A week in the life of a Thai Premier League fitness coach

FOX Sports Asia brings you a unique insight into the world of a fitness coach in one of Asia’s top domestic leagues.

It’s an oft-heard complaint from fans across the globe that their team ‘ran out of gas,’ that they looked ‘unfit,’ are ‘always injured’ or were ‘unable to run out the full ninety minutes.’

As much as football is a game centred on tactics and technique the physical conditioning required to perform those actions at a consistently high level is an element that’s often overlooked by fans, media and indeed in some cases clubs themselves.

Now more than ever there is a growing scientific element to how players are ‘conditioned’ where the identification of underlying risks and prevention is just as important as rehab and recovery.

Asia is fortunate to have some outstanding ‘fitness coaches’ amongst both their national and club ranks and FOX Sports Asia this week got a unique insight into just what their role encompasses and how detailed their work is when we caught up with a man who has worked at the highest levels of the game.

Andrew Young (left) watched as the players are put through their paces.

Currently working in Thailand with BEC Tero Sasana after having spent the first half of the season at Bangkok Glass, Andrew Young has held influential roles in the sports science setups at Premier League clubs Blackburn and Fulham as well as with the Australian national team.

Here, in his own words, he gives a detailed explanation of just what the role requires and what a typical week with a Thai Premier League looks like from a high performance perspective.

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My role really involves taking responsibility for all fitness, medical & sports science issues that allows the head coach to focus on his job and not be unduly distracted by other issues.

Typically, I am in charge of a staff of 20 fitness, medical & sports science staff where my key responsibilities are the design of the season/weekly training program (periodisation), maximising player fitness and keeping our best players/assets on the pitch (injury prevention).

The most obvious aspect of the Thai Premier League is that it has an unusual season program (34 matches + FA/League Cups) whereby for one month you may play two games a week for four weeks and then that may be followed by 3-4 weeks with no match e.g. we have a FIFA break in August that lasts 35 days (5 weeks).

The other unique aspect of the TPL is that most matches have a very low “ball in play” time, on average 42-45 minutes – compared with FIFA matches (55 mins average) and EPL matches (65 mins average).

This is because there are so many breaks in the game (injury, free kicks, etc) so TPL players have far more recovery time in a match than, for example, EPL players and that means that the Thai game and the players are more anaerobic & explosive in nature.

Fitness coaches check the data.

Classically, TPL teams train every day for at least two hours per session i.e. a high volume training model but a LOW intensity training stimulus.

As a consequence, TPL players tend to fatigue when faced with high intensity running in a match and it is a common sight at the 60-minute mark of a TPL match for the play to become very open as fatigue sets in.

So my training model is focused far more on training intensity and we train for far less time (volume) than most other TPL clubs.

Our players always have at least two days off per week to recover and freshen up but we demand a very high intensity from them when they do train.

I also believe in using the latest technology to drive our program and will typically ensure that all 25 players in the first team squad wear a GPS monitoring unit in EVERY training session.

We use live GPS at all training sessions and utilise the latest GPSports/EVO Cloud based analysis system to monitor our players training loads.

Our players provide us with daily Wellness data (sleep quality, fatigue rating, muscle soreness rating) via their Smartphone for analysis and the same goes for training & match RPE ratings i.e. a score out of 10 as to how hard the match was.

We have a very strong focus on Recovery following a match and being fresh leading into the next match so we tend to have one VERY hard football conditioning session in the middle of each week followed by a players day off.

This is also the session where we rely on individual player GPS data to decide whether to modify or reduce any particular player during this session e.g. our older players & young rookie players will generally do lower training loads, say compared to a seasoned 26 year old TPL player who can tolerate higher/harder loads

BEC training session.

Our players undertake the usual recovery modalities after a match including: whey protein drinks, tart cherry juice, ice baths, a healthy meal inside 60 minutes and leg compression tights.

During congested match periods we also send selected players (e.g. midfielders) to a Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber to further enhance the recovery process.

Nutrition is a cornerstone of our program from an education point of view and many Thai players have an unbalanced diet of rice, noodles, 7/11 and Starbucks – with elevated body fat/skinfolds as a result.

We educate our players around eating less processed carbohydrates, sugar, etc – and focus on high quality protein, good fats and real (unprocessed) foods.

We take skinfold body fat measures every month from the players – the Thai players have embraced this as they understand that we are really trying to help them rather harass them about their weight.

When I was at Bangkok Glass we were the #1 club in the TPL for scoring goals in the final 30 minutes of a match (> 50% of our goals are scored in this period) and also had very low soft tissue injury rates meaning that our key players were almost always available for selection.

Here is a what a typical week would like during my time working in the Thai Premier League.

Saturday – TPL Match

  • Post match NPG running – substitutes fitness session.
  • Acute injury assessment.
  • Protein Shakes, Tart Cherry Juice & Nutrition.
  • Compression tights.
  • Ice Baths.
  • Player Match RPE reporting.
  • Sunday – MD +1 – Recovery

  • Injury Follow Up – MRI/CT scans, specialist reviews.
  • Selected high load players e.g. midfielders – go to HBOT chamber for Recovery.
  • Plan training week with coach per match loading (pitch, away travel, intensity of match, length of preparation?).
  • MD +1 Training Session (Buchheit) as per PSG – 60 minutes – all non-playing subs.
  • Player Wellness scores (Smartphone) – sleep, fatigue & muscle soreness rating out of 5.0.
  • Monday – MD +2 – Aerobic Flush Session

  • HR Recovery test (5 minute run @ 12kmh).
  • Extended warm up.
  • NO speed work today.
  • 30 to 45 minutes duration.
  • Live GPS Monitoring during session.
  • Tuesday – MD +3 – Technical Training

  • Typically 60 to 75 minutes duration.
  • Tactical/teaching focus.
  • Working in smaller/tighter areas (periodised).
  • Live GPS Monitoring during session.
  • Wednesday – MD -3 – Main Training Day

  • This is the day when we may modify individual player training loads if data indicates player fatigue, older player, rookie player, etc.
  • Gym Strength Session – 2 groups of 10-12 players – focus on lower limb maximum strength (back squat, deadlifts, SL squats).
  • Football session – main conditioning day – high intensity – working in larger/full pitch areas (periodised) – often a 11 v 11 continuous training drill – high intensity running fitness at end of session.
  • Recovery – ice bath & nutrition.
  • Session length – 90 minutes (longest of the week).
  • Warm Up – high speed running & hamstring injury prevention exercises included.
  • Live GPS Monitoring – decision is made from data at end of session – whether to add further high intensity running drill in.
  • Thursday – MD -2 – Day Off

  • Players day off.
  • Friday – MD -1 – Familiarisation Session

  • Fitness testing of any players in doubt for Match.
  • Leg Power testing via countermovement unloaded jumps prior to training (Linear Position Transducer) – to assess for any excessive player fatigue.
  • Warm Up – explosive speed, agility and sprint drills to stimulate large motor unit muscle fibres.
  • Short high tempo passing drill.
  • Set Pieces – walk through.
  • Session duration – 40 minutes maximum.
  • Session is at 5.00pm (home match) or 10.00am (away match).
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