Dan Jones is the head of sports science for Angel City FC. Previously, he held positions with the Portland Timbers, LA Galaxy, and EXOS. He has a degree in human physiology from the University of Oregon and a Master's in psychology. He is CSCS and USAW1 certified.
When assessing a soccer player's physical abilities, I start with a conversation about their injury history, goals and strengths/weaknesses. Then, I observe how they sprint, change directions, move side to side, and react to cues. Finally, I see how they perform during lifts such as squats, lunges and push-ups. Transcript: "How do you assess a soccer players physical abilities when they come in for training? So when I'm not in the team setting, and I don't have access to tons of technology such as force plates or GPS, then I really keep it pretty simple. First off, we start with the conversation, injury history, what their goals are, what they see their strengths and weaknesses as what they really want to get out of training. And that actually will clue me into where they're at. Next, I want to see them move in a lot of different ways. So I want to see them sprint, maybe not max velocities, but I want to see how they accelerate. I want to see them change direction, how they move side to side. Next, I want to be able to see how they react to cues. So that might be cues that are verbal might be might be a visual cue that I give them and see how their body organizes within that chaos. And next I want to see during a lift, how they squat, lunge, how they can do a pushup movements like that and that gives me a really good sense where they're at athletically."
After playing college sports and helping to create a biomechanics lab, I developed a desire to be a bigger part of the process. This led me to pursue coaching and performance training. After an internship in 2013, I was hooked on the relationships with athletes and coworkers and have never looked back. Transcript: "What drew you to coaching and performance training? So I was an athlete my whole life, like so many coaches, up until college I played basketball on track and once I got to college it was kind of tough to step away from that competitive environment. While I was at school though I helped start a biomechanics lab and we did a lot of physiological testing on really high level, Olympic level track and field athletes. Now we would collect that data which I helped in that process and then we'd hand that data to their coaches, their performance coaches, and they would take that data, use it to inform their training, develop out a plan, and see that through all the way through the Olympics. That really drew in me a desire to be a bigger part of the process. I didn't want to hand the data to somebody else and have them do the rest of the work and travel to the Olympics and be there with their athlete to really see them succeed at the highest level. So I wanted to be a bigger part of that process and so that's what initially drew me into the field. After my first internship with EXOS back in 2013 where I was actually able to get hands-on coaching programming experience, I was absolutely hooked. The relationships with the athletes, with co-workers, the environment, it was just incredible. So I really, yeah, I never looked back ever since then."
During the off-season, athletes should focus on strength training as their main course, while still doing some technical training as a side dish to ensure they maintain their technical ability. Transcript: "How do you ensure that soccer players maintain their technical ability while focusing on strength training? Great question. So a lot of my athletes, they have a short offseason. And so that is actually when they choose to really focus in on strength training, because they don't have competitions or matches always coming up. And so they can dose that in to a high degree without fear of being sore or not ready for for the match. So if their focus is strength training during the offseason, it doesn't mean that they are completely disregarding their technical training either. You just have a main course, which might be that strength training and then your side dishes become your your technical training for that time period. They should, they should always live in unison with one another. It shouldn't be an all or nothing approach. And so when you're doing your technical training, which is that side dish, you're just checking the box, I can still do this making small improvements, while still being able to focus on that strength training for that day or week or month."
My favorite client success stories are when I get people out of pain, back doing what they love, and stronger than they've been before. Two recent examples include a young man with a severe hamstring strain and a female athlete with a labral tear. In both cases, they were able to return to their sport in better condition than before. Transcript: "Do you have a favorite client success story? So when I think about this question, two really jumped to mind, both with youth athletes that I have worked with recently. One was a young man, they came to me, him and his parents, after he had been sitting out for roughly four or five months with a pretty severe hamstring strain. The coaches had advised that they not go to physical therapy and just to keep playing on it and basically he couldn't run. So he would go to team training but couldn't participate in games, couldn't really run. Sounds kind of wild, but you could tell that this was the one thing that brought him the most joy in life and he couldn't move. So they're super frustrated, super sad about it. Worked with him for about a month. He got back running, changing direction, going fast. He wound up faster than he's ever been before, re-entered with the team and quickly progressed into the next level within his club setting. Another one, a female athlete came to me, she had a labral tear. Really wanted to play in college, it was her senior year of high school and was really bummed out that that was, in her mind, getting taken away from her. Once again, worked with her for a few months and sent her off to college, healthier than she's ever been and she's absolutely killing it there. So I think it's really getting people out of pain, getting them doing what they love, bringing them back stronger than they've been before. Those are my favourite stories."
Soccer players should structure their workouts to be balanced, consolidate their stress and be consistent. Transcript: "Any tips on how soccer players should structure their workouts? This is a complex question because there are a lot of variables at play here depending on your gender, your age, your training history, injury history, things like that. But generally speaking, I would say that there's a few concepts that do apply to all. One is just making sure that your workouts are incredibly balanced. So making sure that we are not just doing lower body 100% of the time or just doing squats all the time. But that we have a variety of movements that we're relying on. So we're doing some form of squatting, some form of lunging, moving side to side as well, so lateral lunges or Cossack squats. We're also doing hamstring dominant exercises that include pulling. So making sure that we are working out our quads, hamstrings, glutes, and adductors, and our core and everything that's involved there from a very balanced perspective. Next thing to consider is to consolidate your stress. So on your heaviest day on the field, try to make that be your heaviest day in the gym. That allows for optimal recovery as you taper down closer to competition. And then the last bit is just being consistent. You're not going to see improvement if you don't stick with the same workout for four to six weeks. After that time, you can progress your exercises and progress your workouts. But making sure that they're balanced, that you're consistent, and that they work within your training regimen, and that soccer still is the main thing."
Hi, I'm Dan Jones. I have a bachelor's degree in human physiology and a master's in psychology. I've worked in the performance field for 11 years, primarily in soccer. I've consulted for 12 different sporting organizations and am currently with Angel City FC. My passion is helping athletes be successful on the field with data and best practices while keeping them healthy and bringing them back from injury. Transcript: "Hi Dan, can you please tell us a bit about yourself? Absolutely. My name is Dan Jones. I'm a performance coach slash strength and conditioning coach slash sports scientist. I'm originally from Portland, Oregon. I played basketball and track and field growing up. I have a bachelor's in human physiology and a master's in psychology. I've worked in the professional soccer realm for just under 10 years and in the sport performance field for about 11 years in totality. I've worked for clubs such as the LA Galaxy, the Portland Timbers, and currently the Angel City FC, a club in the NWSL here in Los Angeles where I'm based. I've also worked for a private company as a consultant for roughly 12 different sporting organizations primarily in the soccer field, teaching other practitioners, helping them utilize data more within their organizations to help them be more successful on the field. I'm really passionate about player health, athletic performance, helping athletes really achieve what they want to achieve, keeping them healthy, bringing them back from injury, and then all the while utilizing data and just best practice in that process. I love collaborating with my fellow practitioners both in the team setting as well as from other teams. If you have any further questions, feel free to let me know. Thanks."