Travelers Red Cards

I just flew home to day and arrived this afternoon. This is a rant – nothing about sport – just about how rude people are. I think everyone that travels or goes out to eat in a restaurant should receive two red cars to distribute at their discretion. I have had it with people speaking on cell phones in public places. Today at the airport in Charlotte was the worst I have seen. One guy was talking so load you could hear him one gate away. He was conducting business and believe me we all knew what it was. One lady sitting near me was making an appointment with her gynecologist, I wasn’t real interested in the details of that, but I had no choice. Another girl was arguing with her boyfriend, if I wanted to hear that I would watch Sex and The City. I would have run out of red cards today. What did we do without cell phones?

Thank You

Thanks for the nice responses and suggestions for future topics. Nothing specific today as I am traveling back to Sarasota fron Greenville/Spartanburg, South Carolina and a little pressed for time. A terrific learning day testerday. I will share it with in the next week. Suffice to say that there are gurus in the Medical profession just as in Athletic Development. I guess they do not call it the practice of medicine for nothing.They practice on us with very little if any checks and balances. More on all of this later.


Functional Path - One Year Later

It is hard to believe that it has been one year since I started writing this blog. I must admit that it is something that I enjoy and look forward to each day. Now I feel guilty if I do not post a blog each day. It certainly has stimulated me to think, research, and to look in depth at my own coaching. I had no idea a year when I started it that I would keep it going. The idea for the Functional Path analogy came to me when I was driving across country to return to Florida what was supposed to be my dream job. My initial motivation was quite simple – to use it each day a warm-up for writing my book. It was also a catharsis for me after a very tough two year period of my life. My dream job in the sport that I love, track & field, quickly turned into a bad dream. I found that the sport I loved had become totally corrupt with drugs and money at the elite level. I vowed after that experience to fight this trend in sport through education to raise the standard of coaching and overall awareness. I decided then to finish my book that will be published this November by Human Kinetics. I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep coaching and teaching, but I found that writing about coaching and reflecting on my experience reignited my passion.

As I start the second year I would like to get more feedback from you the readers what you want to hear read more of. Also I encourage you to contribute. Your comments really make the blog. Tell your friends and colleagues about the blog. If you have an idea you want to write about or something you want me to write about email at gambettasport@hotmail.com If I am off base tell me, it won’t hurt my feelings. Dialogue is good. I look forward to sharing ideas with you, to stimulate you to think. I have many exciting plans for the next year that I will share with you at the appropriate time.



I was reading a new book I picked up at the library called Fast Company’s Greatest Hits – Ten Years of the Most Innovative Ideas In Business. It essentially is a reprint of the best articles from the last ten years of Fast Company magazine. . The article that immediately caught my eye was titled Making Change by Alan Deutschman from May 2005. I have always been fascinated by change from both an institutional perspective and an individual perspective. Change is a constant, there is no question about that, but can you really change behavior? As a coach with a messiah complex I have always wanted to believe that you could, but it is difficult. This article underscored how difficult change is. For example, people faced with death from heart problems will not change their diet. So how we change or even modify behavior. Money certainly does do it, look at Terrell Owens. When I have seen change it has taken unbelievable personal commitment and willing on the part of the person wanting to change. They must want to change. They need support and guidance that is firm and fair. They have to be taken out of their comfort zone. This is not a religious experience; it is blood sweat and tears. Sometimes it is swallowing your pride. Basically it requires running a different script for your life.


Gary Winckler Interview

Gary is one of the greatest coaches I know. I have no doubt that he is the best sprint & hurdle coach in the world. Gary was one of the co-founders of the USA Track & Field Coaching education program. He is currently the Head women’s Track & Filed coach at University of Illinois. He and I have co-authored a book – Sport Specific Speed – The 3S System. He also has an excellent computer program called Training Design Pro to help design training programs www.trainingdesignpro.com He also designs and builds saddles.

What are most essential requirements for a successful conditioning program?
I believe that balance in the program is most essential for young athletes and with older athletes just as important but maybe not on an annual basis. I think with older more mature athletes you can take a year and specialize in areas needing further development.
What are the most common mistakes in conditioning?
Moving to specialized work too early.
Not performing exercises with good technique.
Ignoring the importance of mobility training
What is "functional training" from your point of view?
Functional training is that which addresses the needs of the athlete and the sport from the perspective of addressing "need to do" first and "nice to do" secondarily. Functional training should address areas that will make the athlete more functional.
What do you do to make your training more functional?
1. Assess the athlete's current state.....medical, nutritional, technical, speed, power, strength, endurance.
2. Plan a program to enhance the athlete's natural strengths and over time eliminate their weaknesses
3.evaluate the training process daily to adjust to the adaptation rate of the athlete
How important is specificity?
I think specificity is important from the perspective of technical and tactical competence. Sometimes the true value of general training and its contribution to functional performance and overall general health is overlooked.
What aspect of conditioning athletes is most difficult and how have you tried to address it?
For me the issue of patience on the part of the athlete. A good program needs not only careful planning and attention to detail but more importantly....time. Athletes want their results now and cannot look long term at how some training qualities need years to develop.
With the plethora of information available how can a coach determine what is best?
No coach can determine what is best unless they have the background in science and proven methodologies to adequately evaluate information and ideas. With understanding and experience one can objectively look at the latest and greatest sales pitches and determine if there are aspects within that have value.
Where do you stand on nature versus nurture?
Every athlete brings unique qualities to the training table. The most exciting challenge for the coach is to read those qualities and to help the athlete nurture them.
How much difference can training make?
Training not always is the reason for great performance. However, training can help the athlete insure that they will be able to perform at higher levels more consistently, with more health, and over a longer career.
What is the sure sign that a self proclaimed conditioning guru is not a good source of advice?
I always try to look at their motives. If every exercise demands a piece of equipment (that they are selling) or a new video or book then I usually step back and try to evaluate more closely the advice they are giving. This is not always true but in many cases can be the litmus test.
What do you differently with the female athlete in terms of conditioning?
I believe the female athlete needs consistent strength training throughout the training year. They do not maintain their strength gains as easily as men do and work must be prescribed to help them do this. Also in coaching females one has to understand that feelings are important and how we communicate to them will determine how effective the training will be. My experience is that the female athlete will work thru higher thresholds of pain and as a coach you have to be careful not to push them to the point of injury.
What has been the biggest innovation in training that you have seen during the course of your career and where is the biggest room for innovation in training athletes?
I think it is in how we put training programs together. I still see this as an area where better thinking can still be done and where we can become more innovative.
What's the biggest issue in training athletes today?
Getting them off the internet and not looking for short cuts. The human body does not adapt any faster than it did 30 years ago so why should be expect performance gains to be accomplished faster today. A challenge I face today that i did not face as a coach 10 years ago is helping athletes get the 'noise' out of their lives and learn to focus on the training process.
Who has been a role model in your career and why?
Joe vigil.....he is a man of science and compassion who I believe is the role model for all who wish to become great coaches.
What are the biggest professional challenges have you had to face?
Probably the biggest is coaching elite athletes who can compete at the international level. Not only is this challenging from a coaching perspective but also from a psychological perspective in that they know they are competing against others who use drugs to enhance performance. The challenge for me is convince my athletes that we too can achieve at the highest level without drugs. This challenge has been frustrating but on many occasions extremely rewarding when we succeed.
What do you enjoy most about coaching? Dislike?
I enjoy the planning of programs and the training of athletes on the field. I dislike the travel and of course dealing with the mediocre minds running the NCAA.
Did there come a time in your career where you were faced with a "fork in the road?" if so, do you ever revisit the decision you made or didn't make?
There were times when I wanted to create a fork in the road but my wife stopped me. I look at my strengths and realize that I probably could have had a more lucrative career in other fields but cannot regret the road I have taken. I have met many good people and made lifelong friends in the field of coaching.
What inspired you to get into coaching?
I grew up in high school and college settings where my coaches were not only my greatest teachers but good mentors as well. This attracted me to coaching.
Is failure ever valuable?
Yes failure is always valuable if you take the time to evaluate why it occurred and can take those lessons with you on your next journey. Failures are what make us stronger.
Which changes now taking place in your field that should be encouraged, and which resisted?
This is not a recent phenomena but i believe an important one. Coaches today are more and more dependent on others to condition and strengthen their athletes for them. I cannot understand how one can coach athletes and not be intimately involved in the conditioning side of their preparation. This should be discouraged.
More coaches are realizing the computer can be a valuable tool and I think this should be encouraged. From record keeping to testing there are some great tools now available to help coaches make better decisions.

The Good Old Days

Saturday afternoon I was watching the ESPN Nationally televised high school football game between Byrnes high school in South Carolina and Belle Glade high school from South Florida. (Why I was watching a high school football game on a summer Saturday afternoon I do not know) I was struck with the thought as I was watching the game that this was all way over the top. The closer I get to sixty, the more I long for the good old days when things were simple. A road trip was a three or four hour bus ride in a school bus, not a flight across country. A pre game meal was what your mom packed for lunch. In those days you had to wash your own uniform (One guy did not all season – he was very offensive). There were no passing leagues in the summer, we just got together and played games. A big coaching staff was three coaches. If you wanted an off season program you met your friends at the YMCA and lifted weights (Heavy all the time and squats three times a week) Ignorance is bliss. The only name on the uniform was of your school. Corporate sponsorship was when you sold an ad in the game to the local car dealer. A guy who was 250 was HUGE! In basketball a guy like me who was 5’11” could jump center against the big guys who were 6’3” or 6’4”. Pitchers threw 300 innings. There were not many pulled hamstrings either because we did not know what a hamstring was or we could not go fast enough to pull them. Choosing a shoe was real tough – Chuck Taylor All Stars high tops or low cut, black or white and were they expensive $9.95. The parents were fans, they did not run the teams, the coaches did. Cheer leaders actually cheered. They also wore the jewelry not the players. I know these are revolutionary thoughts, but those were the good old days.


Good Coach - Bad Coach

Coaching is my life. I have been a coach for 37 years. I decided I wanted to be a coach when I was still in high school. I was fortunate to have a great high school basketball, Mr. Charles Kuehl; he was also a history teacher, which inspired to also be a history teacher. The older I get the more I appreciate the lessons and values he taught. He was stickler for detail and discipline. I know now he taught us life lessons. He kicked me out of practice for seven straight days because I was arguing calls, on the eighth day I finally shut up. Not a word was said. I was just a little slow get the lesson. He knew that taking away the game would be more punishment than running laps. Chalk one up for good coaching. He knew how to build a team. We had a pretty diverse group in terms of talent and background, but he molded us together to believe in a system of play that required discipline and the ability to think under pressure. We had a required study hall every day before practice. That helped the marginal students like me to focus and get a start on homework and to get help from our smarter teammates. He had rules and principles that he did not compromise. When two starters were caught at a party where people were drinking, they were off the team. No questions asked. Of course that was 1963 when you could do that. Mr. Keuhl was a big reason I went into coaching and teaching.

Ironically the other reason I went into coaching was bad coaching. My line coach in college at Fresno State and the head coach were two of the worst coaches I have ever seen. They were the antithesis to everything I thought sport should be. Of course their job was to win and we were never allowed to forget that. I look back on that experience and realize it was all about manipulation, domination and control. If you did something wrong in practice you ran stadium stairs in full uniform with your helmet on in 100 degree heat. Very enlightened! Our education was an afterthought. I was a second string center and one afternoon when practice was well into the third hour, I went to the head coach to ask if I could leave practice to make my evening class. His response was to ask me if I was there to play football or get an education? I answered to get an education, by now I had this figured out. I should have left then and never come back, but I persisted. The line coach was an alcoholic racist. He preached hurting people. It was very negative experience. I vowed after this experience that I would go into to coaching and try to be the best coach I could be. I have been a bad coach at times. But when I think back to make experiences it get me back on track. Everyday I coach I try to get better and make the people I work with better. What more can we ask.


Before Bo Jackson – Sam Cunningham

Sometimes as a coach you are privileged to work with an athlete. In my 37 year career I cannot say that about too many. I can with Sam Cunningham. Many of you do not even know who he is because his big days were in the 1970’s as a star running back at USC and for the Patriots in the NFL. In his football days he was known as Sam “Bam” Cunningham. Sam was the one of the first athletes I got to coach. It was my first semester coaching as a student coach at Santa Barbara high school. I was coaching the shot putters and jumpers. Sam had thrown 61”10 the previous year and was a favorite to win the state that year. He was also one of the most sought after running backs in the nation. Sam did win State with a throw of 64”9” mostly because of his ability and competitiveness, certainly not because anything this wet behind the ears twenty one year old beginning coach had done. In the league meet Sam ran a 9.7 100 yard dash, won the 220, anchored the winning 440 relay and three the shot over 62” at 6”3” 220 pounds!

At the track banquet Sam gave me the shot that he used to win state meet with (I still have in my garage). I had given him the shot early in the season when the shot he was using kept slipping off his hand. Afterwards he told me (in private) that the shot always weighed in overweight by three to four ounces, but he kept using it because it felt good in his hand. As an aside he won the two meets leading to state and state meet by a grand total of eight inches with an overweight shot put!

Sam went to USC. His freshman year we both competed in the same decathlon. This was his first decathlon and last as he focused on football after that. It was also my first decathlon. Sam scored almost 6500 points without really have practiced four of the ten events. He did this with a 6 minute and 20 second 1500meters run in flats on a dirt track because of blisters. It happened to be Bill Toomey’s (the world record holder at the time) last decathlon and I remember him saying that if Sam focused on the decathlon he could be the world holder.

Beyond all of this Sam was a great person, humble, a leader, kind and considerate, the epitome of the team player and class. His greatest fame came on a fall evening in 1970 in Birmingham, Alabama. USC was playing University of Alabama at Legion Field in Birmingham Alabama. This was six years after the civil rights act of 1964, but Birmingham was the bastion of the Jim Crow South. Alabama had no black players on the varsity at the time and done everything possible to avoid playing integrated teams. Sam was not the starting fullback but he came in to the game early and went on to run for 135 years in 12 carries and score two touchdowns. This was his first varsity game. Here is a great quote from Sam taken from the book –Turning of the Tide – How One Game Changed the South by Don Yaeger with Sam Cunningham and John Papadakis: “The thing about games is that if you go out and play really,really hard and play as well as you can and do the things you need to do, you never know when the hand of greatness is going to touch you. That night I had no clue that anything was going to happen or that anything might change because of my play. I had a great night, ran for more than 100 yards, which I only did one other time in my three years at SC. But many people have said that one evening, it changed the face of college football in the Southeastern Conference. Did I go down there trying to do that? No. I just went on a road trip trying to play. My motivation was to play well enough so that I could play the next week That was it. It had nothing to with changing color lines, doing anything like that. But you never know when will get the chance to do something special.”

I was at Barnes & Noble yesterday when I saw the book. I picked it up and started reading it, when I saw the above quote I started crying. The people sitting across from me were wondering what was wrong, nothing was wrong, but I was crying tears of joy because I was privileged to be associated with this fine young man. Without him there might not have been a Bo Jackson.


Drawing In

Since I addressed the knee myth, why not open the “Drawing In” can of worms. When I saw this picture of the Kayaker on the BBC Sports website this morning I could not help but think of core stabilization and the so called ”drawing in” maneuver to activate the Transverse Abdominis and Internal Oblique. Do you actually think that this Kayaker could or would possibly have time to do that? To stay upright and on course he braced against the paddle in the water to activate whatever muscles were necessary to get the job done. The TA and IA could not do the job to keep him upright by themselves. They need a ton of help. Let’s put this ridiculous idea to rest. Core training is about putting the body in as many different positions to activate the different muscles of the core so that they can work synergistically to solve whatever movement problem they are presented.


Dr Seuss Quote

This was the google quote of the day. As a big Dr Seuss fan I could not resist putting this up.

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. Dr. Seuss

Performance Enhancing Drugs – A Position Statement

Possibly the most negative cloud in sport today is the continued specter of performance enhancing drugs. One again it is imperative to remember that sport reflects the society we live in, it would only be logical that in a society that thrives on instant gratification would have a problem with drugs. Performance enhancing drugs are a huge problem at every level of sport today. Anyone who thinks otherwise is incredibly naïve. To me there is a clear division between those who do and those who don’t. This extends to coaches and therapists. I made the choice years ago not allow my athletes to use drugs. I know coaches and administrators who take the attitude that if they do not know about it, then there is no problem. Let face facts some of the athletic icons of our society are under great suspicion. I do know that testing is not the answer. There are guys all over the US hanging around gyms that know more about drugs and how to beat the tests than the people who are doing the testing. Save the money. Education is the answer, but what kind of education? Focus on educating the coaches to understand there are no shortcuts. The scare stories about shrunken testicles do not work, the youngster or the seasoned pro just knows it won’t happen to them. The answer is pretty idealistic. Let’s make it an ethical issue. It is flat out cheating. Those athletes who are doping and those coaches who condone it are living a lie. Sure they are getting scholarships and some are making millions, so what? At the end of the day you have to live with yourself.

Women in Sport

A positive trend is the continued opportunities for women to compete in sport. Unfortunately the training and preparation has not kept pace with the opportunities to compete. From an endocrine hormonal perspective and a socio cultural perspective women are different and these differences must be accounted for in training and preparation. Women are certainly more susceptible to certain injuries, specifically ACL tears; this demands that prevention programs be incorporated in daily training. To do otherwise would be remiss. There is still much misunderstanding on the role of strength training with the female athlete. Some athletes and coaches just do not recognize its importance. Culturally in many circles it is not acceptable for women to be muscular and fit. For the female athlete to receive proper training these barriers need to be broken down. There is no doubt that there is a need for more qualified women in coaching. The time commitment and lifestyle serve to dissuade many women because of family obligations and the general socio cultural attitude toward women in coaching. It was interesting to see the 2005 Women’s NCAA basketball final with the final two teams coached by women for the first time. Why did it take so long? Women need positive role models as coaches. They need to be mentored. The typical approach has been to take the outstanding female athlete and when she retires have her go into coaching. This approach sets them up for failure. Ability to excel in a sport seldom equates with coaching success. They need to be educated and mentored so they can truly coach. There are few women in the field of athletic development for many of the same reasons.


Way Out Knees

Go to www.ironmaven.blogspot.com for Tracy Fobers post on the whole knee thing. Great pictures!


Some of the things being said by so called experts about EPO are borderline ridiculous. This is where the experts lose creditability with athletes and coaches. In the early 1970’s the ACSM came out with a position statement stating that anabolic steroids did not enhance performance. This set back the efforts to control their use and abuse. Every coach and athlete knew the opposite to be true. Sure EPO is not a direct performance enhancer for a sprinter who is running ten to eleven sends in competition. They key is that it helps with recovery. If you can recover sooner and more completely you can then do more work of higher quality. It is still the work that determines the performance. The drug be it EPO, testosterone or any other anabolic substance does not make the athlete better. They boost performance by allowing the athlete to do more, higher quality work, more often. If you have ever been around athletes who are “juiced” it is quite apparent. They can handle some unbelievable workloads. What is even scarier is that it does not take much. If you look at the East German drug records their dosage were not unusually high. The cheats will try anything to get an edge.

Good Articles

In the current Exercise And Sport Sciences Reviews, Volume 34, #3, July 2006 there are two real good articles:

Neural Control of Walking Balance: If Falling THEN React ELSE Continue by John Misiaszek

Neuromuscular Models Provide Insights into Mechanisms and Rehabilitation of Hamstring Strains by Thleln, Chumanov, Sherry and Heiderscheit

Where does the knee go? Where it has to!

This is not a new debate. When I first started weight training in 1963 the big debate was on full squats. Were they safe? As you know in a full squat the knee goes out over the toe. Even at that time it did not make sense to me to limit where the knee should go. Remember a full squat is breaking parallel. Even at that time as high school student when I did what was taught as “strict” technique my back hurt after squatting. We were told to do quarter squats, half squats and even bench squats (the pre cursor to back squats) None of them felt natural. The full squat felt right. This may have been the first time when I began to suspect that the experts did not know everything. Around 1965 or 1966 I got a hold of a book written by a man named John Jesse. He was a pioneer in training. He was essentially a physical therapist who had a real extensive sports background. In this book, unfortunately I cannot remember the title; he cited a study done at the University of Texas in the 1950’s where they looked at over a thousand baseball catchers. As you know catchers squat full and deep and the knee goes way out over the toe. They found no unusual knee problems in that population. There was also a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research published some time in the last 18 months that looked at the result of restricting forward knee movement in squatting. (Sorry I do not have the exact reference at my finger tips) In essence it said that restricting forward movement of the knee puts more stress on the low back. Remember the body is a link system, it we restrict movement in one part another part must make up for that movement.


Where does the knee go?

I am still amazed at the number of people that coach and teach not allowing the knee go beyond the toes. Look at movement, watch games, if you do not progressively prepare the knee to go beyond the toes with CONTROL you are actually setting the athlete up to be hurt! Where does the knee go? It goes where it has to go – as long as it goes there with CONTROL!

Play Low Ability – More Thoughts

This is more than bending your knees and more drills. It demands proportional bending of ankle, knee and hip. Many young athletes today are so tight in the gastroc soleus that they make up for it by bending more at the waist. This then sets up a cascade of negative events. They are then off balance (tipped forward). This also puts more stress on the knees. Play Low Ability is the result of a total program that incorporates proper functional stretching, progression in movement skills that stress body awareness and strengthening that emphasizes linkage. For hip mobility we do extensive hurdle work dividing the hurdle work into overs and unders on different days. If they are tight in gastroc sloeus then more three dimensional calve stretching and significantly more backward running. There is no single assessment to determine all of this but a single leg squat on a box will give a lot of good information. (More on this is a latter blog) For more ideas see my Leg,Legs Legs tape and the Preparation and Warm-up tape. (Yes tapes – Old school you know)


Sport Appropriate?

What do both of these have to do with football? High knee action is not rewarded in the game. People who run with high knees are easy to knock off their feet. A Physioball on a Football Field- what would Vince Lombardi have said about this one? Play on your feet, practice on your feet!

Hamstring Pulls in the NFL

Jason Krantz asked me to comment on the high profile hamstring pulls in the NFL. Without knowing specifics I can make some general comments. Remember hamstring pulls are deceleration injuries. The main job of the hamstring is to decelerate the lower leg. I suspect that many of the clubs still do hamstring curls – this just creates neural confusion. It strengthens the hamstrings, but not in the manner the hamstrings are used in running. Also fast people must run fast! Sprinting is a specific skill, you do not learn how to run at maximum speed and plant and cut by jogging through movements. Too many times high profile players never go all out until the lights come on. Too much biking. Riding a stationary bike is work but it is not training for a sprint type athlete. Biking shortens everything up, the shortening of the psoas inhibits the hamstring which predisposes it to injury. The popular misconception that one of the main causes of hamstring is a lack of flexibility, so they do more stretching in warm-up and less activity. Passive static stretching does not get the body ready for activity. The warm-up must be active and dynamic.

For details on Hamstring Prention and the mechanism of injury go to www.gambetta.com and go to downloads and read the article that Dean Benton and I wrote on Hamstrings


Where Athletes Train - get er done!

A gallery of some photos from recent workouts. It is not fancy, but it is effective!

Play Low Ability (PLA)

This is a concept coaches have preached for years. The ability to bend your knees and play low is crucial to success in so many sports. Kelvin Giles got me thinking about this in his presentation at English Institute of Sports. I have now included as a subset of my agility work. That is why we do Jim Radcliffe’s Oregon sway drill. (See picture)That is why we do multidirectional lunges. This must be constantly reinforces in athletes to achieve in game situations. It not just flexibility, it also strength and body control and awareness.

Southwest Airlines

I know this blog is supposed to be about the Functional Path. Well stick with me and you will see the connection. I fly a lot, probably more than I want to. I am fascinated by excellence is sports, business and life. Southwest Airlines is excellent. When other airlines are totally out of whack and going bankrupt they are succeeding. This past weekend I flew Southwest from Tampa to Tulsa and back. This is not the first time I have flown Southwest, but in the past month I have flown Delta, United and ATA, they don’t get it. Southwest does and it is great. They focus on the customer (what a revolutionary concept). I asked the stewardess why they can get it done and others cannot. Her answer was priceless, “because we care about the company.” There is a lesson there for all of us. Success transcends disciplines. Food for thought.


Too Much,Too Soon

In yesterdays USA Today Sports page there was a long article on arm and shoulder injuries in young pitchers. The article was interesting and had some good information, but I think it ignored a key issue – too much, too soon because they are specializing way too early. Pre puberty, in fact pre high school they should not be just pitching. Every kid on the team should pitch. There should be a limit on the number of games kids can play. They compete too much and do not train enough. They pitch too much and do not throw enough. They play to train; they do not train to play.

Let me explain those points: There should be a ratio of four to five practices to every game. They do not just get out and throw rocks and other objects, consequently they have poor arm strength and throwing mechanics that is developed naturally. They may have a personal pitching coach, but they need to long toss to build specific strength.

Pitch counts are fine, but that does not go far enough. They should have a pitch count limit and only be allowed to pitch once every seven days. No curveballs or other breaking pitches. Only fast balls and change ups.

Ultimately these injuries are the result of early specialization. Again too much, too soon. Let them just play. Adults are way too involved. Kids sports should be about kids. I think televising youth sports has caused the problem to get worse.



Some clarification of the Where’s the beef? Posts. Difference of opinion is healthy and good. I respect Mike Boyle, although I do not always agree with him. He has earned his way and paid his dues. He has produced as a coach. It is people like that that I respect. They have earned respect, hopefully I have done the same.

How stupid can you be?

I just got a call from a soccer player I used to work with. He wanted my opinion and advice on an issue that had come up today with his wife’s team. She plays at a DI school and is also a U23 National Team player, obviously a good player. They measured body fat today and she come out fatter than she should be. Now what? She can’t be fat to play at the level! It gets better, the team is going to train three times a day. Anyone who does not pass the “fitness’ test gets to get up at 6:00 am and do extra fitness work before the three practices. BRILLIANT!! How many games do you think they will lose because of this? They will all be flat for the first three weeks of the season, if they are not hurt. I am going to be following this situation quite closely. Unfortunately this is the norm for many programs. I am convinced that many of these coaches do this because they do not know the game or how to coach so they just occupy time doing “fitness.”


Child to Champion References

I have had several requests for reference used in my seminar Child to Champion.

Balyi, Istvan. And Hamilton, Ann. Long Term Athlete Development: Trainability in Childhood and Adolescence. Olympic Coach. Volume 16, number 1, Spring 2004.

Bompa, Tudor. From Childhood to Champion Athlete, Veritas Publishing Company, Toronto, Ontario. 1995

Drabik, Jo'zef Ph.D., Children & Sports Training, Island Pond, Vermont: Stadion Publishing Company, Inc. 1996

Dick, Frank W. But First – Basic work for coaches and teachers of beginner athletes. British Amateur Athletic Board, London, England.

Dominguez, Richard H. M.D., and Gajda, Robert S. Total Body Training. New York, N.Y: Warner Books,1982.

Gabbard, Carl., Leblanc, Elizabeth., and Lowy, Susan. Physical Education for Children-Building the Foundation, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1987

Ginsburg, Richard D. Durant, Stephen. and Baltzell, Amy. Whose Game is it anyway? Houghton Mifflin. Boston. 2006

Hannaford, Carla. Smart Moves – Why Learning Is Not All In Your Head. Great Ocean Publishers. Arlington, Virginia 1995

Kurz, Thomas., Science of Sports Training, Second Edition. Island Pont, Vt: Stadion Publishing Company, 2001

Kostka, Vladimir. et. al. The Czechoslovakian Youth Ice Hockey System. Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, Ottawa, Canada. 1979

Robertson, Sheila. & Way, Richard. (2005) Long-Term Athlete Development: - A Made in Canada Model. Coaches Report Vol. 11 #3 p7

Sanderson, Lyle. (1989) “Growth and Development Considerations for design of Training Plans for Young Athletes” SPORTS. Volume 10 # 2

Weiss, Maureen R. Coaching Children to Embrace a “Love of the Game” Olympic Coach. Volume 16, number 1, Spring 2004.

Yessis, Michael, Ph.D. Sports and Fitness Success From 6 To 16. Masters Press, Indianapolis, IN. 1996

Youth Athletics Workshop. International Athletic Foundation. September 2002

Do you believe in magic?

That is one of my favorite songs by the Loving Spoonful. I do believe in magic – the magic of the body. What the body is capable of doing in movement is magical. If you take a few minutes to think about it – how we move, how we see, how we breathe, how we adapt to stress – it is really magical. To think that as coaches and therapist we can have an impact on that is quite humbling. Let appreciate the opportunity and do it to the best of our abilities. Make it FUNdamental and simple, let the magic work.

Where’s the Beef - Continues?

The previous post on this elicited the most response both on and off line of any post I have done. This obviously touched a tender nerve. Here are a couple of additional thoughts. This is a quote from Scott Berkunlatest@scottberkun.com Essay#53: How to Detect BS (plus more!) “Especially in business and technology, jargon and obfuscation hide huge quantities of BS. Inflated language is a technique of intimidation. The bet is that if you don't understand what they're talking about, you'll feel stupid, or distracted, and give in to the appearance of their superior knowledge. This is, of course, entirely bullshit. To withstand BS you have to have an inner core of self-reliance, holding on to your doubts longer than the BS'er holds onto their charade.”

I am particularly insulted when I go to a presentation by this particular guru and the slides look like NASCA with sponsor logos all over the slides. I want to learn, not get a sales pitch. Everyone, in every presentation, to every group and on web sites needs to provide full disclosure as to who is paying them. When that is done at least we know there is a built in bias. (That being said I am a paid to consultant to SPARQ. I am using a piece of Keiser equipment on loan to evaluate it. That’s it)

Also give credit where credit is due. If you use someone’s idea it does not diminish you to credit the source. I have NEVER heard this individual do that. Hopefully this will help make us all better professionally - Enough said


Where the Beef?

How do you separate style and marketing from substance? How can you judge results? What is the real deal and what is hype? Here is an example, how can you claim to be a performance expert when everyone you work with is hurt? That is what is going on now, one of the hottest “performance” gurus has had his poster athlete come off the injured list for the 11th time in his career. What does that tell you and this is not an isolated instance. Here’s the secret, get a big shoe company to sponsor you and market the heck out of you collect a multitude of other sponsors and claim that what they have is the best even though last year you endorsed a competitors product as the best, open an athletic taj mahal and above all charge a lot of money to go there. Because you charge a lot of money there obviously must be substance – right? Totally and completely wrong, take a step back and look at the big picture. Look at the results; once again it is about what you do with what you get. I am shocked at how unsophisticated the consumer is. Agents still send athletes’ to this place, even though the players do not get better. I have been told by the head minor league trainer of a major league team that they dread it when players go to this facility, because invariably they come back to the team hurt. Yet they keep going. Where is the logic? Nobody has a corner on what works, that is for sure, but there is some common sense involved. Come and join us in the garage for the breakfast club, it works, no sponsorship, no air conditioning, just plain old fashion basic training that addresses the needs of the athlete

A Real Coach

This is a very touching and moving article about the man who coached me in the decathlon. Sam and I did not always agree on things but he was and is a man of his conviction and an inspiration. Sam gave the same time to me an also ran who scored 5800 points as he did the world class guys.

Coach's journey: Longtime mentor to UCSB athletes adjusting to life with Alzheimer's

At a backyard party in Goleta last summer, a bunch of former athletes, now in their 40s and 50s, talked about the good old days when they perspired from running laps rather than making mortgage payments.

Standing off to the side was an older man who looked as fit as any of them. He was 6 feet tall, lean and craggy-faced in a Clint Eastwood sort of way, with closely trimmed gray hair turning to white. This was Sam Adams. The assemblage had come from near and far to celebrate his 74th birthday.

Adams coached track and field at UCSB for 34 years, and during most of that time he did double duty as a coach for multi-event postgraduate athletes. It was tedious work -- the men were trying to master 10 events in the decathlon, the women seven in the heptathlon -- but Adams supervised their training with patience and devotion.

He had been a decathlete himself, almost good enough to make the U.S. Olympic team in 1956. Prior to that, he was the captain of UC Berkeley's track team and a 1949 graduate of Santa Ynez Valley High who excelled in every sport.

"There's not a day goes by I don't think of Sam," said Mike "Spider" Brown, who came out from Connecticut for this gathering.
"Sam will always be part of my memory," said Peter Allen, who stayed in Santa Barbara after traveling from his native New Zealand to be coached by Adams.

Luanne Morris addressed him: "Sam, we are who we are and we're successful in life in a large part because of your influence on us."

Adams listened intently. He was the original man of few words. The former athletes joked that "Not bad" constituted extravagant praise from their coach.
But then he stood up and gave a short, remarkable speech. "Boy, you are a great group," he said. "I wish I could say more. Boy, I'll tell you something. I sort of love you all." As he and his wife, Sue, were making their leave, Adams came up to Allen and said, "You know, I've got this thing. It's . . . it's . . ."

Eventually he found the word. "It's Alzheimer's."

Sam Adams had been diagnosed with early Alzheimer's disease in 1999. There was no cure for it -- and there still is none -- but medical experts have come up with prescriptions and recommendations to allay and delay its effects.
One of them came naturally to Adams: physical activity.

On a warm summer day, Sam was leading the way up the Rattlesnake Canyon trail. Keeping up with him was a lung-heaving challenge. He was wearing white leather tennis shoes with "Rod Laver" embossed on each heel. As you followed him uphill, each time a foot landed, you saw it . . . left "Rod Laver," right "Rod Laver," left "Rod Laver," right "Rod Laver" . . . Physically, you felt as if you were running back and forth while the erstwhile tennis champion thumped shots to each side.

Mercifully, Sam stopped to take a breather and talk. He had two hiking companions. One of them, Phil Z., also had Alzheimer's disease. They met at a support group and found they shared a love of the outdoors. Phil's name went onto "My Friends List," which Sam had printed on three small sheets of paper that he kept in his wallet. He referred to it often, whenever he saw a familiar face or thought of somebody.

Throughout his career, Sam had kept a tight rein on his feelings. But now, while he was still able to express himself fully, he spoke openly about his becoming an Alzheimer's patient.
"We're people," he said. "We're human beings. We're us. This whole thing we're going through, I told myself, 'I'm going to accept this thing.' There's nothing I can do."

A mile farther on, he said, "The best thing you can do is get in touch with your feelings and exude them, let them out. It's the only thing you can do."

At that time, he was still helping out as a volunteer coach at Westmont College.

"I tell the kids, 'I may not know your name, but I know who you are. I'm a friend of yours.' "

He voiced random memories of his own youthful adventures, like the time he was on a canoe trip near the Arctic Circle and came upon an 8-foot-tall bear . . . or the time he and a friend tried to take a firetruck with a power nozzle into Mexico to prospect for gold. Sometimes he could not recall simple words. Instead of "oil," he said, "It's not water. It's that other stuff that flows. You can't drink it. You can set it on fire."

On the way back down the trail, Sam took a detour. He led us on a path toward the creek. It ended above a pretty waterfall that spilled into a deep pool. Phil Z., who had been rather quiet up to then, spoke up.

"This is a neat place," he said. "I hope I remember it."

After he retired from UCSB in 1992, Adams did not stay away from track and field. Westmont coach Russell Smelley talked him into helping the Warriors with their throwing techniques. Along with John Larralde, another coach, they began a tradition of having breakfast together every Tuesday at Peabody's on Coast Village Road.

One day, after his Alzheimer's started to kick in, Adams got lost on his way to the restaurant and wound up at the beach. He stopped driving after that, but the breakfasts continue. Larralde picks him up every Tuesday morning. Three days after his birthday party, Adams told his breakfast companions about it.

"A bunch of people I've known came hundreds of miles yesterday from all over," he said. "Big guys, strong guys."
Smelley described Adams as "the John Wayne of track and field." Because of the older coach's reputation for crustiness, Smelley said he was concerned about his ability to deal with enrollees at the school's youth camp.

"Sam goes over and picks up a 6-year-old and puts him over his shoulder," Smelley said. "I guess there was nothing to worry about. Sam's persona was rough and tough on the surface, but underneath he's very caring."

Adams mostly sits and listens at breakfast, but every once in a while he pipes up to give a piece of coaching philosophy.
"They ask me what they have to do," he said. "I say, 'You don't have to do anything. Here's what you get to do. If you don't like it, go somewhere else.' "

Everybody who's coached at UCSB has a friend in Phil Womble, a steadfast fan of Gaucho athletics. While he was still driving, Sam Adams paid a visit to Womble, who has cerebral palsy.
"You know what bugs me the most?" Womble asked. "It's people who make a big deal about my disability."
"You're Phil Womble," Adams said.
"This disability is such a small part of who I am."
"So what? It's there. You live with it."
"You care about the individual, Sam, not about outside stuff."
"That's because of people like you. You've always been a good guy. Yes, yes, yes, you are."
"You're a good guy, too, Sam."
"We were Welsh."
"Did you ever welsh on anybody?"
"Heck, no," Adams said, looking offended.
"You gave me an opening," Womble said, "and I took it."

Sam's wife learned not to make her life dependent on him. He worked long hours as a coach, and summers often found him traveling overseas. He was coach of U.S. decathlon teams on three trips behind the Iron Curtain during the '70s -- to Tallinn, Estonia; Donetsk, Ukraine; and St. Petersburg, Russia. In 1982, he was head coach of the entire U.S. men's track team in a historic meet at Karl-Marx-Stadt, East Germany.

"I was not going to sit at home drumming my fingers on the dining-room table, waiting for Sam to come home," Sue said. She became a businesswoman and community volunteer.

They met in Santa Barbara, when Sam was a graduate student at UCSB, and got married in 1959. They had a daughter, Wendy, and a son, John.

Wendy was physically challenged from birth. Her life was a struggle, but she managed to get through school and land a job. She died in 1995 at the age of 34.

"That was a bump in the road for Sam," Sue Adams said. "He doesn't like staying with pain. He puts things behind him really quickly. He gets right up and keeps running."

She could only admire her husband's steadfastness and dedication to his job. Sam weathered a professional crisis in 1979 when Al Negratti, then UCSB's athletic director, removed him from coaching the Gaucho men's team. Negratti did not think he was recruiting aggressively enough, while Adams countered that there wasn't much he could do with three scholarships. Adams rejected an ultimatum -- either accept a position as women's track-and-field coach or be fired -- and after a show of support by dozens of athletes, he remained at UCSB as director of a newly created "Outreach" program in which he coached postgraduate athletes from all over the world. In 1982, Adams was restored as Gaucho track-and-field coach by a new athletic director.
"Sam never bent," Sue Adams said. "He just doesn't quit."

His determination was fueled, she said, by disappointments. He might have gone to the 1956 Olympics as an alternate with medalists Milt Campbell, Rafer Johnson and Bob Richards, but he fell short by one point in the U.S. decathlon trials.
"He missed the Olympics by inches," Sue said. "He missed being an Olympic coach twice by close decisions. Those were bitter pills to swallow."

But with Alzheimer's closing in, his grudges vanished.

"Sam was a contrarian, but now that edge is gone," Sue said. "His anger has faded. Now his focus is on being a friend and communicating."

Meanwhile, Sue Adams has distinguished herself as a volunteer in many nonprofit community programs, including St. Cecilia's Society, Casa Esperanza, Hospice of Santa Barbara, the Museum of Natural History and a half-dozen others.
Out of necessity, she has also become an Alzheimer's caregiver.

The Friendship Center, an adult day-care service in Montecito, has welcomed Sam Adams into its community two days a week. He also participates regularly in a support group sponsored by the Central Coast Alzheimer's Association.

On a Wednesday afternoon, Sam and nine other people diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease sat together in a circle.
Barbara Rose, the group leader, got the conversation going by asking what everybody got out of their meetings.

"I come here because of the sense of community."
"I'm not the only one on the street with Alzheimer's."
"Look at us. We're real people. Nobody's wearing bibs and drooling."
"I can talk about what's bothering me and get to laugh."
"These are my very best friends."
"This is where I belong. These are my checkmates."
"It's like a comedy club."
"It's like a clubhouse up in the trees."

Sam Adams said, "It means a lot because with these guys -- these women and guys here -- it makes me feel at home."
Rose asked how his life has changed with Alzheimer's.

"Not very much. I don't remember anything. I can't drive a car. I don't drive a car. I can drive a car but I don't know where. There's probably a whole bunch of people doing the same thing. I used to have a lot of stuff with other people in other places, most of it fun. I had something with 50 guys. It became a decathlon of a great deal of young people."

"This is a new beginning," Rose said. "It teaches you to focus on what's important: Today."

"I never ordered people to do anything," Sam said. "I never said, 'Get your butts going, I'm going to beat your butts off.' "
A man named Ted had a memory moment.

"I wish you were my drill sergeant," he said to Adams.

John Adams, 44, is associate director of cardiovascular biology for Arena Pharmaceuticals in Irvine. Despite his medical background, he did not know a lot about Alzheimer's disease when his father was diagnosed. "It was scary for me to think about how it was going to affect him," he said. "It's not as bad as I originally thought it would be. Maybe that's just my experience. Maybe my dad's a special guy."

Alzheimer's is just the latest health challenge that has beset Sam in the last 10 years.

"He's had prostate cancer and colon cancer," John Adams said. "He had a pacemaker installed because of a heart arrhythmia."
Yet his father continues to be a vital force in the family, which includes John's wife, Aster, and their daughters, Kaiya and Matteya.
"My dad has this unwavering positive outlook," John said. "There's no frustration, no self-pity, no shame. He's accepted the challenge and looks forward to every day. To me, that's amazing." It wasn't easy to grow up as the son of an always-in-control coach, he said.

"I'd say he tended to be uncompromising," John said. "Challenging his positions or opinions was usually a waste of time."
He said Alzheimer's disease seems to have had a mellowing effect on his father.

"It's uncovered a previously suppressed dimension of his personality. He's more sympathetic, more open-minded and more affectionate."

But Sam's son knows there will be tough days ahead as Alzheimer's progresses from changing a personality to erasing it.
"We have to think about the future and make plans," he said. "We have to make sure my mom doesn't get overburdened."

Sam Adams is still hiking, but no longer does he attempt the local mountain trails. He walks in his Mission Canyon neighborhood, starting and finishing at his doorstep. His favorite hike is a loop that covers about 1,500 meters -- the distance he used to run in the last event of the decathlon. He often does it six or seven times a day.

"The progress of his disease has been slow because of his physical regimen," Sue Adams said. "A lot of people would be in a vegetative state."

"I go around and up and back down again," Sam said as he walked along Mission Canyon Road toward Rocky Nook Park. "A long time ago, I went all over the world."

He moved rapidly, with urgency, as if the path would become unfamiliar if he slowed up. If you dawdled for any reason, he became impatient. "Are you coming or not?"

At the edge of the park, he picked up a trail through a forest of oak trees. It took him to county Fire Station 15 on Foothill Road.
Any time the firemen are hanging around outside, they greet him and make sure he goes safely on his way back to Mission Canyon Road.

"We were concerned about him," said Bruce McKaig, an engineer at the station.

McKaig found out where he lived, called Sue Adams and told her they'd look out for him.

When Sam comes home and says, "They were there today," his wife knows he's talking about the firefighters.

"It means so much to Sam when they say, 'Hey, coach, how you doing?' " Sue said. "It's an acknowledgment that he has presence and meaning. It must be innate in the human psyche, the need for affirmation, to feel valued. That can't-be-said-often-enough kind of stuff is so important."

Back home, Sam had a big glass of orange juice. The rays of a setting sun filtered through the trees.

"I'm going to bed pretty soon," he said. "Sam follows the light," Sue said. "When it's dark, he settles down."

The same group that had celebrated Adams' 74th birthday a year ago gathered last month at the same place -- the home of Ron and Kathy Wopat in Goleta.

The same expressions of gratitude and respect, delivered with even more emotion than before, washed over the old coach.
Cynthia Hester said Adams cared for her when she was a sprinter with a pulled hamstring more than 25 years ago, and now she wanted to support him.

"He's handling his situation with such courage and grace," she said.

None of those athletes had achieved Olympic glory, but they had come to realize that was not the point of their endeavors. Their achievement was the deep, clean, pure feeling that comes from pouring yourself into the pursuit of excellence for its own sake. Sam Adams was their connection to this best part of themselves.

Sue Adams was struck by the power of their attachment to her husband. "They associate him with heroic moments in their lives," she said. "It's like they used to be gladiators, only nobody got eaten."

Kathy Wopat brought out a large, rectangular cake, topped by 75 blazing candles. She set it on a table in front of Sam.
He knew what to do. He took a deep breath and blew. A swath was darkened in the middle of the cake. At his sides, two boys assaulted the last flickering candles until they gave up in a wisp of smoke.... Seventy-five years extinguished.

But the present moment remains aglow, for Sam Adams and for everybody.
e-mail: jzant@newspress.com

The Kinetic Chain – Pitching from the Ground Up

I have been following the Pedro Martinez saga or should I say injury chronicle quite closely (I no longer have any communication or connect with the Mets so I am an outside observer like the rest of you). This is a classic example of a cascade of injuries starting from the ground up. The genesis is the toe injury that kept him out the majority of spring training. You modify the shoe and the stress is transferred up the kinetic chain – the hip. It is only a matter of time before the shoulder or elbow goes. This time it was his calve. Just wait – they have to run him out there to put people in the seats. This will be interesting to watch. Remember Dizzy Dean

Teaching Skill

This is an old paradigm I was taught early in my coaching days to teach skill. What is neat about it is it encompasses all styles of learning, auditory, visual and kinesthetic.

Tell them – Make it brief and to the point

Show them – Make sure you show the whole action, then the key parts and finish with the whole action

Do it! – Have them do it, do the whole action at a controlled speed, then some part drills, then the whole action


Jumping is Natural - Let them Play!!

This is Steve Myrlands son jumping off a a five foot high wall onto sand. Check out the landing - I do not think he was thinking about where his knee was going!

BRPT Lake MVP Training Center

I just had a great professional experience this past weekend. I am consulting with BRPT Lake on the startup and implementation of their Athletic Enhancement program. This group of Physical Therapists get it! They are great people who want to have the best program and they will. I will keep you posted on the progress of the program. Initially the specialty will be baseball and then it will expand to other sports. I believe that this will be a model program.

Steve Myrland Interview

Steve Myrland heads Myrland Sports Training in Madison Wisconsin. He was the Strength and Conditioning coach at University of Wisconsin. Steve is a great friend and an equally great coach. He always makes me think and keeps me grounded and centered when I get off on crazy tangents he will set me straight. Steve will make you think with his responses.

What are the essential requirements for a successful conditioning program?
1) An understanding of the physical demands of the sport / event;
2) A good plan to go from where the athletes are, now; to where they need to be then;
3) Enough flexibility to meet individual needs.

What are the most common mistakes in conditioning?
Implementing a program based on the "World-Class" model rather than a program designed for the athletes who are actually in the program. Too many coaches who came to coaching from competing only seem to recall how they trained when they were competing at the top levels. They try to apply these methods to their athletes and the result is disaster.

What is “functional training” from your point of view?
1) An understanding of the three planes of movement;
2) An appreciation of the body;
3) An awareness of the possibilities of basing your training on "organically" rather than "technologically" driven movement.

What do you do to make your training more functional?
1) We train on our feet; we rarely train off our feet;
2) We rarely use anything that eliminates / isolates any of the three available planes of motion (we choose dumbbells, for instance, over barbells);
3) We use "simple" equipment to get complex results rather than the other way round.

How important is specificity?
Extremely important--and for reasons beyond physiological applications. Specificity allows an athlete to feel like the athlete they are / want to be. It creates confidence in the movements / workouts / overall plan. Training that is consistently removed from the specific demands of an event or sport (like having your shot-putters running seventy miles / week, or your distance runners maxing out in bar-squats every Wednesday) creates a physiological mess; and psychological confusion and doubt.

What aspect of conditioning athletes is most difficult and how have you tried to address it?
1) Anaerobic threshold training is a necessary part of performance preparation for most athletes; but, it isn't fun to do. It's the kind of training that requires a good coaching effort, and is aided by a good team effort. The coach has to stick to the plan--even though the athletes will be clearly dreading the session in front of them; and the athletes need to share the burden of encouraging themselves and their teammates to get through the session with success.

With the plethora of information available how can a coach determine what is best?
1) Look first at what is in front of you, rather than what is out there. That is: pay attention to the athletes you see every day and learn who they are, and how they respond to training before you set out to learn how the pros do it.
2) Trust your instincts, eyes, and ears when dealing with your team. It's all there, right in front of you. Don't just look: See.

Where do you stand on nature versus nurture? How much difference can training make?
I believe athletes who achieve success at the highest levels reflect an optimal blending of nature & nurture. Every sport and athletic event will eventually choose who gets to compete. You don't see a lot of 6'11" Olympic gymnasts, and you don't see a lot of 5'3" NBA players. The exceptions are exceptions; and they are (generally) a lot of fun to be around. My coaching preference is always to have an athlete with all the tools, and a toolbox; but if I had to choose one over the other . . . I'd take the toolbox every time. I have enough confidence in my coaching to believe I can add a few tools to an athlete who has the box in which to carry them.

What is the sure sign that a self-proclaimed conditioning guru is not a good source of advice?
Any indication that your future success will be predicated on your becoming dependent . . . on 1) the guru; 2) the guru's certification program; or 3) the guru's equipment. Dependency is a disease I would rather avoid. Good coaches foster independence.

What do you do differently with the female athlete in terms of conditioning?

Female athletes contend with certain societal expectations and pressures that are (traditionally) less pronounced with male athletes. Sometimes these cause irrational fears concerning training. Ignoring these fears is, I believe, a mistake. Rather, a coach ought to be prepared to deal honestly with these issues. I find it is an easy-sell to get females to buy into the majority of my strength-training ideas--because they are not centered on big-plates-on-barbells; but then, I also find it more difficult to wean female athletes from their devotion to distance-running / simple stamina training in favor of event-specific / sport-specific speed and speed-endurance training. The specter of eating disorders is always a danger. Coaches must be well thought out on this issue.

What has been the biggest innovation in training that you have seen during the course of your career and where is the biggest room for innovation in training athletes?
Ironically, I think the biggest innovation has been the re-examination of old ideas--from medicine balls to some of the training approaches that were tried and true decades ago. I think training has largely been on a dead-end path for years, and that some good coaches are recognizing the wisdom of experience over marketing. And: there are still some great old coaches (and some new ones) who never got sidetracked by all the chrome, bells, whistles, and fooferaw. We can learn from these people.

What's the biggest issue in training athletes today?
The absence of effective physical education as a sound basis for athletic development. Children are deficient in remedial movement skills because the culture (and physical education) fail to make these vital and compelling. Therefore, coaches are forced to confront would-be athletes with serious physiological deficiencies. Success, then, requires coaches to address things that should have been addressed years before. Good coaches realize this and plan accordingly. Bad coaches try to muscle ahead, oblivious of these deficiencies and the results are usually bad for coaches, athletes, and teams. (The orthopedists seem to do pretty well, though . . . )

What are the biggest professional challenges have you had to face?
Sadly, I think it has been the unwillingness of so many in the athletics-business to understand, appreciate, and embrace excellence as something achievable. The gate-keepers of mediocrity have multiplied like gerbils, and they have made coaching a bigger challenge than it already was.

What do you enjoy most about coaching? Dislike?
I like finding the athlete who gets it and wants it; the kid who understands that coaches and athletes are partners in something magnificent, and that the journey they make together will be of lasting value--whatever the ultimate outcome is. I dislike (intensely) coming to the realization that I am babysitting; that the athlete doesn't get it, and doesn't particularly want it, either.

Did there come a time in your career where you were faced with a "fork in the road?" If so, do you ever revisit the decision you made or didn't make?
I left regular coaching because of my frustrations with the systemic mediocrity of the institution I worked for; and I miss certain teams and certain colleagues; but I also know that it was the right choice for me. I have always suspected, too, that most coaches make less-than-ideal employees, because successful coaching requires a degree of control that is almost never available / attainable; and the inability to have that control over vital elements is a source of continual frustration.

What inspired you to get into coaching?
Good coaches I had; and bad coaches I had.

Is failure ever valuable?
Absolutely. Failure is the necessary tool by which we encounter our limits (and we can't transcend them, until we get close enough to shake hands with them). And: Dealing with failure is an essential athletic skill.

Which changes now taking place in your field that should be encouraged, and which resisted?
Coaches need to talk and share. Good ideas often come as the result of people finding that their individual pieces of the puzzle fit well with those of another coach to make something bigger and better. We should also become critical consumers of marketed messages, trusting, instead, our own instincts, and experiences, and the experiences of trusted colleagues.


RemedialShoulder Exercises

Joe Cygan ATC wrote me to ask:I was reading your available downloadable pitching training program and noticed that you included "remedial" shoulder exercises such as lateral raises, shrugs, prone extensions, etc. I was wondering how this fits into your model of functional training.

First of all everything is functional, just how functional relative to the activity is the key. Remedial shoulder exercises are just that, remedial. I use them and place them in the program usually after throwing to stimulate blood flow to aid recovery. Beyond that they do not have much value. I certainly do not give them the attention most people do.

Judging by Results

Simon wrote this in response to an earlier post :"... and do not always judge by results" ????????????Vern, you MUST explain that one to me. Read your own comments on the lethargy-provoking soccer warm-up; it's because too many of us have got into the habit of NOT judging by results, that we have adopted habits that do not benefit us.

His comments warrant further explanation and comment. Many coaches and programs do very little and produce results because they start with unbelievable talent, always try to evaluate performance and systems on what they do with what they have. For example nobody mentions Gary Winkler among the worlds greatest sprint & hurdle coaches yet he has produced some unbelievable results. He has had few athletes come into his program at University of Illinois as national record holders, but they have left world Champions! Those are the results I value! You must look beneath and behind the results the results. Some people have great athletes and have great development programs, I always value those and learn from those. Look at why and how results are achieved. That is what fascinates me.


Training Camps/Pre Season

This is the time of the year when high school and collegiate fall sports are in training camps doing their preseason work. This also the time of the NFL training camps. I also enjoy watching and listening to coaches comment at this time of year. I contend that more championships are lost and players wasted during this time than any other phase of the year. No is NOT the time to build and increase workload, it is the time to sharpen and fine tune with competition appropriate training. Even testing during this time can be harmful if not carefully chosen. Endurance tests are the tests of choice, but what happens if the individual or a team tests poorly on endurance? There is not time to make any changes; if you do more work on that quality you will hurt them. The hay is already in barn as they say. The real work is done leading up tot the pre season training. (See wwwgambetta.com downloads for a collegiate soccer program) Remember the principle of context. The context of preseason is the final preparation for the competitive season. Competition is the goal, not training.


Reverse Periodization?

Frankly I had never heard the term until two weeks when I was lecturing at the English Institute of Sport. I am not sure if this is reverse periodization but here is a model of the way I do it and many people today who are producing results are doing it:

Get them Strong

Build Foundational and Basic Strength

Get them Fast

This is the application of the strength, more plyo’s and explosive work

Get them Fit

Use the strength and speed as a base to develop fitness that is appropriate for the sport or event

It is obviously a bit more complicated than this, but this is the substance of it.

The antiquated concept of building a huge aerobic base and then gradually getting more intense is very flawed. It worked in the days when competitions were few and concentrated in a “competition” phase.

NBA Skills Academy and Recess

In yesterdays New York Times “David Stern, the commissioner of the N.B.A., says the system for developing young players in the United States is severely flawed. He says it exploits promising athletes and has fallen behind some European systems of developing players. Stern says he wants the N.B.A. to begin a youth academy to help nurture athletes on the court and in the classroom. His concept would borrow elements of what works in Europe.”

In Sunday Sarasota Herald Tribune this past weekend there was an article about the elementary schools looking to find increased minutes for “learning” during the day. The solution, you got it they cut twenty minutes from recess. I was really upset because in elementary school my best class was recess. I was thinking where would I be now if it were not for recess? Have you ever been in a classroom of fourth graders who don’t have recess? Not only do you not have learning you have chaos. You have a breeding ground for ADHD.

What does this have to with the decline of basketball in the NBA? In some ways not too much, in other ways a whole bunch, free play is the basis for learning! Wow that is a big statement - my opinion but substantiated by research. Move to learn and learn to move. My experience with high level basketball players is that their range of movement skills is very narrow and very specific. They just played basketball and never broadened their athletic base. That is the message that Mr. Stern and these others are not getting. Putting them in an academy and having them shoot more will not necessarily make them better shooters. Learning that they have a left hand will. European kids grow up doing other sports as well. They play soccer which improves their footwork. They usually have some foundation in Track & Field.

Give kids recess, real physical education, music and art. ADHD will decline! Teachers will be happier and maybe even test scores will go up. I do not know if NBA players will become better shooters or really learn how to play defense – we need to talk to the shoe companies about that.