Training Must Be Sport Specific!


Sport specific training is not a myth, it is a must. Each sport has unique demands that must be addressed in training. Lest we forget training is not just preparing the athlete for the demands of competition but also for the demands of the actual practice of the sport, practice demands will often exceed game demands through the shear repetition of movements and skills.

Here is the step by step process for developing a comprehensive athletic development for your sport and athlete:

The Program Framework – The program, process and principles is based on scientific laws, functional movements, and practical experience, all designed to develop the complete athlete. The training program takes into account individual athletes’ needs, team and season goals as well as any other objectives that the coaching staff wishes to accomplish for that season or training year. It bears repeating that the development of the training program is a team effort involving input from the sport coaches, athletic development staff, sports medicine staff, and the athlete. The actual program development is a five-step process:

Step One – The Sport. Conditioning requirements and game demands vary dramatically from sport to sport. If speed and power are the dominant characteristics of the sport, then speed and power should be the dominant theme in the athletic development program. It is also necessary to take into consideration the position or event within the sport. For example, a quarterback has different requirements than an offensive lineman, even though they both play at the game at same time. The program must reflect those differing demands in terms of type of strength required, movement speed and direction, and specific fitness requirements.

Step Two – The Athlete. The program must take into account the different qualities that each athlete brings to the sport. Testing, routine evaluation and observation will provide critical information on speed, individual work capacity, basic strength, injury history, skill level and motivation.

Step Three – The System. A systematic approach will help all athletes achieve a higher level of performance. The system is multi-faceted and multi-disciplinary. The components of the system are:

    • Work Capacity – The ability to handle a workload and recover form that workload
    • Speed – This is the ability to perform a specific movement in the shortest period of time with efficiency. Perhaps the most important of all athletic qualities, this can be significantly improved with a systematic program.
    • Strength – Simply the ability to exert force, measurable strength
    • Power – The ability to express force in athletic movements
    • Agility, Balance, and Coordination – The ability to start, stop, change direction and control the body.

All these components are interrelated and can be developed systematically to allow optimum athletic development.

Step Four – The Plan. No system can be implemented without a thorough plan. The plan should be based on specific measurable goals and objectives in the context of a time frame to reach those objectives.  The plan takes into account the various blocks of the training year and distributes the work accordingly. The building blocks of the training plan are:

    • Introductory – A short period to orient and teach techniques as well as establish the routine of training
    • Foundational – The base period where the emphasis is on increasing work capacity
    • Specific Preparation – The application period where the base work is applied to the demands of the specific sport
    • Competition – To fine tune some components and begin to stabilize others
    • Peak Competition – A period to sharpen and “peak”
    • Transition – The “active rest” phase where fitness is maintained but the athlete is given a break

In addition, it is imperative there be a multi-year long-term development plan for athletes to increase athletic performance through the duration of their career.

Step Five – Testing and Evaluation. Testing is essentially a system of feedback, checks, and balances that allows the coaches and athletes to measure progress in the athletic development program. Testing establishes a baseline for beginning a training program and goal setting.

Ultimately, these factors are critical to the success of any training program:

  • Strong commitment from all parties to shift from the traditional paradigm of strength and conditioning to an athletic development approach
  • There must be a highly qualified staff committed to the mission and goals of the athletic development program
  • The staff must have strong commitment to continued learning
  • Continual willingness to innovate and continue to “think outside the box”

Disclaimer – I am not selling any training programs, just trying to educate and emphasize common sense

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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