This is scary

I can’t believe this is happening. This is not the direction we need to go. This is a minefield, Long Term Athletic development will be non existent. My cynicism leads me to think this is just another way to pad the coffers of the IOC by garnering more TV money and extending the already expensive bidding process even further. Is this what best for the young athlete’s? Read this and weep!

IOC Executive Board welcomes idea of Youth Olympic Games


26 April 2007

Yesterday, the IOC Executive Board unanimously welcomed the idea to organise Youth Olympic Games (YOG). This means that the concept of this event will be put forward for consideration by the IOC Session in Guatemala City in July. The Youth Olympic Games are conceived, in conjunction with other initiatives, to address the decline in the relevance of sport amongst the younger generation and to give them an education based on values.
No mini Games

The purpose of the YOG is to complement the Olympic Games and “not to create mini Games,” explained Jacques Rogge. It would have a different character, and target youngsters aged between 14 and 18, adapted to the different sports. By creating a special occasion which places as much, if not more, emphasis on the manner in which things are achieved, rather than the sporting achievement itself, the YOG would be true to the vision of educating young people through the values sport teaches. Sports events would be carefully chosen to protect the health of the young athletes. The YOG would be a demonstration of the IOC’s commitment to young people by providing for them an event of their own in the spirit of the Olympic Games.
The Format

The Summer and Winter Youth Games would alternate every four years, the Summer events would be staged in the years of the Olympic Winter Games and vice versa. The first edition of Summer YOG is envisaged for 2010. Estimates around participant numbers range from 3,000 for the Summer YOG and 1,000 for the winter counterpart. The organisational effort for a city to host the YOG would be significantly lower for the Olympic Games. However the details of the concept still need to be defined in close cooperation with the members of the Olympic Movement. Experience can be gathered from events like the European and Australian Youth Olympic Festivals.
Education through Sport
The YOG would create a true community for young people to participate in sport, to learn, and to share experiences with their peers. Moreover the event would offer an excellent platform to learn what the Olympic values are, what they mean and why they matter in a contemporary world. Jacques Rogge also emphasised that the YOG would serve, alongside providing a special event for youth competition, to let young people understand the dangers of doping in sport, the risks associated with extremes – such as a sedentary lifestyle or overtraining – the benefits of a having a balanced diet and the advantages of finding a healthy balance between sport and other social and educational activities. Young people who live the YOG experience would either go on to become future Olympians, or simply ambassadors in society for sport and Olympic values, having learnt their relevance and meaning today.

Ideas, Thoughts & Observations

Posts will probably be a bit brief this week. I am preparing for a one month trip to Australia to lecture and consult. It is a trip that I have been planning for a long time. Just trying to get caught up and get all my domestic travel done before this trip has been quite a task. I am looking forward to Australia because each of the times I have gone there I have learned so much. I think they are so far ahead of us in applied sports science.

There is a great learning opportunity available that is open to all, you do not have to be a certified track coach to attend. Frans Bosch, the author of Running: Biomechanics and Exercise Physiology in Practice will be the featured speaker at the USATF Advanced Coaching Summit to be held July 1 – 3 at Loyola University in Chicago. Bosch will make presentations to both the Sprints group and the Jumps group. Additionally, Peter Pratt, the national jumps coach for the Bahamas and Dr. Richard Magill, author of Motor Learning and Control: Concepts and Applications will be featured on the program. The Advanced Coaching Summits are being held in conjunction with the USATF Level 2 School. Here is the link to the application for the Level 3 in Chicago:


I spoke to Frans the other day and he is putting a great deal of time into preparing his presentations. These summits are always a good gathering, a great place to exchange information and share ideas. Hope to see you all there.

The Little League has established a strict pitch count. That is great. Now they need to ban breaking balls and not allow kids to pitch for more than one team at a time.

Today is Willie Nelson’s birthday – Happy Birthday Willie!

Why the epidemic of oblique and intercostal strain in baseball?

Why can’t the knee go past the toe in squats and lunges?



Why do you use an exercise? Where does it fit into the bigger picture? What was the origin of the exercise? Does the exercise do what you think it does? Is the exercise adaptable to the athlete or the sport environment or do you have fit the athlete to the exercise? Is there an alternative exercise that is better? How do you progress from this exercise? Is it nice to do or need to do? Beware of "Sheep Walking" - are you just following the flock,or is the exercise really all it is cracked up to be?


Dangerous Exercises

Rather than dangerous a better term is questionable. For me these exercises are questionable regardless of the context. This is my list (probably not all inclusive, just off the top of my head)

Leg Extension & Leg Curls

Preacher Curls

Seated or Standing behind the neck press with a bar

Behind the neck Pulldowns


Good Morning

Seated Leg Press

Ham/Glute Raise

Back Hyperextensions

Straight Leg Hook Lying Sit-ups

Now that I look at this list I realize that at sometime in my career I have had a negative experience with these exercises at one time or another.


A Good Exercise

At least once a day I get a call or an email asking if a particular exercise is good or bad. In general an exercise is not good or bad, it is the context in which they are applied. I do think there are exercises that are harmful and dangerous, but with those exceptions it all comes down to context. - Where in the workout, where in the plan, what is the chronological and training age of the athlete. These are just a few factors that determine context.

The “D”

I was not being facetious or naïve when I asked what the “D” meant. I did not
know. I was hoping that it marked some kind of specific milestone in terms of
achievement in the field. It sounds like it is another letter that you pay for.
You are probably all tired of me talking about this, but I see the end results of
this everyday. Athletes are getting hurt literally and figuratively. We are confusing
people and in some cases deceiving people. I am sure that in many cases this is
not intentional or malicious, but the end result is the same.


David Halberstam

Sad day, I just heard on NPR that David Halberstam was killed in a car crash. He was one of my favorite authors. One of the first public figures to have the courage to speak out against the folley of the Vietnam war.

Moneyball Myth

The now famous book Moneyball by Michael Lewis has assumed near mythological status for its use of statistics for evaluating performance in baseball. Meanwhile Nero fiddles while Rome burns. I must admit I have read Moneyball twice and for a time became quite infatuated with the concept thinking that maybe baseball had come out of the dark ages. Even after the first read I felt the book missed the point in terms of injuries and conditioning. Injuries and conditioning factors like speed agility, strength and power are measurable. It also misses the point in term of long-term development of players. What can be improved? The stats don’t show that. Those factors are measurable and improvement in those qualities can be tracked. Just measuring a player’s production on the field is the end result it is not the whole picture.

Just measuring what the player does during the game can be misleading. It is important to know which injuries are long term and which are short term. How long will rehab take? What is the real cost per injury? For example in 1993 with the White Sox we looked at cost per injury in a minor league player who missed five days, it was $12,500. That factored in the players salary, the salaries of everyone that worked with that player. We were interested in measuring the effect of an injury in measurable terms. To my knowledge no one has done this at the Major League level. Get the picture, lets accurately measure all that can be measured accurately, not just the convenient game statistics.

Speed can be measured and it can be measured in the game with laser technology. Instead teams rely on a scout sitting behind home plate holding a stopwatch to get times from home to first. I keep hearing that range on defense is unmeasureable. That is untrue, if you can analyze movements during a game in rugby and soccer why not baseball? Scientifically it is definitely possible to measure how effectively a player can move in various directions.The fact is I am convinced that this is too much work for most people in baseball. This means they would have to work harder and make hard decisions on players that are no longer productive but still popular with fans. Moneyball is great for fantasy baseball but in real life you must go beyond Moneyball and look at the bigger picture. This would require a huge paradigm shift that I am convinced baseball is unwilling to take.



What does the *D mean and how do you get it? I think I know how you get a CSCS, but where does the D come from?

Perry O’Brien

I just found that Perry O’Brien died at age 75.He was one of my heroes. This guy was a real pioneer several counts. He was the first man to throw 60 feet in the shot put. He revolutionized the technique of the event by starting with his back to the direction of the throw executing what is now called the O’Brien technique. He was one of the first athletes to systematically use weight training to improve his performance. This guy was a competitor. I got to help officiate the shot put competition my senior year in high school at the Santa Barbara Easter Relays, that was a lesson in how to compete. He also was a good enough athlete to lead off the sprint relay when he was in college at USC. Reading his obituary certainly brought back a flood of memories of the glory days of Track & Field


How do we get coaches to understand that work does not equal training? Anyone can do work, but does it have a direction and a purpose. There are no magic workouts; a good workout must be in the context of the overall training program. One person’s fancy is another person’s folly. Understand principles, know your athletes, and understand the demands of the sport. Directed work is training. A well thought out training programs may not always produce predictable results but if it does not you will know why. Have a plan, execute the plan, evaluate and adjust it as necessary.


Could get into Panera, line outside the door (Good news for stockholder). Barnes & Noble had the paper. One other thing that I notice is that everywhere you go the televisions are blaring CNN, ESPN or Fox News.


Globalization or Homogenization

Thomas Friedman has been on various interview programs quite often lately. Of course his concept is one of globalization. I agree with the concept, but last night when I was watching an interview with him it struck me that in the United Sates what we have is homogenization. I am currently in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, last week I was in Buffalo, the week before that is Nashville and Richmond, Virginia. Frankly if the area code had not changed I am not sure I would have known where I am. All the malls have the same stores, which carry the same products, the restaurants have the same menus, and the bookstores all carry the same books. I am not sure if this is real progress or not. I guess I long for the day of the corner grocery store, the small specialty bookstore. I know you can’t turn back the clock but is this really progress? Meanwhile I am off to Panera for lunch and then Barnes& Noble to buy the New York Times National Edition and then catch a flight to Indianapolis.


More Playing the Game

My experience has shown that generally great athletes do not make great coaches. They often lack insights into the little things, the nuances, the average athlete must do to excel. What I have seen is they tend to coach the way they think they played the game. I think that the athlete who had to scrape and struggle and find out what they had to do to succeed carries that into their coaching. They find a way; they tend to be more empathetic to the athlete who is not as gifted. The fate of teams is often determined, not by the superstar but by the supporting cast. Remember the world is run by C students.


Comments & Thoughts

I am a bit concerned at the tone of some of the recent posts. I think it is important to respect everyone’s point of view. I need to be more careful myself with the tone of sarcasm. I know from teaching and coaching that sarcasm is a dangerous tool. I want this blog to a forum to stimulate thought and discussion and to exchange meaningful information.

I have thought a lot about the Yankees situation as I have read your comments. I have tried to put myself in that guys place and thought back to what I would have done at age 22 or 34. I am afraid that I would have done the same thing. To me it underscores the need for experience and mentoring as well as definition of the field.

As far as Alex Kipchirchir’s training, there are no secrets. Go to the web page or any of my books and videos and all the elements of the program are there. We did circuits, Pull, Push, Squat complexes, some modified leg circuits and medicine ball core work daily. As far as running drills he did the usual. The thing to remember about Alex is that he played soccer at a fairly high before he began running, that really helped with his coordination.

The difference between training and work is really quite simple. Training is work with a purpose that is specific and measurable. Someone wrote in that training is the boat with a rudder, a good analogy. Work is a boat adrift in the sea. Sometimes it makes it to shore, more often than not it stays adrift.

Feedback from testing. Yesterday we tested the Volleyball girls on block jumps and approach jumps. Predictably those with a base of training and those most compliant with the program improved. Not as much as after the first phase because this past phase was a heavy leg circuit phase. On the other hand on the Over the Back 3kg Med ball throw the improvement was tremendous. The Med Ball results reflected the training emphasis. The point is that testing is feedback related to what you have been doing in training. There are times when you can actually expect regression. If it is part of the plan and you can account for it then it is acceptable if it is within certain ranges.


Playing the Game

Make Day asked my opinion on how important it is to have played the game to coach? I think it depends if you are an athletic development coach or an actual sport coach. If you are a sport coach it is good to have some exposure to the game as a player at some level. With professional baseball the pedigree they often look for is someone who has played Major League baseball, this results in severe inbreeding bordering on incest. It allows little creativity or innovation. I think Bill Belichick is the coach he is because he did not play pro football. From a conditioning coaches perspective I really do not think it is necessary, in fact it is an advantage to have not played the game. There is less bias and preconceived notions, more objectivity.

More Baseball Injuries

The post yesterday on the Yankee situation really is just the tip of the iceberg in professional and collegiate sports in the US. The administrators who do the hiring have no idea of what the field entails. I am sure that the guys they hired to fill those positions looked good on paper and probably even sounded good in an interview. I hate to burst any ones bubble here but the level of sophistication in baseball is not where the book “Moneyball” would lead you to believe. If you look closely at uniform coaches and support staff you will see a level of cronyism that continues. Pro sports is not about winning, it is about entertainment. The Yankees will make a ton of money win or lose!

Thoughts on Certification

I think my posts on letters and the plethora of certifications available have been misunderstood. I do believe in certification. I believe in certification with substance. By substance I mean programs that require apprenticeships with a recognized professional in the field. It should entail significant hands on educational component, for example a week long course that has a blend of theoretical and practical. It has to be much more than a paper and pencil test or an online video review. There must be a project that shows original thinking and a depth of knowledge. In short it should be rigorous so that it has substance so that potential employers have a better idea of what they are getting. It should have levels that reflect the hierarchy of knowledge and time served - experince, which just reflects sound pedagogy. No one should be grandfathered into a program. There is much more, but I think that should give you an idea of where I am coming from.

Over the years beginning in the late sixties I have studied coaching education programs in a wide variety of sports all over the world. When we started the USA Track & Filed Coaching Education program in 1983 the goal was to raise the standard of coaching. We leaned heavily on the Canadian, Australian, and British models already in existence for guidance. The program continues today, it is a sound program, in many ways it is the best program available in the United States today. Does it have holes and faults, of course. It is run entirely by volunteers, in other countries the coaching education schemes are run by paid professionals. We need to go this route with Athletic Development or there will always be confusion. My intent is to get people to think and raise the standard of coaching.


Baseball Injuries

I have been following this with great interest. Rather than write any comments, check out this article, it speaks volumes!

Yankee train wreck
New hires under fire for injuries
Friday, April 13th 2007, 4:00 AM

OAKLAND - The Yankees instituted a new fitness program for their players this year, looking to enhance their performance on the field.
Instead, some wonder whether it has contributed to keeping several of the Bombers' biggest stars off the field, as a rash of injuries has hit the Yankees during the early weeks of the season.
Mike Mussina was the latest casualty, leaving Wednesday's game in Minneapolis with a strained left hamstring. He joined Bobby Abreu, Andy Pettitte, Chien-Ming Wang, Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui on the list of players who have suffered strains or pulls since spring training. That's 60% of the starting rotation plus the entire starting outfield.
"We have to deal with (the injuries), but I don't attribute it to our performance management team," GM Brian Cashman said. "Everything we've put in place has been to the benefit to our players."
Over the winter, Cashman got rid of Jeff Mangold, the Yanks' strength and conditioning coach for the previous nine seasons, and hired Marty Miller, who served as a minor league trainer for the Expos from 1995-97, to serve in the newly created position of director of performance enhancement.
Miller had not worked in baseball since leaving the Expos, spending the past nine years as the director of fitness at the Ballen Isles Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. He has a master's degree from California University of Pennsylvania in performance enhancement and injury prevention.
"Marty isn't a baseball guy like Mangold was," said one player, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "Marty has been given a lot of pull, and I think he's a little too gung-ho right now."
Cashman also hired Dana Cavalea, 24, to be the new assistant director of performance enhancement. Cavalea had served as a strength and conditioning coach under Mangold during spring training since 2003, but is now a member of the full-time staff.
During the first day of workouts with pitchers and catchers, the pair's pre-workout stretching program did not include any stretching exercises for the players' arms.
"Right off the bat, (Miller has) got a bad rap," said the player, who also called the team's current pregame stretch routine inadequate. "Pitchers and catchers out there not stretching their arms? Their thing is that the active stretch gets everything stretched out, but that's garbage."
Neither Miller nor Cavalea is permitted to speak with reporters, though Miller did an interview last week with the Palm Beach Post, his hometown paper.
"I've been able to come in here and really kind of change this whole department around," Miller told the paper.
According to the player, Miller and Cavalea have tried to force some of their program on players, many of whom have had successful careers for more than a decade. The response has been a combination of resistance and indifference.
"I think as Marty and Dana get more knowledge of the game, it will get better," the player said. "It's like a rookie pitcher coming to the majors: You might know a lot about pitching, but you don't know what you have to do to be successful at that level.
"They know a ton about conditioning, but they have to figure out how their strengths work into this situation," the player continued. "Mangold didn't have the knowledge that these guys have, but he took the workout that players wanted to do and he'd add things and tweak it."
In addition to the hiring of Miller and Cavalea, the Yankees entered into a 10-year strategic partnership with 24 Hour Fitness, a California-based fitness center company. According to the press release, one of 24 Hour Fitness' duties was the installation of a "state of the art fitness facility" at Yankee Stadium, but players have been less than impressed with the initial results.
"They've done a phenomenal job making the weight room nice," the player said. "Aesthetically it looks great, but functionally, there's nothing in there. You walk in there and there's four of the same machine and a bunch of empty space. What do you expect us to do in there?"
According to a team source, Pettitte was encouraged by either Miller or Cavalea to ditch the weight belt he usually wears while doing his routine squats, saying it would help him strengthen his stomach during the exercises. Pettitte injured his back while doing the squats, costing him 10days in spring training.
"None of these injuries have anything to do with this new program," Cashman said. "It's not anything that's putting anybody in jeopardy."
Cashman also noted that both Matsui and Damon suffered their strains during games played in temperatures in the 30s. Damon, whose calf strain caused him to leave the Yanks' season opener early and then miss the next two games, said Miller and Cavalea have been working hard to keep the players in shape, though he admitted that the unusual number of injuries "raises some eyebrows" in regard to the new fitness program.
A source said that George Steinbrenner was very upset about the multitude of injuries that have hit the team, but his spokesman, Howard Rubenstein, said the owner had no critical comments to make about the new fitness program. "He's not upset about it," Rubenstein said. "He said, 'Injuries happen.'"
Cashman has received positive feedback from some players, including Scott Proctor, Mariano Rivera and Carl Pavano, but he knows it might take some time for other players to come around.
"Cash is always trying to better the team any way he can," Proctor said. "This is a good investment; it just needs some time to take. Guys need to learn to trust it, and then it will be good for us."
"You can't change Rome in a day," Cashman said. "Does that mean all the guys are going to gravitate to them? No. We're not going to force them to switch their stuff ... if it's worked for them over the years."



I repeat again, we do not need more certifications, that is not the solution to define this field. To the person who posted regarding me starting a certification because there is good money in it. That is not my motivation. I will not even consider doing a certification. What does that do? At last count there are over 300 certifications in this field, will another certification help define the field or add more confusion? More letters is not the answer! We must find a way to professionalize what we do, have standards that are universally accepted. There must be standards of proficiency. When a professional team with a payroll of close to $200 million hires someone with ten years experience working in a retirement community and a mail order masters degree from a popular national organization with appealing initials as the Director of Performance. Then then have a rash of injuries and then wonders why. How about experience and professional competence? This is a small snapshot of what is happening now.


Burn with Vern

There are a few vintage T-shirts out there. Joe and mark I am working hard to make this all more cult like, so scacity is the anwer. I am thinking of having an auction on e bay for the last dozen with the proceeds going to a good charity - my retirement fund. Maybe you guys can help me so start a "Learn with Vern" certification program. How about three more letter LWV, I think that will add some real depth the current state of confusion. In order to be viable it must be expensive and available online. Keep looking for this it will be here soon, sometime in 2040. Light that fire and get burning.

Random Thoughts

Be careful when the bottom line becomes the bottom line

An exercise should never be an end unto itself. Dead lift, squat, power clean, picking your nose, it does not matter they are all part of a bigger picture and a means to an end.

The injury prevention component of a training program is essential, but it should be a transparent component of every training session

Work and training are not the same

Leg Circuit - Corrected

Mark Day pointed out that there was a typo the other day on the leg circuit. I apologize I was so excited about the teams perfromance that I did not check my typing. Here is the correct leg circuit:

Bodyweight Squat x 20 reps

Bodyweight Lunge x 20 reps (10 each leg)

Bodyweight Step-up x 20 reps (10 each leg)

Jump Squat x 10

The order of the exercises is important. I arrived at the order by trail and error. This order allows the exercises to be done with a degree of quality. Rate of work is also crucial, the goal is one rep per second, this really stresses the fast eccentric which is a key element in bodyweight lower extremity exercise. Last but not least, remember context, this is one part of a detailed long term progression. The leg circuit is not an end unto itself. It will give you a real burn, but that is not what it is about, it is about Foundational Strength to provide a work capacity of power endurance to build the upon.



This question was asked: Who would be on your short list of acceptable mentors? It does not have to be a short list. I recommend you find people who are doing what you ant to do and seek them out. It does not have to be formal. Sometimes an occasional conversation is all that is necessary to get you on the right track. Respect their time. It is not about letters or being high profile. Some of the best mentors I have had and continue to have are people no one has heard of. To me it is about sharing and expanding the knowledge base. I have a whole list of people that I want to contact and exchange ideas with. Incidentally they transcend the field of Athletic development. I definitely think you MUST go outside your chosen field to improve.

A Giant Step!

An update on the progress of the Venice High School Girls Volleyball team I am working with. We are just completing the twelfth week of training, the end of a second six week cycle of foundational strength. Yesterday was the culmination of the Leg Circuit progression which has been the cornerstone of my system for years. The kids aced it – I decided to time the circuit which is really five times the circuit with no rest between exercises and no rest between circuits – the whole team was between 6:18 and 6:48. This is simply the best I have ever had a team do at any level!

For those of you that unfamiliar with the Leg Circuit it is:

Body Weight Squat x 20

Body Weight Lunge x 20 (10 each leg)

Body Weight Step-up x 20 (10 each leg)

Jump Squat x 10

(For the complete progression see the Athletic Development book)

In addition almost everyone was able to do their sets of single squat and break parallel without holding on.


More Letters

Who are you going to give more credibility to?


Joe I Don't Have All The Letters After My Name


Random Quotes

“If you don’t know the sport you are working with you don’t know shit”

“Not only is the old becoming today’s new…most coaches do not know what the old was.” Kevin McGill


I am definitely not a betting man, but if I were to bet on the horses I would thoroughly investigate a horse’s pedigree before I bet on that horse. I think it is the same in coaching and teaching. Pedigree and lineage mean a lot. Who were your mentors? Who did you learn from? You can’t choose your parents, but you can choose your mentors, that will determine your pedigree. More letters after your name do not improve your pedigree, gain knowledge and experience to improve your pedigree, then you will be a winner. Remember Seabiscuit did not have the pedigree, but that horse had people who believed in him and sought out the knowledge to make him better. If they would have listened to conventional wisdom Seabiscuit would not have been a winner. Create your own pedigree


Do you know why what you are doing in training works or does not work? Are you just following you intuition or some artificial model that you fit your athletes into? I just finished an intersting book published by Harvard Business School Press called Competing on Analytics by Davenport and Harris. This really got me thinking that what is being done in the business sector must be done in training. There are too many exorbitant claims without any substance. Also we need to be able to repeat what we do, how can you repeat what works if you do not know why it worked. Here are two articles that you can download on Analytics; you have to get outside the box to make these apply.




History - Don't ignore it

Ken Burns documentary filmmaker said the following when delivering the commencement address at Yale University in 2004. “Your future lies behind you. In your past, personal and collective. If you do not know where you have been, how can you possibly know where you are and where you are going.”

How many of you have read the works of Doc Councilman? How about John Bunn’s book or the numerous books that Ken Doherty wrote? Heed the advice of ken Burns, learn about the past to make your present and future more meaningful.

"Just the facts"

One of my favorite television programs growing up was Dragnet. The star of the program was Sergeant Joe Friday of the LAPD, his famous line was “just the facts” when he was interrogating a witness. Little did I know how right on Sergeant Friday was. Cut out the BS, the half truths, the hype, the marketing and misinformation. Cut to the chase. What works? Why does it work/ Is it repeatable? Can you teach it? What is necessary to achieve mastery? Just the facts!!!

What is Coaching

Are coaching and personal training different? You better believe it is different. Training someone for a short period of time is not the same as the commitment to work with an athletes training for a year or a career and having to manage that training with all that comes with it. Coaching deals with all the variables. You can’t pop in and pop out on an hourly basis and be a coach.

The Secret

After all this thinking and writing about coaching and defining a field I decided to call Joe Vigil yesterday. I realized I had not spoken to him in a while and wanted to see how he was doing. Man did that call get me fired up, Joe has to be one of the most amazing and inspiring individuals I have ever met. Joe is in his mid to late seventies but you would never know it. He is just as fired up as when I first met him twenty five years ago. The more I spoke to him, the more I realized that he knows the secret. The secret is passion. He has passion for coaching, learning and teaching that rates a 12.5 on a 10.0 scale. He gets up every morning at 4:30 Am to do 90 minutes of reading for professional advancement. This is a guy with a PhD and several masters’ degrees; he has forgotten more than most of us know and he is reading for professional advancement. Passion that is the answer, it is the secret. People like Joe are a prized resource. He has never gotten the respect and adulation he deserves. I know I would not anywhere that I am today without Joe Vigils help and advice. The formula is KNOWLEDGE + INTERGITY + PASSION


$$$$ More Certification – Educational or Entrepreneurial?

Let me start by saying that I am all for education and knowledge. I feel even more strongly than I ever have that more certification does not mean more knowledge; in fact there are so many certifications now that it is confusing. Do we have more knowledge because of these certifications or do we have more information being passed around as knowledge. How many letters can you have after your name before they start being insignificant? When I see a twenty something with more that a degree and one certification after their name I get suspicious, have they been gathering information or seeking knowledge. Why do you have to be certified in an exercise technique or a piece f equipment? If your knowledge is based on sport science, grounded in a sound philosophy why do you need it. A method or a piece of equipment must be placed in context. Rather than add credibility it takes away credibility. The newest one I just saw last night is that you can be a core pole master trainer – what hell is a core pole and do you need to be a master trainer to use it? Here is another good one – online training expert – wow is that impressive. You can join the Personal Trainer business alliance; they even have a competency and ethics expert on board! Lets get real here and take a stand as professionals. Everyone must make a living, but are we duping the public by falsely inflating the knowledge base of these various certifications? Perhaps the competency and ethics expert should take a look at this. By the way PT means physical therapist not personal trainer. There is a difference.

Defining the Field - Help – Thoughts, Ideas, Experiences and Insights

I will be doing a presentation at the NSCA Convention in Atlanta this July. The title of the presentation is: “Everything Old is new again – Defining the Field. I want this to be the presentation I have ever given, in order to do that I need your help. Any ideas or input on the evolution of strength and conditioning, the present state and where it is gong would be appreciated. Full credit will be given for any ideas used. This talk must not be limited by my experience. My assumption is that this field (whatever it is crying out for definition) I am going to do my utmost best to define this field as Athletic Development. You may think everything is fine and we do not need to define the field, great, let me know why. I plan on starting in the present to see where we are, then look at a historical context and finish with concrete recommendation on where we need to go. Some people have asked my why I want to do this? The answer is simple; I have a passion for coaching and training. What I see out there today upsets me. People are hurting athletes by what they are doing and what they are not doing. Someone has to step up and take the lead and the flak that will come along with it. I am willing to do that if it helps to move Athletic Development forward as a viable field worthy of professional recognition. I am tired of people, sport coaches included asking me what I do? Then they proceed to tell me about an infomercial they saw on TV or what personal trainer told their wife at the gym. I have invested a lifetime in learning and seeking constant improvement, to help define the field that work in is the least I can do at this time in my career. However, I do need your help. Please send me any ideas or thoughts to gambettasports@hotmail.com. My new book was intended to be the start of the process of defining the field, but that is only a start.


Random Thoughts

No particular order or reason for these brain cramps. Just some stuff I have been thinking about.

  • Kids should play and adults should train
  • Plyometric are Ok for kids as long is there is no adults telling them what to do. Jumping, hopping and bounding are natural. Let them play at it.
  • Same with strength training for kids, let them climb, pull and push, just don’t organize and see how much they can lift. In fact do not let them in the weight room, give them rocks, trees, tires and medicine balls and go for it!
  • Olympic style weight lifters are good athletes who are skilled in a very narrow of skill. They get very explosive, but if that explosiveness always transferred why don’t we see eight weight lifters line up for the final of the 100 meters.
  • Have you ever seen a world class 5,000 meter runner run a fast 1,000 meters with a training flat on one foot and a spike on the other foot? I have, you talk about stupid stuff!
  • Typical advice – Don’t work too hard you might get hurt. Then they get hurt because they did not work hard enough.
  • Michael Phelps attributed his recent success to weight training and plyometric. Great, now we will see every age group swimmer in the US weight training and doing plyometrics with no idea. Monkey, monkey do!
  • Training is not an all you can eat buffet, it is gourmet meal carefully prepared so all the ingredients’ are planned and blended into a fine dinning experience.


Bogus Claims

“Pound for pound, Olympic weightlifters have a greater level of speed-strength than any other class of athletes in all of sport. This fact was made very clear during a massive scientific expedition carried out on the athletes at the Mexico City Olympics in 1964. Sports scientists found that Olympic lifters were able to both vertical jump higher than any class of athletes (including the high jumpers), and run a 25 yard dash faster than any class of athletes (including the sprinters)”. http://www.drsquat.com/articles/athletesandtheolympiclifts.html

This is a post by Fred Hatfield aka “Dr Squat” First get your facts straight. The Mexico City Olympics was in 1968 not 1964. Second there was no massive scientific study at the Olympics or anywhere that reports this phenomenon. If there was I have never seen it published. I have seen shot putters out vertical jump high jumpers. Not real surprising when you consider the specificity of training. Hell I had a better vertical jump than two Seven high jumper when I was training (my best high jump 5’93/4”) but it took me forever to generate the force. Lets put this argument to bed once and for all. Olympic lifting helps to develop explosive but you must train for your event. Claiming bogus scientific scientific studies proves nothing.

Daisuke Matsuzaka – Change Agent?

Yesterday I met two of my friends form my White Sox days for lunch. They both now work for the Houston Astros, Dewey Robinson is the Pitching Development Coordinator and Jaime Garcia is his assistant. They were talking about an article in Sports Illustrated about the Japanese pitcher, Daisuke Matsuzaka, who is now pitching for the Boston red Sox. I had not read the article, but when I got home from workout I read the article. It was a breath of fresh to me. Matsuzaka training habits and his ability to achieve high pitch counts in games and then do a high volume of throwing between starts has caused quite a stir in the closed conservative world of baseball. If you get a chance read the article in the March 26, 2007 Baseball Preview issue of Sports Illustrated. The following are my comments stimulated by the article and reflecting my personal experience and Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox for nine years and as Director of Athletic Development for the New York Mets for eight months.

Will Matsuzaka training habits and approach to pitching change the American approach? I hope so, because change is needed. We have put the pitcher on a pedestal and forgotten to train him and then marvel at the extent and severity of the injuries that continue to occur. In reaction to the injuries we have them throw less. We must train to tolerate the demands of pitching. We must recognize the demands of pitching as a ballistic explosive activity and train for those demands. Matsuzaka also does not ice after he throws. I really do not know what that is so revolutionary; we instituted that as a policy in the minor leagues with the White Sox in 1989. I thoroughly researched the physiology of icing then and have continued to follow the research and there is not a physiological reason to ice a healthy shoulder or elbow. In fact it may be counterproductive. I am glad he is getting publicity for that because maybe it will force people to reevaluate icing.

As far as the amount of throwing he does in the bullpen and in long toss, it certainly does not seem unreasonable to me for someone who has progressed to that level. The key here is to progress to that level. Our young players pitch too much and do not throw enough. They need to condition to throw and then throw to condition. Throw anything when they in their developmental stages, softballs, football, rocks, just play throwing games where they have use to use different angles and positions of the body. That will prepare them to pitch. Instead we train them in a phone booth. We teach them a narrow rage of throwing skill called pitching mechanics and lock them into that movement repetitively and then wonder why they get sore and hurt. In essence we are cloning pitchers so they all look alike. There is no model, let them find their pattern and then condition them to withstand the forces.

Throw away the radar gun! The obsession with velocity is the root of all evil. Everyone in the game preaches location and control and the ability to throw strikes, but then judges the pitcher on velocity. No one really knows how hard Bob Feller or Sandy Koufax threw, did it matter?

Forget the argument that a pitcher has only so many pitches in him – that is absurd. The fact that Doctors have said this has lent credibility, but there is no science behind this. That reminds of the argument before Roger Bannister broke the Four Minute barrier in the mile that there are only so many heartbeats, so don’t use them up by training hard!

Here are five rules for training the pitcher:

Build the pitcher form the ground up. You can’t launch a cannon from a canoe, build strong legs

Train toe nails to fingernails – train all the links in the chain to produce and reduce force

Train for power and explosiveness, not endurance

Train the core as a relay center. The trunk positions the arms and transfers force from the legs

Focus on the big picture - recognize that that the shoulder and elbow are the last links in the kinetic chain

Recognize also on this issue that you have many ‘experts” weighing in on this argument that have no background in sport science or training. They have never had to produce by keeping a pitcher healthy and developing a young pitcher. You can look at all the stats you want, but you must know the individual pitcher, understand biomechanics of throwing and pitching and have a principle based program.

In many respects this comes back to physical education. Get them moving and playing. Put the softball throw back into the presidents Fitness test, you will see throwing improve.

I sincerely hope that Matsuzaka has success because it may force the sport to take a hard look at training. Knowing baseball, and the conservative nature of the game I really doubt that any change will occur even if he wins twenty games. Baseball is a game defined by failure. Secretly you can bet that everyone in the game is wishing he will fail so that the can keep doing what they have always done. Spit, scratch and chew



Words create images and images create action. Here are some common misinterpretations of words in the context of training:

Workout = Weight Room

Warm-up = Stretching

Conditioning = Distance Running

Fitness = Wind Sprints

Basics = Boring

Get Up, Get Out, Get Going

The more I reflect on the subject of yesterday’s post, the more realize the dimensions of the problem. Some way, some how there must be a revolution to change the patterns of behavior and get people to rethink their approach to fitness. I am convinced that this must be a grass roots revolution lead by leaders in individual communities. I am really not sure how to go about this, that is why I am throwing out this idea. There are certainly brighter, more innovative people out there than me who can get this going. Maybe we need to think of this like a virus, start small in your neighborhood and let it spread. One thing that I am convinced of is that throwing more money at the problem without a plan will have minimal impact.


Fat, Fit or What?

Fat or fit, does that have to be the choice? Last Friday’s USA Today had a front page story on the sad state of the recruits entering the military. One third of the 18 year olds who applied for service in all branches of the military were overweight. Between 1996 and 2006 the applicants considered obese doubled to 6%. In speaking with people who have worked with army recruits they report that the rate of stress fractures in recruits as high as 50%. Should we be alarmed, yes we should. We do not have to worry about terrorist attacks, if they wait a few years we will just eat ourselves into oblivion! This is a huge problem (no pun intended) that permeates all levels of society. Unfortunately there are no simple solutions. Ironically the poor state of fitness of military recruits before WWII was considered a problem. Because it was recognized as a problem and there were mechanisms in place to deal with it, the top experts in physical education were gathered and the physical education curriculums were revised to raise the level of demand to better prepare the youth for the war on the horizon. We certainly need a national initiative of concerned people to reverse this alarming trend. Unfortunately we are not teaching physical education as a discipline in the colleges and universities because it is not requirement in the secondary and elementary schools so there are no jobs, so we are not training the teachers who can go out and lead. The curriculums that are in place in the schools leave much to be desired. The so called “new PE” does not get the job done. It appears the goal of the “new PE” is to keep the kids happy and not stress them. We must step back and be realistic. In the same vain on March 27, Charlie Crist, the new governor of Florida, proposed that the Florida institute a mandatory 30 minutes of physical education a day. That is fine, but how will it be implemented? Who will teach it? That is the clincher. A clue was the advisory board that he named. It contained all professional athletes, not one educator! I am convinced and this certainly confirmed my convictions that we do not need politicians involved in this. We need educators who understand what must be done. PE is an integral part of the educational process. Studies have consistently shown that children who move and participate in vigorous activities do better in school and have less behavioral issues in the classroom. We need to start a grassroots revolution among people who are concerned. I have given this much thought and I am not sure how, but it must be done. Talk is cheap, we need a call to action to get kids fit for life!


Juan Osorio - Persistence

Last night when I was surfing through the channels that we got with our new cable TV package I came upon a soccer game from the top division of play in Columbia. At first I could not identify who was playing because the graphics were obscured by some advertisements. Then I found that it was two teams from the capital of Columbia, Bogota, Millionares versus Santa Fe. A good friend of mine is the coach of Millionares, his name is Juan Osorio. Juan is one of the amazing individuals I have ever met. His passion for soccer and his devotion to learning is off the scale. This guy spends every waking hour learning and working to be a better coach. Juan is in his first season as the head coach/manager of Millionares, one of the top teams in Columbia. Before that Juan was first the conditioning coach and then the assistant coach with Manchester City in the English Premier League. While there Juan did a fantastic job of keeping the players healthy and fit. Before that that Juan was an assistant coach with the then New York Metro Stars (Now the Red Bull) in the MLS. This is a guy who has paid his dues. He came to this country from Columbia not speaking a word of English. To learn English he memorized eight to ten words a day out of the dictionary. He played at Southern Connecticut, where he graduated and then went on to get a Masters in the Science of Football from Liverpool John Mores University. While at John Moores Juan observed and charted practices from all the top teams in England in Europe. From this he further refined his system and the structure and organization of practices. He refined the pre game warm-ups and even structured a warm-up before the second half of play, something not done in soccer. He developed a dynamic warm-up routine for the players who were substituted into the game. Maybe one of the highlights of my friendship with Juan was a dinner with he and Dr. Joe Vigil. Joe is intense, but Juan would not let Joe eat he had so many questions. Juan was working on structured small sided games with specific conditions to accomplish specific fitness goals. He wanted to know what systems were being taxed, lactate levels, effect of varied work to rest ratios. He developed a system based on this that is really neat to see. It is so neat to see Juan get this opportunity. He was a finalist for several head coaching positions in the MLS, but I think his intensity scared people off. He really could have helped American soccer and we need it. The Arena mafia will not advance the sport. We need more Juan Osorios. The soccer his team played was direct and attractive, oh by the way they won the game 4 – 2. Our lose is Columbian Soccer’s gain. Keep up the great work Juan