Rhys Carr: Making Bristol the City of Science

Carr has worked for Bristol City since 2013

Carr has worked for Bristol City since 2013

BRISTOL CITY may be one of the biggest teams never to play in the Premier League, but they’re top flight when it comes to preparation.

Rhys Carr, their Head of Fitness and Conditioning, has been a key part of that. This off-season he’ll bring the city its first major sports science conference - and says he hopes to learn a lot to take back to his own job.

Soccer Science, on Monday June 4th at Ashton Gate, features speakers including Wales' new Head of Performance, Tony Strudwick, who will be delivering a keynote on how teams can gain an edge.

“I’ve invited the practitioners I myself would want to hear from, people like Tony and Tom Allen at Arsenal," Carr told TGG. "I think people at all levels will be able to learn how to set up their teams better. All of the guys presenting have a wealth of experience and knowledge.

“I hope to be able to use some of the things I learn on the day in my own role at Bristol City. We’ll be exploring current and future developments, because this is an industry that never stands still.”

Innovation will be a cornerstone of the conference. For his job, Carr has to try and find out about the latest developments in football performance, from tech to science.

Lukas Keppler is travelling from Germany to talk about his company Impect and their new method of match analysis, which involves a process called ‘Packing’, and is used by clients including the German national team.

Mi-Hiepa, a company we’ve covered on TGG before, will be showcasing their virtual reality training and cognitive development technology.

“VR helps players make decisions quicker, but there is no physical loading involved, which is a key consideration for all practitioners now," Carr said. "There’s a stimulus but you’re not taking any energy out of the legs. Going forwards, VR is going to be big.

"Tony Strudwick was recently asked what's the next big thing in football and he said the development of cognitive skills."

Elsewhere, there will be expert advice on planning and executing training sessions, to build both fitness and resistance to injury, both of which have major implications on the points table and balance sheet for any club.

“Like other clubs, Bristol City will end up having 55 games by the end of the year - hopefully more,” Carr said. “There have only been five or six weeks where we haven’t had a midweek game so managing load and recovery is key, not just for us, but for every club, so it will be interesting to hear what methods others use to optimize their performance”

The first session will be a round-table discussion about training microcycles, involving Preston’s Tom Little, Jonny Northeast of DC United and Everton’s Matt Taberner. It will explore how different teams structure their training week to include the technical, tactical, physical and psychological corners of the game.

Later in the day, there will be a presentation on tactical periodisation - one of the hottest topics in football - from former Middlesbrough first-team coach Dave Adams.

"Dave did a lecture on Tactical Periodisation when I took my Uefa A licence course with the Welsh FA and it was excellent,” Carr said. “This is something I’m very interested in, so I’m really looking forward to the session. We practice our own form of tactical periodisation at Bristol City, as most clubs do.

Arsenal sport scientist Tom Allen will talk about how different drills impact loading, using his experience of working with the GPS and technology company STATSports, while former Blackburn Head of Performance and England fitness coach Chris Neville, who is now a consultant, will explore technical session planning.

One of the crucial issues for any performance team is how to effectively integrate data and analysis - which is becoming increasingly influential - into a training session. Lille assistant manager Joao Sacramento has agreed to come and speak about his work in this area.

“Joao was an analyst for years and is now a technical coach, so he has a fantastic perspective on this issue,” said Carr, who himself worked as an analyst before becoming a sport scientist.

The former Cardiff City man believes the conference will help any coach or practitioner, no matter what level they're working.

“I’ve been overwhelmed with the response, not just from local coaches and clubs but from people all over the world," he said. "Some attendees are travelling thousands of miles for the day.

"At the top end, if you get this stuff right it can take you to the Premier League and into Europe, which means an increase in club revenue of millions of pounds. But how we prepare, perform and recover is essential to all coaches at all levels.

"Technology is becoming more affordable and accessible and understanding it better in the context of how teams play, train and recover is key."

An early bird ticket price of £140 is available until March 31st. After that the price will be £180. For more information click HERE.

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