“Getting fit and keeping them fit” is the motto of excelsior Rotterdam
08 MARCH 2022
Mario Meijer (57 years old) is a caregiver/recovery trainer at Excelsior Rotterdam. With a wealth of experience and more than 26 years of loyal service, Mario has become a permanent fixture at the club. This is not strange in the football world, but it always remains special. Mario: “I have now been working at this club for more than 26 years. Then you have experienced all the ups and downs. I am now part of the furniture, but you also have to move with the times. JOHAN is also part of that”. We were allowed to ask Mario a number of questions about the working method at Excelsior and the handling of GPS data from the JOHAN Sports GPS system.
HOW DID YOU COME UP AT EXCELSIOR ROTTERDAM?
“I have known the club since childhood. I went through the entire Excelsior youth academy and played with the U21 team for a number of years. After that I even trained with the first team for a few months, but it never came from an official debut in Excelsior 1.
Then I ended up in amateur football. I myself played football at amateur associations such as Xerxes, Capelle and DCV. In the meantime I have done a sports massage course, the necessary recovery / fitness courses and obtained my UEFA C and B and I have been head coach at CKC from Rotterdam for years.
I’ve always kept a connection with Excelsior, because you’ve been there for such a long time. It was around 1994 that Gertjan Goudswaard (sports physician) was doing an internship at Excelsior at the time and they were looking for a caregiver/recovery trainer. I did that for a year. The following year, they started an official collaboration with Feyenoord and from that moment on they needed someone full-time for the first team of Excelsior. At that time I still had a job as a financial employee at KPN. Everyone thought: Mario, what are you doing? You are just starting your career. But I’ve never regretted my decision and I’m still having a great time.”
WHAT EXACTLY DOES YOUR ROLE INCLUDE WITHIN THE STAFF?
“As a caretaker/recovery trainer, I am responsible for the recovery of the players after matches. This means that after the matches I offer recovery training to players to recover as quickly as possible from the effort made. I do this in collaboration with our fitness trainer. I also offer separate recovery training for players who come back from the injury. Maurice de Groot (physiotherapist) takes care of the first treatments and then I often take over to schedule more football-specific recovery training. We also do this on the basis of the GPS data from JOHAN.
In addition, I make sure that all GPS and heart rate data is properly collected. We pay extra attention to it, especially during the matches and the football conditional sessions. We work with certain goals and if the players don’t reach them, extra sprints are done. We look daily at how the players are doing and make a weekly plan to advise the technical staff. We do this together with our exercise physiologist.
Offer recovery training to players after matches to get fit as quickly as possible. In collaboration with our fitness trainer. Also guys coming back from the injury. Maurice de Groot first treatments and then I often take over to schedule football specific recovery training. We also do this on the basis of the data.
HOW LONG HAS EXCELSIOR ROTTERDAM WORKED WITH GPS DATA FOR THE FIRST TEAM?
“In the beginning, we only worked with heart rate sensors to monitor the heart rate of the players.
We have been working with the JOHAN Sports GPS Tracking system since the 2016/2017 season. First with the V4 GPS tracking system and since last summer we switched to the new LIVE tracking system including the JOHAN Live app.”
WHAT ANALYZES DO YOU MAKE ON A DAILY/WEEKLY BASIS WITH THE JOHAN GPS SYSTEM?
“Together with our exercise physiologist, we make an AC Work ratio. We do this for the team and individually per player on total distances, sprint distances, hi-intensity sprints, number of sprints, accelerations and decelerations. The periodization is also checked daily. Sometimes we play a game on Friday and we don’t have a new game until ten days later. Another week it’s a game again on Monday and Friday. Can we train harder in the meantime or should we schedule a quiet training? It is therefore important to us that they achieve a perfect balance between overtraining and undertraining.”
HOW DO YOU DO THAT WITH THE SUBSTITUTES?
“We mainly keep the players who do not play a (full) match fit by means of practice matches or extra training sessions. Sometimes our substitutes participate in the O21 and if that is not possible we arrange practice matches to achieve a good load. Recently we arranged an exhibition match against Sparta Rotterdam. They’re nearby, so that’s easy.”
HOW DOES EXCELSIOR ROTTERDAM LOOK AT THE LIVE DATA IN THE JOHAN LIVE APP?
“In VCT training we mainly look at sprint distances above 20 km/h and hi-intensity sprint distances (above 25 km/h). We have set goals for each training and we want these to be achieved per training. This is also seen from the perspective of injury risks and is scientifically substantiated. In competitions we look more at HR, sprints, number of sprints, hi intensity sprints, max speed. Then we check whether crazy things happen or whether players do not reach high values in 1 go. For example, a while ago we had a new boy from the transfer window who joined the selection. The first match he played he had a very difficult time and we also saw this reflected in JOHAN’s live app. Then we also indicated at half-time: keep in mind that he cannot keep this up.
We also closely monitor the players’ heart rates and recovery during drills. Some people who come back after a period of illness (corona) or a muscle injury. What was his maximum speed before his injury and did he reach it? How has his recovery been from this training? Based on this, we can determine whether someone can return to group training.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS IMPORTANT WHEN IT COMES TO MONITORING PLAYERS’ FITNESS?
“Ultimately, the goal is that a player can ‘go’ 150% in his position. That they can always keep making their meters for 90 minutes +, without you taking irresponsible risks and increasing the chance of players getting injured. That is something we absolutely do not want, of course. Getting fit and keeping fit is our motto. Data has of course become super important in order to monitor players properly and to be able to intervene or stimulate at the right time. JOHAN Sports is an important partner in this.”
We wish Excelsior Rotterdam good luck and safe (sprint) kilometers with the second half of the competition!