Your Matchday magazine, RTID, spoke with Rovers Fitness expert Ben Rome.
RTID met up with Fitness coach Ben Rome recently to look at his role in the management team, and how their fitness plans have impacted on the squad. Ben has been with the club since Dean Saunders’ time but took over fully when Dean moved to Wolves in January 2013. Ben came in behind Brian Flynn and Rob Jones and was part of the successful management team that got the club promoted back to the Championship at the first attempt. He now forms an integral part of Paul Dickov’s team at the club.
What has this season been like for you?
It’s been a good first full season for me but we have had a few injuries to main players to contend with which made it difficult early in the season. We have managed to keep the lads’ fitness levels good all season, which we have monitored by testing them at different stages throughout.
Has you role changed this season under a new manager?
I have been in place since January last year since Dean left and it has been good for me. I was fitness coach at Notts County before here, so it is a role I am very familiar with but I am learning and improving all the time. What was good about this season was that I have had my first pre-season with the lads. We went to Portugal with them, which allowed us to have an intense week with them away from everything. This allowed monitoring them every day and controlling what they ate, drank and did during that time. Having access to the facilities and the warm weather made a difference to the pre season plans.
It’s all about being a part of a management team rather than any one individual. Does this help you?
I agree that we are a good team who meet every morning, led by the manager, which gives us chance to have plenty of input. This allows me to give feedback from any sessions I have had the day before with players. This can be then taken on board and the manager can react to what we say. So any testing we do will be fed back to the meeting for discussion. It gives the management team the facts they need to make important decisions regarding training and games. We are very much a team who all have a say in what is going on.
Do you have specific routines at games and training sessions?
The match day warm up stays the same every game, as I believe in keeping the routine because I think it is important that they know what is coming, with no surprises in it. It helps them concentrate on the game ahead rather than what is going to go on in the warm up. During the week at Cantley Park I vary the routines depending on the part of the season or what game schedule is planned. So, some days we do more intense work, whereas on game days it will be gentler to prepare them for the game. I have to make sure they conserve energy and the levels are high for the game. I try to keep it varied and as interesting as possible on the training pitch, as it helps the players.
Do you do regular tests and monitoring on the players, so you can gauge where they are and their fitness levels?
We do various tests on a regular schedule, like hydration tests every week, which allows us to monitor their status so we can inform them before games that they need to rehydrate themselves, to make sure their body gets enough fluid in. Another test we do regularly is a jump test, which assesses the player’s power and can also check a player’s recovery. We often do this test on a Thursday after a Tuesday game, as this tells us if there is a general trend - if players can’t jump as high then they have not recovered properly.
We obviously do fitness tests at the start of the season, and then when the schedule allows we test them again during it. It is all about assessing the players to make sure they peak for games, not in between. It’s all about making sure the players look after them selves, for example, getting proper nutrition after games, wearing compression garments, and generally making sure they recover correctly. My job after every game is to make sure, by using the resources I have at my disposal, that the players recover ready for the next game.
Do you have input into the nutritional side of the players’ schedule?
The players don’t have a specific strict plan, but we issue guidelines on what they should and shouldn’t be eating. We make sure that the food they get at Cantley Park is good quality, with a balanced diet to aid them before and after training. Another test we do regularly is the body fat testing, which lets us monitor if any player puts on body fat, which allows us to get it under control by putting them on diets or different exercise programmes. This is done monthly and makes sure we keep on top of the players’ general fitness and well being.
You have had some very serious injuries this season, which you have had to work with Physio Alex Dalton on. Has this been a challenge?
We have had players such as Rob Jones and Jamie McCombe both having serious operations, but we have had to be led by the specialists. I am not an expert on those types of injuries, so I am guided by the guys who do know what it’s all about. We follow the protocol they advise, and we have to manage their rehab in the right manner. Jamie had been out quite a while with his fracture of the spine. He started with complete rest to allow it to heal, but then we have to look at how we can gradually build him up and condition him. It’s been a long process, and he has had to work extremely hard, but now he is back in the squad because it’s all been managed right.
Where do you see yourself and the club progressing?
I am working on having a stable environment here for the players by improving how we do things. New technology is always looked at to assess whether it will help the club, so this summer we are looking to bring in a GPS system which will give us in more detail the players’ work loads, distances covered during training and better feedback on our sessions. We are also looking at altering the gym to make it a more welcoming environment for all the players to be in. I love my job and know that we have to keep progressing with technology and training for staff. It’s all about working as a team to improve how we do things and how we make sure our squad is ready for the challenges ahead.