Should football players train more?
Are football players training too little? That’s a question that always fires up. The best-paid athletes in the world, and most of them ‘only’ train 2 hours a day. Shouldn’t that be more? Some say yes, and some say no it’s not possible, because of injuries.
The way teams train nowadays is that there’s team training of anything between 70 to 120 minutes a day. After this, there are a couple of times a week extra physical work in the gym. The way the team training is structured it’s often intense training most of the days, maybe only the day before a match it’s light training.
A lot of coaches like to train in match intensity, they think that this is the only way to improve. While I certainly agree with this partially, I think there’s also a place for low-intensity training. Even with low-intensity training, you can become a better player.
The things you can train at a lower intensity and still become better at are, for example, set pieces, tactical decisions, and technical skills. If you train these at an intensity without negative consequences for the main team training, I don’t see how you become a worse player of this, because you didn’t train it in-game speed. On the contrary, I think by doing things you’re not that good at yet in a slower, more controlled way you will learn them better. After this, you can implement it in-game speed.
So why can’t we do this in football, the amount of training hours you can get in extra with doing low-intensity training is enormous. In other sports, this is the most normal thing in the world, to not do everything in-game intensity. Basketball players practice shooting from the free throw line or 3-point line, on match day Steph Curry is doing a shooting workout of 1 hour. He does this to get the rhythm in his movements and shots, to make the shooting behavior an automatism. American football players watch hours of video of their opponents to find out what they will do tactically.
Tim Grover, the coach that has worked with Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and several other successful athletes, wrote a book about this. I strongly recommend reading this book as it gives a great insight into how these athletes train. Some of them train 3-4 times a day, starting at 5:00 in the morning with a strength session.
I think the book highlights the cultural difference between the several sports. With football, we’re so focused on creating the perfect environment for football players, that we forget what this does to the mindset of people. Yes, it helps players perform as well to make everything easy for them, picking them up and driving them to train, washing their clothes, making their food, make special arrangements with school for them. While all this is done with a good thought, I think it creates a certain laziness in players. While in other sports a lot comes down to the player himself.
Are we helping football players by doing everything for them? Or are we creating lazy players?