On Thursday, Major League Soccer extended the team training moratorium through, and including, April 24. Based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Public Health Agency of Canada, the season is currently suspended until May 10.
PRO General Manager Howard Webb and Director of Sports Science Dr Matthew Weston explain how PRO has been managing during the first three weeks of isolation:
Dr Matthew Weston: “During the MLS suspension, it is important for our officials to maintain their current fitness levels. As such, our sports science team has implemented suggested strategies for modifying training activities and we’re supporting them as they need us, just as we would normally.
“Each day, the match officials submit their morning wellness scores. These scores tell us how well they’ve slept, along with their physical and mental readiness to train. Heart rates are measured during every training session, with running distances and speeds recorded where applicable.
“The match officials also provide us with their subjective ratings of breathing and leg exertion for each session they perform. All of this data enables us to monitor their progress in training remotely, while also ensuring the officials are meeting the goals of all the sessions we prescribe, which so far has been the case and we are proud of the way our officials have adapted themselves over recent weeks.”
Howard Webb: “Like every organization, we have had to adapt. We spent the early stages of isolation exploring the most practical solution to allow us to engage online with our officials, staff and other members of the PRO family. With staff and officials all over the country, video conferencing had been an important part of our internal communication process before the outbreak, but now we need to communicate effectively with more people at once than ever before.
“We have provided regular online coaching and instructional webinars, and we will soon have a virtual replacement for the in-person camps that have had to be canceled.
“Once we have a clearer picture of when the season may start up again, our task will be to ensure our officials are match fit physically and match sharp technically. The ongoing work our sports science team and coaching staff are doing now will help to maintain strong baselines.
“Fortunately, officials are used to training in isolation, so they’ve not had to make a significant transition in preparing themselves, compared to other elite athletes. They’ll miss the comradery of the group sessions all the same, but we’re taking steps to best replicate that in the current climate, and they will have been continuing with their own peer-to-peer learning and mentoring, alongside everything we’ve put in place.
“We had a very good start to the season. When we fire up again, whenever that maybe, I’m confident we will pick up where we left off, demonstrating yet again to the North American soccer community how PRO officials continually produce quality performances on a consistent basis across the leagues we work in.”