A real world account of Load Management.

The main objective for strength and conditioning coach and the number one rule is do no harm. Now with that being said sometimes it is a lot easier in principle than practicality. I say this because I will present you now real-world account of low management of a professional athlete. The confidentiality purposes the athlete will remain nameless and some details may have been changed to protect other parties and provide respect to the industry as a whole.

This case has probably being the most sensitive issue revolving around load management that I have had to work with but this has taught me a very valuable lesson. This lesson is that the body can tolerate a lot more than you think it can. Now I’m going to dig into the details and describe how this situation came about.


Given the nature professional professional sport there are frequent transfers and lots of change with regards to personnel in a team. This is part and parcel of the goal centered approach or professional sport and is largely impacted by the business end of the financial constructs in and around the game. The player in question arrived at the club I was with at the time not having completed a preseason and had been playing overseas in what I would call a less fortunate full-time environment. Sorry immediately it was very easy to establish that this player wasn’t physically prepared to withstand the demands of the game. After further investigation we had established that this player had and extensive injury history revolving around key joints of the body that are linked movements and high-speed mechanical load also not to mention this play out was a skill position practitioner. To add to this the week of arrival this player was meant to be making his debut for this club. So when you combine all those factors you essentially have a ticking time bomb waiting to erupt. So myself and my colleagues had to come up with a strategy that involved around three important points.

  1. Keep this player injury free.
  2. Enabled this player to train and learn the way the squad play.
  3. Bring up all of the physical inadequacies without compromising performance.


Like anything with regards to the physical change of human we had to view this as an experiment because we couldn’t say that this player had to train four or five weeks two then be ready to play because that was completely out of the question. This player arrived on the Monday and had to play on the Saturday as we had no other choice. So we had to make all these changes in and around pre-existing program with a squad that we had put multiple weeks and training cycles into so that they were physically prepared to withstand the load of competition training and performance.  Therefore, with the ethane question we decided to categorize training into two specific areas these were; developmental training and stressful training.  Basically we had to look at training that would hold a higher degree of risk to injury given the athletes current state and immediate medical history versus the amount of training that we could stimulate the athlete to provide positive training effect. As you can see from the picture we had to consider the triad of on feet demands, positional skill load, and gym work.  Within these areas we identified that the first two areas would be areas detrimental to the athletes’ health where is the gym work would be the area that would protect the athletes’ health. As we knew that the athlete in particular could not withstand a full training week Anna match the consecutive weeks we set about the task of ringing what was very vital personnel to the squad up to the level of the squad. This was our plan of development.


Firstly we obviously knew that we had to restrict the amount of total distance covered by GPS metrics are We also knew that we had to restrict a certain amount of training stress (RPE x Time) therefore these were the two metrics that we decided to monitor very closely.  We also had a medically lead net check that was looked into everyday in conjunction with daily readiness to monitor the reaction to training. This is what we felt would have helped as keep the player injury free. To ensure that the player learnt the game plan and understood the patterns of play he was unable to perform the position group specific skills for the week but only participate in the squad sessions on a restricted basis. With our GPS metrics quantify the weekly load via various metrics. One of which is percentage of maximum speed. Now you might ask how did we know what is maximum speed was, Well given the nature of his position and the fact that he was due to play the first weekend we actually shows his top speed based on the fastest he achieved in the competitive match of the first week. As we know that we couldn’t Open Pandora’s box to maximum velocity sprinting with someone who was compromised in various contraindications we knew that basing his highest level of velocity stress off of the highest he achieved in the game would give us a general idea as to how stressful the on feet work is.  The table included below shows the total distance covered within the first six weeks of the athlete joining the club. As you can see based against the positional average we try to keep the total on feet volume as close to as possible but what we did is scale back his intensity of work. Given the exceptional circumstances that we faced we had to keep the player in particular training as much as possible. After the first week we prospectively planned the following five weeks of on feet volume inclusive of an worst case Match load and use this as a guide. The technical coaches then used this distance given to them prioritize what training the player would perform. Typically, the player was removed from the more intensive means of training and participated in all of the ‘learning’ blocks. This was similar case with the training stress monitoring.  The relationship was congruent with that of the GPS. Lastly as this player was a goalkicker we had to place a restriction on the amount of kicks performed during the week as this was a high risk factor action for the individual. Initially we used a little bit of commonsense and asked the individual how many kicks they would do in normal kicking session. We regressed back from there to what we felt when considering all the other factors in place what would be the most tolerable load.  Initially we did not look to increase this we just wanted to maintain it whilst increasing and stabilizing other areas of training stress. Upon reflection from a skill acquisition point of view of goal kicking by restricting the total amount of kicks we actually achieved a higher level of Application from this individual that resultantly  increased successful Match performance kicking outcomes.



Player A

Position Category Average



8243 11893 3650


7399 7466 67


6717 8370 1652


5812 6638 827


9766 13691 3925


3128 4642 1514


With the stressful training that we considered words pose the highest risk of injury to the athlete under control we had to consider how we were going to provide the necessary input in achieving physiological change to enhance this players performance and capacity to withstand work. Again we had to consistently placed reference against the positional category average of training load to gauge what stress we could place upon the athlete and then in collaboration with the medical team at the club we constructed a physical development plan. Again this approach was linear in nature restricted of compound movements to avoid overstressing the CNS and with a high degree of emphasis on local capacity, intra and inter muscular coordination and relative strength.   When considering Central adaptation of cardiovascular and respiratory function due to the fact that they intensity of on feet running was restricted we merely replaced this with off feet work.  This was strategically placed throughout the week to maximize the athletes’ development.  Ultimately we also used competition to illicit Energy system development. As we can all agree this is not ideal but unfortunately this was the reality that we were dealing with in this very unique situation.


Thankfully the player in question remained healthy and performance metrics are increased as the weeks went on. The play was subject to many discussions within the multidisciplinary team at the club in question and was a high priority for four months. Upon reflection to this process I felt that we had managed this will well enough as the player did remain healthy but I feel then maybe we could have done more interesting the athlete in other ways to help bring up his physical capacity such as swimming etc.

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