AS THE round-robin Munster and Leinster format comes to a conclusion this week, it will be an end to the seemingly continual discussion of fatigue and underperformance issues related to the new structures this year.
Players welfare should be to the forefront no doubt but in the last few weeks, it seems many have become experts in fitness and fatigue and it’s the first reason and sometimes the only reason to explain good starts, poor finishes and the subsequent winning or losing of games.
I for one would be in favour of this new championship structure if only for minor tweaking to ensure all teams were playing the same weekend. Tailored training and recovery programs plus the right mental attitude can ensure players can potential to perform on a consecutive basis.
Championship games do bring a greater psychological load but many Gaelic football teams have dealt positively with the weekly qualifier structure for a number of years and showed its possible.
The GAA club scene is in complete contrast as there could be minimum three-four month break, before the next round of games for some players.
Rather than argue over the merits of such an extended break, do teams instead accept this structure and identify it as a window of opportunity? It’s wise to provide players with some break from training after the first round games as peak performance won’t be demanded again for a number of weeks.
Some players may go on holidays, students catch up on study commitments while multiple-sports athletes may finish off their rugby or soccer seasons.
On returning to the pitch after a short break at times it can be a challenge to motivate players as there is no game or target on the horizon. This can affect management also. The danger is there can be an acceptance of this scenario and standards drop everywhere.
Attendance is sloppy, training intensity is sporadic, and results naturally then can be inconsistent. It doesn’t take long then for the confidence from the first round to disappear to be replaced by panic or frustration. The solution can sometimes be a drastic increase in training and subsequent increase in injuries.
Instead, the mindset behind this break could be totally different. For one, you have a scenario where you can train on a decent pitch in good light for an extended period.
In early 2018 many teams have prepared in mucky training pitches with poor light or in astro-turfs, which are caught for space. This leads to isolated physical preparation and non-decision-making drills. Both effective in the right context but if overused can limit the potential or development of the team.
This is no fault of the coach or physical trainer as they are dealing with inadequate facilities early in the season. Regular bouts of stormy weather this year, added further challenges to this scenario.
A team and management review would be ideal where team strengths and weakness are identified. High performance is an endless pursuit and there are so many areas for tweaking and improvement.
The review can guide and fuel the next block of training. Coaches who are concerned about freshness and fatigue been an issue later in the season can drop one collective session per week or get players living away from home to complete an individual session themselves. If players have been training hard over a consistent period, you would be surprised how less it takes to maintain fitness over a number of weeks.
It can be a period where coaches can refine and develop their methods. When a championship game is on the horizon coaches can fall guilty of overcoaching their players and sticking to a particular game or training plan. The summer months can be an opportunity to try something different. Can the coach take a step back and let the players work out the solution themselves or use conditioned games to guide them to a particular solution?
This can challenge the coach in deciding the outcome for the session and then planning the appropriate session to meet this outcome. What games will be used to provide the correct challenge? How can rules, numbers, dimensions be tweaked depending on the progression of the group?
A good coach observes what is happening in front of them and interjects selectively. Certain questions or approach can be agreed on beforehand, which can aid this approach. Planning is the integral component here.
Individually players alike can use the break in club championship wisely. A player should use the break to improve a certain part of his game or physical capacity. This might include free taking, striking of the weak side or improving strength, mobility, and running mechanics with the goal of reducing injury risk and maximizing speed or endurance.
David Pocock, Australia’s rugby’s dynamic number seven mentioned last week that the foundation of his impressive individual display versus Ireland was knowing that he had prepared well.
Time will tell which club teams are now preparing well as for now the light shines on the intercounty competitions.