Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Yay us! And some thoughts about rest ...

So this weekend I was privileged to be with the MARFU U23 team as they won their second straight National All Star Championship title. I'll write a bit more about that later, as well as post some videos, but my immediate thoughts are around the issue of rest and recovery while in competition.

The heat in Pittsburgh was oppressive. It was hot, it was humid, and we trained and played in the hottest parts of the day. After a less than optimal performance on Friday (we played well in our system and made smart decisions about space, but our defense left quite a bit to be desired), the coaching staff and I made a consious desision to NOT practice on Saturday.

Thing is, if we had practiced, we certainly would have been able to tighten some things up - especially our defensive alignment. Without a doubt, playing the Midwest, improvement in all phases of our defense was critical. But it was sooo, sooo hot, and we'd been pushing everyone pretty hard.

So we made a choice. We did a pool recovery session, and watched a bit of video, then gave the girls the afternoon off. The game plan and patterns we put in place required mental acuity and group decision making, so we wanted everyone to be fresh and rested, body and mind, when we kicked off. One or even two practices Saturday wasn't going to get us in that state. When players are physically and mentally tired, the often make poor decisions and are vulnerable to injury (the same could be said for coaches who don't take time to decompress!). When players are fresh and sharp, I believe they play better rugby, communicate better with each other, and they can problem solve on the fly.

On Sunday our turnovers were reduced, our ball presentation was much improved, our speed across the tunnel better, our clearance of defenders from the rucks was quicker, but mostly our defensive pressure and decision making was radically different from Friday. Granted, we went out early Sunday and walked through roles on defense, but we didn't really run anything at pace.

This is the second year we opted not to train on Saturday, and thus far I've learned that if you take care of the athletes and give them rest and recovery, they take care of the ball and make good decisions on the pitch.

Any thoughts on rest and recovery? I know a lot of the teams in Pittsburgh trained on Saturday, and at least a couple of the programs trained twice. What's been your experience with training/not training in these sorts of events, or training the day before "the big game"? I know the NRU senior side trained on saturday, and they came away with an impressive victory so arguments can be made for either strategy.



Em said...

When you say pool recovery, do you mean playing in the pool, or an actual workout? Coming from a former swimmer, I often do a pool workout the day after a game just to loosen up, but I'm sure not all of your players swim at a level to make a swim practice a feasible workout option. Or maybe they do? *Curious*

I happen to agree with your premise here.

Just call me coach.... said...

Hi Em - we did a bonafide pool workout, not just random splashing around.

It was led by Sue Parker and Roshna Wunderlich, and it looked harder than any pool recovery I've seen before... thankfully, no one drowned :)

Em said...

Very cool, then.