Program Design Thoughts


Some comments by Joe P. got me thinking about the process of program design. It is definitely a process, a blend of art and science tempered with a heavy dose of practical experience. For me there is a constant desire to get it “right,” therefore there is always a lot of fine tuning. For example this next cycle with Venice girl’s volleyball is pivotal. They are playing very well. Explosiveness is good (Subjective evaluation) need to start the drive to the championship season. I have been preaching that we must keep putting money on the bank, build the reserves, because after this week the ratio of training to competition is heavily skewed toward competition. So this week must be a real work week, but the challenge is to train explosiveness in, not do too much that we train explosiveness out. Last Thursday they defeated a very tough team (In some ways a physically superior team) in five games. They dominated the last two games, which was good indicator of their match fitness and technical and tactical level. I felt that Friday’s workout was very important. It was a 30 minutes session designed to loosen them up and set the stage for this week. I felt that if we did not do anything on Friday then it would be hard to start the engines again on Monday. They responded with a very lively and perky session that accomplished the goal.
I always start out with the finished product in the forefront of my mind. It must be clear what we want to achieve at the end of the training program. I want to make sure that deficits are addressed. I want to make sure that threads of all components of training are always there, that nothing disappears or gets lost in the shuffle. I try to have a theme for each cycle and specific objectives for each session. I want the objectives to be measurable. I always try to incorporate variability without creating confusion. For example at this point in the season with volleyball, the variability will come from derivatives of exercise and drills rather than introducing an entirely new drill. I always am aware of context. I want to make sure the athlete is being sufficiently challenged so that there will be training adaptation. Rest and recovery are important both intra workout and inter workout. Unfortunately at the high school level intersession recovery is out of my control. I confer closely with the coach to understand the content of the technical and tactical work. This week for example I will be at each session so that I can make any adjustments necessary based on what I see during practice.
In regard to planning the actual session that is the key to the whole process. Warm-up tends to become pretty mundane so I work to cycle that according to the time of the season. It is very important because it is what transitions them from their daily activities to training and it sets the tempo for the session. Also it gives me feedback as to soreness or possible modifications I must make in the session. In setting up session I have a rule I call the 3 x 6 rule – three training tasks in six minutes. High intensity, quality reps. For the last activity of the session I follow the “Winckler Law.” Gary Winckler gave this idea years ago – make the last thing you do in a session have a training effect that that is similar to the way you want them to start the next session. Therefore I always end with some quick, fast and explosive work so that is what they remember for the next session, simple but effective. I hope these ideas stimulate you to think about how you design your training.

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.
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Vern Gambetta

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