Similar to many other aspects of sports, technology has invaded and improved the White Sox strength and conditioning program.
The White Sox have streamlined their program with the aide of the CoachMePlus application, which allows players to participate in offseason workouts wherever they are.
While the in-season benefits are extremely helpful in creating an electronic, real-time log of a player’s activities, the most significant benefit comes in October. As long as they have an internet connection, players can log in from anywhere to learn what strength and conditioning coach Allen Thomas has designed. The app not only offers a detailed workout plan, it provides video examples of each exercise and a chance to comment and the ability to update the activities completed as they occur.
“It doesn’t matter where you’re from -- if you have internet in the Dominican, it works there just as well,” Thomas said. “All they’ve got to do is pull their iPad up and it’s right there for them. A virtual coach, really.
“Just follow the offseason condition program and they’ll be fine. I’ve never in 20 years had a problem with any player that has followed the program.”
Thomas said the White Sox began to use CoachMePlus, which bills itself as “the leader in Strength and Conditioning and Applied Sports Science provides the most complete tool for safely preparing your athletes for competition” five seasons ago. According to its web site, the company has been in operation since 2007 and it’s many applications are used by other professional teams as well as universities.
One of its most practical uses for the White Sox -- aside from the hydration program they also employ -- is in the creation of an offseason program tailored to each athlete. One of a strength and conditioning coordinator’s biggest fears is that his player shows up to spring training over weight and out of shape.
But with a program individually tailored to each athlete in any language and real-time updates, Thomas knows if players have kept up. He said it has taken several years for players to get accustomed to the idea. But once they’re on board, it’s easy.
Jose Abreu had Thomas help him design a home gym customized to the way the first baseman likes to workout. If Abreu isn’t sure about how to perform an exercise, he can hit the play button on the right side of the screen and a video example pops up.
“It’s a very useful and helpful app because that gives you the regiment you have to do in the offseason and that helps you to be in the best shape possible when you go to spring training,” Abreu said through an interpreter.
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The applications have plenty of value for the White Sox during the season, too.
Paper records for each player’s physical regimen are no more. Weigh-ins, which occur every time a player walks into the clubhouse, are sent straight to the database as Thomas has the scale linked via blue tooth to the application.
“It saves quite a bit of time especially on bi-weekly and monthly reports,” Thomas said. “If I wanted to go look at Abreu’s weight, I can see every one since spring training and it’s charted, a pie chart and a line graph.”
The record-keeping also allows for cohesion between minor league affiliates and the major leagues when a player moves between different levels. When he was promoted in April to fill in for Melky Cabrera on his three-day paternity leave, Willy Garcia’s charts went with him electronically. Thomas then knew the rookie needed to perform a wall series when he joined the team in Minneapolis.
Double-A Birmingham strength coach Tim Rodmaker said the app makes life in the minors, where lengthy travel is the norm, much easier.
“The schedules are hectic,” said Rodmaker, in his 12th season with the organization and third with the Barons. “The travel, the game times, sometimes it’s hard enough just to get a hold of each other beyond text message or a voice mail. So it’s more of a real time, we can log in, especially when we have players changing affiliates, we can check previous workouts and get a sense where he’s going.”
The White Sox have learned what they like and don’t with the app over the past five years.
Similar to how workouts are tailored to individual players, Thomas said the club has worked with the app’s developers to fine tune it to the needs of the White Sox. Given the improved communication and record-keeping, Thomas couldn’t see the White Sox running the department any other way.
“It’s getting to where it’s just like anything --- it takes a little bit of tweaking here and there to getting it to what you want,” Thomas said. “We’ve worked with the developers and they’ve helped us tailor it to what we want. CoachMePlus has been great.”