Toby's the man with the plan

As members and fans, dealing with the seemingly endless Hyundai A-League off-season can be a real challenge. Nothing quite seems to fill the football-less void.

But as we continue the slow countdown to the 2017-18 campaign, spare a thought for Glory’s Strength and Conditioning Coach, Toby Horak.

For he faces the unenviable task of presiding over a marathon pre-season fitness program, one that is further complicated by the presence of the Westfield FFA Cup.

“It’s a big challenge,” he admitted.

“We can have up to 16 weeks before the A-League season starts and that’s a long period of time.

“This year we’ll have had four weeks running up to the FFA Cup game, so we’ll almost be having a mini pre-season within the pre-season to prepare for that.

“So there’s the challenge of making sure that everyone is ready to go five weeks in, while also bearing in mind the bigger picture of the start of the A-League still being several months away.

“The pre-season schedule is pretty dependent on the FFA Cup and fortunately, during my first two years here, we got through to the final, so we had those competitive games throughout the pre-season.

“But the flip side is that because it’s a knockout competition, we only find out two or three weeks beforehand whether we’re going to have a game or not.

“So although we have a plan for a 14-16-week pre-season, it’s got to be almost written in pencil and it can be subject to a lot of change."

A visit to Horak’s corner of Glory's training HQ provides a clear insight into the role technology and sports science play in modern strength and conditioning.

It’s literally hard to move for the various heart-rate monitors, laptops and other recording equipment stacked around the place.

And the 29-year-old revealed that the wealth of performance data churned out by these devices is often the subject of changing-room banter.

“There are always players that want to know every detail of their results from games and training and how those results compare to those of their teammates,” he said.

“We have a leader-board to see how they stack up against each other so they can have a little bit of competitiveness.

“Some guys don’t really care too much unless their numbers are down and they’re getting told that they need to do more work.

“But it’s good when they do buy into the stats because it helps us to drive the program.

“There are lots of technologies that are always evolving and we’re very lucky to have a relationship with ECU Joondalup.

“It means we can utilise a lot of their performance-tracking equipment and some of their testing resources up at the university.

“Most of that equipment is very expensive, but our relationship with them enables us to use it, which is a huge plus for the club.”

Another factor that Horak has to take into account in his role is that of travel, with the physical toll of Glory’s fortnightly trips to the east coast and beyond requiring a high level of management and pre-planning.

“When the season comes around,” he said, “the majority of the scheduling and the loading we do with the players is based around the travel.

“We usually have two flights every other week which does impact upon our ability to train, so we have to adjust to that and potentially do more on other days to compensate for what we miss on the travel days themselves.

“It’s always a challenge.

“All the players have to wear compression gear on their flights to and from games and we try and get them to stay on Perth time when we’re away and schedule everything around that.

“It actually benefits us more than it does teams coming to Perth because it means we can effectively play 7pm games at 4pm, whereas the same kick-off time here is the equivalent of 10pm for teams from over east.”

Originally from Tasmania, Horak is currently overseeing his fourth pre-season having arrived at Glory in 2014 following stints in the AFL with Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast Suns and in the WAFL with Subiaco.

So how does he keep things fresh for the players and indeed, for himself?

“With a long pre-season,” he said, “it’s vital to get some variety in there because if we’re just down on the training pitch all the time, it can get quite monotonous for everyone.

“We do our gym work and go off to do bike and box sessions because it’s vital to change the environment and freshen it up.

“The boxing sessions are pretty popular and we have one or two lads who go well on the pads.

“Shane Lowry and Liam Reddy are two of those I wouldn’t want to take on in a bare-knuckle fight!”