EAST LANSING - College athletes need to get in shape, stay in shape and avoid injury over a long season. Sounds easy, but in reality, it is a challenge that is taken on by a team – athletes, coaches, athletic trainers and a nutritionist.
The baseball team’s training regimen is a carefully planned program that spans months.
“We have a lot of big guys, out of our 35 players we have 26 who are 200 pounds or more so it is big to us that they keep their weight and keep their strength, we think that’s a big part of what makes them successful,” Assistant Coach Skylar Meade said.
MSU baseball is just starting their season, but their work actually started last fall. They lifted weights three days per week, trying to build muscle mass. When fall practice ended in October, they lifted four lifts a week and ran twice until the first week of December. When they returned in January, they went back to three days a week until the season started. Now that the season is underway, the players do maintenance lifting – designed to keep them strong and their weight up.
Nutritional health also works closely with the physical training. The team is constantly reminded to drink lots of water, and it is always accessible during practice and games.
Players consulted with a nutritionist to help them with meal plans and eating habits. On the road, assistant coaches do their best to make sure the team is eating right, avoiding fast food if possible. The team eats breakfast at its hotel, so the coaches are able to at least have an idea if they’re getting good nutrition such as eggs, fruit, and toast.
Freshman right-hand pitcher Mike Mokma took advantage of the nutritionist, purposefully putting on 40 pounds before the season.
“Coming in, I couldn’t really put on weight so I had no idea what to expect,” Mokma said. “I went to the nutritionist and they told me first to eat right and eat as much as you can, like before and after practice and especially when lifting to eat a half hour later to gain all that muscle mass.”
Meade sees the close relationship between training/nutrition and the Spartans playing well.
“A lot of its just the messaging we give between myself and of course our head coach Jake Boss Jr.,” Meade said. “He does a good job of preaching the hydration and watching what you eat, but our guys are big so they eat a lot, so it can be hard in planning, but we keep them fed. There’s always food in the dugout during games, the guys eat 24/7, peanut butter, ham, turkey - all kinds of stuff.”
Health is both physical and mental. Maintaining strong mental health is a critical issue in collegiate sports, according to the NCAA. Athletes face most of the same mental health risk factors as their non-athlete peers, but their role can expose then to more risk factors.
MSU baseball coaches give weekly questionnaires to check if the players are having any issues. That enables the coaches to keep open lines of communication with the players, and make sure they are O.K. The also pull players into the office for one on one meetings.
“It’s hard in baseball, you fail a lot, you think you suck when in reality you’re doing fine,” Meade said. “But it really falls on us coaches to keep them happy, it's hard during the course of a season. Guys get upset they’re not playing, and there’s a lot of things that kind of fall of our plate,”
They are aware that every player isn’t going to be happy all the time. But keeping the team focused, and playing as a unit, is the hallmark of a successful program.
“As far as staying focused, I look at every pitch, seeing what the pitchers doing and see what our hitters are doing, looking at scouting reports and just staying locked in at every pitch,” Mokma said. “The biggest thing we can do is stay unified as a team.”