John DeWitt is the AFFWNT's Fitness Coach.
Being able to compete at the highest levels requires substantial work and sacrifice from everyone on the team. Coaches have to prepare training plans that will best make the players ready for competition. The medical staff have to ensure that players are healthy, rehab properly, and complete the work necessary for regeneration between matches and training sessions. Technical staff have to make sure that all necessary planning and details are addressed. Players have to complete the required team and individual work necessary to be able to play at peak levels.
When working with professional and national teams, attention to detail is critical for success. At these levels, all players, coaches, and staff are the best – it is often the small things that separate those who succeed from those who fail. Don’t get me wrong – the big things matter a lot – but it is the small details that are often the most critical.
My role with the AFFWNT is to assist in preparing the players for the physical requirements of competition. I have similar roles with the Houston Dynamo Academy and Houston Dash. With the Dynamo Academy and Dash, I have been working with the players for many seasons. I spend a lot of time designing programs for players to complete on their own during breaks, and I oversee the physical training that occurs during sessions in the season. I also have many instances where individual players contact me, usually by text or email, asking for advice on individual training sessions that they can complete on their own. It is this interaction with the players that I have come to appreciate most with my role.
Football requires a lot of physical preparation for the players. The obvious traits are endurance, speed, strength, agility, balance, and explosiveness. There are more, but these are the ones that people think of most of the time when they think of a fit player. Some of these characteristics have genetic limits, but all can be improved with training.
Preparing the team for our upcoming training camps has been a little different than most teams, because players are coming from all over the world and from various training backgrounds. However, for me, this is business as usual because of that I am used to doing with my other teams.
While I want players to be in the best shape possible in all of the physical categories, the one that matters most is the ability to perform high speed actions throughout the entire match. Because of the way our body’s work, we can’t stay at our highest speed indefinitely. We have to take breaks and recover, between explosive actions. When we get more fit, though, three things happen:
1) We recover between powerful actions more quickly; 2) We can continue a high speed action longer; and 3) We can continue to complete high speed actions longer throughout a match.
In order to prepare the players for training camp, we have sent them two training plans. One was for July and one was for August. They are at the bottom of this post if you want to see what the players have been doing.
The plans are relatively simple, and just require hard work and dedication. They can be completed with or without a ball, at a field or in open space or in a gym, and with an individual or groups. The player are responsible for completing the plans, and in many cases they do more. We also have a generous sponsorship from Fit For 90, which allows the players to fill out a web-based questionnaire to report their health and progress. I, along with the staff, monitor this daily and follow up with any player reporting injury, soreness, or other issues.
I also have had the players complete a fitness test every other week so we can monitor there progress. When we get to camp in California, we will have some specific fitness tests that I will have the players complete. However, to make it simple for the players our current preseason test is a 1.6km run. I want to see two things with this test. The first is a goal of 6:00 or less for the distance. The second is some improvement from test to test. I chose this test because it allows me to measure their maximal aerobic speed – a technical term that essentially tells us how explosive a player is for a longer period of time.
I have been impressed with the players performing this test. Most players end up using their phone and an app to measure distance and time, and simply text me a screen shot after they are finished. I haven’t had any other team or player report to me like this, and I immediately took to this creativity and ingenuity of the team. What a great tool!
Overall, I am so excited to work with these dedicated and special players and coaches. All have undertaken a great challenge that will make history. This is a very important challenge that I am proud to be a part of.