Over the weekend, there was a steady flow of Colorado Rapids’ technical staff, players, and trialists in and out of Dick’s Sporting Good Park. Today, the club concludes three days of preseason preparation ahead of the team’s departure for camp and friendly play in Southern California.
The Rapids’ month-long training camp will be based at California State University, Fullerton. Friendlies against MLS opponents are scheduled to be played at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, home to the LA Galaxy.
Over the weekend, Chad Kolarcik (Head of Rapids of Sports Science & Performance), Peter Gorka (Strength and Conditioning Coach), Rick Guter (Head Athletic Trainer), assistants Sean O’Neill and Yoshi Mitsuyama, and a team of physicians were busy greeting and evaluating the overall health of both players and invited trialists.
The athletes went through a suite of standardized baseline wellness examinations conducted by a range of physicians, from a cardiologist to an orthopedic surgeon. A sports nutritionist has also been on-call.
Today, both players and trialists conclude the mandatory MLS concussion testing, measurements, and education program.
In between these events, the Burgundy Boys modeled the latest version of official Rapids’ attire for team photographers and media staff. The new kits will be released on February 5th.
Plenty of jovial welcomes and horseplay are evident the hallways throughout the north building of the stadium, as the players get reacquainted and ready to play football again.
Homegrown Cole Bassett led the parade of enthusiastic players, sporting a Team USA polo shirt and reflecting on his play for the U-20 Men’s National Team, under the direction of former Rapids Head Coach Anthony Hudson. The rising midfielder scored two goals for the U.S. in a friendly against Mexico on January 16th.
Using technology to make sure the players stay fit in the offseason
During the offseason, Chad Kolarcik has remained true to his mission from previous years—to empower the players to develop their maximum power and strength during the offseason period and then, guide and catalyze their respective efforts to build up their fitness and endurance during the preseason months.
“Player strength and power is developed during this period, then maintained during the MLS season,” Kolarcik explained. “The players should be the absolute strongest and most powerful the day they arrive for their preseason medical exams and initial testing.”
Employing a new sports training and fitness app, Kolarcik has been in near-daily contact with players during the offseason. He communicates ”power and strength development” workout plans through the app after having each player complete a questionnaire. The feedback from the questionnaire enables him to gather performance-related data. He then determined if they were making progress or not so that Kolarcik could optimize the player-specific development program.
Rapids’ defender Kortne Ford, in particular, has been diligent in following his offseason rehabilitation-power-strength plan, completing most of his training at Denver University. He is upbeat, pain-free, full of optimism, and eager to compete for a starting role in the team’s backfield. Fans will be pleased to learn that his mother is doing “well.” (Ford said that he always appreciates the love and support that the Rapids faithful offer him and his mom.)
Incorporating nutrition into the offseason plans
New to Kolarcik’s plan is a greater attention to the players’ diets. The club has a full-time chef that prepares a buffet of balanced meal offerings for the broad mix of palates and player preferences. Kolarcik leverages the kitchens and menus of hotels on away trips and picks options suitable for his teammates. He hopes to hire a sports nutritionist to help him keep the team at peak health and performance and expand partnership with local sports health institutions.
Last season, he learned that players were not always “feeling 100%.” Despite feeling great during and after practice, something felt “off” at game time. Some commented that at away matches they felt well, however, felt off again when they returned to altitude.
Kolarcik consulted experts to help him synthesize a hypothesis. With the assistance of a physician and nutritionist, he is now collecting blood samples from a handful of players to profile the players’ wellness and perhaps, identify shortcomings in their overall health so that diets can be addressed and modified.
He mentioned one player is often felled by muscle cramps, which has impaired his performance and sometimes ruled him out of training. Kolarcik’s specialists have reviewed blood panel data and offered up recommendations to help optimize his diet and eliminate the cramps.
Kolarcik and the team trainers will now carry their performance program into the preseason month and ready the squad for the long MLS season run—and most certainly, their high-level play in Colorado’s thin air.
Check out a few photos from the Rapids’ first weekend back (all photos taken by John A. Babiak):