Lifestyle

Unlock your Team’s Full Potential with this Simple Strategy

Gary Rafferty

[8-min read]

Have you ever felt like you’ve invested so much time and energy into preparing your squad but the team’s performances just don’t seem to be progressing? If so, you’re not alone.

As a part-time coach, you will agree that part-time coaching is anything but part-time. It’s more than likely you spend close to 20 hours per week planning your sessions, speaking with coaches, sorting training venues, managing players, delivering the sessions, and maybe even going over game footage. You put all that work in and have built a team that you know can do well, but progress can seem to suddenly come to a halt and performance becomes unpredictable.

It is frustrating but often inevitable at the part-time level. I know this because I’ve experienced this exact thing working as part of a coaching team. Here is the story of how we identified the problem, addressed it, and now have a solution that takes less than 10 minutes to implement and will help you to unlock your team’s full potential by improving your coaching, the team’s performance, and the players’ personal lives.

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A part-time coach’s second home

We’ll discuss this in more detail in an upcoming webinar – which is free and available to all coaches who want to learn more about planning pre-season and football fitness. It will be an opportunity to learn from experts in the field and get your questions answered.

Meet Michael

I worked as the strength & conditioning coach under the head coach, (we’ll call him Michael). Michael had a full-time job but was obsessed with football. The level of detail Michael put into delivering a quality training session was worthy of professional-level standards. However, a problem we found was that there were far too many times that even with a well-planned and delivered training session, the quality of training was very unpredictable.

The team was in a decent position in the league, but they were definitely underperforming considering the squad, style of football, and characters we had. Very often they arrived at training uninterested, moody, or lethargic. When it came to game day, we found that eerie silence in the warm-up which almost always indicated we were in for a tough afternoon.

Michael tried tinkering with the sessions and his coaching style, trying to change the mood or competitiveness using different drills to see if it would bring about more consistency in the session. But, once again the quality remained up and down. At the end of the season, Michael decided to take a different approach.

Before making any drastic changes to his own style, he decided to meet with players individually for a coffee to get deeper insight and feedback about the season. It didn’t take long before a common theme emerged.

It wasn’t in fact anything to do with the training, the playing style, or even him. It was much simpler than that… it was just the players struggling to deal with the reality of life as a part-time footballer.


Home and work life putting a halt to progress

The reality of part-time football

The majority of players explained to Michael that when they arrived at training they were usually either physically or mentally exhausted from a full day of work. Some spoke about having early morning wake-ups, eating on the go, or having young kids waking them throughout the night. This meant that by the time they finished an evening training session, ate, and showered, they were only getting a few hours of sleep which dragged into the next day, and then to the rest of the week.

Michael and I got together and discussed how much impact these off-pitch obstacles have on training and games, and whether there was anything we could realistically do.


Fighting a losing battle – controlling a small piece of a big puzzle

When we thought about it, only 3-5% of a player’s full week was spent with us. This led to the question, how much more improvement would we make in the upcoming season by trying to improve that 3-5% vs trying to influence the 95-97% of the time they weren’t with us? What would move the needle more in terms of impact on the pitch? We knew the training was effective, but it was always going to be hindered by what version of the players arrived at the session.

To try to fix this I suggested we try implementing a process I had been using successfully with the individual players I worked with. A process that can help you unlock your team’s full potential.


The B.E.S.T. Process

Unlock your team’s full potential with the B.E.S.T Performance Process

The B.E.S.T acronym was one I started to use in an attempt to provide players with a simple way to focus on the key areas of health and performance habits, whilst also giving them a way to quickly see what areas they had to focus on to give it an element of individualisation without complexity.

Each area is straightforward and is an offshoot of what we know as the four pillars of performance Mindset, Nutrition, Recovery, and Training. It is made up of:

B = Brain / Life stressors from job, university, family, relationships, place in the squad, confidence, personality, their habits to manage stress.

E = Eating habits / Looking at players’ body composition, were they out of shape? Did they make time to eat or know what to be eating? Love a heavy weekend drinking session? How did they eat leading up to training/games.

S = Sleep quality and quantity / Often impacted by job, kids, family, routine, where they lived.

T = Training / Their attendance to training, strength & conditioning work outside of the pitch, were they doing too much of something? The wrong thing? Or Just nothing?

The main difference between creating B.E.S.T vs using the traditional four pillars was that wanted to give more specificity to each area and emphasize the need of managing stress to improve performance.

FOR EXAMPLE / Often when we think ‘Mindset’, it is often attached to grit, determination, goal setting, discipline, etc. which is great, but it takes us down more rabbit holes. ‘Brain’ however is the lynchpin of the B.E.S.T process as the whole goal of it is to improve the Brain’s health and performance.

Using sleeping, eating habits and training consistency as a way of explaining how stress impacts the brain was relatable to players as the symptoms of mood, fatigue, confidence etc. were everyday consequences of their lifestyle that they experienced regularly.


Eating habits, sleep, and training all impact our brains

Eat better = look better, feel better, have more confidence, and have more energy.

Sleep better = think better, make better decisions, be happier, and have fewer aches.

Train better = see their body get stronger, more explosive, and feel better in day-to-day movement. Look better, and have more confidence.

The same applies on the opposite side, where poor habits in these areas will negatively impact the brain.

How to use the B.E.S.T Process to unlock your team’s full potential

It’s a template that you can tinker with to suit your situation. You can include as many or as few questions as you like, but being clear on what you believe is useful information to inform decision-making and what you will be able to impact is crucial.

Staff resources may also impact what information you want to collect. Basic is best. You will be amazed at how much information you can gather about someone with just a few pieces of information, so I would always recommend starting simple.

An easy way to start is to send out a questionnaire prior to pre-season or to any new signings. 2-5 questions for each area (B.E.S.T) is generally enough. By using just a few questions related to each area we can quickly identify what can be better and work on the low-hanging fruits to get quick results.


Poor sleep is more than likely due to personal life circumstances and is most likely in a stressful state most of the day. Educating the player on how to address that at points in the day and conversations about training readiness to adjust training load can be very helpful.

Once you have experience seeing the response of players and know the questions you want to give you the information you need, you can gamify it. Players can have a numerical score (0-5) in each area to get both a combined total B.E.S.T score (e.g. 12/20) and also a score of each individual area to see instantly how to improve their score.

FOR EXAMPLE / Brain – 4/5, Eat – 1/5, Sleep – 4/5, Train – 3/5

Eating habits would be the low-hanging fruit to focus on. Most likely, fixing one area i.e. sleep, will have a domino effect on both eating habits, the brain, and the energy to train.

The questions will depend on the level you are at, your preference, the standards you set, and the players you have. I now use the gamification process to the point where I have 1-page scorecards for players (Beginner, Amateur, Semi-Pro, Pro). The questions for a Pro scorecard would be different than for a beginner. Players can progress through the scorecards as they build habits over months and years of implementation. If you find it useful, you can be as creative as you want with it.

Advances in sports technology have resulted in the development of cutting-edge athlete monitoring tools to make it easier for coaches to capture subjective data from players and adjust their training programs accordingly.

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Well-being monitoring with RYPT

Coach Benefits vs Player Benefits

Coach Benefits

Player conversations became easier because we now knew more about the person, it allowed us to become more empathetic to a player’s situation. Now, their behaviour or mood had some context to it which enables us to adjust training or communication accordingly:

“I know you’ve had a big day at work and are tired mate, it’s not easy turning up here in the bucketing rain and putting a shift in, but we just need that little bit extra in these last 15 minutes to keep the standards for everyone else”

VS.

“NOT GOOD ENOUGH! YOU’RE GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS”.

Player Benefits

You’ll quickly see common themes in your squad, as many fight the same battles. This allows you to create resources and templates you can use over and over again as time goes on. The players who do implement the advice when not with us naturally had benefits that seeped into their personal lives.

Conclusion

When with us the adjustments we made to players and training all round ensured training did become more consistent, intensity did improve and players were fresher on game day. Did this happen every single week? Of course not. Was every player keen on their own personal development? No. There was still the reality of being a part-time footballer to constantly contend with.

However, the trend was going in the right direction, and if you are lucky enough to recruit the right players with the right mentality or work with the same group of players year-in-year-out, that can compound to provide results that will ensure you build a high performing team of players and people.

If you are a coach at the part-time level and want to learn more about how you can plan a pre-season both on and off the pitch then register for our free webinar in June 2023.

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RYPT is a performance coaching platform designed to help multi-disciplinary coaching teams deliver athletic development programs efficiently at scale. RYPT helps coaching teams manage every aspect of their coaching relationship from the delivery of individualized training plans, to athlete monitoring and communication. RYPT centralizes athlete data to give coaches better insights and help them manage their athletes more efficiently and effectively – reducing injury risk and optimizing performance.

Over 2,000 coaches worldwide, working from grassroots to Olympic level, trust RYPT to deliver their athletic development programs and monitor their athletes. RYPT supports individual coaches, private gyms and academies, schools and universities, and large sporting organisations.

Performance Pre-season Well-being

About the author

Gary Rafferty

Gary Rafferty is the director of Football Fitness AU and Head of Performance at Australia National Premier League Side NWS Spirit FC. He has been working and studying as a coach in both the technical and physical side of the game since 2004 working with academies, clubs, schools, and individual players from youth to pro across three continents. In addition, he has presented on topics such as injury prevention in youth sports, long term athletic development, football fitness training and football periodisation at industry conferences, academy workshops and player education events. Gary is also the co-owner of Premiership Experience Australia and co-host of a mental health podcast.

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