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So you're a footballer, your 35th birthday is approaching fast, and you've got no intention of giving up the game you love? So what does being a veteran footballer mean? How can you indulge your passion for football as you get older?
Whether you're 35 or 55, playing for pleasure, in a championship, or otherwise, we can help guide you through this transition as a "neo-veteran" with a few handy tips. The goal: continuing to enjoy yourself and grow in your game.
The biggest problem when you're a veteran: avoiding injury. In your mind you're still 20 years old and you play as if that's the reality, but it's not. When you play with friends after work, or with colleagues at lunchtime, the difficulty is wanting to go straight onto the pitch and get to grips with the ball without warming up. The other problem is arriving at the last minute for your match, and again, not taking the time to warm up properly.
Two classic errors which can lead to injury, particularly when we know that 80% of injuries in team sports are linked to a lack of warming up. And the older you get, the more difficult it is to recover.
We recommend warming up for around 15-20 minutes, essential for minimising your risk of injury.
It might seem obvious, but it's important to know yourself on several levels.
In terms of physique and in terms of warming up, you need to know if you need a lot of time, or specific stretches for the little aches and pains that you might have acquired over your (long and wonderful) career, or if just a quick warm-up will do for you.
You also need to be aware of your limits on a technical level, because a veteran team might include footballers aged anything from 25 to 50 years old. So don't force yourself to do the same as the 35-year-old spring chicken doing somersaults in the corner!
If you're a competitor, the evidence shows you always will be. You'll still be hungry for success on the pitch even with a few more years on the clock. You'll want to win, but perhaps less fervently than before. What changes is that, as a veteran, you might be less able to perform certain techniques, and you might injure yourself.
On the other hand, you're less likely to make silly mistakes. The game should be much more friendly, so you'll have to stay reasonable if you were once used to powerful tackles!
From a technical and tactical point of view, a veteran should rely on their experience and planning ahead rather than on their speed.
When you're a veteran, it means you made a choice to continue playing football, despite being older, despite a family life that may be full of a partner and children. Not to mention obligations like Sunday lunch with the family. When you're over 30, some make the decision to stop so they can focus on their family.
But when you choose to continue, you make a commitment towards your team-mates.
Your team counts on you, and you turning up and your desire to play will be your greatest assets. You need to be mentally strong.
People who keep playing generally do so for two reasons: enjoying the game and the pleasure of playing together. The sports life of a veteran is punctuated by training, matches, and also by the post-match:the post-match craic and celebration.
Let's face it, part of the reason we play matches is for the after-party. Meeting everyone, chatting, making memories, it's what veterans live for.