With all Academy activity at Rotherham United having stopped indefinitely as per government guidelines, it has proven to be a different challenge for the Academy Sports Science and Medicine Department are able to ensure their service continues to be effective.
The Academy programme was suspended in line with all first team activity, bringing an abrupt halt to what has been a successful season for the club’s youngsters so far both on and off the field.
Jess Shaw, Head of Academy Physiotherapy
Speaking to www.themillers.co.uk, Head of Academy Physiotherapy Jess Shaw talks through the challenges of continuing to ensure the health and well-being of the players in the youth setup, without the opportunity to engage with them daily.
“Everything happened so quickly; one minute we were working as normal at U18s training and preparing for the weekend fixture, and the next minute all activity had stopped,” she explained.
“We quickly had to find innovative ways of ensuring all Academy age groups (U18s-U9s) were prepared for the next few uncertain weeks.
“As a department, we worked hard in altering the Home Exercise Programmes for the older Academy Age Groups (U16s to U18s) to ensure they could be completed in line with the Government guidelines; we increased the conditioning focus and have since set up a Strava ‘Running Group’ that has been well-received with the Under 16s and the Under 18s, even the staff members are getting involved!”
Jess continued to explain that it is also the responsibility of the Academy Medicine and Sports Science department to maintain the levels of physical fitness that the players had previously established, and revealed she is keen to ensure the older age groups particularly are able to pick up where they left off when football resumes.
“The U18s were physically very strong prior to the outbreak and we are keen to make sure this is maintained for whenever training resumes,” she added.
“We have also got the Under 18s completing a weekly online yoga video to ensure they are focusing on their recovery as well.
“We check-in with the Under 18s at the end of each week, to discuss any difficulties or issues they may have had with their programmes over the course of the week; and going forward we are going to be updating their programme on a weekly basis to ensure life does not get too monotonous during these uncertain times.
Like many other areas of the club, the Academy have looked to take an innovative approach in their delivery of the programme, in many cases, utilising online software to engage with players from a wide variety of age groups.
“We have utilised other forms of media as well across the Academy; the Foundation Phase (U9s to U12s) were encouraged to partake in online PE and fitness classes to ensure they are keeping active; the Joe Wicks daily PE class seems to be a strong favourite.
“The department is maintaining strong regular links with all of the Academy players and their parents; we have produced information posters on the importance of maintaining physical fitness on their health, nutritional advice, and mental health and wellbeing advice.”
Jess concluded by admitting these unprecedented times have also provided her with a new test in her career, but one she has enjoyed taking on.
“On a personal note, being a virtual physiotherapist has given me a whole new challenge; from Video conference assessments to writing personal exercise programmes to developing new ways of keeping the players engaged during this pandemic.
“The uptake and commitment from the entire Academy has been fantastic; I get regular emails and phone calls from players of all ages checking if they are doing the correct activities, or for advice on any different training they can be doing. It has been wonderful to see.”