Jan 29, 2015
Plan for the Big Picture

By Vern Gambetta

As you surely know by now I think the big picture is very important, so important that you should never lose sight of it. First to be able to think of the big picture, you need a plan. The more detailed the plan the better.
What is the big picture? It is an overview of the whole process and the objectives to be able to get to the big picture. What does it do? It lends perspective and context to what we are doing. It helps to keep us away from just doing stuff and train with a purpose. It is my experience and observation that the most successful coaches and systems of athlete development have a clear picture of what the end the product looks like and they never deviate from that picture, it guides everything they do.

Big picture thinking tends to be a broad focus not a fixation on trivial details. The opposite of big picture thinking is reductionist thinking that breaks everything down to its smallest component and focuses on trivial details. We have all been victimized by reductionist thinking that leads one down a one-way dead end street. It is focus on muscles rather movements and on small insignificant aspects of a movement. Obviously, big picture thinking is the opposite–it focuses on flow, linkage and rhythm. It allows the individual athlete to express him or herself and builds adaptable athletes who train with a mindful approach.

The actual implementation of any training program is the training session or workout, but for the session to be meaningful it must be part of the big picture. The key to this is to stress context. Also recognize that there are no magic workouts. For each workout there is an immediate, residual and cumulative training effect. The workout you do today is just a few pixels out of a huge picture. Workouts are only effective when they fit into the plan. Each small step must be in the direction of the ultimate goal.

Part of big picture thinking is recognition that the body is a wondrous organism that has an amazing ability to self organize and self correct. We stimulate this by giving the body increasingly difficult movement problems to solve. We must recognize each individual’s adaptive response. No two people react the same way to the same stimulus. I have found it helpful to think of the big picture as a giant jig saw puzzle with thousands of pieces. You cannot force pieces to fit and you must constantly reference the picture on the cover of the box to see patterns and shapes. Training is the same.

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If you are intrigued by the thoughts of veteran conditioning coach Vern Gambetta, you will want a copy of his exciting book, Following the Functional Path: Building and Rebuilding the Athlete.

Vern Gambetta, MA, is President of Gambetta Sports Training Systems in Sarasota, Fla. The former Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox, he has also worked extensively with basketball, soccer, and track and field athletes. He is a frequent contributor to Training & Conditioning. Vern also maintains his own blog.

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