I've been spending the past couple of weeks block paving my driveway. Well, I've been laboring whilst my father in law does all the tricky stuff. Basically if it needed smashing, shoveling, mixing or shifting, I've been doing it.
Now what the hell has this got to do with pre-season training I hear you shout. Well, I was half expecting the local premiership football or rugby team to rock up on my street and muck in and do some pre-season training with me, hotly pursued by the local press and possibly SKY Sports News.
Come on, what better way for these players to 'bond' and get 'fit' for the forthcoming season than a bit of 'HILCT Bootcamp' (High Intensity Labor Circuit Training). NB: I'm starting a class up by the way if anyone is interested, we've a bunch of driveways on my street that all need doing so I figured 'HILCT Bootcamps' could prove very popular, everyone gets in great shape and my street has some fantastic driveways at the end of it!
I know it sounds daft but we are well and truly in the middle of silly season, sorry I mean pre-season. I'm struggling to pick up a paper or watch a sports report on TV without seeing multi-million pound assets pulling and pushing trucks, running up and down sand dunes, taking part in 'bootcamps' or throwing themselves around an assault course with a military PTI in a tight white vest screaming abuse at them (I apologise to my brother in advance, no offense meant bruv!). All in the name of getting some good pre-season work under their belts.
What a load of total and utter bullshit (in my honest opinion).
Pre-season is possibly one of the most important times of the year for any sportsperson. It's the one time that you can actually put together some consistent training and work on areas of physical preparation that in all honesty are neglected once the season gets under way. As a strength and conditioning coach this is the one time you can get your hands on players and influence their training, without having to worry if they are going to have to play two games in four days. This is not the time to be pissing about doing bootcamps on beaches (in fact I'm not really sure when there's a right time for that!). As one of my fellow S&C coaches said "Nick, it's easy to 'empty' a squad, but how do you quantify, manage, overload and progress?" Exactly, these one off 'Hollywood' sessions are pretty pointless.
"Ahh, but Nick" I hear you say, "these activities are great for team building, it gets the lads together, they love it and they form a bond."
I know of teams that have worked with the military in pre-season, had sessions delivered by soldiers that have seen and been injured in action etc and whilst the players were probably humbled for oh, maybe 30 minutes, at no point did it make them better players, able to draw on what they did during those training sessions when the going got tough halfway through the season. You don't develop a set of nuts and a desire to win in that sort of staged training session. You've either got it, or developed it over a long period of time. Yes they will have probably worked harder than they have ever done in their life and yes carrying the log as a team up a bloody great big hill will have shown who in the squad had some metal, but don't think that one session did anything in terms of 'team building'.
You're kidding yourself.
In fact, when one of my colleagues heard I may be writing about this subject he said
"I have never met a player who was better, felt tougher or ,more 'bonded' as a result."
Now don't get me wrong, there will be teams out there that are doing things the right way, actually training with a purpose. I know this because I've seen them on SKY Sports News as well (usually wearing something revolutionary like a heart rate monitor!!). No seriously, the top teams tend to get things right and make the most of the short pre-season that they have with their players. They realise time is precious and it's probably not wise to send your multi million pound players off for some 'Hollywood' training sessions with a random coach.
OK, so it's a bit of light hearted rant but at the heart of it is a serious message. Pre-season is a crucial window of opportunity. It's the perfect time to make a positive impact on players physical preparation. It's not the time to be simulating a beach landing with the Royal Marie Commando's.
So come on, lets all play pre-season bingo. Let me know every time you see or read a report about your local sports team taking part in some bullshit pre-season training session.
I may even give a prize for the daftest session (you'll have to prove it's genuine though!).
Here are some of the activities you may see:
Running on the beach (preferably sand dunes)
Pulling a car (probably a sponsors car or maybe a branded car from a local gym where the team are training!)
Hitting a tractor tyre with sledgehammer
Flipping a tractor tyre
Dragging a tractor tyre
Running through an army assault course
Carry a bloody great big log up a bloody great big hill