Pearse Lafferty is currently engaged in one of the most crucial tasks during the close season as he endeavours to get the Derry City squad in prime condition for the start of the 2016 campaign.
The 32 year-old Co. Donegal man is beginning his third season with the ‘Candy Stripes’ and, with the use of the latest scientific advances, he’s working hard behind the scenes helping players reach their optimal potential ahead of the big kick-off on March 4th.
The club’s decision to embrace of sports science isn’t unique but Lafferty, who has a Masters Degree in Sports Science and Strength and Conditioning from Middlesex University, believes the use of the state-of-the-art facilities at the Foyle Arena will give the Brandywell club a slight edge over its opponents.
In fact, Lafferty claims the Strength and Conditioning Suite at the Waterside venue is on a par with some English Premiership clubs he has recently visited.
Sports Science encompasses a range of areas, from nutrition and fitness testing to training, conditioning and recovery. And on top of educating players about diet and nutrition Pearse specialises in injury prevention.
Pearse’s work reflects an attention to the finest of details, however, it would be far less effective without a manager willing to embrace the latest off-field advances.
We’re looking to get the boys on the field for 90 minutes for 40 weeks of the year and the science allows that now.Pearse Lafferty
And Derry City boss, Kenny Shiels, allows Pearse the freedom to work to his own devices as the players take part in gym sessions at the Foyle Arena three times per week during the close season.
Pearse believes the players, who are well into their fifth week of their pre-season training programme, are on target for the start of the new Airtricity League campaign.
“Things are going good,” smiled Pearse. “This is the end of our fifth week and we’ve been in three days a week but, so far, the boys are responding well.
“The facilities at Foyle Arena make my job a lot easier,” he added. “I recently visited Spurs’ training ground and this strength suite is on a level par with theirs! It’s amazing.
“At the end of the season we gave them 10 days off and they all came back in again with around 12 per cent body fat and now they’re back down again to under 10 per cent. They look after themselves really well and are good professionals.
“They are learning new techniques with all this new equipment available to us now so they’re really enjoying it.”
Different players receive different fitness programmes depending on their positions on the field.
And Pearse explained how he tailors different training methods or exercises for various players.
“The sport has changed over recent years and training has to have a proper periodised schedule,” he said. “We’re looking to get the boys on the field for 90 minutes for 40 weeks of the year and the science allows that now.
“Our goalkeeper, Gerard (Doherty), would do a lot of single leg push-offs and lunges while our midfielders would do a lot of squatting, because they have to get up in the air to head a lot of balls. So every programme is different.”
And with the assistance of club physio, Michael Hegarty, a lot of work goes into developing an injury prevention programme.
“I specialise in predicting where an injury comes from before it even happens,” continued Pearse. “So myself and our physio, Michael Hegarty would do a full screening and we would have an injury prevention programme the players have to do before training and games.
“A lot of hard work and science goes into it.”
No messing arounD
From the minute the players enter the gym their session begins and Pearse describes how they must prepare themselves mentally ahead of their workout.
“The players have a sequence to go through before they’re allowed to lift their weights. They have their rehab work and then their performance work.
“So they’re in the gym 20 minutes before they even lift a weight just to prepare the body to lift. And then afterwards they have their recovery work when we get them their rubs, ice baths and they’re proper nutrition as well.”
For sports mad Pearse, working with Derry City Football Club over the past two seasons has been a richly rewarding experience and he claims his favourite part of the week is watching the players perform on the field on a Friday night.
“This is the start of my third with Derry City and it’s a great club to work for. There’s some fantastic people involved and the players are first class.
“Kenny (Shiels) is very easy to work with and just lets you do your thing. The highlight of the week for me is watching the boys play on a Friday night. Hopefully this year will be different from last year and we’ll not sitting around seventh.”
They say you have to run to stand still in this industry and Pearse is constantly finding ways to educate himself and has visited Premiership clubs, Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur in recent years to see how the elite clubs in England are run.
He works closely with the Donegal Senior Hurling team and various other squads at his newly opened Fitness Performance Gym in Ballybofey.
“I’ve recently opened a gym called Fitness Performance in Ballybofey about eight months ago so I’m trying to get that up and running.
“I take in a lot of teams. I recently had Donegal Senior Hurlers, the Senior ladies and then the local Gaelic club.
“I played football up until I was 18 years-old but I knew I would never be a professional footballer. However, I always wanted to work in professional football so I put my head into a book since I was 18 and came out with a Masters.
“I went to University in England at Loughborough University and did a placement with Leicester for a year. When I came home I got the Derry job. I have the full Derry City Academy right through to the first team for the last two years and it’s been brilliant.
“You always have to do your courses, practice your lifting techniques. And I would always ask other clubs if I can go and visit their facilities and see what they do.
“I was recently at Spurs about three months ago. Aaron McEneff was there at the time and it was good to see what they did.
“I brought over my notes and learned from professional clubs. They’re on the money with the way they do things.
“But the Foyle Arena would definitely be up there in terms of facilities of other clubs,” he concluded.