Long Term Athlete Development


This is essentially a summary of my presentation last Friday at the NSCA Sport Specific Conference in Nashville. I think there is some food for thought here. In my opinion now we are selling our kids short, we need to rethink the whole process. I hope this will get people thinking and more importantly acting in their communities.

Problems & Concerns

  • Chronological age dominates training and competition from ages 11 to 16
  • “Critical Periods” are not recognized by coaches
  • Low training to competition ratio in early training ages
  • An adult competition schedule is imposed on children
  • Competitive calendar governed by tradition rather than growth and development and pedagogy
  • Adult training programs are imposed on children
  • Male programs are imposed on females
  • Very little sport science, sports medicine input in youth training programs

Costs & Results

  • Training at the beginning level focuses on winning rather than the process
  • Young developmental athletes over compete and under train
  • Fundamental motor skills are under emphasized and ultimately limit sport skill
  • Damage done at early developmental ages cannot be corrected


  • Re-institute mandatory daily Physical Education in the schools – NOW- Make it physical and educational
  • Stop trying to identify the athletically gifted and give them all the gift of athleticism
  • Give the games back to the kids- Minimize adult and parental involvement
  • More Play Days – Fewer Leagues and Tournaments
  • Put play back into play
  • Every kid will not win a scholarship or sign a pro contract – For every Freddy Adu & Lebron James there are thousands who are not playing anymore! Even if they make the professional level there is not a pot of gold there for everyone, the median income for all professional athletes in the US in 2004 was $48,000!

Final Thoughts

  • Participate in a variety of sports and activities
  • Do NOT try to ‘hurry up’ the developmental process
  • Do NOT specialize too early
  • Were good life skills taught?

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.
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Vern Gambetta

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