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IFAC Reflections Part 2
January 22, 2019
A review of Jerome Simian’s workshops on physical preparation for sport. I had to choose between different “strands” of coaching topics at the IFAC conference in Loughborough. A difficult choice, not wanting to miss out on some excellent speakers. I chose to attend Simian’s because of a quote I heard on the HMMR podcast: “I […]

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Movement and People: GAIN 2016

Coach education at its best

coach development

Vern briefing the coaches

Movement and people” is how Andy Stone summed up his approach to coaching. That matches my philosophy too. Care about the people and teach them to move well; good things happen as a result.

At Vern Gambetta’s GAIN conference in Houston, Texas, there were many good coaches (as well as MDs, Phds, Athletic Trainers, Physiotherapists, Strength & Conditioning Coaches, Track & Field Coaches , physical education teachers and football coaches) all of whom had different approaches to helping the athletes with whom they work.

Some were data gurus, some were researchers and delved into papers, some were experience based, some were young (many were old), some were ex-athletes, all had their own strengths and bias. They came from Spain, Bulgaria, UK, Hungary, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and of course, the USA.

This meant that every problem or idea that was presented was seen through many different prisms, rather than a myopic view from one background. This led to many healthy, lively and sometimes uncomfortable discussions. But, no acrimony because this group of people left their egos at home!

World Class Presenters

Vern talking about department silos

Vern talking about department silos

This was my 5th time attending GAIN, and there are always some new excellent presenters sharing their ideas, together with previous presenters showing how their ideas have developed. Here are a selection (apologies if I have left you out).

  • Vern Gambetta: athletic development coach, founder of GAIN. Talked about “Winning the workout” and “creating change.”
  • Wade Gilbert: Researcher and editor of International Journal of Sports Coaching. “Building a culture of competitive excellence”. This included how to transform “moments of excellence into cultures of excellence“.
  • Steve Magness: Endurance running coach. Always excellent, presents information clearly, practically and is only interested in showing what works with real life athletes (but says what he has tried and failed at too)! Of all the data he has collected, the most important differential between his best and worst athletes was attendance.
  • Brian McCormick: Basketball coach, author and lecturer. Skill acquisition, dynamic systems theory and Long Term Athlete Development Models. Brian did a memorable practical session where he tried to teach me how to shoot! Very clear LTAD thoughts and ideas, right up there with Finn Gundersen and Paula Jardine.  (Video inset shows a discussion on LTAD for parents).
  • dean benton jim radcliffe

    Dean and Jim sharing ideas

    Jim Radcliffe: Strength Coach Orgeon Ducks, author of “High Powered Plyometrics“. 3 fantastic practical sessions on warm ups and advanced plyometrics. A regular at GAIN, this really helped me refine my coaching cues.

  • Bill Knowles: Athletic Trainer. Reconditioning and Return to Practice. Bill rehabilitates many professional players, but also works with the Philadelphia Union soccer team. His thoughts on reconditioning are cutting edge and he integrates athletic development, p.e and gymnastics into his rehab.
  • Dean Benton and Grant Duthie: Two Aussies who are strength coaches/lecturers/ performance coaches. Dean has been before and utilises work from GAIN and Australia. They talked about Tactical Periodisation and how they use it with the Melbourne Storm Rugby League team.
  • Ken Clark: Researcher, speed coach. A young, passionate guy talking about science of speed and then science of agility. Great mix of mechanics and then practical cues. “There is no substitute for going all out with intent.”
  • Randy Ballard: Athletic Trainer, Associate Athletics Director, University of Illinois. GAIN regular, talked about integrating different support staff and the human dynamics within that. Very insightful.
  • Ed Ryan: Previous Director of Medical services with US Olympic Association. Looked at Hot Topics in sports medicine, including Light Therapy and Stem Cell research.
  • Greg Thompson: Physical Education Teacher. Always good theory and practical on proper p.e. (not sports/referees) pedagogy and development. I use a lot of his ideas daily.

Practical ideas

Movement madness

Movement madness

Rather than just being a series of lectures, what I like about GAIN is the amount of practical work we do too. This transforms theory into practice, and shows us what and how to coach (the Why is in the lectures). The official day starts at 0630 on the track for an hour of “Movement Madness“, split into 2-3 stations. Most of the attendees get stuck into this with gusto.

There is another more observational practical session in the afternoon, where the coaches show work in the gym or in a hall. This included “velocity based training” with Nick Garcia and 2 good practicals from Joe Prytzula on core conditioning/ structural integrity.

However, the unofficial day starts at 0545 when my roommate Andy Stone and I hit the track and field to share ideas and practice our movements. This is probably the best part for me, as it allows us to explore and fail unobserved! An example is here:

Informal Knowledge Bombs

Nick Folker, Vern, Bill at breakfast

Nick Folker, Vern, Bill at breakfast

Another highlight is the amount of time that Vern has now cemented into the meal times, recognising that the interaction between all these excellent people occurs naturally when time is allowed. The food is always excellent, and 3 times a day we get to sit and share.

There is never a “faculty table“; everyone mixes together. The nuggets of information and discussions that come up are simply priceless and as the years go on, I learn as much from these as I do the formal sessions.

Over the next few weeks, I shall be posting some more in depth reflections and link from this page. In the mean time, I shall try my best to apply these new thoughts with the athletes at our club.

Thanks to Vern and everyone at GAIN for another great experience.


  1. Vicente says:

    Nice to meet you! I hope to meet you somewhere, sometime, to talk about coaching. Great experience GAIN IX 😉

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