Here comes the New Season….

Posted by & filed under Blog, Featured, Physiotherapists.

Recently we’ve been talking to Gavin Blackwell, physiotherapist at Hednesford Town FC, who has been supporting the Football Medical Association in a number of ways, not least with his keen interest in everything football. Here he kindly gives us his insight into the pre-season challenges ahead…………

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“The problem which faces the therapist and the rest of the coaching staff at this time of year, is reaching peak fitness levels and then maintaining this for nine months………If anybody has the idea that the sole job of the therapist is to dash on the field and apply the sponge or the magic spray, let me correct that at once. I suppose it started that way, but that must have been years ago. Today we are living in an age of specialisation and exact science, and as far as these terms can be applied to training, they are. This specified outlook has grown rapidly over the last 10 years from the time when players wouldn’t see a ball for the first three weeks; nowadays the balls are out in the first session back.

At Hednesford, pre-season training is planned in advance with the schedule being drawn up after discussions with the gaffer, the rest of the coaching staff and myself. We like to think that between us there is a considerable amount of footballing experience. Over the years, various methods have been tried, but experience has shown that this pooling of ideas is the most successful. Pre-season training is governed by the length of time between two seasons and takes into account any of the players who may have had injuries towards the end of the previous season. When considering these, the strength of the opposition which have been encountered is also considered.

With these facts in front of us, we can get down to business. Players are usually called in for the start of training about six weeks before the opening league game. In the modern game, players return in a relatively ‘fit’ state. It would be logical to suppose that once a player ceases to train then his weight would automatically increase, but this is by no means always the case. The majority, if not all, would have been doing a close season maintenance programme after the first three weeks where it is important to rest up.

I always think of the human body as being like a motor car in that it cannot jump into top gear and function well without a gradual ‘warming up’ process. If this ‘warming up’ is rushed, then damage to the engine may result. In the same way the human body must be ‘warmed up’ slowly by increasing degrees to avoid damage to the muscles. If actual exercise cannot be taken, then this ‘warming up’ is done by massage.

The between- season period only lasts for two months, but during this time there is always a loss of muscle tone and breathing also loses its rhythm, so the first task is to remedy these defects. This is done with extreme care by gentle running, followed by exercises designed to ease every muscle back in to full working order. The week is split in to three sessions lasting about an hour and a half each.

The league programme, with its 42 games, along with the possibility of an extended run in the cup competitions is,in my opinion, the most exacting in the world. It means nine months of football will be played under all sorts of conditions and the problem that faces us is to reach peak fitness and maintain it for the whole nine months. In order to achieve this, the tempo of training periods is gradually speeded up with the idea of reaching peak fitness four days before the first game. This acceleration is maintained for a couple of weeks but the effects of midweek games early in the season must be taken in to account. It is obviously also the aim not to lose any player through injury or minor ailment and then every member of the squad should be fit and available for selection on the opening day of the season.”


What are your pre-season thoughts?

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