“Physical” Therapy and “Mental” Progression

New students frequently arrive who have hit a plateau. They are stuck, and many are injured, because they tried to push through barriers. In many cases, it becomes clear that we cannot help her change without changing her thought process.

I tell them, “Your way was not working. That is what got you into this mess.”

When a kid arrives in pain, or she is far behind where she should be, I put them through what we call “therapy”. It is just as intense and as serious as physical therapy. It allows me to see whether she and the parents are serious, or if they are just looking for another shortcut to the same old place?

The therapy we will design is a very specific way of helping the brain and the body overcome old muscle memory and begin to do things in proper, efficient, and healthy ways. There are two parts to therapy.

We must start with the brain. It must totally buy into the direction we are going. Often the brain wants to “regress to the mean”, as one of our great Certified Instructors puts it. The mind is comfortable with old feelings and keeps wanting to go back to the way things were, even if that place had a very unpleasant odor to it.

We have to establish new pathways in the brain itself, to get it to embrace correct feelings, to eliminate wasted or counter-productive motions. This may require very specific drills and exercises, repeated until the brain suddenly says, “Wow, this is exciting. This is safe. Where has this feeling been?”. One or two reps will not satisfy this. Unless she takes this as seriously as the therapy needed to rehab an injury, we are wasting time.

Only when we have made steps toward correction can we consider progression. You may be surprised at how many parents arrive in panic mode, wanting us to leap past correction so we can make her explosive. That thinking is what got her into that mess in the first place. The list of kids who have come to us seriously injured because someone wanted to overlook hip, knee or ankle dysfunction is unbelievable. The number of kids who have tried the latest gadget or popular drill, with resulting injury, is disheartening. Wanting to skip correction and go right to progression is like trying to overcome a flat tire on a NASCAR racer by getting more power from the engine.

Sometimes we have to take a step back and help the muscles learn to fire in more efficient sequences. Other times it is a process of building physical strength that enables or enhances a certain movement. We are working to get the body and mind together so she can understand exactly how she should feel and how to make that happen over and over.

Once the corrections are made, only then can we establish a logical sequence of progression. We determine which step will best lead to the next? The more we understand about movements, the better we can learn which must first be established in order to enable the next. You cannot jump past one to get to the other.

The bottom line is this. If your pitcher is failing but you want to bring her to us with a list of non-negotiables, it is probably best to stay where you are. Only through studying every movement, understanding each cause and effect, can we we can design a plan for therapy. That plan must be detailed, one step at a time, helping her learn exactly how she should feel and how to make that happen over and over.

When we eliminate wasted movements, counter-productive actions, and clean up issues in the body, we release her to be powerful. She instinctively responds. For the first time she is not trying to run a race with a flat tire. That is when we finally hear that engine begin to roar.

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