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Football: How to Prepare your Team

Football is one of the most popular team sports in the UK, with an estimated 8.2 million people (one in five adults) and 1.8 million children playing our national sport, according to the Football Association. The number of people participating is growing steadily, with football for disabled people surging in popularity over the past five years.

If you're a football coach, you will know how important it is to prepare for a match. Not only are the physical preparations important, so are the mental ones, with team spirit being a vital factor when it comes to success. If you coach either an amateur adult team or a school team, don't think your preparations are any less important than those of a professional squad.


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Mental and physical

Whether you're preparing your team for regular football matches, or for special tournaments, you need to take a mental and physical approach to sport: mental preparations should begin well in advance. If you play weekly, as soon as one game is over, start getting your head into the next.

Some coaches recommend visualising success and staying positive, focusing your mind on one goal at a time. Positive thoughts aren't just for kids - even adults should give themselves a pep talk. All players, from professionals down to youth teams, feel pressure, so try to stay cool and relaxed mentally.

Managers must get to know the players' strengths and weaknesses and devise ways of improving their performance. This means training hard and giving your all during practice, as players can't give 100% on match day if they haven't worked just as hard at training sessions.

As a player, dig deep and participate fully in drills, rather than going through the motions. Every aspect of practice is getting the team ready for real game situations. Players must push themselves to improve and build good professional relationships with team-mates on the pitch, so they work together well when it matters.

It's up to the manager to discuss strategies with the coaching staff, taking into account who the opposition is. Every team is different and what works for one match won't necessarily work for another. Once the manager has worked out the strategy, it's up to the team to get on board and act upon any changes to the shape or tactics.


Eat healthily

The night before a match, eat a healthy, balanced meal a few hours before bedtime. It should consist of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Some trainers recommend it should have more carbohydrates to ensure a sustained energy level the following day.

Give yourself at least two hours before going to sleep, so your body begins to digest the food, or it may cause indigestion and a restless night's sleep. Follow it up with a low-sugar, protein-rich, light breakfast.

Have all your football gear ready the night before, to avoid unnecessary stress in the morning. Make sure your kit, boots, water bottles, snacks, energy supplements and anything else you need are packed and ready, so you can head out of the door. Stay hydrated by drinking sufficient water before the game starts, to combat muscle fatigue during play.

Warm up before the match, either with training techniques that the manager has organised, or with a quick jog to warm up your muscles. Take the time to stretch, as this decreases the risk of injury during athletic activity and improves performance. Friendly banter with team-mates before kick-off will help build team spirit and make the match more enjoyable.


Safety first

The FA lays down rules that football clubs are responsible for taking the appropriate measures to provide a safe environment for spectators, players and match officials.

Clubs must encourage good conduct by both sets of fans. The FA has produced a document detailing crowd control measures that should be adhered to before, during and after the match to ensure everyone's safety.

In terms of the players' safety, the game can normally be played if it's raining, but not if the rain is so torrential that it has made the surface conditions dangerous. Similarly, a frosty pitch may be unsafe. Ultimately, it will be up to the referee to carry out a pitch inspection shortly before kick-off and if they decide it's not safe to play, the match will be called off.

If the match is taking place on a wet day, provide rubber ground mats for extra safety when the players are going on and off a muddy pitch. For the best selection of rubber mats for all purposes, give Coruba a call on 01702 560194.

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