Laurie Ellis has been around the block long enough to know that pre-season training is not what it used to be.
The veteran defender is preparing for his 17th year in the professional game with the rest of the Raith Rovers squad at the Michael Woods Sports and Leisure Centre in Glenrothes.
It’s a multi-purpose facility where Rovers, thanks to their parternship with the Fife Sports & Leisure Trust, can combine outdoor and indoor sessions, including specialised fitness programmes run by the centre.
Footballs are also used daily as part of the pre-season routine, which may seem like a given, but Ellis can recall days gone by when that wasn’t the case.
“Pre-season has changed,” the 34-year-old told the Press.
“I’ve done the beach sessions, running up the sand dunes at Gullane, and I’ve done two weeks without the ball.
“When you’re young you do them and just get on with it, but I think there would be a few more raised eyebrows these days because players have not grown up in that era.
“Modern football means you can’t just run guys for two weeks without a football.
“You’ve got to mix it up and have various different ways of getting them fit, making sure they enjoy it, and include the football every day, which we have.
“It’s important that players can get fit but feel as though they are getting fit in a football sense as opposed to just getting punished.”
Ellis is also first team coach so has had an input into manager Grant Murray’s pre-season programme.
“It’s the second pre-season we’ve had to structure ourselves, and we started the season really well and fit last year,” Ellis said.
“We’ve not followed last season to the letter because we’ve got a different squad and you need to look at the type of players you’ve got and be flexible.
“So we’ve adjusted a few things and hopefully we’ll be just as sharp and fit at the end of this pre-season.
“We take a look at what we need to get out of the three or four week period, including friendlies, and we structure the days where we need to lighten off and maybe give them a wee rest.
“That allows us to work hard when we’ve got them. You can’t ask them to work hard over a 10 day period including the weekends because the quality of the work you’re doing gets affected.
“We’re working harder than we would in a normal week because it’s pre-season, but allowing them a few rests in between means you can put demands on them when they are training.
“We’ve done a good bit of work, had a good few double sessions and we’ve been mixing it up.
“We’ve been using the pool a bit, and the spin class, which gave us a different angle of cardio work, which is good.
“It breaks it up and gives the players a bit of variety as well.”
While Ellis has been helping to oversee things that has not been to the detriment of his own fitness levels.
“I’ve done the whole lot - and more!” he explained.
“I’ve taken part in all the sessions. I like doing that, and I’m still more than capable of doing it.
“I think it stands by my ethos and rubs off on the younger players.
“There’s no short-cut. It’s not easy getting fit, or staying fit as a footballer, and over the length of a career doing numerous pre-seasons it’s not easy, but you need to embrace it otherwise you won’t get the most out of it.
“Boys that work hard and enjoy getting fit really kick on in pre-season.
“It goes without saying you need to be fit every year but I think this season there will be an edge because the size of club coming in will have a squad of player that’s strong, quick and physical.
“We need to make sure we’re as fit as can be, improve our strength and be a match for anyone in the league, which we’re confident we will be.”
Ellis was used mostly as injury cover in the second half of last season and he will be ready again when called upon in the upcoming campaign.
“My main aim is to train and be available for Grant every week,” he said,
“If it turns out that there are players ahead of me that are better options then that’s fine but I just hope to be available and be someone he can turn to and rely on when he needs me.”
Raith Rovers are enjoying the benefits of their partnership with the Fife Sports & Leisure Trust that allows them to use the Michael Woods Sports Centre as a dedicated training complex.
Laurie Ellis explained: “We enjoy being up there and hopefully they enjoy having us as well.
“With the classes being put on it allows us to give a bit of flexibity to our pre-season programme and hopefully helps them to promote their classes as well.
“It’s a good relationship and long may it continue.”
Sharon Johnstone, area leisure manager for Fife Sports & Leisure Trust, added: “Since Michael Woods Sports and Leisure Centre opened its doors last July, Fife Sports and Leisure Trust has had a very positive working relationship with the management and players of Raith Rovers Football Club.
“The team has made use of the state-of-the-art equipment in our gym and have had access to our outside pitches for training sessions.
“It’s great to see Raith Rovers players make use of our growing fitness programme, which includes the industry’s latest trends in fitness training, delivered by our expert staff.
“The staff look forward to our continued partnership working and look forward to being able to share our industry knowledge and expertise with the team.”