So, you want to learn more about being a professional football player but not sure where to look. Well, all I can say is that you have come to the right place and shouldn’t look to go anywhere else.
Being a professional football is perceived to be one of the most amazing jobs anybody could think of becoming but aren’t entirely sure of the choices and sacrifices which must be made in order to become a footballer at the highest level. In today’s world of professional athletes, we see them run out onto the field and play 90 minutes of football and think to ourselves,’ Isn’t it amazing how smooth they are moving? I wish I would just be able to play like the do’. Trust me you aren’t the first person and not going to be the last person to think of this.
Being a professional football takes a lot of determination, dedication and discipline, and is not for the faint hearted. A coach once told me that becoming a professional football is 80% hard work and dedication, 18% talent, and 2% luck. This has stuck with me from the moment I was told this close to 10 years ago, and I will tell you right now it will stay with me the rest of my career. Of course, you may look at these numbers and think, ‘Kristian what do you mean hard work outweighs talent? And does luck really have a part to play in making it?’. The answer to both those questions are yes and yes again. Becoming a professional footballer is all about the 1%er’s made off the field which are going to differentiate you on the field, that is what we are about to get on to. Luck. Luck works in many different ways and can happen at any time. But that will be for another blog.
Right here we have it. The 7 Habits of a Professional Football Player which will point you in the right direction to getting started.
Also please note, these are not in any particular order. Each one is just as important as the other.
- Healthy and Balanced Nutrition
Food is what is known as the fuel for the body. Think of the human body as a car, the better fuel you put in it the smooth it will run. Well that is exactly the same with the human body. The human body is designed to have a balanced diet to allow us to function physically and also mentally.
In a footballer players daily routine, they will eat several meals a day at different times, for different purposes. Before training the body must be fill with carbohydrates and protein because that is where our source of energy comes from. Carbohydrates can come in the form of breads, cereals, pastas, fruit and vegetables. Protein can be found in meat and poultry products such as chicken, beef, eggs, lentils and many other sources.
After intense training sessions, our body has endured high levels of exercise meaning our muscles can be prone to becoming sore and in need of recovering. For that purpose, our body needs a higher amount of protein intake. For a quick source of protein straight after training, I look at taking a Musashi protein shake to ensure my body begins its recovery process instantly. Please know that I think the Musashi protein shakes are what work best for my body, everyone is different. Just make sure that the products are approved by. ASADA or the Australian Sports Anti- Doping Authority. Later on, in the day I will look to have a meal which includes a source of red or white meat, eggs or lentils with a small serving of carbohydrates and a lot of vegetables.
The photo above is just an idea of what I like to full my body with before a game. It’s a personal preference of mine and I know that each component on this plate goes well in energising me for a football game or training.
Like I said, putting nutritious food into your body is what is going to allow it to grow, repair and recover faster, which will all your body to continue to perform at the highest level possible.
For more information about nutrition and another learning source, be sure to check out ‘The One Percenters Book’ by close friend of mine Jerrad Tyson.
2. Rest, Recovery and Sleep
Recovery is the underlying giant of how professional footballers are constantly able to perform at the highest level for extended periods of time. Training hard and consistently is very important, but it wouldn’t mean anything if your body wasn’t able to absorb the workload and be able to back it up day after day.
The European Journal of Sport Science did an experiment examining the performance of athletes and research what players thought were the most important part of being able to perform. After interviewing and analyzing the performance of athletes, they discovered that the most important tools which had been used were ice baths being taken immediately after training and daily supplements to compliment how their body was feeling on a day to day basis. It was then found that after most training sessions, athletes would turn to having a sleep during the day to allow their bodies to recover, followed by maximizing their sleep at night by getting 8-10 hours.
Recovery is essentially giving our body the opportunity to adapt to the stress of exercise and helps minimize fluid loss, depletion of muscles breaking down and preserving our energy storages. By allowing our body to rest, it forms a cycle of adapting to the training load which can overtime gradually begin to increase and perform at higher levels of stress and fatigue. This can be known as progressive overload, which is essentially allowing our bodies to slowly progress with the amount, the intensity and the duration of training which our bodies are capable of withstanding without breakdown.
Hydration is another big key aspect in recovery. During intense exercise, our body is prone to sweating and dehydrating. Fluid is what stops our body from cramping, overheating and delivers nutrients to our muscles and organs. I could think of a time or place I don’t have a full drink bottle with me wherever I go. Hydration is so important because it can actually affect our sleep quality, cognition and mood throughout the day. Thinks to remember when walking out the door; keys, wallet, phone and water bottle. That is a checklist always worth ticking off.
Being a little bit of a fitness freak and always wanting to learn about different ways our bodies can adapt and grow into becoming fitter and stronger, I can recommend a book which I enjoyed reading which was ‘The Worlds Fittest Book’ by Ross Edgley.
(Please know that this is just a recommendation of a book I really enjoyed learning from).
So, wanting to really boost your performance on the field, well the most important thing is looking after your body off the field.
Weight training is a very important aspect for the development of the body. Not only does weightlifting make your body stronger making you able to perform better on the field, it helps prevent injuries and allows your body to continue to withstand a higher workload/intensity. I personally found this to be very interesting and was very eager to learn more on how it actually helps our bodies to continue to train harder and more often.
Our muscles are designed to perform for a period of time until our body begins to fatigue and breakdown. This could be for a number of reasons like our muscles not being well developed, our anerobic system is not at its peak performance level and many other reasons. The aspect of weightlifting in a professional footballer’s routine is designed around 3 key areas:
- Injury Prevention
Strength Training- as an athlete, I always want my body to feel strong and capable of withstanding any impacts or contests on the football pitch. Strength training is designed to help improved the overall strength in our muscles and tendons such as our quad or hamstrings. By weightlifting, it increases the load on our body and helps with withstanding fatigue and stress our body endures during physical exercise. In the coming weeks I will be sharing with you my training/ weightlifting program so stay tuned on what is to come.
Power Training- is to allow our bodies to become more explosive in actions such as running, jumping and changing direction. Power lifting are movements which are realistic to the type of sport you play increasing the explosivity of an action which is being performed. Powerlifting is not supposed to be as intense on the body when recovering but can have the greatest output on the football pitch. As a football player, we train to become better every day. Strength training coincides with getting first to the ball in 50/50 challenges, getting up for a header and winning the ball, beating a defender in a one on one situation and driving towards the goal to score. There are endless scenarios whereby increasing your power will help with your performance on the field.
Injury Prevention- as the name states, is to prevent our bodies from getting injured. The main types of injuries we want to avoid and can be avoided are soft tissue injuries. A soft tissues injury is when a muscle is strained or tears, that is what we want to stay as far away as possible from. Injury prevention is designed to prepare our muscles and boy for the training load which is being performed. Does a marathon runner go and run a 42km race without training? No not at all, they train and manage their bodies to ensure no injuries are caused. Just like for footballers, we want to make sure our legs are conditioned for training and ultimately 90 minutes of intense football.
4. Ball Work Training
As football players, whether we like it or not our performances are always going to be mainly based on what we do with the ball at our feet. There are so many details when taking your first touch, passing a ball, knocking a long ball, striking a ball. There are so many different outcomes and scenarios which can occur during 90 minutes of football, that is why in training we have to do everything to prepare ourselves for whatever comes on the pitch.
Now, there are many different training drills, methods and techniques which can be taught and learnt by coaches and sometimes it can get a little bit overwhelming. Sometimes we just have to take a step back and go back to basics, the simplicity of a ball against a wall. The beauty of this is it can be done anywhere and work on so many different types of skills. I’ve written a little list below which can give you an idea of what you can work on. It’s all about repetition and perfecting a certain action, so remember these things don’t happen overnight, consistency is the key. So, here it is: (remember every time a ball is about to be received, you CANNOT forget to scan).
- Instep volley
Instep volley are a simple technique which is what type of technique we would use throughout most of a game. It’s as easy as repeatedly passing a ball into the wall one touch and scanning over your shoulder each part. It is all about creating habits which will eventually become second nature.
- Thigh volley
Thigh volley is a great way to improve balance on the ball and also dealing with difficult passes. This technique is beneficial across the park especially in the front third. Being a striker all I want is to create as much room as possible between myself and the defender to get a shot towards goal. My first touch can define whether I get the shot away or not.
- Chest volley
Chest volley is an effective way of adapting another type of control into your game. By being able to gain control of the ball with your chest, the options of making a decision with the ball is endless.
Heading is an important part for every position on the field. From fullbacks clearing the ball, midfielders making a headed pass or strikers heading towards goal. To start it can be as simple as Throw, Head, Catch, Repeat. Once this partner becomes easier, see how many times you can repeatedly get the ball from you to the wall. Let me know in the comments how you go.
With all these exercises I simply add a target on the wall, either marking it with chalk or tape as circle and focusing on hitting the square repeatedly. Every time I strike the ball I look to hit the centre of the target over and over.
We play football because it is what we love doing. Always remember that there is room for improvement, no matter who you are. Because remember, for professionals to be at the top and stay at the top, they don’t stop.
5. Fitness Conditioningfitness conditioning
As athletes our bodies are designed to perform on a regular basis, it is important for us to be physically conditioned and to be able to withstand high levels of exertion. Football fitness is very difficult to gain but can be lost within a week without maintaining a constant level of training. It is all about conditioning our bodies to maximizing our effort and performance in a 90-minute football match. However, there is a fine line in conditioning our bodies correctly and pushing ourselves to hard making us to break down and get injured. Let’s have a look at a couple drill below which can be done in season to stay on top of your fitness levels.
Preseason and in season fitness training are both very different situations and scenarios which both have an individual purpose. Preseason is about adjusting our bodies to the amount of load and work which is going to be done throughout the course of the season, however, is all calculated by coaches and training staff. Whereas in season fitness is what is known as ‘topping up’ which essentially means managing and keeping running distances in our legs, so our body stays functional for regular occurring games.
Here are a couple of in season running drills which can be done after training by yourself to make sure you stay on top of your own conditioning.
- 2 x 6 box to box runs (15 seconds on 15 seconds off)
- 3 x 8 15 seconds stride out 40 seconds recovery
- 2 x 4 minutes moderate paced running focusing on aerobic fitness
These are just a couple of alternatives which can be applied to anybody’s training regime before, after or on days off from training.
If you would like to see a more in depth breakdown of these exercises, as well as some of my other favourite fitness training routines, comment below and I would be more than happy to make it happen.
Stretching is another method for injury prevention. As athletes our bodies undertake serious amount of physical and mental stress. Football is a high intensity sport which constantly creates tension and inflammation in our muscles. Through stretching on a regular basis in benefits our body in a number of ways including improving motion in our joints, increases circulation around our body and minimizes potential stiffness and fatigue through copious amounts of training. At the end of the day, as an athlete, I look for any way possible to increase my athletic performance, because at the end of the day, those who look after their bodies the best, always perform better over time. Recovery in football must be number one priority for any professional athlete.
As some may know, a professional footballer by the name of Ryan Giggs said that the whole reason his career at Manchester United lasted for so many years was through continual yoga sessions. He said it helped him prolong his football by helping his body feel better during strenuous amounts of training and countless amounts of games. Ryan Giggs retired at 40 years old which is just one example of our bodies being a temple and the better we treat it, the longer our bodies are able to withstand and stay injury free.
There are many different forms of stretching and flexibility work which can continually be improved. The types of exercises which can be considered are things such as yoga (too many types to name), regular stretching which only has to be done once a day for around 20 minutes, that is what I normally turn towards doing in front of the TV every night while watching a movie, that’s how simple it can be. And there is always foam rolling which can also be incorporated into any type of movement and flexibility exercise.
Looking after your body is the number 1 priority in moving forward in any professional sport, it might even be 5 minutes of stretching here and there, just as long as you are managing your body in the appropriate way. There will always be room for improvement, never forget that.
7. Attitude/ Concentration
Attitude. Without having a positive outlook or attitude on any situation, we may as well cross out our dream. I cannot emphasis enough the importance of having an attitude that is humble, always willing to learn, patient, passionate and having a sense of character. As players move throughout their careers, there are always situations which can have an effect on how a player thinks and plays. Football is 50% physical and 50% mental. Without the right mentality, footballers can really feel lost, I myself have experienced this firsthand and that is why I really want to share with you why always having a positive outlook and attitude in everything you do.
During my last stint overseas in Sweden I found it particularly difficult in overcoming mental boundaries and barriers which were out of my control, but I put the burden of the uncontrollable situations rest on my shoulders which really had a huge impact on my mental health and attitude. If I could go back and talk to myself two years ago, I would have told myself to hang in there and continue working hard and improving what you love, football. Each person faces challenges and boundaries throughout their lives, it’s how we deal with the am focus our energy into having a positive and determined vision in moving forward, or as I also like to call it, the law of attraction…
So, there you have it. These are ‘The 7 Habits of a Professional Football Player’ which I have learnt to adapt into my everyday life.
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