Effective Program Design & Implementation


Program design is a process that is a blend of art and science tempered with a heavy dose of practical experience. I always want to get it “right,” therefore there is always a degree of fine-tuning both in designing the microcyles and the design and implementation of each training session. Ultimately it comes down to knowing the athlete’s you are working with, how they respond to training, what hey bring to the table.

I always start out with the finished product in mind. That must be clear to the athletes as well. I need to make sure that all deficiencies are addressed in a systematic manner. The threads of all components of training are always there; nothing disappears or gets lost in the shuffle. All components are trained during all phases of the training year; all that changes is the emphasis on the componenet. Each cycle has a general theme with specific objectives for each session. The objectives are measurable and I make sure the athletes know those objectives. After all, if I expect them to achieve the objectives they need to know what they are shooting for. I always try to incorporate variability without creating confusion. Variation must have a purpose. Often variability comes from derivatives of exercise and drills rather than introducing an entirely new drill or exercise. I am always aware of context, where the workout, drill or exercise fits in the bigger picture. The athlete must be sufficiently challenged so that there will be training adaptation. Rest and recovery both intra workout and inter workout must be planned. You must confer regularly with the sport coach to understand the content and extent of the technical and tactical work. Athletic development training must fit with the technical and tactical work, it cannot be imposed on top of it. If it does not you will add stress to stress and harm not help the athlete.

Planning the actual session is the key to the whole process. The training starts with warm-up. Warm-up can become mundane so I work to cycle the content of the warm-up so that it varies according to the time of the training year and the goal of the training session. That being said there are certain elements of warm-up that never vary. That is their anchor and serves to provide feedback to me regarding training readiness and the residual effects of the previous workouts. You must coach the warm-up! It is very important because it is the transition from their daily activities to training and it sets the tempo for the session. It is the time where you address fundamental movements that are the basis of the training to follow.

The composition of the actual session must follow a prescribed order based on the objectives of the workout. I try to build in tasks or epochs in the session that allow me to gauge the progress of each athlete, as a rule of thumb Training=Testing and Testing=Training. No workout stands alone and no component of the workout stands alone. All systems are involved and affected in varying degrees. For example the emphasis in a session may be on speed acceleration, but there is spillover from that which affects other qualities. Therefore it is important to pay close attention to the order of the training components and the sequence of exercises and drills designed to train that component. Make sure that all components are compatible. I work to design each session so that it demands concentration and focus from the athlete. I want rest to be active and I want them mindfully involved in all aspects of the workouts. If they are “resting” I want them observing and if possible coaching their teammates. We must never lose sight of the fact that we are training to compete so we must train accordingly.

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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