Clubhouse: Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

Hockey Magazine - Summer - Harder Better Faster Stronger

Elite hockey players consistently push their bodies to the very limit. Helping them along the way are the experts at the English Institute of Sport, whose job is to ensure England’s stars are in the best possible shape – both on and off the pitch.

England Hockey’s decision to centralise its training programmes at Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre has brought with it many benefits, but one of the most significant has undoubtedly been the increased interaction with the English Institute of Sport (EIS) and their array of experts in fields as diverse as strength and conditioning (S&C), physiotherapy, psychology and nutrition.

We spoke to some of the staff charged with helping Barry Middleton and Kate Richardson-Walsh be the best they can be to try and understand just how much work goes into performing on the international stage.

Andrew Hudson, Head of Physical Preparation

Talk us through your role…

AH: I work with both the senior men’s and women’s teams as well as the players on the development pathway, although my day-to-day is orientated towards the men as Ben Rosenblatt does the strength and conditioning for the women’s programme and Matt Bramhall does it for the development pathway. But a key part of my job is integrating the various sports science disciplines – things like nutrition, medical support and so on – into the programme and making sure the team has all the information they need.

What does a typical week of training with the squad involve?

AH: Each team is probably looking at between eight to 10 hours of pitch training. I’ll have contact with them throughout that period and it will be supported by time away from the pitch that will be tailored to the individual based on their needs, how long they’ve been in the programme, whether they’re coming back from injury and so on.

What technology plays the biggest role in your work?

AH: GPS is used a great deal. That allows us to keep track of how hard the athletes are working and how much ground they are covering, which informs how hard we should have them working in their other disciplines.

What’s unique to hockey in comparison to other sports you’ve worked with?

AH: The speed. With the speed the ball travels at, rotational substitutions and so on, there are few, maybe no, field sports that can match the speed and intensity of elite-level hockey, so we have to orientate their training towards being able to produce really good high-quality speed efforts and also their ability to be able to repeat it.

Emma Gardner, Performance Nutritionist

Can you walk us through your role?

EG: I’ve been working with England Hockey since July 2013 and I do three days a week across both the men’s and women’s squads. I tend not to travel with them unless we’re heading to what we would call ‘compromise countries’, where there might be an issue with the available nutrition, but in other instances where I don’t travel I’ll have been in touch with the hotel or facility the team is staying at.

You’ve worked with a number of different sports, are there similarities between them and hockey?

EG: I do seem to have specialised in team sports, I’ve previously worked with the GB synchronised swimming team and I currently also work as the performance nutritionist at Northampton Saints. They’re very different sports with different performance aims, however, there are some similarities, particularly around matchday strategies.

How’s your time divided up?

EG: The most important area when they come into the England and GB squads is the amount of training and, at this time in the season, the volume of matches they have to manage, so the big focus for us is refuelling and recovery – a lot of our time goes into figuring out recovery strategies so they can maintain their energy levels. Basically we’re trying to keep the players as fit and healthy as we can so they can go out there and compete! I’d say that occupies about 60 per cent of my time and the other 40 per cent focuses on supplement strategies and looking at how we can get an extra two per cent gain in performance for them.

You can read the full interview by clicking here. If you want to read more articles like this, check out Hockey Magazine, our quarterly publication sent out to all England Hockey Members and subscribers!