Going long in the playoffs: How keep your players fresh

October 31, 2018 / CoachingFootball
{Sponsored} The regular season can be exhausting for the best teams, but playoffs will really separate great teams from the good ones. The grueling postseason may require coaches to make many small adjustments — and some big ones — on the fly. Here’s what your team should focus on to have the best chance of success in postseason football.

Attitude: Attitude is everything. Losing in the postseason and the resulting attitude of your players can make or break your bid. When working with your players, focus on the good things they’re doing. When coaches focus on the negatives, players will as well. If you’d like to discuss things that are going poorly, be sure to approach them from a positive angle and always offer solutions to those problems. Better yet, ask your players how they think they can improve at this point in the season. Aim for inspiration to keep things fresh. Decide as a team if you’d like to focus on winning each individual game or if you want to focus on the whole run at once and just getting as far as you can. Letting them have a voice increases their buy-in for everything else you do in the postseason.

Fueling bodies right: Outside of hydrating throughout the day, players need to eat many smaller meals rather than a few larger meals. While this is important during the regular season, increased playing pressure means an increased need for the right number of calories to give your players the energy they need to get them across the finish line.

After each practice, players should be refueling with a combination of simple carbs and protein. An easy option can be fruit plus their favorite protein source.

Bear in mind that while young players may feel like they can eat all the hyper-processed and fast food they want, this will catch up with them. If they instead focus on eating freshly cooked foods, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein sources, their bodies will function at a higher level.

Also, hydration means water, not liquid substitutes. Sugary sports drinks and energy drinks may be popular, but they’re not ideal. The energy drinks may make players feel like they have more energy, but sleep and water will do much more for their athletic capabilities than a beverage full of sugar and caffeine.

Sleep: Studies show that young people need much more sleep than older adults. The minimum that players should get is eight hours, and if they can find time to sleep more, their bodies will repair faster and function better with improved balance and coordination.

Practices: Keep practices short and sweet. In the post-season, coaches don’t need to focus on fundamentals as much — instead keep those players conditioned and not exhausted. Aim for an hour and a half of meaningful gameplay-based practice. Team building activities (even off the field) can also help your playoffs be more successful. Will it be worth it to push to their limits once you’ve made the playoffs? Probably not. Plus, shorter practices decrease the risk of injury during practice.

Weight lifting: Lifting is just as important during post-season as it is during the regular season, especially for your line because they need to maintain their mass. Always defer to the expertise of your strength and conditioning coach, but players probably won’t need to spend as many hours a week pumping iron during your playoffs as they would during regular season. This means keeping weight lifting to about 45-minute sessions during the postseason.

© 2018 USA Football

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