Rehab in chaos

Tao

At most courses, speakers, usually from top clubs, present about a certain topic. Often a fitness coach, assistant coach or analyst who shows how they work at their respective clubs. They explain situations from their perspective, with their external factors to whom the listeners cannot relate. People working in pro football try to show the ideal world which, as we all know, does not exist. Not even in pro football. Every coach, listening to a presentation, has his own challenges and external factors to deal with. 

Every football coach has his own preferred playing style. Or at least he should have. He prefers playing with a low block or a high pressing game. For the players to be able to execute this playing style the coach uses certain principles so that the playing style can be learned. For each principle, the coach has exercises that he can choose from to teach a specific principle. By using principles the players know exactly where they stand every game. The playing style stays the same, the principles are the same. Yet, depending on the opponent, a certain player can have a specific task within a principle. Even when players are under pressure, they know what to do.

What principles does the rehab coach use? Does he use principles during rehab, like the interval principle? Does he stick to his rehab principles even when under pressure? In the last couple of years, by participating in WFA courses, many rehab references and principles have been taught. Using principles in the comfort of your own home, creating a plan for the ideal world, is easy. Adjusting principles within chaotic, unstructured and uncontrollable situations is a totally different ball game. Not every team has 5 sessions a week. Not every team has games on the same day, every week. Not every team has a well-structured team periodisation. Not all schools give students off for proper rehab training when injured. Not every team has a head coach that is willing to listen to his staff.

If you are lucky and you attend courses or seminars where they teach principles instead of exercises, you must always reflect on what principle can I actually use. How can I adjust this new principle, without compromising, to ensure it will work within your situation?

The most recent WFA course adapted brilliantly on this. Participants in the rehab group had to bring their own team’s periodisation. Most team planning didn’t have any structure which made it even more challenging for the attending coaches. You received a case with a specific injury. With this information, you had to use the principles taught. When presenting your case, your colleagues challenged you regarding why you used a specific principle in a certain situation. Nobody else but you knew the external factors that you have to deal with every day. Coaches had to solve an unknown case within a chaotic team periodisation. However, in some extreme cases, you should actually consider if you are the right person for the job. Sometimes you need some feedback from colleagues to make you understand. 

You might think, this is easy. I am faced with uncertainty every day. This doesn’t sound too difficult. This was of course not the only chaos the organisation let us experience. On the first evening, the organisation made it very clear, verbally, that the coaches will be experiencing chaos during the week. For example: when you think you have 2 hours to prepare a rehab session with a real player, but you only get 45 minutes. And only because a presentation that should have lasted one hour, lasted for more than two. Evaluations of practical sessions could last until late in the evening. Many more small changes which ensured you had to adapt constantly. But you still had to do a good job. It certainly doesn’t help when being sleep deprived either. Just as in daily life. People with small kids know how that feels. You have to adapt, be professional when working with the player and hopefully stick to your principle(s). The most challenging aspect was when you were «promised» a certain pitch size to execute your rehab session. Two hours before your session starts you are promised half a pitch. Thirty minutes into the session you are ordered to move into the penalty box. Within minutes the rehab staff was off the pitch and into the gym. What do you do? Do you stick to your principles or throw the whole plan overboard and do something totally different?

There was no program for the course days. Not officially at least. By not having a timetable available, you had to live in the present. Coaches were now only able to think about the task at hand without being interrupted by a possible thought of a more «exciting» next lecture. Because, officially, there was no next lecture. The way the course was (un)organised gave a much greater learning effect than the often traditional consuming of information, via oneway presentations. Luckily more and more courses are changing for the better. Learning by experiencing and using the theory in a practical situation instead of copy-pasting information. A lot of questions have been answered. The future, however, will show how much really has been understood. 

As in real life, you will face uncertain situations almost every second of the day, because nobody knows what is going to happen next. You will have to adapt. In football rehab, it is exactly the same. You have to adapt to uncertainty. As long as you stick to your principles, the head coach can do whatever he wants.

Someone once said: It is not the strongest of rehab coaches that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones best responsive to change. 

Thanks for sharing.

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