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Interview: FC Anyang Assistant Manager Michael Kim

A good pre-season lays the foundations for the long campaign ahead but what how do K League teams plan and prepare for what is such an important time of the year? Why do teams travel to certain places to do their training camps and what do they do whilst they are there? K League United spoke to FC Anyang Assistant Manager Michael Kim about the Violets' pre-season preparations to give us an insight.
(Image via FC Anyang)

Korean-born Canadian coach Michael Kim is an AFC Pro-Licensed coach with a wealth of experience in the K League and indeed at international level having enjoyed spells with the Korean National Team at U17 and U23 level as well as with the Korean Olympic Team for Beijing 2008. At club level, Michael was has worked as a First Team Assistant Coach for both Jeju United and Daejeon Citizen which included a spell as caretaker manager, as well as with  Chinese League One side Shanghai Shenxin's. But, April 2017 Michael had been working with K League 2 side FC Anyang as tactical coach until being officially being unveiled as new Anyang manager Ko Jeongwoon's Assistant Manager during the off season. K League United caught up with Michael to chat about pre-season and how he feels the Violets have prepared themselves for a tilt at the playoffs in 2018.

Firstly, how does a K League club plan a pre-season? When does the planning actually begin and who is involved organising it all?

"It all depends on the coaching staff, with the Club this is a new coaching staff and so it will begin as soon as they have been contracted. Nevertheless, it starts around October or November; they'll start planning because in December, January and February it will be a case of going off to various places for the camps."

In terms of the destinations, who decides them?

"Everyone is a little different; some clubs go to certain places more often - they have a designated place that they go every year. It varies on who the new coach is or things like that where they like to go. For us, we went to Thailand in January and then we went to Jeju Island thereafter in February. The reason why is because, in January we tend to do more physical work so we get their (the players) conditioning up and you would want to do that in a warmer environment than in a colder one to reduce injuries and to get the muscles going.

Michael observes training in Thailand (Image via FC Anyang)
"Then you want to come back to a certain climate or conditions that are very similar to what you will play in in the first few weeks of the new season, you want to get adjusted. Likewise if you went to Europe or somewhere like that you'd also need time to come back and get adjusted to the time difference."

In terms of what the players do, in the first week back for example, is it just a lot of running? Do the footballs come out at all?

"Nowadays the conditioning programmes aren't so isolated to running around the pitch or doing wind sprints. We use a lot of balls, we use a lot of circuits, a lot of coordination tools like poles and slalom courses and step ladders; we have resistance bands, kinetic bands so those all come into play. We have a schedule where we would do cardio to have the base (fitness) as well as weights and then we try to extend that to speed and endurance. We will scale that down to more power work and sprints at the end but basically that's the big cycle."

Michael preparing for a training session in Thailand (Image via FC Anyang)
"As soon as they get in from their break we would obviously do physical testing; we would do the in-body (tests) just to check their fat percentages and muscle mass and BMI (body mass index) just to see where they are starting at, then we go into doing yo-yo tests or the beep test. We would do that just to see where they are starting at then we would do the conditioning programme. At the end of the first session, or first training camp in Thailand, after two-three weeks, we would test them again to see if there were any improvements and for us there were, there were drastic improvements. For instance, if they finish their first test at level 51 the second test they would finish at level 65 so there were improvements.

"Then we went to Jeju and we would do the same process again and we would have a third test at the end of what would be the last phase of the pre-season. We would check where their final conditions are before we go into the season."

In the K League there's a lot of transfer activity for most teams, so for these camps to Thailand, Jeju and the such like, they must help the new players to get settled in?

"It's a time for us to bond together and to get to know each other because we're away at one place all together, eating together, training together and so it's a bonding phase as well. We all get to know each other's personalities and get to know the little nuances of everybody and that's part of organisation as well like team organisation where we go into team tactics which we did in Jeju in last phase of the training camp. We start seeing where everybody's qualities are."

When it's time to start playing some pre-season friendly games, at what point to you think the players are ready? Is it after they prove their fitness levels or is that what those games are there for?

"At the beginning of the pre-season in Thailand, what we did was give everybody half a game or we split it up into three periods of 30 minutes so everyone got a chance to play. As we went along we increased those minutes so it was part of the conditioning process in Thailand.

Pre-season friendly vs Jeju United (Image via FC Anyang)
"When we went to Jeju, we split it up so that everybody got full games so that they were more accustomed to playing a 90 minute game. Then the main focus wasn't so much on fitness but the main focus was more on tactics, teamwork and organisation so there was a progression there. Initially, the games were part of the fitness programme because it doesn't matter if you run 90 minutes or go running outside all day it still varies from what you get from a game situation."

Are the results important in these pre-season friendly games?

"To be honest with you, we would say it's not important (to the players) but it is very important because it also shows the mental capacity and the willingness to not lose and I think that's very important; the players also need to show that. Okay, we can lose 4-1 but nevertheless that could be due to conditioning but yet at the same time we urge the players to not give up and keep fighting and try to win that game, regardless of what their conditions are. It's that competitive feeling and that mentality going into that game regardless of what your situation is; you could be running with one leg but not wanting to lose, it's very important to have that."

In terms of recruitment, who is it that actually identifies players? Do you get a say for instance?

"We have a scouting department as well as the Director of Football Operations and the Head Coach and the coaching staff, we all have a say. So for instance, if we're looking at foreign players we'll all sit together and look at the videos, we'll look at information from Wyscout or InStat or those analysing programmes. Also, we would see the last three or four matches to see the full teams to see how they are doing now and we'll also talk to certain scouts or agents that are on base there to see how those players are doing. That's how we would select, it's not a foolproof process but we try to cover as much as we can."

There's been a lot of transfer activity at Anyang because a lot of players moved on from last year so you've got a brand new team, is that a good thing? A fresh start?

"Well, it's a new coach. It's a new start for him, he has his own style of play and the quality of the players will show. It's the main ingredient of how a style of play develops. I can't say if it's good or bad but I think it's what the Head Coach and the Club wanted, a fresh start and in that way it is always a positive because it's a fresh canvas and we can start from scratch and build something, rather than try to fix what was there originally."

At Anyang you have the new Manager Ko Jeongwoon and yourself as the Assistant Manager, do you both get hands on and run training sessions or do you observe and have other coaches that do specific drills?

"We designated parts of the training, so I specialise in the physical aspect so I'm mainly concerned about the physical condition of the players as well as assisting with various other areas of the training. We have two other assistant coaches who also have parts in the training; one has the warm-up the other goes through the tactical, or assists the Head Coach, with the tactical parts of the training. We are all involved, no one's sitting there and kinda looking around. Even our Head Coach is deeply involved with the training sessions; he likes to get his hands and feet wet with the tactical sessions and he's right in there!

FC Anyang Manager Ko Jeongwoon (right) Image via FC Anyang
We've talked about scouting players but what about the opposition, some K League 2 and even some of the big K League 1 clubs don't watch videos of their next opponents; how will Anyang approach things?

"We will watch the opponents as well because you learn from them as well, to learn the nuances and some of the holes that may be discovered there tactically. It's always good to accustom yourself and prepare yourself before hand, right?

"For K League 1 clubs, they have the quality of the team where they can be more concerned about themselves rather than the opponent. We're not in that kind of position, we need to prepare ourselves to see what we're up against, especially at the beginning of the season where they other teams have changed as well. We need to know what they've got.

What's next?

"We're going to Suncheon (South Jeolla Province) to train because the first game on the 3rd March is against Gwangju in Gwangju."

2018 FC Anyang Season Preview with Michael Kim to follow here

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