Women's football: Tips for coaching your players

Let's go back to the time of the Han Dynasty. There are records that show that soccer was played as early as 2500 BC, although it was not exactly the way we do it today, this predecessor was called "Tsu Chu”. It was popular with men and women alike. Also, in Europe, around the twelfth century there were other similar sports, especially in Scotland Y France.

After centuries of persecution and prohibitions against football for its "violent nature", in 1863 in Great Britain, rules were defined to prevent violence in the game as long as it was socially acceptable for women. It was a meeting between the North and South teams at the Crouch End Athletic field, before some 10,000 people, which ended with a 7-1 victory for the North, led by Nettie Honeyball, which could be considered the starting signal for women's football. In 1902, the English Football Association banned women's football and playing against women's teams. Later, due to the fact that many men were conscripted into the British armed forces and went to the battlefield, women were introduced en masse in the labor force and therefore in the soccer tournaments that were popular among the workers of the time.

Many factories had their own soccer teams that until then were the privilege of men. Over the years one of the most successful women's teams of the time was Dick, Kerr's Ladies from Preston.

As the situation is no longer the same and women's football is very present today, we bring you some exercises to work with our women's teams.

In each soccer team we have to differentiate when programming physical loads, either by age or level. As we always tell you, the physical loads necessary for each team and/or person are different, this shows that the work must be totally specific, especially adapted to the needs of the players and the game models of each team.

In the case of our female players, due to the complex hormonal cycle, we must take into account that the pattern of injuries will not be exactly the same as that of the men's teams due to the characteristics of resistance and strength.

These characteristics will mean that, despite being the same sport, the practice of it requires different conditions. Therefore, the training model will be different. Female training models cannot and should not be a copy of the male model, because they are anatomically different.

Some studies show how, within women's football, the distances covered fluctuate between 6 km and 10 km per game, which differs from the distances covered in men's football, where they generally range between 10 and 13 km per game. This distance measurement seems to increase the higher the level of competition.

Within women's football, low intensity actions represent between 90-95% of actions, while high intensity actions represent between 10-5%.

The differences differences between men's and women's football seem to be determined by the technical-tactical level and the conditional component, although other studies suggest that this difference in technical level lies in an inequality in the cultural process, where women have late access to this sport, unlike men.

One of the reasons for the difference in performance between men and women seems to come from the physiology and biology of both sexes. The higher percentage of fat, a lower percentage of muscle mass, as well as low hemoglobin levels in women means that the differences when it comes to physical performance are smaller.

The menstrual cycle It seems to be one of the most important elements to take into account in the programming of training in women, since it influences performance and the appearance of injuries.

At a general level, improvements in physical performance seem to occur in the days after menstruation, approximately 6 days after menstruation, while other studies show that female athletes are more prone to injuries during the menstrual phase and in the ovulatory than in the follicular phase. As we can see, this influences the players a lot. At the muscular and ligamentous level, it seems to influence these parameters, increasing the risk of injury.

There is sufficient evidence regarding a greater laxity of women compared to men, due to changes in hormone levels during the menstrual cycle. The consequence of these changes produces an increase in knee laxity from the neuromuscular and biomechanical function of the knee, which increases the risk of injury to the knee. Biological and morphological changes in the properties of collagen were described, which by altering the laxity of the ligament alters the mechanical properties of the ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) when exposed to hormonal fluctuations. This condition is thought to decrease the collagen of the ligament making it more susceptible to failure during loads to the ligament.

Let us now see what happens to the body during the hormonal cycle and its different phases:

Follicular phase (1-14 days)

It refers to the phase after menstruation and in it you can see different aspects to take into account with physiology, where there is a greater sensitivity to insulin, a greater use of glycogen and a reduction in metabolism during these days. This has the consequence that carbohydrate consumption is better tolerated and that a higher percentage of glycogen is used compared to fat.

Within this phase there is a greater loss of blood and there is less oxygen transport in the muscles, so in terms of training, two objectives should be prioritized:

  • Greater strength gain.
  • Improvement of glycogen-dependent metabolism with activities of high intensity and short execution time (HIIT).

Ovulatory Phase and Luteal Phase (14-28 days)

Within the ovulatory phase, there is a reduction in appetite, an increase in metabolism and an increase in strength levels.

Likewise, we observed an increase in the risk of injury due to a decrease in control in sports actions.

There are many studies that show a higher rate of knee injuries (between 3-4 times more) in women soccer players, especially in actions of changes of direction and jump, where there is less knee and hip flexion, which increases the stress about it.

Hewette (2000) exposes his theory that one of the factors that increases the risk of injury in women is the hormonal role, and how the fluctuation affects estrogen, progesterone and relaxin in the neuromuscular and musculoskeletal systems. According to the author, the evidence shows that these hormones have a significant effect on the neuromuscular system, where some studies found an increase in quadriceps strength and a slowdown of the muscles during the ovulatory phase. In addition, fluctuations in estrogen levels had effects on muscle function and on the strength of tendons and ligaments.

Within the luteal phase, there is the final phase of the period, where there is an increase in appetite, with a worse sensitivity to insulin and a greater use of carbohydrates. On an emotional level, some changes can also occur on a psychological level.

With regard to training, the following objectives should be mainly sought:

Within the final phase of the luteal phase, training should be oriented towards unloading tasks and with less physical intensity, where it can be used to work on more tactical aspects that require more mental than physical work.

Learn more and discover all the details about the physical preparation of football with our Master in High Performance in Sport endorsed by the Catholic University of Ávila.

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