Physical fitness is the ability to perform the basic techniques, engage in physical contests and responds to the signs, sounds and signals experienced during the game with the least possible expenditure of energy. While this section specifically deals with physical fitness and conditioning, the importance of integrating skill development with physical fitness development cannot be over emphasised.
Physical Requirements of Gaelic games
The understanding of the physical fitness requirements of Gaelic games has changed dramatically over the last 15 years. Both Hurling and Gaelic football are games that require players to perform repeated short quick movements, moving in multiple directions and from a variety of starting positions, with varying amounts of recovery. The requirements for playing Gaelic games differ between Hurling and Gaelic football, and often between players in different positions. Therefore, Coaches should attempt to make the training programmes as relevant to each player as possible, taking into account the requirement for specific positional development.
In addition to running, players are also required to jump, catch, kick/strike, hand pass, tackle and use both sides of their bodies to excel at Gaelic games. Coaches must bear in mind that variations exist between the requirements for Hurling and Gaelic football, and between players playing in the different positions on the field.
Components of fitness
Success in conditioning will largely depend on how the components of fitness can be imbedded into the coaching programme. There are a number of different components of fitness for Gaelic games.
Activities should focus on developing speed over intervals of between 5 and 20 seconds, ensuring that adequate recovery occurs between sprints. Activities designed to develop reaction time and acceleration using short sprints are appropriate.
Before the onset of puberty, it is common for many players to improve, often dramatically, based on the improvement in their movement skills. Aerobic
levels can be developed in teenage players, incorporating a number of different types of activities. Due to the different developmental stages that players go through during their teenage years, it is possible to group players based on their development in order to develop their aerobic capacity.
Monitoring of flexibility is important amongst teenagers as, due to the large variations in the rate of growth, flexibility can be reduced if appropriate activities are not undertaken. Introducing dynamic flexibility activities into the warm up, and cool down portions of a coaching session serves to ensure that the muscles are stretched throughout their full range of motion.
Coaches should remember that the basis behind resistance training is to develop their muscular strength, power and endurance, not to lift ever larger weights, or to build larger muscles. Strength can be developed using:
• Body Weight activities
• Medicine Balls/Resistance Bands/Tubes
• Machine Weights
• Free Weights
Before the start of a Training Programme
Before starting a coaching programme for any group of players, it is always important to establish if there are any medical issues that the coach should be aware of. This is especially important when a new player or one who has not undertaken any sort of activity recently is involved. In this case, a simple medical screening questionnaire can be used in consultation with a medical professional. This may ensure that adequate medicines and provisions are available during training or matches, e.g., asthma inhaler etc.
Coaches should be mindful of each player’s level of fitness prior to beginning a training programme and attempt to be as specific to the requirements of each player as possible.
Fitness Testing Guide
There are probably hundreds of standard fitness tests used, and hundreds more variations of these. They can range from elaborate and expensive laboratory tests to simple and inexpensive field tests. Each test also has many advantages and disadvantages that can ultimately determine which is the most appropriate test to perform. If you are designing your own fitness testing regime, with the information about the relative merits and requirements of each test that is contained in this guide, you can make an informed choice on the most appropriate test or tests to use. Click here to view a fitness testing guide.