8 Learnings from our recent Webinar: Pre-season Essentials for an Adult GAA Team
In our recent webinar, Sports Science Lecturer and former inter-county Hurler and Manager Michael Fennelly presented his pre-season essentials for adult GAA teams. He discussed the importance of having a strong team culture and how you can go about building it. Followed by looking at good strength and conditioning and nutrition practices for pre-season. This article is a summary of our key learnings from the webinar.
#1 / The power of building a strong culture
Building culture takes time, it’s not something that happens overnight, but when a strong culture is built within a team, club, or organisation, it can have transformative effects. A strong culture can attract, develop, and keep talent, and drives consistent behaviours across an organisation.
A team’s values and standards dictate its behaviours, and the team’s culture influences its identity. Clubs with a strong identity expect similar behaviours across all age groups so players know exactly what is required of them no matter what team environment they’re a part of as they move through the age groups. The culture behind this identity provides direction and makes sure everyone in the organisation is on the same page.
If players don’t live up to the standards required it has to be dealt with immediately before it starts to become the norm. Every person’s actions impact the culture of the club so it’s important that everyone understands the values and standards and lives up to them.
There are 2 foundations we look at when building culture: values and standards:
A team’s values are something that has meaning for the team as a collective, something that is important to them. A team’s values are a platform for how the players conduct themselves.
A team’s standards are what team members can expect from one another. A level of quality, how the team does things.
Hold a workshop with the team at the start of pre-season and have the players select their Top 5 values and standards."No successful culture was built on soft standards and easy values." Click To Tweet
#2 / How coaches can use communication to reinforce values and standards
Once the values and standards are set, it’s critical that they are kept alive and real within the team setting and not just forgotten about after the session. To do this, coaches and managers can use the words the players identified in the workshop during training sessions to reinforce the values and standards throughout the entire season.
# 3 / Common pre-season S&C mistakes to avoid
Modern players are more informed and knowledgeable and expect high standards when it comes to training both on the pitch and in terms of strength and conditioning. This means there is more pressure on coaching teams to learn and grow so that they can provide players with support in all areas of their development.
Here are some common mistakes to avoid in pre-season:
- Pressing the panic button and starting back to training too early
- Making early sessions too intense – this can lead to injuries
- Lifting heavy weights too early – build up gradually to reduce injury risk
- Viewing gym work as only for pre-season and stopping it in season
#4 / Make the most out of the split season for athletic development
There are huge benefits associated with the split season. Players get a nice break to allow them to rest, engage in other sports and past times and come back refreshed and ready to go. There is also time for a quality pre-season to prepare the players, make them robust, and minimize injuries during the season. Coaches can gradually build throughout January and February, rather than jumping straight into intense training schedules. While also giving more time for quality athletic development for club players, and developing players in a less pressured environment in the league.
#5 / Why Performance Testing is important for teams
Performance testing in pre-season has a number of important benefits. It gives the players a baseline so that they can set goals and track their improvement across the pre-season and season. It also gives coaches data to allow them to individualize the program for each player so that they’re training at a suitable intensity and progressing week-on-week to maximize the return from their training and avoid injuries.
Here’s an example of performance tests that are suitable for a GAA team:
|Lower Body Strength
|3RM Hex Bar Deadlift (kg)
|Upper Body Strength
|3RM Bench Press (kg)
|Upper Body Strength
|Chins (Max reps)
|Med Ball Throw (Max Distance)
|Horizontal Jump (Max Height)
|1-1.2 km Run (Average Speed)
#6 / Get the most out of your warm-ups
In early pre-season when the players return after a break, it’s very important to ease them back in and prime their bodies for the demands of intense training sessions and matches. Warm-ups are a great opportunity to integrate some of this work, like speed (accelerations & decelerations), agility, plyometrics (fast and slow), bounds, and jumps. This will help the players improve their technique which can translate to faster players on the pitch, and also prime them for more intense sessions and matches to reduce the risk of injury.
#7 Avoid sudden spikes in intensity
Poor training load prescription and management is a major risk factor for injury (Soligard et al, 2016). Injury risk increases with sudden spikes in training loads so they should be avoided in order to minimize injury risk and ensure players are ready to perform at their peak.
Platforms like RYPT can help you track the training loads of your sessions and identify any spikes with tools like ACWR to help you reduce injury risk.
#8 / Protein is your friend
Players can generally be split into 3 groups in terms of their nutrition:
- Leaners / those who are aiming to lose some body weight and increase lean muscle mass
- Maintain / those who are aiming to maintain their current body weight
- Gainers / those who are aiming to increase their body weight by adding lean muscle mass
Here are some basic guidelines for players in these groups.
Regardless of which group a player is in, protein is their friend. Protein helps repair and build muscle so is critical for both recovery and lean muscle gain for those who need it. Guidelines recommend between 1.6g and 2.2g as optimal.
- Soligard, T., Schwellnus, M., Alonso, J., Bahr, R., Clarsen, B., Dijkstra, H., Gabbett, T., Gleeson, M., Hägglund, M., Hutchinson, M., Janse van Rensburg, C., Khan, K., Meeusen, R., Orchard, J., Pluim, B., Raftery, M., Budgett, R. and Engebretsen, L., 2016. How much is too much? (Part 1) International Olympic Committee consensus statement on load in sport and risk of injury.British Journal of Sports Medicine, 50(17), pp.1030-1041. http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/50/17/1030
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