In profile: Brad Conza

In 2016, strength and conditioning specialist Brad Conza hopes to be celebrating the women's hockey Black Sticks winning an Olympic medal.

"The golder the better!"

It's that medal goal that drives Brad to leave no stone unturned in helping the Black Sticks women to be physically at the top of their game.

Brad has been training the women players since February 2010, and there's no doubt they're a physically fit side.

"We're known as an explosive, quick, fit team on the world stage," he says.

Petrea Webster in action at the 2013 Oceania Cup

Analysis and testing

A lot of GPS analysis and testing goes into helping the team with their physical preparations.

For example: Brad knows exactly what the athletes go through when competing internationally - the distances they run, player work rate, high intensity running and how much time they spend in different speed zones, accelerating, decelerating, and changing direction. Then, he works with each individual on what they need to be optimally prepared for a team that has 35-45 internationals a year.

A typical training week includes four on-turf or game-based sessions where certain physical targets must be met, the players will have three gym sessions a week, and players will have skills sessions as well.

All of which they do around work or study as the players are not full-time professional athletes.

There are patterns to the training cycles, depending on when tournaments are coming up, where the intensity builds before a recovery week. "It depends on the phasing," says Brad. 

The pattern could be "moderate, hard, recover and the next one might be hard, very hard, recover.

Brad and Black Sticks in gym training

Pushing the boundaries

"To get adaptation, you've got to push the boundaries to take them to those next levels but then you've got to step back and let the body regenerate so we can go again."

At a tournament, the team might play six or seven games in a 10 day to two week period.

"We build the players up so they can handle four games at the highest, hardest level. Trainings are very tough and the players know that. They have to turn up and do the best job they can on that day with what they've got. For us to be on the podium we do have to push those boundaries."

Part of the Black Sticks blueprint

"Over time we want them to be able to bench press above body weight, squat at least twice their body weight and hip thrust three times their body weight. We expect them to be pushing limits."

Being one of the best physically prepared teams in the world is part of the Black Sticks blueprint.

"To break down some of the better technical teams, because there are teams out there that are still slightly technically better than us, although that gap is closing, we've got to be better in other areas.

"So the players know their PBs and targets for each phase, and are held accountable to these and are clear what we're trying to achieve as a team and individually.

"We're constantly assessing the physical boundaries of this team because they change because athletes are getting better year after year. We've got some exceptional athletes in our group."

At the World Cup this year, most of the athletes were hitting personal bests. "We're constantly looking to bring that to every tournament," says Brad.