Maybe it’s the time for of the year and the inevitable build up of games in Gaelic Games but I have got numerous questions on Warm Ups and in particular about slow starts in last 3 weeks.
Firstly, it’s highly unlikely the warm up has a huge effect on slow starts. It may have a little, but I would believe based on experience that it’s one or more of these things;
🔴 Too much high intensity sub max running throughout the season or conditioning being too “lactate” as I refer to it. Running fast (but not sprinting) without enough recovery is an example of this. Too many tackling grids without sufficient recovery would be another example
🔴 Even in well prepared teams and highly cooperative dual clubs the sheer volume of games in 2 sports reduces freshness. Success and momentum can mask this sometimes and when the mind is right (see below for opposite), but usually it’s highly detrimental to being successful at both hurling and football
🔴The team is not psychologically ready and/or fatigued from over training or a run of games. Training has an energy cost. Repeated high intensity fatiguing training has both a physiological and psychological cost. Continue it months on end and your team will suffer. Players need to be hungry.
🔴 Long training sessions within 10 days of games. Playing week to week is unavoidable of course a lot of the time, however 70-80-90 min training sessions the week of games are still quite common. Remember meetings are training. If you have a lot of tactics to go thru or a significant group meeting needs to take place then something has to go. Also if the message is important (which it often is) then do it before training and reduce time of training significantly and keep it intense and sharp.
🔴 Ignoring strength training. Strength can start to reduce after as little as 5 days. Seeing as our strength is what underpins our ability to produce force then not allowing strength training dissipate before games is critical. A micro dose approach works well here. Just 2-4 lifts for 2-3 sets within 4 days of game should be enough to maintain strength. Strength Training helps us keep our nervous system primed. Of course too much (just like too much tackling/sprinting etc) can be a negative also, so thread carefully.
Many over trained teams start slow. Very often this leads to falling behind or poor execution of skills. However these teams will often have a lot in the tank once fully up and going. In my experience this can take as long as 45 minutes in to a game. They then finish life a train and either steal a game or are gallant losers. Words and terms like “never give up”, “warriors” “they were fit in fairness” often get thrown around. However the reality is that they are very often very poorly prepared. You can see this often even at the highest levels of Gaelic Games. And you can actually track this pattern with individual managers where all their teams play like this.
Where the warm up may possibly be an issue is if it is not specific enough, has too many non competitive drills, involves a lot of static stretching, lacks a decision making element or is too long. However a perfect warm up is useless if the players are tired and uninterested (not intentionally so often). One of the main reasons for a warm up is to “switch on” physically and mentally. It becomes almost impossible to do that if already fatigued. It astonishes me how much time is put into warm ups (as important as they are) and how much they are blamed without ever looking at the overall picture.
There is a lot of talk recently about pressure on young players and demands of the modern game. Most of it is actually rubbish. Athletes in other sports or in teams like Dublin Footballers have any problem with it. Soccer teams like Cork City and Dundalk produce high level performances week on week. You can be sure they are not being flogged mid week. Having been part of quite a few teams where management sabotaged a season it’s is highly frustrating both as a player and a professional when I see this happening.
What are the options to avoid this cumulative fatigue?
Deloading is a common term used in S&C Circles. It is a term used to describe a period of time where after a layered increase in with volume or intensity of training (or both) a large decrease in training takes place at an often pre-determined time. Flexible and well equipped management teams can probably do this on the fly if they have methods of analyzing the players fatigue and performance levels. However a standard approach would be something like 3 weeks increasing load/intensity, one week where you drop to 30-60% load but maintain intensity. This period of deloading allows for an adaptation from the previous 3 weeks of training to occur. Very often in the following 7-10 days after a deload a team will perform to a very high level or even a level not reached before in either that season or ever.
However if this reduced approach is not taken then the training will eventually catch up and burn out the athletes and much of the subsequent training is rendered useless. What essentially happens is the players get good at playing moderately or executing moderately for a long period of time. Whereas what we want is they perform at a high level for suitable bursts of time within the game they play. Be able to output huge energy into plays from the get-go but recovery quickly. That’s really what Conditioning for field sport is about.
Tapering is fairly straight forward, taper down your training especially around volume when preparing for a big game. You do not have to withdraw intensity, but reducing load well should bring freshness and enhanced athleticism to the game if down well. Anywhere between a 7 and 21 day taper is suitable depending on sport, training history and age. Generally if possibly I like a 10 day reduction for field sports like Gaelic Games. Reducing training from 80 mins to 65 mins to 45 mins to 30 mins is what many tapers will look like. What coaches need the remember (and I was guilty of this in the past myself) is that they is very little you can change athletically or tactically within 10 days of a game. So what you are best concentrating on is freshness and mental readiness and small bits of house keeping emphasizing game plan, set pieces etc.
To avoid this common over training/burnout that can derail huge amounts of time and effort communication needs to be open and free between player and management as well as between managements if for instance working within a dual club or indeed a representative player on multiple teams. I often ask any club managers I speak to have they ever heard from the County manager in relation to one of their players. Never have I been told that a county manager has contacted them. NEVER. To be honest this is not doing your job properly. The information that a club manager will have about players could be invaluable to a County manager. Not to mention it build relationships and if a player needs game time that communication can help bring the player in as needed and not flogged or over played by the club manager.
Within dual clubs in Gaelic Games this is even more vital. One of the most common issues I have seen is a team for instance loses a football championship match on Saturday but are back then training full whack on Monday or Tuesday as the hurling manager tries to catch up and fit in 2 weeks training into 1 session. I remember regularly being asked to come in Sunday morning after championship matches. Whichever sport it was (and it happened both ways) I hated it for at least a week.
What coaches need to realize is less is more in these few days. A 40 minute session on a Tuesday night will be of far more value to a team who probably had great disappointment the previous Saturday at being knocked out of football championship. The key thing is freshness. In amateur sport I do not believe there is too much between most club players and teams. The 3 C’s of Coaching, Confidence and Conditioning will separate most teams. It’s quite arguable that simply being fresh in such a hectic calendar is more valuable than working on game play or your “touch”. Communication between coaches and sharing loads of training and feed back will enhance everyone’s performance and also support a harmony within the club of county.
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