A run of poor results at the start of the season can really knock a team’s confidence. Sport psychologist Dan Abrahams offers grassroots coaches four tips to help their teams get over a rocky opening to the campaign MORE
Get fitter players with no extra effort
How? Simply by getting them to sleep more. A good night of sleep is vital to a football player’s physical and mental preparation for a game. Although the amount of time that your players spend on fitness training and honing their basic skills is essential to improving performance, science and research shows that there is no substitute for a good nights’ sleep.
You might not think this is the role of a coach, but if your players seem to lack a healthy sleeping pattern, you need to advise them on the best way to address the problem if they want to be a professional team.
For good sleep and body recuperation you need total quiet, a dark, cool and well ventilated room, and a good-sized bed.
The strength benefits of sleep
Deep sleep is not solely associated with rest, as it also replenishes and strengthens joints, bones and muscles through the release of growth hormones. Use this point to promote the physical benefits of sleep to your players. It is probably the simplest and most straight forward thing you can tell them that will result in a marked improvement in performance.
Research has shown that sleep deprivation can lead to an 11% reduction in performance that is visible through a variety of symptoms:
- Less energy and lower performance levels
- Can’t be bothered attitude
- Reduced short-term memory
- Make sure players relax before bed. They should avoid anything that is mentally or physically exertive beforehand.
- Encourage them to listen to what their body is saying and go to bed when they actually feel tired.
- Advise using fewer or more pillows to find better comfort. Maybe a different bed with softer or harder mattress will promote better sleep.
- Eating foods such as beans, peas, nuts, vegetables and cereals can improve sleep.
- Get them to consider going to bed an hour earlier before a match.
- Promoting sleep. A hot or cold shower or bath before bed can help as changing body temperature shortly before bed can lead to better sleep.
- Players shouldn’t drink tea or coffee past mid afternoon.
- They shouldn’t consume alcohol before bed before a match. You’re going to find it hard to stop your adult players from drinking at all, but limiting their intake to moderate amounts can help. Although alcohol can make players feel drowsy, it doesn’t necessarily lead to a peaceful sleep.
- Avoid huge meals mid evening, as leaving it too late to take food on board can lead to a bloated stomach. This is the last thing a player needs in preparation for bedtime.
- Neither should they go to bed hungry, particularly after training, so eat something light as a hungry stomach can disrupt sleep.