In 1985 I began my foray into professional sports with the Chicago White Sox and the Bulls as an assistant to Al Vermeil who had a contract to provide the conditioning for both teams. Once again the same old myths and misconceptions that I thought had been forgotten reared their ugly head. You would have thought that by 1985 with the success that athletes had enjoyed world wide with a comprehensive conditioning program that the coaches and athletes would have been embraced this training as an opportunity to improve their performance. I think since that there had been little emphasis on training in professional basketball and baseball the attitude on the part of the coaches was let them play, those who are talented will succeed and those who are not will fall by the wayside. Although in looking back on those years I think a big part of the problem was Vermiel’s over emphasis on trying to impose the Olympic lifts on both sports. It created even more resistance and in many ways the players and coaches were right, there was a better way.
About Vern Gambetta
In 1973-74 while attending graduate school at Stanford University I also had the opportunity to coach the jumpers and decathletes. This gave the opportunity to apply what I had learned with more mature male athletes. It was also the opportunity to work with Payton Jordan, the track coach at Stanford who was a pioneer in weight training. He had worked with a man named John Jesse who authored many books on strength training for sport. Jesse was way ahead of his time in the application of strength training to prevention and rehabilitation of injuries. Doctor Wesley Ruff, my adviser, encouraged me to do research in the area of strength and power training, which I found very helpful. This helped me to better understand the scientific reasons for the things that I was observing as a coach and experiencing as an athlete.
After graduating from Fresno State I went to University of California Santa Barbara for my teaching certification. While there I was fortunate to take a class from Sherman Button on Fundamental of Conditioning. He was way ahead of his time with the material and concepts that he presented.( I appreciate that even more as look back at what he taught us) It was a great class because of his comprehensive approach to conditioning built around weight training. The two textbooks for the class were especially helpful. Pat O’Shea’s book “Scientific Principles and Methods of Strength Training.” and “Foundations of Conditioning” by Falls, Walls and Logan. As a class assignment we had to design a yearlong comprehensive training program for our chosen sports. I put together a program for track and field that incorporated all components of training. It was an initial attempt at periodization, but most importantly it forced me to look at strength training in a new light. I was now a coach as well as an athlete. I was responsible for other people’s performance. I had to teach them skill and have them ready for competition, so I had to pay attention to the big picture. Strength was only one part of the equation, although a most important part.
I thought it would interesting to share with you a personal approach to the evolution of strength training as I have seen it using my experiences as an athlete and coach who has been involved in strength training for 50 years. When I began weight training in 1963, it was not commonly accepted as a method of training, in fact weight training was discouraged. There were concerns that you would become “muscle bound,” that it would slow you down, or it would interfere with you coordination. It was considered acceptable to do hard manual labor to develop muscle, but weight training was frowned upon. With all these thoughts in mind we had a guest speaker come to my high school to speak to all the athletes. The speaker was Lynn Hoyem, a backup center for the Dallas Cowboys, who spoke to us about the benefits of weight training. He had gained 50 pounds of lean mass through weight training. He gave us advice as to how to start a program, explained some of the basic physiology of muscle growth and strength gain. He offered tips on how to gain weight, as most of us were football players who were trying to gain weight. It was a very impressive presentation that was very different from we were being told at the time. I knew that if I were going to have any chance of playing college football, my sport of choice at the time, I would have to get stronger and bigger.
In 1992 I started teaching a seminar called Building and Rebuilding the Athlete. I taught the seminar on a regular basis from 1992 until 2005. It was a seminar/workshop that defined functional training and rehab and challenged conventional wisdom in those areas. The emphasis was on how all the components of training fit together to build a complete athlete who would be fully adaptable to the sport or activity they were training for. During that time virtually everyone who are now leaders in the field attended the seminar. I never videoed the seminar despite continued requests to do so. Fast-forward to Leeds in the UK this past November. I was invited by Brendan Chaplin, S&C coach at Leeds Metropolitan University to present the latest updated version of the Building and Rebuilding the Athlete seminar. It was a great audience and an outstanding venue. Brendan videoed the whole seminar and is offering it for sale.
This is a page-turner; I could not put it down. I absolutely devoured this book in one sitting. This is a trip down the memory lane of the true glory days of track and field. The stores, anecdotes and recollections that Larry Knuth has complied represents a look back at the golden years of Track & Field though the eyes of athletes’ coaches and fans. If you are a serous student of coaching this is a must read, If you are a track & field coach fan or coach this will be one your definitive historical texts.
By necessity the future is where coaches live. Sure we have to be in the moment just like our athletes but virtually everything we do in training is preparing for events in the near or distant future. Planning is a huge part of this future orientation. Planning is a way to bring the future into the present and be able to do something about it. It seems that the longer you coach, the more experiences you have the more proficient you get at producing future performances.
Watching the swim workout Saturday with the Sarasota Sharks reminded of how important it is to learn how to train. It also reminded what a big step this is in the development of the athlete. The group ranged from junior level world-class swimmers to fourteen year olds just finishing their fourth month with the senior group. The contrast in the workout was amazing to watch. Everyone did the workout.
What are you doing to get better? Are you the best at what you do? How do you know how good you are – How do you measure your performance? What do you do? Are you doing what you do because everyone else is doing it or are your forging your own path?
How can you call something a functional movement screen when most of the movements are in positions that are at low levels of function for any athletic body? We need to always keep in mind that we have three movement constants the body, the ground, and gravity. In movement assessment we want to see the effect of gravity on the body and how the body effectively uses the ground to be able to stabilize, produce, and reduce force. Screening using artificial movements in a sterile environment is of little or no value.