Blog: Sporting Demands

Category: Sport

Both the hockey (for girls) and rugby seasons have come to an end, so this blog will reflect on how the strength and conditioning team supported development and performance within these sports.

Sporting Demands

Hockey and rugby are both high intensity intermittent sports, where performance hinges on a cluster of technical and tactical skills alongside physical capacities such as strength, power and endurance. It has been reported that elite female hockey players cover an average of 6.6km over the course of a match, with midfielders covering greater distances in high intensity running than attackers and defenders. For elite level rugby, backs generally cover greater distances than forwards (7.2km and 6.7km, respectively), but forwards endure greater loads from scrums, rucks and mauls. Alongside this, both sports display unique and complex movement patterns. Because of the clear differences in sporting and positional demands, it is imperative that training is programmed systematically and specifically for optimal sports preparedness, progress and performance.

Meeting the Demands

Throughout the Marlborough College Youth Athletic Development Plan (YADP), fundamental movements and muscular strength are central. As discussed previously (see “Youth Athletic Development” blog), this is so that the individual is equipped with the neuromuscular skills essential to long term performance and daily living. 

Motor skills and strength work synergistically as each movement requires a level of force production, and with training the amount of force and rate that it can be produced is increased. Additionally, the individual will be better equipped to apply and absorb force effectively and efficiently – helping performance indices such as sprinting, jumping and changing direction. Therefore, motor skills and strength form the building blocks for more advanced and sport specific capacities to be developed. For example, the Shell rugby 1st team (year 1 of the YADP model) undertook circuits, gym and pitch based sessions this term, where the fundamental movement skills were prioritised. The rugby 1st XV, on the other hand, who have a greater training age, had more rugby and position specific programmes. We also performed physical analysis of the student’s physical characteristics and movement competencies to assist in the formation of suitable training programmes. 

Match day support has been implemented throughout the term, with an emphasis on warm up and recovery. An effective match day warm up is not only constructive to muscular function and injury prevention, it also effects the team’s mind-set going into a game. The aim is for the team to believe they are going to win, so the warm up requires the players to “switch on” and come together, ready for what’s to come. Recovery is equally important, especially when matches are played within close succession. For example, between matches at the hockey regional finals, refuelling, rehydrating and mobilisation were carried out during breaks to recover and prepare for the next match. 

Overall, the Michaelmas Term proved to be thoroughly enjoyable and eventful, with the students displaying high levels of commitment and determination to succeed. With the hockey (for boys) and netball seasons now under way, we are looking forward to seeing what challenges and successes the Lent term brings.

James Davies
Lead Strength and Conditioning Coach

Ruth Taylor and Joshua Wall
Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coaches

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