“Football is not a science but science can help football”


Checkmylevel had a pleasure to host PhD Francisco J. Albert García at the end of April. Fran has PhD on sports medicine; Thesis: Effects of b-hydroxy-b-methylbutyrate supplementation on muscle function in football. He has also worked as a strength coach for example with Real Zaragoza, Real Club Celta de Vigo, CD Castellon and UD Salamanca.


Fran, how do you see the relationship between science and coaching?

I think that it is must that we work very close together as scientists and coaches because coaches are at the frontline to see the problem and they can ask some help to solve some practical problem from scientists that had studied that problem as in theory.

In my case I try to combine science and coaching. I think it’s important that if you have academic background that you don’t leave it behind but you use it with the players to find solutions for their problems. You read about it from other studies you research it and you talk with other scientists all around the world.

Jens Bangsbo once said: “Football is not the science but science can help football”. This can help us to understand how we can apply science to sports and this can also motivate students that want to be fitness coaches. It’s important that all the technical staff work closely together with the researchers because they both need each others to be better. It is our responsibility to be up dated and knowing about new research results that can help to improve people we train. Only research can’t solve the problems because every athlete is an individual within a team context and every team is different.


Were you first a scientist or were you a coach first?

While I was studying my PhD I was coaching 3rd division team. I got a chance to go abroad to study but at the same time I got an offer to coach a professional team. I was very young and therefore I had almost none experience of coaching or playing as a professional but I never forgot the academic studies. In my case I can’t separate where the coaching starts and science end, it’s not black and white.


What is the most important or difficult thing that coach can do to get the athlete to do his best?

It is important to develop your exercises taking into account your player characteristics, your style of play, philosophy of club and coach. To develop as a football player your training has to be individualized for your position and your background. Regardless it’s important for team dynamics that we end practice together for example small game.


Can team be more than its players?

We say that in football the team is more than its sum, it’s the synergy generated by the team members. It’s multiplied if everyone does their best and they are positive. Being positive is not always that they are happy. It can mean making jokes when needed, being good brother, being serious when needed and being hard worker. That can increase power of your team, even multiply it. Sport psychology can help coaches and tell them how to use this phenomenon.


What do you think are the most important qualities of a top level athlete, both physically and mentally?

You have to show passion for the thing you are doing. It’s hard to be an elite athlete because you have so much pressure. We always see the beautiful part when we see athletes on TV or on the field but there are lot of work behind it by the athlete and his friend and family. You aren’t always so motivated but you have to think about the goal you want to achieve. You have to be mentally strong.


How you see fatigue on a team or can you see it on a team?

We have to take on account the mental fatigue, neuro-muscular fatigue or maybe the central fatigue and the peripheral fatigue. I think in most cases fatigues are in relation to each other. We can’t think the one without the other. You can do the same exercises, travel the same way and do everything the same way physically but you also have to change things so you can wake up the brain and give brains some new energy. This mental energy can help the athlete to recover better from physical fatigue.


How do you see the balance between training, matches and rest during the season?

Today we are giving more emphasis to recovery and this is good news. We have known for a long time that recovery is important. To recover you have to take into account individual characteristics inside the team dynamic.  The team can recover only if we take care of individual response to the fatigue. Knowing this can help them to decrease their risk to get injured. Sometimes we coaches forget that training is training load plus the recovery period.

 For me it’s important to give more emphasis to recovery when schedule is full of matches every week. There are many ways to track players’ recovery. Some of them are cheaper and easier and some of them are more complex. And it’s important that everyone can find good set of methods to check his team’s recovery. I think it’s important to explain to the athlete why gather the information of his recovery and this information is only used to help him to train better individually to win. It’s important that the player knows that recovery tools are used to help to decide how to train so he can be at his best on the next game.  For the coach and team it’s important to win before the match and one way of doing this is to have all your players available.

Thank you Fran!