It is of great importance to realize that health is not only defined by absence of illness. Many factors are influencing a person’s wellbeing, and it is important that the coach is having a holistic approach. Make it a habit to greet each and every player when they arrive to the field. You will soon be able to pick up if something is troubling your players by reading body language, facial expression, weight of handshake or tone of voice. Your care will play a huge role in the players’ health!
It is not easy for players to decide what to eat, and when, as it at large is depending on the socioeconomical situation in the family. However, it is important to make good choices when possible. Players should be encouraged to eat the food that is served for school lunch – the quality of nutrients the body is getting from a cooked meal compared to eating snacks or a fat-cook, is very big.
Negotiate with the family for the player to bring an egg and a fruit to have before/after practice. Many families are having it at home, why it won’t be any cost implications.
The players should also get used to carry their own water bottle, as hydration is key for the body to function optimally.
Match day nutrition
As you don’t know when your players last had a meal, you should always try to make means for them to get something to eat before the game.
- Provide a small middle meal no less than 1 hour before starting of warm up (i.e. 1h30 before kick off). It could be bread, polony and a banana.
- Ensure you know if your players are sensitive to any food stuff, or if their religious belief is hindering them from eating certain things. For example bananas are great to eat before the match, but if a player always get a running stomach from eating bananas, s/he should rather have something else to eat.
- Make sure there is enough drinking water available, even before the game. The better hydrated the players are when getting in to the game, the better
- Fatty and spicy food is not good to have before playing. KFC, fat-cooks, NikNaks, and the like doesn’t have a space in the pre match meal.
- Fizzy drinks should not be taken before playing, as the gas is not good for the players.
Tournament day nutrition
First of all – try to influence the organizers of the tournament to play a point system, rather than a knock-out tournament. With a point system you can plan your meals better, which is crucial for injury prevention.
The energy reserves in the body is said to last for 90 minutes, why you need to ensure you are not depleting it at any time during a tournament.
- If you practice the day before the tournament – make sure the players are getting something to eat before they are going home. Some slices of bread, an egg and a banana will do. This will make the body to recover quicker, and the energy reserves are kept at a better level.
- On the tournament day – provide a small middle meal no less than 1 hour before starting of warm up (i.e.1h15 before the first kick off)
- In half time provide a banana and plenty of water.
- If possible, you can also provide an energy drink (make sure it does not contain caffeine); Energade or PowerRaid can be options, but you can also make your own.
- Straight after the game; provide banana, water and energy drink (as above).
- If you are having an hour’s rest to the next game, also provide two slices of bread with polony or peanut butter.
By providing small meals throughout the day, you are making sure the energy levels never deplete, which is crucial to prevent injuries.
It is of very big importance both for good health and ability to perform in the field of play, to avoid dehydration. Water is by far the best thing for players to drink.
To be noted:
- Soft drinks should be avoided, not only because of the high content of sugar, but also because the fizz is reducing the players’ performance.
- Energy drinks with caffeine should never be given to players, as it is stimulating the brain.
- Sport drinks, as Energade or PowerRaid can be given to players in half time, or after games when playing in very hot conditions or when playing many games in one day.
A proper warm up is key for preparing the players for practice and match.
Preferably warm up for practice is including the football problem that is going to be addressed in practice from the very onset. Just remember to keep the flow in the warm up, i.e. no breaks for coaching in technical details.
Ahead of the game the focus is to prepare the body and mind for the task ahead, and a football problem does not necessarily need to be addressed, but it can rather be a time of building the team spirit.
Stages of warm up
Light dynamic stretch
Full dynamic stretch
Players should at all times wear shoes in practice and match. Preferably soccer boots, as it is preventing from slipping, but most importantly is to protect the feet from cuts and bruises. Never allow the mix of players wearing soccer boots and those that are barefoot in the field.
Shin guards is a requirement, as it is reducing the risk for fractures dramatically. Players should use shin guards both during practice and match.
Any kind of jewellery must be taken off during practice and games, as they are posing a big risk for injuries both to the one carrying the jewellery, and to the opponents.
Also the traditional isiSphandla is supposed to be taken off, according to the rules, but on lower level the referee might approve it as long as it is properly covered, and thereby no longer posing a risk to the opponents. The decision is solely upon the referee, and if s/he is demanding it to be taken off it is in full supported by the laws of the game.
It is crucial that the players are fit enough to avoid injuries. If the time for practice in the field is limited, the players should be given a program to do at home at a minimum of twice a week.
All minor soft tissue injuries (muscles and ligaments) are to be treated according to PRICE:
Though it is not common with life threatening situations in the field, it is of great importance to know how to save lives:
If a player is collapsing in the field without any obvious reason, you must act quickly.
Steps of CPR
- Check if the person is responsive
- If the person is unconscious – check if s/he is breathing and having pulse
- If the person is not breathing – check that s/he doesn’t have anything blocking the airflow (the tongue might fall back and block the airways)
Have someone calling the ambulance.
- If the person doesn’t have pulse – start CPR
If you are in a remote area, where the ambulance is taking hours to come, put the player on the back of a bucky. Continue the CPR, whilst travelling to the nearest clinic or hospital.
If the player is regaining the breathing, put her in a recovery position, and monitor her closely.
The brain is getting damaged if it stays without oxygen. The heart compressions is helping the blood circulate in the body, whereas the mouth to mouth is giving oxygen to the lungs for further spread in the body, via the blood. Continue the CPR till a medical professional can take over.