With regular routines disrupted by lockdown restrictions and social distancing rules due to the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals and businesses have had to find ways to adapt. The sports world is among the sectors massively affected, with players of all sports having to be creative to keep fit and healthy while training grounds are closed, and limits are imposed on how long people can stay outdoors. The Academy players at Tottenham Hotspurs Football Club (FC), for example, have found ways to shine amidst the restrictions.
While players at all levels of professional football in the UK have had to resort to individual training, many are working collaboratively with the coaching staff of their respective clubs. Tottenham Academy players are no exemption, having liaised with their coaches to come up with fitness routines that make use of basic technology and equipment. Working from home is a reality for these players, many of whom have taken it positively and been able to maintain their work ethic, competitiveness and team spirit.
According to Under-23s coach Wayne Burnett, the coaching staff has worked to maintain daily contact with players and share fitness programmes and challenges to keep players motivated. Group meetings, made possible through video conferencing technology, is helping players engage with the group of staff that has included a psychologist who regularly works with the Academy. From the staff’s perspective, the players have been a joy to work with, and their efforts have brought positive praise.
Under normal conditions, every player would want to be back on the training field. However, with no certain date as to when life will return to normal, players are finding ways to develop and grow while adhering to the government directives on staying at home, which is key to combating the coronavirus. The players know these are difficult times, but they’re making the most of the opportunities to develop.
Many of football’s top players have well-equipped gyms at their homes, so finding the equipment and space to work out might not be as challenging. For Academy players, some of whom have dependents to look after, the Club has to be creative in keeping them active and fit. From tailored fitness programmes to football quizzes, the coaching staff is doing all it can to keep its young charges busy.
To effectively manage the entire group of Academy players, the Club’s coaching staff has divided the players between themselves, with each member responsible for a group. Players receive an activity plan through WhatsApp every morning at 9am that has details of the day’s activities. Within two hours, they’re expected to complete the initial football exercises. In the afternoon they can undertake the different challenges, and throughout the day they compile video diaries that are submitted to their designated coach. Data from the players’ heart rate monitors is analysed by the Club’s sports science team, which can provide feedback on fitness levels. For players who still have to study, enough time is allocated during the day for this.
The football-related exercises comprise challenges that test aspects such as headers, ball control, balancing and overall skill. The afternoon activities call for more brainpower, as they include video call quizzes, video presentations to groups, magic tricks, and players presenting their best Premier League XI teams with detailed explanations on their selections. The quizzes have included both football and general knowledge, while other tests have been based on the staff’s experience as ex-professional players.
With football on lockdown, maintaining high levels of physical (and intellectual) fitness during the lockdown period could be a tough challenge for many players. Academy players have every reason to devote themselves to the process, especially since many are hoping to make a good impression and move to the professional level. Kevin Neal, a former independent financial advisor who trained as a youth team player for Spurs between the ages of 12 and 15, might well understand the motivation to be consistent, even while staying at home.