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PETER NUGENT: Making use of the winter months

IT’S a 12 months a year thing. November has been synonymous with Ulster club Championship football for many years pre-pandemic. It’s a time of year when truly the most outstanding teams in their respective grades would be left standing.

Things have been slightly altered in recent years though. For instance in 2020 we had no Ulster club campaign at all and this year it will take up its later start date of December. The knock-on effect has been prolonged club campaigns for many players across Ireland with later start dates. Anyone still involved in playing championship football this week is at the business end of the competition and the buzz that accompanies that will no doubt make the cool, wet nights at training more bearable.

But what of those players whose journey didn’t reap the rewards that they sought culminating in an early exit? Back to the drawing board I hear you say. For these players the winter can be a period of reflection and can be seen as an opportunity to either rest up and enjoy some down time. Alternatively they can get down to business and address some shortcomings in their game. Increasingly it seems like the latter option is prevailing. Over the past few weeks, it has become apparent that many club sides whose involvement in the 2021 season may have come to an earlier end than hoped, but it hasn’t deterred them from getting ahead on their aspirations for 2022.

They are looking to group Gym conditioning sessions, body composition screening, running groups and nutrition plans. They are doing the extra bit a full 11 months ahead of the next season’s county final. When you look at it like that it’s hard not to concur that the club game is morphing more and more into an extremely professional animal. What we as coaches need to quickly decipher is that a one-size fits-all approach won’t work. Here are some things to consider with your group this winter.

• Did soft tissue injuries repeatedly occur with some members of your team? Does it serve them best to have them on generic programs or would they be better served undertaking a corrective rehabilitation program over the winter months in turn ensuring the return in a more robust form.

• How many players within your squad would have a ‘High training age’? Do they require the same amount of volume that a new panelist may require? Can you manipulate your training loads and expectations on these players with a view to keeping them fresh for springtime?

• Improving how players move and increasing a player’s mobility through movement should not be overlooked. Can you swap out a collective running session for a collective Pilates or yoga session during this period?

• Younger players, especially those in their teens and early 20s may only be on the beginning of their S&C journey.

Is there a qualified S&C coach in your club to help develop and guide these players? If these young players are involved across multiple teams are their training loads being managed correctly? Is there communication between the coaches across these teams with the players best interests at heart?

• Does this period in the calendar have to mean high volume across the board or can some players benefit from focusing their energies on the basic skill executions that they may have faltered on? Perhaps it could be an opportunity to develop their mental capacity framework?

Just some ideas for coaches as they look ahead to the period between now and January, we really are at the point where those sitting on their hands even at this time of year will get left behind.

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