The coaching of the game has the biggest influence on a player’s performance. Nevertheless there will always be an important role in developing a player’s athleticism or physical ability.
Improving a player’s physical ability will ensure you have a greater platform to take their technical and tactical performance to a higher level. It will also make the player more robust to the training loads that they undertake and reduce the risk of injury.
No matter what field sport you play, be it Hurling, Gaelic Football, Hockey or Soccer, running efficiently is an important quality to have. Sure in any game, statistically you may have the ball in your possession or in your hands on average for only 60seconds! If you can repeatedly run faster and for longer plus have the tactical awareness of when and where to run, then you are sure to be a better player.
The progression of GPS technology has allowed researchers and coaches alike to profile the exact movements of players in a game and to determine the actual external demands on players. For example, recent research has indicated at elite level in Gaelic Football that players perform on average 2.3 accelerations per minute with the number and distance of accelerations dependent on playing position. Midfielders performed the most accelerations with full back and full forward line performing the least. Therefore acceleration training must be included in any team’s training program.
When it comes to performing a skill of the game, most players have a strong and a weak side. Essentially players have a strong side because they practiced on that side and a weak side because they never practiced on that side! It is the same when developing a movement skill like running. They all follow the same stages of motor learning and skill development. To maximise the learning effect, you then need to be coached on how to run properly.
Yes due to genetics we all have a ceiling on how fast, fit and strong we can get but to maximize your athletic potential, just like the skills of the game, you must practice it to improve it. Unfortunately though many coaches think they are developing speed but they are not. A common scenario is where players accelerate over fifteen to twenty yards and then run back so they can get another rep as soon as possible. The players may be enjoying the drill but unless you have sufficient recovery between each sprint, each sprint will then become progressively slower to the point where you end up developing fitness or endurance rather than the intended outcome of acceleration.
A coach needs to understand that each type of training will produce a specific physiological response, known as the dose-response relationship. Basically if you want to be able to run at high speeds, you must train at high speeds!
Tackle Bags are often used in training to expose players to increased physicality and to teach them how to protect the ball in the tackle. Unfortunately though in the drills players often receive a pass and then run straight for the tackle bag. This is not due to poor decision making by the player but it is what they are being coached to do. Surprisingly this is still happening at all levels and this is not preparing players for most situations that will happen in a game. Some players have poor vision, who play the game with their head down and running at tackle bags is only adding to the problem. I would much prefer players to get their heads up, and use their pace to accelerate and attack the space. This will lead to retention of possession and possible scoring opportunities while you will still expose the player to a degree of physicality.
In the modern game with blanket defenses and strength and conditioning there are not too many players who can literally brush opponents to the side. Aidan O’Shea is probably the exception here where at times he can survive against multiple players. O’Shea will have the height advantage on Neil McGee on Saturday, but McGee is the strongest opponent he will face so far. It will be some physical battle and I look forward to seeing how it turns out. In contrast you might wonder how Ryan McHugh survives in the modern game. The build of a jockey but he plays with his head up, keeps the ball out of contact and attacks the spaces.
My philosophy is based on integrating the coaching and conditioning as much as possible. I have learned from some of the best coaches and it is fascinating to merge a player’s physical capacity with their positional requirements on the field of play. This playing of the game and what a player does with the ball must always be the measurement of a player’s performance and not how they just perform in the fitness testing.
GAA Speed Camps
I am running GAA Speed Camps over the next few weeks in Coachford, Clonakilty, CIT and Clyda Rovers GAA Club. The focus is on creating awareness, and educating our stars of the future on how to move and react better specific to the games that they play. The camps are for players born between 2000- 2002 and open to both boys and girls.
To learn more about the camps please check my website www.pkperformance.ie or to book a place text name, club, age grade, camp venue to 0877600658 or email to email@example.com
GPS data courtesy of www.kierancollins.com.
(Article which appeared in Evening Echo, 7th August, 2015)