Rochdale News | Sports News | Rochdale AFC U19s take it to the next level with local gym

Date published: December 14, 2021

Rochdale AFC’s Under-19 team take it to the next level after signing up for weight training and fitness sessions with a local gym.

The team, who are all studying under the sports and football scholarship program at the football club’s Crown Oil Arena sports college, are put to the test by Next Level Strength and Fitness head coach Damien Ghafoor.

Every Friday, players do a one-hour workout at the Bury Road Gymnasium to improve their strength and fitness on match days.

Rochdale AFC youth team coach Michael Bardsley said the team have completed three sessions so far and you can already see a huge improvement in strength, speed and agility.

He added: “They found the sessions really difficult.

“Damien really puts them to the test, but their physical form has improved dramatically and it’s so visible on the pitch.

“All of our other training is tactical, but the players know it’s a really tough transplant.”

All students are enrolled in the Rochdale AFC Sport and Football scholarship program which combines learning and football.

It is open to 16-18 year olds and they practice football while preparing for a BTEC level 3 sports.

They drafted in Next Level to improve the fitness of the students and Leah Jackson, 17, said it was paying off.

She said: “The sessions are really fun but intense. They make us all stronger and improve our endurance.

Freshman and team captain Logan Cain, 16, added, “Damien really pushes us and makes us work hard.

“He helps us improve, which is crucial and you can really see the improvements already.”

Damien Ghafoor, Head Coach of Next Level Strength and Fitness, puts the team to the test
Damien Ghafoor, Head Coach of Next Level Strength and Fitness, puts the team to the test

The workouts combine weights and cardio training through a HIIT-style circuit that helps the team focus on things like explosive power, endurance, coordination, and safe lifting techniques.

Damien said: “It has been a huge honor to form the team. Our gym has always been about giving back to the community, so when we were approached by the local club we jumped at the chance to help.

“The sessions helped improve their core and upper body strength, endurance and confidence.

“Some players embraced them from day one and you can see them perform at their best while others have really progressed and are now trying new drills and asking me what to expect next week.

“We absolutely loved every minute of it. “

Next Level runs similar sessions for members on weekdays and on Saturday mornings.

Rochdale AFC Sports College is recruiting male and female players for next year’s program – more information can be found here: