I have had a football-filled weekend (always good), and just got done watching the FA Cup games today. Some TV pundits have said the FA Cup isn’t what it once was, but I beg to differ. We have seen some great ties in the Cup, many of which have been down to the fighting spirit and quality of lower league teams battling for their lives against their higher-ranked opposition.
Reading Football Club have had a great run - beating Liverpool and Burnley of the Premier League, as well as high flying West Brom. Obviously I have a bit of a soft spot for them, and I got goose bumps seeing the Reading and Aston Villa sides come out today at the Madejski Stadium.
It seems like yesterday that I was out on that pitch working my first ever “big game” in my young strength and conditioning career. Funny coincidence was that it happened to be against Aston Villa (in a pre-season friendly). I remember putting out water bottles and sports drinks all around the pitch for the players to use during stoppages (it was a baking August day), and getting a fair amount of stick (heckling for you Americans out there) from the away supporters. “Who are ya, who are ya, who are ya” rang out from the away section of the stadium. I definitely had arrived in league football and thoroughly enjoyed it!
Back to today... Reading produced a very good first half display, and a battling last 30 minutes, however the 15 minutes immediately following half-time saw them concede three goals. Brian McDermott has done a fantastic job there since taking over a (then) sinking ship, but couldn’t prevent them losing 4-2 and going out.
The second match today saw Chelsea overcome Stoke after a worrying quarter of an hour at Stamford Bridge. Rory Delap’s long throws caused plenty trouble in the Chelsea penalty area early on, and it seems that there is no real answer to this direct approach. Chelsea, like a few other teams, have also started to utilize the long throw themselves after seeing Stoke’s success over the past couple of seasons.
I am imagining youth and senior squads all over the country (or even the world) getting their players to sling medicine ball after medicine ball in an effort to “give” the team their very own “Rory Delap”.
Things to remember here are:
1. Delap has a history of throwing and competed in the Javelin as a youngster.
2. Delap is a strong athlete all-round - strong legs, mid-section, as well as upper-body. The long throw is a full-body action not just an upper body move.
3. It is not just the length or speed of his throws that creates goals, but also the specific set-piece work that Stoke spend hours and hours practicing.
So if you are looking to utilize the long throw:
1. Find out who in your team is naturally gifted / has a history in the throws.
2. Implement a full body strength training program (as for all your athletes), including some specific overhead lifts and (light) medicine ball work. Your long throwers will also need shoulder and lumbar spine prehabilitative exercises to help avoid injuries due to the additional stress faced by these players.
3. If serious about maximizing the effectiveness of the long throw - time needs to be dedicated to practice this unique form of set piece. Players good in the air need to be present in the box, make the right runs, pressure the goalkeeper, etc. etc.
The above is just the tip of the iceberg. I feel it is worth working with your full-backs and possibly that one player in your team who is gifted - but unless you have the perfect personnel (like Stoke do), I wouldn’t be revolving my team around it.
I have some rehab news to come this week - I can finally do active rehab and I am loving it.