Letting the players think and experience it

Queen’s Park are the first Scottish club to have a full-time Lifestyle Coach in place and Ryan Docherty, who joined the Spiders earlier this year has a very simple explanation for a complex job as he explained: “The role of the Lifestyle coach is not saying do this or do that – more of a let the player think and experience it.”

Ryan, who is based at Lochinch Sports Pavilion, works with the club’s Academy squads from under-11 to Young Queen’s Park as well as the Men’s First Team and he further described his role by saying: “Players are here for four hours a day so there are 20 other hours a day where they are away from here and thinking about their what they can do to enhance their performances.”

The job is unique as Ryan added: “We are the only club in Scotland that has introduced a Lifestyle Coach where there is a lifestyle programme embedded into the curriculum. Marijn Beuker, Director of Football, played a key role in the creation of the lifestyle programme at AZ Alkmaar and has been a massive help in the implementation of it here at Queen’s Park.”

The club, parents and players all play a part in providing learning experiences as opposed to being dictated to as Ryan explained: “Sleep is a thing we want players to learn about. With our under-12’s, we worked with their parents to allow them to stay up to midnight on a Friday night. We then trained early on Saturday morning, and we had a discussion around how the players felt.

“The following week we asked for them to go to bed at nine o’clock and come in to train at ten o’clock. The quality of training was much higher. When the players understood the effect of rest on their bodies, it allowed them to make more informed decisions around their sleep schedule.

“I will not sit with anyone and say you need 60 grammes carbs or 15 grammes fruit and vegetables. The players have to feel it and want to do it. It is about encouraging the players to learn and make choices.”

Lifestyle coaching is not new to Scottish Football but is still viewed with wary eyes as Ryan continued by saying: “The lifestyle of football players has been changing for a number of years now as so many of them have come through Academies. They know about looking after themselves. Ninety per cent of the players at Queen’s Park in the Academy and First Team are doing the right things in their time away from here but part of the challenge to get 100% is looking at what is viewed as a European programme and not being daunted by it.

“These sessions are all formulating ideas and players finding one they like and copying it. The Academy Players are encouraged to look at what the top players across the world are doing and they have discovered that if Kylian Mbappé is doing something, then it is maybe not a bad idea to copy what he is doing.

“We are probably not going to have cryo- chambers or the blue light glasses Erling Haaland wears at night however we can achieve similar results by putting our phones away at night. Something like that may make a player sleep better and what we are looking to do is provide an education around making that choice.”

The support of the coaching staff throughout the club as well as parents is essential with Ryan adding: “The programme is built around six-week blocks which starts with an introduction to a subject and then we will discuss what is happening during that block with the players and the coaches. The coaches play a key role in further implementing the lifestyle programme by asking their players questions around the topics that we are discussing.”

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