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Donnelly talks lockdown, player fitness and future planning

“They’re all just so excited about having an actual football out at their feet and doing some ball work”

13 July 2020

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Rovers Ladies manager Gemma Donnelly says the extended period away from football has presented an opportunity to develop Rovers’ plans for the forthcoming season and beyond.

Donnelly’s side played their last competitive fixture on 23 February, away at Sheffield United, before the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic. 

The 2019-20 FA Women’s Championship season was then curtailed, with the final league standings decided on a points-per-game basis. 

During this time away from the pitch, Donnelly has been busy outlining how the Blues will operate moving forwards, which she believes will have a positive impact on the team. 

“Between myself, head coach Katie [Quinlan] and the rest of the staff, we’ve spent a lot of time planning over the last three or four months, more than we have done ever before,” the Rovers boss revealed. 

“Because the league was continuing until we were told otherwise, we had to try and maintain communication with the players and ensure that we engaged them in a number of activities. 

“We were able to maintain some element of fitness using a remote programme. Some players were housebound or had limited exercise opportunities but had to upload their activities. 

“We devised a league system based on the amount of time that they had dedicated in comparison to heart rate or distance covered, depending if they were inside or outside.

“We had to keep them motivated and I’m sure every player will tell you that at some point they hit a wall and became sick to death of going on their bike or running. They just wanted a ball and to go and play football.

“We also engaged them through an online platform and tried to nail down our principles of play so that players were able to recognise certain areas and things that could be developed. 

“We formulated them and we’re able to use them for our presentation across the board from our RTC and for new players, so that we can give some real examples of what it looks like to a player when we’re talking about our principles. 

“It was a brilliant resource for the coaches too, to see the exact pictures we were trying to get across, so there have been loads of positives."

Donnelly praised the players for their commitment to remote training activities and believes that it will stand them in good stead for the pre-season to come. 

“As best they could they’ve remained professional and continued with the programme up until the point that the league was finished,” she added. 

“Then we afforded them a couple of weeks of complete rest where they didn’t have to do anything and they could go and enjoy the restricted time that they had to do whatever they wanted to do. 

“Now we’re in a position where they are close to completing six weeks of the latest remote programme, before we enter into the initial stages of pre-season. 

“We’re all just so excited about it, to have an actual football and to get that at their feet and do some ball work.”

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