Game Fit – What is it?


What is game fitness or match fitness? In some ways this is a little like the elusive mental toughness search. I do know that match and game fitness is not the ability to run X distance on a Coopers test or reach Y stage on a beep test of your choice. Let’s start at step one. How about a thorough analysis of the demands of the game or in Athletics how about the race or the event. The reason I say athletics because I think of the hours I spend running slow to get “fit” for the decathlon. All I got was slow, not fit for the event. This happens in all sports. We build this ubiquitous “base” which means that we can do a lot of “stuff” at very low intensity but nothing anywhere near the speed and explosiveness required by the game. But if we do not truly understand the demands of the game, the number of events that occur in the course of the game, the number of high speed efforts, the time to recover, all these factors impact how we should prepare to be game fit. I start by classifying the sports- recognizing that there are tweeners- those sports that crossover. This is from chapter three of my book Athletic Development: The Art & Science of Functional Sports

  • Sprint Sport– These sports require one all out maximum effort. The goal is to achieve as fast a time as possible for the prescribed distance. The ability to recover or quickly repeat the effort is not a factor.
  • Intermittent Sprint Sport– these sports require a series of maximum efforts with time for relatively full recovery between efforts. American football, rugby, ice hockey, volleyball are examples.
  • Transition Game Sport– these sports require a series of efforts of varied intensity that occur in random patterns. Recovery between efforts varies from almost non-existent to close to complete. Soccer, field hockey, lacrosse are examples.
  • Endurance Sport– This is characterized by continual sub maximal effort with the goal to finish in the shortest time possible for a certain distance. This is subdivided by duration into short term, one minute up to twenty minutes, medium term twenty minutes to one hour and long term over an hour in duration. Sports that fall into this classification are the typical endurance sports like the marathon and triathlon.

One I have determined the Sport Classification then I look closely at the positions or events within the sport. One of the biggest mistakes I see made is to condition everyone the same regardless of position demands.

Then look at the individual. What does each athlete bring to the table? How do they play the game? Finally yet importantly, look at the pattern of injuries and make sure that you are designing a program that addresses the common injuries. This should be transparent.

Simplicity yields complexity. Then take this and design your program to get your athletes fit for their sport. Be creative, but stay basic. The simple periodization plan is as follows:

  • Get Strong
  • Get Fast
  • Get Fit
  • Get Specific
  • Play the Game

Notice where get fit is placed in the sequence. It is very easy to get game or match fit after you are fast and strong. I will explain this paradigm in future posts. However, remember that all components of training must be trained at all times in appropriate proportions, so the components are blended. Not rocket science but a fundamental creative process based on sport science and experience.

Vern Gambetta

Vern Gambetta

Director at Gambetta Sports Training Systems
Vern is the Director of Gambetta Sports Training Systems. He has been the a conditioning coach for several MLS teams as well as the conditioning consultant to the US Men's World Cup Soccer team. Vern is the former Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets. He has lectured and conducted clinics in Canada, Japan, Australia and Europe and has authored six books and over one hundred articles related to coaching and sport performance in a variety of sports. He has a BA in teaching with a coaching minor and an MA in Education with an emphasis in physical education from Stanford University.
Vern Gambetta


Athletic Development Coach & Consultant. Founder of GAIN Network. Proud dad. Love to read everything.
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Vern Gambetta

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