The key to ensuring that players recover from and are then prepared to their potential to tackle the replay within 3 weeks is a RECOVERY PLAN that is agreed and adhered to for all team members. In most team set-ups the plan is managed by the S&C coach as he or she is most familiar and informed about the best practice in such situations. In addition it's important to stress that returning to a normal routine is the goal, even though the team players and staff will be distracted by hype and talk of what happened and what's to come. Avoiding this hype is really the challenge for the team coaches and players and so maintaining a low profile if at all possible is essential. To help achieve this there are a number of key practical measures to have in place.

1. Recovery: Establishing physical and emotional recovery is vital in the intervening period between the drawn game and the replay. It should be the main focus of the first week after the drawn game. Recovery will have started, believe it or not, in the weeks before the drawn game. A tapering programme will likely have been in place for both teams where the volume of training, practice and general activity will have been dramatically reduced compared to the preceding weeks. This is a standard approach to ensuring that all team players are fresh and fit for the big day and is well established in the strength and conditioning practice of most top class teams. Recovering emotionally is centred on getting back to a normal routine and players best achieve this by going about their daily routine (work, study or whatever) and sleeping in their own home. Often, micro recovery strategies such as cold baths or contrast baths taken after matchplay are taken by team players. Such strategies are effective in speeding up recovery. Also, more sophisticated recovery strategies such as whole body cryotherapy - such as that used by the Lions Rugby squad - are also now becoming a popular choice of post-match recovery during intese competitive periods
for professional soccer teams.

2. Sleep: A key yet often forgotten part of the recovery and tapering programme is that of sleep. We know that increasing sleep by one hour per night in the week leading into the game will result in better performance on the day and also in better recovery following the game. I have no doubt that both camps will have been ensuring that all players were well supported and instructed in how to ensure that extra sleep occurred in the week before the game. The same approach applies to the week following the game.

While extra sleep will also be very important in the weeks after the drawn game, other factors will influence how well recovery actually occurs. Recovery following the drawn match will probably take between 6 and 10 days depending on a) how well the players tapered before the drawn game b) how well they slept c) how well they return to normal after the drawn game and d) their type.

3. Player Type and Monitoring: If a player is a speed type then he is fast and very quick. He will take longer to recover from a given game than the player who is not so fast. Again while all players should get extra sleep in the days after the drawn game, the speed player will also need a little more time to get recovered. His recovery and that of all players can be easily monitored using a number of simple tests such as the counter movement jump test. It's best used when the team S&C coach has built up a profile of the players' performance over the preceding year. It will tell the S&C coach when the player is back to normal fitness.

4. Week 2 Training and Practice: Given the 3 week turnaround, training in the post-game week should be light. Remember players have to establish recovery in this week and so the team may take a diversion from formal training and practice. In week 2 though, practice should be intense yet shorter in duration than in the build up period. Players who normally strength training, and most do now, should also get one to two strength training units in the middle week period. There is good evidence to show that just one unit will ensure that players not only maintain strength but also some will gain from this.

5. The final week: The emphasis in this week is on the normal pre-game routine. Sleep is once again emphasised and a normal daily routine continued. Each team will have their own established practice and training schedule which will very likely consist of short duration sessions with players leaving the pitch feeling fresh. Some players will be comfortable engaging in other relaxation activities such as going to the movies and so forth. This routine is personal and should really keep the player distracted from the hype that surrounds.

6. Nowadays it is unlikely that a player will be consuming alcohol in the 3 week interim. Alcohol as we all know delays recovery and blunts the ability to perform. While some players may have enjoyed a social drink after the drawn game, I have no doubt that no player would get intoxicated.

7. Finally, instilling self-belief and confidence is as much part of this period as the physical recovery and tapering approach. Again this is a challenge to all involved but many team successfully use motivational techniques in parallel with many of the above strategies to ensure that players are not just physically but mentally prepared for the replay.


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The Strength and Conditioning Blog

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2 comments:

  1. I thought this was a very interesting article which brought up some excellent points on the topic of recovery and peak performance. In the strength and conditioning field our number one priority is getting athletes to their optimal performance level and enabling them to perform at that level at the correct times. The most overlooked aspect of our field is certainly recovery. In my experience most athletes think they can just take a protein shake and do a little stretching and they will be completely recovered in a day or two. We know this to be false, but our athletes overlook the myriad of ways in which to help their bodies properly recover. This post did a great job of explaining not only ways in which you can increase recovery, but also the how and why behind these techniques. Each of these methods are confirmed by Zarrouk, Rebai, Yahia, Souissi, Hug, & Dogui (2011) in their research on the recovery strategies and maximal force exertion.

    Zarrouk, N., Rebai, H., Yahia, A., Souissi, N., Hug, F., & Dogui, M. (January 01, 2011). Comparison of recovery strategies on maximal force-generating capacity and electromyographic activity level of the knee extensor muscles. Journal of Athletic Training, 46, 4.)

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  2. Congratulations! Thank you so much for taking the time to share this exciting information.

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