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In a small office on the ground floor of the Dolphins training facility, just adjacent to the weight room, you’ll find Wayne Diesel sitting behind his desk. Diesel is in his second season running the team’s sports science department and he very well could be as valuable as anyone in this organization.
The Dolphins, you see, are on a mission and Diesel – a man who has spent his professional life studying what makes athletes tick – is a vital part of that mission. The mission is really simple: Use every scientific resource available to help these players reach a level of peak performance and, in addition, use those resources to both prevent and rehabilitate injuries.
That’s what Diesel’s sports science department is all about. It is the realization of a vision by Owner Stephen Ross and Executive Vice President Mike Tannenbaum to literally take this franchise where it has never gone before. From nutrition to analytics to developing the most up-to-date training methods, it all under the sports science umbrella.
And based on the feedback I have already received from several players, it is already paying significant dividends.
The impact of Diesel and his staff is evident in so many ways from the length of practices to which days the players have off to how hard they are pushed. Nobody wanted a tired football team when training camp ended. It is part of Diesel’s job to have made sure that didn’t happen.
“We are evaluating everything,” Diesel said. “What should you do after a game? What is the best day to train hard? This sport, like all sports, is about recovery. We push them as hard as we possibly can to get the most out of them, so we need proper recovery time.”
I know what you are probably thinking. Can this give the Dolphins an edge late in games or maybe late in the season, clearly two of the major themes surrounding this team.
“I think it can be a huge factor,” says Diesel. “The more physically prepared you are and hydrated you are, the bigger effect you can have late in a game or late in a season. If you are not hydrated properly, it can reduce your performance by about 10 percent. In a sport where one percent can be the difference, this can be a huge factor.”
Diesel gets up from his desk and walks over to a large touch screen on the wall. On that screen is a listing of every player and next to each player are numerous categories designed to measure every facet of his athletic make-up from body fat, heart rate recovery, movement analysis, hydration, sleep and energy. If it can be measured, and it’s important, it’s on that chart.
With the help of a GPS device worn by each player, all these things are updated on a daily basis. All are available to each player. All can have a direct correlation in how they train, how hard they work and how well they avoid and respond to injuries.
Why, the Dolphins even do a thorough sweat analysis of each player.
“Players who have too much salt in their sweat have a tendency to cramp easier,” Diesel said.
Diesel, who spent the eight years working with Tottenham Hotspur (Soccer) Football Club of the English Premier league calls this opportunity “the pinnacle for me, the ultimate challenge.”
Diesel is quick to point out that he couldn’t do this massive undertaking alone and singles out Dave Puloka the team’s head of strength and conditioning; Puloka’s assistants Jim Arthur and Ted Rath; team nutritionist Mary Ellen Kelly, sports science analyst Dave Regan, Director of Analytics Dennis Lock and football analyst Thomas Pasquali. In many ways, this is his dream team.
“The real exciting part is that all of this is still in its infancy,” Diesel said.
Where will it go from here? Diesel will tell you there are endless possibilities. For him, he’d love nothing more than to see his efforts, and those of his sports science team, help this organization win a Super Bowl.
“That,” Diesel said in his South African accent, “would be absolutely delightful.”
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(AC in the AM will return bright and early on Monday morning of next week as the Dolphins resume preparations for the Jets.)