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How can players stay fit on lock-down?

The postponement of the 2020 Premier Soccer League season came just a few days before its projected start. A huge anti-climax. The ban on gatherings due to the covid-19 pandemic meant that clubs also had to stop group training sessions and perhaps suspend training altogether.
When the virus is finally contained, football has to continue, but will the players be still in the condition they were in when the country went into lock-down?

Sports scientist and Warriors fitness and conditioning coach Nyasha Charandura speaks about the effects of the force majeure on the fitness of players, the challenges this presents to both players and fitness coaches, and how to mitigate the effects.

There are three key phases of training within the soccer season namely the preseason, competition and transition phase. Unfortunately, we are caught up in the middle of nowhere hence designing fitness programs becomes a challenge since there is no certainty on when the season is going to commence. Fitness coaches must find ways to navigate issues presented by the current situation so that players can maintain fitness conditions.

When the season was set to start, the pandemic stopped all group sessions, many got affected psychologically since they were now ready to show what they are made of; some unheralded players missed the opportunity to represent the country at continental level in Cameroon (CHAN) while others missed important contracts which meant life to them since they rely on their talent.

Fitness is a broad and relative industry; it is very important for fitness trainers to first consider the foundation they had developed in their players and start developing individually-based programs according to player profiles. This entails checking strengths and weaknesses, upon which fitness goals must be set progressively according to last recorded levels of fitness. These profiles maybe used to develop players using this two-way approach:

Strengths
Each and every player has strengths which gives them dominion on the field of play. A player’s profile also shows room for improvement in each and every bio motor, hence, a certain level of maintenance is needed so that the player maintains shape during this phase.

Weaknesses
Each and every player has weaknesses in terms of fitness, and like strengths, there is definitely room for improvement which is determined during fitness tests. This must also be taken into consideration when drafting a program so that players strive to improve within the threshold.

Highlighting some of the key fitness components in football

Vo2 Max (Maximum Oxygen Carrying Capacity) – The player’s vo2max is key on the field of play. It is very important to have at least two Vo2 max sessions a week mimicking the movement patterns within the field of play and they can also be position based (I remember as i was researching on how other international teams handle this phase I was privileged to chat with internal fitness trainers on how they are handling the phase especially in most affected countries. I discovered that they are using the individual and position-based program approach so that players adapt to relative movements rather than general.)

Agility & Coordination
Turning and twisting are key elements on the field of play. These are neuro-muscular bio motors and they become stiff with age; but regular training on the system keeps the player in shape. These are key elements when drafting programs.

Strength
Football is a semi-contact sport where pushing and shielding is part of the game. Therefore, a strength program is a must when drafting a program. Considering that the foundation was already developed since players where a week away from the season, reactive strength may be key during this maintenance phase.

For more information on fitness programs and sports science and further writings by this author, please log onto www.majorsportsconsultancy.com

Nyasha. Charandura is a sports scientist, author and the Managing Director of Major Sports Consultancy.

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