Preparing for the World Cup
Looking ahead to the World Cup, I think there are a number of things we need to improve on or plan for across all of the age groups, so I have set out some actions and points to consider below for both individuals and the club. When reading these points please note that player safety is the number one priority! I know you are well travelled and used to playing in different climates, however if we all were taking the below actions I wouldn’t be bringing them up.
It is clear that we have the ability level required to compete at all age groups, however fitness is without doubt not as high as some of the other nations. This is of course a generalisation and not true of all of our players. Please, please really focus over the next 5 weeks on getting yourselves in the best shape possible. Review eating habits, drink plenty of water everyday and be more active! It does not need to be long boring runs, but really short sharp sessions, be it hockey or as simple as some sprints. Ultimately you get the benefit from being fitter and subsequently the team will be able to perform at a higher level for longer if collectively we improve.
Please use the stretching programme kindly provided by Physio Ian. This is an excellent step by step guide which should be completed daily. The World Cup is extremely tough on the bodies, so help yourself play more minutes with less pain by following this guide.
Match Day Activities
Anyone remember the Gavin Hastings advert, walking a mile is as good as running a mile? Its very true, so please review and think more carefully about what you do on match days. Whilst I appreciate the desire to explore other cultures and cities, we have to be sensible as to how much energy we use up doing so. For example strolling round Barcelona in the heat for an hour or two on a match day is wasting valuable energy you will not be able to replace before the game. You would not run 3 miles on the morning of a match so why walk it?
Dublin was hotter than forecast, which took some of us by surprise. Barcelona weather will not be a surprise and as such we need to plan for this. Its imperative that players are sufficiently hydrated throughout the competition and this all starts in the weeks leading up to the tournament. Whilst in Spain, sufficient water must be drunk before, during and after matches. So, please ensure you have multiple bottles of water for match days and whilst we all enjoy a traditional post match beer, I would suggest that this is only after we replace lost fluids with water. I have always trusted players to be sensible on the beer front, but often post match re-hydration is completely forgotten about. Please bear this in mind and I expect everyone’s first drink post match to be a considerable amount of water. It should be standard as part of warm down to drink plenty of fluids.
Whilst I am sure many of you will have travel insurance, please ensure you also take your EHIC card with you as well, in case of emergency. A large number are due for renewal this year, so please check yours and re-apply if required. Information on these is available here - https://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/EHIC/Pages/about-the-ehic.aspx
Pre-match Meet Times
Travel will be an issue in Barcelona due to distances, so as a minimum I would expect all teams to meet at the ground two hours before match time. This will allow for sufficient time to make use of physios, changing, recharging water bottles, team talks and warm ups etc. We may need to increase the time, given the lengthy journey we may face to allow some rest time pre match due to the hustle and bustle of travel to the venues.
I would like all players to ensure they have hats with them. Learning from Australia, Lille etc., many players stand about in the sun pre match soaking up the rays and the atmosphere. All the time, this is raising the body temperature and not providing protection from the sun. I would expect all players to wear hats pre match, including the warm up, to help minimise the effects of the sun. We witnessed opposition with sun stroke in Lille and I feel this could have been easily prevented. Wetting the hat in cold water will also help with cooling.
As players you invest a lot of time, effort and money into representing your country at these competitions. Selection should fill you with pride and a sense of achievement, yet when we are tournaments there are still some players who look very uninterested in being there. Refusal to join in warm ups or a disgruntled outlook on games can create an air of unease in a team and spoil the good, positive mood of others before, during and after games. Given that you have committed to travel to this competition I would expect nothing but full commitment on and off the pitch. Whilst I appreciate we all have some frustrations, we have to work as a unit or the whole thing comes apart. These games are tough going, but you are representing your country and as such this is a privilege not a right. Some are quite happy to watch others do all the work, only then to criticise. You will only get out of this experience what you, yourself put into it!
Match Cooling Aids
We have identified a number of methods which will help with cooling players down during and after games. It will be up to individuals to provide their own equipment should they wish to do so. Below are just some suggestions we’ve seen used effectively in the past and would be recommended. I have included links for information only and you are free to scour the net for a better deal. Perhaps teams may wish to discuss this as groups and consider a bulk buy. These items are all with a view to getting core temperatures down at quarter and half time breaks. If we can cool ourselves quicker during breaks, we can allow ourselves to think more clearly and perform better as a result.
Cold Towel – £5.25 Sports Direct - put in cold water and the towel stays cold.
Ice Bags – £4.99 Decathlon - fill with ice and put on head or back of neck to help cooling.
You may also wish to consider a cooling base layer (rather than one of the keep warm ones), very much a personal preference.
The last point I wish to make is very important. We have days as individuals or as teams where things do not go as well as we would like. We must however at no point start nipping at each other on and off the pitch. Whilst I appreciate tiredness and heat all can play a factor in our tempers shortening, they also have an impact on the number of mistakes we make. Let's be clear, no-one who ever steps on to a hockey pitch makes mistakes on purpose. As such we must stay positive with each other and get behind one another, otherwise it will be a long and unhappy tournament for some. So next time you want to shout at a team mate, just take that extra second to think about it and turn into a positive remark. It does wonders for the team's performance overall!
I think that’s it from me for now, please read the above and take on board. Its really not long until we head off to Spain, so please do everything you can to be fully prepared in terms of fitness and for the weather.