Wednesday, February 21, 2018


Earlier this week I posted part 1 of this, where we covered:

- Calls/Talk

- Skills

- Train Towards Goals

- Finish with Goals

Here's part 2.

SKILL DRILL STATS - I've been to 3 million training sessions in my 32 yrs of footy and skill mishaps are still regarded as "going to happen" and to just "get over and help out" when a disposal does go sideways but there is ZERO accountability, and the same players just make the same mistakes over and over. If we're here to train, as in to get better, then why aren't we? Players respond to data tracking and immediate feedback which then builds accountability so why not have keep data on skill errors for skill drills at training? My suggestion is to maybe start with the drill, take the data, do it in the middle of the session, take the data then do it again at the end of the session with fatigue present, and again take the data. Players can LITERALLY see what's happening (better/same/worse disposal efficiency) and thus can actually do something about it. Even better use the same drill throughout the year and throw it in at different times and see how the numbers stack up. Most players can kick from A to B but mentally we tune out which is when skill mistakes happen, which correlates with late in quarter and late in games goals against.

FOOTY JUMPERS, SOCKS AND BOOTS - an old coach, probably the one that had the biggest influence on me, made this rule because if you want to train like you play, then you need to get as close to that as possible. Footy jumpers can be a bit restrictive compared to a training singlet, and footy boots can cause all sorts of issues if you don't wear them in early enough, even with pre-worn footy boots. Still I think it's a more psychological boost, especially for practice games which i when you actually put you pre-season to the test.

WARM UP LIKE GAME DAY - there's a saying that "you're only good as your warm up" and most teams these days will have a structured warm up they use pre-game. Again if you want to train like you play then to get as close to the real thing, warm up like you would on game day. Using the same warm up year in and year out is not a great idea though as the warm up is there to prepare players for the game but a warm up with zero unpredictability will NOT stimulate your players minds and bodies for the contests ahead. In the pre-season try different warm ups, different order of drills etc and see what seems to work better then others. Also tinker with dry and wet game day warm ups which are different, don't think they aren't, and should be from the vastly different conditions.

TOUCH SESSIONS - I posted about these sometime last year and I feel these are ridiculously underused, if they are used at all, at local/amateur level. The 1 thing to achieve in these sessions is as many QUALITY touches of the footy per player as possible. That's it. Which means that drills need to be simple to follow so ALL players can perform their skills at a high level, fatigue needs to be kept to a minimum, and players might also need to be grouped so you can run skill drills that fit your players varying degree of skill proficiency. The drills don't need be hard, just ensure a lot and frequent touches of the footy. I mean a simple stationary diamond handball drill among 4 players done for 3mins will easily result in 1 handball every 5 - 6secs at a minimum where each player will perform 30 handballs. Change sides and your up to 60 touches of the footy in 6mins. Most training sessions result in, what 50 touches at the most for your players who love to get involved in everything and who are usually your better players so imagine what you;re lesser players touches are sitting at? They could disposing of the ball less then 10 times a session - RIDICULOUS. I will make up a session of this very soon I reckon or at least put together some drills that would slide nicely into a session like this. Alternatively you might use 20mins each session to dedicate to this which might be your warm up, but structured way better and with far more intent then the normal warm up of lane work etc.

Monday, February 19, 2018


Below is the 3rd installment of the blog series called "1 Line Training Gems" which are quotes I've gathered from the notes from all 85 of the podcasts on Joel Smith's Just Fly Sports website.

I'm a reader not a podcaster so I'll probably never get around to listening to them but I also reading stuff and letting myself self organise it all and see what I can make of it and if I need further clarification, then I might give it a listen (I have listened to 2 of them I needed to do that for).

Again I'm just going to leave the various 1 liners here and allow you to interpret it as you see fit, feeling free to start a discussion on it over on the Facebook page if you like and I can clarify each quote so just let me know if you'd like me to expand on it more.

Joe De Mayo - find the minimal stimulus required to elicit adaptation and once they can handle the stress and adaptation has actually occurred, increase it slightly

Joe De Mayo - if you build your training properly then you should be able to keep progressing for a very long time (even competition) and when you have a break there should be minimal loss

Andy Eggerth - a heavy lactate session on Monday can kill skill development on Tuesday and/or Wednesday

Quinn Henoch - being flexible is of no advantage if you're not strong enough to stabilise yourself in those extra ranges of motion

Quinn Henoch - having more flexibility then you need to perform a given task isn't anymore productive then having just enough

Dr Ken Clarke - use the compete-technique-compete model where you watch your players in competition then work on the techniques they used during play through some closed drills and then compete again with a slightly progressed drill from compete 1

Dr Bryant Mann - on 1 hand just monitor the big rocks in your training to keep it simple but on the other hand, monitor everything to make sure you're not using more resources then you should be
Dr Bryant Mann - those who receive immediate feedback (sprint times, jump heights etc) get greater results then those who don't

Sunday, February 18, 2018


I know it's early but we had our first practice game against another club this past weekend as they were a thirds club that is moving into senior competition and wanted to see where they were at.

It also got me thinking about how to make training more game like but not in the obvious ways such as contested drills etc.


When the heat of an actual game is on, how you call for the ball and/or talk to a teammate can have huge implications. In training drills you are instructed to kick there and handball there so it just "works" but that soft 'smithy' call won't cut it on a Saturday. How you also call for the ball is also crucial because there is a lot of times where you need to get to the ball to a voice, not someone you can actually see, so instructional and directional talk is required. I suggest getting your players into the habit of doing this from now on to better prepare for practice games coming up in the next few weeks or so.


Skills wins more games then anything else but I still don't think there is enough emphasis put on them at local/amateur level, where improvement an come far easier from varying degrees of low base skill levels. There a case of "training the game, not the player" in a lot of drills we perform at training where at around this time there is a lot of full ground drills which is fine, but if skill level is still inadequate, these drills quickly become a debacle so what you're trying to improve such as ball transition, forward entries etc, is barely even trained if the ball hits the ground too often. As a coach you really need to nail down your game plan and work those types of skills at training in planned and chaos situations.


It might seem small but kicking towards goals should be a part of almost every drill you do. This gives players a chance to practice various sorts of kicks and handballs within the same dimensions that they will play on. It also gives the coach a chance to see how different players use the different parts of the ground and thus can put them in better positions come game time. This can also improve running patterns and provides some good opportunities to make game situations 'automatic' as the goals can be used as a 'trigger' of sorts.


Now that you're training towards goals, you might go ahead and use them so put your forwards (and backs) in their rightful positions. As the ball comes in to the forward 50, have your forwards have actual shots at goals after a lead up mark or ground level gather. I have never seen the point in having a forward to mark the ball in a training drill then not actually kick for goal. Have 2 - 3 forwards so you can keep the balls moving so they're not overly rushed as you want them to actually improve their goal kicking, not just perform it.

Monday, February 12, 2018


Today we break from tradition and welcome a local women's football coach, Josh Hartwig, from Melbourne.

Josh has been a part of the women's football movement long before it was cool so I asked him for his thoughts on training women's football and here's what he had to say.

There is a plethora of gems in here, many that you'd never even think about without the vast experience he has.

Josh's Background

My eldest daughter started playing football (AFL) in 2011 at the age of 9.  She loved it and was good at it.  The team was pretty good too, contesting every grand final up to 2014. Naturally, being the good parent I was, I attended every game, volunteered for various roles and just enjoyed the experience. However, come 2015, the team was without a coach.  The girls were now U15s, getting better, bigger, fitter and willing (wanting) to learn more.  About a month before the season was due to start I was talked into being their coach.  I’d not coached football before so was sent to do the Level 1 Youth Girls Coaching Course with AFL Victoria.

Fast forward……We won the flag in 2015.  I loved coaching so much I did it again in 2016 AND 2017.  We also won the flag in 2016 and 2017.

Here’s some things I learnt about coaching junior girls that male coaches (or those that have only coached boys) may find helpful.

Girls are very Social
Females in general are social people.  They love a chat and the interaction with others.  Teenage girls take this to the next level.  Whether they haven’t seen their teammates for a week or a couple of hours since school, the greeting is always the same – lots of hugs, laughter, talking, gossip.  I’m not saying this is a bad thing, in fact I encourage the communication between players as it creates greater bonds, however, when it delays the start of training by 5 minutes, a drill by another minute (each) or just a general explanation of something then it can get a bit stressful for a coach.

I’d suggest “starting” training 5-10 minutes earlier so that the players arrive, have their chats and then are ready to go by the “official” starting time.  I also found, in my first season, that applying a penalty to the whole team for any one person talking when I was soon got the whole team listening intently.  
Players very quickly learn to hate burpees and will actively silence a talker.  It was fun, for me at least.

Bottom line, girls interact with each other differently to boys.  Take that on board and make allowances.  By compromising, allowing a chat break, you will achieve more.

Focus on the Basic Skills
Most females coming in to football at the moment have not played the sport.  They join a team because they may have friends there, they want to get in on the whole AFLW hype, they love contact sports or simply because it looks fun.  Whatever the reason, they probably don’t have much experience with a football or the game itself.  Unlike boys, who have probably played since Auskick or U8s, girls need to learn the basic skills of kicking, marking and contested balls.  In my experience, many girls come from netball, basketball, soccer backgrounds so know how to catch, throw and kick (a round ball) but dealing with the oval ball is very challenging. 

Kicking has always been the most difficult skill for them to master.  It takes years of practice (for most players) to effectively and accurately kick a football. The ball drop seems to be the most difficult for them.  The way they hold the ball for starters, how it leaves their hands, the point of contact on their foot.  It cannot be emphasised enough how important this skill is.  Even now, in the AFLW, there are experienced players struggling to get this right. The number of times I’ve had players lining up for goal, 20m out dead in front and not knowing which way the ball will go……
Don’t worry about fancy or elaborate game plans, forget about matchups on opposition players.  Focus on the absolute basics, especially kicking.  You can’t do full oval (or even half oval) drills involving kicking if they can’t kick the distance. Get that right and you’re halfway there.

This has two parts.  The first follows on from above.  Most girls coming in to the sport are unaware of what Centre Half Forward is, or “fat side”, “zones”, “shepherding”, or any other colloquial football term.  Keep the language basic, simple and clear.  Use every day terms instead of footy terms.  Check to see how many blank looks you get back at you after you’ve explained something.  You may have to restate it.  Always ask if there’s any doubt, get them to repeat what you said so that you are sure they understand.  Of course, if your team has been around for a while they will probably be well aware of what you are saying.

Part two….these are footballers you are coaching.  The fact that they are female shouldn’t make a difference to how you treat them.  Which makes me concerned when I hear coaches using terms like “lovey”, “sweety” or “darling” and this from an experienced male coach! (of boys). It’s creepy and disturbing. Use their name or say mate or buddy. Don’t be condescending, don’t treat them as a niece, daughter or family friend.  They are footballers who just happen to be female.

New Players
Turning up to training for the first time can be a daunting experience for anyone coming into an existing team.  Teenage girls can be a bit clicky in their social groups and may be a bit intimidating.
In 2017 we had 10 new players join our team which meant 40% of our team hadn’t played football before.  Some of these girls knew some of the existing players.  I found it important for them all to get to know each other as it not only creates  a bond but it also might reveal a common interest outside of football, thus enhancing that bond.  Work on relationships and the footy will follow.

One tactic I used was to get the girls to go for a warmup jog and when they came back they had to tell me 5 things about that player.  Getting them to ask questions of each other, talking and helping the new player to relax and fit in. 

Make it Fun
By this, I mean fun for females.  Depending on the age you are coaching you need to consider what they like.  Younger girls love handstand and cartwheels, older girls dance and wrestle and they all love to sing.  Incorporate these into warmups. Play music when appropriate (during warmups or certain drills) but not if you are talking or instructing.  Think laterally, play games that get them warm or thinking or competitive.

Footballers, not ballerinas
One of the most surprising things I noticed was how much girls love, LOVE, the physical stuff.  Tackling, wrestling, bumping, contesting.  It’s amazing.  Don’t be afraid to use the bump bags too.  I reckon they saw red whenever I held the bags for them to charge into, they took it as a challenge to knock me over.  They are tough and always come back for more.  They will soak up whatever you give them.  You’ll know the ones who are a bit apprehensive but the majority will give 100%.

It is very important to teach the correct techniques to contest a ball though.  Many who have come from a non football background do not know the correct and safest way to pick up a ground ball.  Head injuries are very common.  Research or contact experts in body contact drills.  I can’t stress this enough.  If a girl is injured it is often the parents who withdraw a player. I highly recommend Malcolm Bangs ( who is a tackling and take down guru used by numerous AFLW, VFLW and TACGirls teams. 

The pre-game ritual is often very complex and individualised for many players.  Some need to deal with superstitions, pregame nerves or whatever.  I found with the girls I coached that they tend to take their time doing the little things – getting their boots on, signing team sheets etc because they are still chatting and catching up with their friends.  I recognised this early on and got them to arrive at games an hour before start time (even then that was a struggle).  Keep them on track by giving them warnings to move (eg 5 minutes to warm up) so they do get their act together.  

In the grand finals we competed in, that pregame time extended out to 90 minutes because hair needed to be braided and/or coloured, photos, selfies etc.  This is the nature of junior girls.  They love their interactions, doing things together but they also absolutely love their football.  Once the preparations are completed they are footballers and raring to go.  Be prepared. Be aware. Embrace it.

I'd like to thank Josh for his contribution and if you have any questions on this thn post them in the Aussie Rules Women's Football private group and Josh will be able to answer them from there. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018


Not the greatest rhyming title but I want to blog about something I've had to change in my own teams pre-season running program from what I observed at training earlier this week.

With my own personal training and the teams I program training for, I will always initially plan it all out in 1 go.

I will already know what the players have to get in (aerobic capacity, speed etc) plus I'll always have a bunch of other aspects I'd like to try and get in as well.

This season I'm doing my own team and another team in South Australia.

Although both teams are on different schedules with different pre-Xmas training frequencies along with infrequent training patterns of players, I've had to make various changes to the initial plan.

Our main aerobic running drill for my own team are the anaerobic threshold runs that I've written about a lot where you start out doing 2 sets for session 1 and finishing on 5 sets in session 4.

The other part of our training has been on speed development which 99% of local/amateur football players have not performed TRUE speed training and thus speed times are being improved across the board.

When you're top speed improves then that will carry over into the training tactical/skill drills where you're output will be higher when running at top speed compared to last year and greater output will usually result in greater accumulation of neurological and/or metabolic fatigue.

So this past Tuesday I had a bunch of players who have completed 2 and 3 sets of the anaerobic threshold runs and that night they were set for 4 sets.

Between training speed and training endurance, we perform our skill/tactical drills in which there was a lot of high speed running involved over medium to long distances, where the players were able to put their improved speed into action.

The players set off for the anaerobic runs and the pace was a little off, where most groups couldn't hold the same running speed that they were able to hold just last week.

I have now made the decision to cut these runs off at 4 sets instead of 5 because if you can't hold the speed at 4 sets, then you certainly won't hold the same speed for 5 sets.

Some of the players looked spent during the 2nd and 3rd sets of this the other night which I can put down to a couple of reasons.

#1 - As mentioned above above, the greater speed players possess now requires a greater output and thus greater energy so in-session fatigue is higher by the time we get to the aerobic component at the very end.

#2 - The accumulated fatigue from ever increasing speed development and the progressive increased aerobic capacity volume may be taking it's toll on the players which is when systemic fatigue sets in and what happens here is that the body is "under recovering' and the brain sends message after message to the muscles to decrease energy output so it can "catch up" which results in less speed and/or endurance. Unless you've planned a supercompensation phase, then to keep training at a high level right now will end up in disaster.

We also have an early practice game happening on Feb 17th, so to run blokes into the ground prior to the first practice game, the hardest game of the year and the one where injury risk is at it's highest could derail players seasons before it even starts.

The aim as a coach is to have all your players perform as many training sessions as they can, at the highest level they can so if you see some players laboring then they need a deload of some description or they'll carry this fatigue into practice games, where intensity of games is a lot higher then training, and injury is always at high risk.

As much as I'd prefer the players to do all 5 sets of the program, as I know that it would benefit them greatly, I have put a higher emphasise on speed development as it is working wonders right now so we'll keep all the speed stuff in, and drop a session of the anaerobic runs out.

After the practice game we might do another session of 4 runs to "top off" the anaerobic threshold phase, re-test out 6min time trial, then move into the glycolytic block before our 2nd practice match on March 17th or so.

Monday, February 5, 2018


Last week I started a series I'll be rolling with called "1 Line Training Gems" which are quotes I've gathered from the notes from all 85 of the podcasts on Joel Smith's Just Fly Sports website.

I'm a reader not a podcaster so I'll probably never get around to listening to them but I also reading stuff and letting myself self organise it all and see what I can make of it and if I need further clarification, then I might give it a listen (I have listened to 2 of them I needed to do that for).

This might be the best way to learn in fact.

Again I'm just going to leave the various 1 liners here and allow you to interpret it as you see fit, feeling free to start a discussion on it over on the Facebook page if you like and I can clarify each quote so just let me know if you'd like me to expand on it more.

Boo Scheznayder - by backing up a speed session with a heavy weights session the day after, you are able to go a bit deeper and hit the high threshold motor units that might have hid away the day before that the body now has to use as the one;s used yesterday haven't fully recovered yet

Boo Scheznayder - everything you do has a potentiation effect so try to use those potentiation elements lading up to the main focus of the day resulting in a higher output and thus greater improvement, with speed being the greatest potentiator there is

Boo Scheznayder - a lot of training programs don't hit that critical mass point where athletes can hit new peaks as the training peaks aren't high enough to warrant further adaptation or the peaks aren't low enough for athletes to recover enough to reach them

Henk Kraaijenhop - sprinters aren't lazy, they just use up their fuel very quickly

Curtis Taylor - the slower you run the more your technique is compromised and the more you run with bad technique, the more energy you use up

Mike T Nelson - the amino acid carnosine at a high enough level is what starts buffering hydrogen ions (i.e fatigue)

Mike T Nelson - athletes arr addicted to the sensation of fatigue and they'll continue to go the fatigue seeking route rather then the performance enhancing route

Bret Contreras - the fastest athletes are those that can activate their hamstrings the most just before ground contact

Let me know your thoughts on these over at the Facebook page.

Saturday, February 3, 2018


I've just read an article by running specialist Steve Magness, on how trying to prove yourself in training can wreck your game day performance.

This is hugely prevalent in local/amateur footy and I've been through it myself in my younger days.

I'd train the house right down at ridiculous intensity but my on-field performance wouldn't match up with that, plus I was cooked in the back end of every season.

How many times has someone had "the best pre-season's ever" but still can't perform any better come competition time?

There's blokes at every footy club in Australia that this happens to.

Here's a summary of the article that I'm sure you can relate to in some form or fashion.

- Getting fir is easy but expressing that fitness is not

- If you are sufficiently motivated than it's very easy to train yourself into the ground

- If you train at a high standard but your competition form is down then you need to find out why that is (overtraining 1 trait and neglecting others, overtraining in general, wasting/using all your mental/physical energy for training, nutritional/lifestyle deficiencies etc)

- Often you'll be dealing with the insecurity of poor, or self perceived poor performances by proving yourself on the track to make up for it so every training session represents a test

-  When this happens the goal has now shifted from being prepared for competition to feeding your need to know that you're ready for competition and you're physically and mentally cooked far too early

- After these training sessions in your mind you're fit but subconsciously you've accomplished your goal but it's not the right goal and you'll forever be a great trainer, but an average player

- This insecurity comes from a lack of trust in the plan an a lack of trust in the process

I get 4 - 5 gems from Steve Magness each year I reckon and you can find this article here.

My recommendations for footy based the above:

- Use 1 short speed exercise (20m - 30m sprint, flying 10m sprint etc) and 1 aerobic exercise (6min time trial, resting heart rate etc)to gauge your progress through the training period.

- Test them as various times of the year to gauge progress

- If at any time you see a decrease in performance of these testing exercises, then you need to make an alteration to your training as these tests will be correlating heavily with your on-field output so everything else is secondary - yes even those 3 bench press and bicep curl days.

- Find a training plan that you "believe in" and trust, and bloody stick to it

- Draft Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid