We caught up with Head of Sports Science here at Oakwell, Luke Dopson to find out about the club's strategy in terms of keeping the players fit during the global pandemic.
"We've had to get creative really."
With no football for the last couple of weeks and none looking forthcoming any time soon, and with the squad all confined to their homes in various parts of Europe, we thought it an ideal time to ask the main man in terms of keeping the players fit, just how he's coping on that front!
Head of Sports Science at the club for the last two years, and an Oakwell staff member since 2014, Luke Dopson is a well-respected figure in the game and a popular member of the backroom team.
Whilst admitting the many obstacles in front of him have made things increasingly difficult, he believes the club are making the best out of a tricky situation, as he tries to maintain the players' fitness levels.
“At the minute, the players have programmes that they’re following." Dopson explained.
"Obviously, that’s from home as there’s no access to the club, no access to gym facilities. So the programmes are based on everything that’s achievable within that environment.
“So it’s difficult in some respects, but on the whole I think we are managing it quite well.
“In the morning the sessions are based on activation and mobility. That’s about keeping your joints and your muscles supple. And then in the afternoon it’s just running sessions really.
“They have individual and position-specific movement and running sessions. The idea is to try and replicate game-based movement and actions. Defenders for example have shuffling to try and replicate one-v-one situations. With the strikers it’s based on sprints and bursts of speed.
“That’s mixed with your more traditional aerobic running and using the bike. But it’s obviously unchartered territory for all of us, and with some of the lads not having an ideal home environment we’re having to get clever in certain instances to try and make sure they get the work in.”
Unable to rock up at Oakwell and get out on the training ground, unable to use the gym facilities, with the country under lockdown also, the scenario is unique.
Luke tells us about the many ways that the players are trying to overcome these issues with limited resources.
“I’m sure it can look strange to people who are out walking their dogs or whatever and they’ve got Cauley Woodrow or Alex Mowatt running up and down a field, or doing their agility movements and sprints. But again, it’s such a unique situation we are in and it’s about trying to adapt I suppose.
“A lot of what we do at the club nowadays is strength based and working in the gym, so that’s another area where we have had to be creative with certain players who possibly haven’t got any weights or gym equipment at home.
“So some of the lads have sent me photos of the things they do have, and we’ve adapted the sessions using what they’ve got. As a group the players and myself use an app called Strava and they record what they’re doing so everyone can see what sessions are being done. That’s something I then track and put into a little league table, which was Gerhard’s idea actually, which has worked really well, as it gives them an idea of who’s doing what and gives some competition to the training.
“Last week it was Patrick Schmidt who was the runaway leader, using all that green space out there in Austria, putting in the miles.”
It's a challenging time for everyone right now, not just in football, but generally, as the world tries to combat the Coronavirus.
Lives are being affected across the globe which raises concern for the wellbeing of individuals, regardless of physical condition.
This is something that Dopson and his staff are acutely aware of and also looking to manage, both professionally and on a personal level.
“As a group, myself and the coaching staff, we are always keeping in touch with the players, for both the players’ and our own mental health really. It’s really important. So I’m texting the lads and making sure they’re okay and vice versa.
“It’s very difficult not being in our natural environment, where we can coach the players, motivate them, lift them or even correct them where necessary. But sometimes the players will send video back to me of their sessions to try and get some feedback. So it’s just adapting to the situation really.”