HOW SPORTS SCIENCE CAN BOOST FOOTBALL CLUB PERFORMANCE

Sports science and medicine can provide an understanding of the effects of training by quantifying training loads and advise on the design of individualised multidisciplinary preparation programmes (physical, nutritional, psychological, and technical). Planned and structured interventions can minimise the incidence of injury and illness, increase the availability of players for training and selection, and assist in determining a player’s readiness to perform. A systematic scientific approach to performance issues can inform and improve decision-making, enhance game understanding, and positively influence risk management. Such insights have the potential to positively influence both the coaching process and the resulting coaching behaviour.

To be effective, sports science and medical practitioners must be able to influence key decisions concerning injury-reducing or performance-enhancing aspects such as training loads (duration and intensity), training content (e.g. gym-based versus on-field activities), recovery strategies, training/team selection based on needs (considering the requirement to rest players, etc.).

This is where the core values, beliefs and leadership qualities of the modern-day coach become critical.

“The primary aim of the support staff is to assist the coaching staff in coordinating all the activities that support the team and to make sure that the players are technically, tactically, mentally and physically prepared to cope with the demands of the modern game and reach their highest performance levels.”

HOW DO WE DEFINE HIGH PERFORMANCE?

The concept of “high performance” originated in the business world as people started to study organizational excellence. While the term may seem somewhat nebulous, it’s simply about trying to understand what factors contribute to extraordinary success. In other words, it’s a “conceptual framework for organizations that leads to improved, sustainable organizational performance.

Similarly, a sporting institution will never achieve greatness without implementing the best practices and principles of high-performance sports management. High-performance sports management (HPSM) is the craft of managing and developing athletes to their highest potential using a holistic, interdisciplinary model of care. Let’s now try to identify the benchmark to be considered a high-performance player:

  • Sustaining high-performance work rates during the entire season
  • Sustaining high-performance work rates during the entire game
  • Playing 90% of games available per season
  • Playing a game every 3-4 days over a multiple weeks period
  • Achieving 90% Seasonal Match and Training Availability
  • Achieving fitness baseline targets
  • Staying injury-free

To achieve this level of performance, we need to consider some critical factors and processes:

  • Compliance with the monitoring & testing procedure
  • Benchmarks achieved >90% of the players in the squad
  • Ideally achieving match readiness with 100% recovery markers

THE IMPORTANCE OF INTEGRATION & COORDINATION IN AN ORGANIZATION

Nowadays, an integrated approach is necessary to optimize results and improve the club’s return on investment (ROI).

Every company, large or small, has certain internal characteristics such as management style, systems, organizational structure, strategy, staff and organizational culture. External characteristics include the company’s mission or business model, input and output, the economy, technology, political factors, social factors and stakeholders.

Companies that cannot coordinate and integrate plans act like a body without a head. Though employees have the ability and skill sets necessary to carry out directives, their work needs guidance. Coordination and integration start at the executive level and carry down to the workers at the front line of the company.

Communication enhancement and information-sharing processes between departments are crucial to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of daily operations to improve the players’ performance and maximise the overall team results.

  • OPTIMIZE PERFORMANCE
  • REDUCE INJURY RISK
  • INCREASE ROI

Image. Example of football club framework

PROTOCOLS & PROCESS

Those are some of the assessment protocols and daily processes available to clubs to develop a high-performance science and support service. The results of these activities will tell us the players’ fitness level and readiness & fatigue status.

Wellness & Recovery

  • Cryotherapy
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Breathing Technique
  • Compression Garments
  • Active Recovery
  • Tissue Therapy
  • Sleep Optimization
  • Nutritional Strategies
  • Schedule Optimization

Testing & Monitoring

  • Session Workload
  • Readiness & Fatigue
  • Physical Assessment

KEY AREAS OF INTERVENTION IN HIGH-PERFORMANCE SCIENCE & SUPPORT

The club makes huge investments every single season in “super players” so we have to give them the best possible scientific support to ensure our investments produce a return, and we cannot do this if our players are unavailable week after week.

After the production of a high-performance science and support strategy the following areas are currently deemed to be a priority in delivering the Services proposed to a world-class level which will have an impact on the club culture, players and ultimately performance.

FITNESS & CONDITIONING

Recently, the training process has radically changed as 90% of training time in football consists of technical drills driven by the head coach. Therefore, the biggest impact on the team performance is given by football-based training.

A well-designed fitness & conditioning program must take into consideration the specific game demands, aim to improve the overall fitness of the players and strengthen their weak links to enhance their performance and prevent injuries.

MONITORING & TESTING

By using tracking system technology, we can truly understand the player’s performance during the game, and quantify the subjective workload and its outcome.

Thanks to assessment protocols, we can discover the fitness status and the readiness level of the players, and design and implement an effective, individualized training programme.

DATA ANALYTICS

Today thanks to the data analytics process, we can collect, integrate and analyze information from all club’s departments. Developing a central system of intelligence to support practitioners to access data from everywhere and deliver the right information at the right moment, to improve the overall decision-making and be always ahead of the game.

WELLNESS & RECOVERY

Recovery is not just about taking a day off from training once or twice a week or getting an occasional massage. Indeed, when we talk about recovery, we refer to several methods you use over the day to fuel your success.

A player’s recovery process is the limiting factor to achieving the best performance, and when inadequate, it even increases the risk of injury.

✍️ Credit by Marco Savino