How to improve as a football player during a pandemic

2020 has been a year unlike any other. You don’t need me to tell you; you already know that. Many seasons have been cancelled, gyms have been closed, and the ability to practice as a team has proven to be quite challenging.

Although these factors might inhibit you from developing certain skills as a football player, there are many things you can do right now to improve. Here are three ways you can improve as a football player during a pandemic:

Watch film. It’s been said that the best teacher in the game is not a coach, but a camcorder. Whether it’s your team’s Hudl account, countless free YouTube videos, or courses you can take through CoachTube, film will always be there to help you grow – quarantined or not.

Watching film of yourself on Hudl can help you identify your deficiencies, your tendencies, and your technique. Watching film of other teams and players on YouTube can reveal how to perfect a play you’re trying to employ. Watching film through a course on CoachTube can help you see how a certain drill carries over into games. The opportunities are endless and endlessly accessible. Watch, learn, apply, and improve.

Diet. I tell readers in 40 Seconds of Fuel that one of my college football coaches once gave me a powerful statement:

“You can’t out-train a bad diet.”

Dr. Ann Wigmore said it another way:

“The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”

A pandemic is a great time to improve your diet.

An athlete should eat early (the earlier you wake up and get food in your system, the more chances you have to gain muscle, reduce fatigue, and generally improve your health), eat well (as a general rule, eat for performance 80% of the time and eat for pleasure 20% of the time), and eat often (5-7 meals is a nice guideline, but it’s important to focus on what this looks like within the scope of your day). If an athlete hears nothing else and abides by these guidelines, they’re destined for improvement.

Sleep. Perhaps the most underrated and neglected aspect of athletic performance, sleep is vital to sporting success. You probably already know that or have heard that before, but you also probably don’t take it as seriously as you should. To put athletic performance into simple math terms, Stress (training) + Rest (sleep/recovery) = Growth

A recent study revealed that “athletes who slept on average <8 hours per night were 1.7 times more likely to have had an injury compared with athletes who slept for ≥8 hours.” How many hours of sleep do you get per night? If you care about your growth and development as an athlete, you’ll care about how many hours of sleep you’re consistently getting. The evidence is clear: if you want to improve as an athlete, then a good nights rest is mandatory.

There are many, many areas of improvement that can be built upon during this unusual season of life we’re in. Training at home by yourself, going over your playbook with coaches, or facilitating small workouts with teammates are sure to boost your level of performance. Find an area you want to improve and figure out a way to get it done. But watching film, enhancing your diet, and ensuring you get quality sleep at night are three surefire ways to improve as a player during a pandemic.

Spencer Ferrari-Wood
Spencer Ferrari-Wood is an American coach, speaker, writer and teacher living in Europe. He writes articles and reviews and has a collection of thoughts for your morning routine. He's spoken at different events ranging from leadership, to American football, to habit formation and more.
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