CLUB UPDATE: Lee Sanders and Sarah Wilson discuss behind the scenes developments

With football currently on an indefinite hiatus, we caught up with manager Lee Sanders and first-team captain Sarah Wilson to find out how the club are coping in the current climate – both on and off the pitch.

While training as a group hasn’t been possible in recent weeks, the Wildcats are continuing to complete weekly online sessions – designed to ensure they remain in peak physical condition ahead of fixtures resuming later this year.

In addition to these group sessions, players are also following individual training plans devised by the club’s sports science and strength and conditioning team. Nutritional advice has also been made available, to ensure the squad remain ready for when the FA Women’s Championship season kicks-off once again.

“We’re all in contact with each other daily, and we’re completing group strength and conditioning sessions” explained Wilson.

“It’s absolutely brilliant logging into Zoom and having the whole squad together, doing a remote session with Tom.

“It’s been really good – and really tough – but you can see everyone is benefitting from it.

“We also have a daily training programme designed by Simon to complete which is being tracked through Strava. People are uploading photos of what they’ve been doing, times, distances and it’s really motivating to see everyone working so hard.”

Sanders added: “Like most organisations currently, we’re relying heavily on technology.

“But the coaches and staff are doing fantastic work in creating training content which is really engaging and beneficial to the players.

“We’ve got an approach where we’re going to try and drip-feed things through week-by-week. They’ll get new S&C sessions, running exercises and technical and analysis exercises over the coming weeks.

“Doing it that way means it doesn’t get too monotonous and gives them something fresh and new each week while also ensuring that they remain in the best shape we can get them in.

“Zoom has been a fantastic tool, as it has been for a lot of clubs since this all started no doubt, and it means the players can do a lot of their work as a team which i think is really important.

“We can track what they’re doing, which is great, and everyone is pushing each other on to keep on top of things.

“We’re also ensuring that all players currently undergoing rehabilitation from injuries are continuing that process remotely – with Nat our physio doing a fantastic job on that front.”

Club captain Wilson is one of those players currently undergoing a process of rehabilitation having sustained an injury earlier this season.

And she explained how the club are continuing to provide top notch recovery help – even when working remotely.

“I’m in full contact with Nat.

“As everyone knows, she’s currently on the frontline working for the NHS – which is incredible in itself – but she’s also going the extra yards and putting on rehab sessions to make sure that those who are carrying injuries have still got all the support and contact they need.

“I’m following a programme which Nat has programmed into an App, and she checks in with me regularly to make sure everything is going well and to find out what is working well and if anything isn’t.

“That’s so important, just to know you’ve got that support there.”

And while it remains unclear when football will resume, Sanders is already casting his eye ahead to when the Championship campaign restarts – with a long-term plan in place to ensure players are fit and raring to go when the Wildcats return to the field.

“We know the teams we’ve got left to play, but not the order those fixtures will be in as yet – you don’t know who you’re going to be playing first and last, and that kind of thing.

“Obviously we’ll look back at previous games and that will shape part of the players’ work at home over the next few weeks also on how we can improve from the perspective of their own units and team as a whole

“From a physical perspective, when we do come back for a few weeks building-up to that first game the players will be in as peak a condition as they possibly can be.

“That’s down to the brilliant work that Tom in terms of strength and conditioning, Simon on the side of sports science, and our club nutritionist Steve have put in.

“Then, from a technical and tactical point of view, the coaches –  Steph, Michael and Chris – can begin working with them straight away and we won’t have to top-up the physical side.”

Sanders has also been keeping a close eye on things from a financial perspective, and has no concerns over the club’s future despite the lack of games.

That means when the FA Women’s Championship does restart, Durham Women will once again be restarting with it.

“We’re in as good a place as possible under the circumstances,” he said.

“That’s quite honestly been down to years of solid financial planning and decisions.

“We have different revenue streams as opposed to being reliant on one source of support, but also we’ve got comfort around support from our larger partners also.

“Dawn has done a fantastic job making sure the cashflow is where it needs to be, and we continue to run as normally as we can.

“Shortly after it became clear we wouldn’t be playing for a while, we put together a six-month adjusted budget to deal with the issues we are going through at the moment – and we’ve got support from our partners to take us beyond that period. 

“We’re functioning pretty much as normal at the moment and that’s testament to the foundations that we’ve laid as a club.

“Whenever the league starts – whether that be tomorrow or in three months – we’ll be fine, I can guarantee that.

“Regardless of when it starts, we’ll be starting with it.”

It’s not all been hard work for Durham though, with the players and staff ensuring they engage in regular social activities (over Zoom, of course) to maintain contact.

For Wilson, such activities are important to ensure players remain in a positive state of mind throughout what is undoubtedly a difficult period.

“We see our teammates more than our friends and family for a long part of the year, so as soon as that gets cut-off it can be quite difficult on the mental side of things.

“When you’re used to seeing people and working together on a daily basis, and then that goes, it can be really tough.

“So it’s really important that we keep in touch and we’ve been taking part in team activities as well as the group training sessions to make sure everyone is involved and doing okay.

“Everyone is going to react to this in different ways, so we’re making sure we all keep in touch for the mental side of things as well.”

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