The wait is over! AFL returns, with the season kick-off a culmination of months of meticulous preparation from the sports science departments around the league.
The 2016 AFL season begins this weekend with millions of fans around the country, but for ACU student and Melbourne Demons Sport Science Coordinator and Rehabilitation Coach, Alex Sakadjian, the first round of games is the culmination of months of preparation.
“Preseason is probably the busiest time for us because it’s solid blocks of training, whereas when we move into the in-season the coaches have more time with the players to review games, analyse oppositions and structure trainings around that,” Alex said.
“We focus more on recovery; we drop our training loads down because the game itself is such a big training stimulus – it’s the hardest stress the athletes are going to experience throughout the weekly cycle – so we adjust their training and recovery loads accordingly.
“At the end of the day the athletes need to be in a position to perform to the best of their ability, so if we need to modify training we act accordingly to allow them to perform on game day.”
Part of the first intake of the Master of High Performance Sport in 2014, Alex said the course has provided him with exposure to world-leading experts and industry-relevant knowledge that no other offering could provide.
“I looked at a couple of different options, including strength and conditioning focused courses at other universities, but an attraction of the Masters of High Performance Sport was that I would be part of the first intake of a first-of-its-kind course,” Alex said.
“Additionally from a course structure perspective, to see units on leadership and ethics was particularly interesting and has become more important in high performance environments – that’s true high performance learnings.
“Being a predominately online course, the University was able to call on the best of the best to deliver the specific units – to have the best person in team sport conditioning speaking from France or a world-leading expert on ankle rehabilitation from Qatar – it’s the leader in that field delivering the content.”
Entering his sixth year with Melbourne, Alex has become a key cog in the off-field machine overseeing the delivery of sports science into the program, and managing rehabilitation and recovery for the 44 player list.
Working so closely with players recovering from serious and long-term injuries, Alex said he gets a great deal of satisfaction from seeing them fully recover and return to the field of play.
“That’s probably the most rewarding part of my role. When you work so closely, so intricately with someone who is unable to play for 12 months or longer, to see them ticking those milestone boxes along the way is really exciting,” Alex said.
“It’s especially rewarding to see them go out uninhibited and play well, and hopefully we don’t see them as part of the rehab group again, because we’ve set them up with a good foundation, a good program to have sustained success.”
Melbourne begins their 2016 AFL season on Saturday against the Greater Western Sydney Giants at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.