ask him to help our millions of followers.

Over the years he has helped thousands of pitchers, including many that became Major League All-Stars. Yes, he teaches velocity gains, better control and command, and everything a pitchers needs to be successful. However, unlike many others, he is an absolute stickler when it comes to doing it safely. His interest doesn't just involve velocity gains and other improvements, all of which are very important. He wants his students to understand arm care and how to throw and stay healthy. He does this without a cookie cutter program. He understands that all players are different individuals.

Perfect Game's interest in prospects, arm care and keeping young kids healthy is the major reason we have decided to work with Ron Wolforth.

Below is the 12th of an ongoing column he will be doing on our Perfect Game website. This information will be gold for any player interested in improving their throwing ability and staying healthy. Make sure you read every column he contributes and feel free to comment on them.

If you want to attend one of his camps and improve your throwing ability, here is the link to the website:

Jerry Ford
Perfect Game

. . .

Article 1: Where the Sidewalk Terminates
Article 2: The Exact Location of Your Arm Pain is Incredibly Valuable Information
Article 3: No Pain, No Problem...Right? Not Quite So Fast.
Article 4: The Secret to Accelerated Skill Development: Hyper-Personalization
Article 5: The Case Against Weighted Balls?
Article 6: The Truth About Pitch Counts, Workloads, and Overuse
Article 7: Velocity Appraisal: How 'Hard' Is 'Hard Enough'?
Article 8: Command Appraisal: How 'Accurate' Is 'Accurate Enough'?
Article 9: Swing & Miss Appraisal: How 'Nasty' Is 'Nasty Enough'?
Article 10: 5 Common Mistakes Baseball Players Make In Their Training
Article 11: The Truth About Curveballs, Sliders, and Cutters

Have you ever wondered just exactly what the similarities are between the best pitchers on a championship team and the worst pitchers on a cellar dweller?
I realize for many of you that may be a strange question. Why would we even ask such a question?
This basic question is so rarely asked by the typical baseball person…but we at the Texas Baseball Ranch® believe unequivocally that this is one question that should be asked often. Such a question is often highly enlightening and incredibly instructive.
NCAA Hall of Fame Coach Gary Ward, a long-time dear friend of ours, is fond of saying, “Want a better answer? Then improve upon the questions you ask!”
Stating the obvious and eliminating items the best pitchers and worst pitchers share in common can lead us to important clues on the critical areas in which they are very different. That difference often is the secret sauce to achievement and productivity.
All too often we look only for the differences and eventually, because of a lack of intellectual curiosity, we return to safe and time-honored conclusions suggesting that the only differences between the two polar opposite groups are talent and/or experience.
Talent and experience are real and are no small influences, but they absolutely do not accurately express the totality of influence upon success and achievement.
Many more talented and experienced individuals have been beaten by those with far less talent and less experience. This scenario has been repeated thousands of times throughout history.
So then, what is one thing the best and the worst have in common?
They both practice. They both throw bullpens.
I have maintained for nearly 30 years now that the simple act of practice itself is rarely remarkable. Everyone ‘practices’. Everyone ‘throws bull pens, sides or boxes’. So then, if the simple act of practice is so valuable, why aren’t all the pitchers who practice ‘great performers’?
Let’s investigate this question.
The science of motor skill development is very clear in this regard. 
•   How much time you dedicate to practice is a much more significant indicator of successful performance than is the fact you simply practiced your skill. So, there is that variable…time investment.
•   But it is ‘how’ one practices that is really the influencer of growth, skill development and eventually success at game time.
The question we should be asking ourselves is not just:
Is our pitcher practicing?
Or even how much does our pitcher practice?
But instead, we must ask how deep and deliberate is our pitcher’s current practice?
To help us with that question I’m going to turn to one of my most influential mentors, K. Anders Ericsson.
The late K. Anders Ericsson was a Swedish psychologist and Conradi Eminent Scholar and Professor of Psychology at Florida State University who is internationally recognized as a researcher in the psychological nature of expertise and human performance.
His incredible books:
•   ‘Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise’.
•   ‘The Road To Excellence; The Acquisition of Expert Performance in the Arts and Sciences, Sports, and Games’.

•   ‘Development of Professional Expertise: Toward Measurement of Expert Performance and Design of Optimal Learning Environments’.
These 3 are seemingly always on my desk and are constantly referenced in our work at the Texas Baseball Ranch.
Ericsson believed the 7 gold standards of deliberate practice are as follows:
1. Have Specific Goals in EACH of Your Practices
Create step-by-step objectives focused on improving specific aspects of the pitcher’s target performance. For example: Arm health, recovery, velocity, command, spin/shape/deception. Step-by-step means setting particular targets for each day, week, month and year, over many years.
2. Support Your Work With Expert Coaching/Mentoring
To achieve elite level performance, athletes almost always need expert coaches, mentors and/or advisors at critical junctures in their career to provide a winning combination of implicit and explicit knowledge.
3. Consistent Enlightenment From Feedback - Preferably Immediate Feedback.
A primary tenet of growth, skill development and/or simply learning to perform better is to get direct, immediate, relevant feedback. Specifically, in this case, getting the information you need to adjust your behavior, adjust your movement, correct mistakes, and move on to the next stage of growth.
Learning from feedback is absolutely invaluable. It’s the best way of managing your performance during or after the event and continuing to grow. We say at the Texas Baseball Ranch that the breakfast of champions is not Wheaties but instead direct, immediate and relevant feedback.
4. Dedicate At Least A Portion of Each Practice To Working Slightly Outside Of Your Comfort Zone. 
Making continued improvements requires systematically challenging yourself to go one step further than your current capabilities. As soon as you are approaching a semblance of mastery of a specific skill, it’s time to demand more of yourself and challenge yourself further. This is often more challenging than some might think.
Practicing outside of your comfort zone almost always, by definition, creates some anxiety and frustration. The good news is that married with persistence and perseverance, deep deliberate practice also regularly results with great satisfaction as you do reach the next levels of performance. You can then move on to new and even more uncomfortable challenges.

5. Building an Exceptionally Sound Foundation in Which Mastery Can Be Expanded.

It’s far easier to acquire new skills if you’ve first created a sound substructure for learning and development. From this foundation you can develop superb skills step-by-step. Never forget, ‘Extraordinary’ is simply doing the ordinary, exceptionally well. Dedicate yourself to being uncommonly good at the foundational stuff.
6. Being Focused and Present.
Achieving elite level performance demands involvement and ownership, not simply listening passively to other’s advice. Deliberate practice requires high levels of intention, awareness and a willingness to put in hours of effort. No one achieves deliberate practice my accident. The secret is in the name. Deep, deliberate practice is only created on purpose.
7. Develop Well Defined Mental Representations.
One important characteristic of top performers is their ability to visualize and connect images in their minds with their ideal performance. This is what Ericsson referred to as 'Mental Representations’. When athletes have a clear mental picture of the specifics of their skills, they can far better monitor their performance in real time, make decisions under duress, and adjust and adapt as the situation unfolds.
Don Mattingly once was quoted as saying, “The only difference between me and hundreds of other players is that I have a very clear picture in my mind of what I want and spend most of my day coloring it!”
As you read down through Ericsson’s 7 gold standards of deliberate practice, I’m fairly certain that your reaction is similar to mine in thinking that the traditional practice in America is far from deep, deliberate practice.
As I tell my clients all the time, “Awareness itself is curative. Awareness of the problem is the start. Now is the time to start making changes toward a more effective use of our time, effort, energy and resources.” 
I look forward to continuing our discussion.
Ron Wolforth
CEO- The Texas Baseball Ranch
PS. Next time my topic will be “The Truth About Long Toss”.

Coach Wolforth has written six books on pitching including the Amazon Best Seller, Pitching with Confidence.  Since 2003, 122 of the players Wolforth has trained have been drafted and 467 have broken the 90 mph barrier.  He has consulted with 13 MLB teams, dozens of NCAA programs and has been referred to as “America’s Go-to-Guy on Pitching” and “The Pitching Coaches Pitching Coach”.  Coach Wolforth lives in Montgomery, TX with his wife, Jill.  They are intimately familiar with youth select, travel baseball and PG events as their son Garrett (now a catcher in the Cincinnati Reds organization) went through the process.  Garrett still holds the PG Underclass All-American Games record for catcher velocity at 89mph which he set in 2014 at the age of 16.

If you would like a free copy of Pitching with Confidence, go to freepitchingbook.com.