GWS Secrets

A few weeks ago I went to Sydney to find out exactly what the Greater Western Sydney Giants have been doing to develop into an elite football team!

What makes their results remarkable is they have the smallest budget of any team in the AFL and started a year later than the Gold Coast Suns, yet managed to make it to a preliminary final last year just narrowly missing the Grand Final.

1.Speak to any of their players, past and present as well as staff members included and you only hear amazing things about the place!

David Joyce of GWS manages an elite program

2. It was clear from the outset that no one person takes the praise for the success of the program. It all comes back to the team. I.e. Football team, Athletic Performance Unit team, management Team etc. it is the belief of GWS that if there is weakness or lack of cohesion in any one particular area the team will suffer. GWS place great importance on interpersonal relationships. Accountability, trust, communication and supportive environment where staff are encouraged to to stretch to improve themselves. (Talk about marrying up high volume weeks, low volume weeks for complete recovery and de-load)

3. GWS have key criteria for hiring, firing, recruiting and selection in every aspect of their football club. The staff has had very little if any staff player turnover and the environment is positive and uplifting. Again GWS cannot compete with other clubs in terms of cash, so they need to attract players, coaches based on the environment they have. They do not pay above market value to attract players like other unsuccessful clubs are forced to do.

4. Where most clubs have a haphazard system of integration. GWS have 4 key aspects of their program that are seamlessly integrated together.
Football Program
Athletic Performance Program
Psychological and mental skills program
Leadership program

5. For people that think AFL players don’t require strength and conditioning-tell that to the GWS Athletic Performance program. They have their athletes lifting up to 5 days per week and a minimum of 3 days per week. They often do their strength work before their skills sessions. They have been experimented with 2-a-day strength sessions. Much like our USP Athletes.

6. Their athletic performance unit incorporate many various modalities into their training such as many of the activities we undertake at Strongman including rock climbing, high ropes leadership courses, gymnastics, boxing, grappling/wrestling training. They want to develop athletes and provide unique stimulus and challenge for the athlete and take them out of their comfort zones, and allow the athletes to spend time with various coaches. They believe these varied activities help alleviate injury risk.

GWS boxing Session

7. They want to maximise their training time in terms of efficiency, so the training time is defensible!

8. Ownership of recovery processes is taken by the players.

9. GWS prioritise Football first and Strength training second!! As footballers can cover up to 18km a game, GWS football sessions incorporate skill and games based fitness drills and can be upwards of 12km per session. Similar to our strongman training camp.

10. One of the core values of GWS is resiliency. They develop resiliency in their players by having them train and travel in multiple locations. The club simply does no have enough money for all the facilities in one location.

GWS Facilities

11. Much like we do in at USP the coaches goal and role is to empower the players. They are effectively co-pilots for younger players who have minimal input as they simply don’t have the skill or experience to know and less so for older players who are asked about their program exercise selections. usually there is a slower buy in from older players as they have their own pre-conceived ideas as to how their bodies respond best to. “Give them what they want and swing them to get what you want”

GWS strength session

11. In the Off-Season
Monday is the high velocity Speed Day
Tuesday is off Legs
Wednesday is repeat Sprint Ability Day
Friday is aerobic conditioning day.
Saturday Off-Legs

12. In-Season periodisation is along the same lines as Vince Kellys periodisation for rugby in the article I outlined here.

GWS include a few other variables as well; including
Number of 1st year Players in both Teams.
Anticipated Crowd Size
Distance Travelled by both teams
Turn Around time of both teams
Style of game play (# of stoppages, # of contacts)
This information affects what the GWS do at the start of the week following one of these games, it also dictates training volume, intensity etc.
This system is updated every 5 weeks based on how other teams are performing.

Overview of the in-season workload periodisation system

13. GWS taper for the first 3 weeks of the season to allow the team to gain momentum and also get used to playing the most intense competition you can play.

14. GWS push their strength and conditioning training throughout the year otherwise you get weaker as the season progresses. You can read about my secrets of blue chip athletes here.

15. GWS coaches and players use 3 different zones for lifting.
Performance Zone-which is to chase a target and hit a PB on in a lift.
Maintenance Zone-which is code for maintain which is used when athletes are sore or beaten up.
Red Zone-which is used when something is wrong, for example corkie, sore joint subluxation etc.

16. The Athletic Performance Unit give players 4 weeks to hit a target in terms of strength and numbers in the gym.

17. GWS use parallel program design which basically means high volume running weeks are aligned with high volume gym weeks. The reason being is that it allows total recovery or reload of both strength and endurance systems concurrently. Whereas another approach is to align high intensity strength sessions with high intensity running sessions and high volume strength sessions with high volume running sessions. GWS athletic department believe that by using the latter the athletes never get a proper reload or recovery.

Annual Periodisation Plan

18. So the Strength coach and conditioning coach mirror up the zones of training to ensure both are aligned e.g. high volume or high intensity. This is also matched with the periodisation template based on team hardness etc. So they effectively have periods of planned overtraining and recovery.

19. A deload week of the training track means maintenance or red zone in the gym.

20. The GWS program focusses on players weaknesses but also on sharpening their saw or their dangerous natural weapons or the thing that got them drafted as well. We naturally want to focus on the things we are good at, but need to focus on areas we need to improve.

GWS hula Hoops for hip mobility and pelvic core strength stability

21. The Athletic performance department work closely with the football department to ascertain exactly what the coaches want from each player and what they need to work on to optimise the players they have on their list.

22. Availability is more important than ability! Resiliency to stay on the field is more important that a 10kg increase in squat!

23. It takes an average of 3 years for drafted players body to be physically ready for the demands of AFL. That is why structured strength and conditioning programs can accelerate the junior development of a player. “We want our players strong, powerful and moving well!”

Long Term Athlete Development Manual

24. The athletic performance unit at GWS which encompasses, strength coach, endurance coach, physio, doctor and sports scientists. All have a shared vision and shared goals. In many clubs and organisations the strength coach or physio are undermining each other with their own agendas. the secret at GWS is they both give and take in negotiations around their players. As they are united and want the best thing and ultimate outcome for the player and the team. In reality we are all looking at the same issue through a different lens! We want seamless interaction with physio and strength coach and rehab manager etc.

25. We always ask-does this help us win games of footy?

26. You wont get it perfect every time, learn from your mistakes.

27. Humility as a high performance coach-footy always comes first!

27. This is the way we do it at GWS, not the way you have to do it!

All the best,

Joey Hayes