Why People Say No

This was posted by Seth Godin yesterday. It certainly resonated with me, I run into this all the time.

The two reasons people say no to your idea

"It's been done before"
"It's never been done before"

Even though neither one is truthful, accurate or useful, you need to be prepared for both.

Appearance Can Fool You

While vacationing in Florida for spring break, I had a chance to observe minor league teams working out. What caught my attention was the conversation between a player and one of the strength coach/trainers. The trainer was commenting to one of the players who was running that they were lazy and did not know how to train; and stated "I can out run and conditioning anyone in this camp". By looking between the two, the trainer who has this Adonis physique and the portly pitcher/player, my buddy said, "twenty bucks...the trainer will out run this guy". To make the story short, Not only did the portly player out run the Adonis physique strength coach, the player embarrassed the whole strength staff. Vern can you explain to me why a portly player out ran a physically fit strength professional.

Interesting story that must be answered on two levels: First it is probably not advisable to challenge athletes you are working to a competition. It is a no win situation. If you beat them what does that prove? If you do not then you lose their respect. Neither alternative is acceptable. Also they are professional athletes for a reason, you are not. Demonstrate the activity don’t challenge their ability to do the skill. Teach them how to do it. The second level answer is to never judge a book by its cover. Looking buff and being fit are two different things. Appearance is certainly deceiving. As coaches sometimes we are quick to judge by appearances. The real question is what are you fit for? Also how do you measure fitness? Is max vo2 important for baseball as one of the Mets team doctors once told me? Bottom line is to know the game you are preparing for, the training you do should be appropriate for the sport you are training for. Pitching is a good example. Why do pitchers have to do the amount of running they do? It certainly does not reflect the demands of their activity which are a series very explosive bursts lasting less than two seconds with 25 – 30 seconds recovery. Also a pitcher does not have look like Adonis to pitch effectively, remember Force = Mass X Acceleration. Nobody ever said that the mass had to all muscle. It is nice to see a pitcher who looks good in a uniform, but the ultimate measure is to be able to perform and stay healthy.


Big Strong Guys Flipping Tires

Bigger...Faster...Stronger. Vern we need to flip those huge tires so we can become better athletes! Look at those guys on ESPN, strong man contest. They are HUGE...STRONG...FAST....now those guys are athletes!!!

In response to this, I am not sure if it was serious or in jest so I will answer it like it was a serous comment. Strongman competition is a sport unto itself. In football think of the time needed to express force. It seldom exceeds 1 to 2 seconds. That is how long you have to deliver a blow and most of the time it is a one time effort. Consider how long it takes to develop maximum strength. Give those considerations where would you put tire flipping in an American football players program? Would it be viable to use for every position? It keeps coming back to context. What is the context of the drill or exercise? Where and how does it fit into the bigger picture? Just because it is hard does not mean it will transfer. Getting strong is easier than learning how to apply the strength. If tire flipping helps to apply the strength to the game – then go for it! Ultimately though more tire flipping makes you a better tire flipper!


Hotel California

You can check but you can never leave. This was the view outside my hotel window when I got up this morning. My heart is always in California.

CJW Follow-up

Last Thursday through Saturday I did one of my follow-up visits to CJW Sports Medicine in Richmond Virginia. They are one of the founding members of the GAIN Network. Last spring I did my “Following the Functional Path” seminar there. It has been really neat to see how the Physical Therapists have changed their approach since then they get it. There is a terrific uplifting atmosphere in this clinic. In fact it seems more like a gym than a clinic. They are always thinking big picture with a complete awareness of the continuum of care. They have twelve trainers assigned to schools. The Therapists and ATC’s work close with David Koon who is the Director of the Athletic Enhancement programs. This is a real team approach where the patient/athlete will have every chance to get better. Every time I visit this group I leave inspired and enthusiastic about the future.


Athletic Development - Defining the Field

I noticed the other day that that I had posted my 700th blog. That blew me a way. I had no idea that that I had written that many posts. It seems like just yesterday that I posted the first blog. This all started as a daily warm-up exercise to get me into the routine and rhythm of writing everyday in order to finish the Athletic Development book. Frankly I never thought that after the book was done that I would continue at the same pace. I must say this has grown on me. I look forward to sharing my ideas and getting feedback. For me going forward my mission with the blog and everything I do is to define the field of Athletic Development. We are at an interesting time and place with what is happening with coaches, trainers, physical therapists and doctors. We need direction. I hope that through the experience that I can bring to the table along with colleagues who feel the same way that we can have a defined field that everyone recognizes and is proud to be part of. I am writing this at 35,000 feet somewhere over the middle of the United States on my way to Pomona California, ah sweet home California where the functional path started for me.


Lessons from Rugby for American Football

The comments on my post regarding the football players working out with the girl’s volleyball team have been interesting. I do very little with American football; this was a conscious choice when I quit playing football a long time ago, but that does not mean that I have not closely observed the training scene for the past 45 years. Over the years I have worked with some individual players at all levels of the game and have consulted with some coaches who were willing to innovate. I find American football quite stifling and uncreative both in regards to tactics, strategy and conditioning. I know I have to be careful about painting with too broad a brush but the monkey see monkey do syndrome is all pervasive. Once someone started flipping tires and they won a few games then everybody has to flip tires. No idea of where and how it fits into the big picture, but because it is hard and sometimes they puke when they are doing it has to be good. This is indicative of the trickle down effect that starts at the top and ends up in the youth leagues. There is little regard for development level and sound progressions. The emphasis is on getting bigger and strong with little regard for developmental level. Freshmen should not be doing the same program as seniors whether at the high school or the collegiate level. Positions should be trained differently based on the demands of the position.

I think a good way to loom to look at it is to contrast American football with Rugby Union and Rugby League. Both play very demanding schedules, in some ways more so than American football. For example in the English Premier league they play from September through to May with international games thrown in. There is no situational substitution, so a high level of fitness is required. They are collision sports, so you must have bulk for padding and strength to move people. As I have been exposed more to rugby I feel that they are much more progressive and innovative than American football. They are doing things that American football has never thought of. I see some of the things that my colleague Dean Benton is doing with the Brisbane Broncos and I am amazed. I can’t help but think what an edge those things would give an American football team that would adopt them. The New Zealand All Blacks are doing training monitoring that is state of the art. What Kelvin Giles is doing with the Australian Rugby Union Developmental squad (14 – 17 in residence) is great stuff that takes into consideration proper progressions and growth and development. What I see in the rugby situations is that it is sport science based training coupled with good coaching and player development models.

American football needs to wake up and learn that there is a big world out there that they can learn from. I will post later on some of my ideas about athletic development for American football. Suffice to say that there is enormous room for innovation that would significantly improve athleticism and reduce injuries. Remember it is tough to solve to solve a problem by going to those who created problem for a solution. HAPPY COMBINE TRAINING!


Tom Jones

Tom Jones passed away on Wednesday, for those outside of Track & Field he was the women’s track and field coach at University of Florida. His passing will truly be a lose to the sport of Track & Field. He was a real gentleman, a true worthy opponent. Tom was one of our original lead instructors in the Coaching Education program. His presence really helped lend credibility to the fledgling program. Tom will be missed by all those who knew him. My condolences to his family and the University of Florida team, you were truly blessed to have coach like Tom.

Formula for Failure - Update

Remember I did not write this, a very good friend wrote who shall remain anonymous. It really does not matter which sport it is, because it could be any sport. I have seen this so may times myself, as recently as this week. The moral of all of this is that we need to stop passing around mythology and keep trying to define what we do from a as scientific a viewpoint as possible. Unfortunately many times where coaching is ahead of science. That demands that as coaches we try to be as scientific as possible. There is method to the madness. We also need to beware of pseudo science and false claims, which are prevalent because of the Internet and speed of communication possible today. Remember search for knowledge not information!



Reading through the comments on my posts on experience have stimulated to me think that along with the experience comes a certain wisdom that just is not there in the early years of ones career. I can’t help but think of Bill Bowerman, the great Oregon coach, when I first heard him speak in 1968. He was at that point in his career. What he was sharing with us was more than knowledge and experience, he was sharing with us his acquired wisdom. I also realize that is why I am so appreciative of someone like Joe Vigil. Perhaps the formula is Knowledge + Experience = Wisdom

Formula for Failure

This post was written by a friend in reaction to what he has been in a particular event in a particular sport where American results are terrible. This really could be written about many sports. Enjoy it!

This is based on a true story, but the sport and the names have been hidden to protect the innocent.

Once upon a time, there was a young athlete in an individual sport, trying his best to excel. He kept making an error though, which held him back. Not understanding what was actually happening, he made a change in his approach that appeared to solve his particular problem.

Because this change worked for him, he decided to write an article on this and it became popular in the US…but not in Europe. In fact, thousands of words were later written on this change…and for most US coaches, hey, this is the gospel. It is the gospel called “hearsay”.

Even before this athlete made this personal adjustment in technique, biomechanists were studying the event, frame by frame. They used force plates, fancy cameras, super software programs, and they came to a conclusion the young athlete couldn’t understand. The science showed that whatever the young athlete did was sort of an aberration. “Here, look at all of these elite athletes. The pattern clearly shows that doing exactly the opposite of what you did, will produce WR results.” Funny…you know that the biomechanists were right! They came from various countries, but their studies all agree. In the US, maybe because of funding, no biomechanists commented on this particular move.

I can tell you…the sport wasn’t golf or tennis, because you readers would all know there are tons written on those sports.

Meanwhile, WR’s were set by non-Americans, Olympics were won…and, the Americans had mustard on their shirts, not medals. (The Americans didn’t make the finals, so they ate hot dogs instead!) Wouldn’t you think, boys and girls, that the American coaches would start to think: HEY, maybe this move we do only in the US is WRONG!! You would think. Sadly, the situation is that most of the coaches believe the hearsay, rather than the science.

The moral of the story is this: do your homework. Go to the top experts in your field, even if they are overseas! Look for references to back up statements. Or, boys and girls, you will be like those American coaches, in this one event, who don’t know their a_ _ from their elbow.



Check this out. Mark Day sent this to me. As I mentioned the other day one of the biggest differences I see today is the extensive parental involvement. This is quite good

It is all about context

Yesterday was an interesting day with the volleyball team. Since we have started the program the football coach and his players have been making fun of what the girls were doing, so one of the players was “invited” to participate in yesterday’s workout with the girls. The following is the workout:

Tuesday March 20, 2007

Theme – Let the Real Work Begin!

6 x 30 yard strides

Mini Band

Sidestep Walk Carioca Monster Walk

Med Ball – Walking Rotations

Wide Tight Over the Top Figure Eight

Lunge & Reach

Up Out & Down Across

Stretch Cord Core

Wide Rotation See Saw Chops Big Circle Reach


Oregon Sway Drill

Dot Drill

Strength Training

Jungle Gym Pull-up 5 x 12

Single Leg Squat 3 x 10

Leg Circuit (2 circuits & 1)

Squat x 20 Bodyweight

Lunge x 20

Step-up x 20

Jump Squat x 10

Stairs x 10

Cooldown with coordination

He is a wide receiver. Pretty lean, but obviously a weight room animal, the results were pretty predictable, he was awful. The leg circuit literally and figuratively kicked his butt. Half way through the stairs he lost his lunch. My point in posting this is that this proves nothing more than a reinforcement of you are what you train to be and the importance of context. For him the workout was entirely out of context. However I do hope it does shut up the football crowd!

More Experience

In response to my post experience matters there was the following comment: “Would love to get your definition of experience as well. Some thirty year old coaches may have quite a bit of experience while some fifty year old coaches have very little to none. “ It is what a person does with what they know. It is like Joe Vigil says you can be coaching fifty years and have one experience fifty times or you can have fifty experiences. Too me it is all about the later. One thing I do know for sure now is that things are sure a lot clearer to me looking back over the years and reviewing past successes and failures in order not to repeat the failures and to build upon the successful experiences. I know now that I would not have been ready after five or tens years to assume some of the positions I see people in today. It probably reflects a different era. In 1979 I was one of four finalists for the position of Head Track & Field Coach at Stanford University. I was bitterly disappointed that I did not get the job, but I look back I was not ready for the job. I had only been coaching for tens years and definitely needed many more experiences and some failures to humble me. Last week Sports Illustrated ( March 19, 2007) had a superb article about the 1964 UCLA NCAA basketball team, John Wooden’s first NCAA championship team. The team had no starter over 6’5”!I recommend that everyone interested in coaching and excellence read it. Several points in the article he underscores the importance of experience. One of his guiding principles was “It’s what you, learn after you know it all that counts.” This man is considered one of the greatest coaches of all when he speaks I listen, I just wish I would have listened more when I was younger.


Experience Does Matter

Over the past several weeks I have seen several articles and interviews of performance directors at various training centers commenting on training. Not one of them was over thirty. I do not think you have to be an old man or women to direct a program or to be an expert, but experience does matter. I was a young turk once who knew everything and was not afraid to tell anyone who would listen and some who would not listen what I knew. I was sure I knew everything. I am convinced now that taking that stance was a real impairment to my learning – how can you learn when you know everything? There is a real value to knowing what don’t know. Sometimes it is more important than knowing what you do know. In today’s face paced world of instant results and quick fixes it is easy to get caught up hype and promotion. Everyday as I coach I see and do things now that I learned through experience. No book or class or class to prepare you for the reality of day to day coaching. All of you who are younger in your careers seek out mentors who have been this for awhile and have achieved. I know how helpful Joe Vigil has been to me and continues to this day. Hang out with people that challenge you and make you better. One thing Joe Vigil said to me was to be was to gain experiences, not have the same experience over and over. Learn from failure, we all fail; those who ultimately are successful are those who learn from their failures and do not repeat them.

PT’s and ATC’s

In regard to my post on Tracy Fobers post on physical therapists I got the following response: “Would love to hear more about your experience at GLATA, and your thoughts/opinions of this based on your interaction with both athletic trainers and physical therapists.” The program for the GLATA Convention was impressive. Looking at the program you would have say that the profession of athletic training has come a long way. They certainly have professionalized themselves over the years. Up to a point I think the field of “Strength & Conditioning” could learn some things from the athletic trainers and their governing body the NATA. That being said I think over the past couple of years the trainers are going down a one way street in the wrong direction. They are trying to be what they are not, and probably not intended to be. They are not Physical therapists. As I understand it their job is to provide primary care in athletic and clinical setting. I understand that in many situations because of need they must condition and rehab the athlete but that is not their primary job. I have the utmost respect for trainers and the role they have played in keeping athlete’s healthy and performing. Sometimes it is too easy to get caught up in trying to be something that we do not need to be. I know I am oversimplifying this issue, but that is my point of view as a coach and one who has hired ATC’s and been in charge of them in a professional setting. It is my understanding the hours in the training that were once a requirement have been modified, that is a shame if that is true. I always felt that the practical experience in the training room gave the beginning trainer an advantage coming out of school. That is unlike the Strength & Conditioning coach that only has to pass a paper and pencil test. I hope the old guard in the training profession will step and be the voice of reason on all of this.



Yesterday I went to get a sandwich at an Italian Deli in Downtown Sarasota. The service there sucks, but I like their prosciutto. Yesterday was the worst I have seen. They get the Northwest Airlines award for terrible service. Not only did you have to wait forever to order. I was the only one waiting, but then when I went to pay the lady behind the counter said she could not take my money because she did “do the register.” I think their motto ought to be “Where the customer is an imposition.” Why this post – everything we do if we work in the public realm is about service and pleasing the customer. I was not asking for anything special, just common courtesy. Unfortunately I am seeing this lack of service and consideration for the customer more and more.

The Athletically Gifted

Reading the article the “Effort Effect” about the work of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck in the latest Stanford Alumni magazine http://www.stanfordalumni.org/news/magazine/2007/marapr/features/dweck.html got me thinking. She has been doing research to determine why some people achieve their potential and others fall by the wayside. This certainly hit home with me. It caused me to reflect on those I have seen who did not make it and those who did. In the course of my 38 year coaching career I have been fortunate to see two athletes start at the developmental level and progress to be the best in the world. I have been reflecting quite a bit on this lately as I see the inordinate amount of emphasis put on finding and identifying the athletically gifted. I realize that the circumstances that nurtured these youngsters was in a different era and under a different set of circumstances. The two individuals I am referring to are Terry Schroeder who went onto to be acknowledged as the best water polo player in the world and is considered one of the all time greats in the sport. He is now a chiropractor and the Water Polo coach at Pepperdine University. I was fortunate to have Terry in an eighth grade PE class in 1970-71. The other is Karch Kiraly, who is considered one of the greatest volleyball players ever both indoors and on the beach. He was student at Santa Barbara high school when I coached there. I did have much direct contact with him but was able to observe and follow his development. These two men developed into the best in their respective sports and among the best ever, why? I have often thought about that and what is different today. I often wonder would have happened if they were growing up today would they have achieved the status they achieved. They were not anointed at a young age, although Karch did receive some attention for his prowess on the beach playing against older players. Both were humble and worked hard to achieve their success. Schroeder did not even start playing water polo until he was in a sophomore in high school. He was good age group swimmer, a good football player, a good basketball player and a good baseball player, certainly not a prodigy in any of those sports. He did not mature early, but because of his multi sport background he was very coordinated and learned skills rapidly. He was very intelligent. Karch was a prodigy. His dad had been a good volleyball player in Hungary and started him playing very young. I remember seeing him as a five year old on the beach and being taken aback by his skills. He never let that go to his head. To my knowledge he did not play other sports, although I did try to persuade him to go out for track. He worked hard and smart. He was also very intelligent, he was a pre med major at UCLA. I do know that both of them had Physical Education daily through their school years. I do not know if that made a huge difference, but it had to have some benefit. As I reflect on this there are many lessons to be learned from these two athletes ultimate success on the world stage. They seemed to be able to maintain a perspective as the spotlight began to shine on them. They had good fundamental movement skills that served as a base for their specific sport skills. They played a lot, I emphasize play! They were very intelligent. They had parents who cared, but did not seem overbearing. They were goal achievement oriented. I am not sure their path can be replicated in today’s world of early specialization and media hype.


Let it happen

First you learn to play, and then you forget what you learned and just play! This is paraphrase of what I heard a jazz musician say in an interview on NPR this morning. When I heard it I could not help but think of this in the context of athletic skills, learn it, then drill it and then don’t think let it happen! Let the instincts and the sub cortical responses take over. It was Charlie Parker who said even more succintly: “Master your instrument. Master the music. And then forget all that bullshit and just play.”

Kenyon Wins another One!

Wow!! The Kenyon College men won their 28th consecutive team title in the 33rd annual NCAA Division III Men's Swimming and Diving Championships at the University of Houston's Campus Recreation and Wellness Center Natatorium. When I met with Coach Jim Steen at Christmas during their vacation training in Sarasota he was very doubtful they could pull it off again. Knowing his system and approach I reminded him that the champions are built in December and won in March – they did it without a dominant sprinter, which given the NCAA format is almost impossible. This performance put in the perspective of the adversity they had to overcome is a tremendous accomplishment. Congratulations to Jim and his coaching staff and the men on the swim – Great job!


Super Post

Tracy Fober has a great post on her blog http://ironmaven.blogspot.com/ about physical therapists. I was struck with similar thoughts when I was speaking at the Great lakes Athletic Trainers Conference (GLATA). When I looked at the program I was struck by the fact the ATC’s were trying to become PT’s and the PT’s are trying to become MD’s. Where is all this going? Have we lost sight of the big picture here?

A Great Resource

No hype, no guruism here, just great information presented in a useful manner. Jack Blatherwick Ph.D has an outstanding web site that is full of great resources http://www.overspeed.org/ Jack is the physiologist for the Washington Capitols in the NHL. He has served in the same capacity for numerous NHL and American Olympic teams in hockey. I have been following Jack’s work since 1986. He certainly has challenged conventional wisdom in the Hockey world, but his ideas and methods transcend hockey. Jack makes me think and his ideas challenge me when I think I have it figured out. Go to the web site and read the articles he has posted there. His concept called “Think outside the barrel” resonated with me in this over robotic drill oriented world we live in. Jack, thanks for all your hard work and dedication your are an unsung hero in the whole athletic development field.


The Weight Room

Yesterday I heard a conversation between two coaches that went something like this: “Have you looked at the record board lately? Other coach says no. First coach says they are getting so strong I can’t believe it! He goes onto say to say how much better they will be because they are so much stronger.” I had to bite my tongue and not say anything. This group has to be one of the most unathletic groups I have seen anywhere. They are unfit and sloppy looking. I wanted to ask if they could move. I will bet that although these players are putting up some pretty good numbers in the weight room that they would struggle to handle their own bodyweight in pushups, pull-ups, lunges, crawling, in short any movements that forced them to control their bodies through three planes of movement. I am not opposed to weight training, a football player who does not weight train will not survive on the field because they need to add mass for protection and they must move their opponents. I do however think that most football strength coaches do not get it! If the strength developed in the weight room cannot be applied on the field then than it is not useful strength. This may seem contradictory but it is not. It is really about proper program planning. It still goes back to one of the fundamental Functional Path Principles – Body weight before external resistance. In other words prepare for the heavy lifting. Make sure the ligaments and tendons surrounding the joints are prepared and than a strong muscular corset around the core is developed. This takes time, but when they finally do lift heavy, they will be able to lift more weight safely and apply that strength to the field. Movement ability must be developed in parallel to the strength development, it is not an either or proposition. The weight room is only one part of a much bigger picture.


Building the Athlete Piece by Piece

In order to build the complete athlete it takes time and a clear vision of the big picture. Once that is established then you can look at the pieces or components of the training. The analogy of a assembling a jig saw puzzle is a good analogy. When you take the puzzle out the box there are hundreds of pieces on the table in a completely random order. The reference is the picture of the completed puzzle on the cover of the box. Just like training you cannot force the pieces into places where they do not belong. You know where the pieces fit by constantly referencing the completed picture. The mistake too many people make in training the athlete is trying to force pieces to fit where they do not belong. Part of the cause of this is not having a good clear big picture of the finished product to reference. Yesterday in training the volleyball team two big pieces of the puzzle fit into place. We accomplished five times Dumbbell Complex and fives times half leg circuit. Now we are ready to add some of the early agility progression and to move to the next step in the jumping progressions. The reference point is the big picture of a championship female high volleyball player.



I was in several meetings over the past few days where the topic of parents in youth sports came up; in fact it was a recurrent theme. In light of my post of the Manifesto on Youth Sports it certainly struck a nerve with me. I think reflecting back on my 38 years of coaching; one of the biggest things that has changed is the involvement of the parents. 38 years ago a parent would never think to question a coach on anything. Today the parents are always involved and always questioning. This incessant drive to gain a scholarship or a pro contract has really distorted the whole perspective on youth and high school sports. I certainly was involved as a parent in my daughter’s athletic career, sometimes possibly too involved so I think I can look at this from a personal perspective. Not every kid will get a scholarship; even fewer will play professionally or be Olympians. Somehow we have to regain a healthy perspective that gives the young athlete space and allows the coaches to do their jobs. On the other hand it is important for the coaches to be well trained and professional in their approach. We all need to recognize that everyone is not created equal in ability. As the athletes rise though the system the better athletes will get more playing time and recognition. Everyone cannot be a star, but everyone can strive to be the best they can be. As adults and coaches we need to stress commitment ant and individual improvement to the youngsters so they the measure against themselves. I realize this is a Pollyanna attitude, but I still believe this. I know who the stars are on the volleyball team I am working with, but as an athletic development coach my greatest satisfaction comes from the young freshmen girl who may never play varsity but has been there every day working her butt off. In my eyes she is as much a star as the stars.


Youth Sports Manifesto

Last week I did a short presentation on child to champion that made think about the issues that face youth sport. Everyday I read the local sports page or get emails or phone calls on the issue of what should we do with youth sports. Here are my thoughts, some certainly will not be popular, but in my opinion these are things that must be done.


Chronological age dominates training and competition from ages 11 to 16

“Critical Periods” are not always recognized by coaches

Low training to competition ratio in early training ages

Adult competition schedule is imposed on children

Competitive calendar governed by tradition rather than growth and development and pedagogy

Adult training programs are imposed on children

Male programs are imposed on females

Very little sport science, sports medicine input in youth training programs


Training at the beginning level focuses on winning rather than the process

Young developmental athletes over compete and under train

Fundamental motor skills are under emphasized and ultimately limit sport skill

Damage done at early developmental ages cannot be corrected


Reinstitute mandatory Physical Education in the schools K through 12

Give the games back to the kids – Minimize adult and parental involvement

Put play back into play – every kid will not win a

Scholarship or sign a pro contract

Final Thoughts

Participate in a variety of sports and activities

Do NOT try to ‘hurry up’ the developmental process

Do NOT specialize too early

Don’t lose sight of long-term objectives

What is the final goal?

Make sure good life skills taught


Championship Kudos

Congratulations to the University of Michigan Women's Swim who placed Ninth at the NCAA Championship. I have had the honor of designing the dryland program for them the past four years. The coach, Jim Richardson,is a great coach who has taught me a bunch about correlating dryland with the water workouts.
Also congratulations to Coach Jim Steen and the women of Keyon for winning the Division III NCAA Swim Championship. I worked with them last year and they have continued with the dryland program. I was able to see them train over the holidays and their training and commitment to dryland was impressive!
I also want to congtulate Noah Bryant of USC for winning the NCAA Division I shot put title. It has been fun to watch his progress from his freshman year at Carpnteria High School. Way back a million years years I trained some with his dad. I am sure he is proud now.



Say what you mean and mean what you. Be as exact as possible. I was taught that words create images and images create action. A key aspect of an Athletic Development system is terminology. Speed should mean the same thing regardless of the sport. Strength is the same. One of hallmarks of the guru is the use of words that no one else can understand or that create confusion. I just finished reading a book that really made me think about the use of language and the communication of ideas; Words That Work by Frank Luntz. His basic thesis is that it is not what you say it is what they here. It not what you write, it is what they read. My post the other day on winning the workout is a great example. I wrote to use Ice in the workout. I should have written ICE (Intensity, Concentration & Effort). Some people thought that I meant that you had to use ice during a workout to win a workout.


Stimulus Threshold

I am of the firm belief that for each athlete, training each individual biomotor quality that there is an individual stimulus threshold. By Stimulus Threshold I mean a point where the adaptive response diminishes rather than increases. Unfortunately I do have a way of quantifying this except by close observation and training results. In essence it is stressing optimum rather maximum. It is hitting the target, not too much, not too little.

And least we forgot it always must be in the context of the plan. This is very important when you consider the cumulative training effect. The sum of the adaptive response from a cycle of workouts is more than the actual number of workouts provided the stimulus threshold is considered. I have learned the hard way over the years that one workout can break an athlete, but one workout can make an athlete. As the Texas Tornados said “ a little bit is better than nada.” Less is more.


Win the Workout

I first heard this concept presented by Wayne Goldsmith at the American Swim Coaches Convention a few years ago. I immediately found it an intriguing concept and one that has virtually become a mantra for athlete’s that I work with. Another way to rephrase it is that it is not so much what you do it is how you do it. The ICE – Intensity, Concentration and Effort acronym grew out of the concept of winning the workout. ICE gets you in position to win the workout. The essence of it though is that before you can even think about winning a game, a match or a race you must “Win the Workout.” This is highly individual. I encourage the athlete’s I work with after each workout to ask themselves a simple question – Did I win the workout? A simple yes or no answer will suffice. This is their responsibility and key to their own personal management. The more workouts you win the better position you put yourself in to win the competition. In pro sports too often I heard the losers lament that I will turn it on when the lights come on. You can’t and won’t, you perform the way you train.

It is a step by step process with each training session seamlessly flowing into competition. Here are steps to help with winning the workout:

Be clear on what you want to achieve in the workout

Decide on the best methods to help you achieve your goals in the workout

Be sure to measure what you want to achieve

Make sure the workout is in context with the whole plan

Perform the workout with ICE

Evaluate the workout objectively

Remember it is a process, a means to an end. Winning the workout is an excellent way to keep your eye on the prize while achieving short term incremental progress toward a long term goal. Go for it!


Venice Volleyball Testing

Here are some pictures from the Venice Girls Volleyball team that I work with during testing.

MVP Training Center - Baton Rouge

I spend four days last weekend at the MVP Training Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. MVP is owned and operated by a great group of physical therapists, BRPT-Lake. The group has been in existence for thirty plus years providing quality care. The MVP training center is their latest project. I work as a consultant to them to help with programs design and training of the staff. It is an exciting project that is part of a bigger project I am working on called the Gambetta Athletic Improvement Network (GAIN™). This network is a small group of PT Clinics that are designated as Centers of Athletic Excellence™ where I work closely with their staff on programs to offer the highest level of Athletic Enhancement Programs. The emphasis is on quality coaching and teaching, not on palatial structures.


The System

It’s the system stupid! I have this posted in a prominent place in my office. The system produces results because there is context for all the modes and methods of training. It is more than training muscles and a hodge podge of exercises. There is a specific sequence and progression that is planned in advance. The athlete’s progress is measured against the plan. There is a comfort in this because it is easy to show the athlete if they are on track or behind where they should be at a specific time in a plan. A system also allows for adjustments that are proactive rather than reactive. All of that being said the system must have built in flexibility to adjust to the athlete or the specific situation. If the athlete has to fit into or conform to the system then there are problems. For example with the girls volleyball team I am working with at the end of the first six week block we had outstanding jump improvements, but we really were not doing much jumping. We actually were, but it was pretty transparent, the foundation strength work we were doing after an unloading should show jump improvements. This told me that we were right on schedule and could proceed as planned with the next block. Without the template of the system to compare against the temptation would be to do more of the same. Remember it is the system that determines long term success.

Last Sundays New York Times Sports Magazine Play had an interesting article called “How to Build a Prodigy – The Super-Athlete Formula” by Daniel Coyle. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/04/sports/playmagazine/04play-talent.html?_r=1&oref=sloginIt certainly affirmed that it is about the system. The center piece of the article was Spartak Tennis club in Moscow that has produced an inordinate number of top players. I am not a big fan of starting at five years old, but here is system that keeps them playing and moves them to the high level. If you get a chance to read it, it will get you thinking.

The Evolution of the Athlete Conference

I am honored to have the opportunity to present at this conference in Queensland this June. Just in case any of you are in Australia at the time drop in.

Football codes unite for conference
The best scientific and technical minds of Australia’s four biggest football codes will unite at an inaugural conference in June at the University of Queensland. (4-6 June 2007).

World Renowned strength and conditioning expert Vern Gambetta will lead a stellar cast of presenters at the 3 day event which will include well known local identities including Queensland Reds and former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones and Brisbane Lions coach Leigh Matthews.

“The Evolution of the Athlete” will focus on coach education and athlete development in AFL, Rugby League, Rugby Union and Soccer, and has been made possible through a partnership with UQ SPORT, UQ Rugby Academy and the UQ School of Human Movements (HMS).

Keynote speaker Vern Gambetta Vern has helped many athletes and teams to the top of their game including the New York Mets, Chicago Bulls, the ’98 US Mens World Cup soccer team and Monica Seles.

Mr Gambetta can’t wait to tap into the latest ideas being trialled in Australia and to present some of his own research and methods.

“I believe in sharing knowledge and stimulating discussion” said Gambetta.

“The more we can collaborate between coaches and academics to help direct their research, the more exciting results we’ll get’.

Brisbane Lions coach Leigh Matthews will treat delegates to an insight into his day and how he took a team to three premierships in a row.

UQ’s leading Sports psychologist, Dr Cliff Mallet will present some of the most cutting edge research into elite team psychology and motivational secrets!!!

Delegates will be educated in the areas of long term athlete development, skill acquisition, decision making and coach development over three days of intensive programming.

Practical sessions delivered by leading skill acquisition and athlete development will be incorporated into each day’s program for each code for hands-on learning experiences.

If you are interested in getting involved go to www.eoaconference.com.au

Learning, Sharing

I was thinking the other day about presentations I have been to. It seems the best ones, at least the ones I got the most out of, will tell the audience what they know and by the way what they do not know. I personally stay away from people who want you to be impressed with they know and want to impose that on you.


Strength Training for Endurance Sports

The first consideration when looking at endurance sports is the type of strength that is necessary to improve performance. This strength is focused on improving skill of the events and efficiency. The goal is to improve an athlete’s ability to streamline in the water; maintain an aerodynamic position in the saddle producing maximum power per pedal stroke on the bike; and ability to use the ground in running and be able to tolerate the amount of running necessary by avoiding impact injuries such as tendonitis.

These demands create a little different approach to strength training then in non endurance sports. The strength goal is to work on exercise movements that improve posture and alignment rather than ability to produce force. In swimming, the term, “grip it and rip it,” leads to a great deal of inefficiencies in the water. The goal should be to strengthen the core and legs and properly strengthen the upper body so that the athletes can improve their distance per stroke. In cycling, a large part of efficiency is to hold the aero position, which demands a large amount of core strength, stability in the shoulders and obviously functional leg strength. In running, efficiency is a matter of balancing stride length with stride frequency, and depending on the length of the run, requires a huge amount of strength endurance.

As endurance sports have become popular there seems to be a distinct misunderstanding of the role of strength training. Strength training is an umbrella term with weight training as part of strength training. There is a mistaken notion that one has to go to the gym to strength train. Over the years, I’ve evolved the concept of a “weight room without walls” for endurance sports. The no wall weight room is equipped with sets of dumbbells of 10 to 25 percent of body weight; a sturdy box 12 to 14 inches high; a medicine ball about 3 kg; and stretch cord. With these items one can do anything needed to strengthen for improved endurance performance.

Since most endurance athletes do their sport on a part-time basis, time is of the essence. The program consists of 20 minutes of strength training three times a week and ten minutes twice a week with extensive static stretching post exercise. This program should also be part of in-season training and to obtain optimum results, needs to be done for a minimum of 12 weeks. The method requires a consistent application of a few exercises done with intensity. In my opinion this program is more important for female athletes because of their hormonal profile and a lesser amount of muscle mass as opposed to their male counterparts.

The strength-training menu is divided into three different categories—(1) total body, which includes pulling/pushing movements and their variations done with dumbbells (i.e., dumbbell high pull, rotational snatch with one arm, etc.); (2) lower extremities, which are all derived from squatting movements, step-ups and lunges all done single leg or alternating legs; (3) is upper body, which includes more body weight type of movements such as pull-ups, push-ups and their variations, and core strength work.

A comment about static stretching is necessary before we move to the program itself. There are a lot of experts who now advocate dynamic stretching and movement as part of warm-up. Some say that static stretching even reduces power. In warm-up, the latest research indicates that static stretching is counterproductive. It has a relaxing affect but no positive impact on exciting the center nervous system to get the body ready for training. However, after a workout the calming affect of static stretching is desirable to get the muscles back to resting state. This is the logic for static stretching. The recommended for holding the stretch is 15 to 30 seconds. What I’ve found is that this type of stretching doesn’t have to be done immediately, post exercise. There seems to be a window of about two to three hours after training to gain the affect you want. I’ve found that after a late afternoon workout, one should do a cool down, eat and then do extensive static stretching. This aids reduction or at least minimizes the onset of muscle soreness.

The 20-Minute Day

The selection of exercises includes two total body movements (done as an emphasis for the workout), one or two leg exercises with one or two upper body movements.

The 10-Minute Day

This is devoted to core development with an emphasis on rotation. It is a misconception that since the movements of running and cycling are linear in nature that there is no need for rotational movements, quite to the contrary, control of rotational movements is necessary; in order to be more efficient.
As the season progresses and the competition schedule increases in number and importance, this can be reduced to two sessions of 20 minutes and three of 10 minutes for female athletes and one of 20 and three of 10 for male triathletes.

I have found that it’s possible to do the strength training work pre-swim and not have it affect the quality of the swim workout. With cycling, if the workout calls for steady medium intensity, then some core and upper body work before riding can be beneficial. However, in running, because of the high eccentric component, you could do core work beforehand but total, upper and lower body work would be a no-no. The overriding principle is that one never wants to compromise the quality of the actual endurance activity as a result of a strength-training workout. Some of these considerations are also dependent upon an athlete’s training age and background.

Another consideration is doing a strength workout early in the day and the endurance workout in the afternoon. A lot of strength people discourage early morning strength workouts because of neurological factors. That’s great if one is a full time athlete, but with people who have a lot on their plate as far as everyday work, the early morning session makes a lot of sense. Before strength work one should do some dynamic warm-up followed by the strength session. This is an excellent way to address the problem of getting the workout done.


Foam Rollers

Foam rollers have a place in the training environment. That being said in most situations they have a very small place. Just like any other training tool they can be overused. In my understanding they are a form of self myofascial release. I have found the roller especially effective for use on the IT Band and the serratus. As far as I am concerned the foam roller is best used in cooldown, not warm-up. I want to see active dynamic activities that activate in the warm-up, not passive static activities. In short if you are spending more two to three minutes at a time using rollers I think you should rethink what you are doing and what your training objectives are.If you work in situations like I do where time is an issue, you must use the training time wisely. I think foam roller work can be a good "homework" for an athlete who has particular issues that need to be addressed.


From Frank Forencich

The following comment was sent to me by Frank Forencich, author of “Exuberant Animal, I thought you might find it interesting. It is thought provoking to have someone dissect your ideas. ”You don’t put it this way, but what you’re doing is taking an ecological approach to the human body. Ecologists, as you know, don’t focus on objects, they focus on relationships. Similarly, you don’t focus on muscles, you focus on relationships between muscles. In other words, your approach is profoundly holistic and integrative.

“Whole-part-whole” is a powerful method, not just for effective training, but for the intelligent study of any discipline. In this way, the body becomes a metaphor for all sorts of studies. (It also suggests that our cultural habit of “reductionism” is a lot like the bodybuilder’s approach; work one object at a time and forget the whole. In a sense, our entire fragmented, specialized academic curriculum is a kind of intellectual bodybuilding. Impressive results perhaps, but ultimately dysfunctional.)”