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PRO INSIGHT SERIES: Athlete Development At The Pro Project

If you want to become a professional athlete - then you need to train like one.

My passion for athletic development started as a young footballer who was never the  strongest or fastest player on the pitch. As a young player I struggled with my stature and speed.

As a kid. we trained 5 nights per week with our club focusing on the technical aspects of football, this was great to improve my technical ability but I still found myself  struggling on the pitch against bigger and faster players. My technical ability was not enough to make me stand out.

Strength and Conditioning was a phrase that was thrown around.

But as a team we were never exposed to it at a young  age.  

It was not until my mid-late teens when I was introduced to a Strength & Conditioning coach who revolutionised football for me. I continued training with my club to improve my technical ability but I was also doing extra training to improve my strength, speed and fitness. It  was only a matter of weeks before I saw the benefits on the pitch. This transformed me as a player.

It was then that I was able to show my true ability and began playing academy football in Ireland.

I went on to captain top academy teams at both U17 and U19 level in the Irish system. I also recently represented the Republic of Ireland Junior team at the UEFA Regions Cup in Spain, playing against both Spain and Germany, earning two  international caps. This coming season, I will be playing in tier one of New Zealand football, the Northern League.  

Strength, speed and fitness were always my weakest attributes growing up and now if you were to ask any of my previous coaches, they would say that they are my strongest  assets. This also inspired a career in physiotherapy, in which I now have almost 3 years experience. This career has further developed my understanding of athlete development and has allowed me to work with top athletes in Ireland in recent years. I hope to bring this level of expertise to The Pro Project and give our athletes an edge over their opponents.  

There is a lack of structured strength, speed and fitness.

After spending the last couple of months around some of New Zealand’s top clubs, it is  evident that there is a lack of structured strength, speed and fitness work in academy  football. This is selling our footballers short and therefore, why we have decided to  incorporate this into The Pro Project.

Gone are the days of avoiding strength training in kids. The myths and misconceptions regarding growth being stunted have long been disproven. It has been shown to be extremely beneficial to improve strength and speed in children of all ages. It is actually the perfect time to start this training. As children begin to hit puberty, there is an abundance of hormones which become available for the first time.  We can take advantage of this and can see very large gains in strength and speed by starting this training early.

Children also begin to grow and will reach their peak height velocity (growth spurt), this can cause an ‘awkwardness’/reduced coordination in teens which can be quite visible by parents and coaches. This program will aim to re-educate our athletes regarding running mechanics, mobility and strength to resolve this period and get our footballers back to their best. Having a physiotherapist delivering this training will also be of huge benefit as we can monitor and treat any injuries that a player may have – including common issues like Sever’s or Osgood Schlatter disease.  

I look forward to meeting you all soon and getting this program off the ground. At The Pro Project, we aim to deliver on all aspects of football performance, this will be another piece of  the puzzle in creating well-rounded and resilient footballers. I will also be including football coaching as part of our development sessions, including position specific coaching alongside shooting/finishing practice.

If anyone has any questions please let  myself or Adam know and I’d be happy to have a conversation!  

Dylan Connolly  

Athletic Development Coach 

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