How to link fitness training to specific football development training – members of the European technical, coaching and medical community have been asked to go away and reflect on this important topic after being given an introduction to the issue at a pilot seminar organised by UEFA in Oslo.
This week's Fitness for Football seminar, run by the UEFA football education service, brought together coach education heads from UEFA national associations with fitness and medical experts. They discussed how football training and fitness training can be aligned to help players perform to their maximum, as well as to prevent injuries.
The Oslo event has also promoted dialogue between coach educators and fitness and medical experts, and was aimed at motivating national associations to think about integrating relevant fitness elements at various coach education levels. The seminar asked how fitness training can be bonded with skills and teamwork training, and to what extent football activities can address physical needs.
The key discussion point has been to show that football-specific fitness training should be part of the players' overall training process, as opposed to general fitness training. In addition to the essential development of skills, players must have the necessary physical fitness for matches. The seminar argued that a training situation should therefore be as close to the competitive situation as possible. The demands in training must be as similar as possible to the demands of the situation being trained for.
"The idea came through discussions within the UEFA Jira Panel," said UEFA technical instructor Andreas Morisbak, charged by the panel – which monitors coach education for UEFA – with heading a working group on fitness comprising experienced and recognised experts.
"The topic of fitness and football came up in various courses, and most coaches were thinking about the issue. We decided to have a survey of UEFA's associations – we found big differences in the time given to the topic and considerable differences in the approach.
"The panel and working group then put together guidelines on how we felt football and fitness should be approached, and this pilot seminar was organised. It is a first and has been very interesting. A lot of hard work has been done. We have tried to bring together the best experts in Europe for this event."
Presentations in the Norwegian capital ranged from the demands placed on players and how to prevent players being injured, to football-related endurance. Local youth players took part in a series of practical sessions linked to the idea being put over by the seminar.
Morisbak said that the definite main priority in football was to learn skills, plus developing adequate choices of action and actions to utilise playing situations to the benefit of your team. He stressed that it was essential that this be linked to football-related fitness training.
"Football is about situations, actions and decisions, and you need specific football fitness training to be able to do things well throughout matches without getting tired.
Training should be based on football, and while we obviously need fitness training, this should be based on what is needed for football, instead of general fitness training which may not be related to football.
"The dialogue here has been very good, because everyone has been discussing how we approach the philosophy that we are trying to put across," he added. "We have had the delegates talking to each other around tables rather than staging the event in an auditorium, a modern approach that involves everyone as much as possible. We will now take their opinions and feedback to look ahead to the future.
"I'm quite sure that our direction is right," Morisbak concluded, "and I also think more and more coaches are following our direction. I hope that the dialogue between the educators and the fitness people has been constructive, and that we can develop the idea of fitness training from a footballing point of view."
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