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On The Bench... George Petrakos

High Performance Coach George sat down with Jamie Moore ahead of last week's game vs Bohs

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 24 year old George Petrakos is our Strength and Conditioning Coach and also Part-Time Lecturer in Strength and Conditioning

He grew up on the coast of Essex and was obsessed with sport from the first time he kicked a ball as kid. He played all the available sports as a child and teenager in school and represented England in volleyball at school and university level.

His interest in sports science and training also came at an early age.

“I’d always wanted to be a PE teacher and therefore studying sports science was an obvious choice. I enjoyed physiology and felt like I had a good understanding at school level. I worked hard at school to gain the entry points into Loughborough University, which at the time was ranked very highly for sports science study.”

Training

George has an undergraduate degree in sports science from Loughborough University and a Master’s degree in Strength and Conditioning from University of Edinburgh.

As well as being highly qualified, George has also had some interesting work experience during his years of study.

“During my undergraduate degree, I was fortunate enough to gain a 12 month internship with Chelsea FC as a sports scientist. It just so happened that I experienced the regimes of three managers (Scolari, Hiddink and Ancelotti) during my year at the club. But away from the football side, the year with Chelsea FC converted an interest into a passion. The knowledge of the senior medical/science staff left me in awe. I still aspire to have knowledge of just 10% of what they had.”

He also spent a year as in intern strength and conditioning coach with Edinburgh and Scotland Rugby.

“During the internships I feel like I acquired more knowledge in a week than I could have reading books for a year.”

Early morning and late evening sessions with the UCD elite athletes are a regular part of George’s working week but this is something he got used to during his internship.

 “I had to earn my stripes in each role. Before you’re trusted with assisting in player conditioning, you have to show a serious hard-work ethic even if the tasks involve checking the store room, making protein shakes or washing heart rate monitors. Although those jobs never really cease, the rewards are unbeatable. My knowledge with GPS and Heart Rate monitoring and on-pitch conditioning I developed at Chelsea gave me a head-start at Edinburgh Rugby which eventually led me to the role as Assistant Strength and Conditioning coach with Scotland Rugby for the 2011 World Cup.”

UCD

So how did George arrive at UCD? “I arrived in October 2012 on a Ryanair flight. It was the 0625 from Stansted.” (probably the best answer from any interviewee this season. Short and to the point and I suppose he did answer the question! Thanks George)

George is primarily responsible for the strength and conditioning of the Ad Astra Elite Athlete Scholars with a secondary responsibility of providing a similar service to UCD Sports Scholars and teams.

His role with UCD AFC started for January 2012 Pre-Season. He was responsible for the pitch-conditioning and strength sessions during pre-season as well as running the sessions.

 “At the time of pre-season, I was very pro- fitness work with the ball. I felt the players would work harder when they are running to a ball rather than a cone. However, a good coach will always critique their own methods and my opinions are shifting to a programme where, yes, the emphasis is on work with the ball…but a small amount of training should be done without.”

The in-season fitness has been taken by Manager Martin Russell and the other coaches with some advice from George.

“Martin and the coaching staff have a great football philosophy which includes training and at high intensities with the ball. Earlier in the season, I don’t think the boys realised the upper limits of their fitness capacity. In my opinion, the UCD AFC team could run-down an opposition as well as most professional teams. This is now showing in their recent positive results.” (5 wins from the last 6 games)

While in the gym George works directly with the athletes, but also enjoys working with the first team coaches.

“Martin and his team are extremely easy to work. Having said this, Martin has high expectations of his staff and therefore I always want my quality of work to be high. Although I am a coach, I aimed to ‘educate’ Martin and the other coaching staff with my fitness philosophy for them to take into the in-season. This was not a one-way street. My drills have been changed many-a-time with advice from the coaches on how we can better suit the team’s style of play.”

George has been used to working with senior players and athletes in the past but now works with younger atheltes.

“It’s fantastic to be part of the UCD AFC legacy. We always have to keep in mind that whilst at UCD, the players will never be at their career peak. We’re providing the support and education to push them on the great things in their sporting and work careers. If you ignore the temptation to be frustrated by the fact we’ll pass these well-supported athletes on to success at other clubs, the notion is extremely rewarding.”

Educator

As well as being a coach, George feels it’s very important to also be an educator;

“There are too many players to provide one-on-one care to and therefore you have to leave it up to the individual to take care of themselves. This involves a holistic approach. Working hard in training and constantly aiming to improve is the most important aspect to success in sport. The more you put in, the more you get out. Run harder for every ball, keep pressing until you win possession. Each time you apply maximum effort, you improve.”

“In order to support your quest to train harder every day, you must improve your conditioning, flexibility, eat well and sleep well. There’s no secret.”

In a sentence George helps players with Injury prevention, core strength and stability, physical conditioning, and speed work.

He always encourages his athletes to improve and be the best that they can be but what about the future for George himself?

“I just want to improve in all aspects of my role. I have a group of athletes I’ve been coaching for nearly 12 months and within that period I have made many right and wrong decisions.”

“Each year I wish to learn from my own mistakes and improve the effectiveness of my programming, coaching and role as an educator of athletes. The extrinsic motivation of working with high profile teams is currently not a primary goal for myself (and they couldn’t beat the money Baz McCabe pays me for his private muscle gain programme).

You can follow George on Twitter @UCD_HPG