Feeling inspired by all the hockey you just watched over the last few months during the qualifiers for Tokyo 2020? Or perhaps you’re in awe of just how fit the hockey teams are.
If you have been following hockey, you will know that the Indian women’s hockey team have become one of the dominant forces in international hockey in the last few years.
Most recently, they won the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Test event and the FIH Series Finals 2019 in Hiroshima in June.
Much of the teams success is due to their athletic performance on the pitch.The coach behind those faster field sprints, quick acceleration, rapid change of direction and amazing stamina is their Scientific Coach Wayne Lombard.
In an exclusive chat with The Dragflick, Wayne Lombard spoke about his inspiration to take up exercise science, his experience with training the Chinese Hockey team, his current role with the Indian women’s hockey team, their routine when at the camp, and much more.

The Interview :

You are in the process of attaining your Doctor of Philosophy (PHD) in Exercise Science. What inspired you to get into exercise science? 

Yes, I’m still in the process of attaining my PhD. Growing up in South Africa, sports was always a big part in my life. But, probably the “defining” moment for me would be seeing the Springboks win the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa.
I saw how sports can unite a country and how Nelson Mandela made sure that the whole country understood the important role sports plays in a community.
Also, i was really intrigued by Tim Noakes ( South African Scientist and Professor of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine at the University of Cape Town ) who was doing a lot to promote sports and exercise science / medicine in South Africa.
All this motivated me to work at the SSISA (Sports Science Institute of South Africa) where i worked as a senior consultant for six years.

You have also been a athletic performance head/consultant for China Hockey, how was this experience? 

Well, at my time at SSISA, I would consult various national teams and at that time i got the opportunity to work with the South African Women’s Hockey team, with Coach Giles Bonnet at the helm at the time. So after a few years of consulting, one day i just got a call from Giles asking if I would join him in China.
So, I spent the first year going back and forth, after which we decided we could make a better impact if I joined them full time, which we agreed to do for a year.
My role primarily involved me working with the Liaoning League Team, where I would work mainly with the senior men’s hockey team and women’s hockey team and a little bit with the junior hockey team.
The Liaoning team are a very strong team (at that time) making up 90% of the national team and so it was a great experience working with them. The Chinese are really great athletes with very high work ethics. There’s a lot we achieved in the two-years that we worked together.

What originally led you to train hockey players specifically?  

I never really actively set out to work in hockey, it’s just how things have panned out. Probably luck or natural path that just happened to open up through my experience and work at the SSISA (as mentioned earlier).
The great thing about my job is, if you understand the principles of exercise and physiology you can apply it to any sport, and I’ve been lucky enough to work with many exciting athletes and sports through the last 12 years.

When you first got the assignment with the Indian team, what was the first thing you wanted to do with these girls with regards to their fitness?

So, it’s an interesting one as I generally take a slightly different approach.
In any role I take on, I obviously want to see them grow as athletes physically, mentally etc, but my main goal initially is to always get the players / athletes to buy in to the process I try and layout for them. Without that buy in and trust, you can never truly achieve great results.

And following up on that, how much training can you actually do with these girls? What is their fitness routine like when at the camp.

Well, hockey in general is a very high volume sport, and that means we train a lot.
The average week (although this is very dependent on the time of the season and how far out we are from the next competition), the players go through 2- 3 strength focused sessions, 4 – 6 hockey sessions and 2 – 3 conditioning sessions.
But again this changes a fair amount as we go through our training cycles.

When it comes to recovery and regeneration and keeping these girls fresh, do you have any go-to modalities or strategies that you use to keep them feeling good?

Yeah, so recovery is a huge part of my planning, as it’s the major theme of my PHD work too. The girls all have a sheet that guides them on the best modalities to do and when.
I assign points to different modalities they use. They then add this up at the end of the week, to see if they have achieved the minimum required amount of recovery points.The idea is to make them achieve atleast 100 points in a week.
Some of the modalities they use range from ice baths, to pneumatic recovery boots to good sleep to power naps, to massages, as well as post training nutrition etc.
Over and above this, the players also submit data to me each morning and post every training session so that i can monitor their neuromuscular fatigue to see where they are at. This is all pretty much industry standard nowadays.

Which player has the highest yo-yo score in the team?

I don’t want to give you a name, but the highest Yoyo thus far has be 21.7. I’m sure when watching matches you would be able to work out who that might be.

One challenge the girls face with their fitness?

Well, there’s no specific fitness challenge they face. The most important thing for me is to try as much as possible to keep them from any niggle and also keep them injury free.

From a fitness coach’s point of view, who is the best player that you have worked with or who is that one player who has had a major transformation.

I don’t think it’s fair to mention one single person, as each athlete (not only in hockey) I have worked with has tried their best and made good progress, but in general the transformation of the Indian Women’s hockey team over the last 2/2.5 years has been remarkable and it’s all due to the effort that the players have put in day in and day out.

Last but not the least, could you give one piece of fitness advice to a young hockey player ?  

Well, Hockey has become such a fast and dynamic sport, one has to put in a lot of hours. If players are not putting in the effort off the pitch to address their overall athleticism, they will struggle to play at the top level.
As a young hockey player, they need to ensure they spend as much as time they invest in playing hockey in also developing their holistic athletic skills and physicality.
By investing time in holistic athletic skills I mean, a player needs to invest time in developing their running mechanics, figure out how to change direction properly, develop a good base of aerobic fitness and strength. I believe if you get these fundamentals right, everything else will fall in place.
Last but not the least, my advice would be to keep doing the simple things savagely well.
Fitness, Strength Building and Conditioning is a process, and if you do not enjoy the process and invest the necessary hours smartly, you will struggle to progress.

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