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I have just returned from the GAIN Coaching Conference in Rice University, Houston, Texas. GAIN (Gambetta Athletic Improvement Network) is the brain child of Vern Gambetta who is considered to be the Founding Father of Functional Sports Training and a world leader in the area of Athletic Development. The GAIN Conference has just celebrated its tenth birthday with this year being titled “GAINX”. The Mission Statement of GAIN is to;

“Provide a global platform for education, innovation and motivation in athletic development with a focus on the possibilities for enhancing human movement through an emphasis on connections between all disciplines to enable adaptable athletes to perform at their optimum”

The “GAIN Faculty Members” are leaders in their respective fields who are in the trenches working in the field of athletic development, human performance and coaching. Each year, through a process of application and selection, Gambetta chooses a limited number of professionals who are eager to learn and willing to share ideas and information and welcomes them to spend the week with both himself and his Facility Members. The days are long (14 hours) and packed with exercise practicals, presentations, group discussion, information sharing and debate. The participants; eat, sleep and drink athletic development and coaching for 5 days. It is not an exaggeration to say you are surrounded by the best in the world. My roommate for the week is currently a Strength and Conditioning Coach with the US Olympic Council and serves on the Editor Review Panel for “NSCA Coach”. It truly is a unique experience.

What follows below are an exemplar number of quotes, insights and “thought provokers” I feel may be appropriate for my blog and its readers. Indeed I may decide to write a second (third/ fourth/ fifth etc.) blog with left over content. Much of the information shared, and extent of the discourse, throughout the conference is beyond the scope of what I am trying to achieve with this particular blog and so I have carefully handpicked a small amount of appropriate material from a limited number of the Faculty Members. The Optimal Effective Dose! (Hopefully!) I have included a short bibliography of each Faculty Member to give you context and background.

The underlined and italic pieces and quotes are taken directly from the conference discussion and content and the material in bold letters are my own insights and reasoning for believing this is appropriate to your coaching.

1: Vern Gambetta – Founding Father of Functional Sports Training and world leader in the area of Athletic Development.

“The right question is intellectually superior to finding the right answers” Can we ask the children we coach for the solutions before we give them our answers? Can we organise and plan practices that will create problems for them to solve? Can we engage them through questioning and become, child or player centred coaches. Can we make our session “player centred” as opposed to “coach centred”.

“How can we get them to do it?”. As coaches we must meet the child where they are at and bring them to where we want them to be. Our job is to develop not judge. We must constantly ask ourselves the questions; How can I ….? What can I ….? While all the time understanding “Why am I…?” In coaching it is better to be a “problem solver” than a “know it all”.

“Part of Coaching is learning to manage your suffering”. Improvement in coaching comes at a price. This price is learning and self improvement and is done outside of the comfort zone. You must learn to be comfortable with the discomfort. Improvement takes time, discipline and effort. There will be set backs along the way. If it was simple the world would be full of brilliant coaches. You must be willing to suffer for your trade however take comfort in knowing that the better you get the better it gets.

“First comes Physical Competence- Then comes Specific Sports skills/ Techniques- These lead to Sports Performance”. As child coaches we must give the children the physical competency to the technical stuff and the technical competency to do the tactical stuff. We must understand, appreciate and honor this chronology.

“Proper progression prevents poor performance”. Knowing how to progress/ regress a skill is critical in order to meet the child where they are at and bring them to where they want to be. Never break confidence because competence isn’t there.

2: Joe Przytula – Supervisor of PE and Health at Elizabeth Public Schools NJ USA – Athletic Trainer

“Good Coaching results in independence- not dependence”. The ultimate goal in coaching is to make yourself progressively unnecessary- “The Silent Coach”

3: Bill Knowles – World-renowned expert in “Reconditioning”, who has worked with the world’s greatest athletes and sportspeople. International recognised Lecturer on his training methods of athletic development and injury prevention strategies.

“I restore physical literacy” Physical Literacy is the foundation stone of all players both; young and older, great and good.

Bill quoted the Malai saying- If you do not know what you do not know, then you won’t know- If you do know what you do not know then you will know.Awareness is the greatest agent of change. The power, potential and scope of coaching children in sport is out there for you to discover.

4: Greg Thompson – Physical Educator, Athletic Development Coach- Michigan Rush Northville

“They are not making a mistake they are beginners”.Such a useful lens through which to view the children you coach.

“Judge your coaching by the progress of your weakest athlete”. An excellent maker to evaluate your coaching effectiveness.

5: Professor Wade Gilbert – Coaching Scientist, Editor of International Sport Coaching Journal. Author of “Coaching Better Every Season”

“Systematic reflection is a critical separator in coaching effectiveness. Coaching 20 years without reflection is like coaching 1 year 20 times”. “Reflection” is the “R” in the “CARVER Method” which is the nucleus of my up and coming book.

“The Dual Representation Theory is the ability to see things for what they could be”.Again, another reference to my forthcoming book, the CARVER Method. The analogy of the Coach I use is comparing them to the Wood or Stone CARVER. The Coach works with the child to produce something great. The Carver doesn’t force. They make endless little improvements and adjustments. They have a “Vision” of what they want to create and they work consistently, purposefully, skillfully and patiently. There is little instant gratification. They help realise potential over time. They have short term focus while all the time having a long term “Vision” or a future focus.

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

Michelangelo- Italian Sculptor on his sculpture of David

Thanks for reading,

Viva le Revolution

Paul Kilgannon