Mid-Season - Winter break by João Carvalho (Boavista FC Assistant Coach)
May 29, 2013
During an extended period of competition, top flight players can be prone to suffer from fatigue - the number of games that are played at top level is between 50 and 60 per season. On top of exhaustion from the physical pressure of the game and the length of the season, these players are subject to emotional pressure due to the huge media attention the sport receives.
It has become of vital importance to maintain the emotional stability of players towards the end of a season, when teams may be participating in various competitions and important decisions must be made. Several points are raised at this stage of the season: should the coaches make changes to the team? How can the team be protected from the media circus? And importantly: how can players be helped to recover both emotionally and physically between games?
Several leagues, such as the English Premier League, have a high frequency of games throughout the season, including the festive season (December and January). It could be seen as an example to be followed but from a player’s point of view, it can be exhausting.
Here’s another perspective that just might be the future of football for top-flight clubs: Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund reached the Champions League final, beating their Spanish rivals in the semi-finals ‘relatively’ easily, displaying fantastic physical capacity and, more importantly, showing a high level of emotional concentration and decisiveness. The question is: what do these two teams have in common? Well, that both Bayern and Dortmund had nearly a month-long break without competing between December and January, during which time the team travelled to warmer parts of Europe for a mixture of training camps and mini-breaks, together with their families. In general, these breaks served not only as a form of physical recovery for the athletes (they had around 15 days to ‘cleanse’ their bodies of the demands of training and competition) but also to prepare the team emotionally and tactically for the second half of the season. These giants of football have surprised many, not just for knocking out Barcelona and Real Madrid, but for the manner in which they did so. The answer could be in these ‘winter breaks’ which allow players to alleviate the tension that may have built up during the first 30 games and give them a chance to recharge their batteries in order to play at the highest level in the second half of the season.