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Egypt’s Coaching System Analysis Part 2: Programming Flaws
Continuing his series on coaching in Egypt, former player Ali El Khatib dives deeper into his analysis of Egypt’s coaching problems with a focus on programming, i.e. the day to day physical preparation of players. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of King Fut.
In a month where a 30-year-old ex-pro was announced as the head coach of Zamalek, coaching deficiencies in Egypt could not have been more apparent.
Ahmed Hossam “Mido”, Egypt’s ex-poster boy, left his post as Al Jazeera (BeIN Sport) pundit to fill the hot seat at the Cairo giants despite lacking any past coaching experience. In addition, the last 3-5 years of his professional career as a player were so turbulent and poor that he retired at the age of 29. I don’t know the qualities Kamal Darwish was looking for in his new coach, but it seems Mido ticked all the boxes.
While I am normally a big supporter of young coaches being given a chance, Mido is simply another example of a superstar being selected above other candidates for his fame and name recognition, instead of his merits as a manager.
In any case, what I want to focus on today is programming whilst coaching. Programming can be divided into two parts: a) programming for the general public, b) Programming for professional athletes. For the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on programming for professional athletes.
I’m not a certified coach–although I’m currently taking the necessary steps to become one–so I’ve contacted my good friend Aly Mazhar to give me his views on programming in Egypt. Aly Mazhar is the founder of Be Fit Egypt and was an ex-professional football player. He has played for Al Ahly, Rutgers University in the United States, and the Egyptian youth national team.
Right off the bat Aly said: “Programming is one of the most important aspects of coaching in any sport. A program can be divided into two parts: long term and short term. A professional athlete sets a goal (long term), and trains in small cycles throughout the year to achieve that goal (short term).”
A cycle is a 4-12 weeks specific training program that’s designed to improve a physical aspect in an athlete. Cycles can be categorized into strength, power endurance, strength endurance, etc. I was more interested in learning about programming for football, so I asked Aly how, and when, coaches program for the football season.
“Programming is typically done in preseason,” he said. “Coaches usually split the preseason into three weeks. First week they work on anaerobic and aerobic capacity. Second week they work on strength and conditioning, and finally in the third week they work on the speed and agility. All of this is done whilst playing friendly matches.”
“During the season, coaches usually work on these aspects but daily rather than weekly. For example, they’ll work on strength and conditioning on the first day, speed and agility on the second day, and the third day they’ll work on the anaerobic and aerobic capacity.”
As I listened to Aly’s explanation on programming, and its significance to football, I was intrigued to know his views on programming in Egypt. “Do coaches in Egypt program their sessions?” I asked directly. After a cheeky little laugh, Aly said “Well, kind of. Let’s just say that programming is not high up the list in terms of importance.”
“Programming exists, but it’s not up to the standards,” continued Aly. “Only when there is a foreign coach like Jose or Bradley, do they really pay importance to programming.”
A trainer once told me that food is a “drug.” Your body needs food to operate. Taking the wrong drugs will have a negative effect on your health and your physical appearance.
Nutrition is one of the most important, if not the most important, aspect of an athlete’s life. Good nutrition aids your mood, energy levels, heart health, blood circulation, muscle growth, amongst many other things. Bad nutrition though can hurt you in all the aforementioned areas, and increases the chances of cancer, diabetes, and other lethal diseases.
What does Aly think about sports nutrition in Egypt? The answer was a simple “Zero, non-existent. I have played three years of professional football here in Egypt, and no one has ever talked to me about nutrition, even in the national team.”
He added: “Football players here in Egypt lack the understanding and education to research about nutrition for themselves, so that, for me, is a catastrophe.”
Strength and Conditioning
“Strength and conditioning is the physical and physiological development of athletes for elite sport performance. The role of the S & C coach is to bridge the gap between theory of training and applied training, helping athletes to become faster, stronger and more flexible and to build their muscular endurance so they perform better and remain injury free.” – English Institute of Sport
Strength and conditioning should be developed well in athletes who hope to realize their full potential; talent alone is not enough. However, according to Aly, “Conditioning isn’t valued here in Egypt unless there’s a foreign coach. The physical aspects of players here do not meet their talents. The only benchmark for Egyptian coaches is technical ability; they neglect the physical ability that is needed in the game.”
This can explain a lot of things: Why a lot of prospects fail to blossom, why Egyptian football is in constant decline and why the thought of the Egyptian national team in the World Cup remains a distant dream.
How can we solve this disaster some of you might ask? Well, it basically comes down to proper education as stated in my previous article.
Through proper education, coaches will automatically be programmed (get it?) to envisage a goal that they want to achieve for team (raise their fitness/technical/tactical levels), and take the right and necessary steps to accomplish it. It has to be planned.
Also administrations have to demand from coaches/managers a clear program for the team, and constantly follow up to make sure that everything is going to plan.
Finally, there should be a nutritionist in the staff. A great first step a club could take is to make a rule that the team must eat either breakfast or lunch together, and in either of those meals the nutritionist would oversee the food and make sure it is healthy and proper for athletes.
Add to that an awareness campaign/program from the club about the importance of proper nutrition and how it will aid their cause in becoming professional footballers, and I believe that clubs will have covered the nutrition front.
There are many areas in which Egyptian football, and Egyptian coaching in particular, must improve. It is my hope that one day Egyptian football will be on a whole other level than it is today, and my ultimate dream would be that I’d be leading this renovation.