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Women's Football News
Cheltenham Town's results are showing an upturn in the South West League this season and this is due in no small part to their new coach Ian Hutton.
Also involved with the men's team, Ian is carving out a good reputation as a coach after his playing career came to an unfortunate end, as he explains: "At 17 I was scouted and signed by Rugby Town but during my first season there, suffered a grade 3 hamstring tear which ended my season. During pre season the follow term, I twice dislocated my shoulder and found it hard to regain fitness and ultimately wasn't able to win my place back.
"I decided to look at my coaching badges, however at that age then my personal life was in a turbulent state and I found myself in and out of trouble with the law. Subsequently I never managed to complete the assessment for my Level 2 after doing all the training and coaching hours. After a few years, at 25 years old, I dragged my life back on track and started playing semi pro once again, this time for Barwell FC. Marcus Law came in as the new manager and was a breath of fresh air, although again, reoccurring injuries pushed me down the pecking and eventually into the reserve team. I trained with Hinckley United FC for a short time but at 26 I decided, it was time to look at other avenues."
As Ian's new coaching career began, he also started to become involved in the women's game: "I grew up in Leicester and had previously worked individually with a few of the Leicester City Women's team on fitness. Seeing the intensity at which they wanted to work really impressed me.
"When I moved to Cheltenham, I knew it was something I wanted to get involved with. By chance one of my new housemates (Lucy Haigh) was playing for Cheltenham at the time. At the end of the season they were in, we set up a meeting with the manager Andy Liddle and shared our thoughts and intentions and he seemed keen to see how it worked out. The coaching in place was fantastic already at CTLFC and we're very lucky to have Chris Gooch, a UEFA B licence coach, overseeing the technical/tactical training. This is a team that didn't win a single game all last season, and a lot was down to fitness I am led to believe. Pre-season was about introducing me to women's football and introducing the women to how I coach people and my standards. I have very high standards and take a very professional and serious approach to my work. I'm hard on the girls and I think it was very alien to most of them to begin with but they are now starting to reap the rewards.
"We continue to work on Thursdays doing team fitness. We're currently doing gym based work, working specifically to player requirements. I have some that are currently non weight baring and some non impact (returning from injury). Others are now learning how to squat, Deadlift, depth jump and box jump. Plyometric exercises are only applied to players routine, if they're are strong enough and have progressed through the correct training.
"The other big issue we've experienced and have now put guidelines in place for, is the nutrition of the players. Alcohol is banned the night before a game and they have all received a document about food the day before and on match days up to the point where they have to stop consuming solid foods and go strictly to sports drinks a couple of hours before KO. Post match meals are finally being changed from sausage and chips to jacket potatoes. Again this has come at an extra cost, but the manager is 100% behind me."
So how have the players responded to the changes? "It's been a mixed bag really," he admits. "Some look to improve themselves whichever way they can and will take on board everything, others are far more reserved. We had a wake up call some weeks ago now where the players let themselves down, we were beaten in the cup, their preparation was shocking. We had a team meeting the following Tuesday session where we re-enforced player expectations (otherwise known as a rollocking!). Since then we have won two in three.
"As long as the staff and committee continue to sing from the same hymn sheet, the team will only get better. The improvements in players has been dramatic. We're not winning all the time, but we are giving ourselves the opportunity to compete and believe in our bodies to play to the end. There is a lot of work to be done and I believe we are in a transitional period this season. Next season we want to be pushing for promotion to the Combination League and I see that as a very realistic target if the players share the same aspirations.
"These girls have 3 coaches, one as I said is UEFA B, working with WBA kids, access to some amazing equipment, a nutritionist and we also work on player psychology. These kind of tools aren't even available to some pro clubs. We'd love to add to the current playing staff to give us a bit more depth, plus we're hoping to set up links locally to ensure we have access to up and coming players. These things however take time but hopefully the seeds can be planted."
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