Keeping a squad of rugby players in top physical condition is no mean feat – especially when faced with three games in eight days – but that’s exactly the task faced by a team of performance coaches and medical experts led by Leicester Tigers assistant coach Aled Walters.
“I don’t think any player is ever in ‘peak’ condition because there’s always something else to add on, but that’s the most enjoyable part of the job for me,” Walters says.
“It’s about seeing the progress, seeing how the players apply themselves to training, and then how they transfer that to a game.”
Creating match-specific training programmes is just as much of a challenge. Aled and his team are tasked with taking an ever-evolving game plan and translating it into short, high intensity sessions that will best prepare the squad for their next encounter.
“Everything has to be specific,” he explains. “And that’s where we have to hold ourselves accountable. That’s myself, the department, the whole team.
“Is it specific to how we want to play the game? Is it going to be transferrable to how we want to play the game on the Saturday, or the Wednesday, or the Sunday, or whenever the games come up?
“That’s the real challenge for us.”
“With such short turnarounds we have to make sure not to waste time in doing any kind of work that’s not immediately relatable or specific to how we want to play our next game.
“When there’s a lack of clarity, then you lose that time. You’re not as efficient, I think, in developing the traits or the components of fitness that you want to see in the players.
“But we’re all clear on how we want to play the game, and so we can tailor our work accordingly.”
The proud Welshman sits at the top of a well-oiled machine of strength and conditioning coaches, medical experts and sports scientists.
So, does the job require him to be a control freak?
“No … I mean, maybe,” he smiles. “But I’m very lucky.
“I’ve come into an environment where we have a very good strength and conditioning department where we’ve got the likes of Matt Parr and Pete Burridge there, Adam Greenslade with the younger group, a nutritionist who comes in from Loughborough University – Simon Wallis – we’ve got a great medical department, then we’ve got a sports science department with James Whitfield, so I don’t have to be too controlling.
“At the moment I’m still getting used to the players and getting to know what makes the boys tick, and how to pull the trigger on them when we need to.”
“At the end of the day, you have to deal with whatever time you have.”