Why a Decline in Athleticism


There are several factors that have caused a decline in overall athleticism as well as an alarming increase in injuries:Early Specialization in one sport and even to one position or event within a sport. The broader range of motor skill developed through free play and exposure to many varied motor programs in the developing athlete is lacking and it is a big limiting factor. The choice is to produce better athletes or produce highly specialized athletes with a skill ranges very specific to their sport. Ultimately the goal is to produce the best athletes who participate in various sports.

Biased One Sided Training with an emphasis on one or two components of performance rather than a blend. The components of performance, and therefore training are: Speed, strength, stamina, suppleness, skill and recovery. There is a synergistic relationship between all components therefore all components must be trained during all phases of the year in varying combinations appropriate for the developmental age of the athlete.

Monkey See- Monkey Do Syndrome. Just because an athlete or a team has been successful with a particular training method does not mean that the method is the best or should be copied by all. It is my experience that many athletes and teams are successful in spite of, not because of their training. Make sure that what you are doing is based on sound training principles and a good progression that fits your sport and athletic population.

“Nobody gets hurt, but nobody gets better.” Training that is so conservative or narrow that the athlete is never challenged will not produce results. When in fact, because they fail to challenge the athleticism of the athlete they might actually predispose the athlete to injury.

The simple fact is that before the advent of specialization, athletes at the high school level and even at the college level participated in several sports. It was not unusual to see a high school athlete play football basketball and baseball or run track. This was not so bad. The athlete may not have been as good early, but once they did chose to specialize they had a broader base of motor skills to draw upon to enhance their specific sport skill. Sometimes it is good to look back to gain perspective to move ahead. We cannot go backward, but we must look for ways to enhance athleticism that has been lost due to early specialization.

Understanding and training athleticism is a challenging process. It demands creativity and imagination. It is often contrary to conventional wisdom as represented in current mainstream sport science research that emphasizes specificity and measurable outcomes. Do not be limited by use conventional wisdom as a staring point and move forward while thinking and acting outside the box. You and your athletes will enjoy the day to day challenges of training more with the results a higher injury free performance level.
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.
RT @GreatestQuotes: Your aspirations are your possibilities. - Samuel Johnson - 4 years ago
Vern Gambetta

Latest posts by Vern Gambetta (see all)