Are You Ready For Pre-season?

It’s pre-season again – You Ready?

No, I mean really ready.

Have you set your goals for the season? By that I mean personal goals that you actually have influence over, not team goals.

If you’re on this site, then you obviously want to get faster, right?

Well then how are you going to do that and how do you decide if you’ve achieved it or not? 

You may want to play 50games. That means not getting injured. How are you going to go about that?

It may be more game specific. If you’re a full back, you might look to reduce the amount of completed crosses put in from your wing. What do you need to improve on to acieve this?

Pre-season is the time to really work on these areas. Will those 10mile runs and 100 press ups get you closer to your goal? Really?

So you now have these goals for this season. What the hell are you going to do about it? Do you think your team coach will gear the pre-season training sessions specifically with you in mind?

I’m afraid you’re going to have to do something that will take you right out of your comfort zone. Football is a team sport, and the difficult thing for mediocre players is to take accountability for themselves. Are you one of those?

 Albert Einstein believed that the definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing but expect a different result.

Mr Einstein, now he was a clever bloke.

Are you going to do the same as last year and hope that the gaffer might come up with something miraculous in training that will turn you into a star?

Or are you going to leave nothing to chance and plan your own route to success?

But let’s go back to our Albert shall we? What you’ve been doing hasn’t been getting you the results you desire – or you wouldn’t be here:)

Keep an eye on this area over the coming weeks. I’ll be posting weekly articles on game specific speed development and physical preparation. I may upset a few people and completelycontradict what you’ve been taught about speed training for years.

Yours in speed

Rob Gascoyne

What’s wrong with modern training?

I want to share with you, an article written by Vern Gambetta. Vern is based in America and has been one of the most influential coaches in athletic development today.

When this guy talks, successful coaches listen. So should you.

What he highlights is the whole reason why many football coaches are wary of the gym. And you know what, I don’t blame them.

But hey, strength training doesn’t have to be about the body building stuff you see in the mags.

Take it away Vern. 
ACL Tears in Female Athletes – The Problem & Some Solutions

This article and some of the information (misinformation) in article in Sunday New York Times sports page is disturbing. The topic of the female athlete and ACL injuries is complex and sometimes controversial. It is a real problem and a crisis given the economic and human cost.
Let’s look at a couple of the points of emphasis in the article and then I will look a bit more globally and offer some solutions.
The following is often offered up as a solution to prevent ACL injuries: “bend at the hips and knees to softly absorb the load, keeping their knees behind the toes, striking the ground toe to heel.” Watch a game or practice you will see it is impossible to keep the knees behind the toes and still play the game. You may do it a completely controlled artificial environment, but in the real world at game speed the knee will go where it has to go. It will go into extreme valgus and varus positions. The knee will go way out beyond the toe. The key is that the knee goes where it needs to go with control. As far as foot strike, it is completely dictated by the movement requirement, landing from a rebound could be a different foot strike than on planting and cutting. This strategy will robotize the player by taking instinctual and reflexive movements and making them cognitive, conscious and mechanical. In my opinions (I emphasize it is my opinion) we may actually be predisposing the athlete to injury with these types of prevention programs. It is certainly not time well spent.
Here is another solution from the article: “The knee should be in a neutral position; ideally, … said, the center of the kneecap should be aligned with the second toe.” Neutral is a position the knee passes through in a millisecond. In an artificial controlled environment you may be able to align the kneecap with the second toe, but it won’t happen at the speed you must play in order to be able to execute jumps, stops, starts and turns. It is a dynamic, ballistic environment that is not sterile and controlled. Once again the result will be robotic movement.
The information in both quotes represents what is thought to be cutting edge research, but it does not represent what must be done in the real world in the competitive arena. These types of so-called prevention programs and strategies are fundamentally unsound. If in doubt my rule of thumb is to go back to common sense. If these strategies worked then why aren’t they preventing ACL tears? Everyone is doing some variation of these programs; in some cases devoting up to thirty minutes a day to them, still the rate of ACL tears has not dropped, if anything it has increased.
It begs a simple question: Do these players have the physical competencies and fundamental movement skills necessary to compete? We know they have the basketball, soccer, or specific sport skill, but do they have the underlining physical competencies and movement skills to give them a fair change to avoid injury? Part of the solution is quite simple – identify and assess the physical competencies. Then train those competencies in parallel to the sport skill. The dark hole is what is being done in the off-season, preseason and in- season in regard to strength training. In many situations strength training is only done in the off-season, reduced in pre-season and almost nonexistent in-season.
For the female athlete a commitment to year around strength training is a requirement, not an option. It must continue in-season through the championship season. Unlike her male counterpoint that has a great percentage of muscle mass and higher testosterone levels, the female cannot afford to take off from strength training. Obviously the greatest investment should be on leg strength. The great majority of ACL tears are noncontact and in most of those cases they are a deceleration injuries (As are ankle sprains). It stands to reason then that we should focus on training the decelerators. Stop focusing on the knee and think kinetic chain, emphasize the linkage of ankle, knee, hip and the trunk. The knee is stuck in the middle; it is at the mercy of the joints above and below.
The sports that put the knee at greatest risk are sports that require quick starts, stops and changes of direction off one leg onto the other leg. This  dictates that the training emphasize work on one-leg and reciprocal movements. The single leg squat is the cornerstone (True single leg squat, not some of the permutations labeled as such), lunges in all planes and step-ups at various heights. Double leg squats are important, starting with bodyweight and progressing to appropriate loads based on developmental level and sport demands.
Dynamic balance should be part of daily warm-up, as should a mini band routine to work the intrinsic muscles of the hip. Once a foundation of leg strength is established then progressively add agility work that starts with known programmed movements and progresses to random chaotic movements. Incorporate jump rope as a means to teach good coordination and foot strike. Progress to multi dimensional jumps and hops.
The clincher here is that this must be systematically addressed in the female athlete starting just before puberty. Think of it as preparation to play the game that runs parallel to skill development. In most cases it should slightly precede skill development. The two must go hand in glove, not either or. The functionally strong young female athlete will be more receptive to skill learning and be better able to apply the skills to the game. TRAIN TO PLAY, DON”T PLAY TO TRAIN!
Select movements that link and connect the ankle/knee and hip as a functional unit to reduce and produce force. Include exercises that have a high proprioceptive demand. Above all train on your feet! A simple rule of thumb, if you lying prone or supine or seated you are not preparing to attenuate the ground reaction forces that are demanded in the game. You must train with you feet on the ground to effectively learn to shock absorb and use the ground.
Don’t say it can’t be done, it can. It takes organization, focus and commitment. You don’t need a lot of equipment or huge time blocks. You need to be consistent and relentless. Training can be done anywhere; it can be on the field or on the court if necessary. Apply the  “weight room without walls” concept. Make it challenging mentally and physically to prepare for the stress of competition. The bottom line is that to prevent ACL tears you must train the body for the rigors of competition. The prevention program should be a transparent component of training.

Hi, it’s me again. 

Your body needs to be prepared to go into all sorts of positions and get itself out of them safely. That means you need to have been there before – many times.
But it’s something you must progress your training towards. Let’s face it, getting injured in training is pretty stupid, no?

As always, leave your comments below, I’m always interested in what you think. If the interest’s there, I may do a post on bullet-proof knees.

Yours in speed


Do what you’ve always done, get what you’ve always got.

Albert Einstein believed that the definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing but expect a different result.

Unless your lucky enough to be on a cup run*, if you’re a non-league football player you can safely hang up the boots for the summer months. By now you’ll be glad for the rest.

But before you do, take heed of Mr Einstein, he was a clever bloke. If you’re planning something big next season, now’s the time to plan.

Do a debrief of your season. Do it now, not next week or at the start of preseason. Now. Because you need clarity.

  1. What areas of your game did you excel?
  2. What areas were not up to the same standard?
  3. Are there opportunities available to you to step up to the next level (e.g. get into the first team or move to a bigger club)?
  4. Are there other players coming through that might steal your place or have you been relegated (meaning lower stndard next year)?

Over the coming weeks I’ll be posting some articles on key areas of your physical preparation where massive improvements can be made in a short space of time. Some of the topics I will address are:

  • How to get blistering acceleration
  • Get off your toes!!
  • How to drop your man and create time on the ball
  • Great footwork, not fast feet
  • Performance nutrition
  • Gym work that will transfer on to the pitch
  • The power of the core
  • Flexibility – what’s useful and what’s not
  • Injury prevention
  • Staying power – who slows down the least wins!
When you do something new, your potential for improvement is massive. We just have to make sure that we have the end goal in mind. There’s no point in getting great at something that has no carry over to your sport.
If you have any other topics you would like to see added, then just add it to the comments below.
Yours in speed
p.s. *that’s the last time I use the word lucky. Winning games has nothing to do with luck.
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