John Perry Interview


I forgot I had the following interview with John Perry from two years ago. John was with me at University of Michiganand gave us some really neat input into some exercises because hebrought a different set of eyes to swimming. He has a great eye formovement and a deep understanding of function. He has worked both as aphysical therapist and as a coach.

What are the essential requirements of a conditioning program?

Theactivities must fit the results you are trying to achieve. The “why”behind what is being done should come first when designing the program.This should be backed by scientific fact, theory, research andexperience (of the coach or others).

One workout must build on the next, i.e. workout # 3 is being done to prepare for activities or results in workout # 7.

Theremust be a rhyme and reason for all speed, strength and even flexibilitywork. This would include intensity, volume, rest and variation.

A program must include constant evaluation and re-evaluation of the athlete and team.

Flexibility in the program is a must. The program must be written in a way to allow for modification when needed.

What have been your biggest mistakes?

No “why” behind what is being done.

No plan of action from one workout to the next.

No “end in mind”…i.e no progression to the routines.

No consideration of volume, intensity, work load and rest as variables when designing a program.

What is functional training?

Training the body as a linked system. Also, training movements vs. individual muscles.

Actually,all movement is functional, otherwise we would not move (like when wesleep to recuperate). Should maybe be called purposeful training ordirected training or goal-specific training…O.k. I’m done.

How do I make more things more functional?

Evaluatethe task and/or goal the athlete is trying to achieve or improve upon.Direct my training based on the biomechanics required for the task,event etc.

Thismay mean part to whole or whole to part training…it will depend on mycontinued assessment of the athlete and their activity. It will also depend on their performance in the activity.

What is specificity?

To me, it is anytime you are doing a directed activity to achieve a specific result. “I am doing x because I want a y result. It is also going back to putting the “why” into your design. Basically, it is the reason behind your training.

With the plethora of information how do you know what is best?

I base it on science and research. Any form of training has to have as its foundation some scientific fact or research.

Honestly,I can tell by the way the article is written whether or not it is worthmy time. The flow, the examples, the case studies all demonstratewhether an article is worth reading . Ultimately, it is the scienceand/or research behind it that gets my attention.

What about nature vs. nurture?

I have yet to find an athlete, male or female, that I could not find something to improve upon.

EvenMichael Jordan had problems with patellar tendonitis, Shaq and his bigtoe. (Both biomechanical problem in my opinion…without having looked atthem, of course). Whether its posture, flexibility, weakness etc.something can be found to make an athlete more efficient and thereforeimprove his or her performance.

In some cases a small tweak can make a huge difference…like a compounding effect.

Some changes result in pain decreases, some are improvements in movement or efficiency…all can result in improved performance.

I believe there is a big mental component to performance as well. This should also be part of the training regimen.

Different with females conditioning?

Nothing. I will expect their times and loads (on average) to be different. Overall, their program designs look the same as the men’s.

Ido have to emphasize more hip strength/awareness to prevent excessiveknee adduction on my female athletes. Trunk strength is another area Iemphasize with women.

But, other than some biomechanical considerations the routines vary little.

Biggest innovation? Future innovation?

Thebiggest innovation I have seen is the way we look at anatomy,physiology and kinesiology. Looking at movement from a loading toexploding perspective. Training from the standpoint of trainingsynergies vs. individual muscles. Yes, this is not a new concept, butit has been emphasized more in the “functional” movement trend lately.

Thebiggest room for innovation may be in the mental aspect of training.Motivation, visualization, goal setting etc. are huge components oftraining, often left to sports psychologists and head team coaches.

Personally,I incorporate motivation into each workout in some way. In fact, duringthe last training day of each week I allot time for reflection of thepast week, future goal setting, questions and comments.

Future strategies for the “mental game” would be a nice adjunct to any training program, at any level.

The biggest issue

Usingyour time wisely or getting the biggest bang for your buck. There isonly so much time to train with so many athletes competing on a regular(and too often) basis.

Athletestoday play a sport year round. They often play in more competitionsaway from school, in special leagues, than they do for their own school.

Moretraining and less competition should be the norm. So, fitting intraining and the right amount is challenging. Training either has to bevery directed to work on a specific issue or very encompassing due tolow frequency of training sessions.

Also,as mentioned above, I think the mental aspect of training need s to beaddressed more. With school, jobs, competitions and just trying tofigure out life, athletes need to work on focus, time management andmotivation.

Professional challenges?

Asa Physical therapist my biggest challenge has been dealing withinsurance companies. It basically drove me out of the private practicesetting. However, this turned out to be one of the best things thatever happened to me, career wise.

Dealingwith coaches at the college level would be another issue. Sometimes itis a great learning experience. I have learned a lot about the art ofcommunication and persuasion through these experiences.

Likes/dislikes about coaching

Ienjoy teaching. As the saying goes; “If I train you I can help youtoday. If I teach you I can help you for a lifetime.” Educating myclients is the best part of the job…keeps me on my toes too.

Thisgoes for athletes, coaches and parents. Listening to the needs of thesesame clients is also important. A mentor of mine always reminded me;“seek first to understand, then to be understood.” You can learn a lotif you just listen.

Thereare aspects of dealing with these clients I do not like. It usuallyinvolves a parent or coach affecting the training by some ill-adviseddecision they make. The athlete suffers and I have to put out a fire.

Fork in the road?

Iwas faced with continuing to deal with insurance companies or to losesome security and go out on my own. I ran a performance enhancementcenter involving physical therapy and performance enhancement training.

Between insurance companies and dealing with employee relations, I decided to move out on my own. I have never looked back.

Who has inspired you to get into coaching?

Mydad, uncle and other family members were all coaches. I began coachingwhen I started working with local high school teams for injuryprevention.

Is failure ever valuable?

Ithink Knowledge is valuable. This is where teaching comes in. The moreknowledge you have the less mistakes will be made. Mistakes or failuresoccur, the fewer the better, however. I think everyone can get tosuccess faster by making fewer mistakes along the way.

Learningfrom your mistakes is very important. In fact, I would rather call themlearning experiences. Personally, I would rather learn the right way todo something…perfect practice makes perfect. Confidence will thenimprove and success is achieved.

Ithink that if athletes, coaches and parents are educated and taughtcorrectly then failure will not occur as often. Watching a kid fail bydoing something incorrectly and then just telling them what they aredoing wrong should not even be called coaching. Coaches should instructor tweak the athlete, consciously or subconsciously, into the rightmovement or correct performance of the task.

Lettingan athlete fail to teach them a “lesson” is a waste of their time andmine. I feel there are very few exceptions to this. Now, you can letthem perform an activity and coach, tweak or modify their movement asthey go. Give them feedback as they get closer and closer to thedesired result.

I don’t even like to term failure.

As far as the term failure when talking about strength training:

Itell my athletes to go to fatigue, or “go until you cannot get anotherrep with correct form.” I will do this with body weight exercisesoccasionally.

Changes encouraged and which resisted?

Ithink it is good that we are looking for more and more ways to getinformation out to other coaches and professionals. Seminars,workshops, videos, CD’s and the internet are some off the vehiclesbeing used. I feel this can only improve what we do and benefit thosewe work with. This is ultimately why we do what we do, right? We aretrying to enhance the lives of those we train and educate?

However,I feel not every Tom, Dick or Harry with a “certification” needs amicrophone. I realize everyone has a right to their opinion and rightto make a living. But, the title of expert or “guru” should bejustified and earned before they are tagged as such.

Weedingthrough the myriad of today’s trash to get to the treasure is part of aprofessional’s repertoire…or at least it should be. It helps to be agood detective if you want to be a good coach these days.

Discuss entry

Vern Gambetta

Vern Gambetta

Director at Gambetta Sports Training Systems
Vern is the Director of Gambetta Sports Training Systems. He has been the a conditioning coach for several MLS teams as well as the conditioning consultant to the US Men's World Cup Soccer team. Vern is the former Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets. He has lectured and conducted clinics in Canada, Japan, Australia and Europe and has authored six books and over one hundred articles related to coaching and sport performance in a variety of sports. He has a BA in teaching with a coaching minor and an MA in Education with an emphasis in physical education from Stanford University.
Vern Gambetta


Athletic Development Coach & Consultant. Founder of GAIN Network. Proud dad. Love to read everything.
RT @GreatestQuotes: Your aspirations are your possibilities. - Samuel Johnson - 4 years ago
Vern Gambetta

Latest posts by Vern Gambetta (see all)