As the Reds prepare to return to Oakwell for training this week, we caught up with Head of Sports Science, Luke Dopson to get his thoughts ahead of this unique situation for all involved.
I think it's been great that the lads have maintained a good level of fitness throughout the lockdown so that when we return for training we can jump in at quite a high level. That is really helpful for us moving forward. And it's going to be nice to catch up with the players again too.
We are used to living in each other's back pockets most of the season, so not to see them all for a couple of months is a little bit strange. But from what I've seen they've got a bit of a tan, which shows they've been out there in this nice weather, doing their runs and using their bikes. There's a lot more hair on some of them too! They're certainly looking a bit scruffier than they did back in March. There'll be some new looks I'm sure, but it's all for the right reasons, as everyone has been adhering to the government advice and making sure they do their best to defeat the virus.
In terms of the testing last week, the organisation around that was superb, with the drive-thru system we implemented as a club, and hopefully we are all healthy going into the first week back training.
The sessions are going to look very different to what we are all used to. Small groups of five, it's going to make it different, and challenging especially regards keeping the distances and making sure groups don't overlap. We've had to change a lot of the layout for training, and then we've the PPE measures in place as well. It's a challenge in terms of logistics first and foremost.
We envisage the activation and warm-up not looking too different, but just with the distancing involved really, being five metres apart at all times. Then we are going to be making sure everything used is then sterile, and cleaned down before the next group can come in.
But out on the pitch it is a very unique training outlook obviously. At the minute under the strict guidelines in place, it's purely non-contact. So we can't do things we would normally do. There won't be possession drills, set-piece work or five-a-side games. It's all going to be more organised and laid out, with lots of cones and individual drills. So as a sports science and coaching team we have just had to get creative really. It's about variety, but ticking all the boxes that we'd usually do in a normal football session, but in a slightly different way.
There is the positive of it though, of the challenge ahead, to do it right and to do it well. One of the key focuses for us is to keep the players engaged. We have to retain that fun we have as a group, where the lads are so eager to learn. The environment is different, but we can work together within it to get the best from the sessions.
The GPS will really come into its own for this too, so that we can really gain an understanding into which particular drills are working. We will know whether we are hitting the markers we want to each day.
But we believe we are all set, as best as we can be for the week ahead.
The players will arrive in their own training gear, they were given a bag with all they need in it, and it's going to be down to them to wash their own gear for the moment and just limit the potential of catching the virus really. So they'll get out of their car and be ready to train. Usually, they'd arrive in on a morning and they've access to the gym, to the canteen, they can get a massage, play some ping pong, PlayStation. So it's straight to work now, not quite as luxurious but they're athletes so I'm sure they'll be ready.
The feeling from the players is that they are keen to get going, they want to play, they want to compete and do the best they can to keep this club of ours in the division. Despite the current position, they'd shown some decent form before the lockdown and there's actually a lot of belief in the group that they can put something special together and get out of it. So we go into the week with hope for a brighter future, no doubt.