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