Challenges facing Coaches and Players during Covid19 – By Gary Jameson BSc

By Gary Jameson BSc – Athletic Performance Coach at @AthleticEvolutionIreland and Head of S&C at Wicklow GAA

 

Covid 19 – The Challenge Facing Coaches & Athletes.

In these strange and unprecedented times, I have found it challenging to coach away from the pitch and the gym. I love the hands on, busy, fun and dynamic environment teams and athletes create and like everyone else I really miss it at the minute. Like all other coaches during this lockdown, I have had to adapt and alter all our plans with no set date for fixtures or a return to training.

This causes various issues for us as coaches but also for the players. I touch base with the lads regularly and the biggest thing they are missing is their teammates, the crack at training and the buzz of match days – me too!! I believe when we have no end goal, it’s tough to motivate ourselves to train alone but for now let’s focus on what we can do and not what we can’t do!

CREATING A PLAN

Social media has made sharing of training ideas easy and we can plan training sessions with skills, running and gym work but we also need to be careful not to overload our players as this pandemic continues. I believe the best option here for field sport athletes playing GAA/Rugby/Soccer etc. would be to focus on a quality three or four 25-30min sessions per week that match the demands of your sport without over-doing it.

If we take GAA Football as an example, a mix of 1xSpeed Session (10/20/30m Sprints with some multi directional/acceleration/deceleration work), 1xAerobic Maintenance Run (3-5km) and 1xGym Session (Jumps, Hops, Bounds, Push/Pull, Squat, Hinge & Core) will keep the players in reasonable shape for their return to training. Skills work can be added or done separately depending on the time available.  These can be altered to suit the individual. For this, all we need is a ball, a wall and a bit of imagination (check out Mick Bohans Complex Skills here & Ciaran Deely Core Skills Practice here ).

 

INJURY SPIKE

Speaking with our medical team recently, the greatest fear we currently have revolves around the idea that when life starts to return to normal, we will find our teams thrown straight back into a congested fixture pile up. Life is currently abnormal for most of us. People are either on lock down or under huge pressure and stress working on the front line and their ability to train or the importance of it is hugely impacted. Will athletes be allowed the time to prepare when this does eventually pass? People will return to work, which can be fatiguing on its own. They will also be returning to training three or four times a week and science tells us that it is not a good recipe for injury prevention. I believe therefore, it is vital our players understand why we are providing these home workouts and that we also have a huge responsibility to monitor and manage load correctly upon their return to team training– we cannot squeeze three months of training into three weeks!

COACH DEVELOPMENT

I see so many Personal Trainers and Strength & Conditioning Coaches openly sharing some great ideas for keeping athletes fit while we are in this lockdown but this is also a huge opportunity for us as coaches to improve. We often get so tied up with results and the preparation for the next game that reflection can often be ignored. This is a great time to develop and improve our Coaching and Leadership Skills.

 

Here’s a few simple ideas that might help you develop further:

  • Set Goals and write down areas for growth and improvement. 
  • Ask yourself “what can I improve as a coach during the next 6-8 weeks?” 
  • Write down what you perceive to be your strengths and weaknesses and then contact a fellow coach, teammate or friend whose opinion you trust and respect. Ask them for some personal development feedback and see where they think you could improve – you might be very surprised at some of the results when you compare them to your own!!

** Don’t fall into the trap of trying to focus on all areas at once – Pick one or two of the big stones and draw up a plan to improve them.

 

Use your players as a resource to help you improve – they may identify specifics that you would never think of!!

Ask the team captain to approach 7/8 players and ask for three points of feedback for you and your management team:

  • What are we doing well?
  • What can we do better?
  • What could we start doing?

 

To get some real quality feedback, make it anonymous, with only the captain knowing who wrote what. This will help with the honesty of the feedback but also avoids any potential disputes if something is said that may not be agreed with. This is not to be mistaken as an opportunity to criticise but one to improve. How can we grow if we can’t acknowledge our own weaknesses?

“All of us need to grow continuously in our lives. If you are the same person now that you were a year ago or even a day ago, then you are not growing.” Les Brown

 

READ

For coaches, this time can be so valuable. We can review progress to date and plan for the future. Leadership books like Bill Walsh’s ’The score takes care of itself’, “The Lombardi Rules” by Vince Lombardi, and The All Blacks book ‘Legacy’ are all absolutely jam packed with pure nuggets of gold for all coaches at any level.

Stuart Lancaster from Leinster Rugby is openly sharing some amazing content on his LinkedIn personal page. Setanta College are just one of the educational centres offering some free online courses for coaches at the minute.

If you don’t enjoy reading seek out other suitable resources such as Podcasts & Webinars or simply find a likeminded coach to tease out ideas. It does not matter where or how you get the ideas once you are learning!

 

RELAX

Let’s not forget that sport is not the most important thing in the world right now. People are risking their lives to try keep others healthy and to protect & feed us. It is important for us to switch off and appreciate what we have, enjoy the extended time we have with family and kids, have a play outside, have a laugh and enjoy a beer. This too shall pass, and we will return to the grass and games so for now please try keep the mind and body healthy.

 

In conclusion, I hope you can use this time to keep your athletes fit and healthy physically and mentally but also find some area for personal growth. Stay safe.

For some more tips and videos or any questions why not connect on my LinkedIn page. https://www.linkedin.com/pub/dir/gary/jameson

 

About Gary:

Athletic Performance Coach at @AthleticEvolutionIreland (find us on all social media)

BA in Athletic Strength & Conditioning.

Currently Working with Wicklow GAA.

Works with numerous other Sports and Athletes.

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