The Program: Implementing Blast Motion
One of the more frustrating processes as a head coach is implementing a new piece of technology and finding that you've given yourself an extra job. When it comes to a new system we have to make sure we are adding to our program efficiently. Blast Motion is an unbelievable tool, and can do amazing things with your program's hitting regiment if used correctly. But it can also be an extra 2-3 hours at the end of every hitting session extracting data, finding what needs to happen, and making changes based on the data. That extra time is something you don't want to lose. This Blog post is here to help you implement Blast Motion effectively without giving yourself an extra job. This is a very simple method to getting it implemented without too much leg work. Once it's implemented you can dive as deep as you'd like, change environments, track drill work, build programs that match the athlete's on an individual level, but this system will help you get it up and running within a week of receiving the sensors.
Prep & Install
If you have multiple teams going you will want to label the sensors with a piece of paper or a sticker in order to give the athletes the ability to grab the correct sensor, and not have to worry about which sensor is which. The more time you spend creating the system and educating the athletes on their part in the system the easier the back end collection will be. After labeling, making sure each sensor is charged (The batteries last a while), and each player knows how to put them on. Their part needs to be extremely simple, check schedule, grab sensor, install on the bat.
Create a Schedule
Depending on the amount of sensors you have in your program you will most likely have to create a schedule in order to get every athlete tested. Most people opt for the trading of sensors during practice, but that makes filtering and creating reports a lot more difficult during post-practice. Creating a schedule for your athletes to be able to leave the sensor on their individual bat during their entire session, and only having their swings on it makes it a lot easier to collect data. Depending on the amount of athletes and sensors you have in your program it will look something like this. Every day you rotate through another group of athletes, and by the end of the week you will have worked through your entire program. I highly recommend a minimum of 20% sensors to athletes ratio. That way you knock out the entire team once a week without weekends.
Building a Baseline
Environment is one of the most important aspects of data collection. You will always want to create a game like environment for a baseline. Whether that is live At-Bats, or Machine is dependent on how many reps you can get in for each. Since the sensors are being used once per day by certain players, opting for machine makes sure you get a sufficient amount of swings on them facing a velo they will likely see in game. Driveline recommends at least 50 swings to start to see metrics stabilize, but in my experience, the more the better. Giving yourself a wide range of swings lets you see what type results start to happen when an athlete gets more comfortable. Once you start this process, you will see that getting to 50 swings with a machine is much easier, and taking those results and comparing to live At-Bats is a much more efficient process than just taking Live At-Bats. During this process you want the athlete to have very little coaching, and you want to see their "natural swing". This is important because it lets you gather information that will tell you about their swing from an objective perspective, and without too many cues going on in their head.
Using a repeatable environment will also help you see what changes have occurred over the last couple weeks. Not everything needs to be repeated every week, but being able to take a baseline, and recreate the environment in 4-6 weeks will help you see which direction their metrics are trending. Creating a test-retest system that can show change objectively is extremely important for showing athletes their results and change.
I highly suggest during your baseline creating a "Batted Ball" profile, in order to monitor some of these Traits. Using the Hitting Evaluation Chart during BP, you will then have a batted ball chart that is perfect for documenting live BP rounds. These also serve a huge purpose in getting athletes to track and be able to reflect on their BP Rounds. Creating this profile at the same time that you are collecting Blast will also let you pair their swing results to their batted ball results.
It may prove difficult, but eventually the goal should be to have an idea of what type of swing produces certain results. This will take some time, but matching swing types to results will also benefit you in breaking down swings more effectively, as well as calling pitches, and knowing what shift to use defensively against certain types of hitters.
Collection Modes & Solutions
Blast offers various forms of Collection modes, but if you are trying to work through a large number of athletes per week with a strict budget, then you will find that offline collection works perfectly fine for getting through all your athletes, and not having to adjust, or mess with an Ipad during practice. If you have the ability, Blast does offer video in their app which is highly useful, but if not, then offline mode will let you collect all the swings you need to collect, and then export and see data later. This mode is also perfect for letting athletes work in different cages, and environments without having to keep up with them individually on an Ipad.
Now that you've collected your swings, the work of exporting to a file begins. In order of simplicity for data collection you have these options. Reaching out to a Blast Motion representative and explaining your situation will be extremely useful, but if you are looking to get an idea of how to implement, these are the easiest ways to add to your program. These examples are for a group of 25 Athletes.
1:1 Solution. Every athlete has a sensor and an online account. (Most expensive option, highest ease of use, this makes looking at data simple as you will not have to worry about multiple athletes swings being in the same account, or on the sensor, and you'll never have to worry about pulling data from Blast Connect. Athletes will upload their data, and that's it.)
1:5 Solution. 5 Athletes share a sensor and an account. (20% Rule) This solution is best used if you have those 5 athletes on a revolving schedule throughout the week as you will collect data from every athlete once a week. (Less expensive, reduces ease of use, and you will have to pull data from Blast Connect and separate it based off of each athlete. This means after an athlete uses a sensor you will have to download the data from Blast Connect and store is separately. This is necessary since each athlete will be sharing sensors throughout the week.) If you use this solution labeling the accounts by their sensor number will be extremely helpful, so "Sensor 1" account is sensor 1 physical. A hard thing to understand without seeing it, but hopefully it will clean up some time later on.
1:25 Solution. Every athlete uses the same sensor, and the same account. (This is the cheapest option, but is not necessarily the best in terms of feedback. Ease of use is simple since every day you'll download the information from Blast, and store it in a sheet to go over with the athlete. If this is your only option, I highly recommend using this as an evaluation only, and coming up with a 4 week plan for the athlete to go through, and making this part of your monthly Test-Retest system.)
You can also mix and match and have multiple sensors and 1 account, it takes some work-arounds, but it can be done effectively. This will allow you to collect swings from more than one athlete a day, but you will have to upload to Blast individually, and use a different way to "tag" or mark each athlete's swings using bat labels.
Export & Storage
Since you will be using offline collection you will want to download the data from Blast Connect, and save the excel file. I have made a custom sheet for storing Blast Motion data, and after data is downloaded from Blast Connect, it is copy/pasted into an individual sheet for each athlete. Since you will be using the sensors with different athletes, I highly recommend creating an individual sheet for each athlete, and saving their data on a tab to compare.
The chart shared on the "Charts & Download Page" has 3 different options on each tab that all build on top of the previous chart. Made this way in order to give you more options and control. All of these are in the same chart with Youth, HS, and College levels for each of the bottom options.
Perfect for Data storage that is perfect for housing data, color coded metrics, and seeing charts like the one pictured above for every metric Blast offers.
All the benefits of the regular Data Storage with "Program Suggestions" this compares their averages to the Recommended averages from Blast Motion. Then it highlights whether their numbers are "In Range" or gives you a message for Rotation, Plane, Connection Programming.
Data Storage, Program Suggestions, and Charts comparing every metric to another metric. This is an overload of charts, and way more than necessary, but it was built purposefully like this to give you options of what to promote in your program. A great way to see what attack angle they move the bat fastest, what early connection gives them the best plane score, etc...
Once you've exported your data, you'll want to find the most efficient way to attack your individual players swings. This can be difficult to try and plan for every single person without some sort of "bucket" system. Finding common characteristics for your athletes swings and grouping them will limit the amount of plans you have to make, while also giving them the ability to bounce ideas off of each other to attack those issues. The "Bucket" system also allows you to create an environment that gets what you want out of their swing, while not having to adjust the machine or environment every single time you have a new person jump in the cage. Creating the "Buckets" is dependent on your program, but what I recommend is having a main trait and a subset of characteristics that are individual to your language of the swing. For example if you are training for Power (which is probably everyone's need) then you can attack the subsets of the swing within Power (Load, Maintain Posture, Hip Shoulder Separation, Contact Quality). These subsets can be integrated into all programs, and should be how you breakdown the swing into partial segments.
Building A Plan of Attack
The approach we take in our program is based off of 3 Traits and 4 Characteristics. This works for us, and has been an easy way for athletes to understand what they need to work on, and why they have certain drills and environments in their programs. It's extremely important to inform your athletes on your approach, and why they do what they do. In order to use this system you will pick 1 Trait and 1 Characteristic. These then will be what you emphasize when you create your programs.
Approach & In-Game Decisions
Ease of use is important for the charging and storing of your sensors. Getting one of the USB hubs that has multiple USB slots to charge your sensors is a great way to limit outlets being used, and keeping them stored in the same spot.
Blast motion sells a carrying case, but I used an old Oakley Sunglasses case, or any small bag with a hard outer shell.
Athletes will not understand the value of the sensors unless you teach them the value of the sensors.
Taking the averages is a good place to start, but also collecting data like range, mode, and standard deviation help you better understand what the athlete's metrics actually look like. For instance -10 & 20 attack angles will give you an average of 10 and so will 8 and 12 degrees. Both of these give you the same average, but only one of the athletes is around the ideal attack angle.
Creating graphs that show a trend line over time for your programs emphasis is a great way to test your programming, their effort levels, and if what you do is working.
Creating a leaderboard for Large scale metrics is also a great way to increase compete levels, and push athletes to a much higher level of play. Bat Speed Leaderboards are a great way of showing athletes where they are at, and where they are in relation to other athletes.
If you have the ability to take hundreds of swings in a week long workout for the athlete you will have a much cleaner picture of the athlete's swing. The more data points (Swings) you get, the better.