Aug 19, 2016
Behind Their Success
Paul Chandler

Over the past decade, the University of Florida baseball program has established itself as one of the country’s elite. Since I started working with the team in 2010, the squad has made the NCAA tournament seven consecutive years, including trips to the College World Series (CWS) in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, and 2016.

One of the reasons for the team’s success is an offseason strength and conditioning regimen that holds players to the highest standards and demands excellence from them each and every day. I’ve done this by developing a set of weightroom rules to instill a disciplined culture.

Forming a culture is important for any offseason strength and conditioning program because it establishes a set of standards that players are expected to meet. The three tenets to our culture are discipline, mental toughness, and team chemistry.

To foster discipline, we enforce a set of clearly defined weightroom guidelines from day one. A lot of strength coaches overlook this step, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. I use three rules, which have evolved over my years as a strength coach thanks to the input of different mentors in the profession. They are basic, easy to enforce, and quickly create an atmosphere of accountability.

1. No sitting in the weightroom. Why? Constant movement creates a more serious work environment.

2. No yawning in the weightroom. Once again, the weightroom is a place where our athletes should come to work, and yawning is a sign of boredom and apathy.

3. All players must wear the same gear to strength and conditioning sessions. Although this may seem like an insignificant detail in the grand scheme of a training program, making sure everyone dresses the same is an exercise in accountability, helps build team unity, and instills team pride.

The second tenet of our culture is building athletes’ mental toughness, which is reflected in our weightroom guidelines. It’s also an especially important trait to build in baseball players because of the mentally demanding nature of their sport.

One of the ways we build mental toughness is by making players understand that baseball is a game of failure. Even a hitter with a good batting average of .300 fails 70 percent of the time. To help players overcome adversity and cope with failure, we design a strength program that has built-in consequences for any deviation from established workout protocols.

For example, when an athlete is observed yawning in the weightroom, we bring it to his attention and immediately instruct him to do 10 pushups. Once the player follows through with this consequence, he resumes team workouts. Each player knows that mistakes will happen, so they need to learn to treat them as teachable moments and move on from them.

I also get players comfortable with failure by putting them in stressful situations where they will not always succeed. For instance, a player will “fail” at some point during a wall sit because he won’t be able to hold the position forever. When a player fails, they understand that there will be a next time. This is similar to moving on to the next play after an error in games.

Another way we develop mental toughness is by making training competitive. When working with high-
level athletes, it’s important to constantly challenge them.

The last component of building a culture is developing team chemistry. One way I facilitate this is by partnering upperclassmen with freshmen and sophomores during offseason weightroom work. The younger players learn from the older players, and the veterans get a chance to improve their leadership skills, which creates a sense of ownership within the team.

The workout pairs are rotated every two weeks to ensure a wide range of connections amongst teammates. My hope is that the players are also forging friendships that will last a lifetime.

Here is a sample workout from the University of Florida baseball team’s offseason plan.

Hurdles – 1 x 6

Ladders – 1 x 10

Windmills – 1 x 10

Pizza pies (arm care-rotator) – 1 x 10

Two-way raise (arm care-rotator) – 1 x 20

Dumbbell bench or floor press (pitchers) – 3 x 6

Dumbbell bench press (position players) – 1 x 8, 1 x 6, 1 x 4

Fat grip V-pulldown – 3 x 8

Platform push-ups – 3 x 8

TRX row – 3 x 8

Biceps, triceps, forearm work – Coach’s discretion

Bridging abs – 3 x 15 sec.

Competition: Dumbbell holds for time

Paul Chandler, MSE, CSCS, SCCC, is in his seventh year as the Strength and Conditioning Coordinator for the University of Florida baseball team. He also coordinates the strength program for the Gators' softball squad, which won NCAA Division I titles in 2014 and 2015

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