Michael Black provides some football training advice.
It is fair to say that sports science has undoubtedly had a massive impact on professional football over the past couple of decades. The sport has become much more technical than was once the case, both in terms of training techniques and how the game is played.
As Football Today and other football news sites have documented at length, improved soccer rules have given protection to flair players, helping to make elite level football more expressive and expansive. However, it is important to remember that football goes far beyond the professional ranks, with the pyramid stretching down to amateur leagues.
Players lower down the scale do not enjoy the same luxuries afforded to professionals in sports science. We take a closer look at some of the critical elements of elite football training that help improve amateur teams' fortunes.
Many amateur clubs overlook the importance of pre-season preparation, and this can cost them dearly when the competitive action gets underway. In addition to intensive training sessions, professional clubs will generally organise a series of friendly matches to bring their players up to speed.
While most amateur clubs are unlikely to embark on summer tours, fitting two or three warm-up matches into the schedule should certainly be feasible. Indoor summer leagues are another excellent way for amateur players to keep fit, although it is essential to consider rest and recovery, which we will cover later.
Professional footballers have it easy to keep fit, with their clubs able to provide them with all the tools they need to stay in tip-top shape. Amateur players are not so fortunate, emphasising resting with the individual to maintain their fitness.
Negotiating a discounted rate with a local gym is a sensible way to encourage players to improve their fitness and build team spirit. With one or two weekly training sessions also thrown into the mix, amateur-level teams can give themselves a massive advantage over their opponents.
Top-class players regularly work with sports psychologists who provide them with mental techniques to improve performance. While it is unrealistic to think that amateur teams have the resources to mirror this, there are several simple ways that coaches can help players improve their mindset.
Teaching players to focus on simple goals is a great place to start, helping to improve performance in achieve stages rather than setting unrealistic aims. The Sports Today and other sports sites have been raising this point for a long time – sports, in general, need to be honest and accountable around mental health. Encouraging players to research how the best players reached the top of their profession is another excellent way to boost personal development.
Work and family commitments often make it difficult for amateur clubs to find the time to foster that all-important team spirit. Generally speaking, amateur players may meet up a couple of times a week for training and once at the weekend when the league season is underway.
It is imperative to add other get-togethers into the mix, such as trips away or Christmas parties, to help create a sense of belonging. Involving family members in these events will strengthen the community and create a positive environment around everything the club does.
Numerous studies have shown that eating a nutritious diet can have a significant impact on improving athletic performance. Top players are often provided with personally tailored diet plans by nutritionists to adhere to throughout the year.
While lifestyle demands may make it difficult for amateur players to stick rigidly to a healthy diet, clubs should encourage them to do so as much as possible. Eating a balanced diet and staying well hydrated are excellent lifestyle choices to make, regardless of whether someone plays football or otherwise.
Rest & recovery
As we alluded to earlier, research has shown that rest and recovery are tremendously essential factors in athletic performance. Amateur players should be encouraged to warm up and warm down before any physical activity, thus helping them avoid unnecessary injuries.
Sleep also improves performance – a point highlighted by clubs such as Manchester United and Real Madrid employing sleep coaches to work with players to formulate sleep plans. Getting the optimum amount of sleep each day provides players with the platform to function correctly and contribute positively to on-field performances.
Football has traditionally been a sport where small margins can significantly impact the outcome of a game. While remembering that amateurs generally play for the love of the sport, winning is always a much better feeling than losing.
On that basis, incorporating elite level training tips into your amateur club will give players a much better chance of achieving their goals.
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About the Author
Michael Black is a freelance journalist.