In 2002, one of the most successful football clubs, AC Milan, decided to invest into a center to extend player careers while reducing injuries and increasing pitch performance. Slightly over ten years later, the sports science model is the standard for all football clubs looking to find the winning edge. Now, all age groups in sport are looking to take advantage of technology and sound coaching to make training safer and more effective.
One of the emerging problems with youth sports today is injury and fatigue, the same challenges that elite football players faced and still deal with now. Valeo F.C. anticipated the need for an evidence-based approach to performance and invested into the same methodologies as professional clubs in Europe and MLS.
Today Valeo F.C. has a complete solution for the academy players, from assessment to training and monitoring. Our program is fun, rewarding, effective, and proven with the data we collect and report. Good luck with your training and recovery and welcome to the lab.
Emelio Williams, Club Director
Athletes with a well rounded program of training will be more injury resistant and durable for competition and practice. Good training and proper screening to identify areas that predispose athletes to noncontact injuries help coaches address muscular imbalances and joint restrictions early so they don’t become long term problems.
A mobile and supple body is the simplest way to keep athletes healthy and athletic. Academy players are expected to take advantage of both home and practice times to improve joint mobility and muscular flexibility.
Finally, an athlete needs the mental sharpness and discipline
necessary to hone all the skills above with the right mental training. Mental toughness with the right mindset to be consistent daily is the cornerstone to a complete performance program.
Speed is the most coveted quality of a player outside their football skills. The ability to create or reduce space on the pitch with or without the ball will enhance play, regardless of ability.
Valeo FC believes as much as necessary, not as much as possible with conditioning. An overzealous approach to conditioning leads to slow athletes, chronic fatigue, and athletes prone to injury.
The earliest group is train for fun and is about motor skill learning, similar to physical education, but with a focus of learning to move without the ball. At first glance this may seem counterintuitive to do activities that don’t incorporate more touches, but fundamental movement skills determine the ability to play at higher levels with more athleticism. During this period simple drills and games to improve locomotive (moving strategies) abilities.
The “Training to Train” period involves teaching a very subtle exposure to principles of conditioning such as warming-up, dynamic flexibility routines, and the ability to decelerate properly. A focus on handling one’s own bodyweight (internal load) before external loads are introduced. In addition to handling one’s own body, the reinforcement of posture and core (torso) integrity is taught at this stage.
Training to compete at the teenage years incorporates a traditional strength and conditioning program combined with progressive techniques to reduce injuries and improve performance. During this period athletes are welcome to put more into their training by using the Performance Lab and Mobile Monitoring system. The players are expected to understand the need to balance school and sport with a focus on sleep, nutrition, and planning.
Those that are at the highest level can give back to the Academy with guest coaching and training at the club. Good work ethic and training are ideals for role models, and the facility is a superb option for local athletes looking to take advantage of the Boston area for both medical and performance professionals.
When athletes are working with multiple professionals, having a efficient channel of communication is vital. What usually is an exchange between athlete in coach, becomes a juggling act with medical professionals, multiple coaches, and performance training personal. Also it’s important that athletes communicate in some fashion with coaches of what they can do and what they can not do. The simplest option is to play and practice pain free. Soreness may occur with athletes, but pain is signal that something is wrong and the activity that is causing pain is likely to be making things worse or retarding the rehabilitation process.
Regardless of the therapist used, the athlete is to be engaged as much as the parent in the injury by listening and learning to the medical professions supporting the athlete. Education is the best way to help with athletes being compliant and proactive with their responsibilities with a chronic or acute injury. Athletes are expected to put priority into their rehabilitation and recovery and work around injuries with alternative conditioning routines prescribed by a performance coach and or medical professional. Alternative conditioning programs are often great opportunities for athletes to become better long term as the forced rest allows athletes to catch up on sleep if needed and focus on weak links if exist.
When injured, athletes mentally get depressed from loosing the gift of playing football and the social impact of not “being with the team”. This is a normal reaction and Valeo FC encourages the athlete to do as much as the medical professionals suggest at the Academy. For example, an athlete may not be cleared to participate in games or small sided games but is allowed to practice skills. Another example is perhaps an athlete can’t go full durations of practices and athletes are cleared to go lightly every other day. The goal is not to loose fitness by elimination of practice and games because detraining will predispose an athlete to re-injury or a different injury from compensation. Working around injuries is the creative part of coaching and rehabilitation.
The most common reason why athletes get injured over and over is the simple fact that many athletes return to playing and don’t complete rehabilitation. Athletes must complete the process or be constantly dealing with impairments that reduce performance and increase the changes of getting another injury from compensation. It’s difficult to get better performance wise when athletes must be held out of games or training because they are in a chronic revolving door with sports medicine. Athletes will often feel good and use the lack of pain as a milestone to play and compete fully an cease therapy. The milestone for stopping therapy is when the injury has healed and the athlete is 100% functional with no signs of impairments. The completion of rehabilitation is not the end of the process though, as athletes must work back to restore the lost capacities of fitness and power to play at the level they were at and in a way that keeps them
from getting hurt again.
The final part of the process is the most difficult to arrange because no one metric or benchmark exists with being ready to play. When athletes complete their rehab the coach and athlete must work together to slowly integrate back into play. Sometimes the time period is short, such as a light muscular strain that lasts a few days, but after something more severe, the process is slower and more gradual. Valeo FC again is a football Academy and we error on the side of caution when we can, but the nature of injuries makes the return to play period a challenge. Sports medicine is not an exact science and neither is coaching. Valeo FC will do it’s best to work with athletes who are injured in or out of the guidance of the program and welcome new athletes with pre-existing conditions.