The next step in the evolution of the Women’s team at Heart of Midlothian has been quietly ticking away in the background for the past few months.
Ahead of next week’s Edinburgh derby - the first Women’s football match between Hearts and Hibs to be played at Tynecastle Park - the progress made is starting to show.
Under the new management of Eva Olid, the Spanish coach who was appointed manager of Hearts Women back in July, there has been an overhaul in terms of training and preparation for the players wearing maroon at Oriam. Following a difficult maiden season in the top flight, interrupted midway through by a four month stoppage due to COVID-19 restrictions, there has been remarkable progress made on and off the park.
Recognising the need for change, Eva - robustly supported by Sporting Director Joe Savage and Roger Arnott, Academy Manager and Head of Women’s Football - has sought to bring new levels of professionalism to the team.
With an incredibly young and inexperienced squad - only 8 of the 22 players are not teenagers - Eva has identified improved fitness and technical practice as the key to sharpening up the squad, and as a result, brought about a new way of working during the normal week for the girls.
In addition to the appointment of a sports scientist to work with the team, a nutritionist has also been added to assist the coaching staff, to ensure that the Women’s side has as many benefits afforded to them as those of the Men’s side.
Having previously trained on three evenings for a total of around four hours, that has now more than doubled, with the team training five times a week with the addition of two daytime sessions for those players able to attend outside of work and education commitments.
Tuesdays see a full day session, from 2pm until 8pm, a video analysis session, an hour working on strength and conditioning in the gym under the supervision of the sports science staff, and lunch provided by the club. Wednesday sees an additional gym session, as well as a group session on the pitch, with Thursday including a day session and Friday nights seeing match preparation ahead of the weekend’s fixtures.
The team has recorded more wins, points, and goals scored in ten rounds of fixtures than in the entirety of the previous campaign, with increased fitness and confidence on the park clearly evident in recent victories away to Partick Thistle and Hamilton Accies, as well as seeing a third of the squad called up to Scotland U19 and U17 national team squads already this season.
The commitment to improved professionalism has already begun to pay dividends, with the hope that as progress continues, the future will look very bright for Hearts Women.