Play touch footy? MF asked Wayne Grant, high performance manager of the Australian Touch football teams, about fitness for the sport.

Before a season gets underway, what aspect of fitness is it most important to work on?

“Building an aerobic base, speed endurance, agility and pure speed.

“Before a Touch season (which tends to be a fairly short period of time, as Touch is played year-round) gets underway, or players are preparing for a specific event or tournament, it’s always important to begin to develop that good aerobic fitness base.

“Different to some of the bigger codes with longer seasons, the length of the aerobic runs and the length of time needed to focus specifically on building the aerobic base is smaller.

“The focus then turns quite quickly to speed endurance, as the sport requires repetitive maximum speed efforts. The substitution system in Touch allows for players to gain recovery time generally once every 2 to 3 minutes, therefore focusing on the ability to produce these max speed efforts with equal rest over the 40-minute duration is highly sought after at the elite level.

“Within Speed Endurance training and generally from there on in, in any pre-season cycle the use of the football should be incorporated within every drill or session. The ability to execute high-level skills with the football while at speed and under fatigue is also highly desirable.

“Specific drills requiring catch, pass and roll ball execution can be incorporated into most sessions. The same can be said with agility training for Touch. Ideally, it should involve a ball and is highly movement-pattern specific for Touch. Agility and pure speed training should also be incorporated within any speed endurance phase of pre-season training.”

Speed off the mark is important. What are smart ways to improve that?

“There are various drills and techniques that can be used to improve speed and any of those are used. However, as touch involves speed off the mark from lots of different positions – from the ground, with a ball, picking up a ball etc – they should all be practised. For instance, Touch involves a great deal of backwards speed. The ability to run backwards at pace while facing the attack is where the sport of Touch differs from most others, except maybe defensive positions in American football.

“In other codes, athletes are able to turn to retreat onside, but the speed of Touch doesn’t allow that and it’s common to run backwards at speed for more than 50 metres continuously. This requires a different strength differential between the quads and the hamstrings, where touch players hamstrings are relatively stronger than other codes in comparison to quad strength.”

What’s a valuable drill or session that will improve a player’s fitness?

“Incorporating the Glycolytic Agility Test into your program is a great drill or session used regularly in Touch.”

Is agility more of a focus?
“In comparison to the other codes, I would say it would be more of a focus in Touch.”

Are ball-handling skills given more emphasis?

“Yes the ball is used a great deal more within pre season touch training and ball skills sessions are generally started in the very first session.”

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