To mark his final match here as Sports Scientist, Jason Moriarty talked about a long association with AFC Wimbledon that stretches back to 2008 and the days when Terry Brown was our manager.
Jason’s farewell thoughts appeared in yesterday’s ‘from the dug-out’ programme notes and the full article, for those that missed it, is reproduced in full below.
I was bought to the club in 2008 by Terry Brown, and it is amazing to reflect on how much the club and its sports science department have progressed since then. My introduction to football was quite eye-opening. I quickly had to learn how to engage with the personalities of the senior players, the likes of Jason Goodliffe, Ben Judge, Elliott Godfrey, Jon Main, Mikey Haswell and Alan Inns. Back then we trained in the evenings on boggy pitches, with Simon Bassey and Stuart Cash shouting to make their voices heard above the loud ticking of six floodlight engines.
At the end of my first season we won promotion from what was then the Conference South to the Conference Premier (now the National League). We finished 2009/10 as the highest placed semi-professional side in the county. That doesn’t tell quite the whole story, though, as the football staff and I were already setting the wheels in motion to go full time. The younger players who didn’t have full-time jobs would train two mornings a week with me and Terry. In these sessions I would aim to enhance their movement patterns, while Terry focused on position-specific work. They would join the rest of the squad for two evenings of training. This was a prerequisite to going full-time in the 2010/11 season, and a significant step on the way to the present set-up at the club.
In pre-season in 2010 we were using gymnastic rings hanging from a tree outside our current gym in an attempt to enhance players’ physical prowess. Fast-forward to today, and our gym now houses strength and power development equipment including lifting platforms, wall-mounted squat racks, cables and plyometric boxes along with rehab/recovery tools such as wattbikes, compression boots and a leg press – all of which are customised in the club’s blue and yellow colours.
After promotion from the Conference to League Two, I teamed up with Stuart Douglas and we began to develop the medical department further. We enhanced our return-to-play programmes and put in place a daily injury-prevention session. We set up a work-placement programme that enabled second-year university students to join us for a season and receive progressive and systematic continuing professional development training at the same time as getting practical experience working with our U23s and the first team. (This programme has evidently been successful, as five of the sports science students who came to us on placement are currently working at professional football clubs – that is something we are extremely proud of).
We set about building relationships with nutrition-supplement companies to ensure that the players get the correct “refuelling” immediately after training and games. And we integrated activities such as progressive acceleration, plyometrics (jump training), change of direction and agility into the training syllabus.
In another area, I began to look extensively at the matchday GPS data (on players’ movements, such as distance covered, as recorded by the sensors they wear) to determine whether there was a correlation between the data recorded and the result of the game. I also analysed the data to determine to what degree factors such as playing home or away, time of kick-off, formation and current score increased or reduced team output. I spent a year monitoring the height of our younger players to see whether there were any increases over the season, and, if there were, whether they showed up as a negative effect in functional movement screening (a test to identify any irregularities in body movement that may lead to injury).
I worked closely with Ashley Bayes and his goalkeepers and determined through testing whether individual goalkeepers needed to be able to produce more force through their legs or improve the use of their muscles as a spring in order to enhance their jumping ability. This then formed the basis of their training, and made their gym sessions more transferable to outdoor training and games.
I have been fortunate to work at a progressive club with players and staff who have challenged me and enabled me to grow with them, both as a person and as a professional. Three promotions and three successful relegation battles are memories that will live with me for ever. I would like to conclude by thanking everyone who has played a part in making my time here fruitful, including the volunteers, the Commercial Department, the office staff and the directors. I wish AFC Wimbledon and everyone associated with the club all the best for the future.