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Team Behind the Team: going for BUCS Gold

As the culmination of a year’s worth of games, matches, competitions and leagues approaches, a fantastic six sports teams will be heading to Nottingham for BUCS Big Wednesday – aka Finals day – this Wednesday. The clubs and individuals work incredibly hard throughout the year to train, play and compete their way to this event – but what about the team behind the teams? A selection of our teams at Championship level have access to our Performance Centre practitioners, coaches and support: a collection of campus experts and resources to help the teams work towards their goals. This includes a huge range of knowledge and expertise – from psychology, to physiology, to strength and conditioning (S&C), to physio, to lifestyle support. But who are these experts, and how do they help?

We chatted to a few of our key experts who work tirelessly with selected Premier-level clubs, to get to know the level of support that goes on behind the scenes. What does it really take to get a University 1st team to the finals of BUCS? We heard from Ned and Mark, two of the S&C coaches in the Performance Centre, about how they’ve been working with Hockey and Squash in the lead up to that final push.


Club: Hockey –  Women’s 1st team

Team behind the team: Phil Gooderham (Head Coach), Chris Davis and Rich Chambers (Assistant Coaches), Ned Partridge (S&C Coach), Ollie Armstrong (Physiologist)

By Ned Partridge: Strength and conditioning practitioner, who heads up the Hockey S&C programme

‘Life is busy for a University Hockey player; biweekly fixtures, multiple training sessions, two sessions in the performance gym and countless running sessions, not to mention their lectures, seminars and assignments.

‘Our primary aim in the performance centre is to work out how to best support our student athletes in order to to maximise their sporting performance – whilst they are managing the demands of their degree. We help them prepare physically and mentally to tolerate such a busy schedule whilst looking to give them the performance edge; making them fitter, faster and stronger than their opposition.’

‘This season the team have attended more than 60 sessions in the performance gym, making considerable improvements in relation to hockeytheir strength and power. In pre-season the women are taught to lift safely and master the necessary techniques. This includes the squat, split squat and Romanian deadlift – movements that are similar to those seen on the hockey pitch.  In term one, once technical competency is achieved, we begin to load and develop strength, the key quality that underpins success in most sports. In term two (the business end of the season!), our focus turns to developing power, using tools such as sprints, jumps and derivatives of the Olympic lifts.

‘In addition to strength and power, aerobic fitness is essential for field hockey. Whilst many students enjoy the luxury of a Christmas break, the hockey team are busy training, following a gruelling conditioning programme written by Lead Physiologist Ollie Armstrong. This programme is tailored to each athlete’s relative level of fitness and ensures they return match-fit. To increase the accuracy of our fitness programmes the women perform a tough test of fitness, the IFT 30:15 (imagine a slightly prolonged equivalent of the bleep test) throughout the year.

‘The women have put in a lot of hard work so far this season and as a result have secured themselves a place in the BUCS championship final. Everyone in the performance centre is really looking forward to seeing them put this hard work to use as they compete this coming Wednesday.’


Club: Squash –  Men’s 1st team

Team behind the team: Jon Tate (Head Coach), Gabrielle Vickers (Physiologist), Mark Burns (S&C Coach)

By Mark Burns: Strength and conditioning practitioner, who heads up the Squash S&C programme and is the Performance Centre S&C lead

‘Men’s Squash will play in the BUCS Championship final during BUCS Big Wednesday this week, after beating University of Nottingham rivals 3-2 away at the David Ross Sports Village a couple of weeks ago. This was a direct reversal of the result only four weeks previously, when UoN beat the team 3-2 at the University of Birmingham.

‘The players show great commitment to the club to achieve this goal, training all year round for a minimum of 10 hours each (roughly broken down into 6.5 hours of club squash training and 3.5 hours of S&C a week), in addition to numerous undocumented 1v1 challenge matches and individual practice.

‘The focus of squash sessions are tailored to the player to ensure continued development for this talented bunch, including the professional players that make up the squad. The Performance Centre’s role in the club’s development comes largely from understanding the sport outside of its skill component. For example: movement patterns associated with winning, fitness profiles of elite players, and amount of injuries suffered.’

‘This data can then be compared against each player’s profile and patterns, to allow us to develop a programme that is guaranteed to improve already well-trained individuals, equipping them with better physical attributes to win.

‘A particular focus this year has been on increasing the fitness levels of the players. To do this we supplemented squash training with both

high-intensity, circuit-based sessions and Watt Bike sessions throughout the season. The players perform these sessions under the guidance of Physiologist, Gabrielle Vickers, and S&C Coach, Mark Burns, on Wednesdays and Fridays. Here, the practitioners keep a watchful eye over athlete’s rep-by-rep performances, ensuring greatest effort in each, and therefore maximising the potential for benefit.  In the four-week gap between re-matches, we implemented an anaerobic training block (4-5 reps of 30s of bike sprints at maximum effort, with 240s recovery – sounds easy, give it a try!) and got a 10% average increase in average Watts over 30s. A higher Wattage would indicate increased fitness capacity – so we were happy! Athletes that can improve their fitness by 10% in 4 weeks means they’re more likely to win when under pressure. Fingers crossed!’

The Team Behind our Teams do a huge amount of work day in, day out to help the teams be the best they can be – so we are looking forward to seeing the result of everyone’s hard work next week!

You can keep up to date with how all our teams do next week in the BUCS Big Wednesday finals on UBSport’s Instagram.

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