Tag Archives: ABCA Podcast

LaPlaca champion for sports vision training

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Dr. Joe LaPlaca — founder of Ares Elite Sports Vision and Ares Sports Vision Academy — has long had a goal.
Graduated from Illinois College of Optometry in 2009, LaPlaca started his sports vision optometry practice in 2018.
“I noticed there’s a gap in the market for vision and how it relates to every sport,” says LaPlaca. “In optometry schools and athletics we’re missing it.
“There’s a big opportunity there and something I always wanted to do.
“Eighty percent of how we experience the world is through our eyes. How do we make this better?”
A lifelong athlete, LaPlaca has been involved in soccer, baseball, hockey, wrestling, tennis, football and martial arts and more.
“Sports has always been a passion of mine and understanding the nuances of the games and understanding how vision relates to all those sports,” says LaPlaca. “I take this very seriously. It’s primarily for research. I know what impact this can have on an athlete.
“This could be the thing that gets a kid a college scholarship or not. This is the thing that could take a Triple-A baseball player up to the major leagues.
“If we can clean things up and I can get them bought-in and processing — and I know I can — it’s huge for a lot of people.”
“I want to make the biggest impact I can on the sports world.”
LaPlaca’s practice is located inside Mojo Up Sports Complex in Noblesville, Ind.
LaPlaca sees vision and cognitive training working together.
“How do we take all the information we’re getting from the vision side and how does our brain make decisions?,” says LaPlaca. “How does it orient in space?”
LaPlaca says athletes encounter visual discrimination.
In baseball, batters must learn to recognize pitches based on factors like rotation, release point and speed.
“The ones that excel at that are the ones who are able to make the decision once they’ve seen the actual pitch and process that information,” says LaPlaca. “It’s called choice reaction time. Do I swing or do I not swing? If we can break it down to simple steps of ‘do I go’ or ‘do I not go’ that’s what — hitters especially — are concerned the most about.
“That’s the holy grail that everybody is chasing right now. How to I train at that piece and how do I know I’m getting better at that thing?”
In LaPlaca’s practice, he makes it a point to track all the analytics.
“Through training we can equivocally say you’re getting faster in your choice reaction time,” says LaPlaca. “It should improve your batting average, your strikeout percentage (and more). Those are the things coaches are (seeking).”
LaPlaca says it is progressions that he puts athletes through that makes the difference.
“A lot of people train with their tablet or their phone,” says LaPlaca. “We do a lot more free space. We’re connecting the visual stimuli to an action for your right hand or your left hand or a closed fist or an open fist. There’s eye-hand coordination drills.
“All these things are custom for that specific athlete based on specific areas of weakness.”
Currently, the youngest Ares client is 9 and the oldest is 64.
“There’s no age limit to it,” says LaPlaca. “13 is probably the best. They’ll start going through puberty. They’ll have growth spurts. We can stay on top of how their eyes and brains connect to their body (as they grow).
“On the other side they come out and are a lot stronger than kids who weren’t doing vision training.”
LaPlaca doesn’t see an end point for this training and that those wishing to be a NCAA Division I athlete or professional will continue this training for a long time.
Currently, LaPlaca is working with the baseball programs at Purdue University and the University of Maryland and has worked with Butler University in the past. He has also visited with a Major League Baseball organization.
LaPlaca estimates that few of the collegians or pros he works with had heard of vision training and more than a third had never had an eye exam.
“That seems to be the more glaring thing,” says LaPlaca. “They think that just a vision screening is good enough. When in the world are they just standing and looking at one specific spot?
“They’re using their visual and neurocognitive systems way more frequently than they even understand.”
Typically, athletes are evaluated and ranked against their teammates and against other athletes of similar caliber.
LaPlaca can identify those with serious visual issues and refer them to a local vision therapist.
Ares Elite Sports Vision is on Facebook and Instagram.
LaPlaca has been a frequent podcast guest.
Here are links to some of those episodes:

Dr. Joe LaPlaca.
Dr. Joe LaPlaca.

Coaching takes Gobert to Walters State Community College

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Nick Gobert’s baseball coaching career has taken him from a powerhouse in the Midwest to an elite program in the South.
The graduate of Jasper (Ind.) High School and the University of Southern Indiana has gone from Indian Hills Community College in Centerville, Iowa, to Walters State Community College in Morristown, Tenn., which is located between Knoxville and Johnson City.
The 44-16 IHCC Warriors and 61-7 WSCC Senators both participated in the 2021 National Junior College Athletic Association Division I World Series in Grand Junction, Colo.
Married in June 2021 to the former Haley Brun, Nick followed her to Tennessee when she took a job at Colgate-Palmolive in Morristown. The Kansas State University graduate had worked at the company’s plant in Richmond, Ind., while having a long-distance relationship with Gobert. The couple was introduced by a mutual friend.
When relocating, Gobert looked for a new baseball home.
“I wanted to get to a competitive place,” says Gobert. “(Coaching) wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t (Haley) believing in me. She’s been a sports fan her whole life.
“It took two years to fully understand the time commitment.”
Gobert is a volunteer assistant on the staff led by David Shelton, who earned his 400th career victory in February.
“I do a little bit of everything,” says Gobert. “I’m in charge of base running and help with infield play and hitters.”
How does his last team differ from his current one?
“Indian Hills is a pitching and defensive-minded program though we did have guys who could hit a little bit,” says Gobert. “Walters State is more offensive-minded. We have the ability to drive the baseball with guys who can impact the game with doubles and home runs.
“It’s a place kids want to come to because of the great tradition.”
Since 1984, the Senators have made 10 NJCAA World Series appearances with one championship (2006), a runner-up finish (2018) plus finishing third outright (2003 and 2015) and tying for third (2019). Former WSCC head coach Ken Campbell went into the NJCAA Baseball Hall of Fame in 2020.
While Walters State has a home field with a turf surface and many other amenities and played a fall game at the home of the Tennessee Smokies (Double-A South), there still a junior college baseball mindset.
“We still have the JUCO grind-it-out kind of guys and atmosphere,” says Gobert. “We practice quite a bit. Our mentality is that nothing is every given to us. We have to earn everything we have.”
Gobert, who turns 28 in May, appreciates the amount of time allowed at the junior college level for one-on-one instruction and evaluation.
“It’s that amount of hands-on time you get with each player,” says Gobert. “You’re watching everything and working with them. You get to connect with your players better.
“You make adjustments as needed because of those relationships.”
When Gobert is not involved with baseball activities or his wife, he earns a little extra cash as a Walters State mail courier.
Walters State, which heads into the weekend at 20-2, carries a roster of around 50 players. Among those are redshirts and players who took an extra year of eligibility because of COVID-19.
“It’s an older bunch,” says Gobert. It’s big to have those guys around to help the younger (players).”
The Senators tend to use a wide variety of players in mid-week games with those competing for spots in weekend Tennessee Community College Athletic Association Region VII contests.
Gobert was an assistant to Matthew Torrez at Indian Hills. Torrez played for Tracy Archuleta at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Archuleta is now head coach at USI.
Nick is the son of Terry Gobert, an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer with more than 800 victores, five state titles and four state runners-up to his credit. The two were featured together in the American Baseball Coaches Association Podcast hosted by Evansville, Ind., native Ryan Brownlee in October 2021.

Nick Gobert (Walters State Community College Photo)
Nick Gobert (Walters State Community College Photo)
Aerial view of the Walters State Community College baseball field in Morristown, Tenn. (Walters State CC Photo)