From working with Premier League referees to University lecturing in England, and writing research papers in Qatar, Dr Matthew Weston has accomplished much in a successful sports science career that has taken him around the globe. As the holiday season kicks into action, he now finds himself busy preparing for his most exciting challenge yet: joining PRO as the new Director of Sports Science.
Weston followed in the footsteps of the trailblazers in applied sports science during his early career, working in a variety of sports, including table tennis, weightlifting and short-track speed skating.
He was then presented with an opportunity to have an involvement in soccer by administering fitness tests for English referees during preseason and followed that by being contracted to conduct laboratory tests for Premier League officials in the early 2000s, while also traveling to camps to deliver training sessions and monitor training data.
Hitting the roads in England was just the start of a career that’s since scaled across three continents – first undertaking a FIFA-sponsored PhD in Belgium on Expertise in Soccer Referees, before heading onto Asia, and now North America.
“When this opportunity came up, it was too good to turn down,” explained Weston. “It was another move abroad, but the USA has always been a country I’ve fancied working in.
“Supporting the management team and the officials at PRO was a big draw. I was already aware of the system in place thanks to previous contacts, but knew I would have the ability to influence the way the sports science program grows. There are professional football teams that won’t get the level of sports science support PRO provides.
“I have an opportunity to pull all the skillsets I’ve developed together into one job, which is very rare to find. And moving into management with 20 years of experience was another attraction to the role.”
Before heading outside of Europe, Weston spent a decade in academia as a Reader in Exercise Science at Teesside University in north-east England, allowing him to focus on research and data analysis.
This specialism opened opportunities in the Middle East, where he took up a research role in the Football Performance Unit at Aspire Academy.
“Just like in Qatar, I believe the biggest challenge at PRO is a personal one. It’s about getting to know people, being able to integrate into a team that’s already close-knit, and having enough contact time with the referees to build their trust.
“The professional challenge for me is to find the space where I can best add value to the outstanding support network that is already in place – that’s where I want to surpass my comfort zone.
“PRO collects a lot of data, and I aim to get more value out of that data, ensuring we analyze it better to help us make more informed decisions regarding officials’ preparation and recovery.”
With technology and understanding in sports science forever developing, Weston is always looking to build on his extensive knowledge and find ways to revolutionize practices.
“The officials answer seven questions based on metabolism, muscle soreness, recovery, sleep, etc., but can we get the same answers with three questions?” asked the 45-year-old.
“The amount of contact time sports scientists get with athletes has never been greater, but it’s about being more efficient.
“I am sure that if we ask an athlete fewer questions, while we’d have less data, we’d know more about that particular data. Less could well be more; that’s a general philosophy I believe strongly in. It’s about efficiency in understanding.”
With MLS finishing a month earlier this term, Weston has had more time during the offseason to review statistics ahead of the 2020 campaign – a crucial period for PRO’s new recruit.
“Before I get going, I need to explore the data that we already have. Whilst the officials and the staff get a little bit of downtime, it’s a great period for me to get stuck into things.
“I’ve asked a lot of questions so far, not to be nosey, but to learn as much as I can and organize for next season. The timing is good.”