As the off-season moves away from the winter meetings and the ever-pounding drumbeat of the rumor mill, the thoughts of many turn to preparing for the upcoming 2018 season. When you ask baseball followers about off-season training, it often conjures images of players in endless lines of teammates playing long toss, coaches with a stream of repetitive drills, players jogging in the outfield and working countless hours in the weight room, etc. And while much of that still exists, baseball is moving in a more comprehensive direction in developing their players. At the forefront is Katherine Roberts, who has been working with MLB teams for the last 15 years, including the Cubs for soon to be six seasons.
Katherine Roberts is the founder of Human Performance for Sports, specializing in baseball. Roberts holds a Fellow degree in Applied Functional Science and Chain Reaction Biomechanics. Officially listed as the Cubs Yoga and Pilates Performance Instructor, Roberts explains that there is more to role than simply holding yoga and Pilates classes. “I am hired by the Strength and Conditioning coaches to work with them, along with the skills coaches, for a comprehensive, focused, and directed development of the players”, stated Roberts.
“My methodologies are based on baseball biomechanics. They are specific to the position and the demands of the day and the season,” Roberts explained during a recent interview. “I treat each player as an individual, but there are some consistent issues that affect each player based on their position and repetitive movement patterns.”
Working with the team two to three times a week, Roberts collaborates with the strength coaches. Roberts will incorporate what needs to be done on a particular training day and formulate a program based o those needs. Those needs could be a warm-up before the players partaking in drills, working with individuals or groups on specific skills, or as part of a “cool down” at the end of a day. “For example,” Roberts said, “a few days ago, we worked with small groups of five in a rotation, getting them ready for their upper body workout.” Roberts also related instances in which she worked a recovery session at the end of a day’s workout, and working with individual players on Pilates. “The key for me is to be adaptable to meet the coaches’ daily needs for their players.”
But there is more to what Roberts does than assist players in improving things like strength, stamina, flexibility, and coordination. An integral part of every player’s plan, according to Roberts, is breathing and body awareness. “Learning how to breathe properly affects a player’s brain functioning and cognitive capabilities”, reports Roberts. Through breath-work, a player can improve their focus and “lock in” on the diamond. Roberts believes that relieving stress by working with breathing and body awareness can help a player slow the game down and allow his natural abilities to come through.
Roberts states that she enjoys working for the Cubs organization, and reports a high level of respect in all facets of the organization. “The Cubs have a great deal of respect for what each coach brings to the team” says Roberts.
Roberts believes that her collaboration with the Cubs coaches is on the forefront of the way players are being trained for baseball. “Together, we are becoming more innovative when it comes to training players for a future in the major leagues” states Roberts, who considers herself a “human performance coach”.
“It’s not just about developing baseball players” says Roberts, “it’s about cultivating human beings”.
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