Gary Jameson on how Wicklow can improve
THIS week we talk to Gary Jameson of St Patrick's GAA about the oft talked about strength and conditioning of Gaelic football players.
Who are you and what coaching are you currently involved in?
Gary Jameson, currently studying a degree in Athletic Strength and Conditioning, strength and conditioning coach with St. Patrick's and also with the U-14,15 and 16 development squads.
A lot has been said about the strength and conditioning in Wicklow or lack of recently, what is the current system like?
In my area, the development squads, it is only recently that we have tried to introduce this but it is only in the very early stages and in my opinion needs to really be pushed to see any benefits.
At present I'm only seeing the squads approximately four or five times a year where teams are tested and given generic programmes to go away and train unsupervised and then re-tested and results given to the coaches.
Do you think this is enough?
No I'm 100% sure it's not, but it is the start and everything has to begin somewhere.
It is important that we develop it or we will only fall further and further behind.
If you talk to any of the current development squad coaches they will tell you about the huge difference in other counties conditioning with the likes of Kildare, Dublin Tipperary etc. producing bigger stronger and faster players.
When these teams compete at U-14 the skill and strength and conditioning levels are fairly even but because of the difference in training and structure the players grow and improve at vastly differently rates.
It's obvious then as they reach Minor and U-21 that the gap in physical fitness is greater in the counties that have pushed strength and conditioning.
Unfortunately then that means the 'Training Age' (level of development with a structured and supervised programme) of our U-21s and Senior players is very low which makes it very difficult to advance resistance training and trust players to train unsupervised without concerns about technique or risk of injuries.
Is it not more important to focus on the development of football and hurling skills first?
Well its a chicken or egg situation really. Players need to be introduced to strength and conditioning as soon as possible which will only help their development as players.
We cannot expect to improve fundamental sport skills unless we make sure the players are functionally competent when it comes to demonstrating the simple movements needed to compete.
How can a player be expected to jump, side step, cut, bend, brace etc. at full speed with a ball when they might not be able to complete these movements away from the playing field.
Most teams now train two or three times a week. Is it not to much to ask on players and parents to add this to their busy schedules?
No, that's the type of thinking we need to get away from in order to move forward.
I think the benefits are to big to ignore this, if you look at the development squads and take their training twice a week and if we could introduce strength and conditioning as part of the warm up for 10 minutes you could see players complete 200-300 repetitions of a huge range of exercises per week, that means over the course of a 10 month season players will have completed anything from 8,000-12,000 reps over the year.
So over the three years in the development squads this would lead to improved performance, functional competency and also reduce the risk of injuries.
There is a lot of work needed in the years ahead if we are to begin to compete then?
Yes no doubt there is but in fairness to county chairman Martin Coleman he is determined to make change and with the recent meeting in Aughrim it really seems to be gathering momentum and I hope this continues.
As far as strength and conditioning in the county goes it needs work but I think the realisation that this is an area that must be improved and I think it will be, it must be.
There is great excitement about the new Centre of Excellence and with it comes a chance to introduce fully supervised strength and conditioning training for all squads in both codes.
Personally I think we need maybe two part time coaches one with the development squads and then another with the U-21s and Senior teams as the availability of squads to train limits the hours a coach can deliver these programmes.
It takes a lot of planning and all players need an individual programmes to cater for their needs and unfortunately because of the poor foundation in this area its a big job that will take time but not an impossible one. Like Gerry Grehan and company said in Aughruim at the meeting, "If we always do what we always did, we will always get what we always got".