A small snippet from my book "Strength and Conditioning For Gaelic Games".
We all know playing Gaelic Games is tough on the body - the collisions, the knocks, the cuts, and bruises can all take a toll. In addition to that, a long, arduous season with several games and training sessions of various intensities can add to the onset of fatigue.
Who wants to train a team that doesn’t just quite ‘zip’ on the big day? Who wants to train a team full of soft tissue injuries?
This is why we need to implement some simple recovery systems into any serious team we train. Getting a recovery culture in place in your club will mean fewer injuries among your squad, fresher athletes, and fitter athletes.
The simple statement “training makes you worse, the recovery after is what actually improves you” should be always to your foremost of your thoughts when training a team. The concept isn’t ground-breaking to those familiar with the intricacies of S&C, but to a lot of people involved in sport (not just the GAA) the idea would blow their minds.
Recovery after hard sessions and hard games is an essential aspect of all modern S&C programmes.
Like anything in this book, it’s all about culture - if you don’t create a culture of rewarding your players for doing simple recovery methods after hard sessions, then it won't stick.
Before long the old habits will set in and your efforts will be in vain and if you are to be successful, it’s crucial the head coach buys into this.
The 100 Points System
When I coach any team I will teach my athletes the following recovery system; I call it the 100 points system which I have borrowed from AFL teams and other sources around world sport.
What we do is identify useful and practical recovery methods and assign points to them as per your beliefs (for example a massage scores higher than a protein shake).
With this in place you now have a simple way to ask your players “are you recovering?” and “how many points did you hit?”.
With those simple questions, your athletes will know what you are talking about without having to tell you every little tiny detail.
50 points for 20 mins swim in the sea or pool
50 points for 30 mins massage
50 points for Epsom salt bath
30 points for 15 mins cold immersion
30 points for 15 mins stretch session
30 points for 1 hour of SKINS wearing
30 points for 3 X 3 minutes cold; 1.5 mins hot contrast 20 points Protein shake
20 points for 20 mins spin bike
10 points for 15 min walk
10 points for 15 mins foam roller session
10 points for sauna
10 points for Post-workout shake after training of any kind
- 20 points for drinking session*
- 10 points per meal skipped
- 10 points for a late-night studying session
- 10 points for working late
* depending on the sessions volume and intensity, this could score as high as -100
With the above chart, you can add or subtract what you like - it all depends on what you have at your disposal. Feel free to print this chart and educate your players that they need to hit their “100 Points”.
If you want to get more sophisticated, you can get your athletes to fill out a weekly sheet or online questionnaire about how many recovery points they hit that week.
I will guarantee you the players that don’t embrace this change will wilt as the season goes on - their lack of zip and drive will stand out compared to the athletes that do.
Story from the Trenches - The advent of load monitoring tools.
With the advent of tools like Smartabase and Metrifit, several fancier options have hit the market to measure load with your athletes. The problem with these tools are they are never adhered to fully by your squads as they can be fiddly, cumbersome and players get a bit bored/lack the motivation to use them all the time. Players are clever too, if they get a sense that all this filling out of forms doesn't actually get read or adhered to by the coaches, they'll vote with their feet and simply stop using them. I have found by the end of the season only my most dedicated players are still using these load monitoring apps and to be honest, these were usually the players I was least worried about when it came to proper nutrition and sleep, etc. I think the higher the level of the team, the better these tools are, but, for your average GAA club, spend your resources elsewhere and just use common sense or build a free and cheap google spreadsheet that can do the same job.