How to Train Specifically for Your PositionCategoriesBlog Training Program

How to train like an AFL Elite Midfielder | Prep Like A Pro

How to Train Specifically for Your Position
How to Train Specifically for Your Position


The AFL elite male midfielder position demand can change due to many factors such as dimensions of the ground, rotations, weather, and even if the player is playing inside or outside midfield position.

However, there are similarities amongst this playing position, especially when compared to other position game profiles like a key forward and or defender. (13)

This sports profile will dive into detail about the recent changes in demand for an elite midfielder playing in the Australian Football League (AFL) over the last decade.

Due to the dynamic nature of the midfielder’s position and the sport itself, this report will look at four key areas of performance for a midfielder. These four key areas are Physical, mental, tactical, and technical, leaning on the most up-to-date research to back our claims and ultimately provide insight into how to optimally prepare a midfielder for high performance!


 Competition requirements


Aerobic capacity

Repeat acceleration

Individualised approach

The AFL game is certainly getting faster and players particularly midfielders are required to cover the further distance in the same amount of game time.

This article will take a closer look at recent scientific research conducted on AFL players and look closely at the physical, mental, technical, and tactical key performance indicators for midfielders.

Part of this is the fact that AFL midfielders are playing on after a mark a lot more regularly during a game. Due to the demand for the game to ‘flow’ better and allow for more scoring rule changes like less time taken for umpires to restart play or take a shot for a goal. Reducing the rest periods for the players and increasing the demand for midfielders to set up at a stoppage in less time, all while reducing the total rotations allowed by the team.

Compared to other positions on the field midfielders covered on average cover more total distance (4) and still, produce a high amount of high-intensity efforts 2nd only mobile forwards (10)

Midfielders’ aerobic capacity and repeat accelerations are critical for midfielders to be able to handle the high volume of total distance and repeat high-intensity efforts. The current research suggests programming high-intensity aerobic interval training to improve aerobic power, match running performance, and greater involvement in the play. (12)

Midfielders’ ability to recover between games is crucial to preventing injuries while ensuring players are recovering appropriately. Varying the load from week to week as is recommended from a team perspective is important, we also need to factor in each athlete’s profile. (12)

Fitness testing ie 2km time trial and repeat sprint test we can identify which of the squad midfielders are aerobic and which are anaerobic dominant. With this information in mind, we may look to adjust the training load by reducing the total volume run for the aerobic midfielders and look to maintain or increase running volumes for the aerobic-based midfielders.

This graph represents the effect fatigue has on the players as the quarter goes on from the start to the 10-minute mark players start to reduce their work rate.  On average the midfielders and the mobile forwards ran the furthest for total distance and high-speed running.

Research like this one gives us confidence that improving a midfielder’s running capacity in a traditional conditioning manner in conjunction with specific football drills like small, sided games will increase the likelihood of increasing the player’s ability to express repeat high-intensity efforts in a game for longer. (10) Potentially giving the team a winning advantage over the competition.



Mental health

Psychological reactions to injury

Team behaviour can influence the tactical, technical, and physical side of performance. The key focus of Sam J Robertson’s research: Collective team behaviour of Australian rules football during a phase of math play investigated the difference in team behaviour with regards to possession and location on the field. (13)

Mental health which unfortunately is growing in its effect on AFL players and therefore key management practices from sports doctors at AFL clubs are critical. (14) Thirdly looking into the psychology of AFL players with regards to the reaction to injury. (15)

Although the sample size is small for the team behaviour article the findings were interesting, utilizing notational analysis methods to assess the effects players were positioning themselves during different stages of play. Clear differences were recorded with regards to length, width, and surface area were all typically greater during offense when compared to defense and contested phases. Team B pattern of greater values of length, width, and surface area during all phases of play when compared to team A. (13) Creating this extra space from an offensive point of view may be to help clear space for the forwards, from a physical point of view this style of play may increase the high-intensity efforts of the midfielders through creating space and being able to get back if the ball was in the contest as reported in this study both teams would aim to close space during contested situations.

AFL like many high-performance sporting codes have many mental health issues and the key to good management is the primary care providers the sports doctors. (14) This research conducted a questionnaire of best practices from experienced AFL sports doctors (96%) with 39% having worked for more than 10 years.

The findings fell within nine domains, 1. Prevention and mental health promotion activities 2. Screening and Risk identification 3. Engaging external specialists 4. Duty of care 5. Assessment, treatment, and case coordination 6. Communication 7. Confidentiality 8. Sleep management 9. Substance use management

A key takeaway is to ensure the club has an experienced sports doctor to look out for the players with best practices in conjunction with a multidisciplinary team to ensure the whole club approach to optimise prevention, identification, and treatment to manage players mental health. (14)

How do AFL athletes respond to injury?

For all those involved with working with AFL players understanding this concept is critical to the mental health of players. The results found in this study showcase how important it is to support AFL players going through rehabilitation.  A Player’s response tends to depend on the severity of the injury if its short term it can fall under the normality of injury as ‘all part of the game’, however, long term and stress can be high due to losing connection with their teammates, contract’s expiring, and not returning in the same physical shape. (15)

AFL players reported fluctuations of negative emotions during a longer-term injury such as shock, anger, disappointment, and the sense of feeling flat. Common for players to experience fear of missing out on games, and team structure resulting in feeling anxious, depressed, and moody.

A key takeaway is how often players reported feeling unfit and ‘rusty’ with their ball skills when returning to training and games.

The practical implementation of this is the importance of including cross-training, and plenty of touches either with a skills coach or another rehab player to ensure the midfield-specific skills were incorporated while the player was in rehabilitation to improve self-efficacy. Encouraging maintaining coach connection with the player is key to preventing players from feeling isolated, perhaps using video footage of a player’s high light reel, and mentioning a positive performance post an injury would be helpful in also building players’ confidence and feeling connected to the club. Furthermore, during the early stages of rehab, it’s important for medical and staff to incorporate plenty of variation to prevent boredom and for players to be involved in team activities wherever possible. (15)


Field location

Passages of play for offense play

A longitudinal systematic review looked at the average physical output changes in AFL players from 2005 to 2017 and found rule changes and game style to be the most significant influence on the match demands of AFL players. (1)

What does this specifically mean for AFL midfielders? How does the game style have an effect? Well, the research shows AFL midfielders are required to work the hardest during offensive plays, compared to defensive and contested phases. (10)

This finding is consistent with the research on positional demands and field location found. (12) When team a team intercepts the ball, it is more likely that the opposition will not have their defensive zone structure in place. Allows for a greater opportunity to score and hence why midfielders get rewarded when they work hard during these passages of play. Key takeaway the ability of midfielders to work hard when the ball is turned the ball is key to team success due to the increased probability of a clearer path to goals. (3)


Effective Kicking

Ball in play

Effective Handball

While work rate is important for team success, effective technical actions are most important. (6)


Successful offensive plays resulting in a shot on goal appeared to be dependent on both physical output and technical skills. (5) As the table 2 when a team with high short kicking effectiveness on average win more quarters by a larger amount.

Table 4 shows how important handballing skills are for midfielders ranking the highest percentage of key position players

Players are likely to have increased workload and decreased skill proficiency when their team is less successful. (3) Having a program that focuses on developing kicking effectiveness is critical for team success.

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How to Train Like an AFL Midfielder
How to Train Like an AFL Midfielder
AFLW Athlete Development CoachesCategoriesBlog Coaches Training Program

AFLW Athlete Development Coaches

In light of the AFL Women’s (AFLW) rising popularity, a new and vital role has emerged in the world of Australian Rules Football – Athlete Development Coach. This article will explore the roles and responsibilities of Athlete Development Coaches, focusing on their importance to the development of AFLW players.

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What is the AFLW?

The AFLW is the national Australian rules football league for women. The league began in February 2017 with eight teams, expanded to 10 in 2019, and then 14 in 2020. The AFLW is the most attended women’s football competition in Australia and one of the most popular women’s football competitions in the world. Its record attendance of 53,034 for the 2019 AFL Women’s Grand Final between Adelaide and Carlton was the highest of any women’s sport in Australia. 

The success and the reception of the AFLW have generated lots of interest amongst women in Australia who want to play the sport. This development has also given rise to the importance of Athlete Development Coaches. But what is an AFLW Athlete Development Coach anyway? Let’s find out.

What is an Athlete Development Coach?

An Athlete Development Coach is a coach specializing in the development of athletes. They work with athletes of all levels, from beginners to elite, and help them improve their skills and performance. Athlete Development Coaches—which you can find over at Prepare Like A Pro—are usually employed by sports clubs or organizations. Their job is to create training and development programs for the athletes they work with. Whether it’s AFLW strength & conditioning, AFLW fitness training, or an AFLW running program, Athlete Development Coaches have a wealth of knowledge and experience to help athletes improve.

So, what role do Athlete Development Coaches play in the development of AFLW players? Let’s take a look.

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The Roles of an Athlete Development Coach

Athlete Development Coaches have several roles and responsibilities. Let’s discuss what these are:

1) Help Players Improve Their Performance

Athlete development coaches play an important role in helping athletes improve their ability to perform on game day. They can identify areas where athletes need improvement through comprehensive evaluation and analysis. They then develop specific training programs that target these areas, using a variety of drills and exercises. In addition, athlete development coaches provide ongoing feedback and support to help athletes stay on track. Working closely with AFLW players can help them reach their full potential. As a result, athlete development coaches play a vital role in the success of any AFLW team.

2) Create Training and Development Programs for the Athletes They Work With

Athlete development coaches play an important role in helping athletes reach their full potential. They create training and development programs tailored to each athlete’s unique needs. In addition, they work with athletes to help them overcome obstacles and reach their goals. Athlete development coaches also have a deep understanding of the science of human performance. They use this knowledge to create programs designed to help athletes improve different AFLW fitness components like strength, power, and endurance. As a result, athlete development coaches play a key role in the success of an AFLW player.

3) Assist With The Design and Implementation of Applied Strength and Conditioning Programs for AFLW Players

Athlete development coaches are an essential part of the training and conditioning programs for athletes in any sport. These professionals work closely with athletes to assist them in achieving their performance goals by developing tailored training programs that address their specific needs and skill levels. In the case of Australian Football League Women (AFLW), athlete development coaches play a critical role in ensuring that the players have access to top-quality training and conditioning regimes.

At the heart of an effective AFLW athlete development coach is a strong understanding of athletic development principles, as well as stellar communication skills and expertise in assessing individual athletic abilities. These professionals collaborate closely with other members of the coaching staff, including strength coaches, nutrition specialists, sports psychologists, physiotherapists, and more. Together, they design and implement comprehensive programs that help AFLW players build strength, power, endurance, speed, agility, balance, coordination, and stamina.

As an elite professional football league focused on women’s sports, AFLW athletes must receive high-quality training that maximizes their potential both on and off the field. Athlete development coaches are key players in helping achieve this goal by providing targeted support to each player throughout her career. Whether you aspire to become an AFLW athlete or are already a part of the league, working with an experienced and qualified coach can make all the difference in your development as a player.

4) Work Closely With All Members of the Team and Organize, Plan, and Oversee Athletes and Coaches in a Team Environment

Athlete development coaches work to improve the performance of athletes and teams. They collaborate with all members of the team, including athletes, coaches, and support staff. They develop training and practice plans and oversee the execution of those plans. They also monitor the progress of athletes and the team and make adjustments as needed.

In addition, athlete development coaches provide guidance and support to athletes and coaches. They help athletes to develop their skills and abilities and coach them on how to best utilize those skills in AFLW competitions. They also allow coaches to create their strategies and methods for improving performance. By working closely with all team members, athlete development coaches play an essential role in helping athletes and the team reach their full potential.

5) Communicate With Other Members of the Team to Ensure that Everyone is on the Same Page

Athlete development coaches need to be able to communicate with all members of the team effectively. They must be able to convey information clearly and concisely. In addition, they need to be able to listen attentively and understand the perspectives of others.

It is also important for athlete development coaches to be able to build relationships with all members of the team. They need to be able to earn the trust and respect of those they work with. By developing strong relationships, athlete development coaches can create an environment where everyone is working together towards the same goal.

If you are looking for a way to improve your AFLW athleticism, or if you want to be a part of the development process of future AFLW athletes, then contact Prepare Like A Pro today. We have years of experience developing elite-level footballers, and we can help you take your game to the next level.


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