Well hello there! Long time no see.
Yesterday I gave a presentation to our academy players where I touched upon a couple of different subjects. The physical coach had asked me to come and speak to the U-17’s and U-19’s about nutrition and recovery because he knows I’m maybe a bit more interested in those areas in football than your average player. And he thought that if someone from the first team came and spoke they might listen more carefully. Our plan was to trigger their interest.
I wasn’t there as an expert or someone who does everything to perfection but I do believe that the experience I have from playing abroad for the last 15 years could help the youngsters on their own path to becoming a professional footballer. I also feel I can relate to what they are going through. I was also once an academy player with big dreams. I had also left the comfort of my home to pursue my goals. So that combination made it hopefully an interesting and rewarding talk for the youngsters.
I began by saying how fortunate they all are. That there are thousands of kids out there who would love to be in their shoes. Who would die for an opportunity like this. I also mentioned that FC Midtjylland doesn’t sign players they don’t believe in. So everyone who are sitting here are talented. But it’s crucial to understand that there’s a long way going from talented youngster to becoming a real professional footballer.
I talked about Gareth Bale and how he stood for hours practicing his free-kicks after training at Southampton. I could also have mentioned Dusan Tadic and how obsessive he was with his core exercises everyday before training during our time at FC Groningen. I’ve always believed that if you want to have a chance of making it then team sessions are not enough. You have to work harder than the rest.
When it came to the nutrition part of my talk I tried to explain that this is an area that they might want to start to focus on a little bit more. I can understand that it’s not been a priority for them up till now but that they have to be aware that what they eat will help them train better and harder. What you eat serves as fuel for your body.
I gave them a glimpse of what and when I eat during a normal day just to give them a view of how a food plan might look like for a professional athlete. I told them that they need to find what works for them and that I don’t expect them to copy what I eat. I also don’t want them to be fanatics. I also treat myself to a glass of wine or a pizza sometimes. My food plan would just serve as some kind of inspiration.
I asked them to take their recovery seriously and took Ryan Giggs as an example of someone who started doing yoga to prolong his career. Ice bath, sauna, a good nights sleep, powernaps, recovery socks/pants and different treatments and massages are some of the things I personally use to recover more efficient from training and games.
Good habits are so important. You can’t be naive. An unhealthy lifestyle will eventually affect your performance. Going to bed at 23pm and eating healthy will give you an advantage against someone who plays playstation to 1 or 2 o’clock every night, has unhealthy eating habits and goes partying during the weekend. Nutrition and recovery is also part of what it means to be a footballer. Being professional and having the right mindset will help you develop in to the type of player you want to be.
I ended up by saying that being a footballer is the best job on the planet but that it also means that the competition is crazy. Don’t for a minute expect that you can half arse your way through the academy and expect to be rewarded with a new contract and a future in professional football. It doesn’t work like that. Every morning you have to ask yourself ‘how bad do I want it?’. Don’t stand there after three years wishing you had done a little bit more. That you had taken your training more seriously. That you had asked the coaches for guidance. That you had been more focused. Or that you had listened to the tall man with the beard and made the changes in your lifestyle that you knew were necessary back then.
Remember, it’s not where you are today. It’s where you want to be in three years time. In five years time. And what you have to do to get there. Make sure that after your time in the academy that you can look yourself in the mirror and say that you did everything you could. That you gave it your all. That’s a nice feeling to have, no matter what the future holds.