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NCCC welcomes new Strength and Conditioning Coach, Chris Lorkin

Northamptonshire supporters are crossing off the days to the start of the 2017 season – as the newest member of Wantage Road’s support team works hard to get the Steelbacks squad ready for that first ball.

Chris Lorkin took over from Chris Tombs as the club’s Head of Strength and Conditioning at the turn of the year.

And for Lorkin it’s a change of sport as well as a change of location.

Having spent the past three-and-a-half years filling a similar role at Aston Villa Football Club after a stint at Norwich City, he’s all set for a fresh challenge with English cricket’s reigning T20 champions.

“The success Northamptonshire had last year was definitely a pull for me,” he explains. 

“I wanted to try and help the lads build on that.  The chance to work in a different sport and to put my own spin on things in terms of fitness were also big factors.

“It’s my job to ensure the players are physically prepared for the demands of all three formats of the game – to make them stronger and fitter – and hopefully that will translate into more success on the field.”

Lorkin’s task is made just that little bit tougher by the fact that Northamptonshire are operating with a relatively small squad.  He’s well aware that long-term injuries to key individuals can cause major problems for head coach David Ripley and skipper Alex Wakely.

“The main focus is to give us the best chance of winning by having our best players available for David to select. 

“Maybe that does bring a little bit of extra pressure, but that’s the job I’m here to do – to manage their workload and make sure they’re strong enough to get through the entire six months of the season.  With a smaller squad that’s vital.

“This year the ‘blocks’ of fixtures are definitely a help from my perspective.  We have a three-week chunk of 50-over cricket and a month-long chunk of T20, and that allows us to peak for certain times of the summer.

“The four-day Championship is definitely more of a ‘marathon’ so there’s a different focus there.  But it means we can up the intensity to make sure they’re prepared for the T20 which is the ‘sprint.’

“At the moment we’re three months away from the season so it’s all about getting fit and ready for April – laying the foundations and achieving that base level of fitness, so when we get close to cricket starting we can really ramp up the training and make sure they have the robustness we need.”

Things have moved on a wee bit since the ‘good old days’ of Jack Jennings leading Northamptonshire’s players on pre-season training runs up the Wellingborough Road – with some of the less enthusiastic squad members hopping on a green United Counties bus home when Jack wasn’t watching.

But there will always be those ready to point out that fast bowlers used to routinely get through over 1,000 overs a summer on a diet of beer, tobacco, chips and broken glass.

Lorkin admits he’s heard it all before….

“That’s in football as well as cricket!  You get the same message from some of the older heads. 

“But they know how much the game has changed, and so they need to be on top of the physical side as well as the cricket.  Not just for their short-term performance but also to prolong their careers. 

“It’s about players making better lifestyle choices and that’s also part of my remit. 

“But the cricket culture is something I have to adapt to.  It’s very much the case that I have to get my ways of working to fit the sport, and not get the sport to fit my ways of working!  So that’s what I’ll be looking to do.”

After years of preparing footballers for action it could come as a shock to the system – albeit a potentially pleasant one – to watch his charges going through their paces in the heat of summer.

“It might be nice to do some work with the sun out, rather than in the rain and the snow!  That was another big draw for me – we have a six-month season here, and in the other six months we can do some proper work with the boys. 

“In football it’s an eleven-month season with one month off – and for that month they WILL be off, because their bodies have been battered for such a long period of time.”

Although he’s only been here at Northampton since the beginning of January, the new ‘S-and-C’ man feels he’s already building the necessary strong relationship with players and coaches alike.

“That’s important because if you don’t have the buy-in from the athletes you’re going to struggle.  You have to get their trust, and that’s all to do with player management and talking to them one-to-one.  I think that’s one of my strong points. 

“They need to know that the training is all about them.  One of my key messages when I arrived was ‘I’m not here to bark orders, I’m here to support you.’ 

“And it’s the same with the coaches.  Together as a support team we’ll be aiming to drive things forward.

“It’s been full-on for the past couple of weeks but I’m really enjoying it.  There’s a good group of guys here and I’m looking forward to what’s to come.”

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