SMART: Everyone wants to be celebrating on grand final day, like Bacchus Marsh’s Jarrah Maksymow, but buffing up in a huge pre-season is not always the best path to get there. Picture: Lachlan Bence
STAY calm and very low-key until after Christmas festivities have played out.
We see the tone set at the top in AFL with clubs and their stars back from post-season holidays and fired up ready for training.
Some clubs, like Carlton, have already plunged into interstate camps trying to find a sharper edge and any extra sense of team bonding they can muster.
Football life at the top, from the outside, can look all like sweating it out to build speed and strength in a renewed, enthusiastic quest for the game’s holy grail.
A big summer can looklike the perfect formula.
But grassroots football is a game with a completely different set of personal considerations at stake.
Players need a different balance to take them into the holidays.
Pre-season training is an important part of conditioning bodies and building fitness for injury prevention and to hit the ground running from round one.
Grassroots coaches must make sure they are careful not to go too far.
AFL Victoria has drawn the line this month, handing down a guidelines for pre-season training loads, varying by age groups, for all community competitions.
The framework is to ensure player welfare in the silly season.
Most clubs will argue they keep the pre-Christmas period light for players – plenty of players become preoccupied with other sports, like cricket, or take a break.
Obviously there is enough concern for the AFL Victoria to feel a clear set of guidelines was still needed.
AFL Victoria warns there is much to consider: summer sports loads, hardened surfaces, grounds shared with other sports, and the general hectic nature of increased festivities.
Clubs want primed players but they do not need burnouts –let alone keeping players primed enough to reach finals.
AFL players have a big team of leading sports medicine and strengthen and conditioning staff to manage their workloads. Dietitians help set what they should eat.
Football is their full-time job but grassroots clubs do not have the luxury of such extensive monitoring of their players.
There is always the temptation to do more to sharpen that edge, to push harder.
We want our clubs to be the best but ultimately this comes back to preparing smarter, especially when it comes to juniors.
AFL Victoria states that given grassroots clubs take extended breaks for the holiday period, there is little benefit in a significant pre-Christmas training block.
This should not be a suggestion to shorten that time away.
Grassroots football should be about engaging people in sport and promoting healthy and active lifestyles.
Winning may mean a lot but it is not everything. Clubs should be striving to keep footballers in the game as long as possible at the highest levels they feel they can.
Mental welfare and more time with families is just as important as the physical side to the game. Easing up a bit before Christmas can reignite the drive to work harder when the game really counts most.
FESTIVE: Light sessions, cross-training, individual programs and simply having fun is what AFL Victoria outlines for teams leading into Christmas. Picture: Amy Paton
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