Thursday, February 25, 2016

Introducing Matt Glossop - Murray Bushrangers (TAC CUP U/18's) S&C Coach

Way back in April 2010, a mere 4 months after starting this teeny blog (as it was back then) I received an email from a bloke who signed up to my mailing list. His name was Matt Glossop and he had just started as the strength and conditioning coach for the Muarray Bushrangers, one of the most successful teams ever in the TAC Cup, the best league for under 18 Aussie Rules talent there is.

He just wanted to run some things by me to get my thoughts and since then we have exchanged 100's of emails and become pretty good mates. I even did my level 1 strength and conditioning hours under him and hope to help out during a game of there's in the next month or so when they visit Melbourne.

In the last couple of weeks we've had interviews from AFL and VFL strength and conditioning coaches Mladen Jovanovich and Rob Nicholson which is great for top end talent which is essentially 1000 players in the world tops. I think that this interview is more in the reaches of a local/amateur footballer even though it is geared to under age players but top under 18 talent can dominate local footy so it probably more closely represents the top end talent we play with and against better then AFL or VFL.

Matt, tell us quickly the process for TAC player selection from start to finish?

Every region will be slightly different. We have a number of processes in place to identify talent for our TAC Cup squad. Some players have already been in the pathway through Under 16 level or Under 15 Schoolboys, others are scouted from local competitions/interleague/school footy and we also ask all of our local clubs to nominate players they think deserve an opportunity. This will result in upwards of 300 players on our database per year. We narrow this down through our scouting network and run a trial game/combine testing day to lock in around 100 players to come into pre-season, of which around 40 will make our main list, so it's pretty competitive.

NOTE - I've been to a few of these early session and there are players everywhere! It's impressive how they get them all through the 5 or 6 stations in 90 - 120mins.

Is there anything specific AFL scouts are looking for?

Again, every club is different. The main things we look at is competitiveness, skill level and running ability. They seem to be the constants and non-negotiables. You need be clean at all times, you must be able to kick at an elite level and under pressure. Speed is great, but can you maintain and repeat it over 120 minutes with incomplete rest and make good decisions under fatigue? Competitiveness is the big one, are they really willing and able to compete at all times.

As the S&C Coach, what levels are you trying to get TAC players up to? Is there a standard the AFL or head coach sets or do you use your own discretion?

The main thing we are trying to do is keep them on the park so they can showcase their abilities, so a lot of work goes into injury prevention, management and recovery, just to give them that opportunity. In terms of fitness levels, we certainly have benchmarks for players by position and can draw conclusions into what the AFL clubs want from their draft history. For instance last year, the drafted smalls (sub 180cm) at Draft Combine had an average 20m sprint time of 2.95s, the smalls who went undrafted had an average of 3.02s, so our smaller players better be working on their acceleration or they are going to get overlooked. Common sense tells us that the interchange cap is going to skew things towards the aerobic athletes this year, so we will react to that and spend more time building our players engines. 

You're 15 and one of the better players in your underage league, what are the requirements to get a trial training invite to a TAC football team?

We would hope that you would be identified either by your local coach who will nominate you and get you on the radar, or through our scouting network watching your games. This is where the 'Talent Pathway' starts in Victoria, so an invitation into an Under 16 squad should be your goal. Interleague and finals footy are always going to carry weight, so do your best to perform on those big stages.

You're 16 and you've been chosen to trial for TAC, but unfortunately don't make the final cut. What are the requirements to a: get an invite next year and b: make the cut next year?

Every year we have players who miss out during their 'bottom-age' year of TAC, but go away and work on their deficiencies and end up making it the next year. Listen to the coaches, they should be giving you direct and specific feedback that you can work on. As I spoke about above, it will usually come down to one of three things; your skill level isn't high enough, you don't run well enough or you don't compete. They are all able to be developed, if you are willing to put in the time and effort.

You're 17 and you've been chosen for the final squad that play throughout the year. What do players need to do to optimise their training, and thus their on-field performance throughout the year?

I always speak to players about what you do when no-one is watching. Anyone can turn up at 5:30 and be told where to kick, how far to run, when to tackle, that's the easy part. I put a huge emphasis on the training our players do over the Christmas break when they're not with us, we give the boys a program and, ultimately, they decide whether they do the sessions or not, how hard they run, how much they push in the gym, that's when you find out who has what it takes to make it at our level and above. It needs to be a holistic approach; you can't run yourself into the ground every day and then playing video games all night and missing your sleep, you can't tear it up in the gym then not eat the right foods. You need to tick every box along the way. 

What has changes have you seen in training TAC players in the time you've been doing it?

Players are coming in better prepared in certain areas- they can run further, faster, harder. But completely unprepared in others- their movement patterns, motor control, running technique, gym technique is still behind what is required at that age. Over the past couple of years, we are starting to get some athletes who know how to squat and hinge at a reasonable level, but there are still plenty who come in having only ever done bench press and bicep curls. There is lots of easily accessible information out there, some good, some not so good (your blog is excellent), so players are better informed and starting to come in with ideas on how to improve certain aspects of their game.

I know you use RPE rating to gauge player wellness - can you go into a bit more detail here?

For RPE we get sessional ratings from our players in a couple of different ways.
  1. Wellbeing Reports: which last year were filled out manually but we will switch to Smartabase this year so they will fill it out via the app on their phone.
  2. Post-Session: we wait 30mins post session because otherwise players tend to rate it on what they just finished on such as a light session with 10 hard minutes at the end so if you ask them immediately they will overstate it.
NOTE - I am pretty close to getting my own wellness system sorted out especially for local/amateur clubs/players and I'll hopefully have it ready to go prior to round 1!

Matt is a highly sought after strength and conditioning coach from Wangaratta where he also trains athletes from various sports and can be contacted at 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

50 Tips to Becoming a Better Footballer

50 Tips for AFL Footballers

You've been redirected to this page to receive your free report which I suggest you get into immediately and use as much of it as you can!


Let me know any feedback you have on this report of any other thoughts or questions on football in general at the ART Facebook page.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Introducing Rob Nicholson - Port Melbourne Football Club (AFL Reserves) S&C Coach

Last week we covered the AFL and gained an insight into the training requirements to make it at the elite level. Today we take a step back to the VFL and have a chat with Port Melbourne Football Club strength and conditioning coach Rob Nicholson who's been down at the Borough's for a number of years now and he's been kind enough to lend us his time.

First off is VFL full or semi professional for all players? What level of commitment do these guys need to put in where some teams have a mix of AFL and VFL listed players?

Port Melbourne is a stand alone club (semi-professional) along with Coburg, Frankston, North Ballarat and Williamstown in the VFL. The remaining clubs are either AFL based or aligned with an AFL club (Casey, Northern Blues, Sandringham, Werribee). The aligned clubs are primarily consist of semi-professional and AFL listed Players).

The players at Port Melbourne are required to attend training 3 nights per week from mid-November until the end of September. The latter depends upon whether the team makes finals. During the season the players are also requested to attend matches even if they are not selected.

Players are also expected to undertake fitness and weight training sessions in their own time.

As a young bloke moving from TAC to VFL, what do you find are the common strengths and weaknesses of these players?

Overall the TAC players tend to have a satisfactory level of aerobic fitness and some awareness of the tactics associated with football performance. Local level players tend to have lower levels of aerobic fitness.

The major ‘limitations’ include:

- Awareness of the time demands of elite football.
- Highly variable decision-making and skill performance capacity.
- Poor strength for senior football.
- Poor power/agility capacity.
- Poor training preparation/recovery planning.
- Poor awareness of the requirements of senior level football

Further Reading - this entire blog and training manual!

As a mature aged player with aspirations of moving from VFL to AFL, where do you find these players need to improve on to move from very good to elite player status?

Specifically the major areas of concern are skills, skills under pressure and decision-making.

Your question is difficult to answer because the improvement is based on the individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

With players on the radar from AFL draft scouts, do you work with these scouts on things they'd like to see the player do or improve upon?

I have had few players directly indicate that they were on the radar of an AFL club. However, one player who was in that situation was given an individualised program based on the Draft Camp Testing Battery and that worked on his strength and weaknesses in respect to fitness and football skills.

When the situation arises, then in consultation with the player and the coach a plan is developed to optimise both the fitness and football skills of the players. The player is then supervised by me to achieve those goals.

Can you tell us about any player monitoring that you have in place at VFL level?

At Port Melbourne we use the Polar Team HR Monitoring System to obtain data about players physiological performance at training and during games. The data obtained is used to provide the following information:

 - Daily, weekly and match day workload.
 - Daily, weekly and match day training intensity
 - Individual application to components of training.
 - Recovery from training and games.
 - The workload associated with specific training drills.

This information is used to:

 - Monitor player workloads and thus set training intensity (daily/weekly)
 - Compare training and game intensity
 - Determine the loads associated with specific drills and thus organise more effective training sessions
 - Limit the amount of wasted time during training
 - Organise the team and player recovery program

Further Reading - are you on my mailing list and/or Facebook page? If so then you might have seen my call out for players to monitor using a very simple system I've made up which I need to test out. As player monitoring is HUGE in AFL and VFL (and in the TAC as you'll see next week) then I strongly suggest letting me know you want to be part of it!

Are VFL players required to reach the same standards of testing as AFL players?

Standards have also been developed for:

- Fitness –Beep Test
- Strength (upper and lower body, core)

The tests used for fitness are influenced by the training age, injury status, and position of each player.

Players flexibility, body mass and adductor strength are measured weekly. Variations from individual standards are used to monitor training loads, training session involvement, training formats and rehabilitation/strength training programs.

Given that most of the clubs in the VFL are AFL listed clubs then I would assume that players would be assessed by comparison with AFL standards.

At Port Melbourne standards are set for players by training age and position. I cannot provide you with precise information about those standards. However, I can inform you that the standards compare favourably with those of AFL clubs and that some players would definitely be in the highest category of aerobic fitness recorded by AFL players.


The focus is on individual development even within the time constraints placed on VFL non-aligned clubs and the demands of operating within a team environment.

From the Aussie Rules Training community I'd like to thank Rob for his time in doing this interview. Like the AFL, the VFL is also quite guarded in regards to elite training training information and this will definitely help out a lot of readers who want to take their footy to another level.

Rob can be contacted via email through the Port Melbourne Football Club at

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Introducing Mladen Jovanovich' - Port Adelaide S&C Coach and Data Scientist

During my Facebook and newsletter updates this week I hinted at some HUGE blog posts coming up so we'll start with the biggest (no offence Matty for next week!).

Mladen is the newest member of the PAFC conditioning staff, known in AFL circle as the leaders in sports science and player conditioning. He's been a S&C coach for sports such as soccer and rugby all over the world and originally hails from Serbia, the blokes who crazy and throw chairs everywhere at the Australian Open (Tennis).

I have known of him for a couple of years now and have a few FB chats with him over the journey. He's makes himself very available and he has done so for all of the ART community today.


Hey Mladen (sporting the traditional "puff the biceps out" footy pose above) - as you know I've been following you for a while and even pre-empted your move to Australia on social media! Let's start with a little on your background and how you come to your current position at Port Adelaide Football Club?

Thanks for having me Troy. Actually, I have applied for PAFC circa three years ago, but Ian McKeown got it back then. He is fantastic coach and much more suited for the position than I am/was. I kept being in contact with both McKeown and Darren Burgess before and after that period.

Then, somewhere around April, 2015 I started talking with Burgess after doing one unanimous game data analysis. First we chatted about doing some data analysis as external consultant and then we started discussing an actual full time position. I guess around September we were pretty clear that I am arriving, but we waited for the visa approval till mid October.

Data is only as good as what you do with it - what would be the best way for local/amateur clubs to collect data and what should they do with it?

It is a tricky question and I am always leaning toward too little than too much. There are basically three components: impulse (or training load), athlete state and training reaction (or effect). In ideal world one would have all three and cover both objective and subjective aspects of them. I have expended on the topic HERE.

The easiest training load metric would be RPE (session rating of perceived exertion), but the way it should be done is for one to have the trust and culture in place, or else the players start to game the system. Same thing for the easiest measurement of athlete state – the simple rating of readiness to train, sleep quality, soreness and so forth. When it comes to training reaction simple tools such as strength indices, vertical jump, 2-3k runs or yoyo tests and 10-40m sprints are enough I guess.

One needs to have some idea of what to do with those numbers – how training will be affected by them and so forth.

In a past article of yours called "RSA Overrated", one conclusion you came to is that out of 3 athletes you'd choose the one that has the fastest peak sprint time rather then the fastest mean/average repeat sprint time. It's draft night and you and Burgo have to choose between these 2 draftees - who do you choose and why?

Well, I can’t talk in Burgo’s name, but I would choose the one who can play footy better – who is technically more proficient, tactically smart and emotionally stable with character suiting the team. And yes, even as physical preparation coach I put these qualities before physical qualities.

When it comes to speed, it is always better to recruit faster players, since speed is harder to change/improve than other physical qualities.

You written a lot on velocity based training in the last few years - do you use this at PAFC? If not, do you use any other "auto regulation for quality" methods such as RPE, drop off points etc or just the old school sets/reps at a certain load or % of 1rm?

We don’t use it, but we plan implementing some type of velocity/power feedback using GymAware leader board. Just tracking velocity and power and giving boys real time objective feedback so they can compete between themselves and for themselves is a great starting point. Later on, velocity zones could be prescribed and such. Sometimes, even if the methods are superior, their implementation might be too burdensome.

At this stage it is basically prescribing goal reps and “exertion” using light, medium and hard ratings and letting the boys choose the weight. Some exercises are more tightly prescribed.

To go deeper in the design at this stage you would need to pick McKeown’s brain.

Further Reading - Velocity Based Training Parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

You've stated in the past that VO2Max and aerobic fitness aren't the same and that one should focus on aerobic performance - what sort of ways should a local/amateur footballer gauge their own aerobic fitness? 

There is a great recent article by Steve Magness on the topic (click HERE) – besides I love all Steve’s stuff. Basically, depends how down deep the rabbit hole one wants to go. For team sport athletes the idea is to get a test that can pinpoint to limiting factors and help with training prescription, without burdening the skill training too much. In soccer we had an increase in “soccer-specific” tests (such as yoyo), but these specific tests cannot tell you which factor is limiting, because the scores in these tests depend on multiple qualities (i.e. change of direction (COD) efficiency, aerobic power, anaerobic capacity and so forth). Yet, again it revolves how deep one needs to go to figure out limiting factors and help training prescription for a given level of the athlete. One also needs to take into account the training type that will follow – are the athletes going to do continuous runs, or intervals, straight ahead or with CODs, or just a quick gauge to performance level and helping with return-to-play protocols? Hence, the test needs to be “training-specific”.

Long story short, I found simple 1,5-2k runs, or 5-6min efforts to be good enough estimate and help with training prescription.

NOTE: in regards to part where he talks about testing being more about finding limiting factors in your individual performance is probably my biggest take away from this and it sort of piggy backs a future blog post I have in mind.

Inertia training is "the next big thing" in sports training - what experience do you have with it and has PAFC started using it yet?

We have one K-box unit that mostly injured guys are using in a case-to-case scenario. I find it an interesting tool that could be implemented. What I find interesting are “special” exercises using the VersaPulley where the line of pull is horizontal and all types of rotations and lateral movements could be practiced. Again, nothing ground breaking in these tools just a nice addition and variability in well designed strength program.

NOTE - I'm trying to get one of these made for myself through an engineering client of mine so if you any idea's to make this happen then definitely let me know!

AFL clubs are huge on player monitoring, something local/amateur teams should start doing a lot more of - what types of things do PAFC cover with their players to ensure they're 100% come game day?

We utilize RPE and wellness questionnaires to address the subjective aspects. GPS measures are done from objective standpoint when it comes to load component and well as embedded testing (e.g. peak speed during session). Most of the metrics are analysed using TSB approach (Training Stress Balance) – I wrote about it HERE for an in-depth look. We do submaximal yoyo testing as a proxy to aerobic characteristics without increasing the training load with the maximal test. 3km test is done on the Uni Loop. We do nordic assessment, groin squeeze, RSI using drop jump and vertical jumps. We are deciding how to embed most of the testings in the session itself so it doesn’t create extra burden on the players.

Further Reading - Scroll through to a post from December 14th, 2015 for a Facebook update on in-session testing

Having been up close and personal with an AFL team, has it altered the way you might train athletes in the future?

I am constantly learning new things and being part of PAFC performance team is an amazing way to learn how to do things better. So, I would say yes, even if I am not really sure what.

What has impressed you the most about AFL players?

Not sure it can be inferred to other teams, but PAFC really impressed me with the team culture, comradery, genuine interests of the players to get better on every level, the levels of trust in players and the intensiveness of the game and sessions.

Who's the biggest freak at PAFC and why? 

Coming from soccer they are all physical freaks, but if I need to choose one it would be Hamish Hartlett. Very athletic, very strong and does pretty much every movement correctly.

From the Aussie Rules Training community I thank you greatly for your openness and willingness to answer these questions as I know that AFL clubs love to keep their sports science information very much in-house.

Mladen can be found at or at his Facebook page.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Conditioning Methods I'm Using Right Now Part 2

Last week I went into a bit of detail of the conditioning methods I used for the 1st phase (preparation) for my conditioning block I'm currently in.

I described the how and why for conditioning methods such as high resistance intervals, explosive repeats and aerobic plyometrics.

This week we'll take at another 3 conditioning methods being cardiac power intervals (CPI), threshold training (TT) and high intensity continuous training (HICT).

CPI helps oxygen supply at higher intensities and improves power endurance of the heart by stimulating an increase in strength of the fibres of the heart along w/ a corresponding increase in mitochondria which carries oxygen through the blood.

For this you'd do 4 - 12 x 60 - 120secs/session at maximal speed and then resting until your heart rate returns to 130bpm using exercises that allow you to maintain a high output at longer work lengths. I'm still "off legs" for the most so I've been using manual treadmill, cross trainer at the highest level, bike turned right up and heavy ropes where I usually get up to a heart rate of 165 - 175 by the end of the set.

TT increases the aerobic system's maximum rate of ATP regeneration so more power can be produces aerobically by raising your anaerobic threshold which is the point that you pass into anaerobic glycolysis which means lactate build up and a drop in performance.

For this you need to actually test to find your anaerobic threshold which you can do by performing a 6min run and recording your heart rate at each 60sec interval. Get the average of those 60sec interval and you'll have your anaerobic threshold. It's not an exact science but there actually isn't one!

When doing TT you'll need to do 2 - 5 x 3 - 10min sets/session keeping your rate at a +/- 5 beats of your anaerobic threshold and if you start to feel a drop in performance then drop back and hold somewhere in the -5bpm range. I have been doing this as my only "on legs' drill.

HICT offers the unique stimulation of high intensity performed at high volume where usually it's high volume/low intensity or low intensity/high volume. It stimulates greater 02 utilisation and results in increased endurance of the fast twitch muscle fibres so you can go harder for longer.

Train this by doing 1 - 2 x 10 - 20mins/session @ 150 - 160bpm with 5mins of active rest between sets using maximum resistance on exercises such as bike, cross trainer, walking lunges up a steep hill or step up. I've been using cross trainer only for this.

Right now I've done 8 conditioning sessions in 12 days and if I stay on schedule then I'll finish up with another 8 sessions in 11 days - no muckin around here!