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How the Rapids are trying to maintain their fitness during the break

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A conversation with Chad Kolarcik, Head of Performance for the Colorado Rapids.

Photo courtesy of the Colorado Rapids

A couple of weeks ago, members of the media talked with Colorado Rapids Head Coach Robin Fraser about, among other things, how the players are staying fit during the COVID-19 break. While he admits that it’s made more complicated by not knowing when the break will end or how much time they’ll have to prepare before games start once they get the go-ahead to train again, everyone is on the same page in that they’re “going to do everything we can so that when we get through this and we resume playing that we’re going to be in as good a shape as possible.”

But what does that look like? We spoke with Chad Kolarcik, Head of Performance for the Rapids, to find out more about what are the Burgundy Boys doing and how the need for creativity now may change training in the future.

Burgundy Wave: As far as training goes, what are your expectations for this break?

Chad Kolarcik: There are a few things that are a little bit outside of my control in terms of how this is all gonna pan out. When we initially thought that it might be a couple weeks, my expectations were different than they probably are now, as it looks like this is going to extend a little bit longer than we probably initially thought.

So for me, I need them to just try to continue to maintain what we’ve developed over the offseason, as well as the preseason. And that’s the key objective for me in terms of trying to make sure that they just don’t lose too much, because obviously it’s really hard to replicate actual soccer training, so we have to try to manufacture—to the best of our ability—the loading that they would get if they were actually training. That’s through a combination of different types of programs, but my expectation for them is that they’re doing something pretty much every day.

The way that I have it set up now is they’re doing something every day except for Sunday and all of this work in accumulation will help them to maintain all the progress that we’ve made over the last three, four months.

BW: Does it feel similar to preseason preparation, or is it more than that since, like you said, you’re trying to keep them in shape for games?

CK: You know, it’s a good question. It feels like some kind of hybrid between offseason and preseason. Obviously we came out of preseason and we’re trying to... stay able to play games. To be honest with you, I think it’s probably unrealistic that now that guys have been off for the last few weeks—and it’s probably going to extend for at least a few more weeks—to think that guys are going to come back and be match fit.

So for me it’s probably a little bit closer to an offseason than it is to a preseason in terms of what we’re able to do, because guys are essentially isolated in their apartments and the amount of equipment is limited.

Everything that we’re doing with them is being sent to them remotely, and you’re just trying to replicate some volume of work so you don’t lose too much, but it’s structured a little bit more like an offseason program than it is even in-season or a preseason program. That’s largely because of the constraints that we have—guys can’t really go out and play pickup soccer because they can’t be around each other, you know guys don’t have as much access to as much equipment, so for me it’s almost like a modified and adjusted offseason program.

Maybe the only difference is the volume of work that I’m trying to get guys to do is a little bit different than the offseason. It’s a little bit more with some of the running because we have built them up to a certain level, so the volume that I’m trying to have them do are a bit higher. And that’s largely because, again, I’m trying to replicate the total volumes of work that guys would do in a given training week, even though it’s not playing soccer.

BW: Are there some drills that you’re asking them to do outside away from other people or is it mainly focusing on things that they can do in their apartment or house on the treadmill or bike for cardio?

CK: Yeah, it’s a mix. The way I have it set up is, they do something six days a week, and there are three runs, two lifting sessions, and a yoga session.

With the running, most guys are able to get outside into an area and run. Some guys just have to run on the street, some guys have a field across from their houses and they can go to the field, so there are some different scenarios that we have some guys are not able to get out onto a field, or even go outside, just because of their family situations.

I would prefer that they’re doing the running outside because just being outside and having to breathe the air outside and actually running on ground is different than running on a treadmill. All those things as specific to actually running on a field and playing soccer as we can be—I try to get as close to that as possible.

BW: I saw—I think it was on Kort’s Instagram—that you were personally delivering equipment to everyone.

CK: Once we realized that this was going to go on for an extended period of time, we basically got all of the equipment that we have in the gym sanitized... and then myself and Pete came in and we organized all the equipment.

It was a combination of some guys came in and we put the equipment in their car and they drove off and then for some guys, we actually loaded all of the equipment into the truck and drove it around... it was a combination of different things but essentially a lot of guys didn’t have anything at all in terms of equipment, so we basically had to try to find a way to at least divvy some of that up for them and give them something. Us being able to do that allows us to do some of these programs a little bit more effectively in terms of their lifting and how we’re able to program them and what exercises we can give them. It gives us a little bit more flexibility to actually do something that’s going to help them.

BW: I‘ve been thinking about how gyms and yoga studios are going online and how this is going to change delivery models for fitness and other things in the future. It’s coming out of necessity, but people are thinking creatively and I think it is going to change the way that we work and live and do all of those things in the future.

CK: That’s probably the most interesting—and the most fun part of it—you know, it’s even given me ideas about the way we do stuff in the offseason... we can sit here and be dragged down by the circumstance that we’re in, but I think that we’re pretty lucky, given all the technology that we have at our fingertips, to be able to continue to work.

BW: The Rapids were obviously doing really well and other teams weren’t doing as well, so does this affect the momentum that the teams that are playing better had and/or give teams that maybe weren’t playing as well a chance to kind of catch up from a physical perspective?

CK: You know, from a physical perspective, you’re definitely gonna lose a little bit of a rhythm because that’s why we have a preseason. You have a preseason because guys need to get touches on the ball, they need to get their fitness, they need to get game minutes and realistic situations and the mental piece of it too, in terms of the pressure and the decision-making. For guys in preseason, that’s an opportunity for all those things to kind of come together for them.

I think that when we come back, it might look a little rusty. I think that would be reasonable to expect, but I might say on the other side of that, I talk to these guys almost every day and all they want to do is play. So there’s part of you that might say, okay, it’s going to be a little bit rusty, and but I think that some of these guys are just itching to play that there might also just be an intensity to the handful of matches when we come back.

Guys might just be flying because they’re just, they’re just starved to play soccer again, and they haven’t been able to. I think it could wind up being a little bit of both where there might be a little bit of intensity when we come back, just because guys are just raring to go and they want to play and they’re missed the game, but when these guys don’t touch the ball for four or five or six weeks, it takes a few weeks for them to get back into the rhythm. And that’s just pretty normal.

As far as teams in terms of their momentum, I’m not really sure if it will affect it.

I think the one thing that we’ve realized, or at least I’ve realized personally over our time with Robin, is that he has really clear ideas and he communicates really, really well to the players and I think all of our players have a really clear understanding of what they need to do and what their roles are. In terms of the momentum we built and the momentum that we had, we might be able to just roll right into it and keep going because I think everyone understands what is expected of them and what they need to do.

BW: I know this is probably going to be difficult to answer because, like we’ve talked about, who knows how long this is actually going to be, but generally speaking, where do you start when you come back?

CW: Like you said, that’s going to depend a little bit on how long this goes... March 11th was the last time we trained, so we’re a little bit over two weeks now. I expect this to go at least a couple more weeks, so you’re looking at about a month.

Let’s say we go back and we’re training again in the next few weeks. For me it would be quite similar to a transition out of offseason into preseason in terms of what you would do. Again it will depend a little bit on how much time they give us... you would basically want to apply the same principles that we apply in preseason, but just shorten it, so you would want to try to have guys come back into training and basically work from trying to get a lot of volume of playing and stuff on the field and then slowly transition to everything being about more intensity before we start into that first game when we’re back.

Our ability to do that, our ability to start day one of the first day that we’re back and allowed to train again and then transition towards our first game... is going to be largely dependent on all the work the guys are doing right now. All of this work will continue to give them the foundation so that we can basically jump right back in and hit the ground running and build guys back up to the intensity we need to be able to go ahead and just transition right back into the next game.

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The last word from Major League Soccer was that the training moratorium was extended through Friday, April 3rd, though the season is still suspended until at least May.