How to keep your best players on the pitch for the vital games

Demanding games tend to be toughest on your best players because they put themselves in the action the most. Help them manage themselves to play for longer.

In a tough period of games there will be many players beginning to wane after successive demanding outings. The extent of this waning will depend on their strength and conditioning programmes, nutrition and sleep patterns but they may also be combatting niggles picked up throughout the season.

It is important for you to be aware of any issues and accommodate them. This is a lot easier in an elite set up but there are a few strategies you can adopt and recommend to keep these players on the field.


We all know that rehydration is vital before, during and after a game. Players must replace any lost fluid to allow the blood to circulate the body more easily and efficiently getting the necessary oxygen and nutrients to where they are needed.

Electrolytes lost through sweat also need to be replaced; more so as the outside temperatures increase. Without replacing these minerals when taking in extra fluid, the blood will become diluted and the body will just try to get rid of this fluid. Fruit juices, vegetable juices and most sports drinks contain electrolytes.

In an amateur environment, it’s difficult to be prescriptive because you won’t have the time or resources to measure what they need. In which case, keep encouraging the players to keep drinking “good” fluids, but not overdoing it so they feel uncomfortable.


Players need to take on good protein post-match to assist the muscles to repair and grow.

Chicken/turkey curries (not too much sauce though) are good or a lean beef ragu dish. They are easy to make in advance and will keep on the heat for some time, even improving.

For vegetarians, any pulse such as lentils, chickpeas or peanuts combined with a wholegrain will work well, or quinoa. In tournaments, the odd peanut butter (wholemeal bread) sandwich is great in between matches. Put a banana in and we have electrolytes covered too.

Carbohydrates may be increased for the hard training sessions and prior to the game but there’s no need for “carbohydrate loading”.


It would aid recovery enormously if the player could attend a session with a soft tissue therapist around two days after a game. Any imbalances or deficits can be assessed and corrected at this point and reports sent back to the coach.

A sports massage helps by improving circulation, increasing the permeability of the soft tissues, breaking down scar tissue and stretching the muscles. It can also help to reduce pain and aid relaxation. Most soft tissue therapists are happy to give members of any club registered with them a concession.


If your club train on a Tuesday and a Thursday, Tuesday should be set aside for prehabilitation and proprioception work. Prehabilitation is strength training to prevent injuries. Proprioception workouts are exercises to help players with on-going niggles to retrain the right athletic movements which might have been impaired by an injury.

All this will help prevent future injuries whilst dealing with current ones. Your team physio could lead part of the session.

Thursday should be set aside for skills and team training, in other words, getting ready for the game ahead.


A good dynamic warm-up prior to the game may lessen any occurrence of injury and will prepare the player mentally, as well as physically, for the challenge. Immediately after the game, a good cool-down including low impact exercises and developmental stretches provides greater physiological recovery.

There are also some very good compression garments on the market that could help with recovery and some players respond well to contrast water therapy (ice baths).

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