Can't or Won't

When an athlete says they cannot do something that is very final. They can’t do it! When they say they say they won’t do it that implies a choice. They can do it but they have chosen not to do it at this time. I try to educate athletes and coaches on the distinction. I think it is an important distinction that we should all understand.


I want to congratulate my daughter, Kristen Gambetta, for receiving her US Soccer National D Coaching License. I am excited for her. I know she will be a great coach who will always put her players first and foremost. I am excited to get to watch her coach. In her experiences as an athlete she has learned much that she wants to apply to her coaching. She is a graduate of Rice University where she played soccer and ran the sprints on the track team. She is number 10 in the picture. She now works for the Houston Dynamo in sales.


The Sandbag

What is the big deal about a sandbag? I have been using sandbags for over thirty years. I just happen to have acquired some of the fancy bags (way overpriced) but you do not need them. Fill an inner tube with sand, that works just fine. Once gain it is not about the sandbag or the drill, it is when you use them, and how you use them. For us right now this is the perfect resistance. It allows the ability to incorporate maximum power training and ding up the gym floor. Frankly right now I would rather be in the weight room for a couple of weeks but there is a conflict with another team so we need to adapt.

Finding Ideas

You must be constantly on the hunt for ideas and concepts that will make you better. To get ideas you must go outside your field, broaden your interests. Read everything you can. Leave no stone unturned. Talk to coaches in a variety of sports. I am learning a ton each day from the volleyball coach I am working with. His drills are creative and have a purpose. Read blogs in other fields. Diversify, be a generalist. The pursuit of excellence is an ongoing process that has its own rewards.

Some Random Thoughts on Track & Field

I love the sport of track and filed and I hate to join the naysayer’s and negativists, but I think the sport is in real trouble. How can the Executive Director of USA Track & Filed proclaim that our distance runners are back? Where is the evidence, certainly not in performance? How about progress in the technical events, where is it? Unfortunately you cannot solve the problem by going to the people who created the problem for a solution. There needs to be fresh blood and ideas in the sport. There is more money now than ever and less production – where are the results? For example the California State meet and the CIF Sothern Section Masters meet have been on our cable TV feed. I watched the two meets with great interest because I started my coaching career in California and I feel those two meets are very indicative of the state of the sport. Watching them only confirms again that the sport is in trouble. The depth of performance is not there. There was a scattering of top marks but nothing compared to twenty or thirty years ago. I think part of the problem is that these meets are just not as important to the kids as they used to be. There is now a plethora of all star meets and national meets that have served to diminish the school competition. School competition has always been the cornerstone of our success in the sport. Fewer of the coaches are teachers at the schools, so it is less a part of the whole educational experience. Track & Field is a sport that I love, it gave me my foundation as a coach, I hate to see the path that it is going down.


Venice Volleyball Update

We are well into the summer training. We are in a power phase right now. Using sandbags for resistance, doing pulling movements and jumping on Mondays and Wednesdays and then a combination of agility/quickness work combined with core work on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They start at 7:00Am with an hour of work on offense and then work an hour on defense, and then they work with me. These kids really work, for me it proves that if this generation is challenged they will raise to the occasion. Next week they are off, then there is one more week of training and then they will go to Auburn for a week long team camp. Then they are off for two weeks, actual practice starts August 6. Here are a few
pictures from today’s workout.



A true impact position

By Terry Bowden, Yahoo! Sports
April 22, 2007

Now that spring football practice is winding down, you would think it’s about time to let the boys relax a little bit and get away from the game.
But this couldn't be further from the truth.
Now is the time that the true offseason begins. Now is the time that is going to make or break the success of your team. Now is the time that the strength and conditioning coach becomes the most important coach on your staff.
Actually, the s/c coach has been the most important coach on your staff for some time now – you just didn't know it. During the twelve months of the calendar year, no college coach spends more time with the athletes than the s/c coach. He is responsible for not only the strength and conditioning of every single athlete on the team but also each player's speed development, flexibility, body weight and even football-related skills and agilities. Because he is with the players so much throughout the year, he also must wear the hats of a father, psychologist, enforcer and even a head coach.
Because of changes in the NCAA rules that determine how much time a coach can spend with student-athletes, the s/c coach has the ability to develop a much closer relationship with players than the average position coach. He has the unique opportunity to work with every player in the program from the All-American to the average walk-on, whereas the position coach may not even know the name of everyone on the team.
The tight end coach, for example, might coach only three guys and, by rule, can be with them only five months of the year and for a very limited amount of time each day. But the s/c coach will have more than 100 guys eight hours per week for seven months of the year. It's not hard to see which coach has the ability to have a greater impact on the team.
Years ago, when I first became a head coach, things were quite different regarding the amount of time assistant coaches could be with players. There were no in-season or off-season regulations limiting the hours coaches could spend with athletes teaching them football or football-related drills. During the season and in the spring, meetings and practices lasted as long as it took to get things done. And in the offseason, other than the rule that they couldn't put on the pads and butt heads, coaches could be with players about as long as they wanted.
Shoot, back in the early '80s I don't think a day went by, except during recruiting, that I didn't spend a little bit of time with some of my players getting them ready to play football.
More importantly, when the athlete was not doing a good job or giving the effort that he needed to give in the weight room, his position coach was right there to motivate and push him if he needed a little extra incentive. Back in the day, I'd see assistant coaches go by the dorm room at 5 in the morning just to make sure a player didn't miss his daily workout.
Now it's up to the s/c coach to be that enforcer. He must be just as tough on the players and carry just as big of a stick as the assistant coaches used to do.
The critical point I'm trying to make is that the s/c coach is in the best position today to be proactive in the development of the athlete by motivating him and reinforcing what he does do in the offseason. On the other hand, the assistant coach can be only reactive to a problem by punishing a kid for what he does not do – perhaps even demoting him or keeping him out of games.
If you're trying to build a championship team, praising and reinforcing an athlete for getting stronger and in better shape is a lot more effective than demoting or not playing an athlete for not getting stronger or in better shape.
The s/c coach now also must take the lead in setting the tone for the mental toughness of the team. The tougher he is on players every day in the offseason, the tougher they will be on the football field. A great team must be talented and mentally tough. You can recruit talent, but you must develop toughness.
Winning is an every-day thing. You don't just wake up Saturday morning and decide you are going to play the game of your life. No, it is decided every single morning of the year when you either give a great day of work in the weight room and the practice field or you do not.
Today, that responsibility falls on the strength and conditioning coach. You'd better have a good one.


More on Periodization

Anonymous wrote the following in reply to my previous post on periodization: I realize that I it's impossible to "periodize" to the extent the eastern Europeans did, but Bompa defined Periodization as "a process of structuring training into phases". Isn't that still the basic idea?!

No, not really. I am not sure it ever was the idea. Just dividing training into phases is easy, that is not periodization that is one aspect of periodization. That is where everyone is missing the point. It is not about time, it is about timing. It is what you do when. I prefer to call it Planned Performance Training, I think changing terms gets us away from this fixation on time and refocuses the emphasis to timing of the application of the various training stresses and the subsequent interaction of the various stresses and then the adaptation to those stresses. Kenneth Graham, Sport scientist at New South Wales Academy of Sport, put it quite well in a conversation with me. He said that it is important to always be close to the event in some form, neural, metabolic, mechanical, or hormonal. At the risk of shameless self promotion I refer you to chapters five and six of my book Athletic Development – The Art & Science of Functional Sports Conditioning at http://www.gambetta.com In those chapters There are many ideas and thoughts that reflect my experiences in dealing with these issues during my years of coaching and also my time training as an athlete. There really is not of complexity when you get to the essence of it. It is: know the athletes, know the sport, know the competitive schedule. Factor all of this together into a sound roadmap and have a good compass, because in any journey there are always times when you are off course.



This was the Google quote of the day for today:
I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.
- Robert McCloskey


Is Periodization Dead?

This was one of the questions asked at a presentation I did to Athletics and swim Coaches at University of Queensland. It is an important question, certainly not one to be taken lightly. Periodization as it has been commonly taught by Bompa et. al. is dead! That neat defined world of general preparation, special preparation, competition and transition does not exist any more. Contemporary reality is that of an extended competitive season without well defined long periods of general preparation. We must recognize that planning is still the cornerstone of all training, but we must not be bound by antiquated concepts that are derived from former eastern bloc nations that had strict control of their competitive schedule and total control of the athletes lives. Traditional periodization also fails to address adequately the planning and preparation for team sports. We build upon principles of adaptation and current research to build plans that are realistic in our cultural and competitive milieu. Recognize that thorough and complete planning is a must, do not misinterpret what I am saying. We must be careful that we are not sheep walking and blindly following methodology that is outdated. There is a new reality that we must prepare for.

The Core

Thanks to all who responded. I have checked out all those resources. None specifically use the term “core.” It is as I suspected a new term in the lexicon of training, therapy, and medicine. Despite its popular use no one has done a real good of defining it from a scientific standpoint. It probably is not a big issue, but I am concerned when words begin to appear in peer reviewed journals that have no accurate definition. Essentially right now it a concept without specific definition. In an article entitled Muscular Balance, Core Stability, and Injury Prevention for Middle and Long Distance Runner by Michael Fredericson, MD and Tammara Moore, PT in Physical Medicine Rehabilitation Clinics North America volume 16 pp. 669-689, they begin the article with the following sentences: “ Martial artists long have recognized the importance of a well developed core musculature. One of the main differences between a novice practioner and a black belt is the black belt’s development and use of his core (called “center” or “Ki”) to produce balanced, powerful, and explosive movements.” Later in the article they go on to describe the core as follows: “In essence, the core can be viewed as a box with the abdominals in the front, paraspinals and gluteals in the back, the diaphragm as the roof, and the pelvic floor and hip girdle musculature as the bottom. Within this box are 29 pairs of muscles that help to stabilize the spine, pelvis, and kinetic chain during functional movements.” This is actually a good start to a more accurate definition, it is very close to what Gajda and Dominguez published in 1983, they also included the thoracic and cervical spine.


More on Adaptable

Here are the steps toward being adaptable:

1) Get functionally strong

2) Get functionally fast

3) Get functionally fit

4) Get sport appropriate

5) Compete

The Choice - Adapted or Adaptable

My colleague Steve Myrland came up the idea about the body being adapted or adaptable in response to training. It is a brilliant concept that demands a bit of explanation. Too much of what I see in training today results in bodies that are simply adapted to the specific type of work imposed upon the body. Performance demands bodies that that are adaptable to the demands of the sport. That is a much broader connotation that demands attention to the big picture. It seems to me in designing and implementing a training program the ultimate is to have a program that results in bodies that are completely adaptable. Adapted bodies are more prone to injury and will reach their performance limitations sooner. An adaptable body is the result of multifaceted training that covers a spectrum of activities designed to prepare the body for all aspects of the sport. The adaptable athlete body will have few limitations. Biased one sided training results in adapted bodies, multifaceted training results in adaptable bodies. What kind of body are you producing?

The Core - Help?

Is there anyone out there that can provide a reference regarding the origin of the word core in the context it is used today referring to the body? I am preparing a presentation for a sports medicine conference next fall and I want to be accurate in my historical portrayal of the origins of the term. So far I can trace it back to a book by Gajda and Dominguez published in 1983 called Total Body Training. There is no reference to the term in Palates, Feldenkrais, dance or gymnastics. Martial arts have the term chi or ki but it is a slightly different concept. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.


My Comments on Interesting

This is so typical of what we see happening today. We have created artificial divisions and classifications that ultimately hurt or confuse the athlete. Doing remedial work like balance and proprioception drills certainly have a place for the 400 meter runner, or for that matter any athlete, but if that is all that is done for strength training then the program is remiss. Conversely just lifting heavy will not get the job done either. A good balanced program managed by one coach is the path to excellence. The message that I get from this is that the performance team lacked good direction or the direction was communicated to all involved. What I am seeing today in coaching is precisely what it occurring in medicine, there are now a myriad of specialists who never speak to each other or to the coach. Each specialist is guarded in their area and seeks to develop that area to the exclusion of others. There must be a generalist who coordinates and communicates who knows the big picture and never loses sight of it. Following the functional path demands a roadmap, a compass and the ability to read the road signs along the way. My fear is that athlete is now going the wrong way down another one way street. We shall see, I will be following his progress with interest.



This is an interesting article. They come down pretty hard on sports science here. Interested in your thoughts and reactions, I have mine, but I will hold back on this one.

Athletics: Welsh ace’s hopes in lap of the gods

Jun 17 2007

by Peter Shuttleworth, Wales On Sunday

TIM BENJAMIN has gone from ballerina to Incredible Hulk as he bids to be an Olympic super-hero.

The Welsh athletics ace has been transformed by new coach Colin Jackson as the hurdling legend has ditched the 21st century sports science approach to go back to the ‘old school’.

Britain’s top 400m runner continues to be dogged by injuries but Jacko’s intense weights programme is geared to help prevent niggles – as well as unleash Benjamin’s power over the one-lap distance.

His season starts properly on Saturday as Benjamin competes for Great Britain against Europe’s best at the European Cup in Munich – and the 25-year-old star wants to put all his injury nightmares behind him and give British athletics fans finally something to shout about before next year’s Beijing Olympics.

The World Championship finalist said: “Colin has taken me back to basics; he’s very much an old school coach.

“The gym has become my second home as I’ve been doing strength work by the ton. It has been damn hard work but Colin insists my core strength must be strong so I’m stable when running.

“There’s none of that sports science interference or the latest 21st century training fad. I haven’t had people telling me I won’t be able to run fast unless I can balance on one leg with my hands on head.

“Previously I’d go to the gym, spend an hour trying to balance on the stability board and go home and not even break sweat.

“I sometimes felt I achieved nothing. All I wanted to do was lift some steel.

“Colin’s view is you can’t look like a ballerina coming up the home straight. The sports science routines made you run that way.

“Colin thought if I looked like a ballerina, then I wouldn’t be fighting hard enough.

“You can get carried away by these training fads or you can concentrate on doing the basics right – and that’s bulk up and be strong.

“Colin wants me to get strong, get fit and get fast. The strength work will hopefully help keep my injuries at bay and allow me to train more.”

One-lap wonder Benjamin left GB coach Tony Lester and the bright lights of London to join former world 110m record-holder Jackson’s training camp back in Cardiff with fellow Welsh athletics ace Rhys Williams last autumn.

Jackson admitted he was ‘shocked’ by their basic fitness levels and even called his legendary mentor Malcolm Arnold in horror, explaining that neither could complete a mammoth session of sit-ups or pull-ups.

Benjamin admitted: “Colin has spent most of the time body sculpting me so I’ve been doing bench-presses, sit-ups and single-leg squats all of the time. My upper body now feels strong.”

Benjamin proved he is one of Britain’s few world-class talents when the Cardiff athlete beat Olympic and world champion Jeremy Wariner in 2005 as he dipped under the magic 45 seconds mark for a 400m runner.

Benjamin was officially ranked No 2 in the world as he narrowly lost to Tyree Washington in the World Athletics Final in Monaco later that year.

But since then injury has ruined his Commonwealth Games and Euro Championship hopes.

Benjamin – preparing for the European Cup and August’s World Championships in Osaka – suffered a second epidural leak in two years last month after a pain-killing injection to cure a nerve problem in his back went wrong.

“The chances of having of having an epidural leak are one in 200 people,” said Benjamin. “I’ve suffered it twice. That typifies my injury curse.

“I’ve had a sinus problem as well but I’m pushing my body to the limit so injuries and illnesses are going to happen. If I couldn’t cope with that, I’d play darts.

“There is a void of athletics superstars in Britain and I want to fill it. I know I can run fast but I have to keep reminding myself I’m only 25 and Roger Black and Kelly Holmes had to wait until their 30s to celebrate glory.

“This is an unforgiving sport and I’m not lucky enough to be one of those guys who doesn’t suffer injuries but I can’t control that. I’ll just keep coming back for more.

“With the 2012 Olympics being in London, winning a medal there is an opportunity I won’t let go without a fight. I might not win an Olympic medal but I’ll die trying.”

Hold On

I am not talking about professional athletes. Falsely boosting self esteem does not work. Look around you and you will see the result. Praise good effort and good results. Correct incorrect behavior, poor effort or poor results. Sure correction must be done in a positive manner. No one thinks we should break people down, but false praise gets you nowhere. The person who notices it the most is the person receiving the false praise. That is not to say that you do not encourage, encouragement is the cornerstone of good teaching and coaching.


Lake Wobegon Effect

For those of you outside the United States or those not enlightened enough to listen to The Prairie Home Companion, Lake Wobegon is a fictional town in Minnesota where humorist and social commentator Garrison Keillor supposedly was born. The famous tagline at the start of each vignette is, Lake Wobegon where "the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all the children are above average," hence the identification of the lake Wobegon Effect. That is precisely where we are today, everyone in not above average. Some people are good at certain skills and tasks and not good at others. Some the mistaken notion has arisen that if we praise mediocre efforts that they will magically become superior efforts. A mediocre effort is a mediocre effort no matter what words you use to describe it. We have raised a whole generation, in fact several generations with an inflated sense of self worth, because the adults have this mistaken notion that we can’t allow kids to fail or be average. How realistic is this? In the search for perfection we have created a dream world where there is no failure. Sports used to the ultimate test, now we give a trophy to everyone, how ridiculous. I was not always the first chosen; in fact many times I was the last chosen, as very late developer, any athletic ability remained well hidden for years. Did that deter me, no way, it drove me. I wanted to play with the big kids, I wanted to make varsity. Let’s get realistic, by not allowing kids to face reality we are setting them up for bigger failures. We must praise effort that warrants praise and correct poor effort. Lake Wobegon is fictional, life is real. Remember without the C students where would the world be?


Photos from Brisbane Grammar

The following are some photos from one of my sessions with the coaches at Brisbane Grammar. The location is their excellent gymnastics facility. Thanks to Peter Fernley for sending me the photos.


Change is constant and it is uncomfortable. You can either fight change or embrace it and lead it. Kelvin Giles put it quite well when he said that coaches are change agents. That is what we do. Everyday we work to change and modify behavior in the form of fitness or skill or even attitude. To lead change we must be comfortable with change. Leading change demands a willingness to at least consider new ideas and if they are valid implement them.

More on the Twenty Four Hour Athlete

I think many of you have completely missed the point. The Twenty Four Athlete is not about producing champions or future professionals or even getting Division One scholarship it is about a total commitment to excellence. The post came about after Monday’s workout with The Venice Girls Volleyball team. It was obvious they had not done the work while I was gone. Some had put on weight and there were some outside of volleyball lifestyle issues regarding poor choices being made. I really do not think any of these girls will get DI scholarships, for them it is about being the best they can be. For me it is about being the best I can be and for any one I work with at any level to strive to be the best they can be, the only way to do this is by being a “24 Hour” athlete. When they are done playing they can be completely satisfied that they did everything in their power to be fulfill their potential. Sacrifice and making choices are all part of life. Today we try to make it easy for athletes, by making it easy we allow shortcuts. Eventually that catches up and it will catch up in life and in sport. Do not kid yourself. I will not apologize to anyone for being demanding. We all have families, leisure time, health issues, but at the end of the day we must put everything in perspective. Training for sport is not about winning it is about striving to win, there can only be one winner on the scoreboard but everyone can win in life.


Why the Twenty Four Hour Athlete

I will hold to my belief that the concept of the 24 Hour Athlete is a valid concept that we should not comprise on. Conceptually and in reality we need to get our athletes to lead lives that are conducive to athletic excellence. You can’t be excellent two hours during training, or just twelve hours during the day and do things that are counterproductive to excellence the rest of the time. We must raise the bar, not lower it. I agree that the young athlete of today has more going on in their life – so what! They need to be taught to focus and commit. They expect the same rewards, don’t they? We as coaches must set the example and get athletes to commit to an approach to excellence that involves all hours of the day. I know I am getting old and these ideas seem old fashioned, but I know they work; I have lived it as an athlete and a coach. When I first started coaching I was training for the decathlon, coaching track at two schools, also coached basketball that year, taught a full teaching load, was married and had a bit of life. We must teach the young coaches and athletes that it takes total commitment; excellence is not a passing fancy. You must strive to win each workout, before you can ever bear the fruits of victory. If we give into this generation then it will only get worse going forward. Is it work, you bet it is. Does it take energy, it sure does, but we must do it!


Keynote Presentation - Evolution of the Athlete Conference - Long Term Athletic Development

What is Long Term Athletic Development?

Position Statement
We must stop trying to emulate/replicate the Eastern European model of LTAD. In worked in the context of that socio political environment, that society no longer exists. Certainly we can look at elements that will work in our society and deal with our reality. We must also recognize that in the past in the
US and Australia some aspects of LTAD where done quite well, both by chance and design. – That is context of what I plan to present today.

Crucial Questions

What are the career path expectations of athletes in your sport?

What is the Long Term Development model in your sport?

How do you account or nurture of natural development?

What is the final result’?

Defining the Young Athlete

Growth – Increase in size of the body as a whole

Maturation – Progress toward biological maturity

Development – Acquiring behavioral competence

Athletically Gifted

Anointed as the next _______

What does that mean?

Accepted Norm - 10 years/10,000 hours – Is that realistic?

Not a seamless process – must earn the rite of passage through each stage of development

Achievement Zones

Zone One is the foundation. This is where the athlete starts. They get familiar with training. They learn routine. The work is more general in nature. They get in a comfort zone.

Zone Two is the performance zone. Here they learn to be uncomfortable. They intensity is higher. There is a narrower focus.

Zone Three is the high performance zone. This is the zone where many are called and few are chosen. The focus is laser like. This demands the highest level of commitment. Everything here is purposeful, mindful and directed. There is no fluff. This is where the big dogs play.

Balyi Model - Traditional

Initiation Stage

FUNdamental Stage

Training to Train

Training to Compete

Training to Win


Contemporary Revisionist Model

The Process

Identify the athlete – This should be generic

Track – Observe & Guide

Develop – Give them the tools

Recognize & Account For:

Fast Adaptors

Slow Adaptors

Direct & Redirect – Must not lose talent

Developing a mindset

Growth Mindset

The belief that you can cultivate basic qualities for success

Seek the challenge and thrive on it

Effort is OK and failure is an opportunity for growth

Fixed Mindset

Everything is about outcome, not process

Success or failure defines you

They are often carried away with their superiority so they do not learn how to do the work and cope with setbacks

Teach them how to fail

Failure is a learning opportunity

Do not protect them from failure

Learning a lifestyle – 24 Hour Athlete

Must consider GENDER differences – too much lip service

Most females programs are imitation of male programs

Coaching Boys Coaching Girls

Coaching Boys & Girls

MUST consider all aspects of development

Emotional Cognitive

Ethical Socio/Cultural

Culture of the Sport

Background of the Athletic


Advantaged or disadvantaged

Parental, siblings or relatives accomplishments

The Role of the Parent

Parental Overinvestment

Hyper Parenting

Helicopter Mom or dad


Don’t let them fail – Lake Wobegon Effect

Over programming

Play time becomes work time

Teach them to love movement and exercise!!!

Do not punish with exercise!!!

Coaching is the key to LTAD

Transport System Escort System

The System

Principle based, not sport based

Can you fit the program to the athlete, not the athlete to the program?


Chronological age dominates training and competition from ages 11 to 16

“Critical Periods” are not 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 and developing athletes training programs

Teamwork – A new concept?

Great article in yesterdays NY Times sports page about the San Antonio Spurs. In essence the secret of their winning formula is the fact that they emphasize teamwork, high character, low risk, and humility and payroll prudence. Sounds a lot like the New England Patriots. Tim Duncan, their superstar is selfless, a quiet leader who shows up night after night. He is defined by winning not personal statistics. Gregg Popovich is a coach who paid his dues; he is not a former pro player who was handed the job on a platter. This is great to see in today’s I, me, me world of self indulgent superstars. I hope more people take notice of their model and their success. Teamwork is the secret for any great organization at any level of sport and business.

The “Weight Room”

Folks I will break it to you gently, the weight room is not the answer. For those of you that still think of yourself as strength coaches I think it is time to reconsider what you are doing and how you are doing it. If the focus is on the weight room then the point of training the complete athlete is being missed. There are so many facets to athletic development that must be developed concurrently with strength that it is mind boggling. Over the past five weeks I have received numerous emails with variations of the same theme. “I turn my athletes over to the “strength coach” and the athletes get bigger and slower.” “They are getting hurt in the weight because everyone is doing the same program.” “Everyone has to squat heavy (Swimmers).” I have been on both sides of the fence here. I work with teams and schools to consult with them on setting up athletic development programs that are appropriate for their sport. Strength training is part of any sound athletic development program. Notice I said strength training; strength training is an umbrella term, under that umbrella there comes a spectrum of activities and methods from bodyweight gravitational load to heavy lifting to high speed, high force ballistic activities. What is appropriate for football where body mass and overcoming external resistance is not appropriate for volleyball or swimming. One size does not fit all! Also remember that strength training demands a different emphasis depending on the time of the competitive season. There are also different considerations for the female athlete, she must strength train more often and right through to the championship. ( For example Libby Lenton, the Australian swimmer who won five gold medals at the recently completed world swimming championship did her last strength training session on the Sunday with the World Championships beginning on Tuesday.) I am once again making the case for athletic development instead of strength and conditioning. We must give the athletes the basic tools to thrive in their sports, not just survive. We must build athletic bodies that are adaptable to any athletic situation presented to them, today we are focusing on building bodies that are adapted to one environment and that environment does not often transfer to the field, court, pool and track.


Australian Institute of Sport (AIS)

This was my third visit to the AIS. My first visit was in 1996. The AIS is located in
Canberra, the capital of Australia. It is inland about a three hour drive from Sydney. It reminds very much of the foot hills of the Sierra Mountains in California. There have been significant changes in facilities; The Library/information center has tripled in size. It is an unbelievable resource, someday I want to go back and spend a week just doing research. They have every possible
resource imaginable pertaining to sport. They have a new recovery center adjacent to a new fifty meter pool and huge new weight room. They have a new department devoted entirely to studying skill acquisition. The biomechanics lab has been completely redone. There is a thirty meter long force platform in the track as part of the lab, just imagine what you could do with that. Most importantly I think it is the people they have there, facilities are impressive, but they have good people who are passionate and knowledgeable, there to serve the athlete.

What I learned Down Under

1) It is about people, not facilities and equipment. They have a culture that values sport and coaching.

2) Integration of sports science is part of the sporting culture. The input of the sport scientist is sought and valued.

3) Just like us they have their problems. Sometimes top heavy with administration. Government funding is both a blessing a curse at times.

4) Friendships through sport are long lasting and built on mutual respect.

5) They have a real desire to learn and improve. They look for the edge by seeking new knowledge. When you have a small population you must use all the resources possible to develop talent.

6) The difference between coaching and personal training was reaffirmed.

7) There are no secrets! People were open and willing to share ideas and information.

8) Our American football could learn a tremendous amount from Rugby Union, Rugby League and Aussie Rules Football.

9) They no longer have required physical education in the schools. We both need it.

10) Recovery for them is much more scientific. It is based on the demands of the practice or the game.


Building the Athlete from the Ground Up

This is my outline of my presentation at the Evolution of the Athlete Conference:

Building the Athlete from the Ground Up

Vern Gambetta

Gambetta Sports Training Systems

3M +3P = Training System

What is Function?

Full Spectrum Work, Multiple Planes, Multiple Joints, Full Range of Motion & Proprioceptively Demanding

What is Functional Training?

Training that incorporates a full spectrum of training methods, designed to elicit optimum adaptive response appropriate for the sport or activity being trained for.

No one system is emphasized to the exclusion of another

No one method or physical quality becomes an end unto itself

Each athlete is a case study of one.

Be real – Avoid artificial restraints and positions


The ability to perform athletic movements (run, jump & throw) at optimum speed, with precision, style and grace within the context of your sport

# 1 Have a road map - Start with a plan, execute it, and evaluate it

Systematic approach to athletic development

The Puzzle – Putting the pieces together

Timing and Time


Must be measurable in order to be repeatable

Do’s >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Don’ts

How >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Why

What >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>When

What should it be? Is it game like?

Does it evaluate Fundamental Movements?

What are you looking for?

What will you do with what you find?

Can the athlete and coach relate to it?

Are you comparing to normative data or is the comparison intra individual?

Monitoring Training

# 2 Think big picture – Understand the movement constants

Interrelationship of the three constants dictates everything that we do

Body Gravity Ground

Build and rebuild the complete athlete

The big picture is the context; and context is everything

The muscles are slaves of the brain

Tap into, and use the wisdom of the body

No one workout or method will make the athlete; training is synergistic, just as movement is synergistic

# 3 Learn to use the ground efficiently - Start with gait

You can’t shoot a cannon from a canoe

Movement is gravity-driven

# 4 Fundamental movement skills must be mastered before specific sport skills can be acquired and advanced training undertaken

FUNdamental Movement Skills




Movement Awareness

Cultivate-the “Skill Hungary Years” ages 7 to 9

Not sport skill, movement skill

Crawl, reach, pull, push, climb, run, jump & throw

# 5 Train Linkage - Train toenails to fingernails

Train the symphony of movement

“Toenails to fingernails”

Respect the structure and function relationship

“…the function of a muscle depends critically on the context in which it is activated.” Roger Enoka

Spectrum strength train

Multiple Planes Multiple Joints

Full Range of Motion Proprioceptively Demanding

# 6 Train the core as the center of the action

Movement revolves around and through the core

It is the transmission and relay center of the body

Recognize its role in function and train it accordingly

Rotate >>>> Rotate>>>>Rotate

# 7 Build a work capacity base appropriate for your sport

Training is work with a purpose

The foundational work is based on the demands of the sport

Volume is NOT a biomotor quality

# 8 Train sport-appropriate - You are what you train to be

SAID – Specific adaptations to imposed demands

Reversibility – Use it or lose it

# 9 Think Long-Term - Training is cumulative

Systematic Sequential Progressive

Often, what you do not do is as important as what you actually do

# 10 The individual athlete is the focus - Recognize, train and rehab the individual

“Build athletic bodies that are adaptable rather than adapted” Steve Myrland

Must meet individual needs; no two individuals are alike

Many roads to Rome

Fast Adaptors Slow Adaptors

Australia – The Last Week

I am writing this somewhere over the Pacific, not sure if it is night or day. I will be back in the USA today, Saturday June 9 after about 24 hours of flying. (There may be a few days before there are any more posts) It will be good to get home, but what a great trip. Just like the rest of the trip it was a very busy week. Saturday I did an all day seminar with Athletics (Track & Field Coaches) and Swim Coaches hosted by University of Queensland Sport. It was mixture of practical demonstrations and lecture. It turned into one of my typical information dumps, where I tried to present too much in the eight hors allocated. There was a real good cross section of coaches from the youth to the elite level. That always presents a challenge but it is fun to always make the connection of where the elite have come from. Monday was the start of the Evolution of the Athlete Conference at the University of Queensland. I was honored to give the keynote address on the Long Term Athlete Development Process and another address on Building the Athlete from the Ground Up. Later that day I also did a practical session. The conference spanned three days. I really enjoyed the second day morning session on skill acquisition (you will hear more on this in later posts) It was a challenging session, but very thought provoking. I was unable to attend the final afternoon session on Wednesday because I had to fly to Canberra for a meeting of the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) National Talent Squad (NTS) strength and conditioning coaches headed up by Kelvin Giles. It was a great group of coaches, really knowledgeable and focused. They work with players aged 14 to 17 who are then passed onto an Academy and eventually to Super 14 squads and if good enough to the Wallabies. We had two initiatives to work on: 1) strengthening in the scrum and 2) refining the Athletic Competencies. It was fun working with them, not sure how much I contributed, but I sure learned a lot.The meeting was at the Australian Institute of Sport (more on AIS in another post)

Pat Clohessy

One of the coaches attending my information dump at University of Queensland on Saturday June 2 was Pat Clohessy. Pat was the coach of famous Australian Marathoner Rob de Castella. He attended University of Houston where he was won several NCAA three miles titles. He is a wonderful man,real fun to talk to about the history of the sport. He is in his mid seventies and still actively coaching. Also in attendance was Glynnis Nunn who was the 1984 Olympic Heptathlon champion. She was a great competitor and is now working with the Australian Track & Filed Coaches association. Also in attendance was Tony Rice former head of the Australian Track and Filed Coaches Association. It was an honor to have people like this in attendance.


Everything Old is New

These are pictures of vibration training devices from the 1890’s!! I think it is particularly appropriate that this is the 800th post on this blog.