Far more than the 11 players who stand on the pitch at kick-off, the Scotland women’s national team represent a major collaborative effort that goes into every international match.
And the players heartily acknowledged the dedicated support of the ‘team behind the team’ who helped them reach and prepare for their first-ever FIFA World Cup Finals in 2019.
The #SWNT players were supported by the sportscotland institute of sport in their preparations and had use of Oriam, Scotland’s Sports Performance Centre, as they geared up for the summer tournament in France.
An inter-disciplinary team of institute practitioners provide bespoke support services to the home-based players all year round and international travel support for the wider squad covering 70 to 90 days a year.
In addition, after the successful qualification campaign, an extended range of specialist services was provided in early 2019 to ensure the players were in the best condition in terms of health and well-being and physical conditioning.
Performance nutritionists liaised with hotels to prepare menus for all meals, performance physiologists put in place acclimatisation and cooling strategies to ensure they were able to cope with the heat.
The Performance Lifestyle team, who work with athletes to help them maximise their performance success in sport and in life, also provided an opportunity for players to improve their French language skills.
An increased focus and investment from the sport medicine team ensured that the players’ health status had been monitored throughout the year to keep them in top condition throughout an intense competitive period.
Three institute practitioners (one physiotherapist and two physical preparation coaches) were enlisted to form part of the squad’s support staff for the duration of the World Cup in France.
Best possible condition
Head coach Shelley Kerr said: “We’ve adopted a new style of play which involves playing at higher intensity, so through the great work and the partnership that we have with sportscotland, it is really important to get the players into the best possible condition.
“They’ve got daily diaries that they have to fill in, in terms of GPS results, high-speed runs etc, and the football is one part of it but you need to be able to match the physical capabilities of all the other teams as well.”
Defender Hayley Lauder added: “The support of the sportscotland institute of sport helped us massively throughout the years. I think our physical capacity is now on a different level as a team and as a squad.”
Goalkeeper Lee Alexander said: “As well as strength and conditioning we’ve got the medical advice, and the amount of support we have had over the years has been incredible.
“Both myself and Hayley have unfortunately had injuries through our time and we have been put back on the pitch in no time and it’s all due to the help we have had from sportscotland.”
The team also received a bursary from Scottish Government which enabled home-based international players in full-time employment or education to focus full-time on football.