The mark of a championship winning footy squad is the ability to go again the next game. As hard as they played the previous week. Andrew Gray, Physical Performance Manager at the Cronulla Sharks, talks Inside Sport through the wreckage that is the morning after a tough game.
The Morning After
“The next morning will be yet another stage in our recovery. With all the bumps and bruises, collision injuries, high-speed running, car-crash-like activity that these guys go through, it’s very important to get moving the next day. We’ll generally assess our fluid loss post-game, and well do that again the very next morning. We’ll individualise hydration, nutrition and supplementation plans for players based on the amount of fluid/weight loss they’ve had during that period.
Generally our recovery involves the same elements each week: there’ll be an element of movement, which is often a pool – swim and running protocol in the water, and sometimes cardio exercises. Then we’ll put the layers through a mobility program, where we’ll stretch and basically try to get the boys’ bodies moving again, along with, as I said, further hydration and supplementation. Depending on the length of the week and what day it is, the day after a match could even involve going back to the coaches for a team review and individual reviews with videos and meetings to basically go over the game from the day before. We’ll try to learn as much as we can from that game, but then put it behind us as quickly as possible and set our sights firmly on our next opposition.”
Margin of Error
“Broadly speaking, based on a philosophy which I believe in, there is an optimal amount of load or work that an NRL player needs to perform each week, including the game, to maintain a high level of performance for the entirety of an NRL season. Too much load or work will definitely bring about an improvement in performance, and will eventually lead to a decline in performance as fatigue sets in. Whereas a low load – or an amount of work below that optimal zone – may reduce your immediate injury risk, but will render players unable to compete at the intensity required in the NRL competition. It’s a very small margin of error. If you happen to have just a few players who are a little bit off their game physically, mentally or tactically, you pretty much don’t stand a chance of winning in this competition. It’s that close.”
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