The MLS expansion side’s first season was derailed by the outbreak, forcing the players to find creative ways to remain sharp.
Professional athletes are creatures of habit. From gateways to training to foods and everything in between, everything in life is, in some manner, scheduled out. Disruptions to those customs tend to be costly and are inclined to have a direct effect on performance.
However, in a world shutdown from the coronavirus pandemic, you want to discover a way to keep those habits while staying mentally and physically sharp. Doing this is often easier said than done.
Like any club, Inter Miami is discovering that challenging. Training facilities are closed down, gatherings are prohibited and gyms are closed. It’s near impossible to discover the facilities and equipment required to genuinely train like a professional athlete.
That goes double for an expansion franchise, a group that’s only two matches into its first-ever season and is still building the foundation of a successful club.
Because of that, there’s this weird mixture of freedom and structure, of rigidity and creativity, going on right now. From awkwardly-long runs on ill-fitting areas to milk jug curls to group chat responsibility, it’s all about finding some semblance of routine. Up to now, that routine has been through a string of people working that feels very much like a group project.
“Our coaching staff has really rallied to deliver information for us to continue to learn and adapt our game,” said midfielder Wil Trapp. “We are an expansion team with new players, a new coach and a new version of the drama. The growth for a group is so important each and every day, and if you are not together, you want to find ways to bridge this gap.
“It is stimulating to have this homework, that football homework, and that is a terrific way for us to remain engaged and be together in ways that, though we’re apart, we can still grow and learn and fine-tune our thoughts.”
Before MLS announced that the league could be suspended as a result of the outbreak, Inter Miami’s players met with owners David Beckham and Jorge Mas. They had been told what was going to occur: their home opener against the Los Angeles Galaxy, the group’s first-ever home game, was likely to be postponed. Beckham and Mas wanted to send that message as players were now made to prepare for a very fresh and very fluid situation.
Soon after, the team held what Trapp described as a”drive-through”. Players were to come in and pick up a gear before going all-in on social-distancing. Additional messages and directions were soon to follow.
And so started the new training program. Players have a GPS vest which they use to check in daily. Some days are for endurance and a few for strength. Others focus on speed or ability. Head coach Diego Alonso and his staff oversee all of it, working with each position group with specific directions. Centerbacks are given distinct workouts than midfielders, by way of instance, with the latter focusing heavily on keeping the endurance needed for their position.
“We strive to communicate with them daily over the telephone, and via messages to existing,” said Alonso. “And also three or four times weekly through video conferences where the entire staff could be together. We try to spend some time with them, talking.
“Additionally, they have support from the league on a mental level should they need it. Each player can take advantage of this tool if they feel it’s necessary. Logically, we strive to be current permanently and attempt first, and most of all, to give them affection and give them the confidence that if they have any problems do not hesitate to speak to us, speak to the club, whether on a personal or household level or if they have any health issues, to be cautious so we can help.”
However, in a world under quarantine, there are just so many problems that the club can solve. One such difficulty is the shortage of gear, as many players stay semi-isolated in their own homes. Not every participant has access to gym weights or equipment when away from the club’s training centre.
Because of this, some creativity is needed.
“I really don’t have weights at home, so one of those examples that I’ve needed to use is filling up a milk jug, a gallon and using that as a burden,” goalkeeper Luis Robles said. “I use it for a few of the exercises, but it’s a creative way to do the training. It is never going to be ideal, but due to the training regiment, it will allow us to continue to train.
“It is an exercise in being creative and using the capacity to purchase things online and building your own home gym, so to speak,” Trapp added. “It has been something I have wanted to do for quite a long time, but this has prompted it as a necessity to keep strength, fitness and all of those things.”
At the end of the day, however, there’s absolutely not any substitute for good traditional cardio. You don’t need equipment to work on your endurance; only a great deal of open space.
Even that’s somewhat troublesome, however, as Trapp states it is tough to get the space necessary for distance running. As a midfielder, he wants to have the ability to conduct long-distance and stop on a dime, and locating open areas with that type of room has been a problem.
However, you can compensate for that with a few early-morning wake-ups and, for some, a couple of team-mates to hold you accountable.
“Unfortunately, the quick answer is operating, and I simply am not a runner by any stretch of the imagination,” joked Robles. “There are men that live near me, so we head out for a run and working together with them keeps me inspired and held accountable since they are really quick and in a way better shape than I am.
“When I think about what a professional athlete is like, I look at these guys and think of how amazing they’re from those workouts but it is inspiring and it lets me work on a part of my game that’s often overlooked.
“As a goalkeeper, there are various requirements for us to compete at a high level, but the 1 thing from the past two weeks of those workouts, this is most likely an aspect of my training regiment that I could seem to include once things return to normal.”
And that’s what everyone is waiting for: some normalcy. With the league’s statement on Wednesday that the training moratorium will expand into April, teams will continue to train like this for another week-and-a-half. The initial aim was to be back playing by May, but it remains to be seen when and if the league will go back to anything resembling a regular program.
When MLS does return, it is going to present something unique. There’ll almost surely be an extended training camp period as teams seem to completely regain any shape and fitness lost. Then, there’ll probably be a rapid-fire schedule with loads of double game weeks and a couple of weekends off.
That program will be challenging and it’ll take a toll, however, once the time comes, that return to the match is going to be a blessing for gamers that are looking forward to a return to their old routines.
“The thing that I miss the most is that the locker room, the camaraderie of being around the guys,” Robles said. “We’ve got a group text that’s continuing with banter, but it is not the same. You are not going to have this personal element of being in the locker room or on the training area and bantering about. I certainly miss.”
He added: “Sooner or later, we will return to normal, and what it is going to look like on the other side, we are not entirely sure but men are excited about that. I am looking forward to it. And once we get there, we will compete again.”