My name is Mathias Leth Jacobsen, I am 14 years old and I play American football at the elite level. I attend Elite Sports Academy Aarhus (ESAA) and play in Aarhus Tigers, which is Denmark's second largest club. My position is wide receiver, which means I need to be able to run some solid routes and be good at catching the ball, even if I'm running at full speed with an opponent on my neck.
American football is a fast-growing sport in Denmark and there are clubs in quite a few cities across the country. It is a sport that is a bit like chess with human pieces - you have to be able to hold a lot of things in your head, and at the same time you have to be fast, strong and able to think under great pressure.
I train six to seven times a week. It is both strength training and cardio training, besides I work out with the club. My goal is to come to the United States and eventually become a professional, but it is a very tough process which will take many years and lots of training - and food.
My training week
A typical week for me begins on the Monday when I train. I run squats and train explosive power so I can get as fast as I can on the field. I also train the upper body because I have to have as much muscle strength as possible to resist, especially in blockages. Blocks are when there is an opponent holding you or pushing you so you can't go in the direction you want in a game. It's about being able to get out of such a block in a fight so you can be free. The idea is that the quarterback should be able to throw the ball to the receiver when he's free, so he can either grab the ball or maybe run all the way for a touchdown.
On Tuesday, I have ESAA morning training. This means that we meet at eight o'clock and train with our football coach. This is a lot about running and fitness. The morning training lasts two hours, after which all ESAA students must return to school by bus and have a regular school day. On Tuesday after school we have club training in the Tigers, where we have position-specific exercises with our position coach - there are for example. receiver coaches, quarterback coaches, running back coaches and linebackers. In American football, the big boys are typically placed on the offensive line and defensive line - as a receiver it is more important that you are an all-round athlete who is both fast and strong. Our training is very much about practicing tackles and not least our playbook. The Playbook is the collection of games that we should be able to memorize and that the coaches make. The playbook is always secret, so the opponents do not know what we have agreed upon, and all plays have special names and hand signals given by the coaches during the match. But the opposing team can sometimes figure out what a player's hand signals mean, and then you may need to change the signal during the match. Therefore, it is also important to be able to think. Typical names of plays can be something like mesh, freeze, panther, Vikings, mike drop and much more - it's all very American.
On Wednesday, I typically have a day off where I'm not exercising - but sometimes I can't stay away and I go out and train anyway. On Thursday, there will be regular ESAA morning training and club training in the evening - a total of four hours of intensive training. Friday I also have a regular strength training day, where I work on the same things in the training room as I do the other days. And then there is often battle Saturday or Sunday. Because the sport is still as small as it is, we travel across the country and meet other teams at U16 level. ESAA is more than just training, it is also about teaching other things than just training - it is also about getting the right diet and nutrition. We have a dietitian that we can get advice and guidance from - I haven't used her yet because I know what to eat in order to exercise and perform optimally. The ESAA also has a number of very strict rules on sugar and unhealthy foods - a code of conduct that we must follow. We must not drink alcohol and of course we do not smoke, but there are also rules about food. You should not eat junk food or sweets, and you should also stay away from sodas and energy drinks. It's not really a problem for me now - I would probably stay away from that stuff anyway, even without the ESAA's code of conduct.
RATION as a part of my training diet
When I work out, I always eat a Ration Bar after training. I first encountered a Ration bar in a retail store and found it interesting with a product that was energy-rich and at the same time did not contain all that we know is bad for someone who is seriously and purposefully exercising. Since then it has been a regular part of my packed lunch as a healthy alternative to so much else one can buy. The Ration Bar provides the right energy and is far better than ordinary sugary things, which are often burned off after a short time. You get both saturated and healthy fat in the right way, which is why Ration Bar has become a regular part of my diet plan when I exercise.