Town’s Head of Sports Science explains all to htafc.com
The importance of pre-season is highly documented, but what about the importance of the off season when the players are away from PPG Canalside?
Town’s Head of Sports Science, Al Stewart, feels the closed season period is just as vital for the players.
“The off season programmes are more important to some than others. It’s vital for those players who have had limited game time or injuries in the season, particularly towards the end of the campaign, to use it as an opportunity to catch up. For those players who have played the majority of games and been fit throughout the season, it’s an opportunity to maintain their fitness levels and try to avoid too much of a decrease in the off season.”
Each player received an individual training programme that has been designed for them by Al and his staff. These programmes have three main separate elements within them; running, strength and nutrition.
The fitness programme is tailored to the amount of running a player does in a training session and in a game.
Al continued: “We used GPS during training every day, as well as the data from the games. We use it across the whole season, but more over the last eight weeks to establish how much work they should do in the closed season.”
Once the players were assigned their off season programmes, they were provided with website links and videos showing them the different workouts that they should be doing.
“We have given them a stack of cones, filmed the runs we expect them to do and given them the links to the drills showing them how to perform them. A lot of these drills they will have done before at some stage in the season, whether it’s running after the games or at other times, but the videos are there as a visual reminder.
“We have recorded three twenty minute audio tracks with the timings for running drills over the top of the music. Essentially, we have taken away any barriers that might stop them from doing the correct type of work.
“A lot of hard work has gone into this - it’s been a few months in the making – so hopefully it will pay dividends once we get started.”
For the strength programme, each player has their own suspension training kit called a ‘Jungle Jim’. The kit allows them to complete their strength training almost anywhere. Once again, videos were put together for the players so they can maintain the same levels they had earlier in the season.
“On some levels they’re looking to develop strength but in most cases looking to maintain and generate a good range of movement with some good strength. We also filmed seven core videos for them to use.”
The final aspect is nutrition. Al has informed the players what the best time is for them to eat and what would be best for them to eat.
Despite this, Stewart insisted that the closed season isn’t just all about working hard to maintain their fitness:
“It’s important the players get their rest, recovery and have some family time, as much psychologically as anything else. They need to take a break away and recharge mentally.”
When the players return to PPG Canalside on 1 July, they will undergo three days of fitness training, with the possibility of a fourth if they feel they aren’t at the correct level. However, Al has no concerns about the players’ fitness when they return.
“Most of the players are well on with their programmes,” he explained. “I think the game has changed a lot over the past few years; players now are really taking charge of their own fitness levels and realise it’s the difference for them between the level they play at, their performance and their injury status.
“There’s a quite a lot that are taking it seriously and some of them have personal trainers to get them through the programme. We’re looking forward to a positive start in preseason that will take us into the season.”
The closed season programmes aren’t exclusive to the First Team; all age groups through to the Under 9s have been assigned work. The First Team, Development Squad and the Under-18s have individual programmes and the lower age groups are position specific.
“Everyone has a programme for the off season that they can follow to give them the best chance when they come back in. It’s an opportunity for some, especially those who aren’t established within the First Team, on the first testing day to make a statement and they could soon find themselves around the squad for training.”
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