Demanding beach session to end USA trip

There was one last visit to the beach on Thursday for Schalke's final activity during the training camp in Florida. However, there wasn't any sunbathing on the cards for Joel Matip & Co. The sun, sea and sand of Fort Lauderdale merely provided a picturesque backdrop for some high-intensity strength and running exercises, as the players were pushed to their limits once more.

Despite the heavy legs after a week and a half of hard work, the Royal Blues bit the bullet and powered through the session. There were still plenty of smiles around though as the various contests in the Florida sand kept spirits familiarly high. It was one of many diverse training sessions for S04 during their stay in the U.S. 

Manager Andre Breitenreiter and his coaching staff put plenty of thought into their training plan before jetting across the pond. "We only went into specific details about the sessions the day before," explained assistant manager Sven Hübscher. The lactate tests on day one in Orlando were decisive in determining how intensive the workload would be. "We were very happy with the results," said Schalke fitness coach Tobias Stock. "The lads worked hard over the winter break and returned from their holidays in very good condition. Each player was given a training plan for their time off and they all stuck to it."

Receiving the occasional sarcastic, offhand comment from the players when they're doing their running exercises is something that Stock doesn't mind. "Everyone obviously prefers having the ball at their feet, but running exercises are part and parcel of it too. My job as fitness coach is to provide them with the tools they need in order to be able to produce good football,” said Stock, who is well aware that the players appreciate the work he does.

“The team was full of motivation, so it was a lot of fun,” said assistant coach Volkan Bulut. The Royal Blues particularly showed plenty of passion during the team challenge with five different tasks – kick-ups, crossbar challenge, football tennis, basketball and ‘closest to the line wins’. There was cake and chocolate awaiting the winners, while the losers were given the forfeit of having to cheer every away-team basket at the basketball game between Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards - in the home section of course.

“We came up with the prizes and the forfeits one night. Every member of the coaching staff threw an idea into the mix,” revealed Bulut. The feedback from the team for that type of training activity was very positive according to the coach. “Training camps are always enjoyable. You grow closer as a team,” explained Hübscher. The atmosphere was great. There was a bit of chat every now and again, but it’s all taken in good humour. It’s very easy going when you get on so well. The exercises aren’t as productive when the atmosphere in the camp isn’t right.”

Simon Henzler is happy with how the training camp went too. The Schalke goalkeeping coach got the blood pumping for Ralf Fährmann, Fabian Giefer, Michael Gspurning and Alexander Nübel in Florida. Nevertheless, there was plenty of smiling amongst the keepers too despite the draining sessions. The reason behind it is a simple one. “We’ve developed a great chemistry in the goalkeeping team since summer and we’re all on the same wavelength,” said Henzler. “We communicate really well and push each other forward. You can tell that we all get on really well when you see the performance levels in training and in games.”

Henzler continually brings new ideas to the sessions. The Royal Blues’ shot-stoppers sometimes trained wearing pinhole glasses. “It makes it harder to see the ball, making the brain work a little differently. It tougher for the goalies to catch the ball that way,” he explained. “When you take the glasses off, it means making saves becomes a little easier. That’s the effect we’re after.” It’s quite a demanding exercise according to Henzler. “Ralf Fährmann is always worn out after those sessions, but he and the other keepers enjoy it.”

And everyone was in agreement that adding the element of fun to the job could provide that extra push that may produce success come the end of the season.