By Ryan Bailey

Devon Manifold is a strength and conditioning specialist who is tasked with maximizing athletic potential within the Charlotte FC Academy. He plays a crucial role in athlete physical development by bringing greater focus to efficiency in movement, injury prevention and game preparation strategies.

Hi Devon! What exactly does your role with the Charlotte FC Academy entail?

I bring the juice! I make sure our players are fired up and focused on the task at hand. On game day, I address any individual player needs before we begin our team warmup. As we approach kickoff, we slowly build up physical activity so the players are ready for the demands of the game. I also handle sports science duties for the Academy. I keep track of our players’ physical metrics via GPS tracker data. The players wear GPS pods in vests under their uniforms, which track dozens of physical metrics. This helps us make informed and individualized decisions on player load, in order to maximize performance and minimize risk of injury.

Outside of game day, what does your typical routine look like?

7 a.m.: I’ll wake up and spend a little time on self-care (such as meditation, breath-work or journaling)
9 a.m.: My workday begins, usually with meetings or emails
10:30 a.m.: Breakfast
12 p.m.: Lunch and personal development. I try to spend an hour a day on personal development and career mastery. This entails anything from reading sport science literature, to taking mini courses on personal finance
12-3 p.m.: The afternoon is when I spend the most of my time on session planning, GPS reports, and individual development plans
2:30 p.m.: Gym time. This is (almost) non-negotiable!
3:30-8 p.m.: Academy training
8ish: I download GPS from the day’s session and prep for the next day

What is the best part of your day?

First and foremost, I’m a strength coach, so being on the field is always the best part of my day. The smell of fresh grass, the camaraderie, the team bonding before training starts, the coaching and educating of our youth players – you really can’t beat that. 

How important is strength and conditioning in the development and performance of Charlotte FC Academy players?

I believe strength and conditioning is a major component in the overall development of our players. It’s vital to maximizing their athletic potential, reducing injury, and building resilience to the high demands of the sport.

Not only do we improve physical attributes such as strength and speed, but our athletes also develop mental fortitude, running mechanics and recovery tactics. If you look at some of the best clubs at developing youth talent—such as Borussia Dortmund, Ajax or Genk—they each have had extensive physical development programs in place for decades. I believe one day in the near future, Charlotte FC will be regarded in a similar manner.

Are there some warm-up and conditioning exercises that the players like more than others? And some that they find particularly tough?

To be fair, they’re probably not big fans of most of the things we do, because it is usually a new stimulus in a demanding environment. Over time, I believe they’ve come to understand the importance of warmups and cool downs as it relates to movement quality and recovery.

We’ve also instilled a very competitive atmosphere within the academies. Our speed days are always fun and engaging, as the players look to hit new max speeds or win a one-on-one race.

We have some great personalities within our Academy teams. How enjoyable is it to work with this group?

It’s an absolute blast working with both academy teams. There are some great leaders and ambassadors for the club on the U17 team, and I feel I have several assistant coaches in the making among the younger guys.

What do you think the Academy program will look like in five years time? 

In five years, Charlotte FC will have one of the most competitive academy programs in the country, I have no doubt about that.

I believe we will have several academy prospects training with our first team regularly. I also believe we will have several players representing the club and country at the national level. Of course, we will also have some of the highest physical performers in the country as well 😉.

Finally, how do you define success?

Success, in my mind, is making a positive impact on the people around me. In this case, that would be making a lasting impact on my city, my club, my coworkers, and, most importantly, the youth players I get to work with each day. If they learn one thing or take away one moment of happiness, that’s a success.