Free the Kids – Let Them Play


I do not know Nick Willis, but he is a current athlete that I hold in high regard both for his accomplishments on the track, longevity and willingness to share his thoughts/lessons learned throughout his career. He posted this on Twitter yesterday, needless to say it really resonated with me:

“I trained 3 times a day from 7 to 17 years old. Just so happened that 99% of it was playing intense (and I mean intense) games of pick-up sports with school mates.” @nickwillis

In 1971/72 I had five ninth graders run under five minutes in the mile, with the best at 4:33. They trained five or six day a week maybe 28 miles for the highest mileage week. But most importantly they had daily physical education that was physical and educational and they played pick-up basketball or touch football at lunch. They were fit as a fiddle because they played, they rode their bikes, and they had paper routes. That year we also beat York High School in the Track & Field News National Postal two mile. York ninth graders were training six or seven days a week upwards of 75 miles a week.

Oh, for the good old days – when are we going to wake up and realize what we are doing to kids with early specialization and formal high intensity training. It is ruining kids, taking the joy out of it. Let them be kids and play. Champions and age group record holders at eight or nine years old don’t have a good track record in fact they most often disappear by age sixteen. Not too hard to figure this out.

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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