Paul Okon has added some European flavour to his coaching ranks this season by appointing Belgian Strength & Conditioning Coach, Balder Berckmans to his staff ahead of the Hyundai A-League 2017/18 season.
Balder arrives on the Central Coast with a wealth of football knowledge having spent time with the likes of Club Brugge KV (Belgium), FC Cologne (Germany), KV Mechelen (Belgium) as well as Manchester City FC’s Academy in England.
Before joining the Mariners, Balder was the Strength & Conditioning Coach with Ahli Saudi FC (Saudi Arabia), Head of Strength & Rehabilitation at PFC Krylya Sovetov Samara (Russia) and most recently the Head of Fitness & Conditioning with the Singapore National Team & Football Association.
Have you purchased tickets ahead of this Saturday? CLICK HERE to purchase now.
Not only is Balder well versed in the football landscape but he is also an academic who holds two university degrees from the University of Brussels (Physical Education & Sport Sciences Rehabilitation and Sciences & Physiotherapy).
Outside of football, Balder worked as the Fitness & Rehab Trainer for professional Serbian tennis player, Janko Tipsarevic in 2015 before his move to Singapore.
Hand-picked by Okon for his extensive football background, Berckmans arrives with a simple brief. Prepare a team to fight for 90 minutes.
“To make it as simple as possible Paul Okon gave me two tasks,” Berckmans said. “The first one was make them run and get them fit. He wants to ensure that the boys fitness levels don’t drop after 60 minutes and we need to compete for 90 minutes.
“The second task was make sure I prepared the players technically for what they would experience in training and games. He wanted me to incorporate more football drills into warm up and conditioning exercises, get the boys familiar with the football game as often as possible.
Balder connected with Paul Okon via a mutual connection at Football Federation Australia.
“The FFA Technical director is Belgian [Eric Abrams],” Berckmans said. “He was still in regular contact with Paul Okon from his time in the Young Socceroos. They had a chat a few months ago and Eric put my name forward.
“Three weeks before pre-season started here I was in contact with Paolo over Skype about the way we both look at football and fitness then three weeks later I was here.
“I look at myself as a football coach with a strength & conditioning background,” Berckmans said.”
Having spent the entirety of the pre-season putting the Mariners players through their strides, Balder spoke highly of his new life on the Central Coast and the quality of football in Australia.
“Before I came here I was told that the level of football had improved dramatically over the past five or six years with better programs, better coaching, better foreign players,” Berckmans said. “They told me it was a very physical league so fitness is a key component.
“Everyone here at the Mariners has been amazing. There is not too much man-power behind the team in regards to football and in the office but that makes this club a family club which is really cohesive which you also feel throughout the playing group.
“The weather is good, it’s summer for me the whole year around so it’s totally what I’m not used to but I am really enjoying it,” Berckmans said.