Dr Adula Fikreyesus’ study on Monitoring Training, Recovery and Performance in the Ethiopian Higher Football League earned him a PhD in Sport Science.
Supervised by Professor Johan van Heerden, the study found that ‘the lack of an appropriately structured periodisation plan was illustrated by a poorly synchronised balance between training load, recovery and well-being among players, resulting in potential overreaching.’ Fikreyesus, an Ethiopian national, noted that this novel contribution to football science demonstrates how exertion and recovery affect tackle-effectiveness and short-passes that have been identified as key performance skills in winning matches.
‘Ethiopia, one of the founders of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) could not be represented in international arenas by football clubs as well as its national team, which could be due to the players’ fitness and the quality of training offered by the coaches,’ said Fikreyesus.
A soccer squad of contracted professional male footballers aged 20-25 in the Hadya-Hossana Football Club who compete in the Higher Football League in Ethiopia served as the sample group that was observed and monitored over a season of competition.
Forty observations were made of the players’ Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE), Total Quality of Recovery (TQR) and a well-being review comprising ratings of fatigue, sleep quality, muscle soreness, stress levels and mood.
Session training load (sTL) was subsequently calculated as the product of session rated perceived exertion (sRPE) and session training duration (sTD) in Arbitrary Units (AU).
Four observations were made of the players’ recovery using the Daily Analysis of Life Demands for Athletes (DALDA) Questionnaire.
The teams were monitored over a macrocycle of the season comprising six matches in terms of RPE, TQR and well-being (WB).
The data on performance in the six matches were collected using a notational game analysis by a specially designed software called HossanaGameAnalyst.
Fikreyesus said that, in monitoring the training load and quality of recovery experienced by players, similar RPE corresponding with “fairly light” and “somewhat hard”, were recorded in pre-season and in-season, respectively but “poor” TQR was recorded for both the pre-season and in-season.
‘In terms of exertional stressors experienced by players, the DALDA indicated significantly better recovery with a higher mean DALDA and fewer “worse than normal” responses during pre-season than during the in-season, when a lower recovery score and more “worse than normal” responses were registered. Overall the components of well-being over the season showed a mean value below the mid value norm of “3”.
Fikreyesus is currently employed as a lecturer at Wachemo University, Ethiopia and is also a technical director for a premier league club.
He said he chose UKZN because it is one of top-ranked universities in Africa that aims to “inspire greatness” among its undergraduate and postgraduate students.
‘One of the reasons I was impressed with UKZN is its capacity to accommodate diversity. The other reason was the world class Discipline of Biokinetics, Exercise and Leisure Sciences. Since I aimed to develop research skills to understand the scientific approaches employed to enhance players’ performance, UKZN was my institution of choice.’
Words: Nombuso Dlamini