A Break

I will not post again until next Monday, November 5. I am going to take a week to focus on the 3 R’s - RECHARGE the batteries after two months of almost non stop travel. READ a backlog of books I have not had time to get to. RESEARCH on scientific background of concepts that I am working on, there is foot high pile of research studies I need to get to. I am also going to begin work on a series of essays that will be partially posted on this blog. The whole essay will be available on my website and email newsletter. All of this is focused on defining the field of Athletic Development. If there topics you would like me to cover on the blog drop me an email at gstscoach@gmail.com I would enjoy hearing from you.


Why Play the Season

A headline just popped up on my computer - Memphis edges UCLA for #1. I realized quickly it was basketball, isn’t still October? Then I realized it was a pre-season pole by experts. My next thought was why waste all that time, money, missed classes by playing the season. Just have a poll and move on. If we did that USC would still be #1 and undefeated.

The Universal Traveler – A Must Read

This book is not usually in the genre that is on a typical coach’s bookshelf, but it should be! I am not exactly how to describe this book. I just finished reading it for the second time. Some sections of the book I have read numerous times. The content is rich and stimulating. The perspective is unique and refreshing. I have found the content useful and applicable to my everyday work. I wish I would have had this book when I started teaching and coaching. It would have saved me a lot of false starts and mistakes. It is build around the analogy of traveling, hence the title “The Universal Traveler.” The authors Don Koberg and Jim Bagnall are emeritus professors of Architecture and Environmental Design, their background gives the book its unique perspective. This is an outstanding for planning, problem solving and creativity. This will be one of the required reading for my mentorship program.


Ask Yourself This

In your training and in your rehab are you creating an environment that prepares the athlete to withstand the forces that are imposed during the competitive efforts or are you creating an artificial environment that “protect’ the athlete in training and does not prepare them for the competition? If you dong the later then you are doing the athlete a disservice. The body adapts to stress, stress must applied in small doses that allow for adaptation. If you do not apply stress in training that is beyond the stress (overload) that occurs in competition you will fail in competition. That failure can be poor performance, but more often than not is an injury. Ask yourself if you are really training them to perform?

The Secret

How many of these have you seen: Buy it now, internet special only $119.95 - Learn the secrets of the Super bowl Champions or how about Shoot like Lebron James in Six Sessions or your money back. I admit as a young coach I was looking for secrets. I was always trying to find out what the world record holders were doing or what the East Germans were doing, but the harder and longer I searched for the secrets the more I began to realize there were none. WORK and talent is the same no matter what the language. That is the secret and you do not have to pay for it – WORK – specific, individual, planned and directed work that helps each athlete to tap into their talent. No short cuts, no magic potions or exercises. If you study what champions do regardless of sport discipline, regardless of the era, you will see one common ingredient – WORK! The great teams and champions that I have been around in my career have had consistent training habits and a routine that works for that them. They are not “monkey grabbing” searching all over for new methods and changing their programs every week, that is for losers. They show up every day and attend to the task at hand, they pay their dues. Athletic excellence takes time, even the great ones have to do the work. They focus on goal achievement not goal setting.

It is the same with coaching, there are no secret formulas. The good ones have a plan, execute the plan and evaluate the results and adjust accordingly. For some reason of lately I have had many younger coaches say to me they want to get where I am. Great – do the work! It takes twenty years to be an overnight success. Pay you dues. Get up every day and do your professional development reading of articles and books. Get off the internet you won’t find the quality scientific information you need there. Get out and learn to do the skills you are coaching and teaching. I am continually amazed at coaches who cannot demonstrate even the most rudimentary skills; there is no excuse for that. When I was working on a new baseball start that I was teaching to the players, I practiced the progression for hours so I could properly demonstrate it. You learn to coach by coaching and observing coaches’ coach. Coach kids – they are real, you can’t BS them and they will test you. There are no shortcuts or secrets. Show up every day in mind and body, put the cell phone and the PDA away and focus on the task at hand, making the athletes better. Be consistent, be thorough. Recognize your limitations and weaknesses. Turn the weaknesses into strength. Listen more than you talk. Find a mentor not a guru. Know the history and tradition of your sport. Go to clinics and seminars and be a discerning listener. Growing as a coach is a journey, take time to enjoy the ride, and oh by the way try to have a life!

Fooling em with the forty

This is a good article that’s points out the absurd nature of some of the Forty Yard dash times that are published. http://www.signonsandiego.com/sports/20050418-9999-1s18forty.html


Absolutely Amazing!

How many of these age group phenoms have we seen come and go?

Schoolgirl, 11, smashes Freeman's 24-year record

By Alex Murdoch

October 24, 2007 02:00am

Article from: Herald Sun

IS pint-sized powerhouse Amber Rowlandson the next Cathy Freeman?

Rowlandson, 11, has smashed the Olympic gold medallist's Queensland 11-year-old girls' 200m record at the primary school aths championships in Cairns.

And, as her coach Greg Hallam says, she's got the body type and talent to go all the way.

The shy student, who also won the 100m sprint, erased Freeman's 24-year-old record of 26.72sec by 0.12s - leaving the competition far behind.

Amber's times were so fast that had she been racing the boys she would have won.

"Could she be the next Cathy Freeman?" Hallam said yesterday.

"She's a very special talent. One day at a time, one season at a time, but the sky's the limit."

Amber, who trains with the Mayne Harriers in Albion, said Freeman was her hero, but admits she was only four when Freeman won gold.

Amber had been eyeing Freeman's 200m state record for the past year and said setting a new mark made her "very, very happy".

"I don't think about winning, I just think about getting to the finish line," Amber said.

Hallam said Amber trained two nights a week, with the emphasis on having fun.

"She's just got the perfect body for a runner, and I think probably like Freeman she'll end up a 400m runner," he said.

"I've been fortunate enough to coach a number of state and national competitors and I've never seen anyone of her age with the focus and technical ability that Amber has."

Hallam said Amber's next major step was to compete at the national primary school titles at Launceston next month, before hopefully making the primary school Pan Pacific Games in Canberra next year.

Measureable or Functional

Are measurable and functional mutually exclusive? Is being able to see it, feel it, touch it, good enough or do I have to be able to measure it to prove it? Are performance improvements good enough? Isn’t that ultimately what coaching is about?

Movements Not Muscles

Are we losing sight of the big picture by focusing on minutiae and triviality? Movement is not a solo performance, it is a symphony, all the pieces must play in harmony. If you just work on the pieces and never put the whole orchestra together how do you get them playing together?



Where is the leading edge in sports performance? What really is cutting edge? Where does innovation in performance and training come from? Who drives innovation? Is the athlete, the coach or the scientist? Is innovation in athletic development high tech or high touch? These questions were prompted by reading I have been doing and some discussions with colleagues, I am interested in your opinions.

Another Secret

The first secret I shared a couple of weeks ago to beating the drug testing system is to simply miss tests. You can manipulate the system to time your missed tests and not incur a penalty. The other secret is to find a friendly doctor, preferably an endocrinologist at an anti aging clinic or a doctor that will certify you as having asthma. You would be amazed as to the number of healthy twenty something athletes that “have” to go anti aging clinics. Get an unethical doctor on your side and you can bet the system! Folks the outlaws are ahead of the law.


Odds and Ends

Joe Torre – I admire him, I have watched him closely over the years and have marveled at how he handled himself under extreme pressure. He is a class act.

Terry Francona – I worked with terry when he was a coach and a manager in the White Sox organization. He is another class act. It has been great watching him handle the pressure and bring his team back.

Kristen Gambetta – Kristen is my daughter. I got to watch her coach her U 18 girls team yesterday. It was really neat. She is doing a real good job. It was cool seeing the little thing they had been working on and how she interacted with the kids and the parents.

Venice Volleyball – The girls completed their regular season Friday night with a 22 – 3 record. Now they start district playoff and then state playoffs. Despite a few bumps they continue to progress well.

Juan Osorio and the Chicago Fire - It has been great watching the progress of the team since Juan took over the team.They will be a factor in the playoffs.



Do you actually practice what you believe in or do you constantly compromise your beliefs to keep a job or maintain a position? I admit it is hard at times to maintain a standard and hold to beliefs, especially when they may not be trendy or conform to the party line. I have always strongly believed that that to forge a new path requires courage of convictions, a willing to hold to certain core beliefs and values. Sometimes it is black or white, not grey!


A Thought

“The most profound change in life is to either accept things as they exist or accept the responsibility for changing them.” Don Koberg and Jim Bagnall in The Universal Traveler – A soft Systems guide to creativity, problem solving and the process of reaching goals

Instant Internet Experts

Wikipedia – are the facts accurate? How do we know? Anyone can contribute to Wikipedia, you do not have be an acknowledged expert in the topic. For me this is a huge problem, it just perpetuates the syndrome of the instant internet expert. Go to a traditional encyclopedia like the Britannica and see who the contributors are on the citations. Their credentials are beyond reproach. In Sport science and training that is why we still need to loom at refereed journals and best practice. Don’t be fooled, to learn takes dedication and perseverance beyond reading popular web sites and blogs.

The Best Coach You Never Heard Of

Yesterday afternoon I got to spend a really neat and uplifting three hours visiting with a friend and professional colleague, Jack Pettinger. Jack is a swim coach, but that does not do him justice. He is a great coach and a great person. I first met Jack in 1992 when he attended my first ”Building and Rebuilding the Athlete” seminar in Chicago, at the time he was men’s’ swim coach at University of Wisconsin. Jack has been coaching forty plus years. He was one the coaches of Jim Montgomery the first man to break the 50 second barrier in the 100 freestyle, a barrier considered equivalent to Roger Bannister running the first sub four minute mile. He did not tell me this, I had to look that one up. Jack is the farthest from a self promoter and egotist as a coach as you would ever see. He was in Florida because he had an athlete competing in the Open Water swimming championships in Fort Meyers, so that gave us a chance to visit. He is a wealth of knowledge and experience. He is the type of guy that every young up and coming coach and for that matter experienced coach should be exposed to. He has a strong physical education background, he knows his sport, but gets it in the context of athleticism and the big picture. His is a student of coaching.

From 1964 to1969 he worked with one of the icons of coaching, Doc Counsilman, swim coach at University of Indiana. I sat mesmerized yesterday as Jack was telling me about the things they were doing in training the 1960’s and the people that they brought in as resources. As I was listening to Jack and then reflected on our conversation I could not but think again how everything old is new again. Today’s hot ideas were used and proven forty, fifty, sixty years ago discarded for whatever reason and then rediscovered as the latest and greatest. My meeting yesterday has inspired to go back and reread the works of Doc Councilman, perhaps you should also. Thanks for the great afternoon Jack, we need more coaches like you!

Lowering the Bar

If you level of expectations determines your level of achievement then the following headline is headline from the October 20, 2007, New York Times is warranted:
Schools Found Improving on Nutrition and Fitness By KEVIN SACK
I will reserve more detailed comments for another blog, but this is unacceptable. If this is progress and innovation then we are in bigger trouble than I thought. If you bury your head in the sand then surely the problem will disappear.


Fitness Standards

This is a very interesting article


Follow the links to the web site of Dr Ed Thomas. There is some great information there.


The Old Knee Over the Toe Taboo

Carefully check out this picture. Horror how terrible, look at her knee. Do you think we should take her out of the game and correct her and tell her to be sure to line her knee up with the big toe? Positions like that are dangerous! I want to let you in on a little secret; the knee goes where it has to go and athlete get in extreme positions throughout the course of a game! The key is that it goes there with an element of control. You prepare for these extreme positions by using multidimensional exercises that prepare the body to attenuate these forces. You do not prepare with benign exercises that stress cognitive cues of artificial positions. What exercises? Multi-directional lunges, single leg squats in all three planes, hurdle over and unders and sway drill.


"Help yourself see more by looking past your beliefs."

Marcia L. Conner, author, "Learn More Now"

More Than An Exercise

Exercise or drill selection is one of the last steps, if not the last step in the process of planning a training program. I emphasize the last step, not the first step or the focal point. It is always more than the exercise, it is the big picture. There are no magic exercises. There are some key focus exercises in the menu that must be done to accomplish specific tasks in specific sports with specific individuals. Those tools are based on key movements’ that must be accomplished to train for the sport. I know that as I have progressed in my career the toolbox has significantly increased in size but the number of tools that I actually use is significantly less. I used to think that because I had a training tool that I had to use it. It took me awhile to figure it out. I was infatuated by menus of exercises like the book depicted here that was a French translation of an East German book. I thought that was were the secrets were, but when I got around the east Germans and learned from them it was more that going to the book and picking one of the 1,000 exercises, it was the plan and the methodology behind the exercises.

The analogy that I always use is that as a coach you are skilled craftsman, you know what tool to use, to do what job and at what stage of the building process. A tool appropriate in the earlier rougher stages of building will not be appropriate when you are fine tuning details. Know the tools and how to use them. Remember the adage if the only tool you have is a hammer then everything becomes a nail.


Cascade Effect

The cascade effect is the tendency of scientists and experts to echo the opinion of their peers even if they are unfamiliar with the research in question. You see this all the time when the headlines from a study published in a scientific journal are splashed in the popular press. A few points are taken out of context and then those points become fact and are passed around as facts, much like an urban myth. This happens all the time in Athletic Development and rehabilitation. It usually starts with a statement something like this: “Did you hear what so and so did in workout or have you seen that video of Chubby champion on you tube.” Then the cascade starts, everyone jumps on the bandwagon without checking the “facts.” Unfortunately I have been there and done that. The result was chaos, programs that were all over the place. If you have a clearly defined philosophy and a system to implement that philosophy then you have a context to evaluate training trends, fads and other ideas. Stay grounded, know your foundational principles and stick to them. Do not get caught up in the monkey see monkey do syndrome.


The following thought form Seth Godin on how most companies innovate reminds me of innovation in sport.

The outsiders go first because they have nothing to lose.

The winners go next because they can afford to and they want to stay winners.

It's the mediocre middle that sits and waits and watches.

Posted by Seth Godin on October 15, 2007 http://sethgodin.typepad.com What I see in sport, especially professional sport is the mediocre middle that sit and wait and them cherry pick and imitate with the resulting mixed results.


Ingredients for Success

In the article, Success built to last: Creating a life that matters by Jerry Porras, Stewart Emery and Mark Thompson in the Fall 2007 Rotman Magazine the authors make some very interesting points regarding the ingredients for success. They conclude that “success in the long run has less to do with finding the best idea or business model than it does with discovering what matters to us as individuals. Extraordinary people, tams and organizations are simply ordinary people doing extraordinary things that matter to them.” They call people who have long term success “builders.” They found that these people continually strived to create something that was new or better that would endure. They found that the “builders” found lasting success when they had three elements aligned: The first is meaning – “what you do must matter deeply to you.” The second is “a highly developed sense of accountability, audacity, passion and responsible optimism.” The third was to “find effective ways to take action.” They also make a great point that “When achievement for you or your organization comes without meaning, it doesn’t last.” The bottom line message that I got from the article was “to make meaning” and success would follow.

Rotman Magazine http://www.rotman.utoronto.ca/news/magazine.htm is an excellent resource for ideas on creativity, design, leadership and team building


Good Research Readings

Two good symposiums:

Training for Endurance and Strength: Lessons from Molecular Biology in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise Volume 38, #11. November 2006, PP. 1939 to 1970

Altitude/Hypoxic Training: Research- Based Evidence and Practical Application in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise Volume 39, #9. September 2007, PP. 1587 to 1631

You will need to put your thinking caps on as my first grade teacher used to say, but these two symposiums’ have many pearls. I must admit the molecular biology was a bit daunting but it has inspired to learn more about this area. The Altitude symposium is a must with all the buzz about altitude chambers and “live high train low ideas.” Personally having lived some of this with the Oregon Project there is much that still needs to be learned.

Drayer Physical Therapy Institute National Conference

I spent the last four days at the Drayer Sports Medicine Conference in Hilton Head South Carolina. I gave two talks: Functional Training of Lower Kinetic Chain For Return to Sport and Current Concepts and Techniques for Core Strengthening. Go to www.gambetta.com/resources for the outlines of my talks.

For me this conference was somewhat of a home coming because I got see and visit many of the people that used to be involved with Joyner Sports medicine. The Thursday focus was on the foot, ankle and knee. I really enjoyed the presentations by Dr Chris Power from USC and Craig Bennett MD and Mary Lloyd Ireland MD. Their presentations were thought provoking and informative. I could not help but think how neat it would be to work with doctors like this who get it and are open to dialogue.

A feature of these conferences is the anatomical dissections that lead off each day. It always reminds that anatomical structure is a huge factor in dictating function. This serves a reminder to me to spend ten minutes a day with my Primal Picture DVD’s reviewing anatomy.

My other thought is that more Athletic Development coaches could really benefit by attending conferences like this. It definitely gets you out of your comfort zone. I want to thank the Drayer people for the opportunity to present. I was a very positive professional experience.


Good Publication

I find Running Research News http://www.rrnews.com a very useful publication. It is published and written by Dr. Owen Anderson PhD. I think he does a great job of translating research into practical terms. I have subscribed to this for a long time, it always stimulates me to look at training a little different and to dig deeper into the research. The cost for a subscription is $49.00 a year.


Thoughts on 1,000

IT is hard to believe that this is post number 1,000. As I said when I reached the two year anniversary I never thought this would go this far. I started it as a daily warm-up writing activity to help me in writing the Athletic Development book. Now it is something I look forward to doing each day. I have many ideas to make this better for the next 1,000 posts. One thing I can promise you is that I will make this blog as noncommercial as possible. This blog is about sharing knowledge and provoking thought to define the filed of Athletic Development. The following are some thoughts for you:

  • Family and friends are first
  • We all stand on the shoulders of giants – We must honor and respect those who have gone before us and paved the way in order to make the journey easier for us.
  • Often it is not what you do not say, or do not do that is as important as what you do say and do
  • Communication is a two way process – Sending and receiving
  • Least we forget it is not what we say or write, it is what you read or hear that ultimately determines the quality of communication
  • The body is not a machine – A reductionist mechanistic approach will let to segmented robotic movement
  • Mistakes and losses are learning opportunities – take advantage of them
  • In life we have three time zones – past, present and future. The past in gone, we should learn from it and move on, not dwell on it. We can take care of the future by doing a great job in the present.
  • Knowledge and information is not the same.
  • Coaching and training are not the same.
  • Anyone can work – but does the work have purpose and direction
  • Simplify – Simplicity yields complexity

Hopefully there will thousands more posts, as I challenge myself daily to gain knowledge and understanding. In turn I will challenge you to do the same. For me this blog is just part of a longer journey on the functional path. It is certainly a journey worth traveling, a collection of experiences to be enjoyed and shared. Thanks for joining me on this journey.


Great Quote from Great Athlete

Karch Kiraly, acknowledged to be the greatest male volleyball player ever, two Gold medals indoors and one outdoors on the beach. When asked how he prepared to win Olympic Gold, he replied, “I never did. I only prepared to win the next play.” This is a a great message for coaches and athletes.

Why, Why Not

Why does the Newtonian, mechanistic reductionist approach that focuses on minutiae and the parts persist? Why not a quantum approach that focuses on relationships and connections, flow and rhythm. I think the former is comfortable because it allows people clearer definitions, in some ways it simplistic because really all you have to do in that approach is be a technician. If you understand how all the muscles work, what inhibits, what lengthens, what you need to activate and then what you need to integrate it all fits into a neat clean little box. Just follow the algorithm and push a few buttons and everything is fixed. Unfortunately or fortunately it is not that easy. The body is a self organizing chaotic system that is highly adaptable. It responds both negatively and positively to use and disuse. It is definitely not a machine. As coaches, trainers, therapists and doctors we must recognize the wisdom of the body and train or treat accordingly. The best way to understand and assess movement is to get the body moving. Closely observe and feel how things connect and how they disconnect. Explore the dimensions that the wisdom of the body offers. As coaches we must prepare the body for the demands of the sport. We do that by stressing the body to and beyond its limits at times. If we do that in a systematic and sensible manner the body will adapt and be able to thrive in the competitive environment. If we train not to be hurt and put limits on the body in training then the body will not be ready for the extreme demands of the actual competition. We are doing a disservice to athlete with a benign approach.


Venice Update

The Venice girls lost their first match of the season Friday to a team that they had no business losing to based on seasonal records and prior performance. They had been 15 – 0, number one in their classification in the State and 43rd in some mythical national pole. We lost again Saturday in the consolation finals. The key now is can we the coaches and the team learn form this and get the ball rolling again toward our ultimate goal. I think we can, but it will take a total team effort. I know I have to really look closely at what we have done from a physical perspective and what we need to do and make sure that fist within the context of a schedule very heavy on matches the next several weeks. I have always maintained that you learn more from loses than you from wins. This is what makes coaching challenging and fun. It is a constant challenge and a learning opportunity regardless of the level of sport.

Why They Play the Game

Saturday I did something I had not done in years; I sat and watched an entire American football game from start to finish. I watched the Stanford versus USC game. I actually watched in total amazement when it became clear what was happening. After the first 8 to 10 minutes of the games you could see that USC was not going to run away with the game. I had many levels of interest in the game. I am an alum of Stanford (Graduate School), my wife is an alum, I coached there for one year, a good friend and a player I used to work with Jon Haskins, is an assistant coach there now. I have been intrigued by the way Pete Carroll revived USC football and how he has managed to keep all the egos that he has recruited in check. But boy did the wheels come off of the USC chariot Saturday night. Stanford just played hard and never let up. They played the team on the field not the press clippings. By rights Stanford should never have been in the game, it should have been a complete blowout. Consider the following:

41 point underdog.
Starting QB....OUT
Starting RB.....OUT
Starting FB.....OUT
Starting Left Tackle....and future 1st Round Pick....OUT.
Starting MLB.....OUT
Starting and Best DT.....OUT
USC 35 consecutive home game victories
#1 Team in the
’s homecoming game

Pretty cool – congratulations to the players and coaches at Stanford for a job well done.

The Pitch

No not a pitch, but the field in soccer. Yesterday I was channel surfing and watched a few minutes of a game form the English Premier League. It was played on a beautiful pitch as flat as a billiard table, the grass closely manicured. The game was fast and exciting, the ball bounced true. Contrast that to an MLS game on another channel. That game was played on an American football filed. There was a crown on the field for drainage; the field was full of divots. How can you play quality high level soccer on fields not suited for the game? Yes you need quality players, but there are more of those now in the US. Maybe we need to look at the obvious – How about a quality pitch for quality play?


Some Thoughts on Planning and Periodization

The other day Jim Radcliffe and I were talking about planning and how people are making it way too complex with terms like reverse periodization, undulating and linear periodization. He gave a great analogy which cuts to the chase. His analogy was as follows: If we are going on a trip together, first we determine the destination. Then we decide how we want to get there and how many stops we want to make along the way for food and rest. It is different if it a group then we have to everyone on the bus and make sure the bus driver knows the destination and recognize that there will probably be more stops along the way to eat and go to the bathroom. Simple but effective analogies, lets not make it more complicated than that!

New Radcliffe Book

FUNCTIONAL TRAINING For Athletes At All Levels by James C. Radcliffe

This is a must read for anyone interested in athletic development. It is rich in photos of exercises also with some very straightforward explanations of the components of functional training. I have made it clear the high regard in which I hold Jim Radcliffe, this book exemplifies his practical no frills approach to training.


The Marion Jones Tragedy

This is a real tragedy because this is young lady who squandered her talent. I remember when I first saw her run as a young high school student at Rio Mesa high school in California. What a talent! Maybe our first clue to future behavior was when she transferred from Rio Mesa to Thousand Oaks High school for her senior year. She had a great coach at Rio Mesa who had her best interests in mind, but no they wanted more. The rest is history. If there was ever anyone who would never artificial enhancement it was her. Why someone with that gift of super talent would cheat is beyond me. It is a sad day for sport. I do not find much positive in this whole sordid affair. The cheaters are getting more sophisticated by the day. I point out again that to my knowledge there was not ONE POSITIVE TEST at the recently completed Osaka world championships in track and field. Statistically that is virtually impossibility. The outlaws are ahead of the law.As the monetary stakes have risen the temptation to cheat is even greater.


Dinosaur or Cockroach – Adapted or Adaptable?

Do not look for adversity, look for opportunity. Ask yourself what can I do each day to make the athletes that I work with better. Carefully study the movements of the sports – understand the forces and how they are produced and reduced and train accordingly. Get away from artificial limiting beliefs about what the body cannot do – focus on the infinite possibilities that the body presents to solve movement problems. Train movements to enhance coordination and efficiency of movement. The body is completely adaptable. It has an amazing ability to compensate and solve movement problems. Yes I said compensate, great athlete are great compensator's and it is OK!

Artificial sterile environments or strict “correct” movements do not expand the body’s ability to adapt to the demands of the sport. Sterile and artificial training environments and scenarios result in adapted bodies that cannot change and adjust to the random and chaotic demands of the sport. Open challenging movement enriched environments create adaptable athletes who are able to adjust and modify movements on demand. These adaptable athletes, given a level of talent, are high performers and stay injury free.

Which would you prefer if you were to choose an athlete for competition? Do you want a dinosaur type who is completely adapted and on their way to extinction or a cockroach type athlete who is thriving and highly adaptable? I know who I want – I want the cockroach who can adapt to any environment or under any circumstances. Ask yourself – Are you training your athletes to be dinosaurs or cockroaches? I want adaptable athletes who can solve any movement problem presented to them?


Need for Speed

Brain wrote the following as a response to my post on speed:
In my event the 400m, training regimes are somewhat of a mystery. Jeremy Wariner runs 43.4 off of 200m times around 20.4 whereas his mentor Michael Johnson was running about 19.8 for the same 400m pace. Both are coached by Clyde Hart and by all accounts they did very little specific training with a strong focus on aerobic conditioning and multiple reps with low recovery well below race pace. (See http://www.nacactfca.org/articles/Hart-eng.htm) Hart appears to not stress much speed training and relies on the athlete's natural speed. My initial comment is don’t believe everything you read. I first heard Clyde speak in 1978, he did reveal much then and he does not reveal much now. He does work a lot with “Pace” using a system of auditory beeps to give feedback as to their pace. I prefer to call it race distribution. In my opinion that is what his people do best. They distribute their effort well. I do not know about their current strength training program but a colleague of mine used to the Strength & Conditioning coach at Baylor when Johnson was training there is the mid nineties and his observation of the lifting could characterized as basically a body building routine, not much sophistication. Another important observation is that Hart's people do not over race. I think that is essential.

The best European runner of recent times, Iwan Thomas ran 44.35 off a 200m best of 20.87 and similarly to Hart, his coach Mike Smith used very little weight training with athletes doing much of their conditioning work in an old school hall with a few chairs and a couple of med balls. My comment is how import is a large amount of maximum strength work in an event that is essentially a power endurance event.

So developing the ability to hold speed is key but the ways of doing for the 400m are varied. Interestingly the most successful methods of recent years have nothing in common with modern approaches such as Barry Ross's protocol. No weights, Slower Longer reps with short recovery Vs Lots of Weights, and Fast Sprints over short distance. My comment is there are many roads to Rome, you need to find what works for athlete relative to the event they are training for.

The following are Gary Winckler’s comments on this:
I think the point is that the athlete has to achieve a comfortable rhythm in their running. If you have a great given speed level then training needs to just enforce that strength but not work solely to improve it at the expense of changing the runners rhythm. The key here seems to be being able to train the athlete to run the 400m at a rhythm that is somewhere between 90 and 93% of their 200m average velocity. Johnson's 400m record is 90% of his best 200m average velocity. Wariner's 400m best is 92.98% of his best 200m average velocity. In the example for Iwan Thomas he is running at 94% or his best 200m average velocity.

So, for me this would imply that training might follow a progression based upon using good running mechanics to run relaxed rhythms at velocities progressing from 85% to 94% of your best 200m over the course of the training year. For Wariner this would mean 200's from 23.78 to 21.78.

If one does not have the natural speed abilities then the training has to address that first. If you can already run 20.4 then that is a quality that is "sufficient" to run 42. and therefore you don't need to "develop" it . This makes sense in the context of what Clyde is saying to "the media".


3 x 6 Workout

Actually this concept arose out of the necessity of accomplishing specific training objectives in limited time in team sport settings. The idea behind it is that training is cumulative, six minutes a day of intense concentrated work adds up quickly and can have a very positive training effect in a relatively short period of time. The idea is this look at three compatible and complementary training tasks, repeat each for two minutes and then shift to the next task and repeat again. For example out 3 x 6 workout with Volleyball was: 1) ABC Ladder Footwork Drills 2) Reaction Coach 3) Short Burst Sprints (three to five step from varied starting positions). The overall effect was to nervous system excitation and speed of movement. They divided into three group of four and rotated through each station twice. I have found this an effective way to use time. It works well fro me in my system, may not work for others.

Let the Coaches Coach

Today what we have gong in professional sport and to a certain extent collegiate sport is alarming to me. The prevalence of the so called medical model with the team doctor sitting at the top of the pyramid, with the physical therapist next in the pecking order followed by the team trainer and then last in the pecking order the strength and conditioning coach. There are many situations when every exercise, I truly mean every exercise, must be approved by the team medical staff before the Strength and Conditioning coach can implement a program. Frankly this is pretty ridiculous; it is actually a formula for failure. Sure there must be accountability, but accountability works both ways. I vividly recall my last meeting with the White Sox team doctor like it was yesterday (It was 12 years ago) He was questioning some exercises we were doing and had been doing with no problems for nine years. My admonition to him was I do not tell you how to do surgery do not tell me how to exercises. Doctors are not trained in exercise; it is not part of their skill set. There needs to be mutual respect, professionalism and accountability for all concerned. I really think the blame for this must be shared. There are Strength and Conditioning coaches who are in the dark ages, they are one dimensional, they never leave the weight room. Many of them in pro sports are afraid of players so are unwilling to push the players or demand accountability from the players, so the approach is do as little as possible, do not hurt them or make them tired or they might complain to the trainer or worse to management or their agent. I am amazed at the level of naiveté that the teams approach conditioning and injury prevention. Now we have situations where all the players do is roll on foam rollers, and do ridiculous sequences of exercises that have fancy objectives like inhibit, lengthen, activate, and integrate. They do this as “training” and wonder why they have injuries. How about designing a good training program that gets them moving and get them functionally fit, fast and strong for their sport.

Scott Boras, http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3039348 the baseball agent, probably the most powerful agent in sport gets it:

As a former player, Boras believed that owners didn't invest enough in their talent, their product. Teams treated players like replaceable parts. They had pitchers and shortstops do the same training, the same lifting and stretching. It didn't make sense. The teams didn't start teaching players how to stay healthy and fit until they were men, which shaved years off performance. Not for this kid, Boras told himself.

Imagine adding seven years to your career, Boras tells his new kids. Imagine what history you can make with those years. Boras shows them the batting cages and the private gym. This is an institute, not some spa. Each member of Team Boras gets a dedicated program designed by Steve Odgers, the former White Sox conditioning director and decathlete, who has a neck the width of an oak tree, a guy with 13 years of training data etched in journals. Odgers gets prospects when they're just out of high school and puts them through a year-round program designed specifically for each player -- because a relief pitcher is not the same as a second baseman. He even teaches them yoga. Show me a team that can do all that. Throughout the year, Boras dispatches Odgers and four other trainers around the country to check in on A-Rod, Dice-K, Pudge and the rest. It's Odgers who tells teams what program the players should follow. Boras knew he couldn't call trainers himself -- they'd never listen to a moneyman, but one of their own, that's a different story. And if a team's trainer squawks about outside interference, Boras might pick up the phone and call the GM.

He knows what he has to do to prolong the careers of his players, why can’t the teams figure it out. The medical model is not the answer. I will propose an alternative model in another post, actually the model I thought we could implement with the Mets, but they could buy into it because it required too many people to get out of their comfort zone.


Dewey Robinson

Dewey Robinson was named pitching coach of the Houston Astros yesterday. Dewey is a good friend and professional colleague. We worked together with the White Sox. He has been the pitching development coordinator for the Astros and very deservedly received a promotion to the big leagues. He is a consummate professional, a tireless worker always trying to learn and get better. I have been very fortunate to work with Dewey, I think he one of the best baseball minds around. He understanding pitching mechanics and the role conditioning can play. I wish him the best of luck in rebuilding the Astros pitching staff. Those pitchers are in good hands.

Al Oerter

Al Oerter, a great champion died yesterday. It is hard to find words to describe what a great competitor he was. He won four straight gold medals in the discus beginning in 1956 and culminating in Mexico City in 1968. He was never the favorite in any of those Olympics but somehow he always found a way to win. Incidentally he set Olympic records in each of his victories. He was absolutely the best when the chips were down. I remember him as a humble champion who was respected by all.My fondest memories of Oerter were watching him compete in 1980. He was in his mid forties, but did not look a day over thirty. It was amazing to watch him compete; it was as if his competitors were waiting for him to win. What he had was magic. I sure wish there were more Al Oerters today, no boasting or bravado, just results.


Program Design Thoughts

Some comments by Joe P. got me thinking about the process of program design. It is definitely a process, a blend of art and science tempered with a heavy dose of practical experience. For me there is a constant desire to get it “right,” therefore there is always a lot of fine tuning. For example this next cycle with Venice girl’s volleyball is pivotal. They are playing very well. Explosiveness is good (Subjective evaluation) need to start the drive to the championship season. I have been preaching that we must keep putting money on the bank, build the reserves, because after this week the ratio of training to competition is heavily skewed toward competition. So this week must be a real work week, but the challenge is to train explosiveness in, not do too much that we train explosiveness out. Last Thursday they defeated a very tough team (In some ways a physically superior team) in five games. They dominated the last two games, which was good indicator of their match fitness and technical and tactical level. I felt that Friday’s workout was very important. It was a 30 minutes session designed to loosen them up and set the stage for this week. I felt that if we did not do anything on Friday then it would be hard to start the engines again on Monday. They responded with a very lively and perky session that accomplished the goal.

I always start out with the finished product in the forefront of my mind. It must be clear what we want to achieve at the end of the training program. I want to make sure that deficits are addressed. I want to make sure that threads of all components of training are always there, that nothing disappears or gets lost in the shuffle. I try to have a theme for each cycle and specific objectives for each session. I want the objectives to be measurable. I always try to incorporate variability without creating confusion. For example at this point in the season with volleyball, the variability will come from derivatives of exercise and drills rather than introducing an entirely new drill. I always am aware of context. I want to make sure the athlete is being sufficiently challenged so that there will be training adaptation. Rest and recovery are important both intra workout and inter workout. Unfortunately at the high school level intersession recovery is out of my control. I confer closely with the coach to understand the content of the technical and tactical work. This week for example I will be at each session so that I can make any adjustments necessary based on what I see during practice.

In regard to planning the actual session that is the key to the whole process. Warm-up tends to become pretty mundane so I work to cycle that according to the time of the season. It is very important because it is what transitions them from their daily activities to training and it sets the tempo for the session. Also it gives me feedback as to soreness or possible modifications I must make in the session. In setting up session I have a rule I call the 3 x 6 rule – three training tasks in six minutes. High intensity, quality reps. For the last activity of the session I follow the “Winckler Law.” Gary Winckler gave this idea years ago – make the last thing you do in a session have a training effect that that is similar to the way you want them to start the next session. Therefore I always end with some quick, fast and explosive work so that is what they remember for the next session, simple but effective. I hope these ideas stimulate you to think about how you design your training.

It comes Down to SPEED

Haile Gebrselassie broke the marathon world record in Berlin on Sunday, with an official time of two hours, four minutes and 26 seconds. At the half way mark he was at 1:02:29. He had his fastest kilometer split of 2:50 at 35 k. It all comes down to speed. The winner will always be the person who can sustain the highest percentage of their maximum speed. Look at this guys track times, anyone who thinks distance running is about pounding long slow miles needs to rethink their approach. I have always loved to watch this guy run because I felt he was the model of running efficiency, a very compact stride that enabled him to instantly change gears.