Impetus’ French editor Jean-Pierre Thiesset spoke exclusively to Olympique Lyonnais’ fitness coach Romain Segui about his experiences of working with some of the world’s greatest footballers and the differences in coaching women and men.
Above: Romain Segui supervising the training session before the friendly game against Fribourg (Switzerland) on July 31, 2021. Photo: Jean-Pierre Thiesset for Impetus.
Romain Segui was born on February 8, 1987, in Bourgoin Jallieu, France. After obtaining a training licence at the University Lyon 1 Claude Bernard from 2007 to 2010, Romain obtained a Masters in Mental Physical Preparation and Re-athleticism at the same university over the course of the following two years. Then, anticipating the future and wanting to improve in new technologies, he passed another University diploma entitled Video Analysis and Expertise in Team Sports at the University Lille 2 Law and Health in 2013-2014 as part of continuing education with Olympique Lyonnais. Segui joined Olympique Lyonnais in July 2010 as an intern before then spent four seasons with the boy’s U15s side, before a two year spell with the boy’s U17 team. A further move saw Segui joined the men’s U19 group during the 2016/17 season. He also trained the U10 boy’s side during his four seasons with the U15.
Jean-Pierre Thiesset: (JPT): Who inspired you to become a Fitness Coach in football?
Romain Segui (RS): Cyrille Dolce. I always name him because he is a great man who helped me a lot. He has been at the club for thirty years and he is a great educator both in football and human terms; he trains the man before training the player. He is my mentor as a coach. He helped me to easily integrate the club. When I arrived, I was young, I lived that as a child dream, and he “professionalized” me.
JPT: What made you move across to be a fitness coach in women’s football?
RS: It is rather an opportunity that I seized. I wanted to integrate professional football and in men it is difficult because the coaches very often came with their own staff. The women’s fitness coach role was vacant, and I was interviewed by Vincent Ponsot (OL General Director) who thought that I had the right profile for this position.
After nine years at the training centre, I had done just about everything with the young players, and I wanted to see something else. So, when we offer you to be the fitness coach of the players of the best women’s club team in the world, you from Lyon, and you say to yourself that you can play the Champions League and win it, then take the chance and sign the contract.
It a great privilege to work daily with Wendy Renard, Eugénie Le Sommer, Amandine Henry and all the other great players. My job is almost similar to the one of a fitness coach for men’s team because we have players which go to their national squad all over the world.
JPT: What does your job entail? RS: It is a little bit complicated because there are several elements. You must be able to prepare the player in different physical qualities which are endurance, speed, strength and flexibility so that she performs as well as possible without putting the sliders too high because otherwise you can injure her.
When there is an injury in football, it is always the fault of the fitness coach, so we have a big emphasis on injury prevention. For that, we perform testing to individualize the workload and ensure that each player has adapted preparation and prevention routines and be as precise as possible. After all, at some point, there are injuries following collisions and on that we cannot do anything.
There is also the data nowadays and this new technique which arrived in France since five to seven years with GPS which allow us to have a lot of data on the player: distance covered, distance walked, distance made in sprint, number of sprints, acceleration, deceleration, peak speed. We as fitness coaches, must be able to process and analyze all this data and report back to coaches. You still have to be careful not to interpret everything in numbers and let football do things; the feeling is also important, and the data must be taken into account because it help without becoming categorical with them.
So, the job is very varied. We prepare the players for the training session in the morning indoors, then during the training session we will do specific workshops, for example, to develop endurance during twenty to thirty minutes, and we will verify the workload on the players because we have all data in live and ensure that the goal set is reached during the workshops; if necessary, we will adjust the training, for example, by asking to the coach to add a game sequence in order to reach the workload wanted on the players.
We have also to manage the returns from injury and re-athleticism. Hopefully, this year I have an assistant, Rémi Pullara, who can take care of this part and we can work better.
I am lucky because it is not a repetitive job, and it is not boring. For example, one day we do endurance work and the next day speed work.
JPT: What are the main exercises and the compulsory workshops that you carry out to correctly prepare the players?
RS: I am starting from the principle that it is the player’s intrinsic quality which is the most important. At the beginning of the season, we must perform a battery of tests, not only to have data, but to individualize the work in all areas included in the prevention. Some players will need mobility and other something else.
Right now, we speak a lot about integrated method, do the physical preparation with the ball, or of the dissociated method, do the physical preparation without the ball. Some fitness coaches advocate the dissociative method for the physical work. Personally, I have a little trouble with that, and I think we should use the two alternately depending on the desired goal. I like to activities without the ball to be sure to develop what we target because in this case you cannot cheat; for example, when we said to go from point A to point B in a certain time, the player cannot hide. But in long term, it is exhausting, and this is for this reason that integrated method, with the ball, is also interesting.
However, I have a principle with which I never deviate, this is that at the beginning of the season, I need an aerobic base. For that, at the beginning of each season of preparation, I need around twenty days where the players will run to make volume to build a tank; this is what we call the aerobic capacity. This base will allow the players to be more aggressive on the field, to press the opposing players but also to be able to come back quickly in case of counterattacks.
After this base, we need to work a lot on the high intensity and the speed because nowadays women football evolved more and more, and it is quicker even if we heard a lot that men football is quicker, but the gap is narrowing.
JPT: Is it very different to prepare women players rather than men players? RS: The difference may be in power and speed because men are naturally more powerful as they have more muscle mass. But it tends to evolve in women football as now we see some women players with speed peaks at 32 to 34 km/h; whereas not all men players are at 32 or 33 km/h.
However, we can consider the periods because it is the major difference between women and men. The doctors are interested in it and our doctors in the staff which are closer to the players, are attentive to this but personally it never happens to me that a player did not train because she had her period. There are a lot of things right now in the scientific journals on sport, as that the periods could be the source of a new method of individualized training; we look at what is being said and we think about it but today we have not yet implemented a protocol on this point.
There are other clubs that do, like Chelsea, but for now we think about it, we are not closing the door at all, but we want to find the best solution. I train women players as if they were men players, but I consider the fact that they are not as powerful by individualizing the work.
There is also a difference on the injury prevention because women tend to have knees a little more tucked in (a little more in an X shape) which could be the source of knees ligament ruptures. Besides, in statistics, there are more knees ligaments ruptures in women than men in all sports.
For me, this difference is even more important than the periods, and we must do specific strengthening in the glutes and hamstrings to try to rebalance the situation. For that, we do a specific test at the beginning of the season, and we adapt the strengthening if necessary.
JPT: What are the main qualities to be a good fitness coach? RS: You must be organized, methodical, have creativity, be attentive and open-minded because you must know how to question yourself; what we are doing today may not be true tomorrow and we must also open up to other sports to see how they work. You must be also a little sporty because when you must run with the players, you have to ensure you can!
JPT: What do you prefer, to prepare the players for one game per week or for one game every three days?
RS: For one game every three days because that means that we are playing in the Champions League!
JPT: What is your greatest challenge on the pitch or during training session? RS: That we complete the training sessions without injury. We must push the players to the maximum without exceeding their limits.
JPT: What is your greatest challenge off the pitch? RS: I love to run, and my biggest challenge would be to do the UTMB (Ultra-Trail Mont Blanc) in the Alps; about 180 kilometers with a total elevation gain of around 10,000 meters. At the moment, I do not have the time to train to do it because my job takes a lot of time and my family that must not be forgotten (Romain is married and he has two children, a 7 year old girl and a 3 year old boy). It is impossible to train every day to prepare it.
JPT: What do you like to get up to off the pitch?
RS: Running and playing guitar.
JPT: What makes Olympique Lyonnais such a great club where to work? RS: We have a great President, Jean-Michel Aulas, who has always provided the necessary means as much for working conditions as for financial means and which makes that we have been far ahead of other clubs. We have great working conditions that a lot of other clubs do not have, and it is why the best players want to play at Olympique Lyonnais and want to stay there.
JPT: What is your main quality? RS: I think I am a very honest and caring person, and I am whole.
JPT: What is your main fault? RS: I am impulsive and jealous. I can get angry very quickly.
JPT: Is there a message you would like to give to Olympique Lyonnais fans? RS: First, I would like to thank all fans who follow OL Women because they are brilliant. I have seen them throughout the COVID period going at the games away from home and being stranded at the stadium gates just to see our bus arrive. I saw supporters clinging to the walls in Soyaux to see a bit of the game. I find it fantastic because they give a lot for us while it feels like we have not been able to give them a lot in return for a few months. I really want to thank them from the bottom of my heart. I hope we can celebrate the three titles together at the end of the season, it will be the best gift we can give to fans. And I believe it!