Welcome everybody to another edition of Cooney’s corner. Over the past few weeks I have gotten lots of messages of support and generous feedback for this page so I just wanted to say thank you.
I have also received many questions from players of all ages and skill levels wanting their two cents worth on certain subjects.
In this article, I am going to answer a set of questions from players across the world that are all on the topic of training and recovery. These questions are of great interest to me personally and hopefully to a lot of players out there as well.
“Hello Mr. Cooney,
Loving the articles! I have a question that perhaps you could address in the future… I was wondering how you wind down your training the week leading up to an important tournament or match?”
First of all, I wanted to thank you for your question. It is a good one and definitely will be of great interest to a lot of people. For this question, the good thing is that there is no perfect answer. There is no magic formula for the week before an important match or tournament that will guarantee success. This is a great thing as we can let go of the superstition that if we don’t stick to a specific routine our performance will slip away. However, we can do the best we can to mitigate the risk of a bad performance on the court by following these sound and simple principles which will give you the greatest possibility for playing your best on match day.
Don’t start training camp the week before a tournament: This is a common one I see time and time again: players getting their practice games in the week or fortnight before the tournament. Ask yourself this question. How many times have you seen the player that did this actually win? 99% of the time the answer will be no. Be ready to hit the court six weeks out from the competition, not one.
Don’t do what you never did: Do not move away from your normal routine during the days leading up to the tournament and expect some special diet or meditation program to get you in the zone. If you haven’t tried it before, definitely don’t start right now. Experimentation should be done when there are no competitions around the corner. Stick to what you know best and be confident. You have the greatest chance of playing your best game by doing this.
Stay loose and hydrated: This means foam rolling and dynamic stretching whenever you get a chance. Take water on board wherever you go to make sure you are properly hydrated in the week leading up to the game. Drinking a gallon of water the day before the game is not the proper way to do it, but by drinking water consistently throughout the week your body is given a much better chance of being prepared for the challenge ahead.
Relax: For some players this can be a very hard thing to do when they have a big match coming up. Taking a day or two off the week before a big game and doing something fun with your family or friends can be a great way to take your mind off things before you get refocused with a fresh perspective to hit the ground running on game day.
“Say if you’re playing on Saturday, when would you play your last training game that week (if any)/do your last gym session/workout, etc.?”
This was a hypothetical question put forth by a player from Utah. I used to ask myself this question a lot too and I think it is a great one to ask in order to take your game to the next level so thanks for sending it in! What I found out from trying to get a “perfect” pre-game or pre week routine is, again, that the mechanisms are not scientific but rather based on superstitions. Being set on playing at a specific day or a time before the week of a match is risky as it is susceptible to a wide range of variables. For example, you might have to work late or your training partner does not show up… You get the idea. When the pre-game routine that you have been counting on falls through, you may end up going into the tournament feeling that you have not done 100%. To me, this sort of mentality is self-defeating. I would recommend following the guidelines I mentioned above, but do not get too bogged down if something does not work out the way you feel it should. Just be prepared to adapt and change where you see fit. Flexibility is key.
“How do you prepare if you have two tournaments one weekend after another, factoring in recovery time? How does travelling between time zones affect your approach, if at all?”
This is another brilliant question that I got from a player in Ireland. Thanks for sending it in. For many players out there who are doing back-to-back weekends for tournaments, the most important thing to remember here is recovery. Let your body rest up until you are adequately satisfied going back into the court. One week off is not going to change your game but if you decided to train through the tiredness your body will certainly be fatigued come the second weekend. You might not feel it until you are actually in the court. At that point, you will just not be sharp or hungry to win; you will be unmotivated to give 100% and might even prefer to lose at 80%. A lot of us have been there and, trust me, it is not where you want to be. So rest up, build up your hunger for a win and get ready to work hard when you need it most, which is during your tournament game, not your Tuesday and Thursday weekly.
To answer your question on travelling across time zones, it is pretty much the same thing: rest and recover. Be prepared for the long haul flight (if there is one) by getting up regularly, doing some light stretches and staying hydrated during the journey. Get plenty of rest and don’t try to beat the clock by staying up past a certain time so you can adapt to another time zone quicker. This rarely works. Instead, give yourself a few days before the tournament to adjust. I would recommend getting to the court you are playing at once before just to hit the ball around so you can get used to the speed of the court, avoiding any surprises come game day.
Thank you everybody for the messages. I look forward to reading more of your questions, ideas and responses.
Until next time.
Stephen Cooney hails from Ballaghaderreen, Ireland and currently visiting New York City, playing, training and on hand to give coaching advice at the famed New York Athletic Club and the Westside YMCA Harry Mellis Junior Handball Program. After a successful junior career that saw the “Coondogg” rise to the top of the Irish junior ranks, Mr. Cooney quickly established himself as one of the top stars on the Race 4 Eight tour. In just 13 months as a full-time R48 pro, Mr. Cooney rose to the coveted position inside the R48 Elite 8.
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