The U.S. team is the strongest and fittest in the world, and here’s why

U.S. coach Jill Ellis (left) and Dawn Scott.  (NBC Sports/Getty Images)

U.S. coach Jill Ellis (left) and Dawn Scott. (NBC Sports/Getty Images)

Jeff Kassouf had a fascinating story for NBC Sports about Dawn Scott, the strength and fitness coach for the U.S. women’s team.

You may not know Scott, but if you’re a fan of Team USA,  you know her work. You saw it on display in the World Cup. Many teams were able to match the Americans stride for stride, tackle for tackle, run for run — for the first 60 or 70 minutes. Then opponents started to tire, lost half a step, got increasingly winded as they chased the U.S. women, still going strong, around on the pitch. (This happened even to the mighty Germans.)

When teams play the United States, 50-50 balls become, in the final minutes, 60-40 balls. Marking of U.S. players gets spotty. Passes get sloppy. It’s usually only a matter of time before Team USA asserts its dominance.

That’s thanks to Dawn Scott.

The U.S. players. of course, deserve credit for the countless grueling hours they put in to get strong and stay fit. But their efforts pay such rewarding dividends because of the system that Scott has put in place.

Kassouf writes:

Scott’s secret is in “marginal gains,” a concept that the Newcastle, England, native picked up years ago … It’s an idea rooted in minutiae, that the smallest of things could make the greatest of impacts in the grand scheme … It’s the 0.01 percent in which Scott and the rest of the U.S. Soccer staff operate.

He quotes Scott as saying that if the theory of marginal gains is applied to each player in, say, 20 different areas, and she can achieve an improvement of 0.01 percent in each area, “suddenly you’ve made a 5 percent improvement in each player.”

But Scott’s approach is hardly all charts and numbers and metrics:

Her knowledge of all 23 players on the World Cup roster is intimate. She knows what players are eating, how well hydrated they are and how much sleep they are getting. More than their agents, their teammates or even their spouses, Scott knows all the measurables of the daily lives of these players…



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