CNMI national players are taking it one step at a time, as they resumed their training sessions at the NMI Soccer Training Center in Koblerville to get back in tip-top shape.
Northern Mariana Islands Football Association technical director and head coach Michiteru Mita, who oversees the Ayuyus’ practices that restarted last month, said that they have limited training drills, as each group is strictly following safety guidelines set by NMIFA and government authorities at this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“However, the training is going well. The players are enjoying kicking the ball with their teammates while observing social distancing and other COVID-19 precautions,” Mita said.
The head coach has set training sessions from Monday to Saturday with activities for the Commonwealth players (boys U15, U17, U20 and the men’s national squads) varying every day. The actual training at the NMISTC is three times a week and is mixed with online sessions, while the major focus of the drills is for individual skills and physical fitness improvement.
“In the past three months, players continued their workout individually. However most of the players had their physical fitness level dropped since we suspended actual training and there were no regular games,” Mita said. “Also since they stayed home for a while, some players gained weight and some lost due to muscle loss.”
The NMITA technical director added that they are not putting pressure on the players as they just returned to the pitch and will consider the first few months as recovery training period.
“We are focusing now on conditioning training to get back physical fitness and individual ball techniques to get back ball feeling,” Mita said.
The head coach also said they are doing yo-yo test for each player and regularly monitoring their weight. The test, according to ESPN Soccer, involves a player shuttling between two cones that are set 20 meters apart on flat ground. He starts on a beep and needs to get to the cone at the other end before the second beep goes. He then turns back and returns to the starting cone before the third beep.
Mita and assistant coach Jersh Angeles keep track of the records, making comparison of the player’s previous and current times and from there each team member work on his desired mark.
Kohtaro Goto, who is part of the CNMI Boys U15 National Team, said the first few days of the training sessions were challenging, especially they had a long layoff and had to rely on online sessions.
“It’s really different when you have your teammates on the pitch and training together than doing online drills. I’m happy that we started training again even though the whole team can’t \ train together for our safety,” Goto said.
He added that returning to the pitch gives him and his teammates more motivation to get back in shape and prepare for the tournaments ahead.
Daniell Pablo, who trains with the U17 group, meanwhile, said that they need to put in extra work besides their scheduled training to make up for the lost time.
“Some of us are doing cardio in our own time and going to Ada (Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium), the pathway along Beach Road, and even at the Peace Park (Eloy S. Inos Peace Park) for runs. It’s been tough, but we are slowly trying to gain back our strength and stamina to get ready for competitions,” Pablo said.
The Ayuyus, according to Mita, are training for the East Asian Football Federation E-1 Football Championship 2021 Round 1 (men’s team), Marianas Cup (U15 and U17), and two Asian Football Confederation qualifying tournaments (U17 and U20). With the COVID-19 pandemic still a major concern across the globe, dates for these competitions have yet to be confirmed and will wait for clearances from sanctioning groups.