While I have experience with various sports and have participated in several camps, I will be focusing on my five seasons of cricket for this article. This is because in the world of cricket, injuries have unfortunately become a norm, making an injury-free season sound almost like a miracle

Ques: What did I do to keep teams injury free?

Firstly, it’s important to note that a season in cricket only refers to the competition period. With the exception of my first assignment, I did not have any preparatory time with my teams. I was often given the players just a couple of days before our first match, without any prior training camp. In this context, my achievement of injury prevention becomes even more significant because it required me to magically keep these players injury-free despite not having trained them, and not knowing their training history or anatomy

This presents me with three main challenges:

  1. Given my lack of knowledge about the players’ training history, I must be extremely cautious when choosing drills and exercises for them to do.
  2. Without time to assess basic attributes like weight, stiffness, or imbalanced structure, I have to rely on observation during practice and matches to identify any potential issues.
  3. As practice occurs during matches, I must ensure that the training load does not overburden the players’ bodies. Instead, the training should facilitate better practice sessions.

Given these factors, I had set the following objectives for myself:

  1. To ensure that the players feel energetic and prepared for both practice sessions and matches.
  2. To prevent the players from feeling fatigued after practice, which can lead to a higher risk of injury.
  3. To prioritize adequate recovery time between practice sessions and matches so that the players can fully recover and avoid breaking down over time

Its like saying, make me stronger without I feeling anything in my body 🙂

Let’s examine the factors that helped me to successfully manage five teams of different age groups, each with their own food and sleep habits, and competing in different environments.

  1. Mobilizing all the players’ joints and entire body with a good warm-up was essential in order to prevent injuries.
  2. For players with extra load, such as fast bowlers or wicketkeepers, I would spend a little extra time doing sport-specific drills with them.
  3. Both the warm-up and any training we did always complimented the sporting movements, in this case, cricket.
  4. In most seasons, with the exception of one, I had a few players who came to my room for an extra session, either because they had an ache or niggle or because they wanted to improve their performance. These sessions were designed independently based on their needs on a day-to-day basis, and included stretching, manual therapy to release tension, breath work, or light movements.
  5. Throughout the season, especially towards the second half when players started showing signs of fatigue due to travel, food, and other factors, I regularly conducted team recovery and relaxation sessions

When working with an average group of 20 boys, there were several challenges that I had to address:

  • The boys had varying levels of speed and agility, which meant I had to tailor my training accordingly.
  • Some boys needed more training and attention than others, which made it difficult to balance the workload.
  • Overweight boys had to be treated with caution, particularly when it came to high-impact activities such as jumping.
  • Some boys were in rehab, carrying injuries from previous seasons that required special attention.
  • Different positions on the team had different physical demands, which meant I had to vary the training depending on the player’s role.
  • Some boys were stiffer than others, which required careful management to avoid causing further pain or injury.
  • Finally, there were some boys who were mischievous and difficult to handle, which made it challenging to maintain focus during training.

Despite these challenges, my goal was to keep all players injury-free while also helping them improve their skills gradually. It was essential to ensure that every player showed improvement, as this was a key factor in preventing injuries over the long term.

Here is my training process that kept all these limitations in mind and kept everybody injury free – 5 years in a row. Now obviously it is no longer a n=1 experiment else it wouldn’t have worked all these 5 years including 2 years of Corona time where the practice and mental stress were at different level.

  1. Movement is key in a sport like cricket and was my primary focus throughout my assignments. I aimed to make the boys’ movements swifter and as biomechanically correct as possible while respecting their limitations.
  2. Perceived effort vs real effort was paramount to achieving a joyful training session. If the boys believed they would enjoy the session, feel light post-warm up, not be overworked, and that they needed the training to perform well throughout the season, then they would be more focused and engaged during my sessions. This mindset made it a win-win situation for me.
  3. I made sure the training sessions were fatigue-free yet result-oriented. If the boys believed they could get faster without any extra burden, then they were more attentive. They appreciated instant results such as feeling lighter, more free, and faster after two or three sessions.
    • I ensured that nothing came too hard on the boys, and that the fitness training always complemented their movements on the field. This approach built trust with the boys because it was not a training camp, but a season, and their focus was more on playing than on fitness.

PS: The above pictures are from a warm up session on a winter-y cold morning.

Signs that I knew I had the trust of the boys:

  • When playing XI boys wanted to train extra even on a full day of rest or after getting out cheaply in a match, because they wanted to use their energy positively.
  • When boys demanded relaxation sessions, even if it included “boring” breath work or meditativeness.
  • When boys were honest about feeling tired or not wanting to move during “lazy mornings,” which helped me to design a session tailored to their needs.
  • When boys submitted honest feedback on their body condition, helping me to tailor their training for further progress.
  • When boys started asking for more or extra training on top of their regular sessions.
  • When boys accepted drills and sequences with the same enthusiasm.
  • When boys considered the warm-up important and understood its implications on their game.
  • When boys followed instructions diligently.

Summary:

a) Focus more on movement throughout the season instead of just strength or flexibility work.

b) Training movements apply generally to all sports, so don’t worry about sport-specific movements.

c) Correct biomechanics are important in training and warm-up sessions to exert maximum effort with minimal strain.

d) Everyone has different requirements, so adjust training intensity according to individual needs.

e) Don’t worry about losing strength during the season since playing the sport trains the legs and other muscles.

f) If you enjoy resistance training, use light weights (around 30% of your 1RM) and train to move through the range of motion swiftly.

g) Avoid focusing excessively on hypertrophy during the season since overworking muscles can lead to injury.

h) Don’t obsess over strength; playing a sport trains the musculature in various ways.

i) Train compound movements and not individual muscles to make movements like take off, flexing forward, and change of direction effortless.

In addition to training, diet is crucial, but it can be challenging to manage during a season. Boys often ate more than usual, but some who wanted to lose weight followed the trainer’s advice and were successful. Research suggests that proper training can improve fat oxidation, allowing for more food consumption without weight gain, but constant stress is necessary to maintain this benefit. The trainer plans to explore this topic in their next research project.