40 Years Later


I realized yesterday when I was reading about this years California State High School Track meet being held in Fresno county for the first time in 56 years, that it was 40 years ago today that I coached my first and only California state champion. I am not sure how much I coached him, I realize now looking back how little I knew about the shot put, it was more a matter of getting him to the meet on time. That young man was Sam Cunningham who went onto star in football as a running back at USC and with the Patriots. Sam was a great athlete, 6’3 and 220 pounds who could run 9.7 for 100 yards. Sam threw 649 to win that day. He was a tremendous competitor who won his last three meets by a sum total of 8 inches! He just knew how to win. I know now what an accomplishment this was. I realize after 40 years of coaching that many coaches never get to coach a state champ or an athlete the caliber of Sam. In many ways it was a blessing and a curse. It gave me an inflated sense of my knowledge and value as a coach. That was my first year coaching and I had so much to learn, but his win in some ways stifled my development because I thought I knew more than I actually did. Eventually I learned after being humbled a few times. I am so thankful to Sam for being the person he was and is, to one of my mentors Bill Crow (Another great coach most of you have never heard of) the Head Coach at Santa Barbara High School who turned his best athlete over to a rookie to coach. To Red Estes who gave me the foundations and principles in his theory of Track & Field class at Fresno Sate and who encouraged me to go into track coaching. I sincerely hope that you young coaches get to have the same experiences that I have had and get to meet some of the great people I have met along the way. It is funny how the perspective of time and experience has allowed to me enjoy this championship more now than I did at the time. I was too young to appreciate what Sam Cunningham had accomplished!

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

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