Sunday League footballers are a diverse breed, although it’s easy to split such variety into two basic categories: those players who turn up to the match smelling of booze, kebab and last-night’s misdeeds… and those who take things seriously.
We’ll assume, having landed on this guide to perfecting your Sunday League match preparation, that you are in the second group!
The truth is that you can spend years honing your skills on the pitch; nailing your positioning, speed and passing ability. But if you fail to prepare for a match in the days, hours and minutes before kick-off, you won’t be performing to the best of your ability.
In this guide, we run you through how to best prepare for your match, whether that’s your weekly Sunday League fixture, a cup final or any game you need to be at your very best.
While busy at work during the week, your attention probably isn’t on Sunday’s match, yet this is actually prime time to begin matchday preparation.
In particular, a focus on maintaining good hydration throughout the week is vital. It’s no good forcing down gallons of water on a Sunday morning if you feel dehydrated – by then it’s already too late. Use the days before the match to keep on top of your hydration.
Taking on enough electrolytes with your water is particularly important if you are involved in physical activity during the week, whether that’s at the gym, on a run, or in a training session. Using hydration drinks can be a smart move. For example, our Hydrate90 tablets have been specifically developed for footballers wanting to boost hydration throughout the day, without extra carbohydrates or sugars.
Talking about carbs, two to three days before the match is when you can start increasing your carbohydrate intake. This will ensure that, come Sunday, your muscles are full of glycogen, which will be needed to perform during the 90 minutes.
Finally, stop any high-intensity training 48 hours before a match to give your body chance to recover fully. In the day or so before, try some light cardio, yoga or stretching to keep the body prepared, but rested.
Talking about rest, the night before the match is also crucial to your performance the following day.
For many people, Saturday night means drinking, dancing and getting home in the early hours. If your aim is to be firing on all cylinders for the match on Sunday, then binge drinking and 2am takeaways probably shouldn’t be on your Saturday night to-do list.
Instead, you should aim to have a quality carbohydrate-rich meal, drink plenty of water and an early night. If you do have a drink, limit it to one or two. Save the party for when you are celebrating your triumphant victory!
Morning of Match
Having been sensible the night before, you should be feeling pretty fresh as you move into Sunday morning.
You can retain this feeling of freshness by doing a little light exercise before the match, especially if you are hanging around until an afternoon kick-off. We aren’t talking a 10km run here – just some walking, stretching, swimming or light cycling to get the blood flowing.
Throughout the morning, aim to drink plenty of water (at least one litre) to remain hydrated, but avoid energy drinks until closer to kick-off.
Regardless of what time your game starts, aim to eat your pre-match meal around three to four hours before kick-off to give your body a chance to digest and store the fuel you will be using. Go for a mix of quality carbohydrates and protein, and preferably something you have eaten before. In other words, matchday is not the time to experiment with a new curry – stick with your tried and tested!
30 Minutes Before
At this stage, you will obviously be a part of your team’s pre-match routine; warming up and focusing ahead of the match.
As for nutrition, this is the time to take on any last-minute fuel you may need. Try a banana or a football-focused energy gel such as Fuel90. Formulated for footballers, this gel will give you a precision blend of carbs and electrolytes to see you through the first half and beyond.
Good luck – leave nothing out on the pitch!
After the Match
Before you drink your celebratory pint, consider your post-match nutrition as your early pre-match nutrition for your next game.
Take on a form of quality protein as soon as you leave the field to kickstart the recovery process. Easily-digestible protein powders, such as our Whey90 and Vegan Protein supplements, are a tasty and convenient way to get what you need.
The old adage of ‘preparation for the next game starts as soon as the final whistle is blown’ is true! Unless it’s the end of the season and you’ve just won the cup – then feel free to go nuts!