Growing the Athlete

with Vern Gambetta

Growing the athlete is an organic not a mechanistic process.

For years I have used the metaphor of building the athlete but over the past few years I have become increasingly uncomfortable with that metaphor.

Certainly building is part of the process, but I find that building evokes a mechanistic image of constructing, of replacing parts as opposed to the cultivation of synergistic relationships between training means and methods and the systems of the body.

Certainly the whole is much more than the sum of the parts as the athlete is nurtured and develops throughout their career. It takes time and timing of the appropriate stimuli for the level of the athlete’s stage of development. My father was a gardener and I remember the first time he took me to work with him, I was probably ten or eleven years old. As any youngster I was impatient and full of questions. I wanted to know why this patch of garden had no plants. Why we had to water this area and fertilize another section. Why we had to trim these plants and let others grow. I wanted to know why he didn’t plant all the seeds at the same time.

He explained it to me but I must admit that I did not fully understand it until years later after I had started coaching. The carrots had to planted at a certain time. The winter and summer squash were different. Some vegetables thrived in the cold of winter and others need the heat of summer. The same is true with the nurturing of the athlete. You must carefully cultivate the soil by developing physical competencies. Then you plant appropriate levels of training of the various physical capacities. You allow those capacities to grow and develop and then you carefully harvest them in competition.

Nowhere is anything forced, it is a long-term time consuming process that requires constant attention from the gardener/coach.


Vern Gambetta

Vern Gambetta

Vern is the founder of GAIN. He is widely regarded as the founding father of functional sports training and the author of several books including “Athletic Development.” He has been coaching for nearly 50 years, gathering experience across a range of sport including basketball, football (soccer), baseball, track and field, tennis, swimming and more.


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