loris bertolacci

Sport, Health and Fitness

SEN Interview with Dr.-Robin-Willcourt: Confused!

Below are links to audio of a SEN chat with Dr Robin Wilcourt with Mark Fine and Craig Harper

SEN Interview with Dr.-Robin-Willcourt


And it frankly would confuse the hell out of people I believe. Basically it was promoting the anti-ageing industry and the added benefit of very specific medication ( won’t call it supplementation) to lifestyle improvements to health of especially older people. They did discuss briefly that WADA/ASADA often banned such medication.

But what I did find odd was the good doctor promoting the virtues of all types of anabolic agents. That’s the inference I got. Maybe I got it wrong? And then simply outlining certain case studies such as men in their 40’s with low levels  of testosterone for example who after blood tests could improve health, libido whatever. And Craig Harper then spoke about the acceptance of hormone replacement for women but lack of such for men.

Seemed a pretty simple argument and all the “stuff” discussed seemed like a panacea. Add to this the Paleo diet.

Well in reality we are lucky to live in 2013 because when we do get certain illnesses and problems, technology and medical science has allowed many to live longer and healthier. And there is a definite need for hormone replacement and enhancement in the elderly ( and ill). In fact anyone that has studied understands how anabolic agents are used in medical conditions and this was their evolution., especially post world war 2.

But without going too long in this article there were 2 specific things that irked me about this particular chat. 3 in fact. The third was it was a great AD. To be honest good luck to Dr Wilcourt there and maybe certain other health professionals. But more so I found it odd that apart from aged people, the discussion did not concentrate on the ability of quality exercise and diet to change and modify many of these hormonal and health issues that people appeared with in anti ageing clinics. Add to this the “fat/stressed” mid 40’s guy who only needs a kick up the backside , 15 kgs loss of weight and stress release before remotely thinking of peptides.

We all understand the need for intervention with medication in diseased states and simply saying taking ‘anti-ageing” medication from mid 40’s onwards is a dangerous or maybe more so lazy  practice in my opinion. This is very different to obese, clinically ill people who need instant intervention before irreversible problems occur. Not lazy 50 yo’s!

And then to me the clanger. Just washing over the problems that all this causes in elite sport. We are dealing with 16 to 25 YO’s here. Once we start manipulating things then where does it all end. Sure they did mention that their argument did not apply to athletes due to WADA/ASADA rules. But the boys also did not seem too worried. I have seen Neanderthal morons promoting drugs to young kids in gyms. The evidence is there that many of these kids abuse drugs, peptides and anything.  I just got the feeling here that this chat was a feelgood one about anabolics. There is enough evidence of abuse and problems from anabolic abuse.

Just like cocaine and ice. Once you are hooked on anti ageing drugs can’t you go back I reckon.  The industry will have you hooked. HA! What if you are not diseased but just getting propped up by peptides and you get locked up in a Bali prison? You are screwed in all facets just like a junkie. Again if ill I understand, but if lazy train hard and eat well & see what happens. Then assess medication.

Asthma drugs for example are amazing for people with asthma. But clenbuterol is abused by athletes Growth Hormone is amazing for kids with severe growth deficiencies. HRT is amazing for women with serious problems or post hysterectomy. We all get that. And “anti-ageing” medication will have a critical place in the treatment of disease and health. But before taking drugs do everything possible to improve health drug free. And we now have the wonderful prospect of genetic testing which gets a bad rap. Soon this will allow us to predict our health risks and take precautions along the way. Much better than the next great pill.

But thank heaven that we have WADA and ASADA and there is some “stopper” on some lunatics in society that would chuck anything and everything down their throat or jab anything if all these “wonderful” anabolics were freely available.  Anabolics will evolve now and that is scary. So yep ban them in sport.

Obvious specific, targetted use for health and disease is the aim.

Again a very odd one on SEN. But in my opinion they should have emphasised the need for regulation of this medication in elite sport given sport is played by healthy young kids. I just didn’t get that perspective  from the chat. That was probably my main issue!












April 16, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The AFL Fitness “Arms Race” and equalization. Is there a better way?

Recently much has been spoken about the Fitness Arms Race and also equalization. Patrick Smith wrote an article about this issue and link is below. But is there a better and smarter way to develop a winning AFL team?

Patrick Smith: Secret to an even AFL Competition is limiting money spent on Football Operations.

I have been out of the cut and thrust of AFL fitness since 2007 but have worked in elite sport since. Much has changed in the AFL and the explosion in spending has been massive. Staff costs has spiralled and ‘gurus” have come out of the woodwork. Clubs in my opinion have panicked and simply jumped on the “arms race” train.

There is no doubt that having quality facilities is critical. And also having large patches of grass without cricket pitches is an obvious. Pristine medical and recovery areas, well set up gym and then the “other”. Even to the point of attracting players in the new free market.

But so many “gurus” have jumped up above $250,000 a year now and given the Sports Science meltdown recently, we have seen Demetrious resolve to up the presence of medical staff. On the one hand that is an honorable aim but cynically it will mean budgets have to be stretched further to accommodate medical staff increases. And someone still has to do the hands on rehabilitation and fitness and that won’t be these new staff additions. Maybe that may be counterbalanced by more physiotherapists with sports science qualifications also to allow double dipping for clubs. Otherwise more money! Or less to fitness staff & more to medicos. But  off we go again with another cost addition and more people drinking coffee in the footy dept reading the Herald Sun on a Monday morning!

One area of great discussion is spending on Sports Science and it’s relationship to success. Where I become a squeak cynical is when I see research papers spinning out of pre-season programs. The FOR argument is to ascertain whether initiatives work for specific sports IE Altitude & AFL. The AGAINST argument is that Sports Scientists are keen to get their name on papers maybe more than winning games & universities crave elite athletes for research. Big call maybe and research is critical but I always was of the opinion that if “research projects” got in the way of a quick change needed in a program due to fatigue, injuries or losses then “research projects” went first.

And I do not want to discuss the physiological gains of altitude and heat adaptation training. But when someone writes that one advantage of going to ARIZONA for such and such a physiological benefit is also TEAM BONDING blah blah I say crap. That is simply an expensive method of TEAM BONDING. Have a comedian come in and then go to Lorne and have a camp. Geezus that is such bunkum.

And recently I wrote about the need to assist players <25 in general on lifestyle issues. To me a 1% gain in endurance and a little increase post ARIZONA in fitness when back in OZ is totally squashed with 4am late nights and smoke filled clubs and alcohol and maybe a little bit of ice.  Spending huge amounts on 1% ers in Sports Science programs when the 5 and 10% ers have not always been addressed yet ( from fitness to lifestyle)  is where I am heading. And the law of DIMINISHING RETURNS is a huge factor in how to decide how much to spend on certain Footy Dept spending needs. Simply what will give the biggest bang for buck!

I think that is what is need is some smart consultants developing some protocols for what will actually assist a club win games relative to money spent. Questions need to be answered such as spending on quality rehabilitation staff and soft tissue therapists/massage. Does one invest massive amounts on very specific and expensive camps and sports science initiatives OR spread the funds around so that many experts and consultants can be accessed and contribute to the needs of the team. From massage to yoga to pilates to speed development to biomechanics to accessing the best rehab specialists one off etc. My last foray into AFL was when I presented a consultancy to the Western Bulldogs on their ACL injury problems and their Strength and Speed programs. I thought I was in a good position to actually deliver a very specific report/s to the club on where they should head in the future.

My gut feeling is that if a club did a lot of research and said we only have $X to spend on medical and fitness and want to maximize every dollar and get maximum effect in it’s relationship to winning games and maximizing individual athletic performance then some clubs could save 30 to 50% on their budgets and still win enough games. Too many managers have never managed elite athletes in a variety of sports and have little understanding of what goes into the long term development of elite athletes and teams. Yet they are often the ones that panic and get sucked into the ‘arms race” vortex. Rich clubs are just that, rich clubs and overall this will help. But there are ways of saving money and achieving maximum performance on the ground.

Coaching is still a hands on process and clubs have to be strong and not get sucked in to paying massive salaries because a team that did, won the flag or improved. Too simplistic.

The whole of the Geelong “super” list was developed on a total shoestring budget. Would not cut it now but the lesson is that coaching is not just about throwing money and stepping into chambers willy nilly. Those players endured till 2011.  It is about that delicate balance between science and coaching. Sports science and evidence based research is critical. But teaching someone how to jump properly and run properly also is.

At AAP we are big on our sports science with GPS,  Biomechanical analysis, and relationships with cutting edge medical and sports science staff and businesses. But we also strive to coach elite athletes hands on.

Jamaica’s sprint supremacy has come about because they realized that they needed to train in Jamaica and stop going to US colleges which have amazing facilities. A few great coaches set up in Jamaica and they often train on grass ovals and in basic gyms. But their method is cutting edge. And they do source expertise world wide for specific rehab and training needs. But still pretty amazing what has happened.

So all I am saying is that  maybe, maybe AFL success is not simply linked to more money spent. Great coaches, elite training methods and maybe less gurus. And remember the LAW of DIMINISHING RETURNS!

March 22, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My position on the current situation in Australian Sport

This is really sad to see on the one hand but great because it will weed out the money hungry “freaks” and charlatans who do not understand the process of hard and smart training and the adaptive responses over many years achieved by proper training.

Obviously this whole saga hits home with me because I was the fitness adviser at Geelong Football club till April 2006 ( from 1998). So I supervised the development of the list from 1999. By 2004/2005 they were successful in finals. Not ready to win a flag but ready to win finals.

I was very strict in the development of these young boys. Added to this I had no money in the budget. But because of my experience, I always emphasized that they had to spend a number of years training day in and day out on the track and in the gym before we even considered a humble protein powder. The reason for this was simple. Learn to eat properly and train hard and adapt and get to 90% of your physical potential by 21 with good habits.

But what is really sad is the fact that so many new people have flooded into the market place of Strength and Conditioning and Sports Science and very few have actually coached. They have simply leapfrogged jobs from club to club, or institute to institute and then become instant experts because they attached themselves to some transient success or method.

Added to this the “ART” of playing the game vs knowing the game becomes more important. Maintaining political alliances, self promotion and selling little panaceas ( ie altitude for example).

AFL players are not elite athletes. They don’t have to get to the 1% that a 100m runner might have to get to. IE It is hard to run < 10.5 electric , very rare to run 10 flat so how he hell do you get to running 9.8 , let alone 9.6! Genetics plus amazing training and sometimes people become suspicious.

An AFL player has to be fit , strong and able to repeat speed all day. Whether all the team is at 99.9% physically or 96% probably doesn’t matter. Added to this is the fact these are young babies that are drafted. It will take them 4 to 6 hard pre season to adapt. And it takes a few years before they stop going out all night to night clubs and trashing themselves. IE Forget the 1% ers.

And that is the other big factor. These are young ( sometimes uneducated & naive) babies that walk into AFL clubs from TAC system. Why in hell would some looney tunes charlatan fill an 18yo up with supplements when they haven’t even trained hard before! And duty of care to parents! And forget the unforgivable behavior that we are hearing about now.

Another problem is inexperienced management making poor decisions hiring people. Added to this is that some staff are now earning 300,000 and 400,000 dollars a year. But in reality many of these people could not even take an elite athlete through a multi – facted program. Hard to believe! Some of these people are awesome but some of these recent expensive hirings have never done day in and day out strength and conditioning or elite coaching of runners and athletes.

They have just leapfrogged their way up the ladder ASAP and then done some fancy Sports Science analysis. Sports Science is critical. The data is critical and is a 5 to 10% in a program. That’s it. The theory and science behind how you train is the key. The data is there to assist in decision making on a program.

So let’s hope that ESSA can regulate the industry and that due diligence and duty of care is done in these clubs. And more so lets remember there are few quick fixes. Just hard smart and consistent training. The average age of success for most sports is 25 and 26 and that’s it. Takes time!









February 7, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Running with the Ball in Soccer: How Much, How Often, How Fast?

Fitness training with the ball is the mainstay of the strength and conditioning philosophy of the FFA and of course the evolution of Small Side Games at junior levels has seen an awesome improvement in player development in particular at pre-pubertal ages. But still we have many points of difference in how to approach football specific conditioning.

Searching research for how much time a player possesses a ball in a match I was surprised to find in a study by Carling that this was only 1.7% of the total distance. Now an approximate total distance for elite soccer is 11km so that is approximately 200m with the ball in a game.

Added to that is that on average players possess a ball 35 to 50 times a match and then that is for very few touches. And outside the scope of this article is that usually these possessions are at some speed. So like AFL the ability to kick to moving targets is critical and the ability to make space is also critical.

Obviously more goals are scored when teams cannot close space as efficiently on average. And also obvious that when a player does touch the ball, it is critical that they possess the highest skill level and decision making ability. But this decision making ability extends also to running without the ball to make space or create a “torres” type run.

Another study from Italy coughed up slightly different stats but still probably less than what one would come up with if asked.


So we have the dogma that players must train with the ball all day but 98.3% of a game is without a ball in one study and the one above well over 90%. And of course we get smashed ad nauseum with fact that Asian teams junk run in World Cups relative to European teams. Well if they didn’t chase arse they would get beaten 10 zero. Simply in Europe and South America, football is the NO 1 sport so gets the best of everything.And players compete in leagues where decision making is enhanced.  The US team has to compensate for a slight technical deficiency & probably decision making ability probably with fitness. Not a bad idea given the above statistics. In an ideal world the higher skill level and the less junk running the better. That is a no brainer! But in reality skill errors, wind, fatigue, stress whatever creates massive permutations and combinations in any team game.

So it is obvious that in that 1.7% of the game players must be highly efficient but with 98.3% of the game involving running, one can see why Nations like Germany and clubs like Galatasaray have used Athletes Performance to underpin their fitness programs. IE Think of that. A US company running fitness in the heartland of football!

This debate has a way to go in OZ. The A League is a poor reflection of what is best practice. A better reflection maybe has been the poor results in Junior International competitions so far with our new philosophies. Did we break what was fixed and simply should have we left what was fixed untouched (i.e. AIS influence etc) and simply added the no-brainer? IE Develop better skills and better decision making abilities to complement the systems that were in place. All AFL coaches crave players that can kick accurately under pressure even though this might only be 5 times. And so this again is critical in Soccer. But what about the other 98.3%?

January 6, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

TAC system is flawed

Paul Roos has often spoken about the gap that exists between the U/18 AFL/TAC system and the actual AFL competition. It is often debated also that the old U/19 system was superior to the current U/18 system.

Paul Roos on Gap between U/18 & AFL

The other issue is education. The AFL has changed it’s age policy to make sure players complete their VCE. But there still is concern about players putting more emphasis on making the cut at the draft rather than working on their education. And in reality few make it through, but many put their heart and soul into the quest to get drafted. Anecdotally I have been told there is a literacy problem with young players.

Quote off Wikipedia: “From the 2009 draft, players must be at least 18 years of age on 31 December in the year in which they are drafted, so that players who turn 18 during their first months of Year 12 will be able to finish studying without the pressure of AFL. This was increased over the past few years due to concerns about school age players potentially having to leave home to play football interstate.”

It is obvious the AFL simply copied the US system of drafting. But the massive difference is that in the NFL one has to have technically done years of college so average age is always 20 + and even in the NBL the average is well above that of the AFL with the player needing to be 19+ from what I can gather. So they are proven talents in college able to win games in pressure games. They are privy to fully professional fitness programs and simply are men. So less of a gamble for clubs as against 18yo babies who six months before the draft are walking off trams in long school socks.

That’s it. worldwide systems simply revolve around buying the best talent. So the best are usually 25 average.

In 2002 I presented a powerpoint that said AFL was not an elite competition.


What I meant was that it was biased young and clubs were forced to continually stock up talent for the future even though that could take 5 to 8 years to provide success. And in the end the AFL is not a development program. It is a cut throat business where winning or giving supporters and stakeholders the hope of success being the NO 1 aim.

We are now seeing the evolution of the mature age rookie and an issue occurring where young TAC players are being overlooked for more mature players who with some development will provide instant impact. IE Win games! The problem is then that if a player is not drafted they go back to VFL/SANFL etc where the development is simply not as good. IE The old U/19 system meant players were a year older but more significantly could play reserves ( VFL) is there were injuries in senior team and also trained in the same areas/gyms as the senior list. Not saying to go back to that system but the competition should be probably U/20 and far more professional.

What people forget about the Geelong ‘super” team is that some players were drafted in 96, some in 97,98 then a big block in 99 and the rest 2000. That was the core. They played finals in 2004 but with older players around, then won in 2007, but still with players drafted from mid 90’s in there also!

So watching the AFL draft televised is really like watching BIG BROTHER auditioning in a kindergarten for participants. All this excitement in the 2012 draft for the 2107 season at least.

It seems that a club like Melbourne shot itself in the foot when Dean Bailey was shown the door. Lots of early draft picks and some wins on board with Bailey. Then a crap year because of a revolution in 2012. Then heaps of players thrown out and lots of mature age recycled players in 2013. IE they need some wins to survive as a coaching group, business and maybe even entity. So the whole development program was not given time. Brisbane in Voss’s 1st year shot itself in the foot by stalling development and stocking the team with recycled players. Thus the process had to start again and that simply takes years!

Compare this to Geelong & ST Kilda. Both teams had good lists in th early 2000’s  ( St Kilda’s more highly rated in draft) and at least after 7 to 8 years ( not 3!) they performed at a high level with very little change in the lists.

What I see now is an odd system when it comes to development. The TAC system is a system or “fishbowl” of its own. Players and parents feel in my opinion they have made it into the AFL system when they get selected in U/16 groups. The stats show 1) Very few get drafted & 2) More importantly young players need 3 years plus to have a ‘winning” impact on AFL teams.

Fitness staff in the AFL are on big salaries now but often it is better working at MACCAS than doing fitness at a TAC club. So the reality is that only the strongest will survive this system and once drafted this “strongest”  often becomes the weak link of an AFL team.

Oddly the AFL clubs that understand the system is too young have the best success with development. For example Collingwood and Sydney. Once you understand the need to either wait a few years or be selective in how development occurs then success can be maintained. And obviously West Coast Eagles have done a great job at re developing after 2005 team,  but in the end their older players still had to fire.

Physically it is a massive ask for TAC kids and I see many in my business that are so fit aerobically and can run a bit ( poor form usually) but are years behind in their overall development.Often lacking is core development, strength and conditioning, pure power and speed, ability to repeat speed and simply not having finalized maturation!

But so many people and managers pump their tyres up, that they perceive themselves as super athletes where nirvana is getting drafted. And few realize they need help urgently!

More to come!






December 29, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

GPS analysis of VRDL Roller Derby Bout 6 Oct 13

Pretty picture from Game 2 of GPS tracking.

I want to keep my initial analysis very brief after doing GPS at the VRDL Oct 13 Roller Derby bout in the Melbourne Showgrounds tent that allows GPS analysis. I will further dissect all this later with regards to impacts, G forces and perceived exertion ratings. What I also need is a work rest ratio of players and also what they did, block or jam.

Simply there were a few things that seemed to come out of this:

1. Length of warmups and lack of intensity in warmups. Just odd. Low intensity, high volume warmup. No accelerations, speed etc.Everyone does it so probably just become norm but doesn’t make a lot of sense.

2. Heart rate differences between combo blockers/jammers versus mainly jammers. Inference here is that Jammers are almost exclusively a power, high level anaerobic sport ( unless every jam went for 2 minutes non stop!).

3. Blockers may ( I say may!) have to be more aerobic and stronger. Just like front rowers in rugby union. Slow speed but constant motion. Throw that out there. Sort of robbing Peter to pay Paul when creating too many combo players. But of course this all relates to numbers in teams, penalties etc. Simplistically so far there is a trend and this trend relates o how you would train people.

Leave it there for now. I will download a few pretty tables & graphs and then analyze the data in depth plus stats from games and who did what. In a week I will provide a more detailed analysis aligned with stats and work rest ratios from games. Just need another set of data more so of blockers.

Below is a simple analysis. Speed is above 5 msec and accelerations are above a certain level. Pop mainly blocked.



Note Skate only jammed in GAME 2 and lower heart rates.

And here is a pretty graph!

October 17, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Personal Trainers: Opportunities at Advanced Athletes Performance Preston

We are looking for 3 switched on Personal Trainers that are interested in running their own businesses at our High Performance Centre – Advanced Athletes Performance – in the inner melbourne suburb of Preston.

An ability to run your own business from our Centre as a licencee. Rent free period to build your business. Plenty of qualified leads straight away. If there are trainers sick of working in Parks & out of the boot of their car or don’t have enough $$ for all the required equipment or need a real home for their clients to train in all weather conditions……this could be for you.Have the added motivational advantage of training clients amongst Olympians & Elite sports stars.

September 14, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fitness, Sports Science,Socceroos and FFA. Optimal Preparation?

Hopefully our Socceroos win their home games and qualify. So important for the sport and they should be good enough to do that. Interesting to follow through how the young German team has used Athletes Performance in the US for their fitness program and how we have dismantled ours since the Hiddink, Dutch invasion.

Athletes Performance, Football and Wall Street Journal!

In the past few years we have seen most of our junior teams not make it through to competitions such as Olympics and World Championships. We have seen the development of soccer specific fitness mantras since the Dutch revolution invaded OZ Soccer post Hiddink. There is no doubt that we do not have the pool of technically gifted players in Australia. But what we did have was a powerful AIS and institute program which prepared players physically far better than traditional Football nations do. This has been dismantled and the mantra is do it with the ball. That simplistically makes sense but development is stifled when this approach takes place. In the end Nations simply pick their best players for teams. And the reasons for being selected are multifactorial. Technical & tactical nous, experience at high level, proven products, speed, agility, power & endurance and so on.

Our one advantage over other nations in my opinion was that we were bigger, faster, stronger and nastier, not better players or more skillful teams. Interesting comments below from Shad Forsythe who talks about the traditional nature of training in Football. And very odd that European nations would use a US company! Plus look at the age of German Team. Something for FFA to think about. Should have they had a comprehensive Skills and Fitness program in place since Hiddink? Not just Skills?

I think the questions now have to be raised about Verhajen’s influence and the Dutch influence on a Fitness program ( not technical/tactical skills) that was ahead of the world. We were producing fit, tough players. His concepts are simplistic, obvious and geared towards preparing a mature, skilled team. Not development.

Brisbane Roar is a terrible example for OZ Soccer. A diluted A league with few teams and lowish standard should not be used as an example of a Soccer Specific fitness program. Also many overseas and older players with mature bodies confuse this approach.

I think the FFA has to critically look at the one advantage we had in Australia in football. Fitness and Sports Science. Soccer is probably NO 4 sport in OZ. We do not have the talent pool that a country like Holland or Brazil does. Kids do not go to bed with their soccer ball. But we have a great country where kids play heaps of sports and lots of good weather. Just tough, fit kids! Let’s make sure we take advantage of our sports mad country and also AIS/Insititute and Sports Science expertise.

With the current FFA policy for fitness, development of young players is stifled and so many young players are poorly developed physically at young ages and will not progress. Talented and Skilful players will in fact be lost in the process because they lack physical ability. A paradox ( if that is the right word!).

Read the articles below. And realize how many AFL clubs use the same facilities in the US. Maybe we have been Gus “Hoodwinked”.

From Wall Street Journal Article, Shad Forsthye , Athletes Performance fitness Guru for Germany.

28 Jun 2012 – “Soccer is behind the rest of the traditional sports when it comes to fitness,” said Shad Forsythe, the AthletesPerformance specialist. d appearances made by Italy’s squad.

“Even though Germany’s squad is the youngest at Euro 2012, with an average age of just 24 years and 11 months, the German players have made a combined 835 appearances for the national team, almost 40% more than the 610 combined appearances made by Italy’s squad

Germans Mobilize the Pace Corps – WSJ.com

Athletes Performance, Shad Forsythe,fitness and German Football



September 12, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The “fitness arms race” in Australian Rules Football. Is it justified?

There has been an amazing amount of press about fitness gurus in the AFL recently. Obviously the saga at Essendon Football Club with Dean Robinson and the injury rate has created heaps of discussion. Now we have the rush to get the services of Darren Burgess, who is currently at Liverpool. Rumours surround the signing of Michael Malthouse and possibilities with David Buttifant from Collingwood. Western Bulldogs signed Bill Davoren a few years ago who was head coach for the AIS Triathlon Program. Guru status often gets bestowed on whoever wins the finals series. Clubs are jostling for the next panacea in Sports Science. I don’t want to comment on the competencies of fitness staff and individual decisions. Tough gig AFL and many good people involved. ( Maybe not gurus!)  Just the business practices ( or lack of) and often total lack of scrutiny with CV’s etc. Often very smart business people on Boards throw out all their objectivity when involved in sports such as AFL and jump on the percpetion based, panic buying, profile chase to keep fans and media and stakeholders happy for  another year. Then hope with fingers crossed that they will make finals!

Darren Burgess Liverpool Fitness to AFL again! $350,000 plus?

It is difficult to know what a club like Essendon spent on fitness in 2011/2012? But huge amounts! Winners are grinners. Do well & justified! Thats life.

Only as far back as 2003 at Geelong pretty much the fitness budget would have been 140/150,000 tops for all staff. Maybe 10,000 approx for equipment. The odd consultant. Wee bit of sports science money, maybe 10 to 15,000 max…I cannot remember exact amounts but simply not  a lot. Anyway that was the key period for the development of the super Geelong Team of 2007 onwards. How did I manage it? Simply paid heaps of part timers small amounts to oversee varied functions. Mark Spivey was F/T but on a low wage and Chris Dennis was very much part time. Tahi Reihana received next to nothing to help with weights and tackling and same with John Minns in the gym. Then I had a yoga teacher come in and varied consultants like Mark Sayers pop in for very lowly paid consultancies. There were a few other small gigs and some work experience students doing odd jobs. OK different era but by 2006 the job was almost done with this team.

Now there is a rush to not miss out. But is best “business practice” and “Sports Science practice” being observed.

How many of these gurus have coached over long periods? Decades? Have they just slotted into transient positions and fell into well organized clubs and more so developed and talented elite athletes. In the end coaching is the key component , not Sports Science.

Are some of these very inexperienced Football Managers not doing due diligence on scrutinizing past Coaching experience and simply making assumptions? Do these managers ( many who have never managed business or organizations of any relevance) understand the difference between Sports Science and Coaching? Are many just trying to hang onto highly paid jobs!

And by giving some guru massive salaries, who is going to do the work? Supervising Pilates sessions, weights sessions, pool sessions etc. Does the club then have to draw the line on accessing consultants for specific needs because a Guru has sucked the budget. Can the club afford a sprint coach and quality massuers and simply expertise to underpin the multifactorial fitness and rehab needs of an AFL Footy Department.

My model would be to pay a competent quality person a good salary but leave heaps for lots of expertise in the fitness area so that all individual needs can be met. Spread the money. In the end it is the law of diminishing returns. For every extra 100,000 one pays a GURU one gets less and less value. Pay 195,000 a year and get a really really good person and have thousands left over.

Sports Science is critical and costs money, rehab experts and consultants are critical and should be called in on demand. Different periods of the year need different staff. Pay someone 200,000 and have 150,000 left over and wow get some amazing expertise out there. If an assistant deems themelves a guru and wants double then say ciao!

In a micro fashion that was how I operated. Training started at 2pm and at 12 30 all my part timers arrived and had specific gigs. And at 5pm off they went. We are talking elite operators.

But inexperienced managers get handed millions and then go for profile and perception to justify positions to Boards, the media and fans. And this approach works in the short term. But now we are seeing many failures since the mid 2000’s. Boards should ask staff to justify every cent. There is no panacea in exotic treadmills or amazing machines. Running on grass is the number requirement for an AFL fitness program. What is needed is Expertise and access to the amazing amount of varied knowledge that exists now in the Sports Science and Rehab Community. A guru cannot do it all. But a smart manager can access the best minds and then pull together a program but more so cater for the fine tuning needed. A football department now cannot do it all, let alone a guru. The next big thing is simply accessing people on demand.

I wrote a an article on if a possible model exists for success in the AFL. Certainly finances pay a part, as does talent, but there does seem to be a general model that can be adhered to. In fact Essendon and next Richmond represent ideal age structures to fit the model around.

Model for Success in the AFL. Does one exist?

I think Club Management and Accountants and CEO’s need to go through the rationales for buying equipment, panic hiring of “gurus” and indiscriminate “profile” based staff recruitment and objectively ascertain whether due diligence was adhered to.

But in the end winners are grinners so whoever wins will be copied. Odd when we are talking about a sport only played in a few states of Australia. So I do think the ARMS RACE is justified in AFL for fitness but beware the GURU and beware panaceas. The trick is how to spend the money and who is given the credit card!

September 5, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

GPS monitoring of Roller Derby VRDL vs SSRG. Initial data Physiological Status of Roller Derby

MEB-AAP Sports Science Consultancy

* Apologies to Calamity Maim who has been called “Main” below!

Last Saturday night the Victorian Roller Derby League All Stars played the Sun State Roller Girls at the Melbourne Show Grounds.

Myself, Peter Venticich and Liam Annett went to the Grand Pavilion and as the  MEB-AAP Sport Science Consultancy Team] did a pilot study with GPS using 15 Hz [GPS Sports Trackers]. Luckily the signal transmitted through the tent at the Grand Pavilion which was a concern at the start of the night.

We tracked two [athletes]; Maim, a blocker and G-Banger, a jammer for VRDL All Stars.

Significantly, G-Banger was on 3 minors  in the 1st half and was managed accordingly. Her 2nd half was more indicative of a normal jammer’s workload but she probably does more work in club meets and subjectively reported it as an easy night.

Maim also felt that due to the All Stars profile & simply the way the game eventuated, she had a lesser workload.

Before we give a snapshot of the GPS tracking we asked Maim and GB for their ratings of perceived exertion for the games which then can provide a subjective load estimate for loadings. Maim rated the game as a 4 on the Borg Scale (Somewhat Hard). GB’s rated it as 4 also. Thus if we guesstimate the warmup at 30 minutes and the halves at approximately 30 minutes each that is 90 minutes of work. So her Total Body Load subjectively is 360 units. So this GPS data must be viewed relative to the RPE loadings. With lots of subjective and objective data over time, plus fitness profiling we can slowly build a physiological profile for Roller Derby.

Thus using the RPE system, one can see if Maim rates a game at 8 (Very Very Hard) this would be 720 units. This obviously is a massive difference in load. It is important to gather RPE data to synch with objective data like GPS and Heart Rate or even lactate levels to then develop a physiological profile for a sport. You can then make sense of the data and then work out Work to Rest ratios in a game and interprations for physiological profile.

The other data we need is the girls maximum heart rate so we can assess what % of their maximum they are working at. Despite what most people think there is a plus or minus of up to 30 in max HR. So we need to beeper test all the girls with Heart Rate monitors on to maximum exertion to get that data!

Also notice that a few months ago I downloaded HR for Miss Chivas in a club game and her work rest ratios were less due to a combination of jamming & blocking. [Click HERE for this]. This rep game meant that there were more choices for jammers and blockers and thus more rest than work for most players. Also Roller Derby is a game where there can be huge variations each game due to tactics, penalties, availability of jammers etc.

Loadings for Sport using Ratings Perceived Exertion (RPE) Data
LOAD = Intensity * Volume = RPE * Total Time for Game=4 * 90=360 units

The issue also about whether the game is more anaerobic ( without oxygen) or aerobic is an interesting one. From the data with GPS we have, there certainly is a need to accelerate and decelerate for jammers. So the Alactic Anaerobic Energy system needs to be developed. And in general power and speed are premium qualities required for jammers.

But a jam can go for 2 minutes and the player if free can move at 100% for 2 minutes. By then the predominant energy system becomes aerobic and more so if there is only a 1 to 1 work rest followed by another 90 secs or 120 seconds jam, the player has to use their aerobic system to recover on the bench in time for the next Jam. So the sport is complicated and at the end of a close game, with penalties and injuries a jammer’s aerobic system could be the difference between winning and losing a game. So in reality it is an intermittent or repeat effort/repeat speed sport where power and speed are critical but at the other end of the spectrum aerobic energy systems have to be sufficiently developed to enhance recovery between jams. So simply an individual approach must be taken with training Roller Derby for fitness. Simply a needs analysis. So in the next few months we will try and create some physiological profile for the sport.

So below are two charts to show you how the energy systems interact and some indicator of how it could all work in Roller Derby.

Oxidative is the aerobic energy system.

G-Bangers’s GPS Tracked Movement for Entire Game + Warm Up / Cool Down. The different colours are different speed zones.

The Speed data in the graphs appears as blue lines as below and heart rate as red. Below is a few minutes of a jam and a rest. Obviously one can dump masses of data onto excel and then analyze it but the GPSports Software provides a nice package at first glance.

So lets look at some of the data but I think we need to do lots more GPS profiling and also fitness profiling as suggested of players.

First Half for Jammer at VRDL vs Sun State Roller Girls. GB’s 1st Half . Max Heart Rate – 192 beats per minute. Average Heart Rate – 133 beats per minute  * Middle section was time in penalty box

Second Half for Jammer at VRDL vs Sun State Roller Girls. GB’s 2nd Half . Max Heart Rate – 189 beats per minute. Average Heart Rate – 129 beats per minute * pretty soft night!

Maim’s 1st Half ( Blocker)

Now some of the speed data from GPS, plus distance travelled in speed zones.

Below are the Heart Rate Zones but we simply need to know players Max HR’s before we make too many deductions. The interesting data below is the IMPACT data from accelerometer on GPS unit. In the 2nd half G-Banger had 2 10+ g force impacts. These are severe impacts so may have been falls or hits. So data  needs to be synched with video or tagged.

Below is a scale of impacts from accelerometers. So we just have to find out whether these are hits or falls?


Other data such as accelerations and decelerations ( important data)  and total body load can be gleaned from data but above is just an example of how a physiological profile can be achieved. Work Rest ratios can also be assessed for games and obviously in games such as these, more players, penalties, time outs and so much can impact.

The obvious initial data suggests that there is a lot of acceleration/deceleration and surges. The RPE data and loads suggested a “soft” game for the players tracked. But the sport is intermittent. There are constant rests and in the perfect world it is 2 minutes on and 2 minutes off. Doesn’t work out that way but reality is that there is time to recover. But once we collect more data and look at how long jams were and what was done in them and whether blockers need rest then we can start creating a physiological profile.

But again look at the graph of the energy systems. Look at the interplay that occurs before 2 minutes and realize how different physiologically one game can be relative to another depending on numbers in team, penalties and tactics.

Ultimately aim is to be able to individualize training programs for players from the data for the sport of Roller Derby. Look forward to the next 2 bouts and lots of data!

Thanks again to AAP’s major sponsor for Sports Science Project MEB Foods and minor sponsor STAMBOS.


MEB Foods and Advanced Athletes Performance

* Apologies to MAIM: some of the charts have you as ‘main”.

September 4, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 13 Comments