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Champions Do Not Become Champions on the Pitch

It’s been an amazing few months; I’ve worked with various players from Moseley RFC and Coventry Bears Rugby League alongside leading the S&C for the Gloucestershire All Golds Rugby League, Lydney RFC and carrying out some consultancy work at a couple of local Gloucestershire rugby union clubs.

As a coach, working within rugby league and union is certainly fun, but incredibly busy. Given the different playing seasons, my recent priority has been preparing players for the 2012/2013 rugby union season. This has now changed and as the rugby union players are touching on some maintenance / minor development aspects, the rugby league players are now getting revved up for an intensive off/pre-season.

But, remember (as stated in my Metabolic Interval Training blog) a common and very costly error that players often make is to train too early and too intensely. At this stage of the season as a rugby league player it is very important NOT to neglect rest and recovery.

For that purpose, I’ll give you a little insight into some of the work I have done this pre-season with the rugby union players.

A Look into a Successful Pre-Season

I have witnessed impressive feats of strength, power, speed and fitness and for at least a month I knew full well I was one of the most hated men on the planet after pushing the lads through some seriously tough conditioning sessions.

As much as it’s not all about training to exhaustion/maximally, players never seem to forget the tough sessions and love to seek revenge; whether it’s attempting to push me in the ice baths post-training or hide my lifting shoes! One thing is for sure, they’re grateful at the end of it when the training is evidently paying off.

Despite being younger than some of the players, I’ve somehow ended up being a father figure pestering them to make sure they have their shakes after training, complete their pre/post training weigh-ins, and write down their training data, the list goes on.

Nevertheless, I love my job and to be fair to the players this year, everyone has given it their all. Slowly but surely the game is getting far more professional and players realize that in order to compete, they need to be training well. Recently, I read an awesome quote that just about sums it all up:

“Champions do not become champions on the pitch. They become recognized on the pitch. They become champions because of their daily routine and commitment to excellence. Players do not decide their future; they decide their habits and their habits decide their future”.

This is so true, and subsequently it’s ended up on one of the club gym walls.

The development of fitness is only one component relative to rugby performance and as pre-season has progressed we’ve been able to have some serious fun.

We’ve incorporated heavy strongman sessions, water polo sessions, pilates/yoga and check this out…wrestling! I’ve been heavily involved in martial arts from a young age and so it has been a great pleasure incorporating this into my work.

As the sessions went by the players were “secretly” getting more and more competitive. By “secretly” I mean they were pretending it was all fun and games but it was evident they were giving it their all.

You can see from the picture on the left that some of the players thought they were WWE wrestlers for an hour and trained like it too!

The bonus is that with this training they forgot how hard they were actually working because it was enjoyable; this is always a bonus.

Although the squad was split up into training groups for various sessions, we would often have full-team sessions. These were awesome for a number of reasons, but I feel that the main two are competition and team cohesion.

It’s not very often that when you’re going for a big lift you have 30 players shouting and spurring you on.

From a cohesion perspective, when everyone is working hard and giving everything, players get this awesome feeling and realization that the whole team is working for the same thing; to play well in the season ahead.

It’s also worth mentioning that it’s not all about biomechanics laboratories, Olympic lifting platforms, speed timing gaits & GPS.

Sure if you have access to these sorts of facilities and equipment then make the most of it but field conditioning can be simple and still be very effective. Some of my previous blogs have demonstrated some great alternative exercises and training techniques that can be carried out almost anywhere.

This image is actually from a session I’ve done over the pre-season and there were a number of sessions that looked pretty much the same:

Now add a full rugby squad to the equation and in an open space with minimal equipment you can still get results and the competitive team cohesion element I was talking about earlier.

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