CF vs Pfaff - CF wins hands down

I recently had the opportunity to attend the High Performance Symposium in Edmonton Alberta put on by Athletics Canada. The speakers included Dan Pfaff, Assistant Coach, University of Florida; Dr. Anatoly Bondarchuk, Assistant Coach, Kamloops Track & Field Club; and Dr. Michael Leahy, founder of ART.

I have also been to CF’s last seminar in BC, and now am going to compare my experience and understanding of both symposiums.

I remember leaving each day after CF’s sesions with more information than I could possibly comprehend, and with more questions and doubt about a number of ideas I had about training.

I had no such concerns after leaving the 3 hour session with Coach Dan Pfaff. The only thing that kept going through my mind is why did I spend $495.00 on this conference? All he kept refering to was the number of athletes he had blown up over the years, and the importance of difusing training ‘bombs’ before they ‘blow up athletes?’ I guess, I’m not fluid in track terminology!

I think my expectation was to have another system (Coach Pfaff’s) to compare things to(CF’s Training System), to see the validity and vulnerability of some of CF’s concepts of trainig. Which at times can seen to err on the side of causion vs push the envelope. I am now crystal clear on the motto do no harm, and protect your athletes at all costs. I could not believe some of the stories and the way in which the seminar unfolded. I was expecting substance and all we heard was fluff.

I wanted to hear Coach Pfaff describe his technical model of running or discuss his multi-lateral approach to developing training protocols for power speed athletes. Special consideration was to be paid to the integration of various forms of strength work including starting strength, special strength, absolute strength, movements involving three degrees of freedom and the use of power indices. All I kept hearing about was bombs and terminology, no details.

So, I thought when we continued with the second part of the symposium with Dr. Michael Leahy it would get better, more detail to the overview we just recieved. And I was wrong. Much of the detail from gait analysys to breakdown were only discussed with ART practitioners in the second afternoon sessions which were closed to coaches. They did open one session to the coaches on the last day but did not tell us until the day before so many of us coaches could not make arangements in time.

When comparing the two coaches it is easy to see and appretiate how intuitive, confident, and knowlegeble CF is in his ablity to communicate his ideas. Coach Pfaff made me feel uneasy in considering any of his ideas because of his apparent lack of certainty (confidence is probably a better word) with his training methods. Athletes trust us with the limited time they have and their health and well being, and I feel confident and secure using CF’s Training System with my athlete.

I don’t know how many people have ever watched House MD, but I swear if CF was a doctor? The way he forces people to think and challenges us to lean for our selves, to make tough decissions and have confidence in making them, and most importantly to be accoutable and live with the consequences.

Maybe if I had gone to Coach Pfaff’s session first, before attending CF’s, I would have thought it amazing and thought provoking, but I did not. I did howerver, have that feeling you have right before you write a big exam, you now the one were you can not lie to your self any longer and you open the first page and you realize whether you know the material or not? I felt I knew most of the answers, and it made me feel more confident about my coaching and the CF Training System.

The highlight of the hole week for me, was Dr. Anatoly Bondarchuk, Assistant Coach, Kamloops Track & Field Club. His three-hour session coverd the development of “Sporting Form.” This term refers to the top psychological and physical condition of the thrower in preparation for top performance. It included Mr. Bondarchuk’s system of classifying different exercises, and different athletes in the development of sport form as well as his unique periodization concepts.

He was a vibrant speaker, friendly, and fatherly(if that is such a word). He was a meat and potatoes guy (worked right into the details of his system) he was genuinely interested in the audience understanding his ideas, stopping to answer all questions. The only problem was the 3 hour length of the symposium which was not long enough. It was unfortunate that Dr. Anatoly Bondarchuk was not the center of the conference, I would have felt I received value for my money and time.

It is interesting how, in the evaluation of athletes, Dr. Bondarchuk catagorizes athletes in to three catagories as to how they respond to the effects of training. Two are very simular and can use most of the training models, and one group reacts much slower and certain modles do not work for them.

I thought this very simular to CF’s Short to Long / Long to Short identification of athletes. Very simple, effective and crutial to the development of athletes with different CNS abilities (types). intelligent, intuative people have the ability to break the complex down, see a path, and simplify.

Coach Dan Pfaff and Dr. Michael Leahy were friendly and answered questions, but I did not feel they shared much. I also felt that coach Pfaff abdicated too much of the development of the athlete to the supporting staff (ART, etc.). He kept talking about how the athlete needed to fit into a certain model(with little room for individual idiosycases or styles / he felt these flaws would usually lead to injury)Nothing to do with training methods?

Also what if your technical model is incorrect, and the things you are correcting, such as the natural counter rotation of the hips and shoulders, or positive hip displacement, limit performance improvement? You may become relient on other elements for performance improvement.

What happened to, ‘if it is not broke don’t fix it’? It came across, that with intervension(ART) here and there, is were athletes would find their performance improvements, not in the training it self? It also concerned me that the coach and athlete may become dependent on these protocals to produce PB’s.

I did not see a clear picture of cause and effect, just jump right in and fix away all your limiting factors?

Over all I would have to say I was not impressed with the event, however, I do think Dr. Anatoly Bondarchuk would be an excellent speaker and guest (given enough time explain his system), as would Dr. Michael Leahy discussing ways to identify problems.

This experience has has made me more apprecialtive to CF for his time (to organize his system), and his willingness to share it. I can’t wait until the next CF conference, I have a lot of questions!

Your critics mostly goes against Dan Pfaff’s talent as speaker and not interesting - for you - conference.
Regardless the quality of this Sympossum i’d like to say that Dan is one of the most open and helpful coach - along with Charlie - always keen to share his data and to answer questions.
Sorry that you were deceived by his conference, however any coach has a lot to learn from Dan.

I have not seen Dan Pfaff present in person, but I do have copies of lectures on video. I will say that I believe that Pfaff does get a bit too heavy on historical references, unnecessary theoretical ramblings and heavy training vernacular which I feel takes away from his presentation. If he would keep his presentations more to the point (i.e. what he does, why he does it, etc.), he may get better reviews in this regard.

Many coaches that I run into hold Pfaff in very high regard - almost cult status. They all copy his workouts (which he apparently hands out to people), perform his rudimentary warm-ups and circuits, and implement them without paying special attention to the individual needs of their athletes (hey, if Donovan Bailey does this, then so should my athlete). Inevitably what happens is athletes get injured - perhaps one of the bombs he was referring to.

Again, I have not met Pfaff in person, I’m only going on what I see and hear from other coaches, and what I’ve seen on video. And, let me make it clear, I’m not putting down Pfaff’s ability as a coach, I’m just saying that I understand why Nap left the presentation with a question mark.

Intersting article. Though, if his seminars are rambling about this and that without getting to the point, are also his training sessions geared the same way?
Anybody with previous knowledge with Dan as his coach or known somebody that was coached by Dan personaly?
Does Dan have his own web site??

I did state in my critique that all of the presenters were very friendly and willing to answer questions, that is not the point, I paid x-amount of dollars, read the outline of what was to be presented and left feeling I did not get value for my time or dollar.
I do understand that I could not expect a coach to present in a few sessions what has taken him a life time to put together, I did however expect a philosophy or system as to why he does what he does.
Individual programs are designed for individual athletes, and do not help me as a coach develop guidelines as to create programs for my own athletes, unless I know why!
I did not feel that way when I left CF’s conference. I was excited to get back home to see how I could improve my programs implimenting CF’s systems, and evaluate the training results.

My problem is with ART in particular. When the base of ART is to bill out per treatment lasting minutes I don’t find it to be of use in the US unless you have a guy that is giving you a break or sponsoring you with pro bono work. Most bill out at 60 bucks per treatment and the average treatment time her in Boston is 15 minutes. Most ART professionals are Chiros…

One thing about Pfaff he’s willing to share his ideals and training theories. The plus side is if he doesn’t agree w/ you he’ll find something positive about your thinking followed by his view. What I like about Pfaff is he’s very approachable and understanding, most elite coaches want $ for 5 minutes, unbelievable! Ask Pfaff he would probably tell you he lean by listening over the years, most people will succeed by listening.

Kenny Mac~~~~~

Well they have to bill that much so that they can keep taking recertification courses and pay more money to Leahy. I’ve talked to several therapists who said that they learned a few good techniques from ART courses (nothing special), but they must recertify every year if they want to say that they perform ART in any of their promotional materials (and be on Leahy’s website as one of his certified therapists). Needless to say, they weren’t thrilled.

I also heard of one soft-tissue therapist who did an article talking about her work (she’s not an ART therapist). The journal writer who interviewed her irresponsibly changed the copy to describe her work as “Active Release-like Therapy” - even though it wasn’t. When the article went out, Leahy’s cronies sent a call to this therapist claiming that she cannot say she is an ART therapist when she doesn’t have ART certification. They even threatened legal action. She basically told Leahy’s people to piss off because she never said she was an ART therapist, and that the writer had made the false assumption.

What a gong show! Needless to say, if any of you out there are named “Arthur” and you perform soft-tissue therapy, expect a knock on your door.

Clarification of my post,

I don’t wont for you guys to take my post wrong like you guys do 95% of the time, I am not saying Pfaff is better than Francis, I think it’s neat that CF is willing to open up a chat line for all coaches on all levels to express their views, I saw where someone ask about Pfaff and I jumped in on the conversation.

As far as the comparison I cant compare because I dont know Francis that well all I know is from his post and the videos, I have been about top sit and chat w/ Pfaff so that’s why I can lean toward Pfaff more than Francis.

Pfaff is approachable I don’t know about CF because I have never tried contacting him so I’ll be out of place trying compare those two guys.

But we all have to give Coach Francis some credit he’s willing to share his knowledge to the public via this wonderful site.

So I wasnt bashin Francis for you Francis Lovers

Kenny Mac~~~~~~
Cut & Paste MASTER

Is that the same as just ripping somebody off Kenny?


I don’t think this thread was started to compare one coach vs another. I think Nap was just unhappy that he paid the cash and got a sub-par presentation. I would be upset too.

Now I’m upset…

Thats ignorant (say like Michael Jackson).



after reading all the treads, i think i am more confused now than i was after reading just the 1st one. :confused:

my theory on this is…when comparing cf’s’ seminars to the rest there is simply no comparision.why…its solid info with no bs,it has all the back-up,ideas and feed back you’l ever need.and from what i hear,you will always learn something new…

the comparision is like merc AMG(cf) to a toyota corolla(other c’s).when you drive the AMG you still have the expectation when driving other cars but in fact you will be let down badly by false expectations…

How do you determine whether you you are a short to long - long to short athlete? Whether you are a slow reactor or fast?


There’s a whole section of the second Vancouver DVD series that covers this exact point. It has less to do with reaction time and more to do with training background, weather conditions and training facilities.

Derek, where did you find the videos? I don’t know much about Pfaff’s methods.

Charlie goes over the suitability of long-to-short and short-to-long in his Vancouver seminar DVD’s.

In short, some of it depends on the tolerances of the athlete you are working with (high CNS stress tolerance vs. low CNS tolerance). But it also depends on your training environment (cold weather vs warm weather, access to indoor facilities, access to good grass fields, access to good physical therapy).

Thanks both of you! I was hoping to purchase both of the dvds with the Vermeil seminar so I can save on shipping (hey I’m a student:). Any ideas when this might be available?

Going back to the original topic…

Having spoken with both Charlie and Dan Pfaff, I will agree that Charlie is a better “speaker” and provides more evidence to back his beliefs.

After speaking to Dan and also an athlete that trained under Dan (Glenn Smith) at length, I got the idea that Dan & Charlie’s training methods are very similar. The only major differences being

#1- Dan seems to load his guys with a higher volume of speed work (or work in general). I think his tempo work is done at a faster pace than Charlie recommends. They will do speed runs even if they are somewhat fatigued where Charlie tends to like the athletes to be more “fresh” when working speed.

#2- Dan has a battery of tests (30m fly, standing long jump, standing triple jump, standing 5 jump, throws…) that he uses every few weeks to evaluate progress. He bases alot of his race performance predictions on these test results. Charlie doesn’t seem to get into alot of the testing stuff (races are the test).

I got the impresion that a lot of the other concepts are the same between both coaches.
This is just my impression, feel free to correct me or if you need me to elaborate.