March 14, 2007 Toronto FC fitness story (from Globe And Mail)

POSTED ON: 14/03/07

Toronto FC puts focus on fitness

From Thursday's Globe and Mail

BRADENTON, FLA. — A midfield player in England's Premier League will cover an average of about 13 kilometres in a game. A centre forward might cover an average of 10½ to 11 kilometres.

Paul Winsper not only knows such information but knows how to use it, how to analyze it.

“It's not just the distance they cover, it's the intensity they cover it at,” said Winsper, who for 10 years was head strength and conditioning coach of the Premiership's Newcastle United. “There are a lot of bursts of power and speed within that 13 kilometres.”

This is the kind of information with which Winsper worked before leaving his post with Newcastle. He served with Major League Soccer expansion team Toronto FC as a consultant during its two-week training session in Sunrise, Fla., in late February.

Winsper left after the team finished its Sunrise session but his influence remains. “He hasn't just come and gone,” Toronto FC head coach Mo Johnston said. “He's still communicating.”

Johnston hooked up with Winsper on a scouting trip in England and invited him to work with the new team.

During his time with the club he gave the players, “a few ideas on preparation and running and the fitness and the speed.”

Before he left the team, he said, “When I get back to the U.K., I'll be writing programs out for the players and sending them across so we can get some kind of formalized strength and conditioning.”

Toronto FC defeated Notre Dame 3-0 yesterday morning in an exhibition game at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Alecko Eskandarian, Jose Cancela and Paulo Nagamura scored.

Toronto FC will continue a two-week stint at the IMG Academy in Bradenton through tomorrow before moving to South Carolina to prepare for a tournament.

Winsper worked in professional cricket as a strength coach before joining Newcastle and he brings an approach that is detailed and scientific.

“When we analyze the statistics, we always look at the total distance covered but then we look at each five-minute block in the game to make sure there's no drop-off in performance in the ability to repeat the sprints,” he said.

With Newcastle, Winsper would analyze each player's performance in a game.

“We play back their sprint technique and their deceleration technique and acceleration and strength,” he said.

“We have an IT guy with the team and if we play on Saturday, on Monday morning I have the disks on my desk and it will say the number of sprints from certain players, how many headers they won and then he will give me a video clip of everything each individual player does so I can sit down and analyze.”

It is obvious that the way of approaching and preparing for the game has changed from the “old days of just running out on the pitch and playing.

“It's all about the nutrition, and the preparation, injury prevention, warming up right, doing the right strength work, speed work, power work,” Winsper said.

“But the key to it is making sure it's all integrated. So many people come in as strength coaches and it's like an add-on rather than an integration of the soccer with the fitness.”

He said that when he was with Newcastle he would plan a season so that there was a certain focus on every aspect of fitness at different points of the season. Each player would have an individual program.

“He's worked wonders with the guys,” Johnston said.

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