The GAA and AFL seasons are in full flight presently and with that I decided I would make a comparative study between the training methods of “Fremantle Dockers” a professional club in the AFL and the Offaly football team competing in the Allianz league. From the outset I found this to be extremely interesting and worthwhile. Given the amateur status of our organisation I am of the opinion that we make incredible use of the resources available to us and are more than capable of overcoming the constraints placed upon us. Undoubtedly certain comparisons are evident in our respective set-ups. People here will know of the demands placed on footballers but I was curious to know more about AFL players and their “Schedules, Communication and Organisation, Mental Fitness, Recovery and Codes of Conduct” given recent public debate. By the end of this piece however you will be under no illusions as to who is leading the professional life.
A weeks training for Brian Darby
We will have an important game on Sunday and with that emphasis is put on tactics and the simplest skills this week. The coaching team would like everyone to be fresh throughout the Allianz league but this is not always easy with tough games week after week. I suppose we spend between 7 and 8 hours together training every week and other than that we all have exercises to do on our days off. Difficult without doubt but anything that is worth doing is worth doing well and properly!
On Monday I was in the gym for a recovery session and spent an hour and a half stretching, foam rolling, doing weights, personal exercises before a worthwhile visit to the sauna. I felt better before I left the gym. Obviously I am on holidays from school but was pondering wouldn’t it be great to be free every Monday to do this same session! On Tuesday we had a free day but if I had no game this weekend, I would have a running session to do on my own in the field like everyone else.
Back training on Wednesday night. We do a selection of weights firstly every night which depend on the plans for the weekend. We were out on the field straight away after that for a game amongst ourselves. We train Friday nights but don’t over exert and usually we would have a meeting to analyse the opposition, like every other team.
Every player has different habits or preferences on what they like to do on the day before a big game. Me personally, I go walking, maybe shopping no just going for a coffee. Generally relaxing for the most part but would not be seen lying down on a couch all day.
Training week in-season for Inter-County Footballer. Brian Darby
|Regen & Recovery. Foam Rolling, Stretching, Personalised Weights programme. Pool and Sauna. Done after work.
Fill in assessment form detailing soreness, injuries, mental well-being, fatigue and personal thoughts
|Rest and recovery. Foam rolling and stretching.
Book in for physio on Wednesday night if needed
|Training. Gym for work on power, flexibility and core development.
Field session. Game related drills and games
|Rest and recovery. Foam rolling and stretching.||Training. Gym for work on power, flexibility and core development.
Field session. Game related drills and games. Team meeting and video analysis
|Day off. Generally taken as a day to freshen up and forget about challenge the following day.||Game Day|
Training week in-season for a professional AFL Footballer. Seán Hurley
|Day off /or if you have an injury, you come in early in the morning to be assessed by physio . Personal development day e.g Uni (Bachelor of commerce)||Run and LB lift 7am HRV testing 7.30 amp mobilisation 8.30 team meeting 9 team training 11 lunch Between 12-4 get your hour weights and half hour massage completed *must have at least two massages a week , massage available every run day 3-5 go see development coaches and watch some vision of training and games/mental fitness||8am HRV 9-12 follow procedure of yoga/UB weights/touch(e.g 100 handballs)/line meetings(forward,back,mids) 1pm team meeting 1 1-5 personal development block e.g University work||7am HRV 7.30am Amp mobilisation 8.30 team meeting 9am team training 11am lunch 12-4 Lb lift and massage 3-5 meetings with development coaches/mental fitness||8am HRV 9am team meeting 10am recovery/weights optional and individualised Day before games are personalised to each individual apart form the team meeting which will be stated on our weeks calendar||Game Day||Morning recovery/ injury clinic|
- HRV- Heart rate variance consists of 5 minutes of your resting heart rate in the mornings. Also gives us a chance to meditate (mental recovery) while trying to rest our heart rate to the lowest variance possible.
- AMP -Activate Mobilization Prepare is basically a yoga stretch followed by glute and core activation
- LB and UB lower body and upper body lifts
The Life of a Professional Sportsman. Seán Hurley
Training and Education In season v pre-season
“Workloads are very different from in season to pre-season as you can imagine you want your legs fresh for games in-season as most athletes run up distances of 13-17k on the GPS system in games. An average week in pre-season would be 35k training. Pre-season is managed by the strength and conditioning team assessing all information to hand. Also weights are managed differently, I’m moving into a new system of weights where I’m lifting light weights, then about every 2 weeks I’ve a hit out coming nearer max weights 90% usually as we come into the season. We also adopted a system in pre-season where we upped our weights by 2.5kg every 2 sessions completed at a previous weight.
I have attached above, a typical week’s training during the in-season. The layout of the weeks are pretty similar, just workloads vary. Each week there can be small changes to the programme and sometimes our day off changes. Fremantle have a good culture when it comes to education, we have a day off every week to concentrate on studies and a 4 hour block for study usually punched into our calendar on non-running days”.
Communication and Organization
“At the start of every week, our calendars are on our phones which have been connected up to computers at the club are updated with the weekly programme, giving us a chance to plan our week. Most athletes at the club and also coaches and the fitness staff have diaries in which they fill out the night before and follow ritually. It is a place of professionalism and time is not to be wasted as every hour counts during the week”. Every morning we come in there are tasks we must complete in between our structured programme such as your hamstring test(sit and reach) calf test , comment on how we slept, rate any general soreness from the day before, 3 squeeze score and urine hydration test. All this data must be put into a computer for the medical team to assess and work out personal training loads for the day ahead. Every running/football session we wear a heart monitor and a tracker device so the strength and conditioning team can monitor us. It means they can manage the work load and reduce risk of injury exhaustion etc”.
“Mental fitness must be completed at least 3 times a week where you listen to a meditation tape, training your mind and breathing. Our sports psychologist is on hand also when we have a spare hour. We can go and see her and maybe record our kicking routine or creating a trigger word. In the heat of the battle sometimes our minds need a trigger word to bring you back to a state of calm. Game prep etc. are also discussed with the psychologist. During team meetings everyone has a note-pad taking down some notes, from what the coaches say and also from the vision. The following meeting we are tested on this information so it isn’t forgot about. It is a great way of learning and people are put on the spot at the start of most meetings”.
“After every running day there are set out recovery sessions between pool stretching and ice baths. These are the minimum expected from us but we try get in at least one a day e.g 4laps of the pool swimming, 4 laps dynamic stretching and 3 repetitions of 3 minutes in the cold baths.
To help improve bone density, I get an injection every morning. We are also expected to wear recovery pants to increase blood flow aiding recovery. To aid repair of muscular injuries, we use magnets to attract blood flow to the damaged areas. Iron in the blood is drawn to the areas affected by the magnets. Over the last two nights I’ve slept with a magnet on my quad muscle”.
Code of Conduct
“There are completely no restrictions on what boots/colours etc. you wear. Our club has a rule on skinfolds saying you must be under 55 to train.
Rules on alcohol are you cannot drink if it’s a 6 day turn around e.g play Sunday and then play again the following Saturday. 7 day turn arounds are fine. In season, players don’t go out very often but the rules stands at a 7 day turn around officially. When injured no alcohol is to be consumed.
The one ban we have at the club is poor footwear such as “Haviana” flip flops. If you want to wear flip flops they must be approved by our podiatrist, most of the approved pairs aren’t overly stylish to say the least”.
Comparison of Schedules
Firstly, I love my job and am extremely lucky to be employed. Between school, playing football, taking care of yourself and the demands on certain people, you could be busy all the time but I’m not complaining. From my personal experience, I have to be organised to do everything and believe it or not it’s much easier to keep the balance when you have a plan for each day. When Friday night comes however everyone has a tired look about them in the dressing room after training.
I have to admit that there are many differences between Sean’s schedule and mine. I am of the opinion that they have top class facilities and I could say with certainty, any inter-county footballer would love to be a part of the same group. Further to that I think it is possible to learn and put into practice their rituals and habits, and undoubtedly some are being used presently for example psychologists, meditation and the emphasis on personal development inside and outside the camp. If I have a desire to improve these traits here, I have to progress them myself in most cases and that’s a significant difference between amateurism and professionalism. Many thanks to Seán and thank you for reading.