Dr. Sandy Nair, strength and conditioning coach of Calicut Heroes in the ongoing Rupay Prime Volleyball League, is a qualified Level-1 Fitness Trainer and Level-A Coach from National Cricket Academy (NCA, Bengaluru). He says the biggest challenge for him is to make the rookie players unlearn their training routine and to bring them into the professional system of strength, and conditioning. All the training was focused on bringing out that athlete in each person.

In an interview with  Sportstar , 40-year-old Sandy Nair shares his thoughts on various aspects of his assignment.

Q: How different is training volleyballers compared to your stints with cricketers?

A:  The training in cricket has evolved with professional development courses organised by the BCCI for the Strength and Conditioning (S & C) Coaches at National Cricket Academy, Bengaluru. Volleyball is still in the beginning stage. I had been training a few Indian volleyball players, including Jerome Vinith (Captain -Calicut Heroes), Ajith Lal, Akhin G S, Jithin and Muthusamy since 2016 and players like Karthik (Captain -Kochi Blue Spikers), Vipul (Captain- Hyderabad Black hawks), and Manoj (Ahmedabad Defenders), who were part of the Pro volleyball league in 2019.

At first, when I took their assessment at the preparatory camp, I was surprised to see that all the players mentioned above had never done professional training. But, now I can proudly say that these players have made a tremendous influence on youngsters to take up fitness as a part of their routine.

Training in Volleyball is more strength and power dominant along with other motor abilities like Speed/ Agility/ Quickness (SAQ) and Flexibility. At the competition period, the workouts involve more HIIT (High-intensity interval training) training, a training protocol alternating short periods of intense or explosive anaerobic exercise with brief recovery periods.

What sort of training schedule do you have for the spikers?

At the preparatory camp after the movement assessment, the training was focused on a stability program along with a Hypertrophy workout. While two weeks before the competition the training was focused on maximum strength and power, which included Plyometric training and Olympic lifts like the clean and jerk, snatch and its derivatives.

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What is the biggest challenge you face?

The biggest challenge I faced was to make the rookie players unlearn their training routine and to bring them into the professional system of strength and conditioning. All the training was focused on bringing out that athlete in each person.

Another challenge is that there is no professional setup like cricket or other games where the players are followed up with their fitness after the PVL. Players don’t even have their history of fitness tests and training progression.

What sort of diet do you prescribe for the players in PVL?

As an S & C Coach, I don’t prescribe diet, because I am not a nutritionist by profession. But, I do suggest and educate the players regarding the importance of diet and what kind of nutrients are available in each food item. In the preparatory camp, we had a consultation with a nutritionist regarding the diet.

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How do you look at the average fitness standard of the players in the PVL?

I feel that there is a long way to go as far as fitness is concerned. We should realise that India stands in the 64th position in the FIVB Senior- Men World ranking and has never qualified for the Olympics. With this PVL, I am sure that it will help the raw players to showcase their talent in such a big league and will also get a chance to represent bigger leagues.

What more do they have to do to be much fitter?

Like any other professional athlete, they have to continue the training schedule even after the season. Each player should hire a trainer and plan their progress. Along with strength and conditioning sessions, they should also focus on the most important part of fitness training which is recovery. They should incorporate recovery techniques like contrast bath, ice bath, pool session, steam bath, Jacuzzi, massage, soft tissue recovery and also have good food, proper sleep etc to avoid injuries and to bounce back each time after rigorous training.

Will it be difficult to handle the more experienced and bigger names in the sport?

Managing the experienced and the so-called bigger names were easy as they know and understand the importance of strength and conditioning.

All these players have been training regularly as well. So it’s easy to put across what I am expecting as an S & C Coach. Our Head Coach Kishor Kumar and the team management had always made sure that the players had been given the training facilities like any other professional league abroad.

Do you feel these kinds of professional leagues demand rigorous fitness regimens and in the process put pressure on the players?

Yes, professional leagues do demand high standards of fitness. Players know the importance of them being fit to give their best in the matches. These kinds of leagues also give opportunities for rookie players to take up their game and fitness seriously. So the players should absorb the pressure and take the pressure as a privilege.