The staff of the world’s top-ranked Women’s National Team are not resting on their laurels.
As the U.S. Women’s National Team continues preparation for October’s 2018 CONCACAF Women’s Championship, which will serve as the World Cup qualifying tournament, the players will do so with the support of a newly-created, dedicated High Performance support team that consists of full-time experts in the fields of sports medicine, sports science and performance analysis to assist players and coaches on a year-round basis.
“One of the High Performance departments objectives is to link the multi-disciplinary teams together more cohesively, so there is more integration of knowledge, of data and of operation,” says James Bunce, Director the High Performance department. “My role is to bring these hugely integral technical and skilled areas together to optimize every area of player health, performance, psychology, conditioning and analysis of team tactical principles to make sure that every player – when they step on that pitch – not only is healthy and fit, but also prepared to win at the highest level.”
So, what exactly is this ‘new’ group, and how does it support the WNT?
Under development since Bunce was brought on in early 2017, the High Performance department is an initiative under U.S. Soccer’s Sport Development umbrella. The High Performance Department is focused on creating the best conditions in the areas of sport science, sport medicine and performance analysis for players, coaches, leaders and referees to develop and perform, through programs that allow them to achieve their ultimate potential.
The High Performance department encompasses three major technical areas:
- Sports Medicine – includes physicians, athletic trainers, physical therapists, massage therapists, chiropractors and other medical resources.
- Sports Science and Performance – entails functions such as sports scientists, strength and conditioning coaches, nutritionists and psychologists.
- Performance Analysis – looks at technical and tactical data, often using third party technology partners and working closely with National Team coaches to optimize the team’s in-game performance, opposition analysis and pre-game analysis through dedicated performance analysts.
“Each one of those areas offers expert support to the athletes and coaches in their own right,” explained Bunce. “For example, our athletic trainers are making sure our players are staying fit and healthy on and off the pitch. The sports scientists are working closely with the head coach to make sure that we’re optimizing our training loads and recovery. And Performance Analysts are looking to, for example, use data and information to help support the coach in their game plan and team set up.”
It’s not like the WNT didn’t have some of these functions in the past, it certainly did, but now many positions feature full-time rather than part-time staff, while others are new positions filled by new hires. In addition, the staff now works out of the Federation offices in Chicago when not in training camp or on the road, which provides added benefits, according to Bunce.
“We’re able to meet every day, discuss plans, organize new technologies, develop processes, formulate plans with Jill (Ellis) for the next camp, and integrate new ideas,” he said.