The conditions at the Orlando Pride’s training session on Wednesday were brutal. The players and staff were dripping sweat. There were short intervals with long water breaks in between. The heat index got as high as 112 degrees with the UV index at 11.
After training, Head Coach Marc Skinner, Alanna Kennedy, and Shelina Zadorsky all spoke about the conditions. The theme was that the weather was brutally hot, but also that the Pride need to use it to their advantage on Saturday when Orlando faces the Washington Spirit.
“The players that were in France, it’s really hot there too, so I think that prepped me a little bit,” said Zadorsky. “I think we always know it’s going to be hot here and that’s a factor in how we play and how we keep the ball. Hopefully, that gives us an edge to everyone that steps into our home environment.”
The weather is also hot in Washington, DC. At 10 a.m., when the Pride were training, the heat index in the nation’s capital was 82 degrees. So, not ideal, but a relatively cool day in central Florida.
Both Zadorsky and Kennedy mentioned that while it is scorching in Orlando, the weather in France was not much better. The heat is especially nothing new to Kennedy, who is from Australia, but she said “it never really gets easier” playing in this heat.
“This is a crazy heat. You can’t breathe in this heat,” Skinner said. “I just told the group, ‘look, when you’re at home you have to use this to your advantage. You know what it’s like to train in this heat. So, you need to make sure that you work the opposition and make sure that they are chasing.’
“And I don’t care who you are or how fit you are, you can’t press for 90 minutes in this heat because you will just literally collapse. So, we need to be clever when we press, mixing those pressing lines up between high and low block. At times we’ll have to low block in these games and counter effectively. We have to use it to our advantage, and it’s something I’ve been talking to the girls and constantly reminding them about.”
But before the team can look forward to Saturday, the players need to ensure that they stay hydrated throughout the week at training. This is rarely simple being an athlete, but given the added conditions, the Pride needed to take extra measures. Orlando got outside help to keep the players’ cores cool.
“There was an expert that came in to discuss hydration and cooling and heating strategies,” Skinner said. “We do cooling breaks. We do a block of work and then a cooling break. We cool the hands in ice water. We cool the necks with ice water towels. Lots of hydration with ice pops. As much as they can digest and make sure that the core is cold. We’re doing a lot of work on that. I think we’re finding a little more benefit from that and we’re trying to do that on game days too.”
Skinner said that this is all new to him. Laughing, he said that he is from England where he “tries to warm up for most of the time rather than cool down.” But he also said that it is a learning experience for him.
The biggest thing is being smart in the heat. If the Pride start chasing the game, then they will struggle. Orlando will need to make better decisions with the ball and possess it among themselves. Marta was critical of the team’s ability to do the fundamentals after last week’s loss to the Chicago Red Stars. If the Pride don’t improve in these areas, it will likely be another home loss on Saturday.