By: Hibernian Media on 25 Jun, 2020 16:42
Jack Ross and his players returned to the Hibernian Training Centre on Monday to kick off their pre-season preparations for the new campaign, with life a little different to what they’ve been used to.
With the safety and wellbeing of that core group prioritised with the creation of a biosecure environment at HTC and new protocols to adhere to, you’ll see and hear more from the squad across Hibs TV and our social media channels when they’ve had a chance to get used to their altered environment.
In the meantime, Nathan Ring – our Head of Football Science and Medicine – was able to offer an insight into the kind of work they’ve been able to get stuck into, and the measures that have been put in place to help them get into the best possible condition for the upcoming season.
Nathan, we’re guessing this pre-season has been a little more complicated than most for you and the staff to coordinate?
Pre-season is always a busy time with all the organisation and planning that comes with it, but it’s more important than ever to ensure the day-to-day operation runs smoothly. Adding Covid-19 protocols to the planning has made everything that little bit more complicated, particularly for the coaches who are currently having to organise training sessions with social distancing measures in place. For instance, players are put into smaller groups and spread across the training day, meaning session delivery is repeated multiple times by the coaching staff plus the additional hygiene measures during and in between sessions. We also have limited access to HTC due to the Scottish FA, SPFL and Scottish Government protocols put in place. Luckily the weather has been good and we have been able to complete all our strength and conditioning work outside.
Has there been an upside for some players in terms of their general conditioning and being able to get a bit of breathing space for any niggling injuries to heal up?
Since we have returned to HTC every player has been able to get back on the grass and have the ball at their feet, which is a big positive for them all individually and also for Jack and John in terms of training numbers and being able to assess the condition they have come back in. Ryan Porteous and Stevie Mallan have both returned to full training following their respective knee injuries from last season. Joe Newell is a week away from joining the main group and Sean Mackie is likely to return to full training before the start of the new season. The extended lockdown has been beneficial from that point of view.
The flipside is that the squad may be a bit rusty in some areas. What do you and your colleagues have to watch out for?
Certainly, on the evidence of what we have seen in the first week certain players have followed the lockdown training plan better than others. The main training stimulus that the players have lacked over this period is the shorter, sharper movement associated with football - change of direction, reaction based and ball drills. Many of the players have commented how strange it felt to back training with the ball again, which didn’t involve hitting it against the wall! Jack has been mindful that we need to build up training progressively and not overload the players in the initial phases, giving consideration that we have had almost 14 weeks away from football. As we are seeing in other leagues that have returned to competitive match-play, the incident of injury appears to be higher following lockdown.
We know the players were assessed and tested before they were cleared to start training. What did that entail?
An overview of the testing protocol prior to return included:
- Return to Training Covid-19 questionnaire plus a daily symptom questionnaire and temperature check at the gate to HTC.
- Detailed doctor-led medical assessment.
- Orthopaedic and musculoskeletal assessment.
- Body composition.
- Baseline cognitive assessments.
- Heart screening.
- Physical profile i.e. ‘fitness testing’.
- Wellbeing and sleep profiling.
The club has been sticking strictly to the advice of the Scottish Government and the Scottish FA. What have the players been able to do and how do you see that changing in the coming weeks, if all goes to plan?
Training has followed a similar pattern most days starting with prehabilitation drills, into a pitch based warm-up and pitch-based conditioning work and passing drills. All these drills need to be unopposed, meaning players cannot challenge for the ball, tackle and so on. Clubs are waiting for the green light to return to contact training at present. In order for us to prepare players for friendly matches we feel we need at least two weeks of contact training to prepare safely and reduce risk of injury with at least two weeks of friendly fixtures prior to starting any competitive matches. So we are walking a tight timeline to be ready for August 1 without putting the players at unnecessary increased risk of injury.