Sat, 06 Jul 2019
I TAKE my hat off to non-league footballers because pre-season training isn’t something that should be taken lightly.
With the new football season kicking off in August, most teams return to training in June or July to prepare for another nine months of hard work.
Hungerford Town, competing in the National League South, are no different and to experience what pre-season training was all about, I decided to take part in a session.
Leading up to Saturday’s session I was excited, but, having looked at the weather forecast, I knew I was in for a real challenge.
Arriving at Bulpit Lane at midday in temperatures of around 35 degrees, training began with a light warm-up, while manager Ian Herring and assistant Kevin Watson prepared the session.
Around 15 players took part and the session continued with a number of drills, mainly working on footwork and speed, before ball work followed.
The heat was a big factor and Herring was delighted at what he witnessed.
He said: “All in all, because of the heat, the attitude shown by everyone was fantastic and I am sure that every non-league club up and down the country would say the same.”
After a number of different challenges using the ball, which including long passing, we moved onto a possession game.
Four defenders would face up against nine attackers, with the aim of winning the ball back and because they were outnumbered, players would rotate regularly.
While this was going on, fitness testing would be taking place with personal trainer Calum Pryce from Herongate – a Hungerford club.
This would involve three 25m sprints, with the aim of improving your time each attempt – something I managed, much to my surprise.
Having the support of Herongate will benefit the players can as the season progresses.
“The lads put in a lot of hard work and obviously we’re very grateful to Herongate for doing the fitness testing and allowing us to use their wonderful facilities,” said Herring.
After everyone had completed their sprints, we took part in one final test which was called the 30-15 intermittent test.
It’s a ‘bleep’ test designed for athletes to work on stamina.
Our aim was to run for 30 seconds, reaching each row in time with the sound of the tape.
After 30 seconds, we rested for 15 seconds before going again at a quicker pace.
Due to the heat, we all started running at 10km/h and the speed would increase 0.5km/h after every 30 seconds.
The test continued past the speed of 20km/h and I dropped out at 17km/h – a speed I was very pleased with – while the rest of the players recorded different times.
The end of the test concluded the tough training session as everyone put in a real shift in the heat.
Once everyone had completed a cool-down, we headed to Herongate to use the pool, which would be a key part in the recovery.
It was a difficult session, but one I am glad I took part in and witnessed first-hand how much effort goes into pre-season training.
And after the session, I spoke with the Town manager to get his thoughts from the training.
“The attitude from everyone was second to none,” he said. “The lads arrived at 11.30am and stayed until 4pm, so they have put a shift in.
“It’s great to be able to come to Herongate and the relationship they have built with the chairman [Patrick Chambers] and his wife Nicky is really pleasing.
“One of the big things for me this year is mentality,” added Herring.
“It is key in everything you do and in the last two years we have had good mental strength in the sense of avoiding relegation.
“Session by session, week by week and over the course of the season, mental strength will come in.”
“I keep preaching to the lads,” he said. “People will be amazed at what the human body can do.
“The lads will have to go to their maximum and show mental strength, as well as their fitness levels.
“If they can do it in conditions like Saturday, they can do it in any, but let’s see what it’s like in January when it’s cold, wet and windy.”