School of Medical and Health Sciences
Purpose: To examine the association between preseason training variables and subsequent in-season performance in an elite Australian football team.
Methods: Data from 41 elite male Australian footballers (mean [SD] age = 23.4 [3.1] y, height =188.4 [7.1] cm, and mass = 86.7 [7.9] kg) were collected from 1 Australian Football League (AFL) club. Preseason training data (external load, internal load, fitness testing, and session participation) were collected across the 17-wk preseason phase (6 and 11 wk post-Christmas). Champion Data© Player Rank (CDPR), coaches’ ratings, and round 1 selection were used as in-season performance measures. CDPR and coaches’ ratings were examined over the entire season, first half of the season, and the first 4 games. Both Pearson and partial (controlling for AFL age) correlations were calculated to assess if any associations existed between preseason training variables and in-season performance measures. A median split was also employed to differentiate between higher- and lower-performing players for each performance measure.
Results: Preseason training activities appeared to have almost no association with performance measured across the entire season and the first half of the season. However, many preseason training variables were significantly linked with performance measured across the first 4 games. Preseason training variables that were measured post-Christmas were the most strongly associated with in-season performance measures. Specifically, total on-field session rating of perceived exertion post-Christmas, a measurement of internal load, displayed the greatest association with performance.
Conclusion: Late preseason training (especially on-field match-specific training) is associated with better performance in the early season.