From cooking competitions to Animal Flow - How Hibs are making sure their academy players are being looked after during the coronavirus shutdown

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The Easter Road side are ensuring the engage with their academy players during the coronavirus lockdown

Hibs fans keeping abreast of the situation at Easter Road via Twitter will not have been starved of feel-good and insightful content so far during the coronavirus lockdown.

Stephane Omeonga has celebrated his birthday by sliding into his bathroom akin to Tom Cruise in Risky Business and proceeding to dance. Melker Hallberg has answered questions relating to an Easter Road version of the Royal Rumble, while young Hibs fans have been displaying their skills from around the house or in the garden. In addition, there has been no shortage of nostalgia.

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One post in particular raised eyebrows from the club’s ‘Hibees at Home’ feature.

Head of academy football science and medicine Steve Curnyn introduced the Animal Flow concept from his living room floor, contorting himself into shapes which you would not think are feasible for the human body.

The activity, however, is something which the club use from their under-11 side right through to the first-team to help develop athleticism.

“The first things we focus on when we are looking long-term development plan is making sure our athletes are stable and mobile,” he said. “Without them you can’t build strength.”

Academy planning

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Hibs are ensuring their academy players are looked after during the current climate. Picture: SNSHibs are ensuring their academy players are looked after during the current climate. Picture: SNS
Hibs are ensuring their academy players are looked after during the current climate. Picture: SNS | Other 3rd Party

With the club unable to have that crucial face-to-face engagement time with their academy players, concepts such as Animal Flow become even more important as the stars of tomorrow have been put in a unique position with regards to their development.

While there is plenty of interest in the first-team squad and how the players are coping and readying themselves for whenever the football returns, Hibs are making sure that none of their academy players are being neglected.

Last week sporting director Graeme Mathie was part of a call as academy staff continued to discuss, prepare and plan programmes for the youngsters with Eddie May in his role as head of academy coaching at the forefront of it.

All aspects have been catered for, whether it be technically, physically or mentally, as well as nutrition with cooking competitions to keep it light and fun.

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“The academy staff came together on a video conference and spoke about what content we can provide kids in the academy when we are not able to engage with them any more,” Mathie told the Evening News.

“So Steve Curnyn and Euan Donaldson [sports scientist] came up with the fitness and strength and conditioning work. Phillip Kidd and Gareth Evans led by Eddie spoke to a lot of their coaches and came up with a lot of technical content.

“John Marchant the psychologist worked with Tom Doyle the analyst to come up with some psychological content and decision making work which will be drip fed over the next weeks.

“Paola [Rodriguez Giustiniani] is the performance nutritionist that came up with a lot of nutritional input and some cooking competitions to make sure the kids are entertained and getting as wholesome nutrition as we can actually buy off the shelves at the moment.

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“That was the first week for them to really go and create this content and pull it together. Eddie is leading a call three times a week with academy staff to see how we put the content out.”

Mental health

For players, no matter if it is stars at the pinnacle of the game or those players just at the start of their football journey, it is a confusing time, as it is for most of the public.

It was revealed recently by mental health charity Back Onside that the postponement of football had prompted a spike in footballers getting in touch. More than 60 players from the Scottish game have reached out, according to a report from the BBC.

Michelle Evans, PFA Scotland's head of wellbeing, said: "We have a lot of players who are on their own, it can be very isolating. It can be a lonely, worrying time, that's why we are telling the players to use WhatsApp groups to make sure team-mates are okay if they seem quieter.

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"We know clubs are asking them to take wage cuts, which can be worrying. It is just about keeping in touch. It's more important now than ever that it is good to talk."

At Hibs, the role of Davie Flynn, the child wellbeing and safety officer, is crucial in being someone at the other end of the phone for players and their families as the club make sure they have the “support networks” for anyone in a vulnerable position.

Mathie said: “Everybody will react to what’s going on at this moment in time in different ways and I think it is making sure we have the right support networks in place to support young players and their families.

“We will be doing that for our young players in particular, making sure they are in their little communities, little groups, probably led by their lead academy coach. There will be some communication back and forth and we’re just making sure they know they are supported at this time.

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“[Davie’s] a point of contact for the young players in the academy and their parents. So if there is any general wellbeing issues throughout this time, Davie’s been really front and centre and vocal about it, making sure that people can report them into him and he can help signpost the appropriate places if needs be.”