Monday, December 29, 2008

Sydney FC Men

What a disaster and evidence of how a poorly prepared team will face the consequences. I do hope they can qualify for the finals but I also hope that radical changes are made to their program so that players are given the best oppurtunity to perform. There is a science to what we do and running players for an hour and performing plyometrics on the sand at the completion during pre season is not science it is commonly called stupidity. I would love for Sydney FC to adopt an approach that sees an Athletic Performance unit created and I think then we will see superior results

Sydney FC Girls

Fortunately we have qualified for the finals when it looked like we had no chance. Thanks to the other team I had worked with Central Coast we had the chance to make it if we beat Adelaide who we had lost to in the first round and we did. It has been an interesting season with us dominating every game bar one but not being able to score. From a conditioning perspective the girls have done well and all the data demonstrates in most instances we have dominated from a physiological stand point but I do believe speed is an issue in some positions this was most evident when we played Queensland who we face in the semi final. What can I do now?

  • Ensure players are fresh and recovered
  • Ensure injured players are given the best chance of playing by making sure rehab protocols are adheared to
  • Ensure players are focused and their mental preperation is correct
  • Ensure players do not overeat during festive season

Otherwise I cant change much now re speed and fitness but I can compile my notes on each player so we can work on weaknessess in the future

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Missing Link

With so much information (good information) and so much quality research and more importantly with so many great Athletic Development coaches in the World I ask you WHY do most athletic development coaches get it wrong? Is it ego, is it lack of knowledge, is it listening to the wrong people, is it boredom, is it lack of organisation, lack of commitment or is it a combination of all this and much more. I feel that to be a good AD coach you must be an educator of people and players and most importantly know how to source the good information. It is frustrating to see so many athletes so poorly conditioned because of the coach they have and if this coach took their head out of the sand they too could be a great coach - it is not that difficult - know your physiology, know your anatomy, biomechanics, motor learning, be organised and have the passion and commitment to make a program work. Being a great AD coach takes meticulous preperation and organisation and the ones that I know are great are living and thinking AD all of the time.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Where is the Problem

How do you identify problems with a program. I was speaking with my friend Ashley Jones and I was looking at the program he has for his team and it is no wonder they are the best club rugby union team in the world. Ashley is one if not the best athletic coach I know and his programs are always spot on. When I compare this to other programs I have seen it is no wonder clubs do not perform. Professional players need to be engaged full time and not just a session in the morning and maybe in the afternoon, they need to be educated on why they train and how best to look after their athletic development - bottom line is they need to be profesional and they need to be looked after by professionals.

Sydney FC W League

Well we have had a difficult run lately with this team but hope to win the last 2 games to qualify for the finals. Have been performing well in respect to possession but unable to score which is always a prooblem. The teams fitness has been maintained and in season there is little specific work completed accept for resistance and power sessions 2x/week and a speed/agility session 1x/week. All other work is completed with the ball with small sided games etc and even though as an athletic development coach I would like more time with a team only training 3x/week and the 2 strength/power sessions time is limited. Thety are a great bunch of girls and I hope it can all work out over the next 2 weeks.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Player coach relationship

When was the last time you sat down with your players to have a chat? Have you ever had 1 on 1 time with your players to determine their goals, their fears, their view of your program or are you one of those coaches that cant be told or doesnt want to accept feedback or thinks they are above the players. I do not believe that you have to be great mates with your playing staff in fact this can be detrimental but you must respect them and it is with this in mind that you should set aside interviews with players on a monthly basis to listen and build a relationship. To me this is imperative nd will help to make your programs better and your players better. I think one of the biggest problems with AD coaches is their ego be it with players or other AD coaches - leave the ego and lets learn off eachother and only then will we make advancements in the field - everyone wants to hide their secrets but what for this isnt rocket science. Respect your players and your peers!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Sydney's fitness coach quits

due to family reasons the Sydney FC fitness coach has departed. I have been very critical in this blog of this coach but it is very difficult being away from family and I wish him the best. I understand this completely as my kids mean the world to me and it is that battle between career and family but there will be other oppurtunities. What to do for Sydney FC.

Obviously an analysis needs to take place of the present conditioing program to determine if any manipulations can be made. I think on 1 game/week you can make changes with dedicated high intensity speed and agility sessions and also I think the DS protocol I have talked about previously could work very well to get the team to where they should be. It is obvious they are a little flat but this may be due to not winning and a win will make all the difference.

Stage 1 - Review
Stage 2- make adjustments
Stage 3 - monitor adjustments

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sydney FC

THe W league team had a good win this weekend just gone and a big game this week with Queensland roar. The team had an easier week last week but we will step things up slightly this week but still keeping the volume low and the intensity high. IM often asked can we make significant changes in fitness mid season and my answer is it depends - if a team is playing only 1x/week the chances are we maybe able to make a difference but it is not easy and a balancing act - obviously a well planned program wont get you in this situation but if we look at our cites A league team we are in this situation. With possibly the worst athletic development coach going round we are in a mess 1 win in 7 with the best list in the comp (but than again he has injured most of them) i have never seen a more one paced team so I do wonder what is going on. Could we make a differnce with this team my answer is a definate yes but firstly please get rid of this uneducated, obnoxious no hoper and send him back to teach hurdlers in South Australia. Its always best to stick with what you know as Im not about to go and coach hurdlers he should take the same advice and not work with team sports.

Injury Prevention

I never think of myself as a specialist in injury as this is the domain of the sports medicine people but I do hope that my programs help to prevent injury. Its important to spend time with the physio's and sports med doctors to hear about what they see and their views on prevention. So often the injuries happen due to poor training programs that lead to imbalances and opther associated problems. A common problem is lack of functional strength and its important that you take into account injury prevention when writing your programs. Many pro teams offer bonuses for athletic development coaches if injuries are low and althopugh this has a positive side I also think that too many programs do not stree the athlete suffisiently because maybe the coach is worried about the bonus. Analyse your sport, analyse your athlete get them to have a functional screen and work out how to train problem areas.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Mystery Person

Being involved in athletic development gives you a significant amount of annonoymity when it comes to the team you are working with. When the team wins there is little recognition and thjis is ok but when a team loses you also get little recognition. Many coaches in our field have been fortunate to stay long after their use by date and this is unfortunate. There are too many jobs for the boys or cioaches bringing along their mates to fill the job. This is ok to a point IF the person is competent but too often I see too much incompetence. If you dont know the inside operations of a club just look at injury stats and if they are high than this should alert you (some injuries are unavoidable but if there is a consistent pattern we have an issue), analyse a game and have a look at the movement, have a look at when points are being scored, trak a players performance this is all interesting to do and you will soon be able to see who is doing a good job. In Australia we are fortunate to have some great people in the field but I am still amazed how far we still have to go. I think there are great session conductors but the next step of planning, understanding the plan, working on technique etc is missing in many instances

Monday, November 17, 2008

Crazy Cycle

I have been marking papers all day and it is enjoyable to read some of the great work produced. One paper facinated me and without mentioning names it will highlight the problems in our industry. A student did a case study of the nutritional intake and recovery procedures of a professional organisation (sounds simple and interesting) but what he found was even more exciting. The strength and conditioing coach who by all accounts was a great guy gave his dietary recomedations to the student for assessment but when we looked at it things just didnt add up
  1. All players prescribed the same intake regardless of size
  2. Specified quantaties of nutrients not met when diet was analysed
  3. Significant reduction in energy intake on game day

and this is just the start. I asked the student to tehn ask about qualifications and guess what he had none other then being a champion power lifter whiiuch may explain why his team lacked mobility. I ask why would he be prescribing the nutrtion I would be getting in a specialist in the field and how the hell does a guy like this get a job. It all adds up as many teams in this country have poorly qualified personal and look im not one to discount experience and I do understand maybe they havent had the time to get qualified but for goodness sake dont make it up as you go along get someone to advise you.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Kids and Sport

I spoke the other day at a conference looking at the emerging athlete and it is an area that I am passionate about. Too often coaches lose sight of the athlete and forget about the long term picture so it was nice to try and get my message across. I think that it is imperative if you are working with young athletes that you

  • Realise that they have many competing interests - school, friends etc
  • Dont forget the athlete that may only be losing because of size - people grow at different stages and rates
  • Work with all your athletes not just the ones performing well now
  • Never forget success as a junior does not guarentee adult success in fact it is probably detrimental
  • Look at the entire athlete and get people nto help you if you are not and expert in certain areas (nutrition, strength etc)
  • allow them to do other sports early specialisation is a killer

When the Balance is all Wrong

I hate to waste my time writing about ego's in our buisness but again why be so silly to criticise others when your own track record is so poor. Again I talk about our cities team and their strength and conditioing self proclaimed guru - he has injured more players than I have ever heard of, he is disrespectful to most and worse still he has lost the respect of his players. If you do not have the ability that is ok but when you think you have it and you dont well that is a problem. We are dealing with peoples carreers and a season under someone like this can see you go backwards and I have seen this with players I have worked with that are now under his care. Yoou can only hide behind your words for so long and I doubt he will last the year and it will be another club he has been sacked by. My point to this is never get too big for your boots, seek advice from others and realise you can learn a great amount off others. I know we all have an ego but I hope you have someone close to you to tell you when it is out of control. I just hate to see players effected by poor training and this is what has happened this year please leave the job to people who really care

Sydney FC W League

The last 2 weeks have seen us lose and drw so 1 point from 6 has seen us drop into second position. We have injuries unrelated to our program but just different contact injuries and others related to overtraining where we havent been in control. It is difficult working with players where you do not have complete control as a number of our players play all year round to make a living thus these injuries are bound to happen. You must work with what you have so I must manage this the best I can but it is never easy. The girls have 3 difficult games coming up and if we can secure 7 points from the next 9 we will be in good shape. This week will see us ease off training as they have worked hard over the previous three weeks and as I said in the previous post you must manage the work and the rest - its like life get the balance right and you will succeed.

In Season Training

What can you do during the season? Too often the role of the althletic development coach working with team sports is designated towards the pre season with the idea of get them as strong, fast and fit by the season start and lets try to hand onto for the rest of the season. In data I have collected it appears in soccer players that there is a significant drop in performance from the start to the end of the season. Why should this happen when games are being played and training is being completed - my theory is that the intensity drops off too much and our job is to become the professional warm up person rather than completing our job to its full potential. Of cause the volume has to drop off but having that extra time at the completion of the warm up to work on certain aspects such s speed, agility and power will decrease the detriments in performance commonly seen. If you can also encourage the head coach to up the intensity during the week in small sided games again advantages will be seen. You must stick to a plan that balances work and rest but I believe there is much we can do so that the performance of the players we work with does not decline.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Keeping it all in perspective

Junior sports and athletes is a facinating area. This Friday I will be speaking at a conference looking at long terma athletic development and preventing athlete dropout. A couple of things come to mind for us as coaches. Firstly value

Do you value the successful athlete more than others. with juniors it is important to look at the big picture as success now doesnt mean success in the future in fact statistics show you probably have a greater chance in latter life being successful if you are not a champion junior. Value the ones with potential but more importantly value everyone you work with and keep to the philosophy that you can work to maximise everyones potential.

Do you coach or just run drills. This is an area Vern Gambetta speaks about often and it is one I also am strong about. I see alot of drills going on but very little coaching. If you dont know how to coach what you are doing find out or be mentored by someone that does.

Do you promise what you cant deliver. Parents all think their kid is the best and will be the future of sport in their chosen activity. Keep it real and focussed on the journey rather than the outcome. Think about the big picture and other things that are going on in the kids life we want well rounded children not children that are swimming 15 hours/week at 10.

There are many more issues to ponder but there is no doubt youth sport needs to be kept in perspective

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Sydney FC W League

Great 2 wins from 2 starts and looking good

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Vern Gambetta

Hi I have often mentioned that I admire Vern Gambetta and suggest that you read his blog daily as Vern tells it like it is. Here is a post from the other day that hits the mark again. Vern is a if not the leader in the athletic development field he gets you to think beyond strength and conditioining and the weight room.

Functional Path Manifesto by Vern Gambetta
Defining the Field of Athletic Development - Where We Are Now
Why am I writing this? Who am I to tell you how to train or rehab your athletes? How can I have the impudence to question some of the hallowed concepts of training and performance, even question sports science? I have consistently questioned much of what passes as conventional wisdom in regards to training and rehab and I have the audacity to ask you to do the same. Think and question. Why? On whose authority do I speak? Frankly I speak on the authority of wisdom based on experience and common sense. I have a passionate belief in defining the field of athletic development. I am defined by what I am not, I am not a sport scientist, physical therapist, ATC, a doctor, or a sport psychologist, I am a coach. As a coach I have had to travel in all those worlds, because of my experience in those worlds I am not restrained by conventional wisdom; rather I choose to use conventional wisdom as a starting point. I certainly have learned from all those disciplines and have incorporated those ideas into a systematic approach to athletic development. I have specialized in being a generalist. Being a generalist allows me to focus on the big picture, the connections and relationships that define athleticism. The arena of athletic competition on the track, the fields, courts and pools of the world are the laboratories to test these concepts. There is no hiding in this arena, it is a results driven world where training mistakes and inadequate preparation are quickly exposed.
Athletic development is about optimizing training to enhance performance in the competitive arena. The basic concepts are quite simple. My experience has shown that simplicity yields complexity, you don’t have to try to make it complicated. That is why being a generalist is so important; it allows me to make relationships that the specialist because of their narrower vision will not see. Sophisticated technology and computer algorithms are part of a much bigger picture. Over reliance on tools and technology will not get the job done. You need the coach with experience to ask the key questions and interpret the data. Without that, high tech tools are no more than random number generators
Much of what I stand for is not new, we already know it, it has worked in the past in a myriad of environments but has been rejected as old fashioned, not high tech, not scientific. We have abandoned proven methods in the name of progress. Certainly in every field of endeavor everything old is new again, but because of our society’s rejection of the past we have not studied the coaches who paved the way for us. It is trite to say that we stand on the shoulder of giants but without coaches like Bill Bowerman, Doc Councilman, Geoff Dyson, Franz Stampfl, and Percy Cerruty where would we be today in terms athletic performance. They were innovators who were not afraid to challenge conventional wisdom. No one stands alone, I have been very fortunate to learn from many people. Most importantly I have learned from the athletes that I have coached. Who better to learn from? They were the ones who did the training; they were the ones, who competed,
My concepts of training are based on study of past training methods, sports science research and practical experience working with all levels of athlete. You learn through deliberate practice, through trial and error. You learn in the trenches, not in a book or a laboratory. You learn form your mistakes and your successes. That is where you start, but that is just a beginning. What I do is common sense; it works because it is simple and natural. If we follow our survival instincts we will do the correct things concerning movement and training. Modern society and conventional wisdom in training has dulled our instincts to the point that they are buried. The key is to unlock these instincts and allow the body to solve movement problems the way the body was designed to function. This is not dangerous or extreme, it is essentially what children do in free play when unrestrained by adult supervision and burdened by having to do the movements correctly. Today even at the highest levels of sport coaches are creating robots. Movement is not paint by numbers, it is an expressionist drawing, it is not a classical music aria, it is jazz riff.
We need to get away from reductionist thinking, stop breaking movement and exercise into its smallest parts and the focus on those parts in hopes of producing a moving flowing working whole, it won’t happen. It will only happen if there is a quantum approach, an approach that focuses on the big picture and the connections. In many respects this is where sport science has failed us. In the rush to publish and the desire to show statistical significance we have become so reductionist in our thinking that we now fail to see the forest for the trees. Focusing on Max VO2 or trying to isolate the internal oblique and transverse abdominis, while very neat and clean in the lab just do not transfer well to the performance area. Is it important to understand scientific concepts? Yes it is, but we must not be restrained by them. I remember scientists and sports medicine people publishing papers on the Fosbury Flop after the 1968 Olympics when Fosbury won the gold medal in the high jump. The substance was that this was an inefficient dangerous way to jump, merely an aberration that would soon go away. Several years later when a jumper using the Fosbury technique broke the world record, the same people were publishing articles and papers extolling the biomechanical advantage of the technique. Coaches and athletes knew it immediately, it was more natural, they could see and feel it. It took advantage of body structure and function to effectively apply force against the ground. Where would high jump performance be if we had listened to the initial response from the scientist? Coaches and athletes lead innovation in training and technique, not scientists.
Most scientific studies are isolated studies out of context of the spectrum of human movement demands. Science needs to measure an isolated component in order to conduct “valid” scientific experiments. I understand that those are the rules of the game for the scientist, but outside the lab in the real world of performance the rules are different. On the field or in the pool we cannot isolate variables. Does that mean we should reject science and rely solely on practice and experience, absolutely not. As coaches we need to travel in both worlds. As a coach, statistical significance does not mean anything to me, I am interested in coaching significance and how it applies to making a particular exercise or training method more effective. The great coaches I have known are both artists and scientists. They know what canvas to paint on, what brushes to select, the brush strokes to use and how to blend the colors to achieve the result they desire. We must get all the pieces working in harmony. In performance the essence is linkage and connections, not isolation. Therefore the training should reflect this and focus on muscle synergies and connections.
I am alarmed with the biased one sided training regimens that I see imposed on athletes. If you are doing a lot of something then you are probably not doing a lot of something else, a zero sum relationship. When you do this the result is a highly adapted athlete, the athlete adapts to that one component being trained. To thrive in the performance arena demands a highly adaptable athlete whose training is not biased, but reflects the demands of the sport and the needs of the individual athlete.
Certainly we are not going where no one else has gone before, we are not sailing uncharted waters, the path is clear, and the destination is obvious. That begs the question then, why with all we know and the supposed progress we have made, why are results so inconsistent. Why are preventable injuries at levels never seen before in sport? Do we need to take a different approach? We must take a long look at what got us to this point. Look back at what worked in the past. Look at those people who are producing consistent reproducible results. We need direction, definition and leadership, not more marketing and hype. We need to recognize and acknowledge the problems and address them with concrete solutions. To achieve this we need to shift the focus back on people, not facilities, equipment and training methods. Coaching is a people profession, people working with people to raise performance levels. We must do everything possible to raise the standard of coaching. I hope this stimulates you to get on board and help me to define the field of athletic development. We can change and we must change or we will go the way of the dinosaur. I implore you to get out of the weight room, go out and work to build highly adaptable athletes that can thrive in the competitive arena.

Interns/Work Experience

I have always valued doing unpaid work experience with people in the field that are respected. I have done this many times and in recent times I spent 12 months with Jim Fraser Australia's leading goalkeeper coach. I learnt so much from Jim in this time that it was priceless. This year I have had a number of students doing work experience with me and they have done a great job and their dedication has inspired me. Slavisa, Nigel, Ariel, Daniel, David and Pat have made my job much more enjoyable and I hope they have learnt from the experience. I encourage you to go and do unpaid work because on the field in the work environment is the place where real learning takes place. These students have been able to see the difference between theory and application and have seen me have to deal with disgruntled players, difficult situations and I suppose the unglamorous everyday side of the job. I hope to be able to give them all paid work in the future as the dedication they have demonstrated is what I value.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fab Itte

Fab Itte is a good friend of mine and also the U17 Australian Wrestling coach. Fab recently took the Australian team to India and one of his athletes won a Bronze Medal which is fantastic. I first met Fab when he was a student of mine and he has progressed so far that I often speak to him about training and have learnt much from Fab re wrestling training and how we can adapt these methods to team sports such as Soccer etc. Fab has always been a big picture thinker and has used his methods to help his athletes achieve great results. Fab has also done a number of sessions with my athletes and they have always enjoyed these sessions. I suggest you have a look at some wrestling conditioning lietrature and think how you maybe adapt this to your training. I see that wrestling conditioing training for strength has a place with team sport athletes. Fab and I are presently trying to formulate a program in this direction and I will keep you informed. However I will say those sports that use wrestling coaches are often missing other important aspects of the sport that can be transferred into the conditioing program.

Pre Season

It is that time again when teams start thinking about pre season and that time that players hate. How is it best to structure a pre season program. Firstly the most important question is to determine what the coach wants and by what time. The other question is what level are the players you are working with at. Often players who are semi professional come back to training is very poor physical conditioning and are open for injury if the training is too intense too soon. I am more in favor meeting with players 1 month prior to the official start of pre season and giving them a home based program just to get them to a level of fitness that we can work with. I think a 4-6 week schedule is fine obviously well planned and increasining in intensity as the weeks go on. Too often there is no planning and this is why pre season is so unliked, give the players a structure, inform them what will happen over the next 4-6 weeks and make sure you use basic periodisation principles.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Working with new teams

When first meeting with a new club its very important that you ask the right questions. In recent times I have had a number of meetings with clubs about next season and I always like to find out the coaches philosophy on training and playing. The reason being at the end of the day they are your boss and you are employed to do a job for them and the players. I know I can get players conditioned to play but what about if the coaches ideas of training are very different to yours. I had a meeting last week with a very good coach who has been very successful. He was very pleasant but at this stage our ideas are quite different which is fine as Im always willing to compromise to a point but not if its totally against my philosophy. Sometimes it may be better not to work with teams if there is too much of a compromise and at the end of the day they may be happier to have someone else and this is all o'k. One size does not fit all in athletic development.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pre Season Central Coast Mariners W League

I talked about Sydney FC girls but I have also been doing work with CCM and they have also been fantastic. No complaints here just professional let me work with these teams anyday as it is a pleasure the girls Get It and also Appreciate the work you do. I suggest many Mens teams should watch these girls train to get an idea of how to be professional


I have been away for a little while thus my blog has suffered. A few things have been going on with the most important being my partner Donna and I are getting married next year which is great. We have been together many years and there is nothing better than being able to marry the girl of your dreams. Beyond this I have been relaxing somewhat and trying to slow down but back at work and ready for new challanges.

Sydney FC W League Team
Finsihed pre season with the girls team and they are ready for the first round of the W League this weekend. The girls have worked very hard and testing results show a significant improvement in Vo2 (approx 15%) which I had predicted. The data on the DS protocol consistently shows such an improvement over a 4-6 week period and as mentioned previously with time limitations I feel this is an effective protocol that works. (see previous Posts re the DS)

Youth League Trials
As my previous post stated this is the disaster time for soccer in NSW and yet again I have been amazed by the lack of professionalism of clubs. What can I say except that something needs to be done or at least a course set up on assessing players too much politics, too many people pushing their own agenda as a Parent I find it upseting that parents would become sponsors of clubs just to get their son in the team - why would you do that if they dont have the talent. On the other side parents blaming anyone for the lack of talent of their child - I ask have they tried to develop their athleticism, have they put in the work. There is always 2 sides of the story but some decisions astound me such as one wiith a young GK I use to work with who is a great talent being cut from a team after a fantastic season. Keep your chin up Stefan it will work out for the betterment of you.

A funny word but has its place when we talk about people involved in Athletic Development. Isnt it funny that its always the most insecure I wonder if our cities A League club has worked out yet injuries may be related to the arrogance of the strength and conditioing man. I wonder why he is so arrogant - no formal qualifications may be the reason insecurity so he attacks everyone else. This is the genius that does no testing all pre season and claims everyone steals his programs. Sacked from most previous jobs we can hope this will be another one. Sorry I should not get personal but I get upset at people like this who do not treat people with resepect


Started athletics training yesterday just to experience being coached by a very good sprint coack Shez from Sprintology (check the website) I enjoyed it very much and even though this is different from speed for soccer obviouly there is much to lean and the more you experience the better you will be. I am concerned that not enough people in our field know or experience the movements they are presecribing. Get out and do it


Where have all the coaches gone? I mean we are doing something wrong in our university courses when few students come out ready to conduct sessions with confidence. I hope it is not a lost art but basic communication skills are not being developed at our universities

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Youth League Trials

That terrible time of the year is about to start Youth League Trials. Players go from trial to trial having a very short time to expose their talents to coaches who have no real structure to how they choose a team. I dont like this time at all and integrity and empathy is required by coaches and selectors to give feedback to players as to why they are not selected. Also to parents you have to let what happens happens and do not get involved in the politics. Talent will always rise to the top and just ensure your child continues to enjoy their sport whatever level they play.

The article below shows that in reality its all about growth and if you are not born in the first part of the year it is difficult. Sad I know and I wish people would just understand that the junior years are about development - particularly athletic development because when size evens out so many big youngsters are shocked to find that they should have worked harder on their movement when they were younger and not just relied on their size

Selection of young soccer players in terms of anthropometric and physiological factors.
Gil S; Ruiz F; Irazusta A; Gil J; Irazusta J
Author's Address:
Department of High Performance, Basque Institute of Physical Education, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain.
The Journal Of Sports Medicine And Physical Fitness [J Sports Med Phys Fitness] 2007 Mar; Vol. 47 (1), pp. 25-32.
Publication Type:
Journal Article; Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
Journal Information:
AIM: The aim of this paper was to describe the anthropometric and physiological characteristics of young soccer players (14-17 years old) which were associated with their being successful or not as soccer players. METHODS: Somatotype and body composition was calculated by measuring skinfolds, limb circumferences and joint diameters. VO(2max) was estimated by the Astrand's Test. Sprint, jump and endurance tests were also performed. RESULTS: The most relevant differences were obtained between selected and non-selected players belonging to the 14-year-old team. Selected players were taller, heavier, leaner and faster and they had higher absolute or relative VO(2max). In addition, a higher % of selected players was found among those born during the first 6 months of the year. In the rest of the teams, the agility was better in selected than in non-selected players. At later ages, there was also a predominance of players born during the first 6 months of the year. CONCLUSIONS: These results indicate that around the time of puberty, parameters associated with physical maturity such as height, size, speed, VO(2max), or chronological age are important to determine the success of a soccer player. At older ages, other factors such as agility seem to be more important. Nevertheless, players born in the 1st semester of the year are also more frequent in the older teams. These findings should be taken into account by trainers and coaches, in order to avoid biasing their selection choices.

Thoughts re above article
  • why use an astrand test to measure aerobic power (soccer is not played on a bike)
  • As we get older movement starts to impact - re agility
  • Interesting to see how many of these big kids make good adult players
  • My own observations suggest very few as their is to much reliance on size when they should be developing movement techniques
  • I see very few superstar 14 year olds but many that are missing out on selection

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Grad Diploma of Athletic Development

Had our first meeting re this course we are developing. The outcome was that the course has its place and we will develop it further I was happy to meet Bryce Cavanaugh who works for the Sydney Swans and he gave some great feedback on the project. Also Ian King for professional footballer and others Ashley Jones (Crusaders Rugby), Darran Burgess (Socceroos), Tom Reddin (NSW Cricket), Dave Moore (former West Indies Cricket Coach) have been involved in the development. With this feedback from people in the field coupled with our acadaemic staff Professor Mike King, Ben Harris, Kylie Steel and Dr Scott dickson this course should advance the field of athletic development. I will keep you posted on developments.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Interval Training

As i have a particular interest in intervals to maximise performance I will be reviewing some articles in this area. Here is one re inseason Interval training and highlights the fact that inseason does not have to mean maitanance but is still a time for increasing the physiological status of your players.

Dupont, Grégory1Akakpo, Koffi1Berthoin, Serge1
Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research Aug2004, Vol. 18 Issue 3, p584 6p.
The effects of in season, high-intensity interval training on professional male soccer players' running performances were investigated. Twentytwo subjects participated in 2 consecutive training periods of 10 weeks. The first period was considered a control period and was compared with a period where 2 high-intensity interval training exercises were included in the usual training program. Intermittent runs consisted of 12-15 runs lasting 15 seconds at 120% of maximal aerobic speed alternated with 15 seconds of rest. Sprint repetitions consisted of 12-15 all-out 40-m runs alternated with 30 seconds of rest. Results from the high-intensity interval training have shown that maximal aerobic speed was improved (+8.1 ± 3.1%; p <>

I encourage you to review the full article and look at the study and ll studies with a critical eye. Too often people only review the abstract or worse only look at the conclusions and take it for gospel. Have a look at the numbers researched, the stats that were used and if the interpretation of the stats is correct. I was reading a paper the other day where they were reporting significant r values that still left 64% of the variance unexplained. It is imperative you know and understand stats as obviously many reviewers dont because it amases me how many poorly designed studies get published in the sports science field

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Darren Burgess

Hi we were very lucky yesterday to have Darren Burgess give a lecture to our students. Darren is the Austrlian Mens Soccer Team sports scince director and has also worked for Port Adelaide in the AFL and lectured at ACU in the sports science department. Darren is one of the best in the athletic development field leaving nothing to chance and well versed in all aspects of the discipline. Our students were given an insight into elite sport and the set ups from around the world as Darren recently has spend time at Liverpool/Real Madrid/Newcastle/Blackburn/PSV and was able to relay the cutting edge information to our students. The socceroos are in great hands as there has been a major problem with the sports science or lack of it previously. With us now playing in ASIA it is very easy to get things wrong physiologicaly (we all remember the Asian champioships) and the people involved previously just were not up to the task. Darren will help to make the difference and see us qualify for South Africa in 2010

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I plan to start posting some reearch on soccer for us to review. One of my favourite blogs is a fantastic resource to see up to date research and Chris does a great job at reviewing it. This has inspired me to post some of the literature on soccer conditioning.

The first one is a confusing study b Rampinini et al. and I havent yet red the full text version so I wont be too critical but read the abstract for yourself.

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008 May;40(5):934-42.
Effect of match-related fatigue on short-passing ability in young soccer players.
Rampinini E, Impellizzeri FM, Castagna C, Azzalin A, Bravo DF, Wisløff U.
Human Performance Laboratory, Mapei Sport Research Center, Castellanza, Varese, Italy.
PURPOSE: To examine whether the fatigue accumulated during match play or determined by short bouts of high-intensity intermittent activities affect short-passing ability in junior soccer players. A further aim was to examine the influence of physical fitness as measured using the Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test (YYIRT) on the changes in short-passing ability after a 5-min simulation of high-intensity activities (HIS).
METHODS: Sixteen players (mean +/- SD: age 17.6 +/- 0.5 yr, height 174 +/- 7 cm, body mass 68 +/- 6 kg) participated in the study. A quasi-experimental control-period design was used for the study. Short-passing ability was measured using the Loughborough Soccer Passing Test (LSPT). Players completed the LSPT in two sessions during the 1-wk control period, followed by two unofficial matches during which the LSPT was performed during and after the first and the second halves of the game. Furthermore, the change in LSPT performance was determined after 5 min of HIS.
RESULTS: A decline in LSPT performance was found during and after the game (P < 0.01). The accuracy of the LSPT decreased after the HIS. A significant correlation was found between the YYIRT scores and the decline in LSPT performance (accuracy, total time, total time with penalties) after HIS (r = -0.51 to -0.65; P < 0.05).
CONCLUSIONS: This study showed that the fatigue developed during a match and after relatively short bouts of high-intensity intermittent activities has a detrimental effect on short-passing ability, and that the fatigue-related decline in technical proficiency for a given intensity is associated with the fitness level of the players.

Ok One of my professors always taught me to sk the question So What? when I have ever conducted research and when I read research I also ask this question. Would you expect this to happen YES the more exciting research is to then do soemthing about it. The next phase would be to increase the physiological condition of these players and then see what happens. Like I said I will reserve my criticism until I read the paper.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sydney FC and Central Coast Mariners W League

Hi A knew professional womans league is starting in October in Australia and I will keep you up to date on 2 teams that I will be working with. An interesting situation but the 2 teams are backed by the same organisation and thus will train pre season togther. Had a meeting with both head coaches last week Alen Stajic and Steve Roach both good guys and have put together the first 6 week phase. I will be keeping you informed of the progress as we start tonight with testing. I have worked with most of the players previously and the DS Protocol that I have discussed previously will be a major feature.

DS protocol
5 x 20sec work @>95%/20sec recovery over a 20metre shuttle
2 min recovery
6 x 15 sec work @>95%/15 sec recovery over 15 metre shuttle
2 min recovery
8 x 10sec work @> 95%/10 sec recovery over 10 metre shuttle
2 min recovery
Total Time - 15 minutes

This will be used 2x/week during the first 3 weeks and extended to 3x/week for the following 3. Data from previous studies of ours have shown a very positive adaptations abnd the beauty of it is the short length as com[pared to previously published protocols. I cant wait to get the publication out as this is a great protocol that works.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

What to do during the Transition

The transition from one season to the next is one of the most important and misunderstood training phases. end of season should not mean end of training but rather a time for the body and mind to recuperate from the specific training it has been doing. Too often players just let everything slide during this period and thus pre season training becomes difficult. We know after 1-2 weeks there will be a significant decline in a number of physioloical parameters and this should be some indication that we need to move during the tranisition. Histoorically the transition was for a period of 4 weeks but in some instances this period is much longer and this is where the trouble starts. My advice is to advise your players to do something during this period that is different to what they have been doing and enjoyable. I like my players doing basketball or touch football - sports that are similar but also very different - too many players go into futsal which is too similar and thus they dont get a physical and mental recovery. Also nutrition is important during this time and again its not a time just to live like a sloth - if you are an athlete you are one 12 months of the year so behave like one. Trust me if you want to have a great season have a smart transition.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sydney Olympic Finished for season

Well sadly the season for the team I have been working for Sydney Olympic has finished for 2008. Last night we lost 2-1 in the final and now the Grand Final will be played out by 2 deserving sides Sutherland and Woolongong. It has been a great year with us winning the club championship, winning the J Warren Cup, runners up in the Tiger Turf Cub, 3rd in the table and now losing finalists and our reserves (under 20's) were minor premiers and have the grand final next week. However I and our team are hurting after coming so close last night with a great second half performance. In fact I was happy to see our team run riot over a tired opposition during the final 45 minutes but a gutsy effort by Sutherland held us out. So what to do now, firstly I will test a number of players next week just to give myself some data on the effect of a season as compared to previous testing results. It is very hard to test in the latter part of the year due to playing commitments and this information will be interesting. I will also interview a number of players and coaching staff on their perspective of the athletic development program. It is imperative you review and at this stage it is far to easy to move on without reflection. For a semi professional team it has been a long season with over 40 games and the first testing taking place on October 26 2007. I have said often that working with a semi professional team is very very difficul and tests your skills extensively. Players are still working, they cant always complete their strength training, they are fatigued often from manual work so it is a balancing act that has tested me. I am happy with the outcome but I am interested to ge a players perspective and it is this qualitative information that is missing from sport science research

Thursday, August 28, 2008

PE in schools

There has been much discussion on related blogs about the value of PE in schools and the subsequent negative effect that lack of PE has on athleticism. With 2 young children I am aware of this problem and how ineffective primary based PE is. I have children in Grade 1 and 4 who love being active and fortunately for them are confident in their athletic ability. The problem is the hate sport or pe at school because as my son says throwing a bean bag into a hoop from a step away is not much fun. Is there any gymnastics or even a forward roll NO is there any extension for the more advanced kids NO are the kids that need help looked after NO so the problem is there are no trained staff. The classroom teacher is in control of PE which lets be honest is a once a week hour of wasted time. My sister who teachers Grade 1 and is sport minded tells me the teachers are happy when it rains etc because they have so much other stuff to get through so if PE is off that extra hour makes it easier. PE needs to be part and a big part of the curriculum not something they can strike off by having an athletics carnival - Why dont we test children and if they dont meet the requirements then they dont progress - Why isnt PE mandatory for Higher School Leaving examinations Not only is the lack of PE in schools effecting our athleticism we have major issues with prevenatble diseases that are related to physical inactivity. THere needs to be some serious intervention into this otherwise our present problems will be nothing in comparison to the future

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Great Win

Well today we won our semi-final and moved into the Final (playoff to make the grand final) so I suppose the season has been a great success with 2 grand finl apperances in cup competitions and winning the club championship, our under 20's (reserves) into the grand final and our senior team now one game away. Its been long as we have been working since October last year and it is very important that we as coaches maintain our intensity and motivation for the entire duration of the season - I know I feel tired but I must push on to the end because this is what we aimed for way back 10 months ago. Physiologically the players are good and now is very much about short intense sessions/keeping them fresh and injury free. You cant make a season now with your training but you certainly can injure and destroy a season if you are not structured. with Maximum 2 games left it is now about freshness and it is more psychological then physiological - I will keep you informed on how we go

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My Daughter in the yellow

I just gt sent this picture of my daughter Bella (in the yellow) and if you look at the running style it is pretty spot on prticularly considering she is 9 and it is at the end of the state cross country where she cam 8th. So even under fatigue the form is good and just goes to show kids can be taught and the sooner the better.

Strength and Sport

Interesting how wrong we can get with conditioing and in particular strength. Too often I see athletes who have been participating in a strength program that is just a waste of time. People think strength they think go to the gym get a trainer etc but the programs I see for athletes are basic bodybuilding programs that have no resemblence to the sports specificty that we need. Athletes and personal trainers dont mix Personal trainers are for general population if you need a program go to an athletic development coach otherwise you will just have to reverse the damage you have done. If I see another chest/shoulder/triceps and back/biceps program for an athlete I may just explode. Than I had another soccer player who has been advised by his PT to only do strength work for the upper body because thats where he needed the mass thus his legs were ok. Who says that garbage please remember I work in a department where students can become PT's and there is nothng in their course that resembles athletic development so BE AWARE

Conditioning Research A great blog


One of my favourite blogs is Chris where Chris discusses research from many different areas including football and some great stuff on nutrition. Here is one of his lates posts

Thursday, August 21, 2008
Train for football - play football
one for Dr Duncan....

This makes sense. If you want to train football....then play football. Sprints, balance, calisthenics etc are all fine, but the functional training is in the game

Heart Rate Responses During Small-Sided Games and Short Intermittent Running Training in Elite Soccer Players: A Comparative Study.

The purpose of this study was to compare heart rate (HR) responses within and between physical controlled (short-duration intermittent running) and physical integrated (sided games) training methods in elite soccer players.

In conclusion, these findings showed that some small-sided games allow the HR to increase to the same level as that in short-duration intermittent running. The sided game method can be used to bring more variety during training, mixing physical, technical, and tactical training approaching the intensity of short-duration intermittent running but with higher intersubject variability.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Dont be Instantly reactive

After a frustrating loss on Friday night in a major semi final where we conceeded 2 goals in the final 7 minutes my first reaction was to question the fitness of the players and furthermore ask myself the question have I stuffed up. PArticularly when this has happened 2 weeks in a row. I even lost sleep about this as I went over things in my mind. The point of this is true REFLECTION and to demonstrate like everyone I do doubt myself from time to time but after going over my notes on the game and my programs I did realise the physical preperation was good and the goals came from concentration lapses or just poor decision making. My point is that dont react instantly take time and from my first reaction of Ive got to step training up fortunately I had Vern Gambettas words in my ears "one training session cant make a season but it certainly can ruin one"

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What is your SYSTEM

I am often talking about a systematic approach to training and programing and I was thinking that maybe this term is overused and people dont know what it means. To me it is about a checklist about doing one step before the next and no going to step 5 before you have completed step 1. I work on a very basic system

Step 1 - Analysis

I first analyse the sport, the movements, the physiology involved, the research outlining what is required to be a success anything I can find or do so that I know and understand the sport from a movement perspective. If there are specific positions in the sport than I must also analyse that position (for instance the GK in soccer)

Once I know the sport I must tham know the athlete and analyse their present physical condition. Now if I dont know the sport how do I know what to analyse and if I dont analyse how can I program. Testing needs to be completed and too ofetn it is not completed many professional teams do not test but how do they know where their athlete is at and how do they know if there program is working. testing is not the be all and end all of this but it does give a very important view point. The tests I conduct must be specific to the sport

Step 2
Plan - Here you plan the season, phase (block), the week, the session if you have no plan you will fail and you are not a professional. I dont think it is possible to have a season plan spot on from the start but you must have the outline but it must be flexible if changes are needed. You than plan the phase, then the week and the session and this must be done in detail. I always say to my students a plan should have enough detail so if you are sick an assistant can run the session from the plan

Step 3

The implementation stage where players perform the session etc and this is where you put the plan into practise. This is imperative that you are involved in this stage so you can see how your plan is working in reality

Step 4
Review and Reflect
Often not used but so powerful after every session that you review and reflect on the positives and negatives and adjust if required. The system is flexible and fluid and requires constant tinkering dont get set in your ways be open Review how players feel, use player monitioring forms, interview your players anything to make your programs better.

This is not rocket science it is a basic educational model and you may vary what you do but at least be sure in your mind that you do have structure

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Preparing for the off season

It is imperative you speak with players about the crucial time of off season or transition. One of the main reasons pre season is not enjoyed because players see the off season as a time to do no physical activity and to eat anything they like. If this is how they approach the off season than the mountain to climb in pre season will be high. However if this period is approached correctly where other activities are taken up just so there is regular physical activity than pre season will be more enjoyable. Sometimes when I see players back after pre season I realise that they actually need a pre pre season program. You must speak with the players and inform them about what to do during the transition period otherwise valuable weeks will be lost.

Know your place

Too often sports scientists and people involved in athletic development think the World revolves around them. Preparing a player requires a multi disciplinary approach and not always are you going to get your own way. Further to this at the end of the day your boss is the head coach and you must respect this. If you do not like the head coaches methods than find a new job - dont sit around backstabbing the coach or trying to get onside with the players be a professional and do your job to the best of your ability. Too often I have heard of difficulties between sports scientists and coaches and in most part the fault is with the SS. Dont think because you have the knowledge or you think you do that you know it all. I love talking to the coaches, listening to their ideas offering advice when requested but most of all respecting their views. Too often we forget sports science is an APPLIED science and thus involves people and what may work in the lab or in a research project does not work in reality.

Monday, August 11, 2008


I thought I should post something about the Olympics. I love it and every 4 years I embrace the amount of sport on TV and I know I could be philosophical and critical and think about the drugs, the pollution and Chinas crimes against humanity but beyond that I just try to focus on the sports and the end products of a training plan. There is some exceptional human talent and remarkable sports and one of my favourite things is to watch sports and admire those that I seldom see except for the Olympics. Think about how you could incorporate wrestling into your program or how would you train for volleyball etc etc I really is alot of fun so embrace it and enjoy it for what it is

Why do what you Do?

do you know what the session you conducted meant? Where did it fit into this weeks plan and where did this week it into the present phase and where did this phase fit into earlier phases. We must advance from being a great session trainer into being a well planned professional COACH. Many people ask me what I do am I a trainer m I a sport scientist but really we are athletic development coaches. This is a profession in itself and to be a good coach you must have a plan you must make a stance and create your plan based on sound scientific principles. Too many professional strength and condiitiong people are killing athletes off simply and surely. Have a look at our cities A league team before we have even started injuries are everywhere now maybe their program hasnt caued all the problems but the muscular injuries yoou have to start asking questions. Do they really know what they are doing, what is the plan how are improvements measured well no testing has been conducted so no retests so how do they know. The fact is they dont and thus we have the terrible situation of our cities A League soccer team being as professional or unprofessional as a local park team - what a waste of money. I feel strongly about this as in their hands are players with bright futures who will make no advances in term of their athletic development due to the arrogance and ignorance of the staff involved.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Grad Diploma and Master of Athletic Development

Great news as I had proposed the above courses to a University in Sydney and have got the go ahead to write them up. I am so excited as I know this can be a great course and I hope to make it practcal and vocational in that people come out work ready to venture into the field and to be able to make a difference. It will be different to many Masters courses around that are just an advancement on 3rd year subjects without being anything really different. I am also passionate about the name athletic development and not letting it be called strength and conditioning and Vern's post below has strengthened my thoughts on this. I wil keep you posted but I hope its finished by Christmass and get authorised next year so we can start an intake in 2010 or even semester 2 2009.

Vern Gambetta hits on the mark AGAIN

I have stated before that is a must read and have a look at Vern's latest post - It is right on the mark

August 08, 2008
Athletic Development not Strength and Conditioning
Do we really need strength and conditioning? Over the past several weeks I have seen and heard different situations that make me question the viability of the concept of strength and conditioning and underscore the need for athletic development. I am a firm believer that words create images and images create action. Strength and conditioning creates two images, heavy lifting all the time and running until you puke conditioning; the subsequent actions reinforce those images. It is difficult for me to understand why with all the knowledge, experience and sports science research that we have available that it is so difficult to move off this paradigm. Athletic development is a complete polar opposite of the above. Athletic development coaching builds better completely adaptable athletes. Athletic development addresses all components of the individual athletes and a team’s development based upon the needs of the sport, the position or the event and the qualities of the individual athlete. At the risk of offending people it is easy to get strong in the weight room and fit for a running test, but the real art and science is to apply that strength to the sport and the fitness to the game. Athletic Development demands a systematic long term plan with everyone on the performance team involved in the process. Today S&C works in isolation. The players go to the weight room, disappear for an hour or two and come out magically stronger and conditioned. Who knows what they do there, does it connect with what they are doing in their sport training, most of the situations I have seen there is no connection, S&C is an end unto itself. Athletic Development is all about mindful movements that connect to the sport. Why are you doing what you are doing and when are you doing it? I get criticized that I do not believe in lifting weights, or that I do not believe in Olympic lifting, that is totally wrong. I believe in strength training as part of a bigger picture. Olympic lifting MOVEMNTS are an integral part of a good strength training program, but remember Olympic movements do not have to done with an Olympic bar, it is the movement that matters and how it helps the athlete apply the strength gained to the sport. Remember a good strength training program should incorporate pulling, pushing, squatting and rotational movements.

What about conditioning? What about it? A good sound athletic development program thoroughly analyzes the fitness needs of the sport and addresses those needs in a systematic manner. It all about getting match, game or race fit. Mindless running without a purpose does not mean you will be fit for the game. Game fit is a cumulative process that incorporates all elements into building the complete athlete. Arbitrary “fitness” tests that do not reflect the demands of the game have no place in a good athletic development program. To use a test to determine if someone is fit is an easy out. Most of the time the standards for these tests are arbitrary at best, I recently saw a situation where a player was one step from passing the “fitness” test; they did not pass so they had to do extra fitness work. That is absurd. Use the testing to determine where each athlete is and determine the workouts accordingly. Make conditioning specific to the game and to the position within the game and to the individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

So where are we headed – I am afraid that we are heading down a one way dead end street. We need to wake up and rethink the approach to all of this. None of this is an end unto itself, it is all about preparing the athlete for optimum performance in the competitive arena. I think sport coaches and administrators need to wake up and reassess this field. More importantly those of us in the field need to shift the paradigm to developing completely adaptable athletes who have the ability to thrive in the competitive arena.

Posted at 07:22 AM in General Training | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Monday, July 28, 2008

Review the year

Its coming to that time when many seasons are starting or finishing and I wonder how many of you review or reflect on your programs. When I mean reflect look at how the players responded to you, what the testing results showed/how did the team perform/what could you change did you survey your players to see what they thought of your work/did you interview the head coach and get feedback from him. This is simple research to make yourself a better coach I would be interested to see what people do. I use a survey for players every 6-8 weeks to get their thoughts on the program, I regularly speak to the head coach about the program and also the medical staff to see if there is an injury pattern that I may be able to help with. Its all about being better and realising you will never be perfect and there is always much to learn and much room for improvement

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Have we reached our limits

We often read that the human has reached or nearly reached their physiological limits in a sport or particular event. The one that springs most to mind is the 100m sprint and this maybe true but in team sports I believe we havent even come close. In football (soccer) I believe the game can be played at a greater intensity/greater distances can be covered/the difference between 1st and 2nd half performance can be decreased and players can perform at the highest level wellinto their 30's and maybe even beyond. It all comes down to the physiological development and preperation. On the World stage the game is often played between 2 teams that know they have to play again in a few days so it always sems to be players are playing within themselves. Also too often there is little time devoted to physiological development and pre seasons dont really exist. The answer is specific programs that can be completed in short time periods. Regular 20-30 minute sessions combined with intense ball work will do the job and how many professional players really put in a decent weeks work. The generation Y athlete in many cases is lazy and lacks passion and it is reflected in the intensity games are played. Have a look at a game of Irish hurling or football one day it is crazy and the players earn little money however the intensity is ferosious - there is alot to learn for our Gen y professional about passion and desire

Monday, July 21, 2008

What is your Plan

Do you have a plan or do you run session after session and dont really know how it all fits in. Athletic Development is like a jigsaw puzzle and without all the pieces in place it will never be complete. To often there is no substance to a session even though it may be a great session on its own it is useless if it doesnt fit into a plan. I suggest you read what Vern Gambetta has been writing about on his blog as I agree with what he says. I am tired of the trainer that runs sessions that have no contribution to the overall plan or the trainer that has no plan. Ask yourself each session where does this session fit in? What is the link to the last? and what is the link top the next? If you can answer these basioc questions go back and plan. We are all brought up on the work of Tudor Bompa re periodisation but is this the way it should be -I dont think so but still this is what is taught in under grad degrees the world over so the world is full of strength and conditioning coaches that follow Bompa models that are not effective in most situations. Look at professional teams ask yourself questions when there are substantial injuries, ask yourself questions when they burn out by the end of the season or they are not ready at the start often the answer lies in poor planning by the S&C coach.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


I think an athletic development program is often like working your way through a maze. It must be planned and take into account all the obstacles along the way. There are so many questions that need to be asked and in the planning stage such as when does the season begin?, is there a pre season comp, Is the pre season comp important to the club, how long is the reguler season, when are the finals, what are the strengths and weaknessess of the team and individuals, what style of play does the head coach want, what are likely obstacles, what are possible obstacles, what are unlikely obstacles etc etc. Of cause you have your standard programing blocks and progressions but these are often manipulated by circumstance e.g. injury, performance etc but just like a maze you may be headed up a path but than that door shuts so you must be able to change direction and get back on the right road. Obviously experience helps but the planning never stops. Work in small blocks (4 weeks), have the big picture in mind, test to ensure you are on the right path but be humble enough to change tac if things are not working.

Vern Gambetta

If you want a read a great blog go to Vern's blog at For thos of you who dont know Vern he is one of if not the best authority on Athletic Development around. I was fortunate to see him speak onece and he is humble and informative and what I like is he speaks his mind. He keeps it simple and his blog is what I read first each day. The following post that he made the other day was a great one have a look below

By Vern Gambetta
July 04, 2008
Training Program Evaluation
Many people have asked for my opinion and/or an evaluation of various programs that are commercially available and very popular. Since I have not been able to observe these programs first hand for an extended period of time and in the spirit of maintaining a positive tone on this blog I thought it would be better to give you the general principles and ideas that that I look for in a program. From this you can draw your own conclusions. These criteria are the same criteria that I use to evaluate and continually upgrade my own training programs. • What is the philosophy of the program? • What are the goals and objectives? • Does it result in being adapted or adaptable or are you creating one trick ponies? • What is the context of each exercise and workout? • Is there a clearly identifiable progression? • Does it train movements and do the movements connect? • Is it manageable? Is it time efficient? • What is the big picture? Is it training or just mindless work that gets you tired? • Is it principle driven? • If it is norm based, where did the norms come from? • How is progress determined? What are the criteria for progression? • Does it travel well or do you need certain equipment or a trainer to implement it? • Are there injuries? If the answer is yes, is there a discernable pattern of injuries? • How much does it cost to be certified in the program? • Are various methodologies appropriately used? For example are power cleans done to fatigue with an Olympic bar? • Is it based on one series of exercises or machines? • Is it mindful or mindless? • Is it age appropriate? • How are people evaluated before beginning the program? • How are intensity and volume determined? • Is it one size fits all or is it individualized? In summary evaluation of an exercise or training program must be dispassionate and objective. Try to eliminate bias. I have the advantage of being able to draw on years of experience, so I have seen what has worked and what has not over the years. Remember that a hammer can be a very effective in the hands of a skilled craftsman or it can be very destructive if used improperly.

Posted at 08:40 AM in General Training | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (

Read Vern's blog each day it is well worth it


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Winning in Extra time

Another night and another enjoyable moment. Tonight we played a quater final of a cup competition and won on penalties after playing the last 20 minutes of extra time with 10 men. Although we didnt play that well our physical performance was great and hows to me that we are on the right track. I believe more than ever that the classic periodisation model is not specific to today and the environments we work in. What worries me is that this is what is being taught to our students as maybe the lecturers dont have a true understanding thus just teach what they were taught. Vern Gambetta talks about Planned programing and about working in blocks of 4 weeks and I think he is right on. The season is not about maitainance its about manipulation I truly believe that players in team sports can perform at higher levels and with less injury if the planning is right. Its like a puzzle that we are constantly working at and every team is not the same puzzle.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

A good Performance

What a difference a week makes and fortunately this week our performance improved and we got a much needed victory. we now have 4 games of the regular season left and we require 6 points to secure a finals birth but would be better if we got at least 9 points to secure a top 3 position. We can do it but it must be a game by game preperation. The year so far has been good and our team is in sound physiological condition and appear to be refreshed but it is at this time we really earn opur money. I am a big believer in having an overall plan that is flexible enough to be manipulated depending on circumstances. dont make the mistake of having a plan that is TOO tight and does not allow for change. Have a map but also have alternate routes.

Monday, June 23, 2008

You can only do your job

I hate losing - I really do - it hurts me inside and often keeps me awake thinking about the game and thinking over training structure etc but at the end of the day our job is to get players to their peak physiologically and beyond that we have little control. Its ok to be hurt by a loss but dont think you can control the players performance as there are many other aspects that go into the puzzle. Im not saying to stop analysing but for those of you who take a loss as a personal insult to you athletic development program I think we need to take a closer look and if we have done our job be satisfied with that.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Variety at the right time

There are numerous methods and gadgets that can add variety to your programs but knowing when and not to use variety is a skill. I constantly have to tell myself to mix it up and that I am not working with robots. This is my science and research background getting to me as I know what will work physiologically but I have to remember the psych and motivation component. I suppose working with athletes this is the biggest difference between reseach and applying it - WE are not working with a robot and that our players have numerous issues to work through. On the other hand we dont want to be mixing it up so much that we dont get our job done. For me at this stage 6 games from the end of the season I have to be very aware that the players have been with me for 7 months and it is time to mix it up. This can be done by using conditioning based games, keeping it short, creating competition etc and Ashley Jones from the crusaders (Super 14's Rugby Champions 2008) told me this is what he does. Keep the mood up, get the competition going and make it fun BUT still get your job done.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Monitoring fatigue

We have just had a period of 5 games in 10 days and thus the management of recovery becomes an issue. However I wonder how much fatigue is mental and how much is physical. How tough is the modern day athlete. Too often I feel players think they are fatigued even when they are not - and thus we have that age old issue of the power of the mind. There is a substantial amount of literature on recovery, monitoring fatigue etc but sometimes I sit back and think maybe athletes just need to get over themselves and be a little tougher. I know this may sound unscientific but if a tour de France cyclist can perform day in day out for 20 days surely a soccer player can play 5 games in 10 days when you consider over 50% of that time is spent walking. These are just thoughts but way too often my scientific mind is challanged by the voice that says "soccer players are soft" and that is coming from me who was a player. Have we created a monster by pampering to our athletes? Also if you look at soccer on the world stage just how fit are they. It appears that they never really get to maximise their potential because there is llittle structured pre season and the athletic development is compromised by clubs wanting to make the $ by parading their team around the world during the pre season rather than spending a solid 4-6 weeks in preperation and continuing this development throughout the year.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Its vital that we let go of our ego and realise that alone we can only acomplish so much. There is so much great stuff happening in other sports that we need to take notice of and determine if it can best fit into our program. If you sport involves functional strength and power why not include the help of a gymnastics coach, if flexibility and relaxtion is reqired utilise yoga if agression is a problem bring in a wrestling coach to work with your players. There is no need for you to think you can do it all be open to others and the work of other people - if we keep doing what we have always done we will only get so far. On the otherside of this is to make sure you are just not going for the gimmick and get back to the first stage of planning which is the analysis of the sport. Look what your sport requires and tehn train for it.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


How great it is to be part of a team that works for the best of a club rather than try to bring eachother down. I am very fortunate to work with great people at Sydney Olympic FC and I think this team could manage any club in the world. From the president Jim, the Ceo Danny Silvestri, Technical Director Manny, Head Coach Milan, Physio's Kenny/Charlie/Steve, Manager Chris, Assistant Coach Pat, Youth director Max you just couldnt find a better bunch. In our work with preparing players you cant work at your best level if you do not have the support and for me even though I have offers to work with other clubs even at higher levels and with greater financila reward if they do not have a professional structure and people I do not want the stress. Interesting enough a coach recently made the statement how come these semi professional players are fitter than my professional players well Coach its easy, doing things properly with part time players will always be superior to you wasting the time of full time players. To give a further insight to our people the other night we were playing a cup game and in torrential rain I watched as the CEO was out getting the field ready for play. He could have easily been sitting up in the box smoking cigars but no and that is why I love working for this club.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Keep it SIMPLE

the thing that strikes me with many athletic development programs is that they are just too complicated. I wonder if the coach is trying to show off all his/her tricks or if they really just dont get it. If we stick to analysing a sport ensuring our training is specific to the sport than its difficult to go wrong. I have been interested to see the pre season program of a local professional football club and Im finding it difficult to understand why they are doing what they are doing and I wonder if they really know. Firstly starting 14 weeks prior to the season for a professional team seems excessive but than filling this time up with non specific junk is more about wasting time than getting the job done. Telll me why you would use regular boxing and swimming sessions as your main component of a program. Tell me why you do soft sand plyometrics when fatigued - it just doesnt make any sense but than again the AThletic Development program is a reflection of the head coach. Im just thankful I have a great head coach who gets it. Look closely at your sessions and reflect on how they fit into an overall plan and if they are specific to the sport. Pool sessions work for recovery/boxing now and again to mix it up and for a bit of team bonding but dont get off track just to show all your tricks or what you have seen on you tube. I love looking at differnt stuff but if it doesnt fit inot the sport DONT use it

Thursday, May 22, 2008

100/200/400m intervals for soccer players

If you are doing programs with these distances in a straight line - I want you to think again or if you want to make me thing again because I cant see the relevance in respect to team sports at anytime of the season. We have to become specific in our training and not think traditional endurance training. remember we are not training triathletes of distance runners.

Pre Season

Pre Season training sends a shiver down most players training. Players seem to believe that all physiological conditioning work is finished once the season begins. I believe that this is a mistake as I dont believe in a mAitanance stage over the course of an entire season. We need to look at the overall structure of our plans and take a big picture view and be flexible in what we do. Too often I see the overall fitness levels drop throughout a season and this is because of the training plan. Fitness levels can be increased but must be juggled beteen recovery and performance etc. There may be phases in the season where there are many games in a small amount of time for example I have a team that has 5 games in 10 days so during this time recovery is important. Dont get caught in the Pre Season trap of getting players ready for round 1 and thinking your job is done. The difficulties of the job have not even started.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Planning and busy playing schedules

There is no doubt that modern sport provided us with a balancing act between recovery and our players performing at their peak. Inseason is the most difficult time for the athletic development specialist and this is where you really earn your pay check. The preseason block is often misunderstood and non specific but most teams will come into the season with a reasonable level of fitness but if a team is well planned this level can increase throughout the season. I dont believe in the maitennace period of traditional periodisation models which normally coincide with "the Season". I believe that with careful monitioring and adjustments of volume/intensity and variety players can have periods of advancements and periods of maitenance during the season. I love this part as it is about setting yourself apart from the rest. We have just completed the first round (11 games) after a successful pre season tournament which we won (6 games) and now have a maximum of 14 games (main competition)) and 4 games (mid week Cup) to go. We have been by far the best conditioned side so far but the question remains have we peaked/are we tired/is our conditoning level decreasing. I monitor how the players are through feedback forms/video analysis/GPS analysis and general observation and my feeling is that mush of the fatigue players feel is mental. It is a juggling act but if you work on 4 week blocks you will be close to the truth. Too often if you plan too far ahead you will miss out on too much information

Sunday, May 4, 2008

warm ups and cooldowns

sydney olympic FC had a great win today but my thoughts today are on match day warm ups and cool downs. I always like to watch other teams prepare as often we are on the same warm up pitch. I am always amazed at the poor warm up procedures of most teams that we play against. Today was one of those days where their players came out 45 minutes prior to kick off and proceeded to do a jog warm up and lots of static stretching followed by some drills that were more appluicable to skills training than a warm up and followed with more static stretching. They than proceeded to go to the changeroom 22 minutes prior to kick off. Why do I take notice? I see it as one of my jobs to inform the head coach about this as it is obvious from a wrm up like this they cant be ready to perform at a high level. Today we didnt score early even though we had great chances but it was obvious they were not ready. Also the cool down s the first stage of the next training session and if we do not do thi well than players will not be at their best for the next session. Again I am interested to see most teams go through the motions but it is vital that we do it properly.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Listening to players

I think it is very important in Athletic Development that we listen and reflect on our sesions, our week and our monthly programs. I am very set in my ideas and most of the time through testing I know that my program is working but I think it is imperative that we dont become a Dictator and forget that we are dealing with humans and not robots. I have reguler chts with our teams leadership group to ensure the work I am doing is understood and effective. Recently I had programed a very difficult 3 week block and as you can imagine by the 3rd week my popularity had decreased - I knew this would happen and was not going to deviae from the bigger picture but still I listened and gave further explanation to where we were going with this. Respecting players is one of the most important aspects of athletic development and knowing when to be hard and when to lighten up is a skill that you will always get better at. Another great way to listen to players is through a weekly player monitoring survey just to ascertain the physiological and pychological state of your players.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Team Sports and the 20metre rule

I believe that the maximum distance a multi sprint sport athlete needs to run in one direction during conditioning training should be limited to 20metres. Think about it for a while and try it as I have tried to follow my 20metre rule for the majority of the training year. In the analysis of soccer we can see that it is rare a player runs more than 20etres in one direction so I ask why should we do anything differently in training. we want to move away from players cruising during the game and move towards attacking the space at pace. Interested in your thoughts

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Season so Far

Sorry for the 2 months off writing but I have been busy. Our team Sydney Olympic FC is now in the 7th round of the regula season and after winning the pre season cup we have had 3 wins, a draw and a first round loss and our round 6 game was postponed due to racial tension between our club which has a large Greek supporter base and another club which has a Macedonian supporter base (politics and sport - what can I say). We are going ok and our conditioning program has produced good results with the last testing results showing an averge beep test score of over 14.3 (predicted Vo2 > 60ml/kg/min) and signivficant reductions in body fat and also 20 metre sprint times. The players have all self reported never feeling as well conditioned and injuries have been low with little incidence of soft tissue injury. I am still predicting improvements as I am not acceptinng that the season has to be maitainance (I think this is a mistake) and I work on blocks of 4 weeks cycling 3 weeks of increasing intensity with a drop off week at week 4. My biggest concern with the players is that they do not play at their tempo but rather they do what they have to do. We are just finishing week 3 of a block of 4 and the players have complained about the intensity as they have been use to having the hard work completed by the season starting. However I am monitoring recovery etc and all looks well but I cant deny the physcological impact my program has and to be honest I have to be aware of the human side as the scientist in me just expects robotic behaviour which of cause is ridiculous. I would love for some of you to try my DS protocol which I believe is outstanding at increasing performance in multi sprint sport athletes.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Acceleration/deceleration Threshold

It is possible that the number of accelerations and decelerations a player performs in a multi sprint sport (soccer/netball/basketball/hockey etc) is the most potent predictor of athletic performance. There is a need to research this further and with GPS equipment it is possible. I advocate that an acceleration/deceleration threshold and training to increase this threshold maybe a very important advancement in training for team sports. It all makes sense to as straight line running in training involves only small if any acceleration/deceleration and this is why a player wont be fit or match fit as they maybe aerobically fit and their anaerobic threshold may improve but there is no training or the acceleration/deceleration threshold. I am interested in your views on this topic

Monday, February 11, 2008


How often do you read research and think "so what" or better stated when did you last see some really strong applied research? Too often the researcher (and I have been guilty of this) goes ahead a researchers what they want to know about rather than something that is worthwhile. I was speaking to an interntional soccer coach the other day and I asked what would you like to know from research. Sounds simple but it was interesting because I know someone is doing performance analysis with his team with GPS but he said much of the information is not relevant to him. So it struck me that if the research must be applied, we must speak to the people at the coal face and we must produce research that will make a difference.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Movement and Football

The first stage of training is to look at the movement patterns of the sport. There is much reearch on football and the movement involved but it is often good o video your own players as often you may not like what you see. In this video I have attempted to follow one player in most part to help him and identify areas for improvement. This player is a great athlete over 15 in the beep test and under 3s for 20m but sometimes this is not reflected on the field. In this video there is a failure t recover well from intense efforts and running style needs further work but at least the player can see what Im talking about and hopefully we can improve

Periodisation and football

At the club I am presently working at I am often asked when do we start to TAPER for the competition. It is an interesting question and demonstrates the misunderstanding of planning - for instance how do you taper for a competition that goes for 25 weeks - the answer is you cant. Sure we can taper for round one but where does that leave us for the following rounds and it is a gross misunderstanding that the work of the athletic development coach is finished by round 1. To me this is where the fun really starts as you bring players to a level and than you monitor and adjust to remain at and even improve this level throughout the season. The team I work with now is far fitter than any oher team at this point (pre eason comp) and I know some supporters think we may have peaked too soon but there is no Peak. The taper may be a week to week proposition and the concern is more psychological than physiological but I do believe many teams actualy decline in ftness from start of season to end and this is because the game is considered the fitness work and the emphasis shifts to tactics and technique. My argument is there is room for all but keep it high intensity remember the 36 hour rule and keep it interesting and players will even improve their conditioning throughout the year

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Natural Athletes

Is our western society decreasing the number of natural athletes through the regimented training strategies we use with children. I was recently in Fiji and was facinated by the local kids that would sneak into our resort to use the pool. The flips and dives over the vollyball net made my children and me stand and clap and I started to think I bet they have had no sessions with a personal trainer or gymnastic coach. We have much to learn from the idea of letting kids do their own thing without boundaries if we want to develop athleticism. sure enough the next day my kids were trying the same thing with some success until thier conservative Dad was worried about their safety. See even I have to let the athleticism develop

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Physio Addiction

Im just wondering if anyone else has problems with players who are addicted to the physio. In that I mean that the physio becomes God Like and that injuries seem to become greater and more time consuming than they really are. Im not sure if Im on the right track its just an observation that when a physio is present more players are injured. Im not against physio's as I think they do a great job but I also think they err on the side of conservation without movement to regularly. Im interested in your thoughts

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Psychology and athletic development

I have been very concerned recently by the concept of a player testing very well but not performing up to their testing results. For example the player who has a 65+ VO2 but fails to make recovery runs when the ball has been lost but this same player if they were doing a et of intervals would be leading the pack. I am interested if others have seen a similar problem with players still pacing themselves although they are conditioned to not have to worry about pacing. I have been very strong with this point recently trying to get players to trust how well prepared they are. I welcome feedback