Abby Jones has barely missed a kick for AFC Bournemouth Women over the last two seasons.
Since stepping up from the under-16s at the start of the 2019/20 campaign, she’s made the right-back position her own with menacing runs from the heart of her own half and the odd contribution to the scoring charts up the other end.
With promotion to the National League secured, she’s determined to hit the ground running when the season gets underway on Sunday 15th August.
Speaking with afcb.co.uk, Jones explained how a specialised fitness regime has been aiding her preparations for the step up.
“We’ve been off for six weeks and I’ve been given a training plan by Steve (Cuss) and Matt (Divine) to help stay fit,” she began.
“It’s designed so that each week it gets harder and harder. The first two weeks is mainly in the gym, working on long-term fitness. Then it progressed onto a lot of sprint work and stamina work because going into the National League is a lot more demanding than the league we were in.
“I’ve also been working on my technical ball work, like volleys, short passing and long passing.”
The youngster, who turned 18 this week, continued to explain how the variety of fitness in her regime is helping her stay focused during the off season.
“I’ve been doing some stuff in my back garden, even if it’s just keepy-uppys for ten minutes every day.
“I’ve then been going to the gym a lot, sometimes by myself, sometimes with some of the other players and I’ve also been doing sessions with Steve.
“He has been helping me a lot and pushing me along because it’s not always easy when you’re there by yourself doing it. With Steve and Matt, it’s very motivating and helps me push harder than I would if they weren’t there.
“I think during the previous lockdowns, when we were working out by ourselves, we were still given stuff to do but it was very hard because the only place we could really do it was in the garden or in the local park.
“Now we can go out to the gym and just do sessions with our coaches, it’s a lot better. Being able to do it with teammates as well makes it much easier.”
As if Jones’ commitment to the cause wasn’t already there, she revealed the lengths she actually goes to in order for her programme to be feasible.
Not being local to Vitality Stadium, however, hasn’t stopped her in her tracks as she continues to commute to get the most out of sessions.
“I’ve finished college now and I don’t really live near anyone, so I’ve had to travel quite far to do the fitness,” continued Jones.
“If I was to do a session with people, it takes me half-an-hour or 40 minutes to get to the stadium or the gym. I’m also training five times a week at the moment, so it can be a lot of travelling.
“Mondays are in the gym, Tuesdays and Wednesdays it’s usually a session on the ball with a little bit of fitness, Thursdays are in the gym again doing leg work and some weights and then on Fridays I do a fitness session where I hardly touch the ball and it’s basically running for an hour.
“Eventually, we then got the balls out and, after I did a session, I felt really stiff. I wasn’t quite there technically but after two or three sessions, I felt like I was back at it and doing well.
“Doing all the fitness work has helped me have a better technique because, if I’m fitter, I can concentrate on the ball for longer.”
The defender believes all the extra work will pay dividends when she returns to the pitch, with her position arguably being one of the most demanding in the game.
“Being a full-back is a really hard position because, most of the time, your coach is asking you to spend at least 60% of your time in the opposition half, so it can be very attacking.
“To be able to get forward and sprint, even to sprint into the box and score a tap in, is so important.
“If I hadn’t been doing this fitness programme, I don’t think I would’ve been able to do sprints or recovery runs like that for 90 minutes but now I’m feeling quite confident to get back to our first game. I’m really looking forward to that.”
With the squad due back in for pre-season tomorrow, it’ll be time to start preparations for step four football.
Having put in plenty of hard work already, Jones admitted that she cannot wait to be back.
“Everyone is really looking forward to going back,” she concluded.
“I don’t think anyone really wanted six weeks off to be honest because we’d already missed out on so much football with Covid.
“Pre-season is never easy, there’s always lots of fitness and it will show who haS been following their training programmes.
“There’s a lot of competition in the team and, now we’re in the National League, we can only name a certain number of players every game so they’ll be people who will be left out.
“At the same time, being back together as a team is important because we haven’t seen each other in a while and getting back to kicking a ball is going to be great!”
Thank you for your support
Bournemouth University for being our main girls and women's team sponsor, and iPRO and Vitality for supporting the womens' programme.