AT last there is some light for club players as the club pre-season is now in full flow across the province. All teams have now started training for the last few weeks with games set to throw in in a few weeks’ time in most counties.
It is this stage of the year coaches hate to hear the words “I’m not training tonight, I’m injured.”
It’s the curse of many a footballer and sometimes you maybe need to question your own methods and think to yourself is it the training they’re doing and have we pitched the volume too high, too soon?
The answer is that it probably has an impact. More than likely it is down to their recovery, but particularly their recovery from games in pre-season. A game can place huge demands on players, both mentally and physically, and it can take up to a full 72 hours to fully recover from.
This year above all years the word recovery takes on added importance. All these players will have been inactive from collective football training and all the game-specific movements that it entails. The large majority will be sore, stiff and probably not fully recovered by the time the next training session comes around.
I have always been a big believer in the simple philosophy that it’s not how hard you train but how well you recover. Those words couldn’t be truer in this current season. I have a strong feeling the team who manages their training loads the best and recovers the most effectively will be the team who will be competing at the business end of the season.
The initial Down club league fixtures were released this week. Its format is going to be a seven-game pre-season tournament called the Corn An Duin, which will give club players seven games before each league starts which will consist of nine league games and then a championship around end of August, September time.
It is absolutely brilliant that club players will probably now play the guts of 18-22 games between now and the end of September in our county and the fact that games in Down are on a Friday night is another excellent bonus for players as they then have the weekend to themselves.
In such a busy hectic run of games the word recovery becomes even more important. Players must be encouraged to take responsibility for their recovery and this starts immediately after a game by refuelling and hydrating properly. Alcohol in large volumes should probably be avoided straight after a player has exerted themselves at a high level, and particularly if that player has taken a knock. Instead water or sports drinks should be loaded up on.
Refuelling correctly within the first hour is so important. A low-fat, high-carbohydrate snack/meal is vital in replenishing the glycogen stores. Even something as simple as a banana in your kit bag for consumption straight away is a step in the right direction.
There are a number of effective recovery methods which coaches and players can use to aid their recovery; here are some of the most common:
1. A Structured Cool-Down
After training or games all players should be put through a structured cool-down lasting between 10 and 12 minutes, some light game specific activity along with some static stretching to promote blood flow and help restore normal range of movement.
2. Active Recovery Session
Taking individual responsibility or getting the squad together collectively the day after games or training and performing a recovery session is a very simple and convenient way of speeding up the recovery process.
It should be a low-intensity session with a key emphasis on static flexibility exercises to help return muscles to a pre exercise state. It can be performed on the pitch, hall or even in the swimming pool.
3. Compression Sportswear Garments
Compression garments come in the form of shorts, tights or even socks which are tight-fitting, and therefore designed to keep the muscles warm, prevent fatigue and strain and reduce the time taken for muscles to repair themselves.
4. Ice Baths/Cryotherapy Tanks
Ice baths, are they magic or myth? The debate will rage on but they are becoming more common place at all levels with some schools and underage teams even getting in on the act!
The benefits are that the cold water helps reduce swelling, promotes recovery and helps body return to its normal body temperature.