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June 8, 2012 at 12:33 PM

Dave Tenney talks about Sounders FC’s “Sports Science and Mentorship Weekend”

Seattle Sounders FC Logo.jpgTop fitness coaches from around the world have come to town for the second annual Sounders FC’s “Sports Science and Mentorship Weekend.”

Fitness coach Dave Tenney will be the man in change of the three-day event and has brought in a number of highly qualified featured speakers: Steve Tashjian (Everton FC fitness coach), Nick Winkelman (head of education and methodology for Athletes Performance), Jan Willem Teunissen (head fitness/strength/conditioning coach for the Ajax Amsterdam youth academy) and others.

The goal, according the details posted on SoundersFC.com, are to “share the latest methodologies in soccer training, human performance, and recovery.” Tenney spoke with a few of us about the event a couple days ago:

* * *

(Can you tell us a little bit about what’s going on this weekend?) “We call it the ‘Sports Science and Mentorship Weekend.’ Last year, we had 35 coaches. This year, we’ll have 50 coaches attending; we have eight presenters. I think in terms of sports science in this country there’s no real driving force and there’s a big disconnect in the soccer world between what happens with sports science and strength conditioning and all that, and the soccer side and soccer coaches. This is the only real event that I know of in the U.S. where you have college strength conditioning coaches together with college head coaches, where they can really talk about sports science and fitness and training and fatigue and all those things that we kind of overlook in the country.”

(What was the motivation to get this started?) “Every year, as you guys know, I always go in the offseason and visit England or Holland, and my idea first was, ‘OK, that’s great, but I can only go and see so much.’ So if I have this type of weekend, then I can bring these coaches to me, and then we can benefit by educating other coaches. … I was just up in the gym talking with a guy who’s been a fitness coach in Champions League in Belgium along with the best strength conditioning coach in college in the U.S., and we’re all just talking about methodology and the Sounders’ training complex. Bringing that type of soccer fitness IQ here I think benefits us and it also fills the need of education for coaches in the country.”

(Do you feel the Sounders are on the leading edge of sports science?) “I hope so. That’s the goal and we hope these types of things benefit us and kind of keep us ahead. So my goal, personally, is how can we use technology to keep us ahead of what everyone else is doing? There are more teams that are investing more time and money in that, but I think with things like this it keeps us kind of ahead.”

(Do you feel there’s still a lot of skepticism from coaches or players regarding sports science?) “Yeah and my personal talk on the weekend is about that, too. It’s about how you have that disconnect. You have the sports scientists and you have coaches. And at the end of the day the coaches have a feel for things, which is very valid. Sports scientists are looking at data. Now we want the head coaches to make better, more informed decisions, but that only happens in the sports scientists know the right questions to ask. I feel like in the past, sports scientists haven’t really connected with the game; they haven’t always asked the right questions of the data to give the feedback to the coaches. So there’s this disconnect and the coaches didn’t really believe (the data), but I think at the end of the day sports science is a very new thing. Even what we’re doing in soccer, they’re still not doing on a daily basis in the NBA, or the NHL or especially the NFL. So it’s still in its infancy here and as we can give the coaches better answers to better questions, then they’ll be more receptive of it.”

(How’s the technology different now than when you first started with the Sounders?) “We’re always trying to quantify the load on the players every day. We’re using GPS now, as well, so GPS this year for the first time gives us a better mechanical load. So as we use better technology, every year I think we kind of refine the process of measuring the load on the players a little bit better.”

(You ever talk to old-school guys like Alan Hinton about this stuff?) “You’re always going to have that kind of give-and-take and dialogue. The traditional coaches claim you can do everything on feel and intuition. And there’s always intuition and data. What we want to do, which maybe sometimes Alan isn’t used to that whole thing, is we want to use data to help inform them on their intuitions, and that’s it. What I always say is intuition is probably right about 80 percent of the time, because you can have a feel for things, but there are some things that go on in athletes’ bodies that you just can’t see. And players are really good at hiding things, too. Now if you have that data to fill in the 20 percent that coaches just can’t see and can’t feel, then we make better decisions long term.”

(Are there certain players that you’ll use this weekend as an example of someone who’s benefited from this work?) “I still think (Osvaldo) Alonso is one of the best examples, because I think we have a really good handle of Alonso and where he’s at and how much work he does in games and how much work he needs to do in training and when we really need to be careful with him. As you can see, he expends so much energy, and now we can actually look at when he’s within the game — all the short runs and sprints and stopping and starting and the load on him. Now what does he need in the week? What types of massages does he need? How much recovery does he need? It all helps optimize. I think you see in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 in terms of his health and consistent performance, I think he’s a guy that’s benefitted from it.”

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