As our community is very small, we are limited in the amount of time we can spend together as the national team is not allowed to adversely affect the club or college scene. Our priority at the training weekends was to establish a common way of playing on the pitch. We rarely ran drills at the sessions; most of the session is 5 pull games – these are a modified game where one team pulls to another and both teams get one possession max to score. This allowed us to work on targeted areas repeatedly in a game environment, but also challenged us to keep our standards high as each point you get one chance only to score. To aid this going smoothly I do as much work as I can before the session on our playbook, making whiteboard videos on what we’re going to cover and making videos after using the training footage to correct parts I wasn’t happy with. This allows our time on the pitch to be very efficient with a lot of action and minimal standing around explaining.
To see similar ideas to 5 Pull, try Themed Games
I’ve played for U20 National teams before, so while I was familiar with the long training sessions and general idea around them, the seriousness, competitiveness and the way they were planned was very new to me. They were a little daunting for me at the beginning as I had never played with the vast majority of the team before and had never been coached by Ian before.
To prepare for the weekends, I usually cut out one or two of my club and college trainings during the week, did my gym work at the beginning of the week and ensured that I got a good night’s sleep in the days leading up to it. I also read the training plans before each day so I knew going into it what was going to be required of us.
Asking for feedback and watching the video footage of our trainings helped me to make the most out of them. I also took these trainings as an opportunity to watch the more experienced players on the team such as Fiona, Sarah, Jen (Kwan) and Claire (Pugh) because I felt I could learn so much from watching them play.
A season of training weekends was not new to me, which mentally makes them easier to take on board and know what to expect. However, a new team always means there’ll be a teething phase. In the beginning, it seemed a lot of people were nervous and quiet, especially those who hadn’t been coached by Ian before. For the majority of players, this was probably the most serious set up that they’d been a part of.
I always prepared before each weekend with the mindset of having my body and mind going in as fresh as possible. I wanted to be set up for absorbing new information and being able to run as fast as I could for several hours each day. That would mean tapering that week’s workouts so they finished by Wednesday preferably and/or the sessions were lighter in volume and intensity.
I had a diary to keep notes in from weekend to weekend. I’d put in the good things other people did here too and write down what I wanted to have improved before the next training weekend.
I knew they would be long and would be asking a lot of my body so I would make sure I had my gym work finished earlier in week than normal and also made sure I made the journey to Dublin the Friday evening as early as possible so that I wasn’t putting any extra stress on myself for the weekend.
Ian had the weekend plans available to the team beforehand so that was also helpful in terms of preparation mentally and physically for what was coming that particular weekend. If there was a structure being trained that weekend I would make sure I took the time to know how it worked to make it easier to put into practice.
After training weekends I’d usually tell Ian how I thought I did and then ask for feedback to work on for the next training weekend. I think this is one of the most important things about the training weekends. It allowed me to think about how I could work on these and implement them in games. With my lack of training opportunities, I tried to work on this feedback in any tournament I played.
How I get the most out of them:
- Plan ahead. Know the general plan for the weekend. Helps with food prep etc.
- I’m a huge advocate to being in Dublin the night before to have a better sleep and have time for proper breakfast (more normal morning)
- Have a notebook. Could be used for anything – tactics, personal highlights, personal goals before and after etc
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