Long tossing in the winter
I've been working with two high school aged groups the last few months, and we are now inside due to the Calgary winter weather. This means long tossing into nets. I'm going to explain what we did while we were able to long toss outside, to maintain the long toss idea while inside.
While we were outside long tossing, I wanted to take as many measurements as possible. I measured distance, velocity, number of throws it took to get to each distance, and took video of them throwing to get the angle of their throws
To translate that info inside, throwing into a 12 foot high net, took some planning, as well at the athletes cooperation. The throwing program we created was using RPE (rate of perceived effort). These are usually in percentages, and so for example, on the first long toss day we had them warm up to 50%, and then 30 throws at that RPE. In order to make sure they were able to mirror their outdoor long toss inside, I marked the ground where they should throw from, and a target across the top of the batting cage that would replicate their angle they were trying to recreate (~30-40 degrees from horizontal). I would then track their velocity, more than anything to make sure they were at least within their range. I wouldn't tell them to throw harder or slower if they were within a decent range, and also depending on the effort they felt. But for some of the athletes, it was hard for them to feel the certain RPE that they were supposed to be throwing at, and having velocities available to them helped them feel that RPE better.
Now we are at the point where the athletes are doing a full long toss session; working up to ~95% on the extension phase, and then working on the compression phase. For this compression phase, I wanted them to work down ~1-2 inches (or 1 square on the batting cage) on each throw. This allowed them to make around 30 throws in the compression phase, and we would record the last certain number of throws to see where they were at.
Overall through this experimentation, some things I wish I had done while we were outside was to ask what percentage they felt they were at, at certain distances and velocities. RPE is a very subjective number, as it changes between athletes. One athlete might feel like they are going 100%, but its obvious there is more in there. Others think they may only be going 50%, but are clearly exerting themselves way more than that. I think it would be beneficial to ask them all along the way of going out on the extension phase of what RPE they feel like they are at, and recording that.
The compression phase has been exciting, as we have seen many athletes make huge strides in just their first 4 compression phases, adding as much as 7mph compared to their first session. In the other group, we have just had 4 of them do their first session of compression throws, and all of them are at, or close to, their previous bests, which is really amazing for their first time pulling down. Much of this is due to getting stronger and bigger in the weight room, but also taking three weeks off of throwing after their seasons, and letting their arms recover and then taking them through a quality arm care and strengthening program while going through a return to throwing program.
I'm looking forward to all the results that will come from these athletes, and to making the long toss program inside better.