Interview with Gary Rafferty - Head of Strength and Conditioning

Posted by KIKOFF on 05-Sep-2017 09:00:00


Head of Strength and Conditioning , Gary holds a degree in Human Performance, and is accredited with ASCA, IYCA and EXOS qualifications in athlete development as well as an FFA Football Conditioning License. He currently works with Dunbar Rovers’ NPL U18’s, 20’s and First Grade squads, and provides consultation services for teams in the USA.  Gary brings a new proficiency to our coaching team and he is doing great things to enhance the coaching program so that it better meets the physiological needs of our players. 

We sat down with Gary to find out more about his background:


Tell us a little about yourself and how you got to where you are today.

There isn’t one single thing that got me here today. The competition to get a job full time in football is unbelievable so I’m definitely grateful for the position I’m in and I do feel very lucky but in hindsight I think I created a lot of my own luck.

I didn’t know it at the time but looking back I‘ve been consistent with the basics for just over a decade:

I networked with people smarter than me, volunteered, studied hard, got practical experience in different countries at different levels in different aspects of the game, got out my comfort zone and I surrounded myself with positive people.

I was repeatedly told growing up getting a full time job in sport wasn’t realistic as there wasn’t a lot of jobs. The careers advisors in school and University both told me the same. I almost listened and spent a year as an electrician, but knew the whole time I had to trust my gut and do what I was passionate about.

I began coaching the technical side when I was 15 and spent 6 years in Glasgow coaching youth football daily for free, during unsociable hours, at various clubs, schools and levels whilst also completing a full time Sports Coaching diploma and working 20+ hours a week as a waiter.

I played a bit in Scotland as well which helped me get offered a 4-year football scholarship in the USA. It exposed me to another side of the game as I got to pretty much train as a full time football player, work as a part time coach, earn money working 20+ hours a week on campus and studying for a degree in Health & Human Performance.

I was then torn between doing my masters degree in the USA or moving to Sydney to work. I only knew a couple of people in Sydney but made a bit of a on the spot decision to get my visa here.

I spent the first 3-6 months leaving the house at 6am and getting home at 10pm for only a few hundred dollars per week. The coaching sessions were broken up throughout the day and night but I couldn’t go home as it was 1 hour from where I lived.

I began listening to podcasts on the way to work, reading books between sessions and networking with coaches and successful people around the country as often as possible. I did several courses in S&C and eventually got a job as Head of S&C for a football academy.

I moved on to KIKOFF after being hugely impressed with their growth mindset and the impact they’ve had on football here in Sydney. Working here also led me to get a job at Dunbar Rovers FC as the S&C coach. 

How long have you worked for KIKOFF?

I’ve worked here for just over a year.

From your experience, what has been the biggest change in the way that players approach their football training?

From a physical standpoint, I’d say it is going in the right direction as players are now taking notice of how much physical preparation can impact their ability to perform technically, tactically and psychologically.

Germany are a great example, they worked closely with EXOS coaches with a squad that ended up winning the World Cup.

Players are extending their careers that little bit longer and the game itself is faster than ever. It’s become less of a ‘should do’ and more of a ‘must-do’.

When did the KIKOFF Conditioning Studio open and how long have you been involved in that project?

The KIKOFF Conditioning Studio opened at the start of July this year (2017). The project was something I had mentioned when I was interviewed for the role.

To be honest, I’ve been very fortunate. I was hoping, at best, for some investment into equipment or a small area I could use to develop players physically.

The Coaching Director supported the idea and advised we approached our Managing Director. He has shown great faith in me and supported everything I’ve introduced.

What is your role at the Conditioning Studio?

I’m the Strength & Conditioning coach so I plan and deliver all of our physical development programs for the players.

I’m also involved in the day to day management and marketing of the facility so I get a good insight to every aspect of the studio.

What type of players can benefit from the programs at the Conditioning Studio?

Although every player would benefit if they completed our programs, the truth is only the players who are truly dedicated to improving their all round football performance will reach their goals.

Remember, football performance is made up of technical, tactical, physical and psychological abilities.

We know the players, club and coaches take care of the ball work but there is much more to our programs than just getting ‘fit’.

We strongly encourage the ’24 hour athlete’ mentality.

KIKOFF Conditioning places a huge emphasis on movement of course, but mindset, nutrition and recovery are evident all the way through our training process.

Optimising your performance isn’t easy and it not only requires education but also commitment and consistency.

If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

What is the biggest change players will notice between their normal training routine and training at the Conditioning Studio?

It would depend on what is normal for them, but from my experience players are either physically doing very little or the wrong stuff at the wrong times.

Players may be exposed to exercises they have never completed before, or have to do things they find difficult.

Usually this is how we can show players were their weaknesses lie.

Are they running out of gas in the 60th minute because of lack of fitness? Or is it actually because they are leaking all their energy from poor running mechanics and lack of strength or mobility?

As I mentioned above, if they train with us they will be expected to see themselves as a 24-hour athlete. Not just a 90 minute football player.

What is next for you?

I think KIKOFF have built a phenomenal team of coaches that work with some top Clubs in Sydney and we are always learning from each other and evolving.

I’ve got a huge interest in optimising human performance in sport and business so want to focus on growing our team, network and help the staff reach their performance goals.

Longer term I want to be involved in the speaking and consultancy side of things of performance.

KIKOFF Off-season Conditioning

The purpose is off-season is to give your body the opportunity to recover from a long season and also provide players the chance to work on some weaknesses technically and physically without the interruption of training or games.

Whilst some players may think it is a good idea to continue working on football specific running during this time to try arrive back in pre-season super fit, they are actually setting themselves up for failure long term.

To find out more information about our Off-season Conditioning, check out our website or call us on 1300 545 633.

Topics: Football, Conditioning