Effects Of Sleep On Football Performance.

Football performance is affected by a combination of technical (ability to execute football skills), tactical (decision making), physical (body’s ability to execute the demands of football), and mental (functioning of the brain to affect behaviour) factors.

Those four factors are greatly affected by the quality of sleep.

Football requires excellent coordination to enable players to perform the complex movements that are required to execute football skills, and the physical demands of football like agility, leaping, endurance, physical speed etc.

Quality sleep greatly improves the movement of neurotransmitters from the brain to perform reflex and non-reflex actions that affect coordination.

A football player that has quality sleep will have improved coordination and the opposite is also true.

Coordination greatly affects the quality of the above attributes which affect football fitness.

Football has many situations that constantly change every second which requires excellent learning ability and a good memory that enable quality decision making in responding to these situations.

Quality sleep greatly improves the brain’s capacity in learning and memory. Learning and memory are often described in terms of three functions; acquisition, consolidation and recall.

Deep sleep is what enables acquired information to get stored and consolidated in the long-term memory which enables the brain to recall that information when needed.

A player that consistently gets quality sleep is capable of being able to recall football situations and respond appropriately.

The three functions of learning and memory are greatly affected by the quality of sleep.

Football matches and training sessions are mentally and physically draining which requires recovery sessions to enable an individual to return to a state of being able to perform better in the next training session or match.

If all the other recovery methods like adequate hydration, timely nutrition, and quality stretching are followed then quality sleep enables the repairing process of muscles, bones and tissue to be complete.

This repairing process enables footballers to have more energy reserves the next day and to reduce the probability of getting muscle related injuries.

A football player that doesn’t get enough sleep will struggle to train or practice at their best capacity which affects performance in matches because you can only compete the way that you train/practice.

Football matches present problems that requires cognitive speed and reaction speed to solve. Cognitive speed and reaction speed are affected by concentration, attention, and focus.

Quality sleep greatly improves concentration, attention and focus which helps footballers to improve on the awareness required to respond faster to situations that happen during training and matches. This means; avoiding tackles that could get you injured, avoiding being reckless, and having the ability to punish mistakes made by opponents or recovering to correct the mistakes made by team mates.

A football player that doesn’t get enough sleep consistently would struggle to recognize how to solve the problems presented to them in football matches.

HOW TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF SLEEP?

It’s important for parents to monitor the quality of sleep especially in teenagers because that’s when they usually lose their discipline to sleep due to a lot of changes in their lives.

Footballers should target sleeping for 8-10 hours at night and avoid using electronic gadgets 60-90 minutes before sleep because the light from the gadgets affects the brain’s ability to release sleep hormones and the activity on the gadgets might cause stress or anxiety that will delay sleep.

For individuals that train in the evening, it’s important to target having a nap in the afternoon.

Coordination: A challenge for most Ugandan footballers.

Coordination is the interaction between the brain and the muscles to successfully carry out a movement of two different body parts at the same time.

Most Ugandan footballers lack excellent coordination. 

This is one of the reasons why most of our footballers struggle to play high-level professional football.

Coordination is responsible for three of the four factors that affect football performance. 

This means that coordination affects 75% of football performance.

Coordination is responsible for all the physical attributes of football performance like jumping/leaping, power, physical speed (pure speed acceleration and deceleration), agility, flexibility, and endurance.

Coordination is responsible for the footwork required to execute football skills (passing, shooting, heading, traveling with the ball, throwing the ball, catching the ball, and tackling) with quality.

The five factors of coordination are; 

Orientation: The ability of a player to position themselves correctly in terms of both space and time. 

Changing and readjusting the position of the body on the basis of the perception of a given situation.

An example of orientation in football is heading the ball. 

The player heading the ball has to time the flight of the ball then move the head to make contact with a particular area of the ball. 

Having poor coordination would end up with the ball hitting the player.

Rhythm: The ability that allows the player to execute movement rhythmically. The alternation between speed and slowness.

An example of rhythm in football is dribbling past an opponent. The player on the ball has to slow down as they approach the opponent then accelerate past the opponent as soon as they get favorable conditions. 

Differentiation: An ability that allows the player to deal in different ways with the information that they perceive with their sensory organs.

An example of differentiation in football is knowing how to weigh a pass according to the distance of your teammate and the position of opponents. 

Equilibrium (balance): The ability that allows a player to maintain balance during an action or while executing a technical move.

Being able to regain balance after a duel, a body charge, after feinting and executing the fast footwork required in technical moves.

Almost 90% of football activity happens with one leg off the ground hence football players need to have excellent balance to execute football actions.

An advantage of having excellent balance is that it enables the player to be comfortable using both feet.

Reaction: An ability that allows a player to respond extremely quickly to signals and to match situations, not merely executing the right technical move, but also doing so very quickly.

In football, the stimuli to respond to are; ball, space, teammate, opponent, area of play, and state of play. 

Footballers with better coordination will be stronger, have better endurance capacity be more flexible and have better football speed. 

It’s true that some Ugandan footballers show signs of good coordination but it’s not DELIBERATELY PRACTICED which means they would struggle when competing against opponents that have excellent coordination skills.

It’s also true that Ugandan footballers can execute football skills but the quality of football skills is not at the standard of high-level professional football. 

Coordination is best mastered when taught between 8-13 years of age and can be improved up to 25 years of age then maintained for individuals above 25 years of age. 

Football coaches and players in Uganda need to start deliberate coordination training because of its major influence on football performance.

The 5C’s of Football

Football performance is affected by four major factors; technical ability being converted into a skill in the presence of opponents, Tactical ability by being able to make the right decisions, physical ability by the body being able to perform football-specific movements and mental ability being strong enough to enable players to perform well.

The mental ability has many factors that are mainly affected by the 5C’s, these are; confidence, communication, control, commitment, and concentration.

These 5C’s can’t be isolated, they are interrelated.

It’s very important for football coaches working with developing players to plan training sessions that will help players to develop the 5C’s that help improve the mental strength of players.

Football coaches must explain to parents how they play an important part in the development of the 5C’s because it takes a very long time developing them.

Concentration:
Describes the player’s ability to focus their attention on the right thing at the right time.

At a high level, a football match is very competitive and lasts 90 minutes, each minute on the pitch can have up to 30 situations that require a different action.

That translates into 2,700 situations that require consistent concentration for the different actions as a team, within 90 minutes.

Concentration is not limited to 90 minutes but in training sessions, before the match, and after the match.

Commitment:
Describes how the player is motivated.

It’s very important for developing players to be taught how to have a genuine passion for football.

Genuine passion helps to have intrinsic motivation which helps the player to overcome challenges that would deter them from playing football.

Football coaches should praise effort and attitude over the outcome as a way to recognize that players are committed.

For example; If any footballer is going to make it to the top level, the motivation should be from within the player, the rest like parents and coaches can only support the player and offer extrinsic motivation.

If the extrinsic motivation is greater than intrinsic motivation, then commitment levels will be lower.

Confidence:
Describes the player’s self-belief in their ability to achieve goals.

Confidence comes from knowing.

Developing players should be encouraged to express themselves and that making mistakes is part of the learning process to mastering football skills.

There’s a thin line between confidence and arrogance.

It’s very important that coaches observe when over confidence might make players complacent.

Football coaches should help players to build confidence by creating a no failure environment.

Control:
Describes how well a player can control and manage their emotions.

Emotions arise out of good times like winning a match, scoring a goal and being on form or bad times like poor referee decisions, conceding a goal, losing a match and being out injured.

Coaches can help players to improve their ability to control and manage emotions by highlighting negative emotional reactions like anger, self-criticism, poor body language, negative thoughts, blaming others, etc.

Communication:
Describes how a player uses eyes, ears, and mouth to take in and give out information from the game, coaches, teammates, officials, and opponents.

Communication is an important skill in football because the decisions made in football arise out of the ability to communicate verbally or non-verbally.

Coaches should help developing players to have effective communication by recognizing and praising players that demonstrate good communication like looking over the shoulders while off the ball, acknowledging and listening to teammates and coaches, using peripheral vision, looking up while on the ball, etc.

Football coaches should role model the 5C’s by using good and bad examples within football to increase awareness of the importance for each of the 5C’s.

Engage players in game situations that test the 5C’s skills under pressure.

Publicly praise players that demonstrate the 5C’s as a skill or behavior.

It’s important to emphasize that at a high level, all players have excellent technical, tactical and physical attributes to perform well but having mental strength with the 5C’s keeps the best at a high level for a longer time.

Factors affecting football performance.

A footballer’s performance has factors that affect it.

These four factors are; Technical, Tactics, Physical and Psychology (mental).

These four elements are very dependent on each other, they can only be applied in unison. You can hardly apply tactics and ignore technical, physical and psychology.

Technical and tactics are mainly taught by football coaches but learning happens during matches.

Physical is mainly DEVELOPED from a young age (aged 3 to 12) by working on exercises that develop coordination and can also be learned by allowing upcoming footballers (aged 3-12 ) to participate in different sports and fun games, it’s then MAINTAINED in later years of a footballer. (These days even after retirement).

Coordination is responsible for all the physical demands in football.

Psychology (mental) is the most neglected element yet it’s the most important or must-have for better football performance.

Reason? It’s the element that is taught by parents/guardians from a player’s infancy stage to adulthood then improved through coaching.

It’s very much the foundation stage of a footballer’s performance.

Concentration accounts for almost 60% of the mental demands in football.

Technical includes football skills like; passing, shooting, the first touch, heading, dribbling, tackling, marking, handling, diving (goalkeeper) and throwing.

It’s basically the skills that are applied to the ball.

These skills need to be learned and perfected before the age of 20 then developed until they can be applied under the immense pressure of space and time.

Coaches, parents and upcoming footballers should ensure these skills are constantly developed until they can be applied in a pressured environment.

It is important for footballers to learn, master and be comfortable executing all football skills regardless of the playing position.

The quality execution of football skills is affected by coordination.

Tactics are the how, when, where and why the application of football skills or decisions on the pitch.

Quality footballers are able to perform better because they have been taught to answer who does what how when where and why?

Answering those football questions is derived from knowledge and understanding of the principles of attacking and defending in football.

Coaches and parents should ensure that young footballers (aged 6-12) are given the chance to express themselves with the ball and in small-sided fun matches while growing up so that between 12-15 years of age they can start to be taught who does what how when where and why?

Physical includes; agility, acceleration/deceleration, jumping, stamina, balance, flexibility, footwork, strength (power for footballers), pure speed (not to be confused with overall football speed) and natural fitness.

This element is developed from a young age with better nutrition, playing creative fun games and using quality training equipment to develop coordination of the body.

Psychology or metal includes; passion, decision making, teamwork, work rate, enthusiasm, concentration, communication, commitment, confidence, control, creativity, determination, influence, off the ball and composure.

Having those attributes helps a player to be; confident, ambitious, versatile, focus, adaptable, consistent, good and positive attitude, professional in behavior, sportsmanship, bravery, etc.

Parents should put more emphasis on the psychological element in the development stage of a footballer because it requires a lot of time, effort and hard work to instill and can’t be tolerated if lacking in a professional set up.

As mentioned earlier, these four elements all work at the same time and can’t be separated.

Scenario: A defender has a striker bearing down on goal facing her in a 1v1. In that scenario the defender has to track backward with bent hips (physical), has to know when, where on the pitch, how and why a defender tracks backward (tactics), has to focus on the ball and be confident (mental) in her ability to defend then finally might have to tackle (technical) or apply principles of defending.