Maintaining player fitness during the season is critical in ensuring your second half of the season is as successful as your first - or more so. After five to six games, the early season soreness players were experiencing the day after a game should be almost non-existent.
As a result, there is an opportunity to work on maintaining fitness levels between rounds five and eight. This can repeated again between rounds 12 and 15 to ensure fitness levels going into the finals are at a premium.
In this article we will discuss specific strategies that might help players maintain the best possible fitness levels throughout the remainder of the season.
In most cases, pre-season training runs for between 10 and 16 weeks. During this period, fitness is the major priority. Once games begin, maintaining your availability to play is the most important aspect of training, closely followed by developing and maintaining skills and style of play. But in addition to this, the fitness of the team and the individual must also be kept up.
Factors which affect fitness during the second half of the season include:
The playing list can be split into players who require extra fitness work and those who need to rest.
The group that needs to rest are predominantly the midfield group who can run up to 15km per game. Recovering from this workload can take five to six days so scheduling more work for these players with during the week will affect their ability to perform on game day.
Players who should be prioritised for extra work include those who have spent time on the bench, end of the ground players (full-back and full-forward), those recovering from injury and players who have not attended all training sessions due to other commitments.
Football specific games can be scheduled 15 minutes before the start of group training for these players. These games will be discussed in detail next week but include three vs three touch rugby, handball and keepings off. Any game can be modified to accommodate the number of players.
As a basic guideline, keep the numbers in each game under five a side. More than five reduces the fitness element of the game. Two 7.5 minute halves are long enough for these games to have a significant effect. Remember to do a thorough warm-up before starting.
Individual conditioning sessions can be tailored at the end of group training sessions. Agility, awareness, speed, power and endurance sessions can be designed to ensure your players’ fitness levels are optimised.
Approximately 20 metres out from the goal square, randomly place six different coloured cones approximately five metres apart from each other.The player starts in the goal square and runs between cones, following cues from the coach. The sequence might be “red, blue, green, yellow, white, yellow, green, yellow”.
At the end of the sequence the coach calls “lead”. At this point, the player must lead strongly toward centre half forward to receive a footpass from a second coach further down the ground. The player has two minutes for recovery before completing another repetition. A series of six repetitions after training is sufficient.
The recovery session the day after a game is another opportune time to work on fitness with specific players. If a player has had minimal game time or little physical output in the game the previous day, recovery is not essential. In fact, fitness work can be performed by these players during this session.
Cross training has been discussed previously but it's worth mentioning again. Non-football specific activities like boxing, swimming and cycling all assist in players’ general fitness levels. Where possible, aim to mimic the playing tempo and stop-start nature of the game during these sessions. Water polo and aquatic games that get the players’ heart rates high are preferable to slowly swimming 1500 metres.