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How rest and preparation dictate AFL performance

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How rest and preparation dictate AFL performance

Sometimes truths in the world of sports are whispered quietly and sometimes they are said out loud.

This week, Craig McRae didn’t mince his words when he was on FoxFooty’s AFL360.

“There’s no way you can look at the draw and say it’s fair anywhere. Everyone understands that. It’s just ‘which part is yours (your advantage).’ That’s the reality, right?”

For much of football’s long and storied history, football’s schedule was largely constant: Saturday afternoon.

The first midweek premiership points matches occurred in the league’s first season in 1897, on the date of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Holidays were the main reasons for the first midweek games in the early decades.

This regular schedule made it easy to follow your team each week, as well as know which field a game was being played on.

This significantly helped players in the semi-professional era, when they still had day jobs.

After experimenting with midweek and night football, media executives and the VFL began to experiment more with hosting proper league matches.

In 1980, regular stand-alone Sunday afternoon games were introduced through games held at the SCG. Playing in Sydney provided the VFL with a convenient finish to avoid control by the government-backed VFA in Sunday’s match.

Friday night football, pioneered in 1983 by the Swans, is now perhaps the most commercially sought-after game available.

Friday was the last day of the week on which a league match was played, but it has since become a vital part of football week. In the late 1980s, all teams regularly played football on Fridays.

Thanks to traveling holidays and invented occasions like the eve of Anzac Day, no day of the week is completely off-limits.

In the 2024 AFL season, football will be played on at least six of the seven days of the week at 21 different kick-off times.

The introduction of all these time slots has brought new concerns for football employees: condensed and lengthened preparations. This season there are more short breaks than ever. These include five- and six-day shifts; Think that Sunday to Friday is two games in six days. They also include multiple six-day trades and condensed game lots.

Here’s how teams prepare for the short week and the impact it has on your team’s chances.

football week

To figure out how a short week can affect a team’s preparation before a game, you need a better idea of ​​a typical football week.

Richard Little, former Essendon staff member and current data intelligence manager at the Victorian Institute of Sport, explains how clubs typically prepare for a week of football.

“Depending on the club, a seven-day rest schedule could look like this:”

“Some clubs change the sessions three days before the game and two days after.”

Little emphasizes that this depends on the game and training loads before that week and what is scheduled for the following week.

“Since the match is known for the first 15 rounds, these loads will have been planned well in advance,” adds Little.

“The skills acquisition aspect of training is usually planned flexibly with specific exercises included in a template as needed. Therefore, it could be that a three or four week block focuses on defense, but they would still be included other areas. This depends on the training philosophy, but it could be that more work is being done to maintain strengths or correct weaknesses.

Earlier this season, Collingwood struggled with their performance after consecutive six-day layoffs.

“Well, we started the season with six days (rest), six days (rest), six days (rest). We didn’t realize that parts of our game were so far away,” McRae explained.

“So when you breathe deeper, you can work on those things. You can train some habits and change those focus areas.”

This ability to adapt on the fly is key for football clubs to right the ship mid-season. It’s often the reason why teams struggle to massively adjust game plans until the bye rounds.

Shorter time intervals between games also mean that the ideal schedule is adjusted.

“A compressed schedule will mean lighter training loads overall, as the games themselves will provide the majority of the physical load,” Little articulates.

“On a six-day break, one of the subsequent sessions will likely be combined with another and the main session will have a reduced load. On a five-day break, individual or recovery skills are likely to be lost and the main session will be reduce drastically. Sometimes it’s just a couple of exercises in those situations.

Surprisingly, shorter breaks alone do not have a direct impact on game outcomes. Emerging soccer analyst Emlyn Breese of CreditToDuBois.com has investigated how these short breaks have affected results in recent years.

“It’s difficult to identify the performance impacts of a short break in isolation. Typical things you’d consider indicators of effort and energy, such as tackles and pressing – teams are not performing noticeably below their season average after a short break,” Breese told ABC Sport this week.

Breese has analyzed results versus expected performance based on how strongly a team is expected to perform. He has used as a basis the predicted match results calculated by James Day, creator of the Plus Six One blog and co-creator of the FitzRoy football statistics package.

“When a team has two days less rest than its opponent, it is likely to perform a little less than a goal worse than expected when it is the home team, and about half that when it is the away team. These are not great numbers in the surface, but when you look at hundreds or thousands of results, it suggests that there is something there.”

There are also more extreme breakups, often caused by breaks. They generally have minimal impacts, with one exception.

“Teams coming off a break playing away from home against a home team without a break have scored, on average, one goal below expectations. Coaches talk all the time about how difficult it is to win a football game; I think “which is an example of the cumulative effect of just one more thing that throws the team out of their normal routine.”

It must be disappearing

It’s not just a game of short changes that matters. Often teams have several shorter breaks that aggravate each other, especially compared to their opponents.

In terms of high performance, this is the difference between acute and chronic.

“The acute/chronic ratio has been a consideration for a while. The actual ratio is not necessarily that important, but the idea is that having a high acute load compared to chronic load exposes the athlete to a higher risk of injury,” said Little adds.

“Usually, the acute period is seven days, while the chronic period can be 21, 28 or even 35 days. Players can also be treated individually, so they may be removed from specific exercises or sessions or additional sessions may be prescribed. “explains Little.

“Some cannot tolerate two sessions in two days, so they also need to be scheduled differently.”

When looking at performance and changes over longer periods, Breese notes that some of the same factors are present.

“The benefit of resting a couple of extra days continues after the first game, even for four or five consecutive games. The extra days to rest, plan and recover tend to make a difference in the medium term,” Breese says.

Breese has also analyzed the number of changes a team makes in these short changes compared to normal games.

“On average, there are about two and a half pick changes per team from one round to the next. When you get to the extremes of a schedule (your third game in 11 days, your fourth in 17, your fifth in 23) that jumps up to about four changes, however, it returns to the average fairly quickly.”

This year’s favorite teams

These impacts of long and short breaks are being felt differently across the league this season.

They are the two South Australian teams that face the most short breaks in total. Essendon sees the changes less brief this year – a boost to their potential finals hopes.

While Adelaide enjoys plenty of short breaks, they rarely find themselves at a disadvantage on rest days against their opponents. This year, the final straw for head-to-head matchups has been for Hawthorn. Sydney has the more consistent recovery advantage at the other end of the equation.

With the final third of the match still to be determined, it remains to be seen if the AFL will look to match this aspect of the match.

One thing is clear, however: the amount of compressed programming will likely increase in the coming years.

The new Collective Agreement allows three five-day breaks per club per season, which would represent a significant increase across the board compared to this year.

Fans and players alike will have to become even more accustomed to the short break and its possible effects.

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