Pre-season: Supporting players through ‘the return’

words by Bree Van Ryswyk, Monday 22 November 2021

It’s been a long time between kicks, and we are excited to see community football returning for pre-season! Whilst we are experiencing the joy of reconnecting with our teammates, dusting off the whiteboard, and re-familiarising ourselves with the scent of deep heat, many may be experiencing feelings they didn’t expect. These may include nerves or anxiety about returning to training and readjusting to their new routine. To assist with this, we have provided some tips for coaches to support the well-being of players as they return to the club.

Tips for Training

  • Start with a Check-In and End with a Debrief. Create a supportive environment where players feel comfortable in opening up about their circumstances by having staff and players share any current challenges, wins, or achievements. End sessions with a debrief to allow the opportunity to receive and voice any feedback post training. 
  • Provide a Session Plan. After the uncertainty that we have faced in the last 18 months, providing session plans allows players to mentally prepare for what they are about to endure.
  • Words of Encouragement. Who doesn’t love a good pump up? Create a supportive environment around the club through positive words of encouragement. Something as simple as “great kick” can boost confidence and reinforce a sense of belonging.

The Social Huddle

Human beings are naturally social creatures, and we cope by coming together. Some considerations to maintain the social huddle at your club include;

  • Training Partners. Create partnerships between players to help them connect and drive each-other over the summer. Not only is it a bit of healthy competition, but it also promotes a space to check in on one another and provide support.
  • Post-Session Catch ups. Post-session catch ups are a great way to enhance relationships amongst the playing group and staff beyond training and games. This could involve a fortnightly dinner in the club room, a game day team breakfast, or a post-game recovery session.
  • General Events. Schedule events such as end of year gatherings, AFL Draft viewing, or club trivia nights. We all lead busy lives, so it can be a good idea to put these in the calendar in advance.
  • Social Groups Online. From the past 18 months we have become accustomed to connecting online. Creating team Facebook groups or team group chats can be another great way to encourage open communication and enhance the cohesion of the playing group.