Reaching the Lost Generation of “Strength Coaches”


This post is the result of some very frustrating experiences over the past several weeks as well as my observation of the evolution of the strength and conditioning field in general over the past three decades. I am tired of hearing words and catch phrases like activate, glute firing, controlling the knee- don’t get past the toe, functional Movement Screen, movement prep, symmetry in body structure, stabilization and corrective exercise. All movement does not reduce to the double knee bend in clean technique, there is much more to assessing movement than administering the functional movement screen. Just making someone tired does not make them fit. The lost generation of S&C coaches have plenty of theory, are well versed in sports science, but they come up short on practice and coaching. The weight room is part of a much bigger picture. It is as if they have been brainwashed into a reductionist approach to training the body that looks at the body as a machine with replaceable parts. Nothing could be further from the truth. They have missed the forest for the trees.

I certainly do not mean this as a blanket indictment all S&C coaches, certainly there are many fine young coaches out there who have embraced learning, are looking to find a better way, but lack guidance and mentoring to help them. My generation grew up as coaches first who used strength training as another tool in the tool box of developing the complete athlete, not an end unto itself. Olympic lifting movements were a training method, not a religion. I think there is some amazing talent out there that is being wasted because they have been brainwashed. Stop sheep walking and following the party line, just coach movement! Intellectual incest produces madness. Focus on the big picture. Seize the moment become coaches and teachers, not weight room supervisors counting reps and chasing numbers, trying to fit everyone into a nice convenient box. Focus on athletic development, strength is part of that.

How should you do this? Declare a two week moratorium on reading anything about training on the internet including this blog. Get out and go for it! Look around; find someone with some grey in his or her hair with multiple degrees from the school of hard knocks. Pick their brain; learn from their successes and failures. This is a trail that was blazed well before anyone was designated a strength coach. Empower yourself, be a critical thinker. Forget the textbook and what everyone else is doing and think for yourself. Use a heavy dose of common sense; stop looking for dysfunction and train function. Just getting strong is not good enough, it must be strength you can use, and it must be put in the context of the sport. Read the classic literature of training. Find a mentor not a guru. Coach, make mistakes and learn from them. Forge your own path

Recognize that coaching is not a linear process, it is dynamic, challenging, there are not many answers, there are many questions. Take the challenge. Start with a clean slate. Remember training is about manipulating the three movement constants, the body, gravity and the ground in the context of the sport you are preparing the athlete for. There is a huge difference between training them and coaching them. Coaching is a process that understands that each individual is unique in many ways and similar in many ways. Coach both.

This is not about the good old days; this is a new era filled with endless opportunity for innovation and change. Take advantage of it. Create a future perspective that taps into the wisdom of the past. Orient your compass to true north. Anchor your knowledge in sound principles of pedagogy, expert practice and applied sport science. Hone your observation skills. Coach the movements, not the minutiae of movement. Don’t focus on the parts, connect and link the parts and enhance the coordination of those connections.

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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