After the Baseball Playoffs, These Coaches Seek to Improve Their Skills

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In America, when the baseball playoffs end it is time for trainers and inventors to show the results of their latest discoveries. Mr. Zawrotny shares knowledge and tools with Dutch coaches.

In America, when the baseball playoffs end it is time for trainers and inventors to show the results of their latest discoveries.

For Steve Zawrotny, a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), this season will start with an invitational trip to speak at the 21st European Baseball Coaches Clinic in the Netherlands.

There he will address Dutch coaches of youth and adult players from all competitive levels on how to properly apply strength-training principles to improve player performance.
Why the Netherlands?

Since Amsterdam English professor, Emile Grasé, first introduced baseball to the Netherlands in 1911, the game has taken deep root there. In fact, there are more baseball fields in Holland per capita than in other European countries.

These days, Dutch players start training indoors in February. The playing season starts in late March, early April and continues through the baseball playoffs in late September, early October. Most clubs play two, occasionally three, games a week--even at the highest level of competition.

"At the national level, Dutch Baseball is at the forefront of European Baseball," says Mr. Zawrotny. "And, the Dutch continue to build on their International reputation. Especially, after their Olympic team ended the Cubans 21-game Olympic winning streak at the 2000 games in Sydney. So, it's an honor for me to speak at this clinic."

Despite the game's growing popularity, volunteer or low paid non-professional coaches, with limited coaching backgrounds and playing experience, coach most teams. That's where the annual European Baseball Coaches Clinic comes in to help these coaches learn more on how to "teach" the game.

The true visionary of the clinic was a former American coach named Bill Arce. Mr. Arce started the clinic in 1985 by inviting college and pro coaches from the United States to the Netherlands to share their knowledge and experience with the Dutch coaches.

As the strength and depth of Dutch baseball has grown, so has the clinic. In its early years, the clinic had around 200 registrants. In 1992 almost 400 coaches attended. Today, Dutch coaches see the clinic as the resource for ideas and thoughts about baseball and softball.

"These dedicated coaches arrive motivated, ready to improve on their past successes and gain new knowledge to better their coaching skills," says clinic leader, Jim Jones. "And, all the attendees share a common goal of giving baseball players across the Netherlands a quality experience and to grow the game of baseball."

Mr. Jones is no novice to international baseball. He began his international baseball career in 1991 after serving as an assistant coach at Stanford University and head coach of the University of Wyoming and St. Mary's College (CA). Since that time, he has served as a coach and consultant in Czechoslovakia, France, and Spain. He also served as Co-coordinator of Game Development in Europe for Major League Baseball.

Now, as President of International Sports Group ("ISG"), Mr. Jones heads up winter baseball and softball clinics, like the European Baseball Coaches Clinic, throughout Europe with the help of outside sponsorship.

ISG and The Royal Dutch Baseball and Softball Association ("KNBSB") will host this year's clinic at the Novotel Rotterdam Brainpark hotel in Rotterdam on December 8th and 9th.

And, thanks to sponsors like Louisville Slugger, Diamond Sports, World Sports Tours and Major League Baseball, Mr. Jones can afford to bring in outstanding baseball speakers like Mr. Zawrotny.

Mr. Zawrotny, who runs two baseball web sites: BaseballFit.com (http://www.baseballfit.com) and PitchingPractice.com (http://www.pitchingpractice.com), plans to arm coaches with useful strength and conditioning information. He will zero in on ways coaches can reduce the risks of injury to players and increase player performance on the field.

An inventor and co-developer, with former L.A. Dodgers pitcher Jim Haller, of several baseball and softball training products like the Big Z Training Bat (http://www.baseballfit.com/bat-speed.htm), TheHeavyBall® (http://www.pitchingpractice.com/pitchingworkout.html), and the Designated Hitter (http://www.pitchingpractice.com/baseballpitchers.html), Mr. Zawrotny hopes to show coaches the value of combining strength training with skill development.

"When you say strength and conditioning, many coaches think only of weight lifting," says Mr. Zawrotny. "Yet more advanced training methods such as over-load and over-speed training and plyometrics, for example, can greatly improve a player's throwing velocity or bat speed."

Through the years, Americans have supported Dutch baseball in many ways.

At the end of World War II, baseball materials were in short supply in the Netherlands. The Americans sent shiploads of baseball materials--uniforms of all colors, bats, balls, and the likes--to help get baseball up and going again. Their support helped set the stage for the Netherlands to win their first European title in 1956 and earn a chance to go to the Global World Series.

"That's a hard contribution to top," says Zawrotny. "But I'm sure that the 'baseball materials' and ideas I have to share will help them too."

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