by Tom Billups, C.S.C.S.
Deliberate planning is required when creating training blocks to achieve specific training objectives. Best practice coaches plan out teaching progressions for skill acquisition, for technical systems of play, strength development, aerobic/anaerobic fitness improvement, and recovery and regeneration methods. Historically, these last two aspects of planning are seldom discussed but have great importance to a team’s success. Coaches are often known for working their athletes hard on the training field but the other side of the coin is a coach understanding the importance of recovery from one training session to the next. Recovery and regeneration methods are designed from sport science research conducted in, but not limited to, nutrition, exercise physiology and sport psychology. Recovery is action based and sees players actively performing various exercises to assist in returning them to their pre-established physical and psychological baseline.
Recovery and regeneration is planned within micro and macro cycles of training, and is a scheduled period when a player’s training stimulus is altered to promote a reset of their physical and psychological state. As coaches, it is our responsibility to understand the rate at which our athletes recover between training sessions. This understanding becomes a challenge in large team sports like rugby, as each player recovers at different rates, but this information is crucial for the coach to have when planning the team’s annual training blocks or daily training plans. In a contact sport like ours, recovery is additionally vital to allow for structural muscle tissue damage repair to occur. These recovery periods are also important to the psychological aspect of player performance and regeneration activities can be used to build a strong team culture.
For recovery to be fully taken advantage of, the coach should work to educate the individual player to not only understand the components of recovery, but also shape them to fit their individual recovery needs. Using this approach, the athlete “owns” his recovery process, and gets the most out of the time set aside for the recovery to happen. One of the common mistakes is confusing recovery with inactively or total rest.
Most athletes in a high performance environment begin to feel stale or sluggish if they do not perform some kind of physical activity for more than 24 hours because it is too great of a change from their existing levels of sleep, appetite and daily routine.
Legendary sport performance coach Vern Gambetta says the appropriate mentality, when it comes to recovery is, “the absence of abuse, not the absence of activity”.
Here is a brief summation of some typical objectives in recovery and regeneration;
Coaches and players who are interested in establishing their own recovery and regeneration activities should begin by evaluating their existing annual training plans and find deliberate time periods that can be set aside for recovery and regeneration. Remember, don’t take a “do nothing” approach to recovery and regeneration, it is an active process.
Tom Billups began his rugby career in 1984 and has spent time as a player in New Zealand (Bay of Plenty), the U.S. (The Old Blues), England (London Harlequins), and Wales (Pontypridd) for domestic teams as well as representing the U.S.A. at international tournaments with the Eagles. After hanging up his boots, Billups got into coaching leading the Eagles and now with University of California – Berkeley. Read the entire bio of Tom Billups as well as Billups first column My Rugby Path and then check out what Billups is saying about the game of rugby in The Billups Column on Rugby Rugby.
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