Assistant Strength Coach Daniel Desselle

Mississippi State assistant strength and conditioning coach Daniel Desselle talks about the ins and outs of baseball strength and conditioning.

When were you are Mississippi State the first time and which sports did you work with?
"I was at Mississippi State in 2000 to 2002 as a graduate assistant under (current MSU assistant strength) Coach (Richard) Akins. My first year I assisted him with all of his sports. My second year he allowed me to work with baseball as my primary responsibility. And I continued to work with him with all of his sports. At the time that included men's and women's basketball, softball, volleyball and soccer."

Where did you go from here?
"I graduated from here and went to Tulane University for one year where I was an assistant strength coach. My primary responsibilities were men's tennis and men's and women's golf. And I also assisted with the baseball and football programs.

"From there I moved back home, Walker, Louisiana, and started teaching and coaching at Denham Springs High School. I was coaching football and doing the strength program there. I was there for five years. One of the key things I did there was create a year-round lifting program for our baseball guys. Football lifts year-round but a lot of your other sports don't have that luxury."

What was the reason for having a year-round lifting program for baseball?
"It was mainly injury prevention. Talking to the baseball coaches, after the first year of implementing it they came to me and said there were a large number of minor injuries that had decreased by a large amount compared to previous years. They said that was due to the kids being in better shape and being physically stronger. They had more stamina. They also were able to practice harder and longer."

Where did you go from there?
"About a year and a half ago I received a call from my alma mater, Walker High School, about coming back there as the defensive coordinator for football and run the weight program there. During the summer, I worked out football, the girl's and boy's basketball, volleyball, softball and baseball. Plus, I was the defensive coordinator for football. And this past fall I was able to get baseball and softball weight training set up to go year-round."

Next up for you was Mississippi State. How did you wind up here at State?
"I was at home on a Friday morning. We were scheduled to start two-a-days on Monday. Coach Akins called me to see if I would be interested in coming to Mississippi State and looking at an assistant strength and conditioning position. I told him I was happy where I was and had the job that I wanted, but I also said I would love the opportunity to come back to Mississippi State. We stayed in contact for a couple of weeks. Then, once the position became available, I sent my resume to Human Resources and to (MSU head strength) Coach (Matt) Balis. About two weeks later Coach Balis called me and ask me about coming up here for an interview. I came up there on a Wednesday and met with Greg Byrne and Duncan McKenzie. I also met with (MSU head baseball) Coach (John) Cohen and his entire staff and talked with them about an hour and a half. I then met with Coach Balis.

"I went home Wednesday night, coached in a scrimmage on Thursday and was called and offered the job by Mississippi State. which I accepted.

"I moved up here and officially started my job on September 1st. And baseball started lifting that afternoon. In addition to baseball, I also have soccer and men's and women's golf."

You've had strength and conditioning for a lot of sports. How is baseball different than other sports when it comes to strength training?
"All the sports are going to have similar lifts. Every sport is going to bench press and and squat. I think the biggest difference is what I refer to as your auxiliary lifts. In baseball we have a lot of rotational work. We do a lot of med ball work, working side to side. We start out with two guys being back to back and they will rotate the ball around to each other. They can't move their feet and they have to rotate their shoulders. We'll do 10 reps in each direction. We'll then have them step apart and make them turn a little further. We are trying to work a lot of core, abs, back and hip work. Once we progress past that point, we will take that same med ball and do more work. Basically, what we are doing with the med ball is transferring power from their back foot to their front foot. That way, when they swing that power can be transferred to the ball."

"We really focus a lot on the legs, the hamstrings, and the lower back."

What was the normal routine for the baseball players once you started your strength and conditioning work?
"For the position players, when I first got here, we worked out four days a week. The first and the third days were very similar. There was a lot of leg work, some back work and some bicep work. The second and fourth days was the pushing movement, your bench press, your shoulder work and your triceps. By doing it that way, we were trying to keep everything balanced. In between every lift we would have some kind of med ball exercise whether it was abs or side to side rotation.

"For our pitchers, from day one they have worked out three days a week. Their work was in conjunction with Coach Thompson's seven day pitching rotation. Day one, they would lift with me. We did heavy leg work and light upper body. All I wanted to do was get the soreness out from the day before when they pitched. But we also really wanted to focus on the leg strength that day. We were also doing interval running, which basically included striding about three-quarters speed, then sprinting, then striding again. Basically, they had 20 sprints, although they varied in distance and they varied from full-speed to three-quarters speed to half speed. I told them I wanted to make it hard so that the game is easy.

"Day three with the pitchers was a light total body day where we work the entire body. This is our conditioning day as well. It ranged from 12 sixty-yard strides to the very last week where it was 30 sixty-yard strides. We do that because they throw a bullpen on Day four. We don't want them to be too sore for Day four.

"On day five, we did light leg work and heavy upper body. We did light leg work because they were going to pitch in two days. We also did agility work. Our agility work consisted of applying speed while changing direction. We've done about 40 different cone drills where they have to sprint, stop, change direction. I tell them they may be sprinting off the mound to go get a bunted ball and it hits a pebble and redirects, which means they have to redirect. We also did some other drills as well including bag drills. We tried to make the drills baseball-specific."

Did anything change with the players once fall ball started?
"With the position players, when they started fall ball, we cut their lifts back to three days a week. Their lifting routine was similar to the pitchers, although it wasn't the same. Monday was a total heavy body day. That was their off day from not practicing. Wednesday was a medium day. Instead of doing squats, they did stepups. Dumbbell lifts are medium while barbell lifts are heavy. Friday's lifting was our lite day. There was no lower body involved because I ran them Friday morning. They were basically training for their conditioning test on Friday morning."

What did their conditioning tests consists of?
"The pitchers was 27 sixty-yard strides, which they had to complete in 8 to 9 seconds each. The position guys had to run 27 forty-yard strides in under 6 seconds each. They had 30 seconds of break in between each rep. And after every nine reps they got an additional 30 seconds to a minute break. The reason we came up with that number is because pitchers need more reps because they are a lot more active during the course of a ballgame. The reason we chose the 40 for the position guys is because Coach Cohen wanted to emphasize them running to first base. Forty yards is 120 feet and home to first is 90. If we can train them to go the extra 30 feet, then going from home to first will be a lot faster. We did 27 because that represented the 27 outs in a ballgame.

"On the day of the test we actually had them run 30. The reason for that is the first 27 equal the regular 27 outs and the last three represented an extra inning."

What kind of strength gains did the players have after the eight weeks of fall weight-lifting?
"Overall, as a team, we improved our squat maxes by 33 pounds per person. Our position guys improved their bench press by 18 pounds. Our pitchers improved their chest press max 26 pounds. The pitchers don't use a bar. We do it that way to keep them from having more stress on their shoulders. We saw some tremendous results in eight weeks but for us to see significant results I think it will take one year to be in our training program."

What will the spring workouts be like?
"We will continue doing in the springtime the same that we did in the fall for the pitchers. We'll change a couple of days around."

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Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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