Strength And Conditioning

Tony Jouaux brings youth, new philosophy to Fire fitness

The Chicago Fire have gone French.

No, I can unequivocally say that “Player X” is not a Frenchman.
Sorry!

Rather I’m talking about the club’s new Strength and
Conditioning Coach Tony Jouaux. Before you say, “Wow , four consecutive vowels
is something to marvel at,” you should learn his story – it’s an interesting
one.

Hailing from Auxerre, Jouaux spent 14 years in his hometown
club’s development system, coming up through the ranks with a number of current
French-born talents.

“I had a great opportunity,” said Jouaux from Fire training
camp in Ave Maria, FL. “I came up with Auxerre and was in the academy for three
years training with Bacary Sagna and Abou Diaby from Arsenal, Mohamed Sissoko
(Juventus) and Younès Kabul (Tottenham Hot
Spur), so I had a chance to play with very good players.  I wasn’t as good as them though. I
couldn’t make the professional team so at 20 years old I began playing for an
amateur team and studied a lot to become a Soccer Strength and Conditioning
Coach.”

After completing a four-year degree at the University of
Burgundy, Jouaux set his sights on the United States for his masters. He joined
up with the University of Louisville men’s soccer team in 2008, serving first
as a volunteer then as a graduate assistant in partnership with the school’s
Exercise Science Laboratory.

“I had the chance to do research on the men’s soccer team,
taking what I learned from the scientific aspect of training and applying it to
the team. I’m bringing more of a scientific background to the job. My degree
from Louisville is in Exercise Physiology so I try to base everything we’re
doing around the physiology of the athlete.”

Serving under Ken Lolla, Jouaux saw the Cardinal’s make a
run to their first NCAA Final in 2010, where they suffered their only loss of
the season, falling 1-0 to Akron.

Aged?

If you haven’t already realized through the references to
playing with certain players or when he complete his degree, Jouaux is young
for an MLS coach. In fact he’s my age, 25, which is about the current average
age of signed players on the Fire roster. A number of players on the roster are
indeed older than him with goalkeeper Jon Conway having nearly 10 years on the
former Auxerre man.

Age though hasn’t been an issue for the players or Jouaux.

“I’ve been working five years to be a strength and
conditioning coach for a professional soccer club. Whenever we’re doing an
exercise I try to explain why we’re doing it and my philosophy. I don’t see my
age as an issue because I try to be as professional as I can and do my best all
the time. I look at it as the role more of a teacher.

The teacher is there for the students, he’s not there for
himself. I’m here and I spend all my time thinking about programs that are the
best for the players. For sure there’s a big age difference with some players,
five or six years with some, but they understand and know that I’m here to make
them better. They have a great attitude with training and don’t have any issue
with my age.”

Philosophy

Because of a pretty extensive background in the game,
Jouaux’s philosophy with conditioning differs from the traditional concepts of
straight-up sports conditioning in the United States.

“I try to talk a lot with the players about my methods which
are a little bit different from an American strength and conditioning coach
because I am really soccer-based. I try to do everything with the ball and my
philosophy is ‘soccer is conditioning, conditioning is soccer’. By saying that
we can develop all the energy systems related to the game by using the game
itself. Doing small-sided scrimmages, building that up to bigger numbers -- that’s
how we’re developing fitness.”

Nutrition

A big part of anyone with Jouaux’s job is to look at the way
players are fueling themselves on a daily basis.

In that vein, he keeps it pretty simple.

“I’m always looking for quality in the food, by that I mean
quality is going to be food that’s not processed. An apple is going to be a lot
of quality because you can just pick it from a tree, a cucumber is going to be
taking it from another place. When you get a chicken, flank steak, that’s
quality. When you get a burger, fried chicken, pepperoni pizza and now you have
a lot of processed food. You don’t get the same quality in terms of nutrients.

 When you think
about it, I always tell the players that eating is part of the job, it’s part
of training. When you play, the fuel is carbohydrates and you’re going to break
down a lot of proteins, so you have to replace that. By taking in a lot of
quality in terms of carbohydrates, proteins or fat you’re going to perform
better. Eating well is their responsibility and that’s what’s going to make
them better. It’s my job to make it simple for them.”

Adaptation and an International
Coaching Staff

While confident and his area, Jouaux admits there has been a
learning curve with his new peers and environment.

“We had a little period of adaptation in the first two weeks
because I’m working with coaches that are a lot more experienced than I am.
[First assistant coach] Leo Percovich has many years in the league and Carlos
[de los Cobos] has a lot of experience abroad, both at the professional and
international levels, so I have a lot to learn here for sure – but you’re
always learning, it’s a good thing.”

Jouaux (France) and Percovich’s (Uruguay) addition to the
Fire coaching staff in 2011 meant that all members of the staff hail from
different countries, with de los Cobos from Mexico and goalkeeping coach Aron
Hyde hailing from England.

“I think its fantastic just because you get so much
experience from each member of the staff. It’s so easy to talk about soccer because
first of all they know a lot about world soccer and they know a lot about the
league as well. We are bringing different methods but we’re all working to
bring the team together. If we have five people coming from five different
countries we’re coming with five different methods to see things.”

The international
flair of the coaching staff and Jouaux’s work in conditioning will be put to
the test for the first time tonight as the club plays it’s first preseason
match against Florida Gulf Coast Unviersity at 7pm in Ave Maria, FL. Get LIVE updates of the match through our Twitter feed @ChicagoFire.

Discuss this article
with Jeff Crandall on Twitter,
@JefeCrandall.