Differences in S&C Training for Soccer and GAA
Name: Paul Hall
Team: St. Patrick’s Athletic & St Brigid’s GAA
Position: Strength and Conditioning Coach
As Strength and Conditioning Coach for St Patrick’s Athletic and St. Brigid’s GAA I have been asked to write a short article on the differences in training professional/semi-professional Soccer players and Senior Gaelic Football players.
Just to note, this is a very brief overview and if anyone wants more specific detail please do drop me an email and I will be happy to discuss in depth.
In my coaching capacity the Soccer and GAA players that I coach are at the highest level in their sport in Ireland and would be in the top 5-10% percentile in their specific field. You can take it that they have been training for a number of years at a very serious level and have had exposure to many different training techniques, models and expertise. In short they are good at what they do and when you show or tell them to do something they are really receptive and typically give 100% dedication. Of course there is always one or two (you know who you are) who I feel keep a little in the tank.
It is a given that all athletes for team/field sports need to have the basic fundamentals in place before we design specific training for their selected sport. These fundamentals include:
- Proper nutrition and diet related to the requirements of their sport
- Strength, speed, mobility, stability and agility
In most cases the players will typically have a good understanding of some of the above but you will find that some will not understand in particular the importance of mobility, stability and agility. Over the years they have focussed their training on strength, speed and nutrition and very rarely would they have considered the other elements mentioned. However, in more recent years this is changing, albeit slowly.
Getting the baseline
No matter what your sport is, to reach optimum condition you must know where you are starting from. That means testing. Without this information you cannot know if you and or your players are progressing and if/when you need to change things. I typically test all my players at the start of the training cycle and then every two/four weeks throughout. Obviously, this is altered depending on physical condition of the players, length of the cycles and individuality. There are a number of different tests that can be used but I like to look at full body composition, strength, power, endurance, speed and stamina.
Regardless of the sport once the baseline is set, I focus on improving overall strength and conditioning, injury prevention, stability and mobility and nutrition.
Initially I focus on 10 minute conditioning blocks and 10-15 minute strength blocks. Speed work and prowler work is introduced and I initiate education on fuelling and diet requirements and supplementation. All athletes get an introduction to mobility and functional stretching.
Over the following weeks the strength and conditioning element is progressed by adding volume and load. From a nutrition perspective pre-match, during and post-match fuelling and hydration requirements are explained. As well as advanced supplementation.
Coming close to pitch time more power and explosive work is blended in to ensure transition to pitch speed work is fully leveraged and that the players are ready for their first game. This is a mix of fast sled and prowler work, plyometric and specific speed work.
In a nutshell there really isn’t that much of a difference when training these two different codes. The only one of note is the need for a GAA player to have a stronger upper body than a soccer player. This is to be able to handle the physical demands placed on that area of the body. The GAA player needs to be able to fend off his opponent, take more physical hits and be able to field and catch the ball as part of the game. Having a stronger upper body physique will allow him to handle these demands. As a result the GAA players typically can cope better with the upper body work.
However given it is best that players from both codes have upper and lower body strength improvements I tend not to differentiate the sessions.
Paul Hall: Strength and Conditioning Coach for St. Patrick’s Athletic and St. Brigids GAA & Personal Trainer