If you play weekend sport your current pre-season training efforts will have a massive impact on your performance later on, regardless of the level you play at.
In the same way Parramatta Eels star Jarryd Hayne may (or may not) be concerned after coach Brad Arthur out-ran him during a recent training camp drill, your own season prep may predict your success on the field.
Parramatta Eels Assistant Coach Steve Murphy told Triple M the Eels were “working very hard hoping to get a result” in 2018, explaining that integrated tracking and accountability formed one of the main differences when comparing the pre-season regimes of elite and semi-amateur clubs.
“The major difference [compared to a professional club] is that everything is measured and recorded,” he explains.
“In terms of their skin folds, everyone’s watching their weight, what they eat - I think the accountability there is much greater than probably Joe Average on a weekend, that’s probably the biggest difference.”
Emulating an elite training regime
Murphy says emulating a high level training program starts with honing on your individual goals for the season.
“You have to think about what’s best or what’s conducive to help the player,” he said.
“The player’s main aim is to get better every day and you’ve got to be able to provide resources to be able to do that.
“What I would suggest is quite simply making sure your training sessions are designed with a specific purpose in mind, and then whether you achieve that or not.”
Seek feedback from your coaching team
To ensure you’re achieving this purpose, Murphy says chasing feedback from your coaches is important.
“The players are very keen on getting feedback on what they’re doing, and if you can give them a reason why they’re doing these activities, and what you’re going to get from these activities then they’re more likely to buy in,” he said.
“Staff meet regularly, we meet every morning, those meetings are both before sessions and after sessions, looking at what worked well, what didn't, and what we can do in the future to make those sessions better or more efficient.”
Lean on your teammates
You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with, and Murphy says strong bonds with teammates improves morale and performance, especially when the going gets tough.
“I’d say the greatest thing is that they [the playing group] spend quality time together on and off the field, as that brings reliance and resilience,” he said.
“The club’s been through a lot of turmoil it’s fairly safe to say in the tenure since we’ve been here as coaches, so I think those experiences have hardened the group and given them a harder edge.
“They’ve experienced some real lows as well as highs, I think those experiences only make you better, and we’re really confident we’ve got a group that’s ready to work hard this year together.”
Integrate strength training
Building strength and conditioning into your training program cultivates a strong base of fitness, explains Christian Woodfood, Director of Athlete Performance at Woodford Sports Scientist Consulting..
“My advice right about now would be to go to a gym and start structuring up some sort of strength programming and also do some sort of running based work, even if it’s something like going to an oval, something basic, with a one to one rest ratio,” he told Triple M.
“It might just be run to one minute at 70 per cent, walk for one minute, and then running for one minute, and you might do that five to six times.
“The second time around that might be set up for seven times, so you’re overloading the amount of times you do that, just to increase some sort of running base, so when you go back to training, at least you have some sort of base level conditional fitness to build upon.”
Preparation dictates performance
Woodford says there’s no reason semi-amateur athletes cannot explore the key principles of athlete development and applied sports science.
“Talk to your coaching staff if you want to know more about athlete development,” he said.
“It’s not just two doing your two slow laps and stretches anymore, it’s having a more holistic athlete development understanding, and how to maximise athlete performance for amateur athlete.
“Preparation dictates performance, if you prepare better not only do you perform better, you’re not going to get injured."
Don’t forget about mobility
Before weekly matches kick in, Michael Cunico, the National Fitness Manager at Fitness First Australia, recommends that players focus on an area of fitness often neglected, even by some professional athletes: mobility and flexibility.
Cunico explains this is a big one, especially if you spend most of your workday seated in an office at your computer.
“It might be worth considering what sort of range of motion you may need around joints to make sure you’re ready for the preseason, and that your chance of getting injured goes down,” he said.
What’s your recovery?
Another area that’s “dropped or forgotten” across semi-amateur sport is a proper recovery, particularly if you're involved with a training regime of two to three sessions a week.
“Have some sort of strategy around maintaining mobility or flexibility around certain areas of your body, and be able to back up for that next training session or next game or event or whatever that might be,” Cunico said.
“Having those demands of your sport and maintaining range of motion and mobility, they become more difficult as you age.
“The same can be said for strength and muscle mass and all those things, our ability to hold onto more muscle mass as we age and our ability to maintain adequate range of motion decreases as we get older as well.
“The one thing I see missing is that recovery and that flexibility or that movement program away from the sport that you play.”
When the season gets started?
Once the 2018 season kicks off, Murphy says the focus naturally shifts towards “game mode” and preparing for who you’ll play each round of the season, and your window for improving strength and conditioning closes.
“It becomes more of a maintenance program than strength gain as such, or performance gains,” he said.
“Most of those performance gains are based on what you do on and off the field, I’d have to say once you get into the season your window to improve those things slows down a touch.”
But until this period approaches, Murphy encourages his players to keep your attitude in check every time you lace up the footy boots.
“Pre-season carries a sense of professionalism, you’ve got to turn up every day and ensure you’re working hard and doing everything you can to get better,” he said.
“I know it sounds cliché but if you turn up and you just go through the motions you’re never going to get much out of your training.
“If you’re constantly trying to better your standards and better your performance then you’re going to have greater success and greater results.”