Why are Athletes Flat on Gameday?
By Josh Gray
What does "be ready on Game Day or the day of competition mean"?
Here are some of the responses you or many other coaches might give:
· Players should know the plays
· Players should know the game plan
· Players should know their opponent inside and out
· Players should know the stadium/ surfaces/crowd/ weather
All of these are valid responses, but they only cover the mental side of being game ready.
Assuming that the athletes’ emotions are where they need to be because of the game, the physical part is what is missing.
Some people may wonder how athletes aren’t physically ready after a week of practice (or multiple weeks if it’s midseason) but being physically conditioned and being physically ready on game day are two different things.
For example, how many times have you heard (or said):
· “The athletes are flat today”
· “The athletes don’t have the same pop o bounce as usual”
· “The energy is down; it doesn’t seem like they are ready to play”
If you coached or played for any length of time you have probably felt and/or seen this, and 9 times out of 10, the athletes are blamed for not being ready, but rarely is the cause of the flatness ever investigated.
Often times the athletes are more than ready to play both mentally and emotionally, the main problem is their bodies are fatigued and their Central nervous System could be fried. This is a result of too much volume in practice, too long of a practice or a combination of both. Most high school practices are 2+ hours, yet the majority of team sport athletes play 5-10 minutes (actual playing time – not breaks) in the game, which is only 10% of the practice time. These two-hour practices require about 48 hours for complete recovery, only if the next practice is lighter in intensity, volume, or duration. If not, the recovery period will be longer and performance will start to suffer, while risks of injury increases.
There are a few was to prevent this, but one solution is to wave the loads, duration, and/or the intensity of the practices throughout the week.
An example of waving the loads for a football team:
Mon – light day
Tuesday – hard day (intensity not volume or conditioning)
Wednesday – medium day
Thursday – light (probably lighter than Monday)
Friday – GAME DAY
Saturday/Sunday – Rest
There is just an example, and the schedule for a two or three game week would look different, but the principles should remain the same.