Motivating players to train in the winter can be hard, but it’s important to maintain their match fitness and keep your team sharp, especially if the weather or your schedule means that you’re waiting weeks or longer between games.
You should approach training differently in the winter. You need to be sensible: if it’s too cold, icy, wet or windy, call off the session – you don’t want your players to get sick or injured. If you have the option, take the training inside.
However, the weather doesn’t often get that extreme and regular training in winter conditions can help strengthen immune systems, which makes for fitter, stronger players. Also, the extra fitness can give your team an edge over opponents.
So, if you’re heading out for a session when it’s cold and wet, here are five winter football coaching tips to help your team stay fit and ready:
1. Make sure everyone is wearing the right training kit. It’s a no-brainer but it’s important. There are no crazy-macho kudos points for training in a t-shirt and shorts – it just means that players are more likely to get injured or sick. Insulation is important, so ideally they should be wearing base layers (top and bottom). On top they should also have a water-repellent jacket with wind-breaking functionality, as well as gloves, a snood/scarf and a hat.
2. In the winter, a good warm-up is even more important than usual. The cold weather makes players more susceptible to muscle strains and pulls, and not warming-up properly is the main cause of injury at this time of year. So, as soon as they are on the training ground, get them warming up. Don’t let them stand around and chat – they’ll want to, but tell them to do it on the go.
3. Because of the cold, it’s vital that you get your players active and keep them active. In the winter, a sensible way of getting them moving is running. Get them jogging laps of the pitch or up and down it. It’s a short and simple instruction, which means less standing around. Furthermore, kicking the ball around and shooting in the cold (before you’ve warmed up) runs the risk of injury. As does sprinting, so keep the running pace moderate.
4. Once your players are warmed up, you can start the training exercises. These exercises shouldn’t be high-intensity ones. In lower temperatures, it is better to dial down the intensity of the training – to avoid injuries – and focus on exercises that exert the body is a more consistent and uniform way. Design the session so that players aren’t standing around for lengthy periods. Small games keep everyone involved and active, and help keep key skills sharp.
5. When it comes to winter training, it’s good to think of the mind as well as the body. While some people might relish getting out in all weathers to kick a ball around, others might find it more difficult to get motivated. So, where you can, make it more fun. One way to do this is to get your players playing another sport – a bit of touch-rugby or netball involves both cardiovascular and reaction training. It’ll put a smile on their faces, create positivity and help team building.
It is easy to think of winter training as a chore but really it’s an opportunity to get an advantage over your rivals. Do it properly and, when your team is back on the pitch, they’ll be fitter, stronger and sharper.