Ben Herd Pro Performance Academy: ‘Long gone is the time when football and science were on opposite sides’
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Part two of the Herts Ad’s three-part series with St Albans City’s Ben Herd looks at the very different training methods his Pro Performance Academy use. You’re not going to find weight training and shuttles here. This is more ‘street’ football.
They do things differently at the Ben Herd Pro Performance Academy.
Ball skills are important but the former professional believes that you can train the body to be more responsive so that when it goes on to a football pitch, the movements a player naturally goes through during a game feel natural.
Exactly what is done is a closely-guarded secret but it seems to be working if results abroad for the academy are to be believed.
“We go on tour to Spain now,” said Herd, “to San Pedro del Pinatar. We went over last year after they got in touch and basically it’s a state-of-the-art training facility where the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City and CSKA Moscow do their warm-weather winter training and they organise games for us.
“It’s quite satisfying in some respects as we’re nowhere near where I want us to be but we go over there and the way we play is more Spanish than the Spanish.
“They were launching balls in from the halfway line like an English football league side and we had to deal with it.
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“But when we got it we played some lovely stuff.
“We train in chaos. I don’t care where we train; we’ll train where the tree roots are.
“But when we got to play on a big, pristine pitch, it was good to watch.
“We did outplay teams, good considering we had only been going for 18 months and the teams we were against were institutionalised sides.”
That will have caught the eye but anyone looking deeper will see an academy that is embracing the newer, more scientific methods that are flooding, not just football, but top-class spot in general.
“I look at training and coaching and from my point of view a modern football coach cannot just look after the football side,” said Herd.
“They have got to understand, injury prevention, biometrics, the dynamics of the body, how it moves and why you specifically train the way you do and how to do it.
“Long gone are the times when the football side and sport science side were polar opposites.
“The time has come now, certainly in Europe, where clubs have taken on more formal training for their coaches.
“A sports scientist might be able to tell you how to jump higher for example, and prescribe a series of squats say, but I think there are even better ways to do it, more suited to football.
“Things have got to make sense. Why do weights? It’s not a movement associated with football. It’s not explosive, it’s slow and laboured and usually done on your back.”
But it’s not just what you do that will get you a chance of a professional contract, there’s more to it than that according to Herd.
“Attitude is everything. It’s the biggest thing, even in my own career.
“When I was playing there were lads better than me playing for England U17s and went on and did nothing in the game because their attitudes weren’t good enough.
“[Wycombe’s] Luke O’Nien trains with me in the morning
“He’ll come in with me when he retires hopefully. I trust him and he is a loyal person but his attitude is phenomenal.
“Every little thing about his life is on point.
“I’ve seen it here too. Our first year students were diamonds but their attitude was first class.
“Perhaps it was because they weren’t the top of their class elsewhere but they were training with me from 8am and the strides they made was incredible.
“It’s great as a trainer to see the results from it; seeing where the students are when you get them to where they are when they leave.”
The academy, which is based at Hertford Cricket Club, is now in its third year and Herd is already looking towards the future, both short and long-term.
“The biggest thing for us now is getting players into clubs. That’s how you forge your reputation and how you’re ultimately judged.
“Longer term I’d like us to progress from a facility point of view. I’d love to have our own training complex but it would be different to most.
“It wouldn’t have just a 3G pitch, it would have a sandpit, we’d have a playground and we’d have things to help us play how I see football being played, a bit more street.
“We produce too many robots at the minute.”
For more information on the academy go to their website www.bhppacademy.com